Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1987: Italy Perfect, Casetta Bonsi della Ruota
1bed/1bath house in Oltrarno, Florence
March 2006, 1 week
The Casetta Bonsi della Ruota is located in the less-touristed Oltr’arno, a very short walk from the Ponte Vecchio and just up the Costa de’ Magnoli from the Piazza Santa Maria Soparno. The climb on foot is short but rather steep. We were panting on the first day, but by the third were walking comfortably. Not bounding up the hill, mind you, but then again, not clinging to the walls and gasping for air. The area is off the main drag, and thus very quiet and peaceful, not at all scary. This is a neighborhood, and we felt totally safe night and day. It was especially nice to be “far from the madding crowds” of tourists.
Several alimentari and bakeries and pastry shops; numerous restaurants; a flower shop, great shopping (amazing antiques on the Via Maggio!). Killer views from the nearby Costa Scarpuccia. Taxi stand at the Piazza Santa Maria Soparno. Several enotecas within staggering distance. In the neighborhood, we ate at Trattoria Bordino (twice), Il Santo Bevitore, and, just a bit further afield, the Osteria Santo Spirito. Had a lovely afternoon sampling wines by the glass at Le Volpe e l’Uva in the Piazza Santa Felicita’. Stocked up on fabulous olive oil, wine and cheese at the nearby Olio et Convivum on Via Santo Spirito.
A 900 square foot, solidly built free-standing house on its own tiny piazza, represented precisely as it is on the ItalyPerfect website (www.italyperfect.com)
1st floor living room and kitchen; 2nd floor bedroom, bath and terrace. Beautiful red-tiled floors throughout. Perfect for 2 people, or a couple with kids, or really close friends. The Casetta is in a quiet Oltr’arno neighborhood, and although many of the neighbors park their Vespas in the Piazza dei Bonsi, this was never a problem, noisewise. It’s a great value for the money, and an easy spot to come back to during a long day of wandering the streets of Florence. Interior wooden shutters can be closed to block out all light and most noise, if you like. We liked hearing the sounds of the neighborhood waking up and going to sleep.
There is a small but completely charming terrace. French doors open from the upstairs landing onto this pie-shaped wedge of terrace with a stone lion wall fountain at one end. Just enough room at the wide end for a small café table and 2 chairs, and a view of neighboring apartments, patios and terraces and the ever-present tower of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The house is immaculate. Wish I could import the housekeeper to whip my own living quarters into shape! The bowls of potpourri give the entire house a clean, subtle and memorable scent.
On the ground floor, there is a cozy but ample living room with dining area next to tall double windows opening to an interior air shaft between buildings. Not a spectacular view, but fun to glimpse the neighbors at their dinner table and try to figure out what they’re having.
The living room is furnished with a beautiful hand-painted Venetian cupboard, a comfortable sofa (that easily converts to 2 twin beds), a wooden dining table and 4 chairs, a glass-fronted bookcase filled with paperback novels, CDs and DVDs, guidebooks and Italian dictionaries, and a sealed glass jar holding ancient pottery shards found on site. There’s a small cable TV with Italian and English-language stations, a CD and DVD player. In one corner is a decorative corner fireplace (vent is permanently closed), an occasional table with art books, and a rush-bottomed chair. There’s also an umbrella stand, complete with umbrella, which came in handy during our trip!
The bedroom is furnished with a really comfortable bed, which can be made up as a king or 2 twins. Crisply ironed but wonderfully soft sheets, a cozy wool blanket and a fluffy duvet. A huge armoire was more than adequate for our meager supply of clothing, and also housed extra blankets and pillows. There was a beautiful Biedermeir-style marble-topped dresser, and a small table with 2 chairs in front of another decorative corner fireplace.
The bathroom looks brand-new, sparkling clean, and is well-equipped with sink, cabinet, toilet, bidet and shower. Bright halogen lights and a big mirror. Great water pressure, and apparently “endless hot water” if you know how to set the dials properly. Big waffle-weave towels and bathrobes, with lots of extras in the cabinet. A good hair dryer, a big bottle of body wash, toothpaste and a thoughtful supply of extra toilet paper was provided.
