Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2077: Il Giardino Segreto, Melograno and Corbezzolo
rooms and apartments in Pienza, Tuscany South
March 26, 2006, 4 nights
On March 26, 2006 we stayed in Pienza at Il Giardino Segreto for four nights. We stayed three nights in apartment Melograno and one night in Corbezzolo. We switched apartments the last day because Melograno was already booked by someone else that night. I had been curious about Il Giardino when I first started researching apartments. I had originally wanted to stay in Pienza and was looking for something nice and affordable. I wish I had followed my intuition at the beginning and booked early for a week here, but I wasn't able to find much information and the photos on the website seemed inadequate to help make a decision on something my family of four would be comfortable with. At the last minute I did book here and had to settle for four nights only, all that was available. There were no reviews for me to read, so I am happy to be writing this, as it may help someone else. The apartment was easy to find and everything in town is compact and on level ground. I had read comments about how Pienza was too-touristy, too small, too-disneyesque, not a "real" town, etc. Yes, it does get a fair amount of visitors, mostly all Italian while we were there, and yes it is small, but I know I didn't see it all. It is a "real town". I got up early each day to see the sunrise over the countryside and later watched children and teens bicycle to school, people going to work, bakeries making bread, people walking their doggies, etc.
Il Giardino Segreto is located on Via Condotti inside the walls of Pienza. If you are familiar with Pienza and the area then you already know that Pienza is a lovely, small town located about an hour south of Siena in the beautiful Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany. We parked in a free lot on the south side of Pienza, about a five-minute walk from the apartment. We were able to load and unload our luggage at the apartment. In town you can walk to the Coop for groceries (there are two), as well as a variety of shops and places to eat. We purchased wine, bread, milk, cheeses, and meats inside the walls and purchased paper towels, etc. at the Coop very close to the apartment. There is a handy dandy hardware/and everything else shop on the Corso where I purchased my hairdryer (very nice) for 14 euros. This place has everything from barbie dolls to fishing poles to coffee pots but does look like the small town hardware store back home; if you are still fortunate enough to have one of these in your town. My girls and I shopped in several clothing boutiques as well as gift and pottery stores. There is not a self service laundry in Pienza, but I did see one in San Quirico. We did have a small communal washer at the apartment but didn't want to hang clothes out everywhere inside the apartment to dry, So we carried our clothing in canvas bags to the laundry located on the Corso and picked them up clean the next day. About 60 euros for family of four laundry. We had about a weeks' worth. We did laundry only one other time, over 18 days, in Lucca at a self service laundry, cost between 20-30 euros for washer/dryer for family of four laundry.
The building the apartments are located in has recently been renovated, so while it is charming and appears unchanged over the past several centuries, all the comforts are new and updated. As I explained, we stayed in both of the two-bedroom apartments there. There are two one bed/one bath apartments , and several large rooms without kitchens for rent. While we were here we met several couples that rented one night only.
Layout - Melograno: Is located on second floor of the larger structure. There is a foyer as you enter the building, and stairs to the left that lead to the apartment. There is a landing on the stairs. Upon entering you are in the kitchen/dining/sitting area (two windows in this area). From the front door, through the first area leads a hall where you will find a bedroom with queen size bed, armoire, desk and chair, and two bedside tables. Up a stair or two in the hall is the rest of the apartment, a nice size hall closet for luggage, etc., with a cute little window in it, the bathroom which is quite large, and the other bedroom with a queen and twin bed where our girls slept. This room also has a lovely view of the bell tower. The apartment was much larger than I expected it to be.
Layout - Corbezzolo: Apartment is located in the other one story structure. There are two apartments in the building, we stayed one night in Corbezzolo a two bed/one bath. There are a few steps and large stoop as you go into the french door entrance. There are potted flowers around the entrance. After you enter you are in a large room with the kitchen to the left and dining room to the right and a small wicker sette between the two areas. Through the kitchen to the left is a pocket door which separates the kitchen and a small hall area where the bathroom is and a place to hang coats, hats, etc. One bedroom is located on this side, good sized room, with elegant decor and furnishings. The other bedroom is to the right of the dining area, and it too is furnished elegantly and is slightly larger. Both bedrooms have either queen/double beds but I understand that a twin bed can be set up in the larger bedroom if need be. We did use heating in both apartments only the evenings when the temperatures were cooler. I do not believe there is A/C in any of the apartments. There are windows in all of the rooms, including the bathrooms, with very nice hardware and beautiful interior wooden shutters. No screens. One surprise about the area for us was that we really had thought the landscape and climate would be almost arid and dusty-like (just from photos we had seen) but it is not. It has the same feel and atmosphere that one may experience in higher elevations. I don't mean thin-air, but rather the texture of the soil, the coolness of the air, the mosses, etc, definately not dry and dusty.
