Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 173: La Bella Toscana, Apartment Ginestra
2bed/2bath apartment on a farm (Il Piano) outside San Gimignano, Tuscany West
6 October 2001, 1 week
Our rental was located approximately 3 miles from San Gimignano on a lovely farm that produced their own olive oil, wine and pecorino cheese. The winding (and bumpy) driveway was lined with beautiful old cypress trees. You could see miles away, in one direction, the medieval towers of San Gimignano, the other direction had great views of olive trees and vineyards. The owner had a home on the farm, however they were not staying there while we were there. We did meet him and his daughter, Claudia, they were very gracious and helpful as was Maria (?) who it appeared was their housekeeper. There was an additional building that appeared lived in, however we did not see the occupants. It was very peaceful and relaxing, although we did awaken to hear the local hunters searching for cingale in the mornings!
There were 2 Coops nearby, though neither was in walking distance. The larger coop was the SuperAl just outside of Pogginbonsi. We stopped there on our way in to get essentials, and also one evening for dinner ingredients. (Thanks to David for his instructions on using carts and buying produce!). Our travel companions stopped in the Coop in San Gimignano and found it sufficient. As we ate out most evenings, we only needed coffee (and thank you, Pauline, for your detailed directions on using the Italian espresso makers!), milk, bread for basics.
I am not sure of the year the farmhouse was built, however it was an authentic Tuscan farmhouse. The pictures on the web site were very accurate. I must say, as we were approaching, we were a bit apprehensive, certain that the property could not be as good as it looked or sounded on the internet site. It lived up to and exceeded our expectations. Price wise, we paid $500 for the week which was then split between 2 couples. The building itself was divided into 4 apartments, 2 one bedroom/one bath, and 2 two bedroom/2 bath. The home had been renovated 5 years ago and remained in good shape.
Our apartment was on the 1st story (2nd story as those of us in the US would call it) and we had a terrace that we enjoyed. There were flower box gardens around the terrace. The grounds were planted with each of the plants the indiviual apartments were named for (great Rosemary bush!). There was also a lovely rose garden. The owner's home had a bit more landscaping with various plants. There was a pool on the location, however we did not use it. It was clean and in good condition.
The furniture in the apartment was adequate, nothing fancy and if it had been fancy, it would have been out of place. This was very much a comfortable, cozy place to stay. There was a kitchen table that seated 4, a settee and 2 chairs in the kitchen/dining/living room. Outside on the terrace, there was a table, 4 chairs, and 2 lounge chairs. There was a clothes rack and a grill out there as well. The apartment was clean when we arrived. They ask that you leave it in the same clean condition, not necessarily spotless, but clean. There is not a daily cleaning service, however their staff showed up on Saturday as we were leaving to collect linens and do a more thorough cleaning.
Our bed was comfortable for the 7 nights that we were there. A firmer mattress would have been fine, but we slept well regardless. There was plenty of closet space and additional blankets were available. Also, there were screens on the windows. The locations of the bedrooms were nice for 2 couples, kind of catty corner to each other, but seperated by the foyer. The 2 bathrooms were side by side. One had a tub with hand held shower, and the other had a shower only, which my husband and I used. The first usage, my husband showered the entire room. We adapted after that experience ... I was also surprised with the size of that bedrooms and bathrooms, while not huge, they were bigger than most we had during our Italy trip. All of the plumbing worked well.
The kitchen was basically a row of cabinets along one wall, with a small refrigerator. There was also a stove with gas burners. The kitchen was sufficiently stocked with pans, plates, colander, cutting board, silverware, etc. for anyone wishing to make meals. We elected to eat out most of the nights, however we had adequate items for the night or two that we stayed in.
Problems or Bonuses
We had no bad surprises, but our companions were a little disappointed that they could not figure out the washing machine mechanism. To be honest, we did not really try too hard either. Clothes just lasted a little longer ... Small trade off for spending time relaxing or touring!
We were able to locate the farmhouse easily at night, which had been one of our concerns. It was basically a left and then a right from San Gimignano. We were 2 married couples who had traveled together several times and the set up of the farmhouse worked well for privacy and those times you needed a break away.
Mare & Bruce from Seattle (Mare is on the SlowTrav message board) stayed here the same week we did and were great neighbors to have!!!!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The agency was great and Gaynor Powell was very helpful. As you know, she is English. All of the information she presented was accurate. She was very kind in answering additional questions we had and responded promptly to any email. I was very impressed by her detailed directions to the farmhouse.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
All four of us strongly agreed we would recommend this farmhouse. In fact, we have several friends who have requested further information on this property for their Italy visit. I would let people know this is not a villa in the sense that many people think of villas as castles. It is a simple Tuscan farmhouse, and with that, it brings the many simple joys of Tuscany.
Things to do in this area
San Gimignano is so near and especially pretty at night when the tour buses are gone. We day tripped to the following: Siena, Chianti Region, Assisi, Orvieto, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Volterra, & Monteriggioni. The drives to Assisi and Orvieto were a little long.
In San Gimignano, our favorite restaurant was Le Vecchie Mura. They had indoor and outdoor seating, both a different experience. Our favorite restaurant overall was Cane e Gatto in Siena. However, the drive back to the farmhouse at 2:00 am was difficult due to the fog in October. That coupled with windy roads made us wish we had spent the night in Siena.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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