Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1687: Grifoglia, Barn Apartment
apartments on a farm near Barga, north of Lucca, Tuscany North
August 2005, 1 week
Grifoglia is located in the country of NW Tuscany in a valley some 20 minutes or so from the charming town of Barga. The final part of the journey requires negotiating some narrow winding country roads, which are steep sided in places. A small to medium sized car is most suitable for this purpose.
This is a quiet and restful location, with the only sounds from the river Aania rushing by, the odd hooting of an owl and maybe the local dogs hunting. The views across to the mountains are lovely.
Two and half kilometres away the small town of Coreglia Antiminelli is a short drive or bracing walk away. Barga is a fair sized town with cafes, bars and restaurants as well as some good shops, including a small supermarket.
We saw at its best as we visited around the time of Ferragosto, so there were many fairs, dances, feasting and celebrations. The centro storico is delightful with many works by the della Robbia who we adore. Barga has a jazz and opera festival during the summer, a perfect time to visit.
Our accommodation was a charming converted barn, with a living/cooking area downstairs and a spacious mezzanine bedroom upstairs, with an en suite shower room. Perfect accommodation for 2 people but another 2 could sleep on the bed settee. Everything was of good quality, in excellent condition and spick and span throughout.
Further accommodation is available in a suite of rooms offering very flexible, private accommodations in the main house. It can be let as a 2-bed 2-shower room apartment or as 2 separate suites each with their own shower room and kitchenette.
There is also a tiny way side chapel at Grifoglia where Gianni, Pietro and Kerry’s son aged 7, was recently baptised. He is rather proud of this fact. The village priest is happy to preside over weddings or christenings and Kerry will make the all the necessary arrangements.
Rental rate is 600 euros or dollars apparently with a lesser tariff for the other apartments. This was a Slow Travel prize for us ... lovely.
The accommodations are well represented on the web site and you also get a feel for the Garfangana.
"Grifoglia" refers to all the properties in the immediate local area but the origins of the name are unclear, maybe the name of a local holly type bush.
Grifoglia sits in 20 aces of its own land. Outside our accommodation was a lovely fig tree for shade over the marble topped table with ample chairs for outside dining. There is a handsome pool with good sun loungers and parasols all maintained to a high standard by our hosts. Pietro's orto, the subject of much love and attention, produces wonderful organic fruit, vegetable and herbs.
Everything here was as neat as a new pin. The sitting room had a big comfortable bed settee and a nice dining table to one end with ample chairs.
Our bedroom was charming, light and airy with a French window out on to a grassy seating area. This is a charming spot for the first coffee of the day as you can watch the sun peak over the mountain tops and illuminate the valley.
The en suite shower room, with plentiful hot water was thoughtfully appointed and came complete with soap, facial and toilet tissues as well as towels.
The kitchenette was compact with hob and refrigerator, but no oven. Pietro’s pizza oven can be shared with the family however, whenever they light it up so that was a real bonus. We had fresh chicken and vegetables from the orto one evening cooked in this way – delicious!! All utensils and crockery were of good quality and attractive.
Problems or Bonuses
The bonuses were our thoughtful and charming hosts who anticipated our every need. Kerry was also particularly generous with her time and knowledge of the area when planning our day’s itinerary.
We were delighted to arrive to a well-stocked pantry including coffee, tea, milk, and olive oil, local bread for breakfast and those wonderful fresh vegetables and herbs from Pietro’s orto. Our bed was made up on our arrival and towels were supplied for both bathing and swimming with a change mid week. We were invited to drinks on our first evening which was also a bonus as not only did we enjoy the company but it was great to see the before and after photographs of the farm buildings.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Grifoglia is owner maintained and managed to a very high standard. Kerry sent us an information pack well ahead of our visit, which was a nice and useful touch as Grifoglia is not easy to find after a long journey. The hints about local shopping hours etc. are very good reminders to even seasoned travellers like us!
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I do recommend this area of northern Tuscany for a get away from it all peaceful break. We were thoroughly spoilt by our hosts and came back home relaxed and refreshed. It is also perfect for walkers and cyclists as there are many trails marked in the mountains where the scenery is majestic.
I don’t believe it would suit first time visitors to Italy, who have an urgent need to see for example, Chianti, Siena or Cortona, but it is perfect for those who want to visit Lucca, Pisa and the many beautiful villas and gardens in the area.
Autumn must be a lovely season to visit this part of Tuscany to observe the colours of the foliage changing.
Things to do in this area
Carrying on from above there are many small villages and towns worthy of exploration in the nearby vicinity. Further afield it is possible to visit the Versilian coast with good public beaches at Forte dei Marmi. We took the route over the mountains for spectacular views of the Carrara marble quarries and then went on to Torre del Lago for a lakeside performance of La Boheme. It was an enchanting evening but remember it’s a drive of an hour and a half in the dark to get home.
We particularly enjoyed our time in Lucca so set aside 2 days for visiting this splendid town.
Villa Torrigiani was very rewarding with its gorgeous 16th century "Flora’s Garden" set in an English style park. Le Notre designed the ornamental pools. The entrance fee is 9 euros, which includes a tour of the ground floor rooms, absolutely delightful!
Pisa deserves a whole day. The Campo dei Miracoli, which includes the Duomo, the Campo Santo, the Baptistry and the leaning tower, is so beautiful it will take your breath away. Tickets are required to enter all these buildings and, if you want to climb the now reopened leaning tower you will need to arrive early enough to book a time slot.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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