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Review 188: Il Colombaio, Il Colombaio

Not Recommended
Review by Gavin Crawford from Australia who is a SlowTrav Contributor

apartments on a farm near Bucine, Tuscany East




Il Columbaio is a farmhouse, two hundred metres out of Montebenici. It is approx. a half hour drive from Siena (30km east of Siena). It is about a quarter hour from the Siena-Perugia road, so provides access to most of southern Tuscany and western Umbria. Comfortable day trips can be made to anywhere in Chianti, to San Gimignano and Voltera, down to Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano or across to Arezzo, to Perugia and to Cortona. Even Firenze can be reached in an hour if driving, or an hour and a half if using a car and train from Montevarchi.

The village is so small that there are no shops at all. Bucine (pronounced Buch..en..e), is 20 min drive to the north, and Rapolano Terme 20 min to the south, and both have Coop's and a full range of stores. You can stock up on non perishables weekly, and just stop off at any town during the day to buy fresh produce. After all, that's what the locals do.

Montebenici is on the wrong side of the last hill in the south of Chianti. They are still allowed to label their wines as being a sub-set of Chianti (in other words, not clasico). The advantage is that it sits on the top of the hill, with views for over twenty kilometres into the crete to the south. Just a stunning vista, through an arc of around 150 degrees. The higher slopes are terraced with olive trees, and the lower slopes, vinyards. It is extremely quiet and peacful, with only 30 or so residents in the village, scattered farmhouses, a couple of villas (holiday rentals), and one major winery. Within the village are two forts/castles. Both have recently been restored, one as an art gallery, the other as a hotel. The hotel is extremely lavish. Bought by a wealthy Milanese, he has installed his extensive collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman artefacts, restored most of the public rooms to their medieval glory, and paid to have the entire village restored.

Il Columbaio is a two story farmhouse. There are three apartments for rent. Two are in the main house (each can accommodate 2 people), and the third is an old storage building to the side of the house. It can accommodate four people, and has its own patio looking out over the spectacular view to the south. The two apartments in the house, are to the back of the building, and the views from their patios are to the olive terraces on the slopes of the hill.

The apartments consist of just two rooms each. An open bedroom, sitting room and kitchenette, and a bathroom. The bed is a couch that folds out of an evening. The kitchenette consists of a sink, small refrigerator, and two burner gas stove, and there are just the bare minimum pots and pans, plates and mugs. We reminded ourselves that we were paying less than $US 1,000 for a month, or $35.00 a day, so the fascilities you get are what you pay for. In certain months, they have special rates for two week bookings.

The entire building has only been restored in the past five years or so, so it is quite smart. Terracotta floors, stone and terracotta walls, open ceiling with Chesnut beams and terracotta tiles. Very clean, and a cleaner came in once a week. The bathroom is modern and clean.

There was a table and chairs on the patio, where we spent most of our time when at home. Ideal to sip a glass of wine, read a book, get a suntan, or eat dinner at 9.30 pm in the twilight. We picked wild mint from the terraces beside the patio, and made mint, walnut and pecorino fresco pesto to stir through our pasta.

There is no washing or ironing facilities, however this was offered at the rate of L25,000 per load. We hand washed in the shower for four weeks.

We would recomend Il Columbaio to those travelling on a tight budget. A month was too long to stay there. If you are looking for an inexpensive base for a week, then it is ideal. When you only have one room and a fold out bed, it makes it difficult to accomodate people who don't necessarily want to go to sleep, read a book, make a cup of coffee, or do their morning exercise at the same time. A week or two would be about the max. Then again, if we had had the old shed with the views, I'm sure we would have enjoyed it a lot more.

Note from SlowTrav: The provided website, www.val.it/aziende/colombaio, no longer operates. Also do not confuse this property with the Il Colombaio near Casole D'Elsa. They appear to be two distinct properties with the same name.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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