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Review 246: La Bella Toscana, BellaVista Apartment


Review by Mare from Seattle

1 bed/1 bath apartment near Colle di Val d'Elsa, Tuscany West


October 2001, 1 week


This apartment is located 3 km from the village of Staggia, 5 km to Firenze-Siena motorway and 8 km from Colle di Val d’Elsa. Access is via an extremely narrow and scenic paved lane adjacent to Staggia’s castello walls and through one of its ancient gates.

This apartment is located on the 1st floor (2nd floor US) in one of the six-plex buildings. La Bella Toscana represents only this apartment -- most apartments in the complex are owner-occupied. An exterior staircase leads down from the parking level; then another staircase leads up to the apartment entrance. The first thing you see when you enter the apartment is a stunning view of the countryside. Both bedrooms enjoy this same view. This apartment is ample size for two people with small children (65 sqm) but a bit cozy for four adults.

The living area is furnished with a small couch, end table with a lamp, hutch and a dining table with four chairs. French doors lead from the dining area to a private deck with a small table and two chairs. A small satellite television with only one English station, BBC is located in the living area.

The floor in the living area and bathroom is ceramic tile. The hallway and bedroom floors are hardwood.

The kitchen is adjacent to the dining area behind a set of leaded glass sliding doors. It is equipped with a full size refrigerator-freezer, four gas burners, an electric oven (no dishwasher) and an electric drip coffee maker. We found the kitchen to be the perfect size to prepare a simple meal but too small for an elaborate dinner. The kitchen was adequately equipped with cooking supplies, dishes and utensils.

The apartment is equipped with a laundry drying rack, ironing board and iron. We did laundry in the kitchen sink and hung it on the drying rack on our deck.

The master bedroom is furnished with a comfortable double bed, two nightstands with small lamps and a freestanding wood wardrobe with ample hanging and storage space.

There is no telephone in the apartment.

The well-lit bathroom is equipped with a corner shower (no tub), pedestal sink, toilet and bidet. There was plenty of water pressure and hot water.

We rented this apartment from September 29 – October 5, 2001 (Saturday to Saturday) for $314 USD ($44 day). Payment terms: 25% at time of booking and 75% two months before arrival. On arrival, we paid a cautionary deposit of $50 USD and administration fee of $25. The $50 deposit, less charges for heat, is refundable; the property owner retains the $25 deposit.

A local laundry company supplies linens and towels. It is the renter’s responsibility to make up the beds. Bath towels are large terry towels. Daily cleaning service is not available.

Breakfast is not included and is not available at the apartment. We believe Villa Lecchi only provides breakfast service for its guests.

Credit cards accepted.

Nearby Amenities

It is necessary to drive into Staggia (3 km) for groceries and supplies. There is a new, small COOP grocery store in town. A gas station that accepts credit cards is right outside town.

The House/Apartment

This apartment is new; perhaps two years old. There are about 40 apartments in a collection of two story, six-plex buildings. The complex is built at the base of Villa Lecchi that now serves as a hotel and restaurant. The Villa is not associated with the apartment complex but it could come in handy if friends/family want to stay nearby.

This apartment complex is in a very quiet location with a lovely panoramic view. There are no amenities at the property (no pool, no laundry facilities). There is plenty of free parking in front of the building.

Agency and Representatives (and price)

This apartment is represented by La Bella Toscana agency in Colle di Val d’Elsa. The operator, Gaynor Powell, is very professional, extremely efficient and very knowledgeable. We rented two properties from her in October 2001. She promptly responded to our email within 24 hours. Pauline of this web site had an opportunity to meet with Gaynor in October 2001.

We will definitely book with La Bella Toscana in the future.

Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?

We enjoyed our stay at BellaVista. If we decide to explore this area in more depth, we would stay here again. We found it a very convenient base for day trips. We thoroughly enjoyed its private rural setting and the sound of sheep bells coming from an adjacent field. While the apartment is neither rustic nor charming, and Staggia is less than interesting, the location is excellent for sightseeing.

Things to do in this area

From this location we explored Lornano, Monteriggioni (10 minutes), Strove, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Lamole, Volpaia, Panzano, Greve in Chianti, Montefiridolfi, Montespertoli, Montagnana, Certaldo, San Casciano, Asciano, Monterani d’Arbia, Trequanda, Montisi and Impruneta.

The only reason we did not tour San Gimignano and its surrounding area from this location is because we spent the next 7 days only 5 km from San Gimignano (review to follow). Day trips to Firenze (45 minutes), Prato, Volterra, San Gimignano, Siena (20 minutes), Abbazia di M. Oliveto Maggiore, Montalcino, Pienza and S. Quirico d’Orcia are viable from this location.

Restaurants: If you are in the mood for a quick Pizza, calzone or pasta, try Ernesto’s in town (in fact it is about the only place in town).

For a nice dinner, we recommend Osteria Bottega di Lornano located at the only intersection in the small village of Lornano. It is surprisingly sophisticated, elegant and busy considering its remote location. It is about a 10-minute drive through beautiful countryside from BellaVista. Hours for lunch 12:15 – 2:30 and dinner 7:15 – 9:30. It is a very popular spot, reservations highly recommended. It is unlikely that you will find this osteria listed in guidebooks. I believe Zak of TuscanHouse (from this web site) did a review of this restaurant.

For a special dining experience, we recommend Il Pozzo in Monteriggioni (10-minute drive). Il Pozzo is our favorite ristorante in Tuscany. We have eaten here numerous times and we have never been disappointed. Unlike the US, being a waiter in Italy is a profession and Lorenzo, our favorite waiter, has spent most of his adult life at this ristorante. When telling us of the dessert choices, he named Zuppa Inglese. When we asked him what it was he smiled and said, “well, it’s neither zuppa, nor Inglese” and then gave us a taste. Because it is famous and listed in most guidebooks, reservations are highly recommended. Check out their web site www.ilpozzo.net for its history, specialties and great photos of both the ristorante and this charming walled village.

Also, see a review on this web site for Ristoro di Lamole in the village of Lamole (near Greve in Chianti). Unfortunately, we arrived too late for lunch but we purchased a bottle of Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva, 1997. They are open for lunch 12:00 - 2:30; dinner starts at 7:30. The drive through vineyards and olive groves is lovely but not recommended for anyone prone to motion sickness as the road is narrow and very windy. To see photos of the ristoro and its wonderful view go to www.ristorodilamole.it. Telephone 055.8547050.

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

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