Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4202: Grifoglia, Barn Apartment
apartments on a farm near Barga, north of Lucca, Tuscany North
May 23 - May 30, 1 week
Grifoglia was more beautiful than we could have imagined from the pictures. It is in the mountains -- steep, winding, narrow roads lead you there. The barn apartment, where we stayed, is private, in a separate building from the main house, where Kerry and Pietro, the owners, live. The area was amazing, but the driving (you have to rent a car to get around) is not for the faint of heart -- the roads really are quite narrow and windy, even though they are two-way. From a table outside the front door of apartment, where we sat every morning to eat breakfast, we looked out over the mountains, and there was even some snow up there in May!
There is a walking path (5k in length; takes about an hour), that leads to the tiny hill town of Coreglia Antelminelli, and there's a grocery store and a few cafes there, but it's much easier to buy groceries in Barga (30 minutes away by car) or Lucca (a much bigger city, which you drive through coming from the autostrada).
The barn apartment is just that -- a renovated barn -- and it is beautifully restored. The steps are a bit narrow and steep, so some guests might struggle with that, but we're young and spry (though my tall husband did hit his head a few times). It was very quiet, but the other two apartments (which are both in the first floor of the old farm house, where the owners live) were empty, since we were there early in the season. The tile floors and thick stone walls kept the building cool; the windows swung open or could tilt out for a cool breeze. The bedroom and bathroom are upstairs, and because the barn is built into a hill, there is a door from the bedroom that also leads outside to a terrace.
There was a private table and chair sitting area in front of the apartment, under a tree for shade, that was perfect for meals. It looked out over the lush green valley. Pietro has an extensive vegetable garden, and he shares whatever happens to be in season (we got two heads of fresh green lettuce and a few big bowls of strawberries).
The furniture was in good shape and very comfortable. We would have appreciated an extra blanket and extra pillows (for sitting downstairs in the evening), but Kerry and Pietro probably would have provided them if we had asked. Instead, we just lugged our comforter down off of the bed. Everything was clean. There were four chairs at the table inside, and the only sitting area in the living room was a couch, but that was plenty for the two of us.
The beds were comfortable; everything was simply furnished and very nice. The only bathroom is upstairs, off of the only bedroom. Kerry brought us fresh towels half-way through the week.
We cooked most of our meals in the kitchen. The kitchen/dining area/living room is one big room, so though the kitchen area is only a small corner of the room, it doesn't feel too small because the space is open. The kitchen was usable but required creativity to make complex meals. There's no oven, for instance, only a stove-top, and a limited selection of well-used, but still nice pots and pans. The refrigerator is a half-sized, under-the-counter variety. And, of course, no microwave.
Problems or Bonuses
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We booked directly with the owners; no down payment was required, and we had to pay in cash. Kerry is an ex-pat, so of course she speaks English, and Pietro does, too (though we did tease him about confusing some common words). The reality was better than the published information, if anything. We paid €500 for the last week in May (Saturday through Saturday), and we were the only guests.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Absolutely, we would love to stay here again. The only "qualification" we might tell someone is not to expect "classic Tuscany" in the way that people envision "Under the Tuscan Sun"--it's the mountains of Tuscany. Very amazing, very beautiful, but perhaps not what people expect. (One could get to "classic" Tuscany in maybe 1.5 hours; one could drive and spend a day in Volterra or San Gimignano; they were maybe 2 or 2.5 hours away.)
Things to do in this area
We did a day trip to Pisa (1.5 hrs) and a separate day trip to the coast -- the Cinque Terra. Both were doable and excellent. Barga, the nearest significant town, was enjoyable and has a lot of character (and good restaurants). We spent some time in Lucca, too, which you drive through from the autostrada, a cute walled city, but not our favorite.
Our favorite restaurant was Il Totto, a small, rural, family-run restaurant in Sassi (45 minutes away).
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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