Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 837: Owner, Villa Lysis
house, sleeps 5, in Lastra a Signa near Florence, Tuscany Chianti
March 2004, 4 days/ 3 nights
This Villa was the watchtower for a monastery from the 1200's which the owner bought while it was in ruins and tastefully renovated, keeping intact things like the old bars which secure the doors, but providing a brand new kitchen and bath. It is at the top of a long, winding road in a village called Lastra a Signa amidst a beautiful olive grove. There is a restaurant around the corner and a small grocer within walking distance. It was very private, though it was attached to other homes.
The inside was decorated with taste and I thoroughly enjoyed cooking in the kitchen and providing good Italian meals to my family in the dining room, overlooking the terrace. In the evening, it was possible to see the lights from Florence and after a long day visiting the sights in Florence, it was nice to come "home" to a fully equipped house and the welcoming people of Lastra a Signa (at the grocer, cafe, etc.)
It was a very easy walk down the mountain to the bus (Lazzi) which took us to Florence everyday. It was also very easy to walk next door to the restaurant, if one wanted to. (We ate at home each evening.) In the morning, we took our coffee at the cafe down the mountain in town. The only "downside" of the location, which was more a challenge than a negative, is that it is an arduous walk up the mountain at the end of the day. It was possible to take a taxi, but we chose to rise to the challenge and walk up each evening. For people who cannot walk uphill, they would need to take a taxi.
From Lastra a Signa, it was very easy to get in and out of Florence each day. On the day we arrived, the owner, Andrea, met us at the bus in the center of town and drove us up the mountain to the Villa. He also got up very early and took us to catch the first Lazzi (bus) on the day we had to part, so that we could make all of our connections.
The building was historical in that it was part of a watchtower for a monastery. It was renovated perfectly. There are stone floors, original beams in the high ceilings, fireplaces, and a pleasant terrace. The villa shared walls with other homes, as in all small villages, but one never felt intruded upon by the others as the walls are so thick and you never know you share walls.
There was an outdoor terrace with a table and seating to take in meals on warmer days. It was a little chilly for us to do that. In warmer months, I understand that there is also a hot tub. The garden, as with the house, is very private and tastefully done.
The beds were very comfortable. The bed I slept in with my husband had curtains around it and I felt like royalty. There were two twin beds for my little children and a downstairs bedroom for a teenager who accompanied up. The couch was comfortable to read on at night. There were enough seating for all. And the house was very clean.
There were two bathrooms. One with a shower and one with a large bathtub. They both worked well enough for any American who loves their hot showers and baths. One bathroom was so large, it could have housed a queen size bed. The bedroom my children slept in had a beautiful floral design painted on the ceiling. And the bedroom which our teen friend slept in was separate and private from the others, on the first floor. It was called the "studio" and felt like an artist may have painted in there at one time.
The kitchen was well equipped. It had four or five gas burners on the stove. There were sufficient pots and pans, dishes, silverware, glasses, etc. I cooked full meals every evening, with groceries bought fresh each day. For instance, one meal I cooked was pasta with fresh pesto and seafood, along with a salad and fruits and strawberries for dessert.
Problems or Bonuses
We arrived on Sunday evening and the closest grocer was closed. My children were very hungry. The owner, Andrea, drove me to another grocer so that I could buy enough food to make a full meal that night for all of us. I had not planned for the grocer to be closed and his kindness made that day, along with others, an enjoyable experience.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Andrea spoke English and French very well. We emailed in English and Italian. He helped with things like making phone calls from the villa. (There is a phone from which you can call locally for free or use a credit card to call home). Andrea does not take credit cards, but I was able to Fed Ex a bank check to him with little advance notice and it arrived on time. When I arrived, I paid the remaining balance in Euros.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I can't wait for the opportunity to go and stay at Andrea's villa again. I am trying to get my family and friends to go and stay there because I am confident Andrea will take good care of them. My recommendation is unqualified. We were there for a diabetes conference in Montecatini and visited with a diabetologist in Cremona. By far, the best part of our 11 days was the four spent at Villa Lysis. I only wish I could have stayed longer.
Things to do in this area
Lasta a Signa has a lot to commend itself as a quiet destination in itself -- to walk around the streets and through the olive groves, to see the vineyards, to drink coffee in town, and see the life of real people in Tuscany. But, for those of us who also like the city life, it was very easy to get in and out of Florence daily by bus.
I am not a shopper or restaurant person, so I cannot comment on those matters, but the restaurant near the villa was always full of local people so I imagine the food was good. There were also shops in town which looked interesting. It did take me a few banks to find one from which I could withdraw cash at 10:00 p.m. (to pay Andrea before leaving) with my bank card, but that was the only negative experience I had in town. Generally, the people were very welcoming and helpful.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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