Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 788: Tuscany Net, Toscana Case Vacanza
2 bed/1bath apartment in Colle di Val d'Elsa, Tuscany West
December 2003, 1 week
The apartment is in the historic centre of the medieval town of Colle Di Val d'Elsa. Colle Di Val d'Elsa consists of an old town - Colle Alta which is where the apartment is, and a new town - a few minutes by car just below the old town. Colle Alta is a long narrow town placed along a ridge with a big drop on either side - hence great views of the little valley below. It's famous for it's crystal too. The old town is extremely quiet and very pretty. There is a tourist office and one souvineer shop but we barely saw any tourists the entire week we were there (although we did go in the off season).
Our apartment was on the second floor and we could see the town of San Gimignano from both our bedroom and kitchen window. Colle is extremely well located - close to Siena (we went there for dinner a few times)and less than an hour from Florence. Also very close to San Gimignano and the equally beautiful town Volterra. The other great thing about Colle is that it is just off a major road (the S2) so most of Tuscany is extremely accessable.
As we visited Tuscany in winter we chose to stay in an apartment rather a villa since we didn't want to be driving around country roads in the dark. It was a great choice for us. Colle has a number of good inexpensive restaurants plus one michelin rated restaurant which we never tried. There are quite a few small shops dotted through the old town so we were able to buy basic foods eg wine, salami,pastries, bread etc (not as good as in the new town but convenient to our apartment) we were able to fulfill my dream of walking out each morning for pastries/bread etc for breakfast.
The new part of Colle has heaps of restaurants and shops although we barely went there. There are good transport links from the new town as well apparently.
Our apartment was in an historic building recently renovated and looks exactly like the picture on its web site. Colle is built on a ridge along one main street (although I'd hardly call it a main street since it was an extremely quiet cobblestoned road with the odd car coming through) with a couple of smaller streets or tiny lanes actually running parrelel to it. The owner, Carla, told us that she and her son own the other three apartments on the website. One of these is in the same building as ours and the other two nearby in equally beautiful streets.
The apartment we stayed in was on the top floor so we needed to walk up a couple of flights of steps. However, the views from the windows were lovely and we could see San Gimignano from both our kitchen and bedroom windows.
Very clean and well furnished. There is a TV with ok reception. Heating was also included which is another reason why we chose this apartment.
Beds were extremely comforable. Our apartment featured one double bedroom, one tiny single bedroom and a fold down double sofa in the loungeroom. We are a family of four including two teenagers (a 19 y/o boy and 15 y/o girl) and this was exactly what we were looking for since each child could have their own space.
The bathroom was spacious (with the exception of the tiny shower) and included a washing machine which we eventually worked out how to use. As with the kitchen it was well stocked with soap detergent.
The kitchen was quite small but included all the basics (and coffee) and adjoined the living room. The kitchen had no oven, only a stovetop. We really didn't have to buy anything but food the entire time we were there. It included a small table and chairs. There was no oven or microwave but that wasn't a problem for us. For someone who wanted to do substantial baking this would't be sufficient. Since we were out most of the time and just ate breakfast in the apartment this suited us fine.
Problems or Bonuses
The town of Colle is absolutely beautiful and very underrated. It's in a fantastic location between Sienna and Florence just off the S2 motorway and very accessible to the most attractive towns in Tuscany. Maybe I'm biassed but after staying in our town I couldn't see why San Gimignano is so famous (so what if it's got towers!) Every morning when we left our apartment I felt like we were going back in time.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We booked our apartment over the internet and any questions were answered directly by the owner, Carla, though emails. She asked us to call her on her mobile when we were about an hour away and arranged to meet us in the main Piazza in the new town of Colle. I have to say we fet a bit anxious when she was around 45 minutes late but eventually she arrived and we managed to communicate although her English was a bit basic and our Italian non existant.
We then followed her in our car to Colle Alta tourist office where the finer details were explained to us by the lady in the tourist office. Carla arranged for us to have pass to drive closer to the apartment for luggage unloading, took us up the apartment etc and gave us her mobile no to call in an emergency but other than that we were on our own. The apartment was exactly as it was represented in the ad, in fact better than I had thought. The town was beautiful and exactly what I had wanted.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes I would. If you want an apartment in a quiet, medieval town that is extremely well located to use as a base for touring but with enough shops and restaurants to provide the basics then this is the place for you. May not suit if you want to laze around by the pool have barbeques etc since there's no outside area. Similarly if you want a lively town you may need to look elsewhere.
The car park is just outside the town and there is a small but uphill walk to get to the apartment plus you need to walk up a couple of flight of stairs to get there so someone with mobility problems (or maybe small children) might find it difficult.
On the plus side is the fantastic view of San Gimignano and the valley below from the windows and it's all downhill on the way out! As I mentioned prevously you can drive in when loading and unloading although we didn't bother with this when leaving.
Things to do in this area
Colle Di Val D'elsa is just west of the Chianti region and is close to a S2 motorway which connects with all the best places in the region in a short time - Florence, Siena (20 mins), San Gimignano (15 mins), Monteriggione, Volterra (less than 30 mins). The hill towns of Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano are about an hour away. Can't remember the names of the restaurants but we tried a couple in Colle Alta on various occasions and thoroughly enjoyed them.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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