Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3107: Il Giardino Segreto, Corbezzolo
rooms and apartments in Pienza, Tuscany South
September 6-15, 2007, 9 days
The apartment is part of a property including six rental apartments of various sizes. It is located in the centre of Pienza without being on the busiest Pienza street and it features a beautiful garden, the entrances to most apartments being directly from the garden. The two buildings housing the six apartments are contained within walls, and so the property is very private while as central as it can be.
A few steps from the gate of Il Giardino Segreto is the best known street of Pienza, the Via Rossellino. At the oposite side is Via delle Mura, which can be used for dropping off lugage at arrival or loading it up in the car when departing.
Practically next door on Via Condotti is the beautiful and delicious restaurant Da Fiorella, and a few doors away on Via delle Murra is a bakery which opens at 7am for the early delight of its customers.
Groceries (Alimentari), bakeries (Forni), deli stores, stores filled with the best products and produce of the region, cafés, gelaterias, are all literally a few steps away. Surely none is farther than 50-100 yards (or meters).
For more "supermarket" style shopping the highly recommended Co-op of San Quirico d'Orcia is about 7 km. away.
The building, as described in our first contacts by the owner, was not used for many years until it came into her possession and she decided to renovate it and use it for vacation rentals. As an aside and unusual coincidence, my former boss, who has been vacationing in Pienza for the last 10 years or so, told me he was always intrigued by what was behind "those walls" but never decided to push the door and take a look. Now he knows ... the segreto!
Back to Il Giardino Segreto: it presently rents six apartments of one or two bedrooms. For a full list, please look up their web site. Prices are very reasonable and sometimes the apartments are rented at discounts from the published rate. The best way is to ascertain the availability and cost is by contacting directly the owner (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
While we stayed there, we invited a friend, an Italian from Milan, who stayed for three days in one of the one-bedroom apartments and he was also perfectly comfortable there.
The garden within the walls is pretty large, with two areas presenting each a well, one of the areas almost always in the shade, the other mostly in full sun. The well in the sunny part of the garden is also the preferred relaxing spot for the resident siamese cat.
Garden tables and chairs are available and guests often picnic in the garden. For a couple of days most of the apartments were occupied by members of an Italian family and they laid wonderful tables, heavy with the delicious produce, antipasti, fruit, cheeses and wine that can be found in Pienza and its surroundings.
There are sufficient chairs and tables for smaller groups and families.
Everything worked, everything was in good shape, and nothing was missing to make this a perfectly comfortable stay. The beds were good and large, not too soft. We asked for extra pillows but it turned out it was not necessary since there were plenty in wardrobes and on beds.
When we had a couple of cooler nights additional blankets were provided on request and without questions or delays.
The bathroom was clean, and so was the kitchen and its cupboards.
In the kitchen there was a small TV set with a very limited choice of channels; but it was good enough to watch the ceremonies at the death of Luciano Pavarotti, and a few soccer and basketball games.
The two bedrooms were separated by the kitchen/dining room.
One of the bedrooms, the one next to the bathroom, was up two steps. If wheelchair accessibility is required, this apartment (it is designated as Il Corbezzolo) would not be a good solution, and this must be clarified before renting. In the same matter, while we were there we noticed a guest who required wheelchair but she was in an apartment which met access requirements.
Each of the beds would easily accommodate two persons. Bedding was clean and plenty, although foot carpets by the bed would have been welcome.
The bathroom was large, spacious, with toilet and bidet, and a somewhat typical shower, meaning reasonably large but still constraining by North American standards. Still, we had no problems using it and so would be the case for a vast majority of potential guests. The bathroom was supplied with plenty of toilet paper, and hotel-style hand soap and shampoo. When we required new towels, all we had to do was ask. And the apartment was cleaned by staff and bedding changed after one week (no cost), although were we to ask this to be done more often I am sure we would have been accommodated.
The kitchen shared the space with the dining room. When we arrived, a large basket with jams, coffees, teas, and other goodies was waiting for us. Sugar and salt where available. We were also given a complimentary bottle of the excellent regional Rosso di Montepulciano.
The gas top worked fine, and the cupboards were supplied with whatever we happened to need from cutlery to china.
The only slight inconvenience was the awkward location of the main gas switch, somewhere under the kitchen top, which made access to it a bit of a problem.
Problems or Bonuses
Surprises were all good: the apartment, the support staff, the gorgeous little town of Pienza, its beautiful and plentiful shops, the easy access to any type of supplies, the relative ease of parking.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
From the very first contact the owner was very responsive to all our questions and requests. Email was responded on time and in detail.
On site Il Giardino Segreto is represented by Rossella and Marco. We had contact mostly with Rossella. Her English is not very advanced but I guess this was one case where my Italian was better than the local's English. Rossella is very helpful, very friendly, full of life and responsive to the requests of the guests.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely, without qualification.
We noticed that Il Giardino Segreto is not a secret in Italy, as most of its guests during our stay were Italian couples and families.
Things to do in this area
Where to start, where to stop? Pienza is in the heart of one of the most beautiful regions of Tuscany. From here we drove easily not only to relatively close places such as Montalcino, Montepulciano, San Quirico d'Orcia, Castelmuzio, La Foce, Trequanda, etc., etc., but also to Arezzo, Orvieto, Abbazia Sant'Antimo, Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Chiusi, Chianciano Terme.
There are excellent restaurants in town: Latte di Luna, La Fiorella, La Pergola, to name just some.
On Via Rossellino and throughout the little streets opening from it one finds little stores with ceramics, pastas, salumis, and the ubiquitous pecorino di Pienza whose aroma powers the commerce of Pienza.
About 2 km. out of Pienza as one comes from Chianciano Terme there is an area artigianale in which the Biagiotti family reign supreme in their amazing wrought iron art and artisanate creations. Visiting this place is a must. The showroom they have in Pienza is but a shadow of the wonder that is their domain 2 km. down the road.
In town, at Via Condotti no. 1, is La Luna del Pozzo, L'Arte Antica dell'Artigianato, with original ceramics in a unique style.
Near the city gate (Porta al Murello) is La Cornucopia, a "club delle fattorie" (producer's club) where a wide variety of local products are available.
And the pottery Mezza Luna is hidden away on a small path that runs down the Basilica, literally underneath the terrace of Il Chiostro di Pienza, the town's Relais hotel.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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