Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4383: Castello in Bisticci, Alcove Apartment
apartments in castle near Florence, Tuscany Chianti
September October 2009, 2 months
Castello in Bisticci is 20 minutes from Florence. From the main road it is 1.5 km up a very steep and narrow hill. Although the location is out in the country it is not private. There is a house right beside it and this was our view from the living room and kitchen area. The location is fine for summer and fall but I can't imagine driving or walking up that hill in the winter. The area is OK - we had planned on walking in the immediate area but the first day we went out we heard gun fire and then saw all the hunters - wild boar season. That put an end to the walks that were available. If you are going there for the walks keep in mind it is straight uphill and there are no paths - you are on a 4X4 track.
There was a small grocery store at the bottom of the hill, but I would not want to rely on it for all my groceries. You need to go to a COOP in Figline for a good selection of product. There is a restaurant at the nearby campground, about 2 km away. We ate there twice and were not impressed. Eight euros for soup? Apparently the pizza is good and reasonable though. There is a small and friendly cafe in Troghi, which also has a pizzeria on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It is fabulous!
We were extremely disappointed in the accommodations. The website that shows the beautiful views are not taken from this apartment. There are views from the bedroom and bathroom if you are standing, but who wants to stand there all day. The view from the main living area and the kitchen is the building next door.
There are three apartments in the building. The apartment had numerous spider webs in the curves of the ceiling, and was very dusty when we arrived with dust clumps everywhere. The spider webs had been there quite a while. There are no screens on the windows, which is typical, but it means that moths and bugs come in on a daily basis. We were never sure where the spiders came from. The advertised sitting nook in the master bedroom was in reality simply a place to sit and put your socks on. It didn't have a view and this area was very dark with uncomfortable chairs. Reading in that area is not possible.
The pictures of the garden were taken some time ago and that view is now obstructed by trees, which have have grown up. The lounge chairs provided for this area were very uncomfortable, and old. We were told that the previous tenants had left them out in the rain. This was not true as there had been no rain all summer, and the chairs were obviously old. The first time we tried sitting in them the stitching ripped out. We were supplied with two replacement chairs.
The clothes line is in the garden, however the bugs from the fruit trees, directly over the line, made new homes on our clothes. The website now shows the garden access. From the Alcove you need to go down a flight of stairs around a corner and then down two more flights of stairs. This is not exactly convenient to take a coffee down to and enjoy a view, leaving aside the obstructed view now in this area. The garden is also not private, but that was not an issue as we ended up not using it due to the problems with bugs. We also couldn't allow our dog into this area as well due to the amount of ticks in the area.
The furnishings in the living room and the kitchen chairs are Ikea - the kitchen table was made by Francesco. The oak table was nice but the chairs were far too low for it to be a comfortable place to eat. After we complained that it was impossible to sit at comfortably the table was cut down to make it a normal height.
There were no cleaning agents provided. We did however locate a broom with a broken dustpan, along with a filthy mop and bucket. No wonder that when we arrived the place was not very clean.
The fireplace that others had left reviews about saying that they had fallen asleep in front was closed off. When we asked about wood for the fireplace, as it was getting quite cool in the evenings, we were told we could buy it in town and they offered to open it up again. After we left, they said the were putting in a gas insert, which was left sitting outside our door for the last two weeks of our stay. I can't imagine what that will cost to keep going, considering the charges applied to us for utilities!
The bed in the master bedroom is basically two twins pushed together and secured with rope. The sheets were poor quality and did not fit properly. Comfort level was just OK. The bed in the other room is very uncomfortable. It squeaks every time you move and it sags. This was due to the multiple small slats used to hold the mattress. Some guest who stayed with us could not even sleep on it due to the noise it created when rolling over. We asked for a board to go under the mattress in order to firm it up and were told there was a lumber store in Florence.
There is storage for clothes in the master bedroom, but the other bedroom closet is out in the hallway. The master bedroom has a table and two chairs beside the window, the chairs are too low to see out the window and why would someone want to sit in the bedroom?
We had to ask for a garbage bin for the bathroom, and a toilet brush. There is no shower curtain and the hand held device does not reach very far so in order to have a shower you basically had to kneel in the tub. If you didn't the floor got soaked. Towels provided were worn, and as there are no dryers it was like using a loofah sponge when you dried off.
The "modern kitchen" was anything but. No microwave, no toaster, no oven mitts (to be fair they did have one threadbare pad), and we had to ask for a medium sized pot to cook with. We also had to purchase some glasses, mugs, a cheese grater, sharp knife, and a frying pan. The aluminum espresso maker was old, and the smallest available. We also ended up buying a drip coffee maker, which Cid purchased from us when we left. There is a dishwasher but it takes about an hour and a half to run through. Since there were not enough dishes we actually only used it once. The salad spinner provided was damaged on the inside. The fridge was a good size and worked well. The oven is very difficult to operate and takes a long time to cool down. There were no instructions left for any appliances - washing machine, dishwasher, or oven.
Problems or Bonuses
The biggest surprise was the electricity and gas bills we received. We were told these combined bills for our two month stay would come out to somewhere around 200 dollars. The actual bill given for utilities was 400 dollars. What can you do? Cid reads the meter and you have no idea of the actual cost. The damage deposit that some people are asked for is basically your utilities cost.
Internet is slow, slow, slow, and very intermittent. WiFi is advertised as being available when in fact it was not. Fortunately we had our own router, otherwise we would have been stuck in the bedroom, with the use of only one computer tethered to an Ethernet cord. Internet is listed as an amenity but we were charged for it! The first month they charged us €20 for Internet. We complained it was suppose to be an amenity and the second month were not charged. Also advertised was that a cell phone with an Italian phone number will be given to you. We got the cell phone without a Sim card in it, therefore no Italian phone number. We went and paid the extra to get a number, instead of just charging up the time on the phone.
The lighting throughout the apartment is dim at best. As an example the three lights in the living room kitchen area have no independent control. They are either all on, or off. The second bedroom has only a small desk lamp as a light source. Lighting in the master bedroom is insufficient to read by. Power surges are a very regular occurrence.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
For the reasons above I cannot recommend this property. We paid €1600 a month, and €300 euros in utilities. For this price we could have done much better. You shouldn't have to ask for basic supplies like oven mitts and garbage bins. A dish cloth, with some dish soap, would have been nice on arrival. The sheets, towels, and cooking utensils were well below standard. The website pictures are very deceiving. You can't really tell which apartment has which view as they appear to be a jumble of views and amenities from all three apartments. None actually have a view from their main living area without standing by a window. There is no convenient place to just sit and enjoy the views.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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