Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 668: La Bella Toscana, Le Antiche Mura
1bed/1bath apartment in San Gimignano, Tuscany West
April 2003, 1 week
Le Antiche Mura is located slightly off the beaten path (off of Via Piandornella) in the town of San Gimignano. Its location just inside the city's walls are great assets, since it is a quiet and more residential area than central San Gimignano. There are great views from the balcony and the upstairs bedroom that overlook the Elsa Valley, acres of vineyards, and the rolling hills outside of town.
Many travelers may be hesitant about staying in San Gimignano because of its (correct) reputation as a tourist town, but we found it to be enchanting, beautiful, and an ideal place to stay for people who choose not to rent a car while in Tuscany.
Supermarket: A supermarket called the COOP is located outside the city walls but is a short 10-minute walk from Le Antiche Mura. The COOP is open Monday to Saturday 0830 - 1330 and 1530 - 2000; it is closed on Wednesday afternoons. Hours may be different in the summertime. The COOP takes credit cards, and it is possible to find practically anything here.
Restaurants: There are restaurants galore in San Gimignano; just walk to the town center and take your pick.
La Bella Toscana's literature states that the apartment is located in a medieval palazzo. The courtyard of the palazzo is equipped with a picnic table and chairs so you can eat al fresco on warm nights. Unfortunately, the day after we arrived in San Gimignano the weather turned cold and rainy! The owner's family lives in the adjoining house, but noise was never an issue and we always felt completely private. The house is in very good shape. The art on the walls makes it very homey.
The small palazzo outside of Le Antiche Mura's doors offers a picnic table and chairs. The view from the palazzo is breathtaking. We had never been to Tuscany before, and the sheer beauty of the rolling hills, vineyards and small farms that are visible from the palazzo was delightful.
The palazzo is shared with the family in the adjoining house, but in our week there we hardly saw them.
There is no pool at Le Antiche Mura, though there are walking paths that start right outside of the palazzo.
We spent most of our time in the kitchen, sitting at the dining table, talking and drinking. The sitting chairs in the living room are wicker and aren't the most comfortable in the world, but there were already plenty of chairs in the kitchen/dining area. The kitchen and the rest of the house were spotlessly clean.
The bedroom and bathroom is located upstairs. The bed was large and comfortable. There was not much closet space, but we were traveling light and didn't need much anyway. The unit is self-catering, so we had to make up the bed ourselves -- the sheets were cleaned, pressed and delivered directly to the apartment. The bedroom window looks out over the palazzo and the surrounding valley.
The bathroom was also spotlessly clean. We stayed in another La Bella Toscana property in San Gimignano (Apt. Viola, which I'll also review) and the bathrooms here -- indeed, Le Antiche Mura as a whole -- was in better condition. The bathroom is well-lit and equipped with a shower and towel warmer.
The kitchen is on the ground floor and is fully equipped, complete with an espresso maker, which we put to good use. The ground floor also has a dining table, stereo system (with an interesting collection of CD's contributed by a ragtag series of travellers), and two sitting chairs.
There were plenty of pots and pans to cook with, and were of acceptable quality. We made roast chicken one night, roast beef another, and lots of pasta on other nights, and the kitchen was never a problem. The range was gas-lit, and we were always very conscious of the detector -- they are extremely sensitive and apparently even strong perfume can set it off.
Problems or Bonuses
This was neither a problem nor a surprise, but some travelers may want to know that there is no TV in Le Antiche Mura. There is, however, a CD player/radio. It's hard to imagine staying indoors and watching TV when the real gorgeous views are found outside!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
La Bella Toscana was extremely organized and pleasant to work with. Because we did not have a rental car, we were met at the park outside the city walls by a representative. She spoke good English, was very engaging, and drove us to the apartment, where we checked in and paid a cautionary deposit of 55 euro. The representative was also a San Gimignano resident, so was able to recommend places to go and where to shop.
The agency's description of Le Antiche Mura on their Web site was very accurate.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I heartily recommend staying at Le Antiche Mura for anyone who wants to enjoy the freedom of a self-catering apartment in a convenient setting. The apartment is ideal for a couple. San Gimignano was a perfect location for us because we did not have a rental car, which limited our ability to stay at a more remote location in the country. Transportation to and from the town is also very easy; there are frequent buses to Poggibonsi that connect with trains leading to Siena, Florence and other destinations.
The agency was also careful to include an information packet with maps, a magazine, and shopping/dining recommendations that was very helpful.
We loved our stay in San Gimignano so much that we didn't want to leave. In fact, we contacted La Bella Toscana before our first week was over and made arrangements to stay a 2nd week. Unfortunately, Le Antiche Mura was booked, so we stayed in Apt. Viola, which I will also review. However, La Bella Toscana was extremely accommodating and able to help us on very short notice.
Things to do in this area
Our favorite restaurant was Chiribiri at the Piazza della Madonna (climb the stairs on the left just past the town's entrance gate). The service was friendly and quick, though it may be best to book ahead because it does fill up quickly. On our 2nd visit we were already being treated like old friends. While you're at Chiribiri, take a look at the blacksmith's shop across the way -- great door knockers and lanterns.
We also enjoyed walking through town, sampling the gelato at every cafe we could find, and looking at the silversmith shops around the city.
Don't miss the walking paths down into the Elsa Valley -- you can walk through vineyards. Walk down the Porta delle Fonti, which leads to a series of fascinating medieval wells. Walking down the Old Roman Road outside the city gates leads to great panoramic views of San Gimignano's towers.
If you need tourist or transportation information, there is a visitor's bureau in the city center.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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