Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 259: TuscanHouse, La Fornacina
2bed/2bath house near Pienza, Tuscany South
April-May 2002, 2 weeks
La Fornacina is located on a peaceful and isolated hillside 10-15 minutes north of Pienza, between the villages of Montisi and Castelmuzio. It is incredibly pretty, quiet and peaceful. The village of Montisi is a beautiful sight on the hilltop across the valley, especially in silhouette just at sunset, and the valley below is idyllic, with a meadow that curves gently along a stream. I couldn’t stop looking at that meadow, although I failed to get a good photo of it. There are no other houses within sight -- the only sounds are the birds, church bells from both towns and the distant sounds of the few cars passing on the local roads. Oh, and since it was spring and rutting season, the deer would bark at dawn and dusk.
You could walk to Castelmuzio (although we didn't) for groceries in the tiny market there. We found no cafe in Castelmuzio. The only restaurant in Castelmuzio is closed, although a new one was scheduled to open in the spring of 2002. We passed the construction site regularly, and that seemed an optimistic estimate of opening time to me. Montisi was farther away -- too far to walk, at least for us (your mileage may vary).
The nearest Coop supermarket was in Sinalunga, 15 minutes north, and the nearest source of cafes and good restaurants was Pienza, about the same distance to the south. The drive to Pienza was probably the most beautiful we found, so we never minded it.
According to the Tuscan House website, La Fornacina was built in the 1700s as a kiln for making bricks. It's been beautifully renovated and is now a spacious two-bedroom two-bath house on 8 acres. You enter on the top floor, where there's a huge kitchen and living room with fireplace as well as a laundry area and bathroom. Downstairs are two bedrooms, another bath, and a couple of little "bonus" rooms.
The garden at La Fornacina is very special. Outside the front door is a large terrace/herb garden with a grape-covered pergola over the barbecue grill and outdoor dining area (the outdoor furniture wasn't completely in place because we were there early in the season). There's also a lovely sloping lawn with olive trees and steps that draw your eye to a simple stone sculpture in the shadows at the top of the hill. I loved the herb and flower beds. It would be a wonderful place for children too because of the big lawns and all the places to explore.
The house is full of lovely, unfussy solid wood antique pieces, including a beautiful long, narrow table in the kitchen. Built-in sofas in the living room weren't terribly inviting. I tried, but never felt comfortable there in spite of dozens of pillows. There were a couple of reasonably comfortable chairs though and everything felt like it belonged to the house -- not a wrong note anywhere.
We only used the master bedroom. There's also another bedroom with twin beds. Both bedrooms and the master bath are downstairs from the main floor, with slightly low vaulted tile ceilings. The bed was wonderful, with fresh-smelling line-dried sheets, a big cozy down comforter and even a heated mattress pad to take the chill off in the evenings. We left the downstairs windows open during the day, so it was always quite cool and fresh when we went to bed. The only odd thing about the bedroom was the way my husband's snore echoed off the curved tile ceiling -- at least I think that must have been the cause. Anyway, the effect was awesome, like a grizzly on steroids.
The master bedroom had its own room dressing area with plenty of closet space and a big desk, and a large marble-lined bathroom with beautiful fixtures and a big marble tub. I left this bathroom to my husband and used the one upstairs because I like the shower and more natural light.
The bathroom upstairs, off the laundry area, had a very nice big shower, a good mirror, and plenty of room to spread all my cosmetics and stuff around.
What a kitchen! It was huge, maybe 30 feet long and nearly 20 feet wide. One long counter along the long side had a microwave, dishwasher, gas and electric range, oven, toaster, and lots of room to work. The pots and pans were nice, and there were even quite good knives and cutting boards. We didn't do all that much cooking, but it looked to me like everything I'd ever need was there. There were plenty of nice dishes, silverware, and glassware.
Problems or Bonuses
Even after hearing so much about the house from Pauline, I was awestruck about how lovely it was and how amazingly pretty the location was. Also at the spaciousness--there were only two of us, but I know it would be very comfortable for four.
The cats, Bruce and Sheila, were a bonus. They're young and exuberant and full of personality. I almost wished I could bring them home with me.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Zak and Gary from Tuscan House have been mentioned many times already on this website. They were terrific. Everything was taken care of, and I enjoyed visiting with both of them when they stopped by to work on the beautiful gardens.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, I'd recommend it without reservation IF someone is looking for a wonderful place out in the country, especially if you like to stay home in the evening and cook your own meals. We found ourselves wishing sometimes that we had stayed in a town where we could walk somewhere for dinner. Often we had lunches out, then just grazed on bread, cheese, fruit and wine in the evenings, but we did find going out for dinner a little inconvenient. My husband doesn't drink wine, but he doesn't like to drive at night, and I don't mind driving at night, but I wouldn't consider having dinner in Italy without wine, so it was a dilemma. At least it did give us the opportunity to see an Italian porcupine in full "fluff" in the middle of the road one night, which was great fun.
Things to do in this area
We spent two weeks happily making daytrips from this area. In Pienza, our favorite restaurant was Latte di Luna, and Da Falco was very good as well. A new small restaurant, Ristorante della Grancia, had just opened in Montisi, and we ate well there too.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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