Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 528: Le Macchie, Oriolo
apartments on a farm near Monticchiello, Tuscany South
march 12-21, 2003, nine nights
Le Macchie is an olive farm about five kilometers east of the walled medieval village of Monticchiello. There is a kilometer-long drive off the main road which brings you from high on the ridge to half-way down into the Val d'Orcia - utterly spectacular, with Monte Amiata to the southwest, olive groves and farm fields all around, and the stunning clay outcroppings and ravines of the crete senese saving the landscape from unmitigated prettiness. There are several other homes along this road, but they are quite separated by the contours of the land, and one feels far from anything.
The main house has been converted into two 3-bedroom apartments, named Oriolo and Leccino after the local olives. We stayed in Oriolo in mid-March and had the place to ourselves except for weekend guests in the other apartment. As you can see on the website, the taller building with the 2 apartments is clustered next to a lower building, where the owners live, and where the studio called Leccino is also located. Each dwelling has its own outside sitting area and, while we saw Andrea (one of the owners) and some of the farm's workers regularly, this contributed to our sense of being someplace REAL and only added to the pleasure of the place.
While Oriolo is an apartment, with its two stories and spacious rooms, it felt like a house. There were enough books and decorations to make it feel homey, but it was serenely uncluttered so one didn't feel like you were trying to make space for yourself in someone else's house -- a really nice balance (and the sprigs of rosemary in the bathrooms were a nice touch). The house comfortably accomodated my family of five: two of the bedrooms have full-sized beds, the third has twin beds. The two bathrooms upstairs (where the bedrooms are) were great, with perfect water pressure and plenty of hot water (the bathroom in the master bedroom has a shower up several fairly steep stairs--wonderfully quirky but maybe hard to navigate for some. The 2nd full bathroom has a great bathtub and shower, where one can stand under the water and gaze out the window at Monte Amiata--heavenly!!!) We found plenty of towels and blankets, and as much storage space as we needed.
The living room, with its couches and open hearth, was comfortable for all, and there are a couple of other indoor sitting places, my favorite being the upstairs portico with its two arched windows and couch. The marble dining room table sits 6 easily. The kitchen was perfectly adequate for us, with a four-burner stove and full oven, and we didn't lack for any implements that I can recall. We had brought our own condiments from our first apartment in Rome -- I don't know if Andrea typically leaves salt, pepper, etc for the next guests in the busy season, but I always appreciate finding those things. There were potholders! And espresso pots of all sizes (including the gigantic one we brought with us)! And a generous bottle of delious olive oil from the most recent pressing! There were plenty of pots, pans, wine glasses--a dishwasher that we actually never used (but no washing machine). We also rarely turned on the TV, but did enjoy the CD player (we brought CDs).
You really need a car here. It IS possible to walk into Monticchiello -- I did it one day -- but it's the kind of thing you would want to do by choice rather than necessity! Monticchiello is less than a 10-minute drive, and has a small alimentari that we frequented, a good bar at the gates to the old town, and one of our favorite restaurants (Osteria La Porta). The other restaurant in town, Taverna Moranda, has been mentioned favorably on this site, but we never made it there.
Montepulciano is 15-20 minute drive -- lots of shops and a goodsized supermarket just below the old city. Others have mentioned the supermercato at the Etruscan Mall by the Chiusi A1 entrance, and Pienza has a Coop along with its many specialty stores. We found Pienza to be our most-frequented "big town" -- a 20-minute drive, good bars, a really nice bookstore, and several routes there, all each more picturesque than the next.
The building is a well-renovated 18th century farmhouse, in fine shape and tastefully updated. It was very clean(my house should be so clean!) and well-tended. Many of the fixtures and interior railings are of local wrought iron. The lighting is good, with bedside lighting in every bedroom. There are no screens or curtains, and all the windows have wooden shutters that close from outside. Central heating.
Oriolo's outside sitting space is essentially the flat lawn you see outside the entrance, with wooden table and chairs, and a couple of wood lounge chairs--fairly public, as you see whoever is coming and going, but the trade off is the magnificent vista on the downhill side, and the olive groves on the uphill side. There's also a hammock and a rope swing for variety! Outside the kitchen door is a small stoop where I often sat in the sun, protected from the wind--there are huge rosemary bushes with huge buzzing bumblebees to match. There are many farm trails to wander along,and the walk up the drive to the main road (a kilometer up hill) can definitely get your pulse going. One evening we made this trek and, as we walked down in the dusk, were graced by the astounding beauty of the sun setting gloriously to the west and the full moon rising in the east...
See above comments.
See prvious comments. The beds were fine -- maybe some extra pillows would be nice.
The quality of the dishes, etc. was fine -- nothing terribly fancy, but not chintzy either. Plenty of everything.
Problems or Bonuses
Le Macchie turned out to be even lovelier than the website. My children were reluctant to leave Rome, but were immediately won over by the beauty of the landscape and the lovliness of Oriolo. And we all enjoyed Andrea Giurato, our host -- amiable, considerate, funny, with very good english (and a good cook too).
We didn't use it because we had our own, but I think Andrea makes a cell phone available to guests of each apartment (there is no direct line)-- and he regularly checked in with us by phone when he was away to make sure all was going well. He was generous with his suggestions and recommendations, and is working on a written "house book" for guests. Also when last heard from, work had started on the construction of a swimming pool, with hopes of completion this June.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We rented directly from Andrea through his website. He always responded right away. He accepts credit cards, which was helpful.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I wholeheartedly recommend Le Macchie. It's a lovely base to explore from, and just as lovely to linger at. We feel as though we just scratched the surface of all there is to see within a 30-mile radius. It was all that I hoped it would be, and then some -- it satisfied my need to be in the country but close enough to destinations of interest should we desire them. I'm trying to convince my daughter to get married there rather then in New England, just to have a reason to return soon!
Things to do in this area
There's been a lot written about this area on Slowtrav, including Pauline's suggestions for exploring southern Tuscany (a hearty thank you). Some highlights: our meals at La Porta, in the hands of wonderful and knowledgeable Daria; visiting, and revisiting, Pippo's ceramic studio in Cetona; horseback riding in the snow near Castemuzio; hearing the monks chanting at Sant Antimo; an unexpected and delicious lunch at Ristorante Danila in San Casciano dei Bagni followed by a leisurely footsoaking in the public baths below town; a drowsy afternoon in Montefollonico with a local cat, enjoying the southern view towards Montepulciano and wondering about the stone elephant carving sharing the hillside; the mystery of the flickering lights in the valley below Monticchiello...
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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