Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3099: TuscanHouse, La Casella
2bed/2bath house near Cetona, Tuscany South
1 Sep 2007 to 8 Sep 2007, 8 nights
This property is located on a large property in the in southeastern Tuscan countryside a few kilometers south of Cetona. The house is on a hill with a beautiful view of several miles of the surrounding countryside and mountains, as well as a wonderful view of Cetona. Although other properties are nearby, the house and grounds are situated in such a way as to still give a feeling of seclusion. The property is easy to get to from the main roads in the area. When driving to other parts of Tuscany you also have access to the Autostrada giving you a variety of choices as to how to plan your travel, (e.g., you can go on the smaller back roads or use more of the major roads). We certainly found it easy to commute to Siena, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, Orvieto, etc.
The nearest grocery stores, shops, and restaurants are located in Cetona, which is about three to 4km away, so driving is the best way to access them. Chiusi is a bigger town that is maybe eight to 10km away, and there is a mall with a big supermarket about the same distance just off the Autostrada. With all of these choices, shopping, etc. was no problem. We also did quite a bit of our shopping in local markets in the cities we visited on our day trips (bakeries, meat markets, green grocers, etc).
The building is absolutely ideal for two couples or four people. The house and grounds were completely renovated/refurbished just a couple of years ago. The house has two levels, each being a complete living area for each couple with a master bedroom, separate bath, full kitchen with all appliances (including a washer), dining room, living room (with its own TV and CD player) and fireplace. The stairs to the upper floor are located on the outside of the house. This allows each couple to come together for meals and socialization but also have a completely separate space so they can relax and be on their own without disturbing the other couple. The downstairs entry is through a glass encased sitting area which also permits relaxing in an enclosed area during cold or inclement weather. Each floor and its rooms are large and have added amenities such as separate wall safes, etc. There are several windows on each level which have great views, the top floor having the best views overall.
The outside area is ideally structured. There are two terrace areas on opposite sides of the house each with its own tables and chairs, our biggest decision was which to use for lunch or appetizers/wine, and which to use for dinner. There is a large rectangular private pool with decking and chairs for sunbathing and relaxing. There is also a large grass area, as well as a large vegetable garden, and we were fortunate to be there at a time when we could pick zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes and use them in our evening meals. There is is also a covered outdoor grill, which we used to grill meats and vegetables. There was also a covered parking area large enough for four cars.
All of the furnishings are new, modern, plentiful and clean. We had more than enough in the way of chairs, couches, dining room chairs, etc to be together for meals and socializing, and certainly enough when we were alone in our own spaces. The stoves (gas), dishwashers, washing machines, etc, were all new and worked well.
The beds were extremely comfortable and there were nice linens, coverings, pillows, and blankets. Each of the bedrooms were well sized with ample closet space. Each of the bathrooms was fully appointed with a tub, toilet, bidet, sink, etc as well as bathrobes! The upstairs level also had a nice sized separate shower. All were very clean.
Having a usable kitchen was extremely important to us as we had planned to cook most of our evening meals "in house." La Casella answered that call and more, given the fact as mentioned above that there were two separate kitchens to choose from, although we used the downstairs kitchen primarily. We cooked a wide variety of foods and found everything we needed to do so (e.g., pans, utensils, etc.) with ease. The knives are of high quality, well balanced and extremely sharp (I am picky in this regard as I hate being in places with cheap dull knives when there is lots to chop). Each kitchen/level had its own fridge so there were no problems in the food storage department. We had plenty of silverware, dishes, serving pieces, glasses, wine glasses, coffee mugs, etc.
Problems or Bonuses
I was initially concerned about how far south it was in Tuscany, but that quickly evaporated. Its location (choice of roads, etc.) but secluded feeling coupled with how well the house was laid out and appointed were great surprises, the veggie garden was an extra bonus.
Being in the countryside, we did hear dogs barking (this was sporadic) and roosters crowing at a nearby farmhouse, but that more added to the ambiance rather than being an annoyance.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
TuscanHouse was excellent to work with. They provided not only great service with regard to arrangements for the property, but also gave us directions to the large supermarket in the area so we could easily stock up on basic supplies before arriving, a phone card to call the owners in order to let them know when we were an hour away (so they in turn could alert the caretakers, maps for Tuscany as well as a few of the local towns, and recommendations for local sights, restaurants, etc. Our security deposit was returned promptly along with a nice follow up note. The on site people (Mario and Anna, a married couple who are the gardener and housekeeper) spoke only Italian but we had picked up enough Italian to get along -- they came by each day to do work in the garden, etc., but came early and were unobtrusive. The owners speak English so any problems could be resolved through a phone call with them, although we had no problems during our stay. We paid $2250 for the week.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
This is a place I would absolutely go back to and have no hesitation in recommending. I looked at several and I mean several types of offerings with different companies; online, in catalogues, and through friends' recommendations. Having two couples to deal with, I kept coming back to La Casella as a choice as it just looked too good to be true on the website. We were more than pleased as noted above with all aspects, from dealing with TuscanHouse to our stay. It could not have been better. I would say that people have to be able to navigate stairs (unless they take the downstairs level) to get up to the second level and there are also stairs outside. As also noted, you really can't walk to restaurants, etc. but the view, ambiance and countryside location more than offset that for us, particularly since we were planning to cook our evening meals there anyway.
Things to do in this area
We took day trips to various cities in the area, and took advantage of their local offerings, (e.g., wine, cheeses, etc.) We visited Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, and Orvieto, as well as Siena. Frankly, with our traveling style we could have skipped Siena (we purposely did not go to other more well known and larger towns simply because the smaller towns had so much to offer, as well as the incredible views traveling back and forth to see them). One of our favorite restaurants was Osteria Vecchia in Cetona, which was recommended by TuscanHouse. We found out, upon our return, that this little place in this little town was listed by Food and Wine Magazine (Sep 2007 issue) as one of the "Five Don't Miss Trattorias in Italy", and we can now add deservedly so. One of the other simple pleasures we found were the "Ossi di Morti" meringue cookies found in Montalcino. Needless to say, the local wines and cheeses were superb.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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