The kitchen has a full size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, American and Italian coffeepots, ample dishes, glassware, utensils, pots and pans, and the basic condiments (salt, sugar, coffee, paper towels etc). Four-burner gas cooktop, an oven and a toaster. Decent counter space, nicely spread with a bowl of fruit, a tray of pastries, some pineapple juice and a bottle of Asti Spumante as a welcoming gift from Maurizio and Gabriella. You could easily cook a full meal here. I had noble intentions of cooking every evening, but had too many restaurants on my “must eat” list. Next time…..
Just off the kitchen is a closet with the washing machine, utility sink, iron and ironing board, a drying rack and a small in-wall safe for valuables.
Problems or Bonuses
Bonus city! The high-speed DSL hook-up and laptop (5 euros/day and worth every penny) kept my sports-mad husband pacified during the ACC tournament, even though the first UNC game didn’t come on until 3am Italia-time. We were able to stay in touch with friends and family via e-mail.
The loaner cell phone was invaluable for calling taxis (055-4242), making dinner reservations, and for calling Maurizio.
The information packet provided upon arrival is great! Lots of historical information about the Casetta, a list of suggested local restaurants, nice big maps of Florence, a brochure on the San Niccolo neighborhood, brochures on Florence must-sees.
The only “problem” was my limited Italian, which kept me from getting the full understanding of how the thermostat and water heater controls worked, although I’m sure Gabriella explained it perfectly. For the record, to ensure the “endless hot water” referred to in the guest book, make sure that both dials are turned more towards the + sign on the unit in the kitchen cabinet.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Lisa Byrne of ItalyPerfect could not have been more helpful. She was professional, efficient, quick to respond to any and all questions, and a font of information. The photos and write-up on the website gave a completely accurate description of the property, and it was even more charming in person. The document provided in advance (the ItalyPerfect Rental Manual) told us everything we needed to know, and then some! It’s a great crash-course for renting in Italy.
On-site, Gabriella and Maurizio Miranda were charming and gracious hosts. Even though Maurizio was laid low by an attack of bronchitis just before we arrived, his lovely wife Gabriella met us at the apartment and showed us the ropes. (Lisa had thankfully alerted us to this development before we left the US.) Maurizio speaks perfect English, and between Gabriella’s limited English and my limited Italian, we managed to communicate just fine. Maurizio was constantly available (from his sick-bed!) to answer any questions, and saved our bacon by calling a cab to pick us up on the night we severely underestimated how far Trattoria da Omero is from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Note to self: it is NOT within easy walking distance.
The price of $1195.00 for a week was extremely reasonable for what we received in return: a charming pied a terre in my favorite city in the world, and a window into a real Florentine neighborhood.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely! It is quiet and peaceful and clean as a whistle, and a wonderful value. It was our first experience with a rental rather than a hotel, and we loved feeling like locals for a week. Didn’t miss the front desk at all, what with Maurizio or Gabriella just a phone call away. We would definitely stay here again.
Things to do in this area
Definitely take the steep hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, passing through one of the old city gates on the way. The view is stunning, day or night. Don’t miss the beautiful Romanesque church of San Miniato al Monte.
Visit the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, and take a picnic lunch to the Boboli. Or stop in at the Pitti Gola e Cantina for a glass (or several) of remarkable wines and a light but delectable meal.
The frescoes in Santa Maria del Carmine are some of the most moving I’ve ever seen…I would like to visit them on every trip to Florence. You can feel the shame and despair of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden. I’m also in love with the austere beauty of Santo Spirito.
Hemingway. Chocolate. Need I say more? Take the hike to Piazzale Michelangelo again in penance, but OMG.
I could go on, but will save it for the trip report. Suffice it to say that you could spend the entire week in the Oltr’arno and never run out of interesting things to do.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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