Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1513: Owner, Casa Pucci
4bed/2bath house near Amandola, Marche
June 2005, One week
Casa Pucci is located between Amandola and Monte San Martino, at the foot of the Monti Sibillini in Le Marche. It is easily accessible on a short white road. Although the general location of the house is idyllic - dramatic mountains not far off, beautiful rolling countryside/farmland in the vicinity - the immediate environs were a bit disappointing. The house is surrounded very closely on 3 sides by ugly uninhabited buildings and ruins. It's possible that these structures are not on the same parcel of land as the house itself so even if the owner wanted to do something about these eyesores, he might not be able to. The largest of these looked as if it were inhabited recently. If tenants were to move back, I would consider that a big negative as I like to be out in the country in isolated places.
The house is located out in the countryside. There is a farm at the bottom of the lane and another little clump of houses about 500 meters up the white road. It's a good 6 or 7 km to the nearest town, so having a car is essential.
The closest towns are Amandola (about 6 km), Monte San Martino (also about 6 km) and Sarnano (about 12 km) - these distances are rough. Monte San Martino is the smallest and we spent almost no time there. There are good restaurants and caffes in all of these towns as well as at nearby agriturismi. There are grocery stores in Sarnano and Amandola.
Casa Pucci is an old house -- not sure when it dates from, but it's been nicely restored. It's mostly peaceful, save the comings and goings of the farmers down the road.
There is only one outdoor sitting area - a long patio - from which there's mostly a very good view westwards towards the mountains. It's unfortunate that there are a couple of trees that obscure about 1/2 of the view. Still, what you can see is lovely. Luckily, the eyesore neighboring structures are not visible from this area. It's basically private, although the white road goes right by and the curious farmers' family drove by frequently. This is the only outside area of the house that's attractive and accessibly. One side of the house you can't even walk around due to a dense concentration of nettles and scrub.
The furniture was basic, good, mostly comfortable. The house had obviously been cleaned before we arrived, but it appeared that it wasn't done as recently as we would have liked. Although the bathrooms were clean, there was a coating of dust on most of the tables so the first thing we did was to wipe everything down. Also, there was an infestation of ants coming in one of the bedroom windows. Bug spray was readily available and we took care of that immediately. The dining room had a nice table with 6 chairs, a fireplace and another small table - quite nice. The sitting room was up a flight of stairs, minimally furnished, but a nice loft space.
None of the beds were firm. We slept pretty well in them, but they were a bit soft and saggy. The bedroom furniture was adequate. The bathrooms were good -- showers in each. Unfortunately, water pressure wasn't great, which we discovered the hard way. One morning while I was taking a shower, the water basically stopped coming - not a huge deal in the summer. My friends with whom I was traveling were merely turning on the kitchen tap to get some water for tea..... bad pressure. For the rest of the week we tried to make sure that no one used any water in the kitchen or other bathroom when one of us was in the shower - it worked out fine in the end.
The kitchen was fine, with enough dishes, pots and pans. We prepared a number of basic meals in it.
Problems or Bonuses
Well, the biggest surprise was also the biggest disappointment. The owners of the house live in England and they had given us the phone number of a local expat English woman who we were to call and let know when we were arriving. On the afternoon of arrival, we called 3 times and left messages on what we assumed was this representative's voice mail (which had a generic greeting in Italian ... red flag?) saying that we were getting closer and closer. When we arrived, there was no one there to greet us.
This was the beginning of one of my adventures. I took the initiative to go down the road to the adjacent farm and asked the assembled gentlemen if they knew of the agent who was supposed to meet us. After I spoke to 4 different guys with no recognition of her name, one very nice man suggested that he shuttle me in his car (ours was so loaded with luggage, people and groceries....) up the valley to meet a couple (English man/Swiss woman) who actually spoke English and might know other English people in the area! My Italian is quite functional - it was quite eye-opening to really see how deeply ingrained the local dialect was! My new friend, Antonio, did his best to speak to me - in Italian!
Anyway, we got to Chris and Irene's house and, after leaving all of my important documents in Antonio's car and then retrieving them, going back and forth between their house and Casa Pucci, the representative never arriving, leaving more phone and email messages for both the representative and owner, we all agreed to find a hotel for the night. Chris and Irene were very sweet to offer to keep our milk, butter, yogurt, etc that we had loaded up on on the way to Casa Pucci. Before we departed for the hotel, we left a note on the house for the representative, should she arrive.
Anyway, it took until the afternoon of the next day for her to contact us with the news that the phone number we were given for her was incorrect!! Long story a bit shorter, we ended up staying at a nice hotel in Sarnano for two nights and finally checked into Casa Pucci on Monday morning.
To his credit, the owner agreed to reimburse us our hotel fees and claimed to have never had any problem like this in 4 years of renting out this house. Somehow, the one digit of the phone number in the file - the welcome info document - was off and there was no alternate contact number given. The owner was on holiday himself and unreachable. So that's that saga. When we finally got into the house, we were happy there. Moral of the story -- perhaps one should ask for a backup contact phone number??
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The weekly rental price of the house was quite reasonable - although I noticed that the owner raised prices fairly soon after we booked. We paid, I believe 550 Euro for the week in early June. I think they're charging 680 now. Still, quite inexpensive, considering that the house comfortably sleeps 8.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, I'd recommend Casa Pucci, with all of the caveats I've previously mentioned. It's a comfortable house in a lovely location. Quite honestly, as a result of the snafu of initially getting into the house, it's quite possible that my emotions are coloring my experience of the house. I must admit, that when I compare it with other houses in which I've stayed in Italy, I was disappointed that the photos on the website weren't an accurate representation of the immediate environs - the 3 other buildings very close by.
Things to do in this area
Hiking in the Monti Sibillini. Visiting nice hilltowns - Sarnano, San Ginesio, Amandola, Montefortino, Montemonaco, etc.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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