Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4794: Owner, Sunny Penthouse
2bed/1bath apartment in Lucca, Tuscany North
October 2010, 7 nights
Inside Lucca's unique walls and down the street from the landmark Guinigi Tower, this fourth floor penthouse is in an ideal and quiet location. We never heard a car alarm, garbage truck grind and beep, or a loud conversation float up from the street, even with the windows wide open. Happily, we did hear distant church bells and birds singing. Molto bene!
Each morning, one of us would go downstairs and out the door, head left then right and arrive at our favorite bakery to buy fresh cornetti to bring home. The other would make coffee in the kitchen's Moka pot and heat the milk. Heavenly! We walked everywhere -- to restaurants, grocery markets, gourmet "heat and eat" shops, a fresh produce market, piazzas, many sights, stores, even the bus and train stations. Many local residents and visitors get around on bicycles. There is no need for a car, which reduces the stress of driving and parking. It's also one of the most picturesque and enjoyable ways to calorically earn daily gelato.
This completely renovated, uncluttered and spotless apartment is on the top floor of a 14th century palazzo. Being the top floor, you enjoy 12 foot ceilings with chestnut beams and lots of light. The best feature is a sweeping (and breathtaking) rooftop and sky view of Lucca through an 18 foot wall of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors in the sun room. This view is both jaw-dropping and mesmerizing. Once you've climbed the stairs to the apartment, you live on one spacious level (the second bedroom, which we did not use, is accessed via a spiral staircase). We loved the ample elbow room, and being able to take in the sun room view from the living room and the kitchen. A separate laundry room off of the sun room lets you keeps piles of darks, lights and delicates out of sight. I appreciated the bathroom's counter space, glass shelving and cupboards. There are two to three apartments on each floor, but during our week, we never saw or heard anyone. It's a very quiet street and quiet building.
There is no garden, yet we opened the sun room's south-facing wall of windows for sunlight, fresh air and a view of neighborhood terrace gardens. This is where we ate breakfast, planned our day, and retreated to after lunch. You can walk to Lucca's famous park-like wall within five minutes or so.
The owners selected all of the furnishings and art from Lucca, giving you a sense of living in a modern-day Luccanese home. They chose a mix of antique and contemporary furnishings, as well as very good reading lights in the sun room, living room and bedrooms. The living room couch is long enough for two adults to sit with their backs to each end and stretch legs out toward the middle, or for four adults to sit side-by-side without feeling icky. Two facing upholstered club chairs and a teak dining table that seats six round out the seating. The sun room features an informal dining table that seats four, plus two rattan easy chairs, and a tabletop CD/radio/cassette stereo. We loved the mix of old and new and found it extremely livable and comfortable.
This master bedroom is very spacious with a large shuttered window with a street-and-sky view. The bed is comfortable and on the firm side. I loved the double wall-mounted wardrobes that provide space for unpacking suitcases, hanging clothes or tucking them in drawers, and hiding everything behind closed doors. An antique armoire provides more hanging space, and an antique bureau offers ample drawer storage. Two antique nightstands with excellent reading lights (that switch on and off on the cords) flank the bed. We did not use the upstairs bedroom. It is furnished with two twin beds, nightstands and lamps. Two or three steps up a short ladder secured against the high window's frame give you another glorious view of Lucca rooftops, towers and the rolling hills beyond.
The galley kitchen is separated from the sun room by an arched doorway, giving the cook access to that unforgettable view. The six-burner gas stove surpasses the one we have at home. We loved the over-the-sink dish drying cupboard, and appreciated the store of olive oil, vinegar, sugar and dried pasta. The knives are sharp, there's a selection of pots, pans and a colander, and the normal assortment of utensils. We cooked some meals from scratch, as well as heated some wonderful "heat and eat" takeout from local shops. There is no microwave, but the oven heated things evenly during the course of a glass of red wine (maybe two). A nice bonus are the two Moka pots for making coffee Italian style -- a small one for two espressos, and a jumbo one for two mugs of caffe con latte.
Problems or Bonuses
This was our first trip to Lucca and we were surprised by how enchanting and seductive it is. This is a small, urbane city contained in ancient walls and buildings that maintain all of the historical romance but offer modern living. While there are tourists, it does not feel like a tourism destination. After staying in many hills towns, we also appreciated that it is a level city. We loved seeing all ages of residents, from babies in strollers to stately elders. We expected that we would like it very much, but were surprised that we loved it.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt with the American owner directly, who was fantastic. Very pro-active with information, responsive to questions, and clearly dedicated to making sure you will enjoy your stay in the apartment as well as in Lucca. We were encouraged to call his cell number at any time, or send emails, even when were were in Lucca. The owner maintains a rich website for the property, and the apartment is stocked with maps, guidebooks, and recommendations. The apartment looks fabulous online, but exceeds your expectations when open the door.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would definitely stay here again, and recommend it to our best friends. However, if climbing stairs is painful or difficult, you should book elsewhere. There is no elevator nor doorman, so it is up to you to carry your luggage, shopping, etc., up and down the stairs.
Things to do in this area
We often planned our days around where we wanted to eat lunch. Lucca features many excellent restaurants and our biggest challenge was selecting where to go. We climbed the Guinigi Tower, visited gardens and a palace, took the bus to Pisa for an easy day trip, enjoyed an evening Puccini-Mozart performance, walked the wall, sampled gelato, chatted with residents out walking their dogs (we brought a photo of our two golden retrievers), practiced our Italian, shopped, read, wrote postcards and napped. Our week was a perfect combination of relaxation and stimulation while surrounded by beauty.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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