Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 852: Owner, Bella Casa
3bed/2bath house in San Quirico, near Pienza, Tuscany South
Sept 2002 and March 2004, 2 weeks each time
We have traveled extensively in Italy and, after staying at Bella Casa in the medieval town of San Quirico, we are convinced that Bella Casa offered us one of the best travel experiences and accommodation of anywhere we have stayed in the Italian countryside. Not to mention that we believe that the Val D’Orcia (where San Quirico is located) is absolutely the most beautiful countryside in all of Italy!!
We have stayed at Bella Casa two times: in September 2002 and March 2004, each time for 2 weeks – the return trip proving how enjoyable our first stay there was.
The town of San Quirico itself is just what every traveler wants who seeks a "real" experience. It is a walled medieval community that still carries on day-to-day living, avoiding that too-common situation where a popular tourist destination allows itself to be transformed into some sort of theme park for busloads of travelers!
However, this is not to say that San Quirico is lacking in appeal – absolutely to the contrary! Bella Casa is adjacent to a courtyard which opens directly out onto the main/pedestrian street of town, where everybody partakes of the uniquely-Italian evening stroll (there’s even an Italian word for it!). Within easy walking distance is an artisan cheese store, wine shops, the Bar Centrale (where the local people gather for lattes, beverages, and conversation!), several trattorias, a more formal lovely restaurant housed in an historic building, a gelateria, a soap shop, flower/garden shop, food shop with local Tuscan specialties, a wonderful store with all kinds of items for the home – even a barber shop and laundry steps away! The town has a large, beautifully landscaped public garden and 3 churches.
We were really able to slow down, soak in the local culture, and enjoy pretending that we really lived in Tuscany!! Easily accessible, abundant public parking just outside the town walls is close by (not an insignificant benefit if you’re contemplating staying "in town" anywhere!)
Bella Casa itself is remarkable. It is the perfect mix of modern amenities with the traditional Tuscan décor. Bella Casa is on 2 levels: the lower level bedroom/bath is separately accessed from the garden (more to come on that!) while the upper level (accessed from the courtyard off the main pedestrian street) has 2 additional bedrooms and another bath – with double sink and tub/shower – (American style) as well as the common areas. This is a perfect arrangement, as it allows a second couple or family member (my father was travelling with us) a private area to stay and come and go. Upstairs is the spacious living room – tastefully decorated with a number of antique pieces and retaining the original tile floors and exposed ceiling beams. The eat-in kitchen – with working fireplace! – readily accommodates 6 people. The kitchen was very well-equipped – right down to the Italian dinnerware!!
But aside from the nuts-and-bolts features of Bella Casa (including washer and dryer, dishwasher, large refrigerator, standard size stove and oven) – the care which the owners have obviously lavished on furnishing and equipping it is evident everywhere. It offers the kind of ambience that makes you want to stay well beyond your booking. It is easy to fantasize that you are now one of the locals, living in the perfect Tuscan apartment in the perfect Italian town! Once you stay here, you will never want to be in a hotel again!
The owners are American and have an on-site English-speaking person who meets you upon arrival and can advise you about the area. Plus, they have an extensive library of travel books and dining recommendations that really facilitate planning your travel and dining.
Between our first and second visits, the owners acquired additional property and greatly expanded the already-lovely garden. They have created an outdoor paradise with a profusion of shrubs, flowers and herbs (even olive trees!) in beds between gravel pathways that radiate like spokes on a wheel from a shaded pergola, complete with dining table and chairs! – the absolute perfect spot for lunch, dinner, reading a book – you name it! There are both shaded and sunny parts of the garden, so you can enjoy being outside under varying weather conditions.
Aside from the plusses of San Quirico and Bella Casa, this is the perfect location from which to base your travels in this area. Nearby are the well-known towns of Pienza, Siena, Montalcino, Montepulciano, plus (and this is a BIG plus) dozens of quaint, small towns and sights that are perfect for day-trip visits. Having been there in both September (when the rolling hillsides are camel-colored from the newly-plowed fields) and March (when the countryside is almost an iridescent emerald green from the winter wheat which is growing), we can attest to the incredible beauty of this area. We took a scary number of photos on both trips!
As I mentioned, we are well-seasoned travelers and know what we want in accommodations: travel destinations not overwhelmed by other American tourists, comfortable surroundings with charm and local ambience, proximity to good dining choices, and fair prices. Honestly, Bella Casa readily meets all our requirements – and then some! The only problem is figuring out when we want to go back and reserving before it is booked!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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