Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3469: Agriturismo Cretaiole, L'Oliviera
apartments on a farm near Pienza, Tuscany South
April, 2008, 2 weeks
Agriturismo Cretaiole is in the countryside, between Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia. It is located in the Val d'Orcia. The location is beautiful, overlooking the valley between the farmhouse and Pienza, and with a lovely view of Pienza, Monte Amiata and other nearby landmarks. The location is private and the house is surrounded by olive groves, the family vineyard and wooded areas that sweep up the hill.
Pienza is about a 10 minute drive. It is a beautiful village with several trattorie, local shops with fresh produce and pecorino cheese (Pienza is the center of pecorino cheesemaking in Italy), a bakery and other small places to purchase fresh ingredients for meals. There is a small supermarket (COOP) as well. There are several other small villages within easy driving distance (20 minutes or so), all with great small trattorie and ristoranti - Montechiello and San Quirico d'Orcia, for example. The larger towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino are within 30 minutes of Cretaiole.
The apartment (along with six other apartments) were located in a 14th century Tuscan farmhouse located on a hilltop. The house has been fully restored and all the apartments are in great shape. We found our apartment, L'Oliviera, to be comfortable, quiet and homey. We had a one bedroom, one bathroom, a comfortable living area with a fireplace, and a kitchen and eating area. Entrances to the apartments were off a lovely central courtyard. There is a common room, available to all guests, with a small library.
Cretaiole has a well-kept lawn with spectacular views of the valley below Pienza. There is a garden, shared by all the guests, where we were welcomed to pick chard, spring onions and other local vegetables (specific vegetables and availability would depend on the season, I think). The primary product of this agriturismo is olive oil and the house sits above an olive grove. There is a vineyard, also belonging to the owners of Cretaiole, nearby. There are lots of places to sit outside - chairs, tables, etc. There is no pool.
The furniture in our apartment (and in the other apartments that we peeked into) is traditional Tuscan and in very good condition. There is a cleaning service once per week, though more frequent cleaning can be requested at an additional cost, I think. We found the once per week cleaning to be completely adequate for our needs. The cleaning is very thorough. There was plenty of space for sitting and relaxing for the two of us. We used the table in the kitchen frequently for planning excursions, writing and talking. We used the fireplace several times.
Our bed was very comfortable and our bedroom was large with a dresser, armoire and two bedside tables for additional furnishings. The bathroom was small and innovative for the space that was available (L'Oliviera was converted from the farmhouse stalls, I think).
The kitchen fit our needs well, with a gas range and oven, a small refrigerator and good space for working surfaces. The kitchen was well-equipped with pots and pans, plates and glassware, and utensils for both cooking and eating. The knives were sharp (that should tell you something). There were two Italian coffeemakers, one for making a single cup and one for making (probably) six cups. The kitchen was stocked with staples as well - salt, pepper and coffee, and there were onions and garlic available in the courtyard as well as rosemary and other herbs nearby (all this in addition to the garden I mentioned previously). The kitchen was completely adequate for cooking meals, and we used it frequently.
Problems or Bonuses
The owners of Cretaiole, take a great interest in the comfort and satisfaction of their guests. Isabella took us under her wing as soon as we arrived, making us feel welcome and explaining the many activities that she could make available to us during the weeks we were there. These activities were all geared toward small groups interactions. We met many great people from the area as a result, sharing meals with them typically and learning about their farms, wineries, and so on. Isabella also made a guided tour of Siena available to us. The highlight of any week at Cretaiole is Isabella's pici-making class which is followed by a family meal - all the guests plus as much of the owner's family as is able to come (usually most). Some of the activities Isabella suggested carried an additional cost (great values in every case); many did not.
Isabella has compiled a guidebook (in each apartment and in Italian and English versions) that contains a wealth of information about the area along with touring itineraries she has constructed for people that want to explore the Val d'Orcia and get to know it better. The guidebook also contains honest restaurant reviews of local eateries - not just where to go, but what to order as well. We used this book throughout our stay, referring to it frequently and planning an afternoon or two around itineraries recommended there.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We did not deal with an agency. We dealt directly with the owners. The property exceeded our expectations (even given the rave reviews we had read on-line), and the owners are the kind of people we would be friends with at home. We liked them very much.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would highly recommend Agriturismo Cretaiole to others. We will definitely return, hopefully for a longer stay - two weeks was not enough.
Things to do in this area
Many things to do in the area ... Montalcino is nearby - go there for the Brunello. Montepulciano is nearby - go there for the Vino Nobile. Radicofani is 40 minutes away - go there for spectacular views. The monastery at Sant'Antimo is nearby.
Favorite restaurant in the area - La Porta in Montechiello ... call for reservations. There are several other good restaurants in the area. We did not have a bad meal in Toscana.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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