Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2320: Via Travel Design, Villa le Agavi
6bed/5.5bath house in near S. Venerina, Sicily
May 6-20, 2006, 2 weeks
Villa le Agavi is in city-adjacent countryside just east of Acireale, astride two small hamlets, Santa Venerina and Marie Vergine. A gated estate with several homes within, it is located on the main road through those towns, and once found, is easy to access. (That's because the street system in Sicily's ancient towns and countryside are anything but orderly and easy to navigate).
This location is quiet, private, and an excellent point of departure for touring along the eastern seaboard of Catania, in the greater Etna region and the South East areas down to Siracusa and inland to the Baroque cities of Noto, Ragusa, etc. As a hub location for this half of the island, it was excellent. It takes about 5-7 minutes from the autostrade to the house.
We always took our car(s) for errands and coffee. There is a very good supermarket five minutes away, and also a couple of good pasta/pastry/gelato destinations nearby. And great pizza eight minutes down the road - we were there a lot! There are some very charming and historic villages within 30 minutes and the ambience of Etna looming above. The region is noted for it's citrus fruit, honey, wine and pistachios. Be sure to partake.
The estate consists of three homes; one is not usually occupied by the owner's mother, the owners live in a second home, and the largest and oldest - the family Villa le Agavi- is the rental property. It was built, we understood, well over 100 years ago, with very tall ceilings, large rooms, and an air of elegance and prosperity. Although it has been updated with bathrooms (5 in all) and the kitchen is completely "modern", the home retains its charm of yesteryear. It is furnished with antique furniture, paintings, and light fixtures that add to this feeling. Most, but not all, of the furniture was in excellent shape, and the modern beds were fine.
The home is large and has a spacious air - the view from the rooms and gardens is of the Acireale area and the sea beyond (looking southeast), Mt Etna herself from north-east facing rooms, and the property trees and gardens which are extensive.
Gorgeous grounds - perfect for a wedding or other event. Also a beautiful pool, spa and area surrounding that, terraces from the upstairs and additional terraces in the garden. And a BBQ area. And all that is just the back. In front are more gardens and trees and a driveway through them to the parking area for our four cars. Next to the house, a lovely sitting area where we had breakfast and nightly drinks before dinner.
Most of the furniture was antique, but in excellent shape. The house was kept immaculately clean by Rosaria.
Plenty of chairs for everyone in the living and dining rooms. The house and grounds are so spacious, everybody had their "space."
The beds were fine - no complaints from our guests numbering 16 over two weeks. All but the sofa bed were separable into singles, two together made a large matrimonial, which is larger than our queen. The bedrooms were simply furnished but bright and good sized, except for the two downstairs which were smaller but adequate. We used the upstairs "family room"/bedroom, which was larger and featured a sofa bed (king size) which was quite firm and comfortable.
Upstairs all bathrooms are adjacent in small halls to the bedrooms, downstairs both bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. This means that when filled to capacity (14) 3 bedrooms and the fam rm/bedroom will be sharing two of the adjacent baths; and three bedrooms (two downstairs and one upstairs) will have dedicated private facilities. The bathrooms were generally large and featured a tub with telephone hose for showering, or a stall shower, or both. We were first occupants of the season; there were some intermittent shakedown difficulties with the hot water system but by the time we left they had been fixed.
Finally, one of the downstairs (ground floor) bedrooms is actually a room accessed from the rear garden. This bedroom and small bathroom with shower was more spartan in its furnishings, and would be suited to grown kids or staff or persons who don't mind being "away" from the main house. That is because access to the villa at night, when the door off the living room is shuttered shut, requires a walk around to the front door. This would not be good for children.
The kitchen and adjacent pantry area were simple but very useable, with more than enough modern equipment and dishes. In this villa, a group of more than four would eat in the large formal dining room or outside at the round table that seats six comfortably. The cooktop and oven worked fine, and we made several full meals with no problem.
Eating in the elegant dining room was particularly lovely at night with the Murano chandeliers and sconces and candlelight. On the few chilly evenings the small den adjacent to the living room was cozy with the wood fire provided by our hosts.
Problems or Bonuses
The natural beauty of the property and the quiet old elegance of the house were a surprise. Although we were prepared from what we had been told and read about the villa, we were truly overwhelmed by the graciousness of the owners, Maria and Francesco, who were always prompt to address our concerns and went out of their way when we needed some help with plans and problems (that had nothing to do with the villa). And the beautiful housekeeper Rosaria who was absolutely delightful kept things in order daily, cooked for us - we should have done that more often - her food was among the best we ate, and very reasonable too. Our sole complaint was that we did not have a telephone (land line) in our villa - it rang at the Alessi's next door and we were uncomfortable about their receiving our calls from the US late at night, even though the calls were for the most part important. They had to come over and bring the phone. NOTE: Not all cell phones work in all locales in Italy, so one must use land lines as well.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The Alessi's speak limited English and between that and our limited French we got along just fine. The agency is excellent, and we would not hesitate to work with the owners James and Lori again.
Regarding price, if you book early, you may be able to get last year's price and/or multiple week discounts. The housekeeper is mandatory extra, but well worth the price, and she is available to cook for you at a reasonable extra cost.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would stay here again without question. Our qualification re this house is that it is subject to the vicissitudes of a residence that is not new. Although much of the house has been refurbished, it is not a recently built or rebuilt home. It is a graciously aging property, extremely clean and quite comfortable, with lovely antique furnishings and furniture that gives it an air of beauty and of the aristocratic history of this family.
And that family is absolutely lovely.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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