Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3797: Owner, Il Glicine (#163224)
2bed/1bath apartment in Cortona, Tuscany East
September 2008, One week (7 nights)
This is an ideal in-town location when you want effortless access to all of the amenities of a small city but want to retreat to a quiet home base with elbow room. This comfortable little casa is across the street from a leafy park, steps away from the main street and its shops and restaurants, and an easy walk from a free parking area. Best of all, it is so quiet that you can sleep with the windows thrown open and not hear anything until the morning church bells.
Everything you want is within an easy, scenic -- and level -- walk. We decided Pasticcera Banchelli was "our" cafe for morning coffee and cornetti (which we'd linger over with the Herald Tribune from the nearby newsstand). It also has the best gelatto in town. There are at least a dozen places for lunch and dinner, and a small market for fresh dairy products, packaged goods and freshly made meals to carry home for heating and eating. Fruits and vegetable stands, wine stores, chic retail shops and galleries make shopping a friendly adventure.
This little stone house is an antique with modern comforts. It was lived in for ages by an elderly woman, who sold it to a lovely Cortona couple, Alessandro (who grew up in London and speaks perfect English) and Marzia. They worked like demons for a year to update the house without removing any of its charm and character. It is in very good shape.
You enter the house in stages. First, you go through a locked door that is built into a stone wall along the street. The door swings into a walled, landscaped courtyard that is completely yours. You walk down a small flight of stairs, cross the courtyard, and walk down another half-dozen steps. Then you unlock the front door, and step into the entry hall. The dining area and NYC-sized pocket kitchen are on your right, each with windows that open onto the courtyard. The living room with sofa bed, coffee table, TV and book case are straight ahead (with VERY good reading lights -- hooray! This became our mapping and planning headquarters). Make a right turn to enter a sitting room, which leads to the full bathroom and the bedroom.
The house is not air conditioned, but the very thick walls kept it cool. We were there in early September during a warm spell, and closed the windows and shutters before we left for the day. When we came home, we'd step into a cool dark house, then throw all of the windows open to the balmy air.
The courtyard is a delightful, private oasis. You can get as much sun or shade as you want by moving the cafe table and metal chairs around. A discrete clothesline lets you dry clothes without having to stare at them (there is a washer in the kitchen). There isn't much street noise to begin with, and the massive stone wall that protects you from the street muffles any noise to silence. No pool, but Cortona has a new, gorgeous athletic center with a jaw-dropping pool.
The house is furnished with a mix of casual antiques, comfy and padded arm chairs, and sofa long enough for naps. The walls are painted in Tuscan hues of umber and coral, and framed paintings and prints help you feel like you are staying in a home instead of a rental machine. The dining area has a round table and four chairs. The bedroom has night stands (and good reading wall sconces, hooray again!), a wall-length armoire, a large bureau and a chair. It is very, very comfortable for two people. It would also be ideal for a young family, but probably not for teenagers. It was kept very clean, and cleaning products were under the kitchen sink, including laundry detergent.
The bed is one of the most comfortable we have slept in during our European travels. It is queen size. The linens were in terrific shape. The bath towels were both of the American-fuzzy sort and the flat-fabric sort. No washcloths. The bathroom features a toilet, bidet, pedestal sink, and free standing tub with a hand-held shower and circle shower curtain. Loads of hot water and water pressure. Good lighting around the mirror.
The kitchen is one-person size, but packs a double sink, four-burner gas range, marble counter and washing machine! The small fridge is in the adjacent dining area. The coffee maker is a Mako. Coffee, olive oil, salt and pepper are there for your use. We only made coffee and opened yogurt containers, so we did not test the oven. I did enjoy this little kitchen very much. The windows opened onto the courtyard and let in the gongs of church bells. The enamel sink is quite old and I liked thinking of all of the meals that were prepped in that sink. It also has one of those dish drying cupboards above it, so you can wash and rinse your coffee cups, then place them in the cupboard to dry out of sight.
Problems or Bonuses
Alessandro and Marzia were a wonderful surprise. Alessandro met us at the Camuchia train station, drove us to the house, and got us settled. He offered to make dinner reservations for us (after recommending many places) our first night (we had just arrived from our JFK-FCO flight and were pooped), and continued to check on us other days during our stay. He works in Arezzo, and insisted on driving us to that city on Monday so we could pick up our AutoEurope car. Marzia grew up in Cortona and speaks more English than she gives herself credit for, and was the artist behind the house's renovation. They live nearby and were always available and happy to provide any assistance.
Other good surprises: Seeing so many locals of all ages out in the park and in the piazzas ... having many enriching things to explore within the walls of Cortona ... walking around the outer perimeter of the walls ... driving through the countryside to other hill towns (hot tip: use a GPS) and taking in the Tuscan countryside -- then being so happy to come back to Cortona ... the quality of the restaurant meals and the favorable pricing ... how lovely the people are.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We found this house through one of the direct-from-owner web sites, and were connected directly to the owner for booking. Alessandro speaks perfect English, having grown up in London. He was very responsive to emails. The web site provides an accurate portrayal of the house, except the landscaping in the courtyard is a little more mature now.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We are already planning our return for 2009 and would not think of staying anywhere else. However, if you prefer new construction, contemporary furnishings and air conditioning while in Italy, then you may be miserable.
Things to do in this area
You would have to work very hard to find a disappointing meal in Cortona. The shops and galleries are quite chic, and are, for the most part, located on the main street. You can buy clothes, scarves/belts/shoes, ceramics, photography, prints and paintings, jewelry, hats, Florentine paper products, newspapers and magazines, and wine. We recommend that the first thing to buy are one or two of the locally published guidebooks on Cortona, so you won't miss seeing something that your trip research did not uncover. The Etruscan museum, the duomo, and the fort are must-sees.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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