Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3591: Owner, Il Rifugio
4-5bed/4.5bath house near Cortona, Tuscany East
May 2008, 2 weeks
Il Rifugio is located only a short drive from the nearest train station (less than 15 minutes, with some smaller towns in between), and yet it is remarkably isolated and private. Off the main road, one drives about a mile up a steep and winding driveway to a secluded, beautiful old farmhouse. The view from the patio and pool include spectacular tree-covered hillsides and the medieval walls and towers of Cortona in the distance.
Walking from Il Rifugio is impractical, but the nearest grocery store is only a 5-8 minute drive. There were multiple cafes, restaurants, and pizzerias within a 15-minute drive.
The house was much nicer than I expected. It retains the charm of an old stone farmhouse, but everything inside was clean and comfortable. The kitchen is huge and very user-friendly, including plenty of workspace and a big table for 10. There are two sitting rooms on the first floor, one with a TV and one with a fireplace; as well as a formal dining room and half bath. There is an office/library between floors. On the second floor are four bedrooms, two with private bathrooms and two that share a bathroom between them. There is also an upstairs sitting area. Finally, there is an additional bedroom and bathroom outside of the main house, across from the kitchen and next to the laundry room.
There is a huge private patio that includes a shaded area and another big dining table. The pool is up a winding old stone staircase, lined with wildflowers and the occasional lizard, and overlooks the house and the Tuscan countryside.
All of the furniture was clean and comfortable, and there was more than enough room for all ten of us.
The beds were very comfortable, and several of them could be made up as needed, either as twins or as king-sized. The bathrooms were fine and very clean. Two of them had nice, modern glass shower stalls. The other two showers (one stall, one tub) had curtains, but I understand Chuck and Shirley are working toward updating these as well. In any case, there was no shortage of toilets, even for ten of us!
As mentioned previously, the kitchen was lovely and well-stocked with dishes and cooking gear. This and the patio were probably my favorite parts of the house. One day we had an all-day cooking lesson from a local woman, Sonia, who brought along Italian recipes, took us shopping, and then made a number of dishes with us for a huge feast. (This was arranged for us by the owners.)
Problems or Bonuses
The only surprise for me was that the house was in such good shape. To be honest, I had prepared myself for the worst! Also, the weather in late May is unpredictable -- bring books to read in case of cold rainy days, and a bathing suit in case of hot ones. (Of course skinny dipping is also an option since there is no one else around.)
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Shirley and Chuck, both American expats, were extremely accommodating proprietors. We were a high maintenance bunch, and they took care of our every need. In addition to the cooking lesson, they also arranged an all-day wine tour for us (with Andrea, who was a wonderful guide). They arranged to have the house cleaned for us twice while we were there, and they also cooked two wonderful five-course dinners for us (in addition to an amazing 'welcome platter' of local hors-d'oeuvres when we arrived). They seem open to having as much or as little face-time with guests as the guests want to have.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would think twice before taking three children under age five to Il Rifugio again, since it is not a particularly child-proof locale (lots of steps to fall down, the occasional snake, etc.). But I know for certain that my parents are planning to go back as soon as possible with friends. This is an excellent place to stay if you like quiet getaway locations within a short drive from a lot of places (rather than an in-town location where one is a quick walk from all the action). We have also heard from Chuck that they have occasionally had break-ins where cash and small, easily sell-able items were stolen, so one should be prudent about what one brings and leaves at home while on day trips. (We heard several people in Italy bemoaning the recent rise in crime, so this seems not to be an issue unique to Il Rifugio.)
Things to do in this area
We took short trips from here to Siena, Cortona, Florence, and Assisi. All can be reached by train or are about one and a half hour drives.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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