Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1617: Drawbridge to Europe, Borgo Barigianino
apartments on an estate near Rosia, Tuscany West
28 May - 4 June, 2005, 1 week
Borgo Barigianino is 10 km west of Siena, and about 1 km from the village of Rosia. A complex of meticulously renovated old farm buildings, it includes eight units, each of which sleeps 4 - 6. Far enough off the main road to be totally quiet and serene, it is still within easy walking distance of frequent buses into Siena, and into the nearby village of Rosia. Sitting on a slight rise, it offers wonderful views of the green countryside and the rooftops of the nearby village.
The units themselves are clustered together - a benefit for our large group - but there were no other properties nearby. The area was ideally situated for doing day trips, but remote enough to offer a quiet haven (and a refreshing dip in the pool) upon return.
The village of Rosia is less than 1 km away, and has all the services travellers might need -- grocers, pharmacy, cafes, women's shop (where our luggage-less members found new wardrobes), post office and more. One could walk into the village from the Borgo, but the narrow road and non-existant shoulders made it a challenge to do so, so having a car was a decided advantage. The local hotel had a dining room with a wide variety of offerings for those wanting to eat close to home. And within a 5 - 6 km radius there were several other restaurants and pizzerias as well.
The Borgo has been in the owneres' family for many generations; it was fully renovated within the last 10 years, and the farm buildings turned into warm and comfortable vacation rentals. There are eight units (either freestanding or two unit buildings) sleeping 4 - 6, most of which are clustered around a central courtyard. The decor is delightfully eclectic, with each room offering something new to delight the eye, and the units were definitely decorated, rather than just furnished.
Each unit had a generous private outdoor living area with table, chairs or benches, and umbrellas for shade, and the central courtyard provided additional tables and chairs that were adequate to seat all 18 of us for a meal with seating space left over. There were broad expanses of lawn, and well-tended flower beds. There was an above ground pool and sundeck with a wonderful view of the countryside -- and during our visit the owners were putting the finishing touches to a new, larger permanent in-ground pool and spa that is scheduled to be ready by the end of summer 2005. The pool was shared by all guests (the new pool and surrounding area will be very large and spacious!
All furnishings were comfortable and in very good codition. There was adequate seating for residents and friends in all units. The units were immaculate when we arrived -- we actually stopped by several hours before the indicated check-in time just to see if we could find the place, and the owners were in the midst of ironing the sheets for our use! Exterior areas were swept and cleaned daily.
The beds were wonderfully comfortable. Bedrooms were large, and each contained adequate storage space. The bathrooms included modern fixtures -- but some of the showers were the basic showerhead in a corner, drain in the floor variety. Others did have shower stalls -- and some bathrooms had tubs with hand-held showers. Tiled walls were sparklingly clean, and reflected the owners' hard work and pride in their property.
Kitchens were compact, but well furnished with cutlery, dishes and glassware. Cooking utensils - pots, strainers, etc., were minimal, but adequate. There were no ovens - but there were dishwashers. Because we were a group of 18, we used multiple kitchens for preparing the few group meals we enjoyed together - but there was adequate space for fixing breakfasts and lunches for our own households.
Problems or Bonuses
We had seen photos of the property on the Drawbridge to Europe website, but were all thrilled to find the reality even better than we had hoped. It met everyone's dream of a Tuscan country villa -- welcoming and comfortable. Each unit had its own washing machine and a collapsible drying rack, which was a definite plus.
The only minor drawback was the fact that kitchen cupboards were totally empty on our arrival, and there were no cleaning supplies, sponges, etc. (but there was toilet paper). I spoke with one of the owners and asked if she had considered providing some basic supplies for those travelling from abroad -- noting visitors might even be willing to pay a small fee for a few essentials such as salt, pepper, olive oil, etc. She thought that was a great idea -- had never thought of it since most of their regular clients were more local and brought supplies with them. She indicated she would start putting together a "starter basket" for renters coming from abroad. Her responsiveness was very positive and reflective of the wonderful service we had received while we were there.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Drawbridge to Europe was wonderful to work with. The staff were unfailingly helpful and responsive, and made renting this property simple and uncomplicated. Questions were answered quickly and fully; arrangements for our large group were handled seamlessly, despite our changing our minds about specific units in the middle of the process. We were very pleased with the whole process from start to finish.
The owners of this property really believe in being "hosts". They spoke some English and communicaton was never a problem. In addition to a warm welcome and full introduction to our four units when we arrived, they went the extra mile to help and make us feel at home. Two or our party arrived without luggage -- and the owners made multiple phone calls for us every day to try to locate and arrange for delivery of the missing bags (which finally arrived on Wednesday!). The owner arrived one afternoon with a plate of wonderful bruschetta and a bottle of local wine for each of our four units, and on our last night, by arrangement, they transformed our central patio into an al fresco dining room with linen tablecloths, candles and flowers, and served a four course Tuscan dinner complete with wine and Vin Santo! It was a wonderful experience, and the perfect way to end our stay. A new restaurant space is under construction at the property, so future visitors will have the option of enjoying the owner's culinary skills in a more formal setting in the near future.
Rental prices were more than reasonable. For our week from May 28 - June 4, we rented two 2 bedroom units - one was $975, the other $1050; and two 3 bedroom units - one was $1,440, the second was $1,360. Each had a minimum of two bathrooms.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would all stay at this property again in a heartbeat. The only complaint I heard from our group members was that we had decided only to rent for one week - none of us was ready to leave when Saturday morning arrived. And we would all recommend this to our friends - it is a place where the warmth and friendliness of the owners draws you in, the comfort of the units makes you want to linger, and the beauties of the area beckon you back.
Things to do in this area
The Borgo is ideally located for doing both nothing - sitting outside in the shade of an olive tree or lounging by the refreshing pool - and for visiting many of the treasures of Tuscany. Siena is a 15 minute ride away; we took day trips to Monte Olive Maggiore, Volterra, San Gimigiano, Montepulciano, Pienza, San Antimo, San Galgano and more, drove over white roads stopping frequently to admire the gorgeous views, shopped for groceries and sat under a pergola at a cafe in Rosia; ate at a wonderful small pizzeria (unfortunately I've lost the name) in a village less than 5 km away; joined the locals for the Sagra di Pasta Sciutta in a neighboring village, and just basked in the wonders of a Tuscan spring.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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