Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 296: Gli Aceri, Apartment
apartments in a villa on the outskirts, Florence
July, 2002, 5 nights
Two 1 bedroom apartments that can be connected or rented separately
The house is located in the Careggi Hospital area of Florence. This is about a 5-10 minute drive to the main Florence train station by car. There are also convenient bus lines within walking distance of the house but a car is very useful. This area of Florence is semi-suburban. The house sits on a large piece (about 5 acres) of very private property that consists of gardens, a pool, and an orchard. You feel like you have escaped the heat and humidity of downtown Florence.
There are shops and restaurants about a three minute drive away. When we arrived, the owner, Carlo, hopped in the car with us and took us on a tour of the local area to show us how to get to his favorite shops, recommended restaurants, and the bus stop.
The house was built in 1400 as a Medici country house. It has undergone some enlargements and modifications since then so it is now quite modern and attractive. Several generations of Carlo's family live in this large villa.
The two rental apartments are at the front of the house with a private entrance. They are available to rent separately or you can do as we did and rent both apartments at the same time. We chose to do this after talking to other people who had stayed with Carlo in the past as we were travelling with our two teenage children and felt we needed the extra room of both apartments.
The house is surrounded by about five acres of gardens and orchards. Near the house is a more formal garden area. The downstairs apartment has doors that open to a small sitting area with table and chairs but we never sat here as you are free to use any of the outside areas. There is a gazebo type structure with chairs, and a very attractive pool area with tables and chairs where we preferred to sit. As we were the only renters, we felt that it was relatively private.
Both apartments are spotless and comfortable with simple but attractive and well-maintained furnishings. There is air conditioning in both units (but the upstairs units' is somewhat cooler), plus fans. (The downstairs unit has window screens). There are plenty of windows in both units. The downstairs unit has french doors that can be opened to the outside. There is good lighting both during the day and at night.
When you walk in the front door, you can either go through shaded glass doors into the downstairs unit or up wood stairs to the upstairs unit. If you rent both apartments, the doors to both are left open so it feels like you are renting a small house.
The downstairs unit consists of a long main room with kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. The upstairs unit is much smaller but still has a main room plus a bedroom with two twin beds. Either unit alone would be comfortable for two people or a couple with one small child. With teenagers, we were glad that we had rented both as the extra space allowed for everyone to have privacy.
The downstairs unit has a futon sofa in the main living room that could sleep one adult or two small children. There is a king sized bed in the bedroom of this unit that we found comfortable. Upstairs, there is a day bed sofa that could sleep one person in the main room and two twin beds in the bedroom.
The bathroom downstairs was quite nice with a great shower and a washer-dryer unit. The upstairs bathroom was smaller (very small shower) but adequate.
The downstairs kitchen was very usable for preparing simple meals. There is a four-burner cooktop but no oven. There is a toaster. There is ample counter space and plenty of pots, pans, plates, glassware and utensils. There is no dishwasher. We cooked dinner for 4 people twice and had no problems.
The upstairs kitchen is probably not as useful for more than very simple meals. The kitchen area is actually on a small balcony a few steps up from the main living area. There is only a two-burner cooktop. However, there are ample eating and cooking utensils for simple meals.
Problems or Bonuses
Carlo, the owner, is an absolute delight!!! We had originally heard about this rental from another Slow Travel member (Gavin from Australia) who had stayed there previously (and had just been back again the week before we were there) and he had told us that Carlo was great.
However, when we arrived, we were not prepared for the welcome Carlo gave us. We have rented houses and apartments around the world and have never had such a warm welcome from any owner. He had a bottle of his homemade wine waiting for us on arrival (ask to see his wine cellar!) and insisted on giving us a personalized tour of the area so we would know where the best shops and restaurants were. He also had a detailed map at the house. After more than two weeks of travelling, it was terrific to feel like someone was waiting for us and was going out of his way to make our time in Florence enjoyable.
Although Carlo is very friendly, he was not intrusive - just the right mix of a nice person to talk to or ask questions of at the end of the day and yet allowing you the space to have a feeling of privacy. He made us feel most welcome, and Carlo even cooked us dinner in his house the last night we were there! We felt like we were staying with a friend and his family and it was one of the most memorable parts of our stay in Italy.
Although many people might prefer to stay closer to the center of Florence, we found escaping from the crowds and heat to "our home" at the end of the day to be a wonderful antidote, especially for our children. We drove to the train station each morning and parked there --- even with rush hour traffic this never took us more than 10 minutes.
One bonus about Carlo's apartments is that they were one of the very few that we could find in Florence that rented on a day-by-day basis instead of requiring a few week's lease.
Since we did not want to spend an entire week in Florence, this was perfect for us.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We did not book through an agency but made all arrangements directly with Carlo through the internet. Gavin had given Carlo a "thumbs up" and we had also corresponded with another family who had stayed with Carlo, so we were comfortable booking directly. Carlo does ask for a downpayment before you arrive and prefers a wire transfer which can take some doing.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, absolutely!!! We feel we now have a friend in Florence and would love to go back just to spend more time with Carlo and his family.
Things to do in this area
Carlo recommended Zibibbo Restaurant (Via di Terzollina 3/R, telephone 055/433383). This is in the Careggi area of Florence, and you would need a car to get there from the center of town. This was probably one of the nicer meals we had in Italy. This upscale restaurant looks out on a forest of trees and the service and food were both excellent. Reservations are essential, even during the week.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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