Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 308: Owner, Al Bastini
Large villa near Lucca, Tuscany North
June 22 2002 - June 29 2002, 1 week
The house is located about two thirds the way up a mountain in the country to the west of Lucca. The location is absolutely beautiful, but think West Virginia more than Chianti. It's very green and very mountainous. It's extremely peaceful (well except for the roosters) and it's extremely private. There's one other house below Al Bastini, currently under renovation, that is not a rental but used by the owners a few weeks out of the year. Another house sits about 1/4 - 1/2 mile away as the crow flies.
You need to drive to any amenities. There's a butcher and small convenience store about 5 minutes down the road. We shopped at a Superal about 10 - 12 minutes away and there's an Esselunga a bit further that's enormous.
Restaurants range from 5 minutes to however far you feel like driving.
The house is in great shape. I believe it's a converted farm house/barn. There's a red photo album in the house that shows the restoration that took place.
Personally, I love the chestnut beamed ceilings.
Al Bastini has a beautiful garden. Off the kitchen entrance to the house is a lovely stone patio with a table for dining and several lounge chairs. Behind this area is an incredible herb garden and beyond that, olive and cherry trees. Peach trees grow on the lower terrace. The stone patio area also contains a large grill.
A path from the stone patio leads to a good-size private pool (great for skinny dipping) about 30 meters from the house. The pool had ample lounge chairs, some under shade, and two tanning beds. An open outdoor shower is at the entrance to the pool.
The furniture was very comfortable - not antique. I would have been uncomfortable if it had been too fancy. The owner of the house does metal working and built several of the beautiful pieces. He also has some beautiful wood pieces.
The house has ample dining areas. Off the kitchen sits a large wooden table that can seat 8 comfortably and the dining room has another table at which you could fit ten. We never used either though (except to drop our stuff) because we'd eat our breakfasts and sometimes lunch in the covered area just off the dining room and kitchen. You could easily fit 10 - 12 people at the large trestle table on this porch. We'd eat dinners on the stone patio where the table comfortably could fit 8 -- 10 might be a squeeze.
Beds and bedrooms were nice - roomy enough with a master bedroom that was pretty large. There are 4 double bedrooms, two with ensuite bathrooms and two single bedrooms. The single bedroom upstairs was great but the one downstairs didn't circulate air as well.
In addition to the two ensuite bathrooms were two other bathrooms, across the hall from the other bedrooms. All the bathrooms had tub/showers but the master bathroom had both a tub and a stall shower.
The kitchen was fully stocked with pots, pans, Cuisinart, dishwasher, microwave, toaster, and even an American coffee pot (although it took about 30 minutes to brew a pot of coffee). In addition to the items required for cooking, the buffet in the dining area contained several beautiful serving platters.
I'd have enjoyed cooking in the kitchen if it weren't so dang hot out (bringing one of the fans in from the bedroom helped) but otherwise it would be fine. I don't think more than two people could comfortably work there at the same time. Although, I'm not sure why you'd want more than two people working on the same meal at the same time :)
Problems or Bonuses
Hmm... bonuses - so many. Outside of the house, under a covered patio, sits a ping pong table which would have come in handy if it rained. Downstairs, there's a pool table (snooker actually). The house contains a tv, stereo, VCR and dvd player with an extensive music collection as well a couple of hundred English books to probably satisfy everyone's taste.
Monday - Friday morning, Renata would visit to straighten up the house, make the beds and clean the bathrooms. I think she changed the towels two or three times while we were there. In addition, for a fee of 25 Euro a person (well worth it), she'd come in and cook dinner for you in the evening.
For example, our third night, she prepared a pasta with wild mushroom sauce as well as a pasta with fresh tomato basil sauce (you can spy her in the garden before dinner snipping herbs for dinner). For our secondi, she made a veal roast, roasted potatoes (best I ever had) and beans with sage. For dessert, homemade tiramisu - amazing!
Another great feature - the house contains a washer and dryer which we used. They take a bit longer than our American versions but it was great being able to return home with mostly clean clothes, and the dryer didn't shrink anything.
The only problem, and it's not that big a deal, is the partially paved, partially dirt road that snakes up the mountain to the house. It's only wide enough for one car and there's no guard rail. It wouldn't have bothered me at all except for the fact that I drove a huge (read gigantic) 9 passenger van. Yikes.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We booked directly with the owner and he's fantastic. Very nice - very attentive. He provides you with a ton of information (e.g., stores, restaurant recommendations). Check out his website - he maintains it and it contains a lot of terrific information.
On site, we dealt with the owner and the woman (Erlana) who manages the properties - also great.
Lastly, Renata speaks little English which didn't bother us (although she'll bring one of her daughters with her when she cooks and they both speak better English than I do Italian). Also great.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
In a heartbeat. We're trying to figure out when we can return, which friends will be lucky enough to join us, and if we can swing more time than one week.
Things to do in this area
We visited Pisa (25 min), Lido di Camaiore (beach)(25 min), Lucca (15 min) and Chianti (90 min) from here. I'd still love to get to Montacatini Termi, Pistoia, Carrara, Cinque Terra, Vinci and other places.
Arezzo would be about 90 - 100 minutes and Siena two hours. Florence is a 75 minute drive.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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