Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2649: Owner, Castellino Bucine
1bed/1bath apartment in Bucine, Tuscany East
March 2007, One week
The apartment is in the center of the small town of Bucine, between Florence, Arezzo, and Siena. (Note: Contrary to the normal rules of Italian pronunciation, the name of the town is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: in English, phonetically, it would be BOO - chee - nay. I mention this because I was pronouncing it wrong until we got there and heard how the locals say it.)
Although Bucine itself doesnít have a lot in the way of tourist attractions, it is a pleasant little town, and is perfectly located for day trips to lots of nearby wonderful places in Tuscany. From the Bucine train station (with lots of free parking) you can be in Florence in an hour and have no parking problems. Youíd probably still want a car though to enjoy the beautiful countryside and small hill towns all around the village.
Just at the bottom of the hill from the apartment is the main street of Bucine, with a couple of coffee bars, and the usual small Italian stores ó the alimentari, butcher, greengrocer. Just a little farther on, still within walking distance, is a small Coop. Several miles away in Montevarchi, there is an Ipercoop. There are a couple of restaurants in town or very nearby, although there isn't anyplace to eat right in the center except the coffee bars. We had a pretty good pizza at a place just outside town with the unlikely name of ďOrient Express.Ē The service was very slow there, though, and I think it would have been better to order our pizza to take out, since the takeout orders seemed to be taking precedence over the people in the restaurant.
The owners gave us a coupon for free breakfast at one of the coffee bars in town (Bar Teatro), but we liked the coffee and pastry better at the place up the street (Guidieri), so we usually ended up buying breakfast there.
The apartment is up a steep road, right in the center of Bucine. Itís in an old building (although nicely renovated inside) on the second (European first) floor. The owners live below on the ground floor. There is only resident parking on the street, but we had no problem finding nearby free parking within less than a five minute walk.
The apartment was quite spacious, although the layout was a bit unusual. You enter through the kitchen, which opens on one side to the bedroom, and on the other to a large dressing room/study. The bathroom is off this study, and on the other side of the study is a living room, which also opens into the bedroom. So you had to walk through two rooms to get to the bathroom from the bedroom. This wasnít a problem, but as I said, it was a bit unusual. (There is a floor plan on their web site.)
The views from the bedroom were very nice, down over the valley. The street was quiet, and although we could hear the train it didn't bother us.
The only complaint we had ó and this is very common in Europe, weíve found ó was that the apartment was rather dark and the electric lights were very dim. Although there were lovely views from the windows, they were small, and in the kitchen, for example, it was almost impossible to see what you were cooking on the stove because there just wasnít good lighting. We brought the desk lamp from the study into the kitchen so that we could see what we were doing! Maybe Europeans have better eyesight than we do, but I truly donít understand how they often seem so happy living in the dark.
There is no washing machine in the apartment, but you can get your clothes laundered in the village (next to the Coop) for about Ä2 per kilo.
The apartment has a very nice terrace (shared with the owners) that has a lovely view, plus a nice back yard area. We didnít use them in chilly March, but if we had been there during warmer weather, probably would have.
There is no pool with the apartment, but I understand that there are pools nearby that you could visit. We weren't there in swimming weather.
The apartment was very clean, and all the furnishings were fine, certainly adequate for two people. There was a desk for our computer in the study, and a sofa and TV in the living room.
The bed was quite comfortable, and everything in the bathroom worked well. There was a shower, which had plenty of hot water and reasonably good water pressure.
The kitchen was fairly large, with a good-sized table. It had a fireplace, which we didnít use, but it was a nice touch. The stove was a fairly old gas model. It required using matches or a lighter, which unfortunately werenít supplied (actually, I think previous tenants had made off with the lighter), so we had to go out and buy something to light the stove before we could cook. We didnít cook much, but the kitchen was pretty well supplied with dishes and pots and pans, and we were able to prepare a couple of simple meals with no problems.
Problems or Bonuses
Our criteria when looking for a place to spend a week in Tuscany were: reasonable price, location in a village (we prefer that to the country), and Internet access. Castellino Bucine met all these criteria very well. We were concerned when we first arrived because we could not pick up the wi-fi signal on our laptop. But Rose, the owner, immediately brought up a network bridge so that we then had a very strong signal and no problems. Having Internet access is a big plus for us, as we really like to be able to keep in touch with family at home, plus looking up info online about places we are visiting.
Also, when we arrived, the satellite TV was not working because something had gotten unplugged. Roseís husband Philip, who understands these things, was away for a day, but as soon as he got back, he fixed it for us, and we had good reception with quite a few channels (including BBC).
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We rented directly from the owners, a very nice German couple who both speak excellent English. They have an adorable little girl named Rebecca. Although Rebecca is only three, they said she already speaks the best Italian in the family! Rose was very responsive via e-mail in answering our questions beforehand, and they were friendly and helpful when we had a couple of technical problems (referenced above). Although we didnít get to know them too well, they were extremely pleasant and ready to help any time we needed them. They also had prepared a good information sheet with lots of restaurant recommendations (including phone numbers) and general useful tips for visitors.
I thought the price (you can see the rates on the web site) was quite reasonable for a stay in Tuscany. Since Bucine isnít all that well known, and doesnít have much in the way of tourism right in town, it doesnít command the high prices of some other Tuscan villages, but it makes a good base for visits throughout the area.
The information on the web site is accurate, and I think depicts the apartment and surroundings well.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, the apartment is a very nice place to stay and a good value for the area.
Things to do in this area
Castellino Bucine's web site has quite a few suggestions. Our day trips included Greve in Chianti (visiting Slow Travelers Jane, Ken, and Casey), the Casentino (Stia, Poppi, and Camaldoli), the Piero della Francesco trail to Sansepolcro and Arezzo, a beautiful little nearby hill town, Civitella in Val di Chiana with a wonderful restaurant (Antico Borgo), Florence via train, and a gorgeous drive through the Crete Senese to San Giovanni díAsso and Asciano. Siena is also within easy driving distance, and if you are interested in outlet shopping there are quite a few designer malls in the area. Bucineís market day is Wednesday, and although the market is rather small, it has the usual contingent of foods and discount clothing.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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