Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 734: InTuscany, Villa nell'Oliveto
5bed/4bath villa in Castelmuzio, near Pienza, Tuscany South
16 - 30 August, 2003, Two weeks
Villa nell'Oliveto is located in the charming village of Castelmuzio. It is on the enclosed 2 acre property of Rebecca and Mark Abouzeid, who own and run the InTuscany agency. Although the property is in the village, it is very private, and separated from the Abouzeids' home and offices by the olive grove. The location in Castelmuzio, which can be described as "quaint" and "sleepy", was a plus, since it was exceedingly easy to walk to the local restaurant, wine bar, and grocery store.
The small Coop in Castelmuzio, a 5 minute walk, if that, from the villa, carried most of the basics, and we shopped there most frequently for incidentals. The Coop in Pienza, about 10 minutes drive from Castelmuzio, has a somewhat larger selection. The most extensive supermarket is the Coop in Sinalunga, about 15-20 minutes drive from Castelmuzio, and this was where we made our major shopping trips for our party of nine: five adults and four kids ranging in age from 10 to almost 16 years old.
Villa nell'Oliveto was the former barn/outbuilding on the property, and has been beautifully renovated to a residence by the Abouzeids. It is in excellent shape, and it is evident that a lot of thought and care went into its restoration. It is understated, yet has a luxurious feel.
There is a large table situated under the pergola attached to the villa. This shaded sitting area is adjacent to the dining room and kitchen. We ate the majority of our meals here.
The pool, shared with the Abouzeids in a fenced and gated area of the property, is marvelous. One has the impression of swimming out into the Tuscan landscape due to its "infinity" design. Because of its dark paint (versus the typical turquoise frequently used in pools) and its method of water conditioning (ozonolysis with only occasional supplementation with chlorine), the "feel" of the pool was more like a natural body of water. It's long enough, too, to swim laps which helped us burn off some of the excess calories derived from the delicious Tuscan cuisine. There were a number of lounge chairs around the poolside.
The furniture was in fine condition, and very comfortable. The living room sofas, in particular, were inviting. There were plenty of chairs both upstairs and downstairs. There is a "wet" pantry (plumbed with a small sink, contains glasses, coffee cups, small drip percolator, plates) and a mini-frige on the living room level which were very convenient. There is a small balcony with a tiled floor just off the living room. The grownups in our party would often take their after dinner grappas there while the kids watched television via the satellite network. The kids eventually wandered out to look at the stars with the adults.
The house was quite clean, and kept so by services on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The beds were very comfortable, and I invariably slept well. The pillows were great, and it was nice to have two per guest. The ceiling fans in every bedroom (there is also one in the living room) kept us cool during the August nights.
The bathrooms were nicely designed (tasteful tile flooring and marble counters) with good quality fixtures. The "rain shower" shower heads in the bathrooms provided luxurious bathing!
The linens were soft, and the towels were nice and thick. There was a separate set of towels provided for poolside use.
The kitchen, although not large, easily accomodated two active cooks. There were plenty of utensils, all of good, solid quality, which allowed for versatility in cooking. Although we ate out on several occasions, we prepared the vast majority of our meals in the villa's kitchen which actually was the former "summer kitchen" when the building was used as a barn in the past. There were several large serving bowls and platters which were quite useful for the large meals we prepared. The window above the sink provided a convenient "pass through" to the outdoor table.
The trash and recycling bins are on the side of the villa near the laundry room. There's also an option to recycle using the compost heap on the property, and we took advantage of this.
Problems or Bonuses
The welcome basket, provided by Rebecca and crew, was definitely an added bonus! Another useful item, which is not mentioned in the web site description of Villa nell'Oliveto, is the "handbook" which Rebecca and Mark have assembled. This is chock full of information pertaining not only to the villa and the property itself (plus its residents), but also to the village and the neighboring towns and cities. The Villa nell'Oliveto handbook was a great resource!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The Abouzeids, who are Australo-American ex-pats, are excellent hosts: helpful, friendly, interesting, yet unobstrusive. The account and marketing manager of InTuscany, Manola Croci, a native Tuscan who speaks English fluently, is likewise kind and helpful. The InTuscany team sets high standards. In addition to booking the villa through InTuscany, we also requested a set of rooms in Florence for one evening when we arrived. When the InTuscany team received some negative feedback on that particular residenza, Manola and Rebecca quickly rebooked us into Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni Uno which proved to be an excellent hotel, and well suited for our group. My impression is that Rebecca and her team provide keen oversight of the properties handled by InTuscany, and because of this, I would certainly use (and highly recommend) InTuscany again for future rentals in the area.
Please check out InTuscany's website to view the photos of Villa nell'Oliveto (it's even more impressive in person!) and to "meet" the InTuscany team.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I highly recommend this property, and would stay here again, or, if traveling with a smaller group and thus requiring a smaller accomodation, I would book through InTuscany. The quality, location, and the hosts/agency of Villa nell'Oliveto all served to make our vacation in Tuscany a memorable one.
Things to do in this area
Please see my Trip Report on the Slow Travelers web site, "Chillin' in the Land of Cheese and Chalk: Southern Tuscany, August 2003", for details of our experiences and other comments on Villa nell'Oliveto.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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