Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1771: Castello in Bisticci, Alcove Apartment
apartments in castle near Florence, Tuscany Chianti
July 2005 - October 2005, three months
Castello in Bisticci is situated approximately 12 miles (18km) south of Florence. It is situated mid-way up a mountain which provides its guests with a stunning view of the Valdarno valley. The location offers a wonderful sense of privacy, if you want it, but is situated within an easy drive of many of the most wonderful sites the Chianti region of Tuscany has to offer - Florence (about 30 minutes drive), Arezzo (about 45 minutes drive), beautiful Siena is only an hour's drive as is the beautiful city of San Gimignano with it's many tall medieval towers. Pisa, with its well-known leaning tower, can be reached in an hour, as can the beautiful hill city of Cortona, the city that was inspiration for Frances Mayes wildly popular book, Under the Tuscan Sun.
I can't say enough about the beauty of this region, especially as it moves into fall the the leaves are beginning to change to a fiery red.
I must also give my accolades to two of the nicest people, Cid and Francesco A., the owners of the property, who helped us orient ourselves to the area in every way they could. I am especially thankful for Cid's help in getting us to medical treatment for our five-year old daughter who unfortuneately contracted a bout of chicken pox during our first week of arrival.
The trade-off for the wonderful sense of privacy Castello in Bisticci offers is that you will need a rental car for your daily activities. There are some small grocery stores and bakeries nearby as well as cafes for those times you would like a coffee and a pastry upon arising for your early morning walk through those marvellous Tuscan country lanes. There are larger supermarkets, akin to what we have in the United States, that are within a short drive as well as many other types of facilities - bakeries, dry cleaners, pharmacies, etc...
As might be expected, there are many wonderful restaurants nearby ranging from the very expensive offering the finest in cuisine the Tuscan area has to offer, to very casual and friendly family style restaurants where the locals go for very tasty and modestly priced meals. Again, I cannot stress enough how helpful Cid and Francesco were in recommending some very wonderful dining experiences.
Castello in Bisticci, according to our host Francesco Andrenelli, was built approximately 500 years ago and was at one time a castle. The building is in excellent repair thanks to Francesco's skills in restoration and maintainence. I was especially pleased with the way that the Andrenelli's managed to keep the outside of the villa looking antique and rustic, just like the photos you see in the travel magazines, while providing all the modern conveniences within the guests living space - a modern kitchen equipped with a dishwasher, a washing machine and a modern bathroom . The interior of the apartment did not disappoint us and was every bit as lovely as the photos show on the internet. Everything was functional and in good repair.
We were staying in the Alcove apartment. It is very nicely laid out with a large living room/kitchen area which includes a fireplace for those travelers who may be staying in the fall/winter months. I can tell you the fireplace works well and provides a nice warm heat to the living room. Our five-year old stayed in her own room that was nicely furnished with an antique desk and a chesnut bed that was handmade by Francesco's grandfather. The master bedroom features an antique cast iron bed that I guess must be the equivalent of a king sized bed in the USA. It has to have been the most comfortable mattress I have ever slept on. I never had back pain in the morning like I usually have when I stay in vacation places. Cid had told me that these mattresses were custom made for the antique bedframe.
There is another rental apartment on the property, the Lemon Terrace. During our stay, there were several groups of Americans who stayed there. It was very nice to be able to talk with and even travel with fellow Americans during our stay. Our five-year old even became best friends with one of the families four year old daughters.
There is a wonderful garden area that is available for the exclusive private use of each guest. Ours featured a nice table with chairs, covered with a canopy, with a unbelievable view of the valley. There is a hammock strung between the walnut and pear tree, which makes a wonderful place to nap during the day when the sun is out and the air is so warm. In addition, there are several types of fruit trees in the garden. We had a wonderful time picking figs, pears, and walnuts right off the tree. It was a wonderful experience for our five-year old.
The Lemon Terrace also has fruit trees - pears and persimmons. For those of you who might travel with pets, the garden makes a nice enclosed area to keep your animal and allow them to enjoy the tuscan sunshine without having to worry about them wondering off. Our miniature poodle loved basking in the sun, sprawled out on the grass.
Everything was in good shape and was very comfortable. Just before our arrival, Cid had replaced the couch in the living room with a new white linen, duck down sofa. I can tell you it is very comfortable. I can't say how many times either myself, my wife, or both of us together fell asleep on that couch in front of the warmth of the fire crackling until late into the night. There was plenty of sitting areas available. In the living room there was the large couch along with a large, and quite comfy chair. There is also a beautiful antique desk and chair, perfect for writing those postcards back home to friends, telling them of the latest beautiful site you've been to. There is a large dining room table in the kitchen with plenty of room for guests if you should have any. The smaller bedroom also had an antique desk and shelves for storage. The master bedroom featured the king sized bed and a small ante room with a cafe style table and two chairs. There is a sizable schiffer robe for storing all your clothes after you unpack.
The beds, as I've stated before, were some of the most comfy beds I've ever slept in. There is one bathroom that is plenty large enough. It has a tub and a shower fixture and is tastfully tiled in grey slate.
The kitchen is well laid out and modern with both a new oven/stove and a dishwasher as well. It is completely equipped with whatever you might need - dishes, pots and pans, cooking utensils, silverware, etc... All you have to do is buy your groceries and begin to cook-away. We made many full meals in the kitchen and even entertained guests on a couple of occassions with no feeling of crampedness.
Problems or Bonuses
We did not experience any problems or surprises. I can only say that both Cid and Francesco were very available and helpful to us when we had questions or needed guidance in any way.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I can't say enough about Cid and Francesco A. Both were very friendly and helpful to us and went above and beyond the call of duty in helping us orient ourselves to the area and make the most of our stay. Both Cid and Francesco are bi-lingual Italian-English. This came in especially handy when we needed medical care for our daughter. Cid personally accompanied us to the doctor's office and served as our translator and interpreter in what would have been a very anxious situation if she had not been available. I can say I was not disappointed by our stay at Castello in Bisticci. I believe you will find it every bit as charming and endearing as you see on the website.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, I can honestly say that I would stay here again. In fact, I have this on my agenda for my future vacation plans. I would have no reservations in telling my best friend to book a month next week!
Things to do in this area
There are many interesting things to do in this area as Castello in Bisticci is centrally located to many of the most exciting attractions in the Chianti region. There are many outdoor markets that take place virtually any day of the week. Of course there are a plethora of wineries and it is absolutely heaven for wine aficianados. You are in close proximity to some of the most beautiful cities in the Tuscan region including Florence, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo, and, if you don't mind a 11/2 to 2 hour drive, Perugia and Assisi.
Cid also directed us to some interesting sites that most tourists will never see. My favorite was a tour of many of the pre-christian, pagan temples that dot the area and can only be found through Cid's expert advice and experience.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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