Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1909: Villa di Catignano, Apartment
apartments in a villa near Pianella, Tuscany Chianti
August 18 - 27, 2005, 9 days
The villa was located in the country. Up in the hills, just 10 minutes outside of Siena. It was perfectly located. It is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, yet not too far from any Tuscan town you would like to visit for the day. There are other properties but the farms spread the villas out, so it is very quiet, private and peaceful. The area is lovely. You do have to be prepared to drive on some narrow windy roads, but that's no different than anywhere in Tuscany.
Although two of my friends did not rent a car, it is difficult to walk to grocery stores and restaurants. They did walk to a local restaurant/coffee shop and also the bakery down the road, although I wouldn't have done it purely because of the curvy roads and I would have been afraid that the cars couldn't see you coming. Driving is very convenient. Just about 10 minutes away is a wonderful coop grocery store, and on the way there you pass this amazing restaurant Antica Bottegonova, a Michelin rated restaurant. There are also plenty of other local restaurants spread out in different directions all around 10-15 minute drives. You can also easily drive to Siena and have your choice of hundreds of restaurants.
Yes, the building has been in that family for generations. It is was the country house of the family whose main base was in Siena. So the property actually consists of the villa, where the family stayed, the fattoria where they used to make olive oil and wine and the cottages where the guests and servants lived. It's all transformed now into seperate independant apartments.
Some things were updated, like most of the rooms with their kitchens and bathrooms. Some things were not, like the church (but I think it's restored now) and part of the old storehouses are just closed off and birds live in there. It has a decaying charm. It is a huge property and the father told me that it would probably be his daughter who would finish all of the restoration.
All of the apartments were well furnished, either with antiques or cottage style furniture and sometimes Ikea like kitchens. No matter which apartment you stay in they are all spacious. The villa apartments are larger, but unless it was a studio (and there are only a few, I think 5 total) everyone had a living room, kitchen, bedroom and separate bathroom. You can't go wrong - they are all lovely with amazing views of the hills. From some windows you can even see Siena.
We rented 22 apartments - including villa apartments, fattoria apartments and studios, 3 cottages. There was still more space that we did not rent.
There was a gorgeous pool. You walk halfway up this tree lined hill on the property and it opens up onto this huge pool with umbrellas and chairs. The view overlooks the hills and you can see Siena. All of the outside areas are shared. There are some chairs and tables spread out around the property which we used on many a late night. However, since there are so many different gardens and sitting areas, it still feels very private and peaceful no matter how many people are staying there. They even have a special garden with what they call english style patterned hedges. There are flowers boxes everywhere overflowing with color and beauty, placed on the old well, on the stone walls and around the statues.
The furniture was all in good shape, very comfortable. Everything was extremely clean. Since we had so many large gatherings, I was worried about there being enough extra chairs and tables but that was never an issue there was always enought space to spread out, eat, drink, hang out, whatever.
The beds were ok. They had beautiful headboards but the springs bothered me a bit. They are different mattress than I'm used to here in the US. All of the bedrooms were lovely, with plenty of dresser space to store your clothes or just leave your suitcase open on the floor. The bathrooms were all different. One had green tile with a pink tub, toilet and sink. Some were the sitting showers, where you have a spray but you have to sit down - must be european since I've never seen one before in the US. Some had full tubs with sprayers, some had standing showers. A few had standing showers right by the toilet - a bit cramped for space. However, there was always plenty of hot water and good water pressure. There was usually one bathroom per bedroom.
The kitchens were all wonderful. They could all be used for cooking full meals. There is also a BBQ outside should you wish to grill. The pots and pans were a hodgepodge but always enough to cook and eat with. Some even had dishwashers.
Problems or Bonuses
Since we had seen it only through photos it was just different than we expected but if anything more beautiful than any photograph could convey. The family that owns the property couldn't be more wonderful. Sofia, the daughter of the owner is absolutely amazing. Any questions we had, she would e-mail us right back. She truly helped to make it an amazing week there.
One bad surprise, the hot water heater broke in my parents apartment in the villa. The maintenance guy on site had to fix it up twice but it wasn't too huge of a deal. Also the interent was out but that was a phone company failure and nothing to do with the management of the villa.
One good surprise, was when my dad went down to the garden really early in the morning and he walked into (not literally) a family of wild boar. They apparently walk around through the various fields eating the dropped fruit off of all of the fruit trees. My dad watched as the papa boar led them through the villa yard and through the hills onto the other properties.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I booked it through the daughter of the owner, through thousands of e-mails with her. Her English is very good, although sometimes things got lost in the translation. Actually, we paid much less than the published price but we booked most of the property. And for a very good rate she let us come 2 days early and stay in these smaller rooms on the property.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would definately stay there again. I was there with 55 of my family and friends and everyone loved it. Just note that you do have to be more independant than at a normal hotel. It really requires a car, and they only change the linens once a week (unless otherwise requested.) You couldn't find a better value for your money - based on location, service (Sofia) and beauty.
Things to do in this area
There are so many things to do locally. Since it is also near major highways, day trips to Florence and the hundreds of hill towns are very easy. I'm very food oriented so my experience is very organized around the food. The local coop has an amazing selection of foods whether you want to cook yourself or purchase the prepared foods. The wine selection of cheap (in price); wines are also fabulous.
Antica Bottegonova, on the way to Siena, is a local restaurant that is wonderful - artistic and amazing food. I never knew an eggplant could look like and taste like that. La Taverna di Vagliagli is located in a small town of Vagliagli and that place was wonderful, we ate there twice. We found a little local restaurant off a small road that was cheap and simple with lots of old Italian men sitting around and smoking and right across the way was a soccer field where a huge game was going on with a full band and everything. There are so many places like that there, I can't even remember all of their names.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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