Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 832: Owner, La Casa di Vignolo
3bed/2bath apartment in town, Pergine Val d'Arno near Arezzo, Tuscany East
October 2001, 1 week
Pergine Val d'Arno is a small village located almost at the center of the "Firenze-Siena-Arezzo" triangle. The village sits atop a beautiful hill, with views of the countryside all around, even though it's a very short drive back to the A1 (about 10 minutes to the town of Terranuova Bracchiolini, with a train station there as well).
The house is part of the town's pedestrian square, right across from the local police station, and more quiet than we expected, given the location. The evening strolls we were waiting for didn't materialize, but most families did sit outside in the evenings, visiting with each other and patiently waiting for me to find the right italian words! The children of the town are at ease with tourists as well, and my 2 kids (ages 6 and 7 at the time of our trip) made some friends with their GameBoys and English language story books.
One caution: The pictures on the website led us to believe that the rental unit was the entire structure, but that isn't the case - there are actually 3 homes in that building. The stone walls are 9 feet thick, however, so noise wasn't a problem there.
The house was quite roomy, with 3 levels - you enter into the living space, opening to the back area with a dining table and kitchen. The stairs are on the left, with a master suite with full bath up 3 steps and facing the square. The upper floor has 2 bedrooms and another full bath - all rooms have windows, with the back bedroom's window facing away from the square. There is a small laundry closet underneath the stairs, with washer/dryer/ironing board and iron/drying racks.
The living space with fireplace was cozy, and the dining table in the kitchen had all of the listed amenities. (One thing the kids commented on was the smaller size of the refrigerators in Italy, but it was more than ample for our needs.) The 13th century stone sink was a new experience for me as the cook, but it just added to my feeling of being in another part of the world.
A word about the square - it is pedestrian-only, so you are only allowed to pull your car to the front of the house while unpacking upon arrival or packing for departure. There is plenty of parking about 25 yards away, and the police station lot is available for the renters, located directly across the square.
We loved staying here, and Francesco and Marina were very gracious hosts. We had spoken to them right after September 11th happened (our trip was the first 2 weeks in October 2001) and had actually decided to cancel the entire trip. When we made the agonizing decision to proceed with the vacation, Francesco was very helpful and reassuring to us - we still keep in touch occasionally, and we definitely plan to stay with them again, possibly in their farmhouse, Podere il Doccio next time.
Being located right on the village square, it was less than a 100-yard walk to all of the stores and cafes. Pergine has one "nice" sit-down restaurant and one pizzeria, so one has to drive for a truly fine dining experience. The stores include: 2 bakeries, 1 butcher, 2 general stores, 1 fruit/vegetable store, and 2 cafes. All of the shopkeepers have a smattering of english, and I got by with some stock phrases, some pointing, and a polite "'giorno" and "grazie". Again, everyone seemed quite comfortable with us (Casa di Vignolo is the only tourist rental in the entire village, so you're on your own!)
The house is from the 13th century, in very good shape. The floors are 'cotto toscano', and the stone walls just exude a sense of time and history. The stairs are solid wood and stone, and the fireplace worked well for us. (The owner provided wood for free upon request.) Electricity, plumbing, and laundry all were fine. We had no need for heating during our stay, although that is an extra fee, I believe.
The front door opens right onto the square, with a small alcove to the side, with a table and 2 benches. We sat there in the evenings, chatting with the local children and neighbors. We didn't want to feel like we were hiding, so this location and sitting area fit our desires exactly.
The Grens also run a farmhouse, Podere il Doccio, located about 10 km from Pergine. The Podere has its own pool, and there is also a public pool in Terranuova Br.
All furniture was in very good shape, seats and chairs were comfortable and plentiful. The entire house was clean and ready for our arrival, along with a gift bottle of the local wine.
The beds were wonderful; firm mattresses (all linen provided), extra pillows and blankets, etc. There were either built-in closets or armoire and dresser in each bedroom as well.
The bathrooms were fine - 2 full baths with showers. The master bath was a bit larger than the upstairs bath, but both had ample room, and plumbing in good working order.
The dine-in kitchen was roomy, but could use a bit more counter space. Plenty of cookware and dishes/flatware, nothing I wouldn't use myself at home. Stove was electric, and worked fine. A smaller-sized refrigerator than what we're used to in the US, but plenty big enough when you shop every day! I could pretend I was an italian mama in this kitchen, cooking all the meals and then calling my family in from the square!
Problems or Bonuses
The nicest surprise was the attitude of the people living in the town. Since you're in the *only* tourist rental in the entire village, it's obvious who the strangers are, but everyone, without exception, was welcoming and most made attempts to talk with us - them in english, us in italian. The Grens called us on the third day of our stay, to check in and see if we had any questions or needed directions to anything. They also provided a small guide pamphlet of the area, with directions to the train station and general driving directions to the A1.
I have recommended the Grens' properties (both Casa di Vignolo and Podere il Doccio) to many others, and wholeheartedly recommend them to Slow Travelers as well.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt directly with the owner, Francesco Gren, who spoke with us over the phone while we were planning, and met us personally upon our arrival in Pergine. His English is excellent, and we recommend him highly.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
YES! We would most definitely stay with the Grens again, and recommend La Casa di Vignolo highly.
Given the world situation just prior to our trip, we had the opportunity to speak with Francesco probably a bit more than other renters do. He was unfailingly polite and understanding of our fears about travelling with our children 2 weeks after 9/11. When we decided to make the trip, a large part of that decision was based on the advice we received from Slow Travelers and from Francesco.
Things to do in this area
Pergine was our base for exploring the Tuscan "golden triangle" of Firenze - Siena - Arezzo. We had a car for driving to the smaller towns, and took the train into Firenze twice, leaving the car at the station parking lot without problems.
Pergine is a small village, so we usually spent our mornings there, doing some food shopping, having espresso, and reviewing the plan for the day. It was an excellent, centrally-located haven for us on our first trip to Italy!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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