Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3735: Doorways, Al Bosco
5bed/5bath house near San Donato, Tuscany Chianti
August 9-16, 2008, 1 week
Al Bosco is located in the country near the village of San Donato. It was a private, peaceful location, one of the most relaxing places I have been. No picture we had seen of the villa could compare to the loveliness of the villa and the grounds. The vineyard, the olive trees, the flowers, the herbs growing near the doorway, and the pool - all combined to give the eye and nose more than you bargained for. The area is filled with vineyards and the drive to the location was wonderful.
The first couple of day we were without rental cars but were able to walk into the village of San Donato. On the way to the village, we found a wonderful restaurant on the roadway. The village also had a great pizza restaurant, a tobacco shop, a small grocery store, a cafe and a bank. Since we were there in August, the pizza restaurant only made pizzas in the evening (due to the heat of the ovens.) We loved the fact that there were not many tourist but us and we could interact with the locals. When we toured other villages like Radda and Greve where we had considered to stay, we were so glad that we were in San Donato. The other villages were crowded with tourist and were commercial. San Donato retains the local charm of a small village.
Our group of seven easily fit into the main villa and did not need the apartment building that is also on the location. The villa was old but had just undergone a renovation in parts and was beautiful. It seemed that much care had been taken to make sure the renovation still retained the loveliness of the age of the villa. Everything was in excellent condition inside the villa.
You can view the property directly: Al Bosco.
The grounds of the villa was a delight to the eye. It did not seem to matter which direction you looked, it was lovely. I think I took pictures in every direction to prove that point. It is a very private location and there were several different areas for sitting. There is a covered area on the porch outside the living room which overlooked the pool. The chairs that were around the pool were very comfortable and could be used for naps if you remembered the sun screen, remember the Tuscan Sun. The veranda had table and chairs on which we had lunch a couple of days. We played bocce ball on the grounds behind the villa. (the balls were at the villa.) There was even a path around the villa for a longer walk in the natural area. The entire grounds were fenced which gave you a sense of safety.
I should also mention that there were bunnies on the grounds. It was nice to see them romping in the yard. They did scurry off when you came near.
When we first went through the villa, we were impressed with the cleanliness. At mid-week, the housekeeper came and changed sheets and cleaned and we saw how thorough she was. We had enough sitting room in the villa for all of us and enjoyed watching the Olympics late at night as well as playing cards. The living room and dining area had an air conditioner which was not needed except at dinner or late at night if we all were in the room. We had access to the supply room and were able to get more toilet paper or supplies if we needed them. There was washing and dryer and laundry supplies.
The beds were very comfortable. We later found out when the housekeeper came why we loved the sheets. Not only was the fabric comfortable but the housekeeper ironed the sheets. Each bedroom had access to a bathroom. The room I stayed in (called the poppy room) had a private bath and was wonderful with a full tub and a shower with a built-in seat. All the bathrooms were very clean. (Two of the young men in our group were longer than the twin beds.) Each bedroom had an air-conditioner (which we only used at night, it was August) and there were screens on the windows.
We enjoyed the kitchen and made many meals there. There was ample pots and pans and a grill on the stove. We made all the breakfast meals and enjoyed becoming familiar with the stove-top cappuccino maker. Italian coffee was the best. Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, we had a great time preparing the meals. Eating on the veranda was wonderful. We also used the dining room at night and the kitchen table for breakfast. We used the outdoor charcoal grill for one meal. There was charcoal provided. We did not use the wood-burning oven which was outside. The olive oil we used was from the olive trees at the villa. We also had wine from the vineyard. We enjoyed using the herbs that were growing outside the villa for the cooking. The basil was so delicious and no matter how much we used, there was still plenty left. One of my favorite things was laundering my clothes. Since we had a washer, we could wash our clothes. I enjoyed hanging the clothes on the outside line and letting the air and the Tuscan sun dry them. They smelled heavenly when I was folding them. I even got a picture of them blowing in the wind.
Problems or Bonuses
We were surprised at the beauty of the location. As mentioned before, the pictures could not really prepare you for the actual site. I loved the picture from the veranda looking up the driveway. Another surprise came the one day that rain entered the picture. The electric gate was not working due to the storm. Someone came as soon as they could to let us in a different gate. Our Mac laptop was not compatible to the Internet hook up and we were not able to use it for communication to the States as we had hoped.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The agency was so helpful and we were so fortunate to have them as one of the groups' flight was delayed and the agency was very helpful in contacting the driver who was taking us the three hour trip to the villa and in making sure another family member was taken care of by the on-site person. It was a god-send to have the agency and their wonderful staff due to this complication that we could not foresee and could not prepare for. Being able to contact the agency and having her help while you were sitting on the delayed airplane was consoling. Part of the luggage did not make it until two days into the trip. The on-site person was very thoughtful to provide some clothes for the interim. Since we had delays reaching the villa, the on-site person took care of taking one family member to a grocery and obtaining some much needed items to cook with. The delay meant we could not get our rental cars until Monday. We came in on Saturday.
The villa had tour books available as well as computer print outs on different locations in the area. They had a list of favorite restaurants and wineries to visit. There were excellent written maps to the parking places in Siena and in Florence. We enjoyed reading the comments of the people who came before us in the villa journal.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Honestly, I would move to Al Bosco if I could afford to. It is the most relaxing place I have ever stayed. It was very accommodating. The owners seemed to have prepared for everything. We had a box of first-aid supplies, including Benadryl. We had access to cable. One room had a DVD player and a stack of DVDs but we did not have the time to watch any. It was nice to hear the young people in our group (the 26-29 year olds) talk about how the villa was their favorite part of the vacation. One even said the meals at the villa was his favorite. It had to be due to the care that had been taken to provide a environment where we could truly enjoy ourselves. The young people were counting up how many couples they might need to rent the villa for themselves in the future.
Things to do in this area
We were able to get a bus from San Donato to Siena to obtain rental cars. We visited several of the villages in Tuscany. We spent one afternoon in Siena and two days in Florence, coming back to the villa each night.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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