Perched high on a Tuscan hilltop in a quaint Italian hamlet of friendly locals sits this cute Village house, circa 1218 completely restored, well appointed and ready for your true authentic Italian experience. Across from the front entry is the private gated garden with stone path, BBQ, terrace for al fresco dining, a bistro set for those morning cappuccinos or evening wine, cheese, and antipasto refreshments. The view is magnificent of the surrounding hillsides of terraced olive groves and vineyards rolling down to the distant city lights of Lucca in the far-reaching valley below.
The solid rock home, boasting nearly 800 years of history has the original beamed ceilings, stone fireplace, and cotto flooring and is laid out on three levels. The ground floor has the kitchen, dining/sitting room, pantry, utility, and bathroom. The fully equipped kitchen is done in Italian Moderno with granite countertops, built-in fridge, dishwasher and microwave, and an 'eat around' island. Flat screen satellite TV and DVD are easily viewed anywhere in the room. An iPod dock is available so bring it along. The bath is done in Italian modern with raised vessel sink, large walk in shower and surrounded in Italian marble. A washer/dryer is provided in the utility room for small capacity incidentals. The second level has one double bedroom and a daybed/sitting area for additional sleeping for one. The top floor is reserved for only the large master bedroom with king sized bed.
The road up the hill to the hamlet, Monsagrati Alto, is off the main road from North Lucca, connecting Lucca to the coast at Camaiore, where you'll find the chic resort/beach town Viareggio, one of the Italian Rivieras most popular vacation spots. With Monsagrati (our town) located about half way between Lucca and the coast, you are 15 to 20 minutes from either destination. Not far to the north is the famous Cinque Terre, Tuscany's version of the Almafi coast, worth a day's adventure. From Lucca, the train, or the Autostrad (expressway), will get you to Florence in about 45 minutes. Florence is a destination not to be missed as one could spend weeks and not see all the important art, museums, and cathedrals in this capital city of Tuscany. All important destinations can be reached via Eurostar (fast train) from Florence easily and quickly. Pisa, and its' airport, is only 45 minutes. Flying into Pisa or Florence is easy as both airports are small and convenient and offer rental cars.
Our Italian (who speaks English) Property Manager in Lucca, will be your contact to help with getting you settled into the house and making sure your stay is as comfortable as possible and be a contact for you should anything come up unexpectedly.
Many restaurants are available both in Monsagrati and neighboring towns along the main road toward Lucca. Of course, once inside the famous walled city there are as many restaurants, shopping, and entertainment venues as you could want. Many 'Big Name' concerts are held in June and all through July. The tops of the walls are a huge circular park that can be walked, jogged or cycled with rental bikes, affording a bird's eye view down into the walled city. It's always a treat to come back up to your quiet peaceful and authentic hilltop village home for the true Italian experience!
We have a few simple (but firm) rules:
* No Smoking * No Pets * Deposit Required. Use of any consumables belonging to the Owner must be replaced/replenished.
Our stay in this property was like a little piece of heaven. My husband, our 16 year old son, and myself, stayed for 7 nights and loved every minute of it. From the moment we arrived, we could just feel the calmness and serenity of this lovely retreat. I have never slept so well! The property is, as described, in a small hilltop community above Monsigrati (hence called Alto Monsigrati). You definitely need a car to get to it as it is up a windy narrow road! The pictures of the property are very accurate, but do not really do it justice. The view is spectacular!
The property was very clean and everything was in excellent working order. The kitchen is a bit tight, but manageable, and very well equipped. The furnishings are very tasteful and the beds comfortable. Being there in July, we especially loved dining al fresco in the lovely little garden out front of the house, especially having our morning coffees there and our evening meals, listening to the birds and cicadas in the olive orchards below. A special and magical treat for us was seeing fireflies in the orchards at night - we had never seen them before as there are none where we live.
It is a perfect location to use as a base to explore all the wonderful cities and towns in the area - all easy day trips. We visited San Gimignano, Cinque Terre, Volterra, Pisa, Varriaggio and Colodi.
The neighbours are friendly and welcoming, and as I speak Italian, it was lovely to converse with them. The neighbours next door, Mereno and Franca, own the Hosteria down the road on the way to the property - Hosteria Barbagianni. We had one of our best meals in Italy there and we wished we had eaten there more often. The pizza and pasta were fabulous. My son had the pasta with wild boar! And be sure to try the antipasto platter. It is all local Tuscan food and we thoroughly enjoyed our Saturday night dinner amongst all the locals.
Also, further down the road is an olive wood artist. Follow the signs that say Olive Art. Stefano, handcrafts beautiful olive wood items (cutting boards, key holders, bowls, etc.) in his little workshop on his property and sells them in a shop above his workroom. See examples of his work in the rental property. We bought some lovely souvenirs and gifts to take home.
The property manager, Mary, speaks perfect English and was always very helpful and available for any assistance. We would most definitely recommend this property and would love to return there soon.
While we have traveled in Europe a number of times, this was our first trip to Italy. Unlike our usual practice, we elected to drive as the location of the villa made it a great base for day trips throughout Tuscany. We loved both the villa and the location. The villa is rooted in history, yet it comes equipped with modern amenities. I can't speak to square footage, but we were totally comfortable and despite one of the earlier reviews, we saw no issue with the stairs.
