Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3100: Il Giardino Segreto, Biancospano
rooms and apartments in Pienza, Tuscany South
Sept 15-22, 2007, 1 week
Now that we are in our mid-70's, our criteria for a vacation rental have shifted. We want either a ground level space or one accessible with a lift, on flat terrain, walking distance to restaurants and shopping, having a handicap parking space near by. Our apartment, Biancospina, at Il Giordino Segreto scored 100%. It was ground level, 1/2 block from the "Corso" and a few steps further from the town piazza. Pienza was great for us, small enough to handle on foot and large enough to have a variety of businesses and restaurants. We day-tripped to towns in the surrounding area and could return, park, and eat at a variety of excellent restaurants. The street adjacent to the garden gate had two handicapped parking stalls, and although parking was limited to residents with a permit, our Hawaii handicapped placard is accepted internationally.
Our idea of a vacation is to limit cooking, and primarily eat out. I did buy pastries at a bakery which opened at 7am a block away for breakfast. There was no American styled coffee maker in this apartment. However, it came with a basket of coffee making packets, and we also bought some instant Cappuccino mix - just add hot water.
The Trattoria Fiorella was adjacent, and we ate twice there. Great food and service provided by two brothers and one of their wives as chef. The wife picked rosemary from the garden at Il Giardino Segreto.
Rosella made reservations for us at Del Falcone, which was OK and packed, but a notch below the other restaurants. She also made reservations at the Latte da Luna, excellent food and moderately priced. We walked down the street, outside Pienza a couple blocks and made reservations at Ristorante Pergola, and walked in without reservations to Osteria Bacchus twice and ate well each time.
It seemed very advisable to make reservations in advance of eating in all the restaurants. There were a couple grocery outlets in Pienza, as well.
We reserved our apartment in February, since good deals on such rentals evaporate rapidly. It opened on a charming garden. It was peaceful and quiet. Weather was temperate so heat or air conditioning were not issues. The building was old, going back to the 1400s. The walls, thick and functioned as sound and heat insulation. There was occasional noise in the apartment overhead, but not intolerable. There were either four or five more units in the building.
The garden was lovely, with adequate tables and seating. Although it is to be shared, we had it alone for the week. We bought some dry salami, and wild boar sausage at the local butcher. We ate it as afternoon snacks, along with Pecorino cheese and some left over Pont L'Eveque cheese, which we brought in from Provence. Along with a bottle of Classico Chianti, we had an afternoon feast before dinner time.
The furniture was adequate. They should obtain some more comfortable chairs for the living room area, but considering the price, the apartment was phenomenal. It was very clean, and had what we desired; we could have built a fire in the large fireplace (free firewood). There was a small washing machine which we used twice, and hung clothes to dry on racks they provided. The TV was tiny, and we wouldn't have watched the all-Italian broadcast, except that the Miss Italy contest was on for four nights and was a real hoot.
Bed was large and comfortable. The bedroom, and the rest of the apartment was tastefully decorated with antique Italian photos from around 1900. Bathroom was OK.
Kitchen was adequately stocked with pans and dishes, but outside of breakfast, we didn't eat there. They had an old toaster oven in which we toasted Tuscan bread for breakfast.
Problems or Bonuses
I was surprised at the overall quality. When you deal on-line, they sometimes leave out critical information. This was presented very honestly.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I dealt on-line with Luisa, the owner, and got prompt responses to my inquiries. Her agent, who cared for the apartments, Rosella, spoke almost no English, but with a dictionary and body language, we communicated adequately. She was on-site quite a bit and worked hard, caring for the property. She was also charming and a delight and appeared to have a heart of gold. She tried hard to please. Our price for this apartment was €400 for the week. Dealing through rental agencies, it was €469, but I was able to find an address that got Luisa directly. This is a real bargain. I didn't pay until on arrival and Rosella took my VISA with no questions.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I really recommend this place. It met or surpassed our expectations. The proximity in the village was unbeatable, as well a the location for day-tripping.
Things to do in this area
We had a rental car which we used for touring the countryside. We followed some routes that Stu Dudley, who used to be a contributor to the AOL Travel Bulletin Boards, provided me. We were able to find some of the classic Tuscan views and photograph them, following these routes. We also went to the Bagni baths, Monticchiello, Montalcino, Montepulciano. We took in the Friday Pienza market and were able to buy some Christmas gifts there. This market saturates the Pienza parking spaces, so plan ahead on Thursday evening. We also went to Cortona for lunch, and Orvieto another day. We visited the Abbey at Sant Antimo. The monks chant, so find the schedule for their services if you wish to hear this. We also drove to the Abbey and Month Olivetto Maggiore, which is close to the abbey where the "English patient" was filmed. Beautiful. If you must make a choice, choose the countryside first then the villages.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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