Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2103: Rentvillas, Lunetta
2bed/1bath house, Portovenere, Liguria
April 2006, One Week
"Lunetta" was a short walk from the center of the small town of Portovenere (and just across the bay from La Spezia). It seemed to be one of the few places actually on a flat area so it had a lovely "patio" outside where the view of the bay was unobstructed and absolutely spectacular. All the residences in Portovenere are close to each other, but the location of this house made it seem quite private.
Because parking is at a premium in Portovenere, once we found a spot we didn't move the car the entire time we were there. (Of course, our goals had been to walk, walk, walk, eat, eat, eat, and - above all - relax at the end of what had been an extended trip). All the services were, however, no more than a 15 minute walk from the house. There were many, many restaurants with a wide range of prices and levels of service. There was one "super market" and several small grocery stores (where, after two days, we were recognized and greeted as "regulars") and a number of specialty shops for very fresh food.
The house was in good shape - very clean, functional and pleasant, but not particularly elaborate. Although it was located on the main street where there is a lot of foot traffic, noise was not a factor except for one festival night. Even then it was certainly not intolerable. The primary bedroom is away from the street, so that certainly helps. One enters a sitting/dining room with appropriate furniture and then moves to a "T" shape. To the right is a single-bed room, at the top of the T is the bathroom, to the left is the larger bedroom (with a queen bed) and the kitchen with a laundry room (with a small washer) just beyond. There are two places, one in and one out, for hanging clothes to dry.
The private patio was about as nice as it could possibly have been. Although it was early in the season there were flowers in the surrounding area and there were several comfortable chairs and a table. Since it is on the edge of the bay the view was lovely. We had morning coffee and afternoon cocktails there every day, at the very least. On a clear day one could see the Italian Alps in the distance (still snow-capped in late April). There was plenty of boat traffic for added interest. Across the street was the bathing area, although much of the "beach" is rocky there are some stretches of sand.
The furniture was simple, but clean and comfortable. The house was immaculate. Since there were only two of us seating was never a problem, but one could easily have entertained several more people. There were plenty of kitchen supplies, and some basic foodstuffs on hand. We had specifically requested a few items for the first day until we got acclimated, and the hosts graciously did the simple shopping for us.
The beds were quite comfortable and the accommodations were suitable. We had asked for extra blankets (since it can get cold at night that time of year and it is forbidden in Italy to heat homes after April 1) and the hosts made sure they were available. There was only one bathroom but, again, with two people it certainly was not a problem. The shower was small, but the water was hot and it had adequate force for a decent shower. The toilet did occasionally run, but we learned how to "jiggle" it and quickly were able to minimize the problem.
The kitchen was highly functional. There was a four-burner stove (that did sometimes take some determination to get lit), a larger than expected refrigerator, plenty of cooking eating utensils, including tablecloths if one was so inclined. The coffee pots are the traditional "expresso pots" so we had to extemporize with a strainer and paper toweling to create a less intense coffee at times. We ate every breakfast at home, and usually one other meal a day. The kitchen was pleasant to work in.
Problems or Bonuses
Having a washing machine (especially at the end of a long journey) was a real plus. The range of restaurants was an unexpected pleasure, from the v-e-r-y upscale "le bocche" at the foot of the old cathedral at the tip of town, to the "spaghetteria" to the north of the house that served a marvelous (and cheap) spaghetti caprese as well as a caprese salad with absolutely fresh vegetables. I wish I could remember the name of the small "osteria" on the small street that is the "center of the business district" but the menu lets you know immediately that "speed of cooking and quality of food rarely go hand in hand" and that everything is prepared after you order it, not before. The walks were challenging but rewarding, either going out from town or taking the boat to one of the Cinque Terre villages (we walked from the second furthest to the nearest in about 3 1/2 hours)and back. There was bus service to La Spezia which had stops in the small villages along the way as well.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The agency people were extremely helpful, assisting me in communicating with the host and the agency representative and making the few extra requests we made possible. There was an English speaking representative in the area whose phone numbers we had, and the owners of the property lived next door (up several flights of outdoor steps). The owner spoke some basic English and her daughter spoke a little more, but they were of such good will that it was easy to handle any language barrier. The picture provided by the agency was (we both hoped and feared) almost too good to be true, but the site was absolutely as it was represented.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would certainly return to Portovenere again. It was (for us) a better choice than the Cinque Terre villages simply because it was a little larger and there were more options for eating, shopping, etc. We were easily able to visit Cinque Terre because of the regular ferry service so we felt we had the best of all worlds. I can't think of another place we saw (and we walked most corners of the town) that was more attractively located. I don't know how it would be in the dead of winter, because the heating system was not put to the test for us, but most of the residents we spoke to said winters were not normally too extreme.
Things to do in this area
If one likes quiet entertainment, Portovenere is an excellent choice. It is easy to walk through town and there are small shops that sell local foods and goods. It doesn't, however, have a "contrived/manufactured" quality typical of many resort towns. If you like to walk there are maps of all the regional trails and the views are breathtaking at times. There are lots of restaurants to explore. In addition to Le Bocche, the osteria, and the spaghetteria there was also the Miramar with its wonderful whole fresh fish. The ice cream shop on the waterfront closest to the town square served some of the best ice cream we had ever tasted. Service tended to be pleasant, but it was frequently wise to book in advance as they filled up quickly in the evening.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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