Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 244: TuscanHouse, Villa La Chiusa
6bed/5bath house near Lucca, Tuscany North
May 2002, One week
La Chiusa is located about a mile and a half from the center of Lucca. Since it is on the opposite side of Lucca from the train station, it is maybe two miles to the train station. It is sort of in the country but there are quite a few houses around. On the other hand, one day, they were baling hay in the small field on the east side of the villa. The grounds are large with a beautifully landscaped front but the back is close to other houses. It was peaceful, but at night there were a few dogs barking at times. We liked the area.
Local bus service is available but things are far enough away that we recommend renting cars. There is almost no parking inside the walls of Lucca but there are several large free lots just outside the Lucca gates.
There was a small pizza place, easy walking distance, but we never got there. Groceries are available at Carrefours, a huge supermarket about a 1/2 mile away. (We called it "Walmart".) Very good selection of food, wine, fresh fruit, clothes and most anything else you would need and all at reasonable prices. It also has an ATM machine.
Most of the shops and restaurants were close to or in Lucca so you had a long walk or you had to take the bus, taxi or use a car. We would recommend a car. One couple used the bus quite a bit but got stuck one night in a 5 pm to 10 pm bus driver's strike and had a $10 cab ride home.
There is a church (Catholic of course -- this is Italy!) within easy walking distance.
As we understand it, some of the house was built about 300 years ago and other parts were built about 200 years ago. It has been modernized and is in good condition with most any modern appliance you can imagine (except a clothes dryer -- Italians like to hang clothes outside). Every room is filled with antiques and there are many curio cabinets filled with all sort of interesting items. I would not call it luxury but it is very, very elegant.
The building is three stories with the bottom two floor used by guests. We think the housekeeping person may have been living in the third floor but are not certain. If so, we never heard any noise for the third floor. Along side in another part of the building, the owner, Luisa, has a home decorating shop.
In some ways, it is almost like being a guest in a private home. Lots of books and broucheres are in the house and there is a fair selection of CDs for the CD player. There were also many Italian language videos in the house.
The washing machine appeared to be brand new. There was line space just outside the door by the washer to hang the clothes. There was also an ironing board and iron.
As far as we could find, there were no 110 volt "shaver outlets". Make sure everything works on 220 and bring your adapter plugs.
Beautiful gardens outside with a super private sitting area. Very nice! There is an above ground pool. We hardly looked at it -- a little too cool at the time we were there.
Most furniture except for the beds was antique but very usable. Plenty of it as well -- enough for two or three times the eleven people we had. The house was clean when we arrived and was cleaned daily by the housekeeper.
The beds were new and modern and were very comfortable. The bedrooms were mostly elegant. The bathrooms were modern but with the Italian touches like the bidet. One of the baths on the second floor had to be shared between two couples but for the most part, there was sufficient baths.
The kitchen had a fairly large refrigerator (huge by Italian standards), a microwave, a convection/toaster type of oven, a gas oven and rangetop, dishwasher and a "Mr. Coffee" type of coffee pot (I think it was really a Krups).
It seemed to be a very usable kitchen and I assume there were enough of everything. We did not use it very much except for breakfast because we either had Chef Alberto or went out to eat. Chef Alberto used it to prepare our meals so it must have been very well supplied.
Problems or Bonuses
Chef Alberto was fantastic! If we had it to do over, we would have him cook most every night. We had him three nights and each meal he served was wonderful. The cost was very reasonable. He charges a fixed charge ($100 or 100 euros?) plus the cost of the food and wine that he buys. For eleven people, it would average about 250 euros or around $20 per person for a truely gourmet meal. We had a veal roast one night that pushed it up to about 280 euros. It was the best veal I have had anyplace at any time! In addition to the good food, Chef Alberto always had a smile and truly seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Of course, we usually left a good tip.
Luisa, the owner, is a terrific asset as well. Very friendly and helpful.
We really liked La Chiusa but we would go back for Chef Alberto alone! As I said, he was fantastic.
Although very minor, I think the directions for driving to La Chiusa could be improved. We arrived with few problems but others with not as good a sense of directions might have problems. We also found an easier way to get to La Chiusa than in the directions we were given. Keep Lusia's phone number handy in case you get lost.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Since TuscanHouse is located in the USA, it is easy to book. You can just send a USA dollars check to them. The $1000 damage deposit was returned to us in about ten days.
The owner, Luisa, is usually in her shop sometime during the day. Her English is excellent and she assisted quite a few times in getting restaurants and the like for us.
It was a little more casual than most arrangements. We never had coupons or vouchers to exchange. We more or less just showed up and Luisa welcomed us.
Although TuscanHouse and Zak, the person it Italy with TuscanHouse, are both helpful, if you want detailed specifics on La Chiusa, Luisa will answer your e-mails very quickly.
The housekeeper spoke at least enough English that there were no problems.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would recommend it to most anyone, including friends. But we would tell them to get Chef Alberto every night possible!
There might be a problem with someone who was mobility impaired but they might be able to use the ground floor only and get by.
My wife and I have traveled all around the world and we put this trip together for our mostly non-traveling friends. We think this was our best ever experience! We want to do it again.
Things to do in this area
Lucca itself is an interesting place. Pisa is about 15 miles away, very easy drive. We think the two lane direct road is more senic and takes less time than the Autostrada. Viareggio, a beach town, is about the same distance. Florence is about 50 miles and we took the bus instead of driving (no place to park in Florence). We also drove to Siena and San Gimignano -- about two hours. Some people went to the Cinque Terre as well. We went to a couple local restaurants but I cannot remember the names. They were all good.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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