Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 43: Castello di Gargonza, Castello di Gargonza
apartments in hamlet near Monte San Savino, Tuscany East
1998, 2 weeks at different times
I was intrigued with the idea of staying at Castello di Gargonza after visiting their web site. The Castle of Gargonza is a 13th century walled village complete with tower and is situated high in the hills above the town of Monte San Savino in Tuscany. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to stay there twice in 1998, first in May and then again in October. Both times were wonderful experiences.
Castello di Gargonza is conveniently located a few kilometers off the A-1 Autostrada.
Upon exiting the Monte San Savino exit, there are signs posted that direct you to the property. There is a long, winding drive up from the town past beautiful properties with an abundance of olive groves. In the fall you will see various people scrambling through the forests with baskets looking for porcini mushrooms!!!
Apartment Guardia Our first rental occurred during the first week of May, and was actually a small, independent house called Guardia. Located just outside the castle walls, it a perfect place to rent for three or four people. The house is 80 square meters and is composed of rooms on two floors. On the ground floor there is a living room with a very large fireplace that takes up one entire wall!!! Also, it had a small utility room with a sink and a very large eat-in kitchen. The kitchen is very charming with stonewalls, lots of cupboards, a large refrigerator/freezer and a window that looked out onto the woods and a very beautiful wisteria bush that was blooming when we arrived.
The second floor is made-up of two spacious sized bedrooms, each with a bathroom (tubs with hand-held showers in each). The mattresses on the beds were very comfortable and the beds can either be two twins or pushed together to make what is called a double. Word of warning: never try to turn on more than two or three lights in the house at once or the power will fail.
There is a small side yard on one side of the house, and depending on the time of year you rent Guardia, a table and chairs are placed in this yard under a vine-laden pergola. In early May, it was still too chilly to sit outside and enjoy some al fresco meals.
La Torre di Gargonza is a wonderful restaurant that is a two-minute walk from the castle complex. All guests get a discount on their meals here (can’t remember if it was 5 or 10 percent). The food is just wonderful. Lunch and dinner are served here and there is an outside terrace for warmer weather.
A beautiful 18x7, 5-meter pool with panoramic view is available in warmer weather. The view looks out onto to Valdichiana below and you feel like to you can see for miles. At night, you can see the twinkling lights of Cortona across the val.
The Frantaio (a building where the olives were pressed) is open for guests with a sitting room and a very beautiful garden. Breakfast is also available on request in the breakfast room on the ground floor but at about 15,000 lire (7.50) for a cappuccino, juice and a croissant, it makes more sense to prepare breakfast in your apartment. That didn’t stop us from having breakfast there two or three times just for convenience sake.
There is also a small chapel in the hamlet where catholic mass is held every Sunday. We didn’t attend, but I imagine it would be very interesting.
Apartment Nando Our second rental was during the first week of October and we rented a three-person apartment called Nando. It is situated in a building with only one other apartment on the other side (Niccolina). Nando is a 64-sqm apartment on two floors. It is accessed by a flight of stone steps and overlooks a portion of the Valdichiana valley.
The first floor has a living room with a small fireplace (compared to the enormous ones in the other apartments!!) and a eat-in kitchen. The second floor has a large hallway with a single bed, a large built in closet, a TINY bathroom with an impossibly small bathtub and a bedroom. Aside from the very nice view, I did not like this apartment as much as Guardia. The kitchen had very modern light fixtures and a plastic table and chairs. As I have stated, the bathroom was much too small and I had trouble taking an adequate shower because it was impossible to sit full-length in the tub. Basically, it had little of the charm of our previous rental.
Other Apartments While staying at Gargonza, I had the opportunity to tour several of the other apartments. Quality and charm can vary wildly from apartment to apartment so here are my impressions of the ones I was fortunate to see and three that I saw from the outside.
From smallest to largest: Niccolina (35 sqms) – This is the apartment that was connected to us and I managed to see that apartment by peering the in the front window!!! It is very romantic and perfect for two people. It has a very large fireplace, and one big room with living room/kitchen/and a bed. Essentially, Niccolina is a studio apartment. It also has a bathroom, which wasn’t in my line of view.
