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Review 2139: Owner, Villa La Massa


Review by Sharon from Canada

1bed/1bath apartment near Strada in Casentino, Tuscany East


May 13 to June 03, 2006, 3 weeks


My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful three week vacation in Tuscany. This was our first trip to Tuscany and our priority was to find a vacation rental which provided a perfect mix of peaceful ambience for rest and relaxation times as well as being located in an area with a good choice of interesting day trips for exploration times. We found the perfect place at Villa La Massa near the small village of Vertelli in the Casentino Valley, a little more than an hour’s drive south east of Florence.

Our priority when we were doing our Tuscan research was to find a place where we would be happy staying for our entire three-week vacation as we were not keen on packing up and moving to different locations in Tuscany. We also preferred to stay somewhere much less touristy than, for instance, Chianti but at the same time we wanted to be able to make day trips to some of the more touristed areas. Before we booked La Massa we spent a fair bit of time researching the Casentino Valley.

Villa La Massa is, in our minds, a very special place. It exceeded our expectations in so many ways and we can highly recommend staying there without hesitation. La Massa is owned by Peter Gosmore and Danieli Dei, two of the most hospitable and lovely people you could ever have as hosts. Peter and Danieli live at La Massa and have created a beautiful self-contained guest suite attached to their home. The accommodation is immaculate, spacious, modern, private and lovingly cared for. The guest suite includes a well equipped kitchen with very modern appliances, a good supply of dishes, glasses and cooking utensils; a large bathroom with a good shower and towels are replaced every 2-3 days; a lovely bedroom with a very comfortable bed, a large closet as well as a large dresser and nightables with reading lamps. The living area is equipped with sofa, chairs, TV, VCR and fireplace, and the comfortable dining area has wonderful views. The whole place is bright and airy due to the many windows and doors that open to the outside.

The exterior of the villa is exceptional as well. There is a lovely swimming pool (which you share with the owners)deck chairs, sun umbrellas, terraces, dozens of beautiful flower pots and tile walkways all kept in immaculate condition by the owners. There is nothing around to spoil the beautiful views and the whole situation is one of utter peace and tranquility.

Peter and Danieli also own a Bed and Breakfast in Florence so they have a great deal of experience with hosting guests and they strive to make your stay special by providing a high level of support both before and during your visit. The rate for a week at La Massa is, I believe, approximately 650 Euros. We paid a little less as we stayed for three weeks. A rental car is highly recommended.

The Strada in Casentino is the closest market town to La Massa, about a 10 minute drive. It has a good alimentari (small grocery store), a delicious bakery, fruit stores and other shops. Sitting on a hill above the Strada you will find the 11th century Castel San Niccolo with its unique Watch Tower. I highly recommend you have lunch or dinner at the Al Vecchio Teatro La Florentina in the Strada. We enjoyed good meals here several times and Hugo, who is one of the owners, speaks Italian, Spanish and English and is very hospitable and does his best to ensure your dining experience is very enjoyable.

There are many other good restaurants in the area. Peter and Danieli have compiled a wonderful booklet of places to eat and places to visit that they leave for your reference in the suite, along with several tourist pamphlets and guide books.

The Casentino Valley is a very special place, considered by many guide books to be one of the most beautiful valleys of Tuscany, and here you will find endless opportunities for discovery. There is wealth of places to explore as short day trips from La Massa.

  • The medieval hill towns of Poppi (about 15 - 20 minutes) and Bibbiena (25 - 30 minutes);
  • the spiritual sanctuary at La Verna; the ancient hermitage and monastery of Camaldoli; the National Casentino Forest Park (45 - 60 minutes);
  • the beautiful Romanesque churches with their treasures of art; the ancient castles of the Guidi counts; the tiny, quaint, medieval villages of Raggiolo and Quota; and the beautiful Casentino golf course with its amazing views (about 15 - 20 minutes).
This is just a short list of the endless possibilities as everywhere you go in this area there is yet another interesting detour to explore.

Places further afield are also very accessible from La Massa on full day trips.

  • If you want to visit the beautiful city of Florence, the bus stops right at the bottom of the road to La Massa. The bus runs fairly frequently and takes about an hour to Florence.
  • The train service is excellent and a very enjoyable way to travel to Arezzo (about an hour), the capital of Arezzo province and to Cortona (about two hours by car, a little longer by train), long considered to be among the “crown jewels” of Tuscan hill towns. The train station at Porenna is a short distance from La Massa and you can park your car for free at the station and purchase your tickets right next door at the bar/coffee shop.
  • A day trip to the Chianti region (about two hours by car each way) is very worthwhile and while you will likely only have time to see a small portion of this region, I would highly recommend a vist to Volpaia, a 13th century borgo, 7 kms north of Radda in Chianti, said to be the most picturesque village in the Chianti . Close by, you will find Lamole, the little village which produces the wonderful Lamole di Lamole wines and is the location of the highly regarded Ristoro di Lamole (closed Wednesdays, reservations strongly recommended, tel: 055-854-7050, website www.ristordilamole.it). Greve in Chianti, the capital of Chianti and the centre of the wine trade, is a nice place to stop for a rest and there are several restaurants and many shops in the lovely Piazza di Greve.
  • Another very worthwhile day trip is to Siena, about a two hour drive from La Massa. Siena truly is, as the guidebooks note, a medieval city “par excellence”. The Piazza Il Campo is stunning and the Duomo, Siena’s glorious cathedral, is a virtual treasure box of magnificent works of art. There are many other historic sites in Siena, as well as an amazing variety of beautiful shops and restaurants.
  • Another recommended day trip is the Valtiberina Valley (about 1.5 hours by car), taking in the absolutely charming hill town of Anghiari; the pleasant town of Sansepolcro, famous for its lace, pasta and as the birthplace of Pierro della Francesca; and the peaceful tranquility of Caprese Michelangelo, the birthplace of Michelangelo.

I hope you have the opportunity to stay at La Massa, I know you will like it as much as we did. Book early to avoid disappointment.

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

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