Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 397: TuscanHouse, Torre San Domenico
3bed/2.5bath house in Cetona, Tuscany South
September 2002, 12 days
Torre San Domenico is a house in the town of Cetona, in southern Tuscany. The house is on a very steep street near the top of the town. There was some noise from the occasional car going up the street or people walking down it. The only cars on the street were people who lived there and they went very slow because it was very steep and had tight turns. I could not believe people would drive there.
I love this area of Tuscany. You end up doing a bit of driving to get places, but this corner of Tuscany is less touristed and is charming.
Cetona is a beautiful town. Many "movie people" from Rome have second homes here - so it is sort of upscale. San Casciano dei Bagni is much smaller, but is also like that.
Cetona is a fabulous town - not too big, but large enough to have several restaurants, 3 caffes on the main piazza, 2 bakeries, a few grocery stores, etc. You can walk to everything you would need in the town. The huge supermarket is 10 minutes away by car near the autostrada entrance. We didn't go there even once on this trip - the small stores in Cetona were great.
You cannot park near the house (but if you are an expert, you can drive up to it and unload). There is a large parking lot on the main piazza. You pay by the hour in a parking machine, but it is not expensive. You pay from 8am to 8pm, but if you buy a ticket at night, it is setup to start counting from 8am in the morning - so you don't have to get up early to race out and put money in the meter. There are large free lots about two more blocks away.
The house was originally a tower from the 1300s! The whole structure is very old, but was completely renovated a couple of years ago by a young Italian couple. They have lived in this house, but are now renovating another house in town and renting this one.
You enter from the street to the lowest level of the house. Here is a small bathroom, the laundry room, the door to the patio and the "Moroccan Room" - a round room full of rugs and pillows where you could sit to read quietly away from the rest of the group.
On the next level is a large kitchen with a big dining table and a lovely livingroom with big windows looking to a lovely view of the countryside. The livigroom was well furnished with a couch and several comfy chairs.
Then second level (American third) has two bedrooms and one bathroom. One bedroom is larger with a big window looking over the countryside. There is a nice desk to work at. The other bedroom is a good size with a window overlooking the small street. The bathroom is beautiful with stone and tile - big tub with shower and shower curtains.
The third level has another bedroom, with a sloping ceiling, similar bathroom to the one on the level below and a lovely study which has 3 walls of windows (waist height to ceiling). Incredible views of the countryside from here, plus a tiny balcony. Also a nice desk to work at. And stereo with lots of CDS. And books.
The living room has a TV, there is a stereo in the kitchen and on the top level, there are phones throughout the house.
There is a nice sized patio off the lowest level of the house. You have to walk down stairs from the kitchen, but they provide trays so you can carry everything out for meals. There are other houses on each side and they have patios beside this one, but we did not see anyone else on the patios when we were there.
Fabulous furnishings. Very beautiful, very comfortable - all in very good condition. Many antiques.
Excellent beds and nice bedding. Modern bathrooms with lovely large baths and showers.
Fabulous kitchen. Sacha is a cook - so she put in a wonderful kitchen. 5 burner gas stove, small fridge in kitchen, large fridge in pantry room off living room, lots of pots and pans, lots of serving dishes, plates, glasses, etc. Good dishwasher.
Problems or Bonuses
The bonus was Sacha and Beppe who checked us in and out of the place. We met Sacha in the main piazza and she directed us to drive up to the house. They helped us unload our luggage, then Steve and Beppe took the car back to town and Beppe showed Steve the various parking lots.
Sacha took us on a detailed tour of the house, showing us everything we needed to know. Then she walked down to the piazza with us and pointed out the different caffes (and gave opinions on them) and all the stores. It was the perfect introduction to a house and town. So often, you are dumped into a house and you have no idea where the stores and things are closeby. Sacha even introduced us to the owner of the best restaurant in town.
Sacha gave us her cell number so we could reach her at any time and she called us a couple of times to be sure we were doing okay.
When we checked out, they also came to meet us and took us for a coffee before we left. They are a wonderful couple.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
TuscanHouse is a good agency. Zak and Gary are both wonderful to deal with. Zak answers all your questions by email. This trip was a mess of planning for me and we had to change our arrangements twice - Zak was very helpful with this.
Once you book, he mails you a thick package with maps, tourist info, their great restaurant list, and even a phone card. He marks the route on the map an gives you detailed driving and arrival instructions.
For this house, we had to call Sacha in the afternoon before we arrived to give her an estimated ETA. Then we called her again from the Cetona piazza.
We have booked thru TuscanHouse on every trip to Italy since the first time we booked with them in June 2000 - four trips now and always excellent places and excellent service.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes. It is the nicest quality place that we have ever stayed. It is different being in a town instead of the countryside. I don't know which I prefer - probably both!
In a town, it is nice to walk out for dinner or a caffe or groceries. But the downside is you usually cannot park near the house so you are always carrying things back and forth to the car, and you do not have a big garden or pool to hang out at.
Things to do in this area
We loved Cetona. I took tons of photos and am going to make a page for the web site all about Cetona. I will include driving times on that page too.
45 minutes by backroads to Pienza, less to Montepulicano, more to Montalcino. 15 minutes to San Casciano dei Bagni. 10 minutes to the A1 autostrada.
Driving note: When heading into the Pienza area drive from Cetono to Sarteano to Chianciano Termo, but take the sharp left turnoff to Bagno Vignoi just as you approach the main Chianciano Terme - Montepulciano - Pienza road. This road bypasses the busy streets thru Chianciano Terme, then passes by La Foce and is much faster (less traffic) if going to Pienza, Montepulciano, or further west.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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