You can spend hours searching online for rental properties in Italy. More and more appear every year. Every once in a while something interesting pops up. Several years ago when planning a trip to Umbria and Tuscany with my wife and sister and brother-in-law, I came across a listing for a rental just outside of Florence.(http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p71745)The place, Residenza Strozzi, was part of a picturesque aristocratic villa (Villa Strozzi-Ricardi) that shouted bygone class and elegance. The price was surprisingly reasonable.
Making a reservation online proved easy; finding the place in a driving rainstorm was not quite so simple. With the advent of GPS driving guides in Europe getting around by car without getting lost has become much easier. That being said, there are always a few bugs in the system. Our auto trip in the rain from our quarters in Umbria was uneventful. We set our Tom Tom to the given address of Villa Strozzi- Ricardi and arrived in a dead end street in a pouring rain to the confident announcement “you have reached your destination.” It was raining hard with no villa in sight. I was elected the scouting party to extricate us out of this spot, Luckily I found an Italian speaking German guy in a bar around the corner who knew how to get there. Sensing how his directions were confusing me, he offered to guide us by following him in his car. After several twists and turns, bypassing the main gate, we turned a couple of corners and sided up to the front inner gate.
The lodging located on the southeast edge of Florence is part of Villa Strozzi- Ricardi. We literally stayed in a restored stable. Our bedroom area was a former stall. No self respecting Italian, tourist or otherwise, would be caught dead in such quarters. Any ghosts haunting here would have been, most likely, equine. We didn’t encounter any.
The place was advertised as having two bedrooms. The second bedroom was an open upper mezzanine that afforded little privacy. It is an ideal space for a young family, but not so handy for two couples with a loud snorer in the group. I was more than a little embarrassed at not having discovered the lodging’s shortcomings.
The gods were with us. Upon showing us the place, our host Guido Casalone, seeing our predicament said there had been a cancelation of the Chapel apartment and he would offer it to us at a reasonable discount. My sister immediately relegated my brother-in-law, the snorer, to the chapel and we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing we were in for a quiet night.
Not only were the villa and grounds beautiful, the location was fantastic. We stayed where it seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of Florence in a tranquil and bucolic setting, yet a short walk to the bus stop and a 15 minute bus ride to the center of town. We had a secure place for our rental car behind two separate security gates and we were able to make day trips to the Chianti wine region, Sienna and San Gimginano. With Guido’s guidance, we found some really nice neighborhood eateries within walking distance, including a locally popular pizzeria that was packed with neighborhood people, some with their dogs. Waiting and drinking amber beer in that atmosphere made the pizza taste even better when it finally arrived.
Viva Villa Strozzi-Ricardi!