Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2773: Villa Santa Maria, Bella Vista Alta
apartments in Montalcino, Tuscany South
May 12, 2007, 1 week
The apartment is located inside the town walls of Montalcino, just inside the gate as you arrive from Siena direction. The building was an old farm house that has been enlarged to make four apartments. It is on a quiet street although with windows open we could hear distant highway noise along with birds dogs tractors and roosters. There is yard on both sides and back of the apartments with olive trees. The side yards serve as car parking, a rarity in the walled villages. The streets are narrow and sometimes neighbors park in front of the gate for a short time, so we only used the car for drives out of town.
We walked to everything, but by the end of the week I think my leg muscles were getting stronger. Everything is uphill from these apartments, but then the return is downhill. There is a bakery about three blocks away where we got our morning pastries and bread for picnics. The main grocery is at the top of the town on the far side, quite a walk but again the return is downhill. We tried to combine a stop at the grocery with the occasional car use. There is also a "convenience grocery store" somewhat closer in town, maybe half the distance. Cafes and restaurants were a short walk, numerous and good quality.
The building looks just renovated. It is old stone exterior and some interior walls, but furniture, fixtures, paint windows doors all brand new. There was only one other apartment occupied while we were there, and it was very quiet. We would open the windows in the morning and listen to the cuckoo birds as we sipped our espresso. There are two apartments upstairs and two downstairs. The ones in the back (bella vista) have incredible panoramic views of the valley below and distant hills. The others look out on the side yard - an olive tree and house next door and the car of whoever is staying there. We stayed in Bella Vista Alta (1bed/1bath), there were four of us - two adults and two teens. We found things a little tight but not impossible. The kitchen has basic utensils, a pot or two- ambitious cooks would find it a challenge. We used the espresso maker on the stove and that's about it for cooking.
The outside - most of the apartments in town don't have anything, so this is better. There is a level gated grassy area on both sides of the house where cars could be parked, in the back of the house it falls off down the hill and a fence. We spread a tablecloth out and sat one afternoon, it wasn't bad. They could do more with what they have.
Everything was brand new. The bed sagged and looked like it was going to be a problem, but it turned out to be comfortable. The bedroom is quite spacious and has lamps and lighting enough. There was also a table and chairs in the corner. There is plenty of hanging and storage space. The dining area has a table and chairs for four. Actually the living room dining room and kitchen are all one room about the size of the bedroom, so if the pullout sofa is open the dining room is closed.
There was one bathroom and it was new. The shower is your typical European affair - small with a shower curtain that can't contain the water, so they need a drain in the floor.
The kitchen is usable, four burner gas cook-top, refrigerator and sink, no oven. There was a shortage of pots and pans and glasses and silverware - the bare minimum and cheaply done. Not a good kitchen for full meals because of the shortage of pots and pans and utensils.
Problems or Bonuses
We thought there was a washing machine, in fact there is one located under the stairs but it wasn't made available to us.
The owner said to call him on his cell when we approached Montalcino, but he didn't answer his phone and we got to town, found the apartment, walked around and kept trying and finally reached him so we could get in.
The view was as good as described. The steep streets weren't as tiring as we expected.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
They seem to be new in business. No credit cards, no Paypal. We had to send a wire transfer for deposit - not a cheap way to do it. They asked for cash on arrival. There were no surprises, no added fees, we paid €490 for the week in May and that included everything. They spoke very little English, but we were able to communicate.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, we would stay there again. We were surprised at how many places there were to stay in Montalcino - I didn't find that kind of quantity on the Internet, so there must be other sources of rentals. We would have liked to have a balcony, a washing machine would have been really nice (it was the middle of a two week trip), it was tight lodging for four but we all enjoyed it and made it work. Parking the car at the house was great. Being in town and not needing the car was more relaxing than being on an agriturismo since I was the driver. Time will tell whether they will keep making improvements to the apartment or if it gets old and beat, but for now I recommend it.
Things to do in this area
Montalcino itself turned out to be just right for a relaxing vacation - big enough to have plenty of cafes and restaurants and places to walk, small enough to walk around. Our favorite shopping experience was market day on Friday. The abbey of Sant' Antimo is a nice stop, Montepulciano and Pienza were jewels to visit, Siena is an easy forty five minutes away and worth the trip as well.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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