Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2667: Castello in Bisticci, The Lemon Terrace
apartments in castle near Florence, Tuscany Chianti
August 2005, One month
The villa is in the country at the top of a hill. The surroundings were beautiful -- olive trees and a sweeping view of the valley. Just gorgeous.
You definitely need a car to stay here. The hill is rather steep and not really conducive for a relaxing stroll; it would be a rather difficult climb for seniors or others who are not physically active. With a car though, it's very convenient. The little village is very close by, and there's a campground with a decent restaurant. We went there for pizza with our kids several times. And they have a nice pool that you can use for a small fee. The larger grocery store was maybe a 10 or 15 minute drive. It's very convenient.
It was absolutely beautiful. We found the place on the Internet and were impressed with the photographs posted on their website. We hoped it would be as nice in person. We were not disappointed -- it was every bit as beautiful and comfortable as we had imagined, even more so. It is a beautiful property! And the Lemon Terrace apartment is so big. We just loved it.
The Lemon Terrace is the top floor unit, and spans the entire rear side of the building, facing the garden. The views are wonderful. It's out in the country, and very quiet. We never heard or saw the owners unless we went looking for them, really. While we were there, another couple from the US was staying in the Alcove apartment with their five-year-old daughter. That apartment is on the middle floor. We didn't really hear them at all, unless they were out in the garden. It's a very peaceful setting, no traffic noises at all.
Yes, the garden was very beautiful. It's divided into three sections, one closest to the building, then a middle one, then one at the far end. The one at the far end was our designated area. They were separated by a little fence, and each garden had its own table and chairs and clothesline. We had a little gazebo type awning over our table, and it was right next to a wall that overlooked the valley and a little olive grove. We were a little surprised when we saw how it was divided up, I had thought maybe there was a separate garden on each side of the building, but they were really just all together. We became very good friends with the other couple that was staying there, so seeing them in the garden was nice. Our daughters played together out in the garden quite a lot, and it was a very nice space.
The furniture was in good shape and comfortable. It was very clean, and there was plenty of furniture. They decorated it very tastefully, and kept it very nice and clean. And the artwork on the walls was really nice. You felt like you were in a really nice home, with stone floors, beautiful windows, and simple clean furniture.
The beds were very comfortable, and the bedding was nice quality. The bathroom was a little small, but totally functional. And it had a great view of the garden. And very tastefully done, with slate floors and a big tub.
Also, the owner (Cid) was so generous to provide an antique cradle for our infant son. We were there when our baby boy was three months old, and our daughter was 3 1/2. Cid provided this beautiful little cradle with wheels, almost like a very large baby buggy, with a nice mattress and beautiful old (but freshly washed) hand-embroidered sheets. It had been in their family for many years, and it was so sweet of her to let us use it. It was a great spot for naps.
It was a great kitchen, and a nice dining room table right there next to the living room area. We made many a good meal there. We especially liked getting some pesto from the market, and prosciutto and melon, and making a big batch of pasta with pesto, and good Parmesan cheese, and maybe some olives. We had that meal out in the garden a few times. We made other dishes too, and made some really good coffee there too. There was a regular coffee maker, but Cid also let us use a stove-top espresso maker which we ended up using exclusively. They were very helpful. And, there were plenty of plates and serving pieces for meals. The cookware was modest but fully adequate.
Problems or Bonuses
There are no screens on the windows, so you need to burn an insect repellent every night so as not to get too many mosquito bites. We did this (the owners provided the burner thing, and some of the coils, I think we bought a package of coils at the grocery store too.) For the same reason, there were always lots of moths at night, and you'd find them in the morning dead, or nearly dead. We kept the bathroom light on at night, in case our daughter needed to get up, and it was surprising how many dead moths you'd find in the tub and bathroom floor. So, if you're squeamish about moths, be prepared to see them with some frequency.
Also, it was breezy, so there is dust that accumulates on the floor after a week. We were there a month, so we did our own cleaning during that time. We didn't have to do a ton of cleaning to keep it up, but it is a bit rustic without the screens on the windows, so just keep that in mind.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
You'll deal directly with the owners, Cid and Francesco. The property has been in his family for years. She's from England originally so speaks perfect English (naturally), so communication was a non-issue. No problem there at all.
And Cid was very generous and offered to let us check our email on their computer, made popcorn for our daughter when we first arrived and let her stay there and watch a cartoon for a little bit while we unpacked the car. She was extremely gracious, a perfect host. We couldn't have asked for nicer people to deal with. They were wonderful.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely! I would love to stay here again, and hopefully we will in the future (we want to explore some other countries first though). The setting was ideal, and the property has a lot of personality. It really is an old villa, Cid showed us around their part of the house, and the place is huge. They had just unearthed a new archway, or some architectural element that they had not previously been aware of, which showed that the structure was even older than they had originally thought. There's one room that has paintings all over it like a garden. It's a really neat place, and they've kept it very nice. Francesco is an amazing carpenter and the refurbishing they have done has been completely in keeping with the original design of the structure. (No bad remodel here, they're doing it beautifully.) In fact, two of the coffee tables in the Lemon Terrace were made by Francesco, and they're musical. They are a sort of drum type of thing, hollow, and if you rap it with your knuckle, it makes a very musical sound. Very neat, and eclectic. And Cid is a film maker. They are very interesting people, very friendly and accommodating, wonderful hosts. We had a fabulous time. We paid the equivalent of $2,600, including bank/wire fees for the month.
Things to do in this area
We took all kinds of day trips all over the place, went into Florence numerous times, Greve, Siena, San Gimignano several times, went to different markets in the area on different days. Nuovo Ranch is a local restaurant that has fabulous food, Cid can give you directions. No tourists, very local, a sprawling neat place. Highly recommended.
There was a great kid's park/playground in Antella, a nice kid's park in Impruneta (and a great Gelato place, the best chocolate gelato we had on the trip).
The Bella Vista restaurant (which looks out over the square) has great food - we had wild boar pasta and fried zucchini flowers there, very good.
We bought ceramics in Montelupo (on the way towards Pisa), and went to the pool in Empoli a couple times. There's a great gelato place in Montelupo that had mascarpone gelato -- great with strawberry gelato.
Also went to Cortona a few times (the steak festival and the fungi festival), went to Rome by train one day, and drove to Venice another day. Would not recommend driving to Venice for a day from here, maybe stay over one night as it was a long haul, lots of traffic. Or leave very early and expect a long long drive.
We had friends from England come and visit, and they flew into Pisa, which was an hour or so away. So we went to Pisa several times too.
Greve has a great wine shop where you can buy a debit card and use it for do-it-yourself wine tasting of hundreds of different wines. Very neat.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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