Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 64: Italian Villas, Il Selvatellino (Gelsomino)
2bed/1bath apartment on estate near Colle Val d'Elsa, Tuscany West
October 2000, 1 week
We rented the apartment Gelsomino in the villa Il Selvatellino for a week in October 2000. We booked with Italian Villas, which we found on the internet last winter but since then have seen mentioned in various travel magazines. Il Selvatellino is in a great location midway between Florence and Siena (about 45 minutes each way); close to Colle Val d'Elsa (15 minutes); conveniently located to many other hill towns and grocery shopping and excellent local restaurants.
There were five of us: my husband and I, our grown children including our son from Miami and our daughter and her husband (the newlyweds) from Virginia/DC. Our villa had two bedrooms (one with queen size bed and one with twin beds (really glorified cots), one bathroom with a tub, small but adequately equipped kitchen (but all kitchen gear needed to be scrubbed), large living room with a sofa bed, and a decent sized dining room. In front was a small patio with a table and chairs and a brick barbecue grill. To describe our apartment, I guess the best word would be "rustic" but cozy with a nice fireplace, which we used almost every night. It was surface clean and could have used a very good dusting but that sort of added to the rustic part.
The best I can describe our villa and its surroundings is to say that there were maybe 5 or 6 unattached buildings close to each other with one or two apartments in each building. We saw another one that had an upstairs bedroom. Ours was one floor. The buildings that just had one apartment looked quite cozy. The villa is located in Pievescola; coming from Florence, maybe two miles east of the S541 midway between Siena and Florence. Technically it is in Pievescola, but actually the town of Pievescola (very small) was maybe two or three miles away, west of the highway. Therefore, it was quite isolated and there was really no place to walk except around the property. I'm sure the place must be much more lively in the summer when you can sit outside after dinner. I personally would have preferred to be closer to a town, but that is really just my preference. I would definitely call where we were "country" and I think the area was at one time a farm. There are still some working fields left. The closest town was Colle val D'Elsa, about 15 minutes away.
Our biggest problem was lack of hot water for two or three days. The on-site manager who at this time of the year is only on-site maybe half time, tried to be helpful but the problem was not solved until the last day we were there. The problem turned out to be that the manager had requested that the gas be refilled and she assumed it had but guess what? It hadn't. This was the reason for lack of hot water and apparently for the constant smell of gas from the stove. We were not "happy campers" with this problem and felt that it should have been researched and dealt with in a more timely fashion.
The cleanliness issue is probably no different than if we were to rent a cottage on Cape Cod for a week; at least the linens, floors, and bathroom were clean. If there had been a dishwasher AND hot water I would have just thrown everything in and it would have been fine. Knowing what I know now, I would probably look for a place that had the availability of some sort of maid service for a few hours a week as well as the possibility of hiring a cook for one or two evenings. The manager did, upon our request to Italian Villas, do some basic shopping for us, which was wonderful because we would not have been in great shape to fly all night and part of the morning, find our way out of the Florence airport (more of a challenge than one might anticipate!) and to the villa, and still shop for groceries. This basic bag of groceries got us through until Monday morning when we were able to shop.
Nevertheless, we felt that $1000 for the entire week was a good price and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. We did cook dinner a couple of times but with the dollar being so strong :), eating out really made more sense. Would we use Italian Villas again? It depends on the response to our problem as well as the fact that since we made our reservations last year, I have discovered the AOL Italy Travel board and would probably explore other options.
If you like crystal, Colle Val d'Elsa is the place to go!
Followup: Renee complained to Italian Villas and was refunded about 40% of her rental fee.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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