Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4388: Agriturismo Cretaiole, Apartment
apartments on a farm near Pienza, Tuscany South
April 2009/April 2006, 1 week
Agriturismo Cretaiole is in an ancient farmhouse in a grove of 500-year-old olive trees, on a promontory in between Pienza and San Quirio d'Orcia. From the swings and lawn chairs you can see the entire Val d'Orcia - a view essentially unchanged for hundreds of years.
Cretaiole is in the country, so you will want a car, but it's an easy, less than 10 minute drive to Pienza, my favorite town in Italy, for dining and shopping. If you're vigorous you can walk there in about 40 minutes with that gorgeous view in sight the whole time. The rest of the Val d'Orcia region offers almost infinite opportunities as well.
This 14th-century (I think) farmhouse contains I think seven flats, tidy and simple. We've stayed twice - the first time in a one-bedroom downstairs and the second time in a two-bedroom upstairs. Cretaiole is quiet and peaceful in a very social way: if your idea of quiet and peaceful includes "not interacting with others", you will like Creatiole but not get the full value of it. You can easily keep to yourself, but why miss the pasta-making lesson, the olive-oil tasting, the monastery dinner, the opportunity for your kids (if you have them) to kick a ball around with kids from all over the world? People at Cretaiole wander in and out of a grand happy international conversation according to their own whims.
Beautiful grounds with a huge lawn, swings, play equipment for kids, and a huge vegetable garden (in season) from which you are free to pluck your dinner -- all shared. No pool (natural hot springs a town or two over if you're interested).
Tidy and comfortable but not "ritzy."
Very comfortable beds (Americans take note - the king-size bed in our room was genuine, not a pair of euro-twins scrunched together). The bathroom upstairs had a shower of somewhat variable water pressure but no serious issues. The bathroom downstairs was much smaller.
Yes, very serviceable although basic. The real charms in cooking at Cretaiole include a) the opportunity to make use of the garden, the delicious spring water, the owner's wine and olive oil (and occasional fresh eggs), and b) the way the place just starts to smell GREAT around dinnertime, as everybody putters away over their own stove ... sometimes people end up in the courtyard sharing what they've pulled together.
Problems or Bonuses
I am always surprised at how wonderful this place is, even though I've now been back twice - it's always nicer than I remember!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Isabella (and Luciano, Carlo, all the family) is a world-class resource - friendly, sincere, and above all knowledgeable. She'll direct you, give you advice, loan you a phone, make reservations for you, teach you how to make pasta, let you use the Internet at the family farm in Pienza, etc.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
This is honestly my favorite place on the planet, having been to 20 countries. The best food, the best view, the nicest people.
The only people I can even barely imagine not liking it are people that prefer marble-clad luxury to cobblestones and friendliness.
Things to do in this area
The monastery dinner at Sant'Anne in Camprena was my favorite (roast duck mmm).
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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