Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3017: Parker Villas, Villa Alastair
7bed/4bath near Massarosa, Tuscany North
June 2007, 7 nights
The villa is on the Via Sarzanese/SS439. It is right outside the little town of Massarosa, and a short drive from Lucca as well. It is fairly easy to find off the Massarosa exit of the A11 autostrade - we had decent directions from Parker Villas I think, and from family who had already arrived. Also, the villa is about five minutes from the Massarosa train station, 25 or so from the Lucca train station.
It was private and quiet. There was a security gate you could open with automatic openers or a key. It could also be opened from inside the house. The house is set back on a long driveway after you get in that gate, so it's far from the road. I know there are other houses nearby, but they aren't close and you can't see them.
I thought the area was OK. It was a little harrowing turning into the villa at times with traffic on the road - people got impatient waiting for me to wait for the other side to clear! Massarosa looked like a cute town and I really wish we had explored it more - but we didn't. Our time was too short, cut even shorter thanks to Delta Air Lines bumping us off our flight to Pisa, which became a flight to Rome ... but that's another story.
You definitely couldn't walk anywhere which was unfortunate. There were places within walking distance; however, we were sure we'd get run over on the Via Sarzanese if we tried to hoof it - especially at night. And we were too tired to drive a lot of the time. We just could not have faced getting in that car and going anywhere, not even five minutes away, after some of the days we had in it! Ha! Would have been nice to be able to walk somewhere but I wouldn't have tried it. I know there were grocery stores nearby but other people in our group did the shopping. Lucca is 20-25 minutes away with a big supermarket and there were other groceries very close to the villa - in Massarosa or between the villa and Lucca on the Via Sarzanese.
There were several restaurants nearby. We ate at Nara, a five-minute drive away and it was great (I will submit a review for it). Other members of our family ate elsewhere in town and had good experiences but I don't have specific names - sorry.
Here's the Parker Villas site for the villa. It has a pretty good and accurate description: Villa Alastair
And a direct site for the villa, which is called Villa Il Colletto in Italy for reasons I don't know: Villa Il Colletto.
The building is not historical and we guessed it probably dated from the 1970s. It was in OK shape. Nothing was dirty or broken, but it sort of just seemed damp and musty. There were screens on all the windows at least!
We were a family group of 14 and the layout worked for us. There were six bedrooms on the upper level and one on the ground level. The bedrooms were in a suite type arrangement - two bedrooms and a bathroom shared a small hallway and a bathroom each and all were off one main hallway. I honestly didn't see a lot of the upstairs as we got the downstairs bedroom. But everything looked nice and the bathrooms upstairs were spacious. Ours was more European - one of those showers with no curtain where the bathroom flooded! The downstairs setup was a separate toilet room and shower room also. But that was not a problem for us.
Here's where the review gets a little silly. I did not find the villa to be cozy or comfortable and was actually totally creeped out at night in the place. I am sure this can be chalked up to the stress of travel and our terrible experiences getting to Italy, but I had really, really scary visions/dreams the first night and never felt comfortable in the house after that. There were some odd paintings that made me uneasy too - one of a man in the dining room and one of a child upstairs. I've never felt this way before about a place so I feel really stupid typing it. But it's pretty much the reason why I put "neutral" on this review and why I would hesitate to recommend it. My boyfriend also had odd dreams and felt a little uneasy too. We often stayed up later than everyone else and one night it sounded like someone was running around upstairs - after everyone else had gone to bed. It sounded like the running was down the hall and in and out of rooms - but with the layout of the rooms that really wasn't possible. And we had no small kids in our party. Other people said they heard it too and weren't sure what was going on.
Yes - the outdoor areas and gardens were beautiful and all private. There was a pool and it was great - we all used it to cool off or relax. The furniture outside or by the pool was nice to relax on and pretty comfy. I have a lot of pics of the grounds here: Courtney's Pictures.
Again, everything was just fine but not brand-new or luxurious. There were sheets over the couches which I thought was a little tacky. I mean, at least get some slipcovers, right? Everything was very clean and we had a mid-week cleaning as well. There were enough chairs for everyone in the dining room and we ate several meals there. There were several sitting areas, indoors and out, so no one was ever left without a place to sit. We mostly sat outside in the front of the house.
Our beds, in the downstairs bedroom, were not very comfortable. They didn't offer enough support for our liking and the pillows were flat. The bedrooms themselves were fine and as they are pictured. They do have a lot of storage space. The bathrooms were shared per two bedrooms upstairs, and the downstairs has its own shower room with separate toilet room. The upstairs bathrooms seemed to be spacious, though I didn't see all of them.
I didn't do any cooking personally but I believe the kitchens were usable. There was one on the ground floor, which was the one we used mainly and one on the lower level, which we used when we were cooking meals and needed to boil some extra large pots of pasta. The kitchen was not as large or gourmet as you'd find in a modern American house built for 14, naturally, but it was fine for a vacation. My family cooked two full meals for everyone in the house and I think they found most everything they needed in the kitchens.
Problems or Bonuses
Well, the creepy factor wasn't fun. I doubt everyone would have that same experience there though! Otherwise I would say the villa was pretty much as described on the Parker Villas site.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Unfortunately I did not book the villa personally or deal with the agency (someone else in the family did) but I don't think there were any problems at all. They sent out a nice sheet with information on the villa and how to get there from several locations, which really helped when we flew to Rome instead of Pisa as planned and had to make the drive up from Rome. They provided a cell phone for us to use during the week but I'm not sure it worked very well. Our family had cell issues all week with ones that were rented, that were mostly due to operator error I think. :) As far as price, the varied prices are listed on the Parker Villas site for the villa.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Would I return here because I loved this place so much? Definitely not! If our family decided to return and wanted us to come along again? Uh - maybe. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't cozy or quaint either. I think that somewhere that is more historic or charming would be a better option.
Things to do in this area
We visited the Cinque Terre, Lucca, and Florence using the villa as our base. We drove to all these locations, but our family took the train with mixed results (they didn't do a great job figuring out schedules or express vs. local). There is a train station in Massarosa but you have to take it to Lucca and switch for a train to the bigger cities, I think. We loved the Nara restaurant nearby. We didn't visit others as we either ate at our destinations, or cooked at the villa. We loved Lucca! Personally if I were to go to Tuscany again, I'd stay in Lucca as my base and visit everywhere via train and not car.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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