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Review 54: La Montalla, Apartment


Review by Phyllis from NY

apartments on farm near Radicofani, Tuscany South


July 1999, 2 weeks


Farmhouse with 3 apartments on the upper level, 1 large apartment on the lower level, can be rented by apartment or you can rent the entire farmhouse. The owners also rent the rooms in the lower level floor by the night (like a B&B).

In July of 1999 we spent 2 delightful weeks at Podere La Montalla, a working farm, near Radicofani (southern Tuscany). It is about a mile below the small town of Contignano. I enjoyed what you wrote about making friends with the local caffe owners, which is what we did in Contignano. Podere La Montalla is listed with the Parker Company as "Spartacus Tutta Mia." It is completely rural and a working farm. We went there because a friend was going with his extended family of 17 and had a 2 BR, 1B apt. left, so 4 of us took it for 2 weeks for a very reasonable price. A car is a necessity. We drove up from Rome/Fiumicino airport-about 2 hrs.

The original farmhouse is from the 1500s, and has been greatly enlarged. There is a very large apartment on the ground floor and 3 smaller apartments on the first floor. The place kind of rambles on, but is charming, with flowers everywhere and a row of fruit trees along the driveway. There is a large porch with tables and chairs outside the ground floor kitchen. There is a washing machine and a clothesline. Parking enough for 5 or 6 cars. The weather was very hot, but if you follow the local custom of closing the windows and shutters during the day before you leave, the inside will be cool when you return at the end of the afternoon. Of course, there are no screens, but you can buy the repellent the locals use at any grocery. The total accommodation is for 22, I think. The furnishings are simple and even sparse, but when I opened the shutters and looked out over the window box full of geraniums and saw the grapevines and olive trees, nothing else mattered. The kitchens are fine, but if you've never been in a rental situation, you are in for a surprise. You need to heat the hot water to do the dishes (there is hot water for the bathroom, but for the kitchen there is a separate boiler that you must turn on to heat the water for dishes). The stove is small and must be lit with a match. The frig is the half-sized under-counter type. This is not unusual--Italians shop every day, so do not need large cold storage. Also, utilities are extremely expensive, so there are only the most basic furnishings in the kitchen--do not expect electric appliances anywhere. I believe this applies to most rentals. I have heard from other renters that this aspect was the most surprising part of their rental experience.

The nearest town is about a mile away, uphill: Contignano, population about 800. There is a caffe, 2 small groceries, and 2 excellent restaurants. We ate twice at Fattoria Bennandi-both times incredible meals at extremely reasonable prices. They have a house wine that is an excellent Chianti for $5.00 a bottle. There are some other rentals in town-we met some other Americans staying there- and the local people are friendly and used to the Agriturismo. There are other local restaurants/trattorie on the local roads, either freestanding or within the numerous small hotels/alberghi in the area.

The landlord and landlady are the Giordanos, who live in Contignano in what used to be the town tower. It is now apartments. They are a nice young couple, very accommodating and helpful, and English speaking. Since we did not deal directly with The Parker Company, I cannot comment on their qualities. However, we liked our experience enough to use The Parker Company this year. So far, my telephone and email experience with them has been fine.

The location was excellent for touring. Note: Phyllis’ Things to Do are listed in Italy – Other Things to Do.

Needless to say, we are hooked. Before, we had traveled through Italy on our own, staying at hotels. In my opinion, being on one's own, with an apartment and a car is the ultimate freedom and convenience. Incidentally, I am 68 and my husband is 71. I am already planning next year's stay in the spring to Umbria and possibly again in the fall to the Naples area.

Pauline asks Phyllis a few more questions about this vacation rental (more details about the quality of the place): >>The house was big. On the first floor (the American second floor), there were 2 2-bedroom apartments and 1 very large studio apartment. The furnishings were minimal in all apartments. Our bedroom had a double bed, very soft mattress and no night tables. A lamp on the dresser, but none at the bedside. No chair. No wardrobe for clothes, just an accordion type thing with pegs on the wall. The other bedroom was the same but had a wardrobe. The living room/dining room was a large rectangle and had a fireplace, a small TV, a sofa that was a bed and not comfortable to sit on and 1 very lumpy easy chair in which the cushion/springs were collapsed. We couldn’t sit on that at all. Only one small lamp for the whole area. The dining area had a long wooden table with 6 chairs. The kitchen had a sink with a small boiler that had to be lit to make hot water for dishes. There was a small 4 burner stove and a few shelves with a curtain and a small fridge.

There a nice outdoor area. If you look at The Parker Company pictures, you see the back of the house. At the front is a covered porch with a lovely view. The bathrooms were good.

The ground floor was much the same as the first floor – the most basic furnishings. The picture in the catalog on the long table and chairs is from the ground floor. It has a huge living room/dining room. The rest of the room has a fireplace and 2 sagging sofas, covered with blankets and a large wooden coffee table. The kitchen is long, narrow and a couple of steps down from the living area. Off to one end of the living room is a hallway that leads to the various bedrooms/bathrooms – mini suites.

It was all plain country furnishings – not glamorous – just Italian! I have been in summer rentals in the US and in Pensioni in Europe that were no better and in some cases much worse. We cannot look at it as Americans, but as a European would. La Montalla gets rented frequently. The guest book reflected the delighted comments of guests from all over the world.<<

Pauline asks: Were you happy enough with the place that you would stay there again?  >>I have mixed reaction to answering this question. We are very flexible people and take it as it comes, so while I was a little disappointed at the furnishings, which I do not think were as described, the cost was so reasonable that I would certainly go back. However, the building itself, the grounds, the vineyards, the olive trees, the general location, the view, the small town within walking distance, the ease of getting to other areas, and the beauty of every turn in the road all combined to make a perfect vacation. I would go back in a heartbeat.<<

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

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