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Review 999: Internet Villas, San Martino in Vignale


Review by cobblehill from NY

apartments on an estate near Lucca, Tuscany North

View from Villa San Martino Vignale, photo by Rob Aiello


June, 2004, One week


What can you say about a place where even the kitchen sink is charming?

"Wonderful" doesn't begin to do justice to San Martino Vignale, in the hills west of Lucca.

Giovanna Tronci has taken a building on her estate and created a near-perfect villa to enjoy all that Lucca and the surrounding area have to offer.

The villa is divided into two apartments. My family, eleven people in all, rented both for a week in June, 2004.

My wife and I stayed with our twins in the two-bedroom, one-bath ground floor apartment. My brother, his girlfriend, my sister, her husband, their girls, and my mom shared the four-bedroom, three-bath first-floor unit.

We loved the high ceiling in our unit, which featured a combination kitchen/dining room/living room. Along one wall there is an ancient wood-fired grill on which we cooked several nights. Oh, the aforementioned kitchen sink: it's an ancient slab of stone, four feet wide and four inches deep!

Everything in the villa was perfectly comfortable and in working order. Bed linens and towels were luxury-hotel quality. The kitchen was stocked with enough pots, pans, plates and utensils to prepare and serve a meal for twenty people.

The upstairs unit is three-times larger than the one below. It is beautifully decorated with original artwork and creative light fixtures. The large kitchen also features an indoor grill and was stocked with even more pots, pans, etc than we had downstairs. We expanded the dining room table and could have seated twenty people. The upper unit is designed with many nooks and crannies, which meant the seven people who shared it never had trouble finding a private spot when needed. Everyone expressed complete satisfaction with the bedrooms and bathrooms.

On both floors large windows offer outstanding views across the Serchio River valley towards Lucca in the distance. At night the city glows like a distant gathering of fireflies, and the quiet surrounding the villa is profound.

Giovanna and her husband Giuseppe have gone to great lengths to design a villa that's comfortable inside and out. There is an outdoor grill and pizza oven on one patio. A second patio serves as a sundeck and is adjacent to a large lawn where the children kicked around a soccer ball. You are steps away from a pool complete with cabana and outdoor shower. The owners raise donkeys and cows; they grow olives and grapes. It's all right there for you to explore and enjoy.

Giovanna and Giuseppe were wonderful hosts who speak excellent English. I e-mailed them a list of groceries; everything was waiting for us when we arrived. Giuseppe even ran out at the last minute to buy us diapers before the Conad closed! They prepared a wonderful meal of roast pork, farro salad, bruschetta and an apple tart to welcome us to the property. They also stocked each unit with complimentary bottles of their wine and olive oil.

Our son Anthony developed an ear infection during our visit. Giovanna arranged for a doctor friend to make a house call. Talk about putting our worries to rest!

The drive from the villa to the parking lot near the San Donato gate in Lucca took approximately 15 minutes. The well-stocked Conad grocery store is only five minutes away, right by a cafe, butcher store, laundry/dry cleaner, and a wonderful bakery.

Just past the villa you'll find the world famous restaurant Il Vipore. A few miles farther is Villa Forci, a private estate so large you'll find it on the Michelin touring map of Italy. We visited one day to purchase wine, olive oil, and grappa.

The villa provided a wonderful base for our Italian family reunion. We cooked big meals, chased the kids around the lawn, swam and sunbathed, petted the cows and donkeys, and sat around drinking wine and drinking in the breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside.

Giovanna promised us that if we return, she'll give us a tour of her villa -- 39 rooms! -- and serve us a six-course dinner. We hope to take her up on that offer in the summer of 2006.

Note from SlowTrav: As of January 2007, Internet Villas no longer represents properties. They are transferring listings; you may view properties at Villa Escapes. Also, booked through Italian Villas, but the owner has their own site: www.fabbricadisanmartino.it

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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