Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3171: Il Poggiolo, Fienile
3bed/2bath apartment near Montevarchi, Tuscany Chianti
23/6/07 to 30/6/07, One week
Our beautiful house was atop a hill green with olive groves and vineyards, at the end of a cypress-lined, steep and narrow lane that wound past a few other villas. We were a short drive to a charming town that had wonderful restaurants, grocery stores, and all the amenities. However, despite taking advantage of the sights, we did enjoy relaxing at "our house" and marveling at the gorgeous vista. The owners' villa is across the driveway, but we felt completely private even when we sipped wine in our little patio area every evening. In the evenings, we could see the lights of little towns and villages scattered across the valley and hills. This would be a great place to come for a getaway, though it's hard to imagine not wanting to explore all the interesting towns and following the lovely walks through the vineyards and groves.
We were only a couple of miles (if that) from the nearest town, and it would be a very pleasant walk to get groceries. However, we used the car to save time when we were running out for supplies. Wouldn't recommend trying to walk back to the house at night, however, the lane is steep in places, and it would be dangerous for pedestrians in the dark.
The house is gorgeous! It looked great on the website, but I thought that such a lovely place for such a reasonable rate would be just too good to be true. So we were thrilled to discover an even nicer place than we had hoped for. The house was once a barn but completely renovated and not at all barn-like; it looks like it should be featured in a slick holiday or architecture magazine. We felt instantly at home. One entrance takes you into a large sun room/living room that leads to the enormous eat-in kitchen (all modern conveniences, with cabinets so well stocked that we could have given a large dinner party and not lacked a single appliance or serving dish!) A spacious bedroom with its own large bathroom is off the kitchen. Through the kitchen is another good-sized sitting area/library, then stairs up to two more large bedrooms and another full bathroom. Everything was new, in perfect condition, beautiful, and so well designed. The beds were comfy, and we all slept well. Our family of four was joined by another couple, and we all had plenty of privacy.
Another rental makes up the back side of the owners' villa. The owners very kindly gave us a tour of that slightly smaller apartment, which was equally lovely and one I would not hesitate to rent.
The house has chairs, tables, and a lovely patio area on both the front and the back, with stunning views from either side. Both areas are private. Pots of bright flowers lined the low walls in front and back. There's no swimming pool, but the owners said that's a future project. We could have used the town's swimming pool, if we had really wanted to swim.
Everything was in beautiful condition, immaculately clean, tidy, beautifully decorated, and comfortable. It really did feel like home (if only mine looked that clean and well put together!) and we never had that "rental/hotel" feeling. There were six of us, and we had plenty of chairs/places to sit, plenty of room, never felt crowded.
Two bedrooms have two twin beds, and the master bedroom has a queen or king-sized bed, all extremely comfortable. (The library living area also has a day bed.) Comfy pillows, too, and nice linens and towels. We had plenty of drawers and closet space (wardrobes!), and lots of surfaces for spreading out our things. Good lighting, too; I could read in bed while my husband slept. We enjoyed having the large windows open at night to catch the cool breezes.
The bathrooms are completely modern, with hairdryers, great lighting, roomy showers, tile floors, really, all very convenient. The owners have anticipated every need and provided for it. Even if we had never met them, I would guess from the state of the rental that the owners are thoughtful, considerate people who pay attention to details and know how to make people feel welcome and very comfortable.
The large, eat-in kitchen could have accommodated a huge family. We had more dishes and appliances than we needed -- three different kinds of coffee pots, a tea kettle, mixing bowls, wine glasses, sharp knives, etc. Everything was of excellent quality, lots of heavy gauge stainless steel, glass, good pottery, granite counter tops, tile floor, exposed beams. Dishes are tucked away in large cabinets. A small washer and dryer are under the counter one end, and we enjoyed the convenience of the gas stove and an automatic dishwasher. And who could beat the view from the kitchen sink, Tuscan hills, in all their glory. We ate out a few times but also enjoyed our big dinners "at home" with plenty of room around the table to enjoy our food and then play Italian Monopoly or cards afterward.
The kitchen has a bookcase crammed with helpful guide books, brochures, and photo albums of suggested local and regional restaurants, pages of "survival Italian" phrases, train schedules, maps, and walks and tours.
Problems or Bonuses
We had only good surprises. The house was even nicer than we had hoped, the area so beautiful it was almost a cliche, and the owners were like old friends, so warm, comfortable, inviting, friendly, helpful, and kind. The owner gave us a tour of the house, explained how everything worked, and showed us how to close the insulated windows and blinds so that the house would stay cool during the day. (The system really works!)
She had left a huge basket of food for us on the kitchen table -- olive oil, pasta, coffee, pasta sauce, a huge wedge of Parmesan cheese, jam, a bottle of wine, and other food stuff. She left eggs, butter, and milk in the refrigerator. She said she didn't think we'd feel like going out to buy food or find a restaurant after our drive up from Rome, so this would get us started. How thoughtful!
We visited a couple of small, off-the-beaten-track towns at the owners' suggestion, and had a great experience. The owners also told us how to find a lovely walk through vineyards, olive groves, to a charming village (where we had a great lunch at a pub where no one spoke English, but the Italians were helpful and so kind) and up a hill to a tall tower.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt directly with the owners, who couldn't have been more helpful. The owners speak English; she's an expat American, he's European who grew up speaking English. Their website has accurate photos of the properties, although the photos can't do the place justice. The website it easy to navigate, and the owners answer queries quickly. We paid the deposit via Paypal, which was easy, and paid the balance in cash when we arrived. At the last minute, we invited another couple to join us, but as they would not be staying the entire week, the owners did not charge us the full rate for the extra guests.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, yes, yes! I would recommend this rental unconditionally to my dearest friends and family and already have! My family would love to be able to return to Il Poggiolo annually (drat that Atlantic Ocean in between). We hope to return some day, to rent Il Poggiolo or the smaller apartment. It was such a thrill to stay in a beautiful place, in a gorgeous region, with such great "landlords." We wouldn't change a detail of our week there, except the having to leave. Even if we hadn't had such an enjoyable experience with the rental, just meeting the owners would have made the week well worth our time.
Things to do in this area
During our week, we took the local train to Florence twice; spent one day walking through the countryside and hiked up to a tower; visited Siena, Cortona, Arezzo, San Gimignano, Giovanni, and two tiny villages, Loro Ciuffenna and Gropina. The owner recommended these last two, and they were well worth the visit, with an ancient Roman-era bridge, and a Romanesque church with strange carvings. Pisa is an easy drive from the rental, but we decided to have a relaxing week and not try to cram every hour with a tour book destination.
The owner can tell you how to get to Il Portale Antiqua, such a superb restaurant that we went twice. It's a little on the pricey side, but worth every euro for the food, service, and ambiance.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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