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Review 5284: Tuscan House, Villa Monte

www.tuscanhouse.com

Recommended
Review by jackbonham from IN

4bed/4bath house near Piazze, Tuscany South


View from the pool, photo by Kyle Bonham

When

May 2012, 1 week

Review

The Bonham family spent the first two weeks of May in Italy. We were celebrating our 40th anniversary with our two sons and a friend. Our “boys” are 25 and 32 and we had an extra 30 year-old friend along for the trip. We spent the first week in a villa in Positano on the Amalfi Coast and our second week in a villa in southern Tuscany. Both weeks were unique and wonderful and I’d like to share some comments on our houses.

Villa Montefreddo di Sagra is a wonderful place in southern Tuscany, on the border with Umbria. The house was recommended by Zak from TuscanHouse. We have used Zak before and find that he is excellent in his choice of villas to represent. The owner of our villa said that Zak and Gary stayed several hours with her on their site visit, taking pictures and checking out all the details. His descriptions on his site are accurate and rather than being a giant “catch-all” rental agency he is selective in Tuscan properties and has personally seen what he is recommending. He provides wonderfully detailed maps of the area and restaurant recommendations for the smallest villages.

But enough about Zak. On to the star of the show! We’ve stayed in about 15 houses over the years and we think that Villa Monte may be the best combination of house, owner, and location that we have found. Villa Monte’s owners are Olivia & Francesco and the property that has been in Francesco’s family for over two hundred years. It consists of 1000 hectares of vineyards, olive groves, cherry and oak forest, old forest and crops. They also raise Chianina cattle and are owners of several rental properties in the area. From our house, we hiked to Fighine castle, which is where Olivia’s husband was raised. Olivia is a lovely lady with four small children who came from Siena and studied architecture in university. She was an exchange student in high school in Bismarck ND, so her English is very good. She is well known in the area and is a licensed tour guide and was so very helpful.

The villa is a few hundred yards from, and higher than, Olivia’s large collection of home, apartment, and farm buildings. Like so many places in Tuscany, the views were breathtaking. The villa, which is part restored farm building, and part redone watchtower was completed in fall of 2010. (The watchtower was one of many on the border of Siena and papal lands.) Olivia’s sense of color and style were evident throughout the house with lots of soft IKEA furnishings mixed with some very old pieces of furniture. The rooms were all very comfortable and welcoming.

We estimated the size of the house at about 5000 sq ft. It had four bedrooms and four baths. The four bedrooms were upstairs - two en-suite and two shared a bath with an additional full, handicapped accessible bath on the ground floor. The bedroom level had the bedrooms in two ends of the house with a nice quiet living area in between them. The layout would be great for a family or four adult couples. There is plenty of privacy and areas to get away from the group if you wanted.

The ground floor consisted of a huge living area, actually divided into four corners. One corner had two soft couches oriented around a TV with Skynet. One had a couch in front of a fireplace which we enjoyed on one rainy cool evening. One had two more couches and the fourth had a big comfy chair. The house is painted in soft ivories, taupes, and greys in a typical Tuscan style where the painting involves different colors and lines to suggest trim pieces. Light wall colors and furnishings helped make the villa feel light-filled, which can be a challenge in older buildings.

Also on the ground floor was a giant kitchen and eating area and an outside patio with table and chairs. The kitchen was remarkably well equipped with gas range, dishwasher, microwave, large refrigerator and small fireplace for the adventurous cooks in the group. There was a press pot, an espresso maker, and a pod coffee maker for the coffee lovers. Sharp knives, plenty of tableware, and all the little things you need to cook. We ate at some wonderful restaurants but also had some stellar food at home.

Olivia was one of the most considerate owners we’ve experienced in terms of thinking through what newly arriving guests will need. Unlike many other rentals, you come to the house at 7pm on a Saturday night and have enough of the essentials to get you through breakfast. We had fresh bottles of wine, olive oil, and vinegar along with brioche, bread, jam, biscotti, milk, juice, butter, and yogurt. She also supplied six large bottles of drinking water because “you might not be used to our spring water.” The house had soap of all sorts - dishwasher, hand, laundry, and paper goods stocked for the week.

Outside was a beautiful pool on one of the highest parts of the property ... sun, Peroni, lounge chair, book, and one of the most beautiful views across Tuscany and Umbria that you can imagine. Doesn’t get much better. For the more energetic there is a ping pong table and lots of hiking in the area. The quiet nights with sounds of fox and owls and the dark star-filled sky were stunning.

Just a word about the location of the property. We would love to come back to this exact place for all the potential. We could visit a few hill towns or Etruscan sites each day with a 15-45 minute ride. Montepulciano, Pienza, Citta di Pieve were close as well as small hill towns, each with a unique history (and a good restaurant), that are rarely mentioned in the guidebooks. The guys caught a train from Chiusi (about 20 minutes from the house) for a night in Rome. The fast train was 1 hour 20 minutes and it is about the same to Florence. Orvieto, Siena, Perugia, Assisi, Spoleto, and Arezzo for its monthly antique street market are all easy day trips. With the excellent train connections it seems a perfect base to tour central Italy.

We look forward to a return visit.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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