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Can you help me find a small, not so expensive, independent house in Tuscany?
David Ronis (with comments from Pauline Kenny - in italic)
All the agencies will tell you that it is difficult to find small, independent
houses to rent in Tuscany. David has proved them wrong. In the spring of 2001,
he set out to find a nice, independent and not expensive house to rent for
his group of three. He did a lot of work searching out these listings, and
has put together his notes for the rest of us. Why is it so hard to find small
houses? Gaynor Powell from La Bella Toscana explains it this way:
"As you have already found out small houses in the Tuscan countryside
are hard to come by. This is because the traditional Tuscan farmhouse was
always very big in order to cater to the large extended family; it was common
to have families of 20 persons living together and working the land around
the house. The family lived on the top (first floor) of the house and the
animals were kept on the ground floor. You will find that all the old farmhouses
have an external staircase leading to the first floor."
Gaynor Powell from La Bella Toscana
Gaynor goes on to explain that most small houses in Tuscany are converted
from the original barns or other outbuildings.
I recently did a lot of research looking for suitable rentals for my party
of 3 people. We plan to spend two weeks in Tuscany in the summer of 2001 -
one week in the Chianti area and one near Lucca.
Our requirements: We wanted a 2-bedroom place that was a freestanding building
in an isolated location. We didn't want to have other vacationers and/or owners
in close proximity, but didn't care whether or not we had a pool. We wanted
a place that had nice views of the countryside and was under $2000 per week.
So in view of that, I've listed the results of my research here with appropriate
Note: We weren't looking at apartments at all. So if you're considering
an apartment, this research won't do you much good. Hopefully it will help
if you want a place that's isolated.
Italian Vacation Villas
Martin Wenick, who runs Italian Vacation Villas, represents Tuscan Enterprises
properties in the US (to view listings go to the Tuscan Enterprises web site).
Pauline's note: Rental prices are the same if you book through Martin
or through the Italian agency, so you are best to book with Martin who has
seen most of the places and can give you some good advice.
Il Fiocco - near Lecchi and Gaiole in Chianti - sleeps 4 - listing
is contradictory in that overall listing it says that the property has one
bathroom and in the detailed description there are 2. We've booked it for
this summer so I'll let you know, but I think it probably has 2 baths. One
bedroom is up a steep flight of stairs and there is no doorway at the top.
Very reasonably priced.
Il Casale - near Vagliagli and Siena - 2 BR, 2 bath - a new listing
for Tuscan Enterprises. Sounds very nice although Martin had yet to visit
this property and give his opinion. The photo does not make it look very
attractive but I have a feeling that it may well be very good. Architect/owner's
renovation sounds very nice with interesting spaces created out of old barn.
Casa Grande - near Siena - 3 BR, 1 bath, sleeps 5 - quite inexpensive
and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the furnishings are rustic? I don't know but
it might be worthwhile looking into.
Casa Serena - near Radda - 2 BR, 1 bath - also inexpensive but
also sounds nice. I'm wondering if there are other properties close by.
Rosmarino - near Castellina - 2 BR, 1 bath - a very popular rental.
Martin told me that this is a beautiful, comfortable house in a lovely location.
I would have booked it if it were available my dates. Alas it wasn't. Good
photos on the web page.
Polda - near Siena - 2 BR, 1 bath - sounds nice but I didn't inquire
La Bella Toscana
Il Terrazzo - near Ulignano, San Gimignano (not exactly in the
middle of Chianti Classico, but I did consider it) - 2 BR, 1bath - the owners
of this cottage live next door but it is very well priced and sounds nice.
Pauline's note: I contacted Gaynor Powell who runs La Bella Toscana
in Italy and asked her for a list of her places that she considered "special".
She included this house in her list. This is what she says about it: "This
is a small house in the countryside. Il Terrazzo was recently made into a
house from a small barn next to the main farmhouse where the owner lives.
... just about any small house that you find in the countryside here
has evolved in the same way."
This is a very central location. You are just on the edge of the Chianti region
and close to the superstrada linking Siena and Florence.
La Terrazza - near Cavriglia - 2BR, 1 bath - very little info
given so I have some questions: Is it isolated? Is it only part of a house?
The photo looks like a larger house than is described - very inexpensive
- price quoted is in Euros. Sounds too cheap to be fabulous, but who knows?
Tribolina - near Cavriglia - 2BR, 2bath - again not much info
given and it's pretty inexpensive - I'd need more info before renting it.
