Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2995: Il Gavillaccio, Apartment
Apartments on an estate near Figline Valdarno, Tuscany Chianti
September, 2006 and August, 2007, 14 days total
Il Gavillaccio is a group of restored apartments in a beautiful setting on the top of a hill. It's in the tiny village of Gaville which has one store. The store is not easily reach on foot because of the hilliness of the region. The apartments are part of one large building that has been completely rebuilt. The proximity to neighbors is close. You can hear other people if they are on their terraces and your windows are open.
The view from the apartments and the pool area is truly stunning. The setting around the pool is really lovely.
Because the entire property is located at the top of a steep hill, the walk from the parking area can get tiresome after a couple of days. Some of the apartments are much closer to the parking area. Other apartments (numbers 10-13) require walking much further. Taking a picnic to the pool area becomes more of a challenge when you know that if you forget something you'll have to walk up a really steep hill to get back to your apartment!
You must drive into Figline Valdarno for restaurants, cafes, or a supermarket. The drive is about 10 minutes (7 km) mostly on a country road. (Il Gavallaccio is located at the end of a narrow and steep driveway, by the way.) For a big supermarket, the drive is about 15-20 minutes. The town of Figline is not touristy and has a sizable commercial area that's not very attractive. There are seemingly fewer choices of restaurants in town than in many other small towns. Out in the hills, there are other restaurants if you're willing to drive 10-30 minutes.
There is one small store in Gaville with limited store hours.
The apartments are in great shape and all are furnished in a simple, country style. Our first time renting there, we had apartment #13 which is THE FARTHEST apartment from the parking lot and the pool. But the view from the living room is great. It's a two bedroom, one bath apartment and quite spacious. Because of the small windows, it seemed a little dark.
We enjoyed our first stay, so we booked a return to Il Gavillaccio. That time we had apartment #10, which apparently is not owned by Lorna, the owner of Il Gavillaccio, but rather by her sister-in-law. She assured us that the apartment was "very nice" but it was nothing like the first apartment. It was much darker, the layout was not as good. She neglected to tell us that the bedroom was a loft area. And there were problems with things not working. The apartment was not as well outfitted as the first one, which had all kinds of helpful appliances and utensils in the kitchen and extra nice touches like vases, etc.
All the apartments except #10 have their own outside sitting area. Some have patios that face the back and do not have the view of the hills. The best apartments are those with patios/terraces that face the hills. (These are the apartments that are also closer to the pool.)
The sitting areas each have a table with chairs and an umbrella. They are mostly in view of your neighbor's sitting area, so they are not super-private. But this is nice if you want to meet people.
The pool is shared by all the apartments and is quite large. There's also a picnic area around the pool. There are extra charges for using the barbecue that's there.
The furniture was in excellent shape and the place was clean. The couch (in both apartments that we had) was also a futon bed so it wasn't very comfortable as a couch. In general, the indoor seating area was not that comfortable. We didn't have a coffee table. The couch didn't face the TV. Everything looked really nice; all the little inconveniences are the kind of thing that you don't notice until you try it out.
But, in general, the apartments are very nicely done and are comfortable enough for a week's stay.
The bedroom, the beds, and the bathroom were fine.
In our second rental, we had a terrible problem because the "bedroom" turned out to be a loft. None of the photos that Lorna sent us showed that and she didn't mention it. Having had such a nice two-bedroom apartment (on one level) the last time we where there, it never occurred to us that she would stick us in a much smaller apartment with a loft for a bedroom. The skylight in the bedroom made the place very hot and the shade on the skylight was broken so the sun beat down all day. In the morning, it woke us up at 6am.
About the bathrooms -- if you rent for a week, don't expect to get enough toilet paper to last the week. The way the apartments are stocked -- or NOT stocked -- means that as soon as you get there you need to get to a supermarket. We knew that it was like that but we thought that we'd be given more than ONE roll of toilet paper since we had reserved the apartment for two weeks.
In most of the apartments, the kitchen has a really full cupboard with everything you would need to make a good meal. There's a dishwasher in every apartment. Also a half-size fridge.
When we checked out, Lorna asked us to carry out our own garbage bag and put it in the outside pails. This is really self-catering!
The kitchen does not come stocked with basic supplies. One apartment we rented had some olive oil, salt, pepper, etc. But it was not clear whether these were left behind by others or standard items. The second apartment we rented had only salt, sugar, and pepper.
Problems or Bonuses
Our first visit to Il Gavillaccio was a happy surprise. We stayed an extra few days for a total of 10. We met interesting people there, took drives out into the hills, explored little towns, and enjoyed being someplace that was off the beaten path. We knew that the apartments were not perfect (no screens on the windows, long hike up from the parking lot on a hot day or in the rain, etc.) but we wanted to return there to enjoy a quiet couple of weeks.
Our second visit was a disaster. Lorna told us that we had booked the last available apartment for the two-weeks period in August but she never told us that we were the ONLY people who would not be part of a wedding party. We discovered that fact when we arrived and she told us that the pool would be closed on the day of the reception. Needless to say, we felt like intruders when everyone else there was part of the wedding celebration. Then we discovered that the apartment was not as nice as the one we'd had previously and that we had to deal with the inconvenience of a loft bedroom. The skylight was just one of the many things wrong with the apartment. Clearly these things had been broken all summer and not fixed. We were also told that we had to pay cash for a two-week stay when we knew that she accepts AmEx. We were so disappointed with the apartment and Lorna's indifference to our disappointment that we left after only four days.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The on site owner, Lorna, is a native English speaker. She does not offer the kind of warm hospitality that Slow Travel members often find. That lack of hospitality is the biggest problem at Il Gavillaccio. There's very little information offered about the area and though you can ask for directions, etc., you do not get the sense that you are talking to someone who cares whether you have a good time or not. I know that people go to Gavillaccio and have a great time -- we did, our first time there -- but you have to overlook the shortcomings. For independent travellers who want to go someplace off the beaten path, this could be a very nice stay. Just pick the apartment carefully and be sure to ask a lot of questions about what you are getting.
The prices are posted on the website and vary by apartment and season. There are additional fees for cleaning and all kinds of rules about deposits, so read carefully.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
People ask us all the time for recommendations of where to go and I have never recommended this place. I think that the view is breathtaking and the area is great but it's not a guaranteed perfect experience.
While Il Gavillaccio is a really beautiful place, I cannot recommend it. On our second visit we were terribly disappointed by the apartment and the fact that we were the only people who were not part of a wedding celebration. We told the owner that it was not what we expected and that we wanted to leave earlier than our originally planned two weeks. As returning guests we thought that she might have wanted us to be happy but she ignored our complaints and insisted that the apartment was just great. She insisted we would have to pay for the full two weeks that we had reserved even though we said that the apartment was too uncomfortable for us to stay.
(She also informed us that when we checked out we would have to pay cash even though we paid our deposit with American Express.) We nicely asked her to please put the apartment back on the market and that we would leave as soon as she could fill it. It was high season and she gets last minute requests all the time, so it seemed extremely likely that in the next days someone would want the rental. But she said that it would be impossible and that she could not rent the apartment even for the following week. We were surprised by her inflexibility. We told her that everything was not as it had been represented and we left after four days. We knew that we would lose our deposit which covered the first week and that was aggravating. But it got worse: After we left, the owner put an additional €650 on my credit card, charging us for the second week! Her website says that if she can fill the apartment, you don't have to pay the penalty but she put the charges through on the day we left. She intended to charge us whether she filled the apartment or not!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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