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Review 3285: Agriturismo Cretaiole, Apartment

www.cretaiole.it

Recommended
Review by Chris from US

apartments on a farm near Pienza, Tuscany South


When

Nov 2007, 7 days

Review

My week at Cretaiole, in the Toscana (Tuscany) region, near Pienza was one of the most magical weeks I've ever had. You see a place on TV, and you read about it in books, but until you really get there, and see the sites, eat the food, smell the smells, and meet the people, you donít really know what the area is about I had done all the research before going to Italy. Now, having gone, I know I picked the best place in all of, not only in Tuscany, but in the Val D'Orcia region, in choosing Cretaiole.

Agriturismo Cretaiole, though it was the first agriturismo in the region, is not nearly as well known as some of the others. It's a beautiful old farm house, perched on a hill and nestled by olive trees, and cedars. If you stop to look out the back, you will have some of the most marvelous views of mountains and fields. Isabella and her family, Carlo, Luciano, and Lilliana, have created a warm, welcoming venue, and the apartments are marvelous. You will arrive and immediately feel like you are part of an extended family. At no time will you ever feel like a guest who has stayed too long, or that you are bothersome. And Isabella stops by daily to check on you and helps you with your plans for the day.

Cretaiole is a fantastic location to relax and sit outside and read, or nap, either in your room, in the hammock, or on very comfortable lawn furniture. Or, you can do as I did, and travel to many wonderful, rustic and interesting (and some a bit spooky) towns, mostly less than an hours drive. Isabella has created a several hundred page travel guide with a copy for each room. It has descriptions of all the local towns, their history, interesting things to see, and fantastic places to eat. To take it one step further ... they have created day trip itineraries solely for your use. You are not only allowed, but encouraged to take the books with you. Just choose one of the itineraries, follow the detailed directions and you'll find yourself whisked away to old, authentic Italy. Places that haven't been changed in hundreds of years, where the people still work the land and celebrate life the same way their parents and grand parents did. Then there are the times to put away the maps and itineraries, and explore.

The region around the Val DíOrcia is filled with gravel roads. Where do they go? I donít know, and you wonít know till you take one, but take one. Driving down a gravel road, dust flying behind you, wondering who and what you will find at the next turn is a fabulous adventure. I did it several times and happened upon people and small hamlets that arenít on any map, but held such charm and beauty it was well worth the chancing.

Isabella and Carlo have also setup a list of possible event where you can learn and do things without having to travel far outside of Cretaiole at all. There is the Uccelliera Vineyard in Castlenuovo Dell'Abate to visit (fantastic Nobile and Brunello - never had them before, Brunello is now my favorite wine). The local olive press where you can view, learn and taste how fresh olive oil is made (and how different fresh is from what we get in the U.S). There is much more, one of my favorites is the Hermitage tour. This is on the owners' land.. Isabella will walk you through the tour and explain the Etruscan history and religious symbolisms of the place. Additionally, there is the weekly pici class, where you are instructed on how to make pici, a regional dish done only in the Val DíOrcia, is something that should not be missed. You will learn the history of pici during the class Ė which is fantastically fun, and you will finish with a gastronomic delight of pici, sausages, bread, wine, cheeses, fruit, grappa, vin santo. Itís a time where everyone gets together for a feast and sharing of stories, friendship, laughter, and food, a perfect end to your time at Cretaiole.

During all of these adventures, whether driving someplace, or taking part of the pici making class, you will start to realize the wonder of the land and its people. I was in awe, not only of the land, the activities, the food, the countryside and they cities, but even more by the passion Isabella, Carlos, Luciano, and Lilliana have towards Cretaiole and the Val D'Orcia.

When it was time to leave, I had some tears in my eyes. These people poured out their love and passions freely to me. I felt like I was leaving a very dear friend I might not see again for a while. But as sad as that was, I knew I was better. My heart, mind, and soul where all refreshed and lightened beyond what I ever imagined a vacation could do. And my outlook on the world and my own life was changed forever.

I'm not sure exactly what Val D'Orcia means in English and it's not important, but I think it should translate to Valley of Life. I believe, Agriturismo Cretaiole and the Val D'Orcia and all the people there, are truly the heart of Italy, not the tourist heart, but the real heartbeat, the hands in the dirt, raising families, loving each other, and loving their friends, real live heartbeat of Italy. And while you are there, you will get caught up in that heartbeat and never want to leave.

But, once you are gone, all youíll have to do is just close your eyes, and breathe and think back and youíll feel your heart beating in time with Val D'Orcia and find yourself transported back to Cretaiole and suddenly you'll feel a warmness in your chest and a wide smile on your face. Agriturismo Cretaiole and the Val DíOrcia, they are a place and a people you won't forget and will want to see many times more.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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