Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 405: Italian Journeys, Apartment Podesta
1bed/1bath apartment in Montalcino, Tuscany South
October 5 - 19, 2002, 14 days
Much has been written about Montalcino in terms of Brunnelo, nearby sites, age and history. These are all fascinating. The location affords easy access to all of this (Siena 40KM, Florence~80KM). There is a train station 9KM away, Buonconvento, and there is relatively easy access to the north and south by car.
This rental is in the town, an apartment, less than 100 yards from the Piazza Popolo, the center. Parking is away from the rental, although not difficult or inconvenient for arriving and departing.
The view from the rear of the apartment is breath taking, down the side of the hill, overlooking distance rolloing hills and nearby 13th century churchs. The height of the town provides an excellent viewpoint.
This is an apartment, so you are close in with every other nearby building. It is up one story, but there is no one above you, the owners live in the adjacent apartment, through a common entrance hallway. At night it was very quiet and even during the day noise never was an issue.
The town of Montalcino is a very interesting place, and I confess, we chose to spend the majority of our time here. Only once did we leave for an over night trip to Florence. We were looking to live a brief Italian hill top life and found it here in Montalcino. Others we knew use this as a base to travel from and from discussion found they were happy with the location for this as well.
In the 14 days, we used our car only once. We walked to all of the above mentioned stores, enotecas, restaurants. We actually were able to become slight friends with people in the town as they saw us everyday. In the streets we would be met with greetings every day after the second day. Shop keepers, restaurant staff, and simply people we casually met in cafes would nod to us. We were able to both eat at very good restaurants and cook at the apartment without ever the need for the car. We walked everywhere, but be aware, there is no flat ground in Montalcino.
The building itself was not historical in the context of Italy and the town. I would think it was mid-19th century, but I cannot be sure of this. The church, below the apartment is 13th century.
The apartment is in very good shape. Marble floors throughout, a small but up to date bathroom, furniture and fixtures reflect recent rennovation. It cannot however be compared to a North American apartment, but why would you want it to be? The main hallway leads to a ground floor apartment and a flight of stairs takes you to the entrance to two other apartments, one of which is the rental and other the owners. This is not a stand alone building however as you are on a Via Mazzini, a central street. Very few cars however, the vast majority of the traffic is pedestrian.
Clean, comfortable and more than sufficent for two adults. Certainly easy seating for four throughout.
There is a large bedroom with a queen size bed and then a day couch. There is a second bed in a cubby hole. Certainly perfect for two adults, but I would recomment small children to fill the remaining two beds.
One bathroom, small, but up to date fixtures. Slightly noisy as the water supply is provided at each use, but not so much as to become annoying as it completed its cycle quickly.
Cooking area is small with a four burner gas stove. Cooking for two was not a problem, but every available surface came into play. The appliances were new and sufficent. I enjoyed cooking in the kitchen, but allowances had to be made. The pots and pans were of enough in quantity, if somewhat lacking in quality, but the cuisine of Tuscany was easily tried.
Problems or Bonuses
I think the bonus was how quickly we fell in love with the town and we felt that we became slighty more than observers in a museum. We made some friends here, became for a moment a part of the scene. We found everyone very generous to us, especially after they determined that we were staying and not just day tripping.
A surprise was how little English is spoken. You can certainly survive in just English, but you will lose something. To have a better experience, learn more than the six or seven "polite" words and your experience will be enhanced greatly, so will your fun.
A completely unexpected bonus was the absolute safety of the town. In the year 2000 they had four crimes (broken window, a bike taken and the like). In fact we found ourselves continually to be the receipent of "extras" by the shopkeepers. More than once we had to go back and pay the remaining amount of the bill as we did not have "exact" change and they simply rounded down by a euro or two. I would caution you that after leaving you have to make a concious effort to bring your guard back up.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Project travel is run by Luigi and Isabella Dusi and words cannot describe how kind they are and generous in sharing their knowledge with you. Early on, they walked with us and introduced us to many of the shop keepers and people of the town. In a town of only 2,000, you can become known, if only slightly.
They never intruded, but we would see them in a cafe and they would spend some time with us. Luigi took us to the football game on Sunday and introduced us around there. Isabella gave up a morning to show us the Pianello Quatriere Sede and explain to a small group of us how Montalcino works. Her book, Vanillia Beans and Brodo contains stories of the town and its people that greatly enganced our understanding of what we were seeing. The characters in the book are true to life. It is a "must" to read this.
One shop keeper described them both as "amici de tutti" and judging by the warm welcomes they would receive (and by association, us) they hold a unique and special position in the village.
We had a small problem with heat in the beginning (none in October). Luigi solved this for us (the landlord speaks no English) and I feel certain that if ever there had been another issue it would have been taken care of.
Their knowledge of the region and indeed the entire country is vast and they are more than happy to share this with you.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
For us the experience was more than wonderful and until we reached this place, I felt I had not found the Italy I was looking for. Here we found it, and for a brief time, lived that idealized life in an Italian hill top village. As said earlier, once there, we did not leave but once, and it took Michelangelo to do this.
If you are a traveler that wants to pack up every morning and visit a new town or see a new place, I might recommend another of their rentals just outside of town. From the car park to the apartment is a five minute walk, up hill. If you want to try and find a small piece of Italian life, stay here.
Things to do in this area
Try the Dusi's website for restaurants. We did them all and I will provide restaurant reviews later.
More importantly, check out the bars and cafes, the fruit and vegetable shop, the grocery store and the vast number of enotecas to learn about Brunello. We really liked Tullio and Francesca Scrivani at Osteria Osticcio. Tullio arranged daily tastings of brunelo that educated us beyond what we could expect.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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