Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 287: Rentvillas, Pretorio
3bed/3bath apartment in Cortona, Tuscany East
May 2001 and September 2001, May - 2 weeks, Sept - 1 week
If low water pressure, lots of steps, and uncomfortable beds will ruin your vacation, skip this review. If being smack dab in the middle of the wonderful walled hilltown Cortona with restaurants right out your front door, three bedrooms AND three bathrooms - including a 13C tower bedroom (Rapunzel, Rapunzel), and a rooftop terrace overlooking the whole Val di Chiana with a glimpse of Lake Trasimeno in the distance appeals to you, hold on a minute.....
We spent three weeks at the Pretorio apartment in 2001 - two in May and one in September. I would return in a heartbeat. We rented through Rentvillas (Pretorio is a Cuendet property and is also listed through other agencies) and were very satisfied with their service. Our contact was Kendra and emails were answered promptly. A very informative booklet about travelling in Italy and what to expect in rental properties was received with our voucher in the mail.
The 17C building is located in the tiny Piazza Alfieri just off the main Piazza Repubblica in the heart of Cortona. Most taxis from the train station in Camucia will take you right to the entrance of the narrow alley that leads to the Piazza Alfieri. If you have a car you may unload your luggage, but must park in the public lots just outside the walls. Pack light. It's a real trip up the stairs. The apartment is on the 2nd floor (our 3rd) and there is no lift. There is one other apartment on this top floor of the building, but no one was there the two times we were.
Katia the Keyholder is a cheerful introduction to this property. She speaks very little English, but will make sure you understand how everything works and will check on you during the week. The 1200 square foot apartment was very clean on arrival both times.
The spacious L-shaped living/dining room is furnished with reasonably comfortable chairs and sofas and a round table for 6. Ceilings are high and large windows give this area lots of light and breathtaking views over the valley.
The kitchen off the dining room is small with a 4-burner stovetop, no oven (well, a toaster oven), a dishwasher, and a small half-fridge. Not very conducive to cooking, but we made the basics and frequented the many good restaurants. Freshly baked breads and pastries and the morning paper were a short stroll away each morning.
There is a double bedroom with ensuite bath and a twin bedroom with hall bath on this floor. Both bathrooms are large with tubs and hand-held shower spray. Towels are rather old and thin. No fluffy whites here. Hot water pressure is low, so you get in and get out. This is not a slow-bathe property, but the job gets done. One bathroom has a washing machine. It's a mini and takes hours to cycle, but we were thrilled to have it as we had many friends coming and going. One chilly rainy day I ironed sheets to keep warm! There's no heat, but plenty of blankets.
Please note: both of these bedrooms have windows overlooking the tiny piazza where each morning your wake-up call is a garbage vehicle emptying the dumpster. I never had difficulty going back to sleep.
Now for the main reason I love this place. Off the entrance hall is a heavy, creaky wooden door leading to stone steps up a 13C tower! Halfway up is an area of unrestored rooms - sometimes we hung our laundry in here. Further up is another ancient door opening to a small bedroom with windows on two sides overlooking the valley. It's quiet and peaceful and the bed is probably the best one in the house. The bath is small with a curtainless shower, but hey, the pressure is so low, it doesn't get too wet!
Then, up the stairs a little more, another door leads to the roof-top terrace. It's incredible. There is a small table and chairs, and the view will make you forgive all the negatives about this apartment and, like me, say you could stay here forever. Some mornings the clouds float by below you and in the evenings the sunsets are magnificent.
Pretorio is not for everyone. People who have difficulty with stairs, small children, gourmet chefs, light sleepers, and those with a high comfort level would not be happy here. Of course we had some frustrating moments, but there were so many good things about it we will definitely go back. Would I recommend it to others? YES, but.....
Cortona is full of great shops, restaurants, lovely churches and small museums. Because of "Under the Tuscan Sun" and the University of Georgia's study abroad program there, it's very American-friendly with lots of English spoken. This, of course, has two sides. It's become very touristy but I think it's still delightful, especially off-season. It's very do-able without a car for side trips taking a bus or taxi to the train station in Camucia. Florence is about 1 hour away. Arezzo is about 30 minutes by train, a little longer by bus, and there's a great antiques market there the first weekend of every month. Perugia and Assisi are not far. Cortona's weekly market is Saturday morning - mostly household goods, and tasty roast pork from the back of a truck! Delish.
One restaurant tip: RESERVATIONS! I was amazed that almost every restaurant was fully-booked (completo) every night. If you like to eat early, and the restaurant you want is booked, assure them you will eat and leave (not linger all night), and sometimes they will seat you. There are many good restaurants. Our favorite pizza, pasta, salad place was Fufluns.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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