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Review 2311: Summer's Leases, Podere La Rota


Review by Andrzej from MD

1bed/1bath attached cottage near Montevarchi, Tuscany Chianti


May 2006, One week

Agency and Representatives (and price)

Note: Andrzej won his stay at this property in our SlowTrav 2006 Contest.


Perhaps, it is enough to sit under the chestnut tree on the terrace, cast an eye over the valley overgrown with olive groves and woods, and soak in gorgeous views to feel that you have selected the right place for vacation. But the Chianti region does not lack tranquil places with wonderful views. What make Podere La Rota special are its wonderful owners, Bob and Ally, and the stone cottage itself, which has been redone (it was previously a farm building), furnished and decorated to perfection.

Bob and Ally are English people who decided to move to Italy 20 years ago after a spell of particularly dreadful English weather. Both are very helpful but discreet so you will feel their presence only when you need them (the cottage is connected to their house by the locked and enclosed gallery but your privacy is never, in any way, affected by it.) Ally is as far from your stereotypical English woman as one can be - warm, sweet and lively - and both know a lot about the area, Tuscany, Italy and Italian ways of doing things. So talking to them is rewarding if you can catch them during breaks in their crammed schedules. We cooked dinner for them one day and had a wonderful time together.

They are very busy people. Yet, when we had a minor fender-bender in which our rented Mercedes Benz was unexpectedly damaged, Ally immediately offered to handle formalities with a car rental company, spent more than an hour on the phone doing just that, and finally gave us ride to the Monteverachi station where we could catch a train to Florence to pick up a new car.

The cottage is located on the farm in a secluded area about half a mile from the village of Moncioni on the border of Chianti region. It consists of living room with fireplace, dining room and full kitchen on the ground floor and large, luxurious bathroom and comfy bedroom on the first floor; doors in the sitting room and kitchen lead to the terrace equipped with sun loungers, huge garden umbrella and table. It is decorated according to the traditional Tuscan country style, as are many cottages in this area. But at Podere La Rota everything looks immaculately clean and brand new (except for country antiques.) In addition, Ally took a great care in planning decoration, so every detail, every little picture and piece of pottery, seems to be right and in the right place. Overall impression is charming, cozy, comfy ... Well, we just loved it.

When we arrived my wife Urszula and I were betting each other that something had to be missing in the cottage. An apron, I would exclaim in triumph, there is no apron! Sure enough we would find it in the next few minutes. Nothing was missing. Everything you need to live, cook and enjoy your stay is there. And we did enjoy it tremendously - we listened to the music from the small but good collection of classical, pop and mainstream jazz music; we read some books on Italy and Italians selected from the cross-section of similarly varied readings offered by the hosts; and we cooked simple evening meals.

But for all these pleasures found inside the cottage, we spent most time on the terrace. I insisted - and after a moment of weak resistance Urszula was happy to oblige - that we spend two of our precious six days lingering at Podere. We were reading, watching sunsets worth dozens of Hollywood movies and drinking wine in the company of the house-dog Livia and birds singing in the nearby groves and woods.

I (Andrzej) took two hikes using a good hiking map from Podere’s pile of helpful maps and booklets - one loop around the valley via Montegonzi, which offered particularly good views, and another loop on the other side of the Moncioni-Starda road via Rendola. The info pile also includes a good house-book with detailed instructions how to operate appliances and keep everything safe as well as good tips on where to go, what to see and where to eat.

We did several day trips – across Chianti via Radda, Castellina and Castello Meleto; to Arezzo and Civitella in Val di Chiana; and to Siena (we also visited Foiano della Chiana on the way from Rome and Cortona on the way back to Rome). We went twice to the nearest town of Montevarchi. Although it lacks major attractions, it is basically free from tourists, and with some streets closed to traffic, it makes a pleasant place for strolls. Thursday’s market features piles of cloths, fabrics, household goods plus fresh and inexpensive fruits and vegetables as well as hams, sausages and porchetta sandwiches. The area boasts several upscale country restaurants and trattorias, including one in nearby Moncioni. But the only one we ate at was Osteria di Starda, recommended by Bob and Ally and their guests. (We liked it but were not enthusiastic about it; see later our review in the restaurant section.)

Note: We won a free weekly rental at Podere so we paid only for telephone calls and wine from the cottage’s wine rack.

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

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