Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 425: Owner, Donatello
1bed/1bath apartment in Lucca, Tuscany North
4 - 18 September 2002, 2 weeks
The apartment was on the ground floor of a large residential building adjoining the San Martino Cathedral. The address was Chiostro di San Martino and was literally in the cathedral cloisters! It was quite awe-inspiring and I felt very proud & show-offy each time I approached the front door and opened it with my key, with lots of tourists looking on enviously!! The outside appearance of the apartment was nothing to write home about and the lounge window looks out onto the cloister which is now used as a the residents' car park. However, you only had to lift your gaze above the cars to be surrounded by the stunning architecture and atmosphere of the cathedral.
The apartment was on the ground floor so it was a bit gloomy but there was plenty of good lighting with lamps dotted all around. There was a little patio garden with table & chairs which opened directly off the bedroom. The pity was that it was overlooked by all the surrounding apartments so was not private enough to sit out there very much.
The actual location couldn't have been better. It was near enough to the city walls to walk to and from the railway station (10 minutes) and just minutes from Via Fillungo (main shopping street - fabulous!) and the main piazzas: Napoleone and San Michele.
Lucca is a small enough city to walk around where ever you are based (within the city walls). There is a nice cafe with outside seating & umbrellas in the San Martino piazza and zillions more within a stone's throw. There are a number of delicatessen type shops nearby which sold wonderful food but I found them to be quite expensive. I tracked down a little supermarket which was great and the staff were very sweet and friendly. Lucca is full of nice restaurants but I settled on a few favourites: All'Olivo, Osteria del Neni, Da Leo and Buca di San Antonio, all of which were only a few minutes walk from the apartment.
The building was clearly ancient and I intend to find out more about its history. It was in very good shape structurally and had all mod cons - air conditioning, central heating, communal area lighting, etc. The floors were the usual stone, marble or ceramic tiles. There were probably around 10 apartments in my particular building, mostly Italian families who lived there permanently but a couple of other holiday lets too.
Not the kind of set-up to have a pool. Not a problem for me personally. Have already described the little patio garden. It was reached by french doors from the bedroom. The patio area with table and chairs was covered with a shady plastic roof which was great if it was raining but obviously no good for catching the sun! As I've already said, it's not very private either as it's overlooked by the windows of the surrounding apartments.
Nice but quirky modern furniture. Sofa-bed and 2 armchairs. Very clean & tidy. Big glass dining table. Open fireplace.
Comfortable bed. Pleasant enough bedroom but quite sparse. Plenty of wardrobe space with shelves but no drawers. One not particularly special bathroom with a huge and powerful shower, loo, bidet & wash-basin. Plenty of hot water. Even though there is a sofa bed in the longe I would say that this apartment is really only suitable for a couple as access to the bathroom & loo was through the bedroom.
The kitchen area was at the end of the living room, screened off by a huge white blind. Good 4 ring gas hob and large electric oven. Plenty work-top and cupboard space. Fridge & dishwasher a bit ancient but in working order! Pots, pans, dishes etc. of decent quality (Ikea style) but not enough pans if you want to do any 'real' cooking. I had to buy a frying pan, a vegetable knife and a cheese grater. I left the frying pan there as a little gift!!
Problems or Bonuses
Being on the ground floor of such an old building it was a bit gloomy, particularly the bedroom & bathroom; only one window in the lounge/living area at the front and french doors in the bedroom at the back to allow any light in. Having said this, it was quite light enough in the lounge during the day and very cosy at night with all the lamps lit. I even bought some candles for extra atmosphere in the evening!
I was a bit disappointed with the garden as I'd really only chosen it for that and it turned out to be no good for lounging around in 'sun-bathing attire' as the neighbours could see everything.....! The big bonus was to be staying in a place so closely connected to the beautiful San Martino cathedral. You could hear the nuns singing on Sundays!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I booked it via Knowital. This is an excellent site that provides details of apartments (and other things) available in Tuscany. Once you've decided on the apartment you like the sound/look of you make the booking direct with the owner (or their agent). The info on the web site was accurate and had some nice photos. My apartment was managed by an extremely helpful and professional brother duo, Stefano & Giovanni Fosella. They weren't the owners of the apartment but managed a number of properties in Lucca on behalf of the various owners. They spoke excellent English and were very welcoming and helpful to me before I arrived and whilst I was there. They met me on time as arranged and showed me around the city the next day, we even went to lunch!! Amazing! They were always available on the phone at any time and happy to help in any way they could.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would most certainly use Knowital again and hopefully the same agents. However, although the apartment was perfectly nice, I think I'd go for one on a higher floor next time, with a terrace or balcony, in order to make the most of the wonderful views of the city.
Things to do in this area
Lucca is bursting with history, art, culture, fab restaurants & mouth-watering shops! I visited the Palazzo Mansi (breath-taking decor, furniture and paintings), stumbled upon the delightful botanical gardens, walked around the legendary walls (wow!), found peace away from the bustle in the beautiful church of San Frediano (read the tale of saint Zita), climbed to the top of the Guinigi Tower (scary!), strolled around the amphitheatre and day-dreamed about how it might have looked when it was first built. Oh!...and of course I ate until I was stuffed and shopped until I dropped! I took the train, which was so easy and so cheap, to Montecatini Terme, Viareggio, Florence and Pistoia (all on different days of course!) I'm returning for Christmas and staying at a gorgeous B&B I discovered while I was there. Can't wait, there's still so much to see and do............
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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