Palle (41 sqm) - Another apartment that I didn’t get to see the inside of, but we had some friends who stayed here and they raved about it!!! It is the only apartment that has its own terrace, which is located near the entrance door. Also has a good view of the valley. It is two rooms plus bathroom.
Canapino (48 sqm) – One of the most romantic apartments I toured. It is for two, but an additional bed can be added for a third person. Another studio apartment, with lovely furniture, a huge fireplace and a bathroom.
Cave (55 sqm) – This is truly a unique apartment!!! It would be especially wonderful in the summertime because the ground floor of the apartment is basically a cavern, hence the name… It is a two-room flat on two floors with an entrance on each.. As I have said, the ground floor is carved out of rock. There is a raised platform with a kitchen and living area. A very precarious set of steep wooden steps lead to the upper floor that houses a hallway with a single bed, a double bedroom and a bathroom with extra bed. I would not advise renting this apartment if you have a small child or have trouble climbing steep stairs!!!
Deo (61 sqm)- Access to the Deo is via and inside hallway with stairs leading up to the apartment. The stairs are extremely steep to the point of being dangerous!!! I would not rent this apartment if I had a small child or trouble negotiating stairs!!! Basically, it is an attic apartment. There is one large room with kitchenette, sleep sofa for one person, fireplace and bathroom. A bathroom with shower is off this main area. A small flight of steps leads down to a big hallway with absolutely no windows so therefore it is pitch black until you open the door of the bedroom!!! There is good-sized bedroom with a bathroom.
Bracalino (70 sqm) – A five-room apartment located on the ground floor, which overlooks a garden across the lane. It has a living room, eat-in kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. The furniture was pretty modern and this is one of the few apartments that did not have a fireplace. For the same price you can get an apartment with greater charm….
Fonteblanda 1 (55 sqm) – A truly intriguing place. Despite its small size, this apartment has a lot of character!!! It is situated on the first floor up a nicely inclined staircase. As you come-up the stairs and reach the landing, the apartment is situated on both sides. To the left is a small kitchenette and the rest of the apartment is on the right. This consists of a small living/dining room, 2 double bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Of the kitchenette to the left, is a small flight of stairs that lead to a tower (it is called a pigeon tower) that has been enclosed and has wonderful views. There was a chair there where I could have just sat all day sipping my Chianti and enjoying the view. Argentina (90 sqm) – This is another of the larger apartments that can accommodate four people with a fifth in the loft. There is a small kitchenette to the left of the entrance door… The central living/dining room is vast with a minimal amount of furniture and a loft. Another very large fireplace is in the main room. Down a hallway are two large bedrooms and one bathroom.
Fattore 2 (95sqm) – THE VIEW! THE VIEW! THE VIEW! This apartment is located on an upper floor of the main building, which happens to sit on the highest point of the Castello. This is one of the largest apartments. It has a huge living/dining room (where the best views are located), 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. There is also a small room off of one of the bedrooms that would be perfect for a small child or baby. Alas, there is no fireplace is this apartment.
Contessa Francesca (210 sqm) - A large farmhouse that I did not have the opportunity to tour, though I walked past it several times. It is located a few yards down from the restaurant and pool. This is the largest accommodation at Gargonza and it has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a pigeon tower with view. It would be perfect for a larger group and the outside is very charming.
Although Castello di Gargonza offers 25 different accommodations and a guesthouse with several rooms, it never felt like other people were encroaching on our space. Maybe because we chose to visit at off-peak times, but I think even going during peak season would be enchanting. I felt as if I were actually living in an ancient medieval borgo, albeit with all the modern conveniences of this century.
There are walking paths around the property and the town of Monte San Savino has one of the largest and best stocked Co-ops (Italian chain grocery store) I have seen. A-1 autostrada is about a 15-minute drive from the Castello so access is very easy for touring Tuscany. If you are looking for a place where you feel you are part of history, then this is the place for you!!!
Used on Slow Travelers with permission of author. © Copyright 2001 by Leslie Erickson. All rights reserved.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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