ANSWERS TO SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT OUR HOUSE
& COTTAGE IN TUSCANY
These are the questions that people tend to ask once they have made a reservation
and then want to know details that are relevant to their forthcoming holiday.
Getting about in Italy
The accommodation and facilities
Amenities, attractions & the environment
IF FLYING, WHAT ARE THE NEAREST AIRPORTS, AND ARE THERE
The nearest airports are Florence (35km - tiny airport but very convenient), Pisa
(127km - the main international airport for the area) or Bologna (141km). BA
fly to Pisa from Gatwick, with some cheaper seats. RYANAIR offers cheap flights
from Stansted, Liverpool or Glasgow to Pisa, which can easily be booked
online, or by phone (0541 569569).
EASYJET (0905 821 0905, premium rate no.) offer cheap flights from Gatwick,
Luton and Bristol to Pisa. THOMSONFLY
and JET2.COM fly to Pisa from various airports around the UK, and the Italian airline MERDIANA
flies from Gatwick to Florence for reasonable rates. If it is hard to find a flight to
Pisa or Florence then Bologna is a good alternative, being only a little further
from Florence than Pisa is, and you can easily get a train or drive down the
motorway from there to the house; but note
that Ryanair flies to Bologna-Forlì which is at least 45 miles from
Bologna. Some visitors fly to Rome and hire a car there; a three hour driver to the
house, or two hours in the train. Milan, Verona and Venice are all about three
and a half to four hours drive from the house.
In addition to the cut-price airlines mentioned above you can try
hunting on internet (or via a travel agent) for some of the companies that run charter flights to
Italy. Some of these go to seaside resorts such as Rimini which is not too far from Florence as the crow flies,
but as there are mountains in between the railway journey is very long (via Bologna). If you hire a car on arrival, the route from Rimini to the house is stunningly beautiful, but very slow.
For airport parking try www.worldparking.co.uk.
HOW DO VISITORS GET TO THE HOUSE FROM THE
Most visitors hire a car at the airport (see below for more on car hire). Alternatively you can catch a train to
Florence - a one hour journey from Pisa or Bologna), and from there either take a train to Figline and then a bus or taxi to Cascia; or take a bus from Florence directly to Cascia (a slow journey). All visitors are sent maps of the area and the village making it very easy to find the house.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DRIVE TO THE HOUSE AND WHAT ARE THE BEST ROUTES?
The distance is about 900 miles from London. So if you are in France
reasonably early in the morning, and then take one of the quicker routes, you
can easily complete the journey stopping for only one night, arriving in the
late afternoon or evening the next day. We have used several routes, and
whilst route 1 below is theoretically the fastest, there is not much difference
between any of these routes. Note that there are tolls on all French and
Italian motorways, and as you enter Switzerland you pay 40sfr (18 pounds) for a
motorway pass valid to the end of the year.
1) From Calais go south on the A26 (E17). Just before Reims this joins the A4
(E50). Continue in the direction towards Metz (where it also becomes E25) and
on to Strasbourg. From Strasbourg you head for Basle on either the French or
German side of the Rhine. To take the (slower) French route stay on the
motorway until you have almost left Strasbourg then turn off onto the N83
(still E25) to Colmar, past Mulhouse and on to Basle. For the (faster) German
route take the turning off the motorway signed to Kehl and Offenburg, cross the
Rhine into Germany, then turn southwards on the A5 (E35) to Basle where you
cross into Switzerland. After Basle head for Luzern then the St Gotthard
tunnel. Thereafter follow motorways past Lugano, Chiasso (the Italian border),
Como, and on round the south side of Milano, from where you take the A1 towards
Bologna and then Florence. Shortly after Florence turn off for the house at the
turning marked Incisa Val d'Arno. This route is probably the fastest
2) From Calais take the E40 signed to Dunkerque where you turn off southwards
to Lille on the N225 which becomes the A25 (E42). From Lille continue on the
E42, crossing the border into Belgium and then passing the towns of Tournai,
Mons and Charleroi. Near Namur turn off southwards onto the A4 (E411) through
Luxembourg (becomes E25), and then into France on the A31 (still E25). Turn
eastwards onto the A4 (E25) just before Metz, signed to Strasbourg. From this
point follow route 1 above. This route is probably just about as fast as route
1, but avoids the French tolls except from Metz to Strasbourg
3) Start as route 1 above. Shortly after Reims turn off onto the motorway once
again numbered A26 (E17) in the direction of Dijon and Lyon. This joins the A5
(still E17) and later becomes the A31. After Dijon and just before Mâcon turn
eastwards on the A40, passing Geneva and on through the Mont Blanc tunnel. Once
in Italy you pass Aosta, then follow directions marked Torino A5, Génova (A25),
then Piacenza (A21) where you join the A1 to Bologna and then Florence as in
the routes above. This route avoids Switzerland and the need to buy the Swiss
4) Follow route 3) as far as Dijon. From there take the A39 and A36 to
Besançon. Then take the N57 (E23) towards Lausanne, from where you take the N9
(E62 becoming E27). At Martigny turn off the motorway (still E27) towards the
Great St Bernard Tunnel and then on to Aosta where you join the Italian part of route
If you plan to drive and would like some suggestions as to where you might stop for
the night look at the Hotels to stay at on route page
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GETTING ABOUT IN ITALY
IS CAR-HIRE SIMPLE?