Our favorite spot was the garden area which is the centerpiece of the apartment building. Very nice spot to have coffee in the morning and a bottle of Nobile in the late afternoon. It is a space shared by all who are staying here but we were alone most of the time.
The apartments are furnished and decorated tastefully. The wood and trimwork are beautiful. Cotto floors, high timbered ceilings. There was plenty of room for the four of us in each apartment. There is no livingroom area in any of the apartments. There is a television in each apartment (Italian only) in the kitchen/dining/sitting area, but my girls did tune into VH1 and MTV.There are no easy chairs to plop down into but we were very happy even so. We spent so much of our time outdoors in the garden and in the evening played cards at the kitchen table. The apartments were both very clean and look to be lovingly taken care of.
I thought the bedrooms were beautiful. The wooden pieces are very elegant in both apartments. Mattresses and bedding very nice, extra pillows in armoires. Each apartment we stayed in had one bathroom. In Melograno the bathroom was quite large, shower only, no tub. The bathroom in Corbezzolo was a bit tighter but still nice, shower only, no tub. Plenty of hot water, nice towels.
Both apartment kitchens were furnished very much the same. Ample countertop space, not huge, but adequate for cooking meals. The sinks were large and both had nice faucets. Over the sink cabinet with dish drainer (handy). Gas cooktop, no oven or microwave. American style coffeemaker in both apartments. Under the counter fridge. Nice set of cookware, plenty of flatware, cooking utensils, dinnerware, glasses, corkscrew, gadgets, etc. My husband cooked two evening meals here and we had everything we needed.
Problems or Bonuses
No bad surprises. Good surprises - how nice the apartments were. The photos on the website just don't reflect how delightful they really are. Also, I knew how beautiful the view from the south wall of Pienza would be from photos and comments from other travelers but, there are no words really to decribe how beautiful the view is; it is the stuff of fairytales.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We booked directly with the owner, Luisa. I emailed back and forth with her several times. Her English is limited but communication was understandable on both sides. Another delightful woman, Rosella, is actually the manager of the apartments and met us to check us in. I believe Luisa lives in Chianciano Terme. Rosella speaks no English which presented a bit of a challenge, but one that we enjoyed working out.
Rental rates, were a good value. We used a credit card to reserve and pay the balance. I believe we paid less than 100 euro/nightly for either apartment we stayed in. Weekly rates are 510 Euros.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would indeed stay here again and hope to have the opportunity to do so. We very much enjoyed our time here and would recommend the apartments to friends and family.
Things to do in this area
Within the walls of Pienza we enjoyed strolling the town everyday. Several times a day we parked ourselves on the south wall overlooking the breathtaking view of the Tuscan countryside with Mt. Amita being centerpiece.
There are many food shops to purchase cheeses and coldcuts and pastas, sauces etc. There is also a good variety of gift and accessories stores; pottery stores, clothing stores, etc. There is an internet point right outside the walls, an easy walk.
Traveling by vehicle there are many interesting towns to visit all within 30 minutes or less. We visited Montalcino, Bagno Vignoni, San Quirico, Monticchiello and Montepulciano. We really liked San Quirico almost as much as Pienza. Just my opinion, but Montalcino was a let down for me compared to Pienza. Monticchiello was much hillier than Pienza and of course smaller, my girls would have been bored here I do believe. I did not make it to Montepulciano, but my husband and daughter did and enjoyed it. There are quite a few things on the intinerary we didn't do. But I was pleased with our relaxed pace over the four days. We dined out two evenings, at Di Falco's and Luna di Latta. I hope I haven't misspelled these. We all loved our meals at Di Falco's. I had the mixed grill which was very good, others in our family ordered pasta, steak and fowl.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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