Sitting some 1,000 feet above Monsagrati (Alto), views from the terrace are amazing in the day time and at night the lights of Lucca flicker in the distance. The hamlet is small, very friendly and offers a taste of everyday life outside the big cities, yet day trips to beautiful cities like Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Viareggio, Siena, et al are quite easy whether you use the Autostrada or rail. There are restaurants nearby as well as a nicely stocked grocery store at the bottom of the hill in Monsagrati.
We felt fortunate to there as olives were being harvested...next to our car...and it was fascinating! Our experience was that less English is spoken in these rural areas that in larger cities, yet language was never an issue.
A couple of suggestions for first time travelers to Italy...
. You definitely want a car for this property. Taxis will not be practical and the rail station is 25-30 minutes away.
. I was somewhat apprehensive about driving in Italy, but downloaded Italy for my Garmin and it was fantastic in every area!
Not to be overlooked are both the owner and the Property Manager. The owner was very helpful with information in advance of our trip and Mary, the property manager, was absolutely fabulous! She and her husband, Pablo, met us in Lucca upon our arrival and drove us to the property. On the way, they took us by the Simply grocery store to pick up some provisions and waited for us while we shopped. They then escorted to the property and introduced us to the property and amenities. She was available by e-mail and phone for any questions and was simply fantastic.
Our goal was to see and experience Italy away from the large metro areas. The locations of the villa was perfect and we could not have enjoyed our visit more. I highly recommend this property and hope to use it again in he future.
We stayed in this property for a week in August 2012 and found it to be exactly as described. Mary, the agent, was always very quick to respond to emailed questions, and very helpful. She met us just off the motorway at Lucca and guided us up to the property. The house is clean and tidy and has everything you could need, but here are a few notes about items that are not mentioned in the description: There is a hairdryer provided, as well as an iron and board, plus insulated picnic bags with freeze blocks. Linen and towels are provided (but not tea towels in the kitchen). Washing up liquid and cloths, and dishwasher tablets, were also available, as well as some herbs, spices and oils. There is ample crockery and cutlery and several pans. There are meshes across all windows and a retractable one at the door, so those irritating flies and mosquitoes don't get in to disturb your night's sleep. The stairs are fairly standard for European houses, I would say. I was expecting something ladder-like from a previous review but the stairs were just slightly narrower but not steeper than at home (UK). The garden is delightful and very peaceful. The views are breathtaking. A parasol would have been welcome as it was sometimes too hot to sit in the direct sun. The neighbours are very friendly and helpful. The village is very small (about 9 or 10 houses and a tiny church) but there are restaurants within driving distance. There is a "Simply" supermarket in San Martino (turn left at the bottom of the hill, then right at the fruit and veg shop). You definitely need a car if you are staying at this property. We did day trips to Lucca (fantastic labyrinth of narrow streets), Pisa, the Caves (Grotta del Vento - 2 hour tour was very interesting but take a sweater as it's cold in there!), Vinci (charming little town with a museum dedicated to Leonardo, and a visit to his birthplace close by is included in the ticket price), Castiglioni (medieval town). Tuscany is beautiful, the people are very friendly and helpful and the food is fantastic. We will definitely return to the area.
We visited this lovely old house in August 2010 and continue to reminisce about our great time there and our visits to Lucca, Pisa and Florence. My wife and I were there with our 15 year old son, who is an avid road cyclist. We set up a rental in advance from a small outlet in Pisa and picked up a great road bike. He just loved exploring the roads and hills around the home and returned each day with an ear to ear grin.
The house itself is full of character and charm. It is so removed from the traditional tourist locations that you can't help but feel immersed in all that Tuscany offers. There is a quaint little restaurant just down the road (a 5 minute walk) that offers authentic Tuscan fare and of course you can buy groceries in Lucca or enjoy any of the great restaurants there. (About a 20 minute drive).
The hosts were very accommodating and met us on time in Lucca and then had us follow them to the house where they showed us the amenities and gave us contact info for our week long stay.
We have used VRBO six or seven times and almost always leave satisfied. This however, took us to a new level of enjoyment and I would definitely recommend this to anyone wishing to have access to the best of Italy while enjoying the quiet of a location removed from the main centers.
The description of the house clearly said that the master bedroom was on the 3rd floor and bathroom on the ground floor. It was not clear, however, that the stairs are more like ladders--steep and narrow--so access was difficult, so anyone with a walking disability would have trouble. The house was very clean and well maintained and the amenities were as described. The house is one of 4 attached townhouses; neighbors were quiet but their dogs barked some at night. The views down into the valley were beautiful and the terrace a nice feature. The bath was very nice but the kitchen/living area was cramped with a center island that is too large, so it was difficult to work in, and there is limited seating. The bed in the master bedroom was very comfortable. You must park about 2 blocks from the house on the side of a narrow street. The property manager was very helpful in meeting us and leading us to the property. Access to Lucca is easy and there are very nice restaurants nearby.