Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4847: Il Poggiolo, Casa Colonica
2bed/1bath apartment near Montevarchi, Tuscany Chianti
October 24-30, 2010, 6 nights
Il Poggiolo is in a beautiful part of Tuscany. If you're looking for a Tuscan rural experience without that feeling of isolation, Il Poggiolo is the place. There is a neighbour right next door and several within 10-minute walk but the sense of privacy and seclusion is not lost. The drive is a bit harrowing for a short bit (about a minute of the drive) if you're not used to the Italian country roads but like Sara says, if you follow her directions to the letter, you can't go wrong. Once you reach the villa and go up the little driveway and round the corner at the house, this amazing vista of the Tuscan hills opens before your eyes. We were stunned at the view, especially staying a couple of weeks in the cities.
You can't walk for coffee or groceries. You have to drive into Montevarchi or Levane which are the two closest towns to the villa. Montevarchi is the larger town while Levane is just about 15 minutes southeast of Montevarchi. We drove into Levane to get groceries at the COOP (short drive, about eight minutes). We didn't eat in any of the restaurants but the drive into the centre of Montevarchi is only about 10 minutes from the villa.
The building is historical. Sara told us wonderful stories of their renovation process which had to take into account the historical value of the villa. Casa Colonica is in very good condition. There are two apartments on the site. One apartment is the Casa Colonica, which we stayed in. Sara gave us a tour of the Fienile which has a more contemporary style than the Casa Colonica. I describe Casa Colonica as a bit more traditionally Tuscan with the arched doorways and wooden beamed ceilings.
On the main floor, there is a very large dining room, with a table big enough to seat six people comfortably. Right beside the dining room is the very modern and large kitchen. The living room with two daybed/sofas is right next to the kitchen. There are two doors out from the main level. One to the driveway and the other to the garden/sitting area. Upstairs are the two bedrooms and bathroom.
The outside sitting area is very well-kept and maintained. The sitting area is very private and overlooks the Val d'Arno below. There's also a great view of the Apennine Hills. There is no pool but as we were there in late October, there was no need for one. The weather sometimes was a bit too chilly and rainy to sit outside for any length of time. However, when the sun was shining mid-day, it was lovely to sit and look at the view. There were modern, dark green plastic patio furniture, which we didn't use. I particularly like the wooden benches, cozy enough for two to sit, snuggle and soak in the scenes, sounds and smells of rural life in Tuscany.
The furniture is in very good shape and very comfortable. Most of the furniture is either made of very heavy wood or wicker. Lots of seating (there was only two of us so there was plenty of seating as I think there's enough chairs downstairs to seat minimum of six adults comfortably.) The house is very clean for being a country house. You'd expect maybe a few cobwebs here and there but I didn't see any. The window screens are clean so your views weren't impeded by dirty windows.
The bathroom was spotless and very, very large. The beds were comfortable, no sagging or lumps. The bedrooms were all very large and spacious with enough drawers and wardrobes for your clothes and personal items.
The kitchen was very usable and very well-supplied. The dishes were of good quality stoneware and cooking in the kitchen was a delight. All the amenities of home. Sara had everything you need to cook great Tuscan meals. She even had a couple of Italian cookbooks on her shelves. We chose some recipes, made our grocery list, shopped at the COOP, and then cooked up a storm! I never cooked with a gas stove before, but once I got the hang of it, I certainly liked it better than an electric one. Too bad we just bought a new range with a ceramic top at home. I would have converted to a gas stove after cooking on one in Italy.
Everything in kitchen was handy and within reach. I could have used more counter space, though. There was an island which came in handy. In one corner, there seemed to be space for a former fireplace as there was a huge hood over the area. But, the space doesn't seem usable which is too bad.
Problems or Bonuses
Sara does such a fantastic job making sure all the details are taken care of for her visitors/guests. She has a green binder with all the information you need to feel comfortable, welcome and informed about the villa and the surrounding areas. She has lots of travel brochures neatly housed in a large wicker basket in the dining room. The living has a small TV with satellite but the only channel in English we could get was BBC World News. Sara has a well-stocked DVD collection in her abode which she welcomes her guests to borrow anytime.
There is a wonderful library in both bedrooms and in the living room. If you're a mystery lover, you will not have enough time to read the extensive collection of mystery novels on the bookshelves in the bedrooms. However, if you're not a mystery lover, you'd be challenged to find something interesting to read. The living room bookshelf has interesting non-fiction books, a little bit of everything (literature, philosophy, history, arts, cooking, travel).
Although Sara has thought of every detail to make the stay a good one, she couldn't control two things - the weather and the insects. The weather was cooler than average and the heat could not be turned on until Nov 1. Although Sara did turn on the heat as it got to be too cold, the house did not warm up enough to be comfortable. We could have jacked the heat up higher but then we would've had to pay more. Sara had plenty of warm blankets and we just layered our clothes. If the weather turns cold, be prepared to pay a bit more for heating.
The other thing Sara couldn't control was bugs in the house. We found at least three kinds of bugs you wouldn't see in North America. The first day we were there, two praying mantises greeted us at the door. It's very natural for creepy crawlies to come into the house to seek warmth when it gets cold outside. But, I don't like bugs inside the house. Altogether, we killed only about six bugs so nothing alarming. Just unexpected.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The reason we chose Il Poggiolo was because of their website. It's an excellent website with great details and pictures so you get a good idea of what to expect. And Sara has represented her place very well on her site. I particularly liked the fact Sara and Allan are English-speaking (Sara is originally from United States) so that made us feel more comfortable. We paid €960 for six nights and we stayed from Oct 24 to Oct 30.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
An unqualified yes! I would love to go back. I'm thinking of persuading my sisters to have a family reunion over there. I would recommend this place to my best friend. There are realities to staying in the Italian countryside which films like "Under the Tuscan Sun" don't show (e.g., bugs!) But, now that I know it's country living and what that means, I'll be better prepared to deal with whatever nature has for me the next time around.
Things to do in this area
We took two day-trips from the villa. The first one to Assisi and Deruta. We didn't get up early enough as it's about a two hour drive so we didn't see a lot of the two towns. The other day-trip was to Arezzo which is a lovely town. It's very close to the villa, about 30 minutes away with a nice drive through the countryside. We decided to take it easy on this leg of our Italy trip (we had already spent two weeks in Roma and Firenze) so we alternated by staying at the villa one day and taking a day-trip the next. I did all the driving so it was a bit tiring to drive every day but if someone else drove or took turns driving, I would've definitely done more exploring around the area. There's a lot to see and do.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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