Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1679: Agriturismo Cretaiole, Apartment
apartments on a farm near Pienza, Tuscany South
July 2005, 5 days
Cretaiole is situated on a hill overlooking the Val d'Orcia about 4 km from Pienza which can be seen in the distance. The property includes an olive grove, and farmland. There are no near neigbors, although you can see other picturesque properties far awy on the surrounding hillsides. The view is SPECTACULAR!! It was a great location from which to explore the small medieval towns of Tuscany and we loved the area. One of the nicest views we saw in Tuscany, and it was ours to savor every day!
You could walk into Pienza, or ride the bikes offered to guests, but it is 4 km away. We drove as it is quite hilly and the weather was hot. Some of the guests cycled though. It is only a few minutes drive into Pienza where there are two grocery stores as well as charming, smaller shops in the older part of town. There are numerous restaurants in Pienza, and in the other very accessible towns. Another plus is a nearby hot spring, open at no cost to bathers.
The farmhouse is from the 1300's but has been completely renovated, keeping in the traditional Tuscan style of furnishings and maintaining the original architecture. The house is L shaped around a pleasant courtyard. All the apartments, 6 of them, look out over the valley. Each apartment has a private entrance and you could mingle with the other guests or be as separate as you wanted. The property is very large so there was never a feeling of being in each others way.
There was no pool, but as already mentioned, there is a free hot spring near by. There is ample seating outside, on the edge of the hillside, under olive trees, with lots of comfortable chairs, lounges, swings, and picnic tables, as well as a table in the courtyard. There are BBQs in the courtyard also. Bicycles were available for guests. A rather beaten up ping-pong table was fun to play on! The outdoor amenities are shared by all the guests but it was easy to have privacy. There are also ample toys under the shade trees for children.
The furnishings were very attractive and comfortable. The apartment was extremely clean. The living area was small but cosy with a fireplace and sofa, and seating at the table for four. All of the apartments have fireplaces. Some of the other apartments were larger, with one gorgeous three bedroom unit that had two bathrooms-it was truly delightful. The owner let us see all the empty units before we left and they were all really attractive. Some have very interesting features like domed ceilings, arched doorways and windows, deep casement windows and all have lovely clay tiled floors. There is a laundry room for the guests use, and lots of drying racks out in the sun behind the house.
The beds were excellent and the bedrooms especially attractive - well furnished with lovely Tuscan furniture. It was very quiet and we all slept like babies! The bathroom was quite sufficient with sink, toilet and shower, with ample towels. Good, hot water.
The kitchen in our unit was part of the main dining/sitting room and was suitable for cooking meals for the 4 of us, although small. The dishes and pots and pans were of reasonable quality, and if anything was lacking the hosts were glad to provide it for us, right away. It was hot when we were there, so cooking wasn't my favorite activity but there were fans in each room which helped a lot. It cooled down nicely at night.
Problems or Bonuses
All surprises were good. The owners are the most delightful, hard working people, Luciano and Liliana M., and although they speak little English, their daughter-in-law, Isabella, is fluent in English, French and German and she is there daily to meet anyones needs and is always accessible by cellphone. Isabella has good knowledge of the area and its history.
The guests have an open invitation to take anything from the extensive vegetable garden for consumption. There was a complimentary bottle of wine from their winery, delicious, and we could purchase more for only a few euros a bottle, depending on the year. The owners also have a farm that sells their produce, mainly olive oil (absolutely wonderful quality), wines, cheese that they age wrapped in leaves but do not make themselves, and cured meats, and guests are invited to visit the farm.
Each day of the week there are activities for the guests if they wish to partake, such as a guided tour of Siena, olive oil tasting, a tour of an ancient Etruscan tomb that they own (not open to the general public and fascinating - a real privilege) and best of all, a lesson in making pici ("pee-chee"), a handrolled pasta, old peasant food of the region, followed by a meal with the whole family which included wine, vegetables, the pici with a wonderful ragu (Liliana's secret recipe), cured meats and the questionably popular grappa! Guests are asked to bring something simple to the meal such as a salad, or fruit.
We are not typically very sociable when on vacation but that evening was a real joy, something we will always remember. Even the honeymoon couple seemed to have a great time with the rest of us! **All these activities are included in the price!!**
If you like cats, there are 7 outdoor cats that are sweet and friendly. If you don't like cats, not a problem. They don't enter the apartments and you can ignore them, but they make great photo subjects, curled up in flower pots, and stretched out in the sun, enjoying the fabulous view!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Isabella answers all emails and is very responsive to your needs. Her English is excellent. The place was even better than we hoped. Luciano and Liliana are there daily although they live on their farm nearby, but are always reachable, as is Isabella. We paid 140 euros a night for a 2 bedroom apartment in July, high season I think. This was very reasonable considering all the activities that were included, and the amenities. A bargain really.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely, YES! We can't wait to go back. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to really experience country life in Italy, for a reasonable price but with all the comforts of home.
Things to do in this area
Another great feature of Cretaoile's management, is that Isabella has put together binders for each apartment, with detailed driving tours, and recommendations of restaurants and activities in the area. We drove one of her tours which was a perfect day trip.
There are too many enjoyable restaurants and shops in the region to recommend just one. Each town has much to offer, and we enjoyed many of them. The food in the area is wonderful - try the cheeses! And some bread with olive oil and vinegar - molto bene! The cathedral in Siena is spectacular, and despite all the work that is being done on the exterior when we were there, was one of the best churches we saw in all of Italy. The Etruscan tomb that Isabella took us to was a real highlight.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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