Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2410: Owner, Simonicchi (#31388)
2bed/2bath apartment in Caprese-Michelangelo, Tuscany East
9-30-2006 to 10-7-2006, one week
Simonicchi is a small hamlet in the hills of Eastern Tuscany. The owner of the property is an English sculptor, who lives there year round with her mother. It's a lovely location, with dramatic views over the hills. There are only 3-4 residences in the hamlet: one owned by an older Italian couple, two of them country houses owned by an English woman and a couple from Rome.
The nearest small shop was about 5 minutes drive down the (steep) hill in Lama. It has the usual country hours, open early morning until noon, then 4:30 until 6:30 or so. There was a small supermarket in Pieve, on the way to the autostrade. There are weekly street markets in towns in the area, most notably Sansepolcro, which is about 20 minutes.
The apartment, which has the feel of a house, has been beautifully renovated. The owner's sculptures, large and small, are everywhere. Beds were comfortable. We were four women, so we rented the additional bedroom downstairs. The guest who was downstairs did say she could hear us upstairs when we were noisy, but generally it was beautifully quiet. Fred, the owner's dog came to visit occasionally, and was a charming addition to the scene. The owner lives further downstairs and we never heard her.
We had a beautiful terrace on which we breakfasted, even in mid-October. The apartment comes with a telescope, which one could take out to the terrace to look at the skies, given the right conditions. There is no pool, though I believe there is one in a nearby town. Every small detail of the house and garden was lovely.
The house was very comfotably furnished, with plenty of seating. We ate only one dinner in, at the dining table in the living room.
Beds were fine, and came with duvets, which we needed towards the end of our stay. Bathrooms were modern and fine. We learned that it wasn't wise to take too many showers at once with an on-demand heater, but it's Tuscany, where conservation of water is a high priority. We didn't mind.
The kitchen was very nice, adequately outfitted for cooking. The owner was responsive when we asked about a larger pasta pot and produced one readily. There was plenty of everything, a large refrigerator, a clothes washer, though we didn't use it.
Problems or Bonuses
We took up the owner on her offer of a special lunch, cooked by her friend, Vittorio and were so happy we did. It was the season for porcini mushrooms, so he went to the woods and gathered a great many, then cooked them with a little melted cheese for typical Tuscan crostini. A first course of pasta baked with more porcini, prosciutto and cheese followed. Then lamb, salad. A macedonia of cut fruit. Cheese and bread, lots of good Tuscan wine. We all dined together (for the modest price this fall of €20 each.)
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The owner and her mother were absolutely charming. She's lived there for 20 years, knows the area well, called to book dinners for us. Her website and the VRBO site have much information about the region and her background. (We dealt with her by email, and had no problems with logistics.)
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, we would recommend this. Some country places may be much larger for big groups, but this was great for us: two sisters and two other friends. The views were simply stunning. Unfortunately, many of the most popular areas of Tuscany can be a bit too popular, with many new villas, sprawling shopping areas, and the like. But this was a very unspoiled region.
Things to do in this area
We followed the Piero della Francesca "Trail", basically looking for all his work in the region. We also visited La Foce, which is not terribly far, for any who have read Iris Origo's books. Il Rifugio, five minutes down the hill, was such a great restaurant that we ate there twice, and considered making an offer of marriage to Mario, the chef. The nearby hill town of Alghieri was a wonderful place to explore, and we ate a fine meal there at da Alghiero, which is in the Michelin guide.
Distances for driving can be a bit great, so one has to plan. We drove to Arezzo and took the train from there to Florence, the best way to make a day trip.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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