Photos look nice.
La Capanna - near San Casciano Val di Pesa - 2BR (one with bunk
beds), 1bath - within private estate, owners live 70m away so no complete
isolation here. Not cheap but looks nice. Pool.
Montalbuccio - near Siena - sleeps 4, 1bath - it sounds as if
the master sleeping area is not an enclosed room but rather a balcony. Other
bedroom has a door. Basic furnishings. Not expensive.
Il Poggiolo - near Florence - 2BR, bath is described as "garden
bathroom" - does that mean it's outside? Looks lovely from the photos. Pool,
so that makes it more expensive.
Casa Pennano - near Radicondoli (not in Chianti - way out in the
country - probably a good hour or more? west of Siena) - 2BR, 1 bath -
looks beautifully and comfortable. Pool. I wouldn't rent this one unless
you were certain that you'd like to be in this remote an area.
Pauline's notes: Radicondoli is an interesting area, but as David says,
is a little remote. The small towns are very spread out here and the roads
are narrow and winding. It is about 20 minutes of winding road from Sovicille,
which is not a remote area.
The Parker Company
Tuopina - 4 small houses offered in tiny hamlet near Castellina
- Case Fragrante, Elena, Didi, Delizia - all look very nice with varying
sleeping capacities and prices. These didn't suit us, but might be a nice
for people who might consider living in a small hamlet. They all share a
pool but don't have a lot of private outdoor space.
Casa Tucci - near Regello (not in Chianti rather on the eastern
side of the Val d'Arno SE of Florence, near the Pratomagno - this is an
area that is not as heavily touristed and quite beautiful) 2BR, 1 bath -
not cheap but looks quite nice. However, description talks about "small
Note: The Parker Company offers various comments along the right side of
each property web page. Particularly telling are the comments listed under
"minuses". (They also list "pluses".) This is a good feature. I wish other
websites would incorporate it.
And the winner is: Il Fiocco - near Lecchi and Gaiole in Chianti
- from Martin at Italian Vacation Villas!
Finding small isolated farmhouses or cottages in this area proved difficult.
However, if one is willing to rent an apartment or a property that is part
of an estate, there is a lot available for reasonable prices. Most of the
independent, isolated houses are larger and thus, more expensive. Domani-USA
had a few places north of Lucca in the mountains that were attractive and
a bit less expensive but the locations seemed more remote than some of the
more expensive ones. If you were interested, I bet that Kathy at Domani would
be very helpful in further describing the options that they offer.
La Bicchieraia - in the Lunigiana, I'm guessing 1 1/2 hours or so
north of Lucca in the mountains - 4BR, 3 baths. Very nice, larger property
- within our price range. Furnishings are basic. Photos of wisteria loggia
et al look nice.
Casa Dante - not isolated - in a tiny town 3BR, 2 baths. Also
not cheap - furnishings look nicer than La Bicchieraia. But also way up
in the Lunigiana, not particularly close to Lucca - closer to La Spezia,
Casa nella Selva - sleeps 8 - near Lucca - 4 BR, 2 baths. This
looked like just what we wanted, even if it was a bit large (maybe we'd
invite some more friends?). Isolated, beautiful views, not too far from
Lucca. It was a bit expensive but looked great - unfortunately it wasn't
available for our dates.
Gatto Rosso - near Lucca - 2BR, 1 bath. Part of an estate, so
not totally isolated. Looks good. Not too expensive.
Other small cottages offered by Domani near Lucca look good if isolation
is not your top priority.
Al Tinaro - Near Lucca - 3 BR, 2 baths - This looked like just
the place we needed, only it was already booked. Panoramic views, very nice
furnishings, peace and quiet, not expensive at all.
Gridlink Italian Villa Rentals
If you're interested in staying in the Lucca area and have more of a budget
and/or have a larger party, there are many good offerings. I'd suggest you
look at Gridlink. They have a number of nice looking (albeit larger and more
than we wanted to spend) properties to offer - Case Elena, Nicoletta, a Corte,
Rosa and Fatima are all a little less expensive.
Oh - what did we end up renting for the Lucca week? We decided to rent
an isolated house called Ciricea through Martin at Italian Vacation
Villas (we booked the Chianti house with him). It is 9 km north of Pistoia.
It can be seen at www.tuscanenterprise.it. It's quite inexpensive and not close to Lucca,
but we decided we'd rather save the money and spend more time driving to Lucca
and Pisa as well as exploring the areas near Pistoia.
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