Yes, most people book a car in advance which they collect on arrival at the airport. However, rates can vary considerably. The cheapest rates we have found are from
brokers such as:
(0808 1 445 446)
(0870 499 5 499)
which gives a list of links to similar brokers.
Other advance booking numbers in Britain are:
Hertz 0870 8448844
Budget 0800 181181
Europcar 08457 222525
Avis 0870 0100287
Although not essential we feel it is wisest to pay a bit extra and get
Damage Excess Waiver. It is very easy to scratch a car, or have it
scratched by someone else, in the typically very narrow parking bays in
Italy. Without this extra insurance the hire company can charge you
the full excess which is usually about 800Euros.
Collection from an airport usually carries a small surcharge. Remember that airlines can often get discount car-hire rates (Ryanair has an arrangement with Hertz), but on arrival there may be a very slow queue as lots of passengers from your flight all go to the same hire company's desk.
You can also hire cars
near the house at Figline from Hertz, Via della Vetreria 67, 50063 Figline V.no.
Email: Herzfigline@yahoo.it. Tel: 055
3987401 Fax: 055 3987402. Also at Figline there is Tiripelli Auto, Via Petrarcha 179, Tel & Fax 055 959245.
There are also many car-hire firms in Florence where bookings can be made
WHAT IS IT LIKE DRIVING IN ITALY?
Motorways can get very busy, and some Italian drivers are rather aggressive. On motorways
it's best to "go with the
flow" as they say; but you quickly get used to it. Off
the motorway we have never had any problems drifting along at an easy pace if
we choose to. In cities you can't afford the luxury of road-courtesy, and it
helps to be a little assertive! A medical friend once joked that he was
worried about the state of the adrenal glands of Italian drivers! Keep a
cool head and yours will be just fine. ________________________________________________
WHERE CAN A CAR BE PARKED AT THE HOUSE?
Residents of the Cottage can park off-road outside the front door. For people in
the main house there is a very convenient lay-by, about 100 yards away, at the top of the road
that runs past the house where visitors can leave their cars.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET INTO FLORENCE AND OTHER CITIES
Florence takes about 20 to 25 minutes. Parking very near the centre can
be difficult, so we recommend that you park beside the river Arno and then walk
(or bus) into the centre. By motorways Siena is about an hour and a quarter journey,
Arezzo about forty minutes, and Perugia about an hour and a half. However,
slower country routes are definitely worth trying.
WHAT IS PUBLIC TRANSPORT LIKE IN GENERAL?
Mostly good. There are both local and mainline trains to all parts of
Italy from the nearby town of Figline. There are also many local bus services
to other villages and cities. To get the train to Florence you catch a bus to
Figline, about 10 minutes away, and then the train into Florence, which takes
about 25 to 50 minutes, depending on the train you catch. You can get timetables for
buses and trains from the local travel agent in Reggello (previous visitors may
well have left timetables at the house). There is also a good bus service
between Reggello and Florence.
The bus timetable may be downloaded from http://www.acvbus.it/index.php?SEZ=9
(service 353 is Cascia to the station at Figline)________________________________________________
Train information (in English) is at http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD
HOW MUCH OF A DISADVANTAGE IS IT NOT HAVING A CAR?
This depends on the type of holiday you like, and visitors intending to go without a car should consider this matter carefully. There have been many visitors to the house without a car who have found more than enough to do locally
(walking in the mountains, sunbathing in the garden, eating locally,
etc), and also managed to travel around the area using public transport.
It can take quite a lot longer to get to Florence or Arezzo by bus and train than by car,
but of course there is no parking problem when you get there; however, you must leave early enough to catch the final bus
from the station to the house. As far as the immediate locality is concerned there are local bus services to
some neighbouring villages, and a few good restaurants and plenty of
shops all within easy walking distance (1 or 2 km). Other major cities and
many of the more remote beauty spots are more difficult (in some cases impossible) to get to without a car, but many visitors have said that this was not a problem for them as they found plenty to do and see within easy reach of the house; others have said that they were very pleased that they did have a car, or hired one for
at least a few days.
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THE ACCOMMODATION AND FACILITIES
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE
APARTMENTS IN "LA VILLETTA"?
Almost none. The upstairs apartment has a fractionally more spacious
living room as there is only one door leading into it, and a slightly
larger bathroom. Being higher it also has better views. From this
apartment the garden is accessed via the front door and a few yards walk
down the road. Downstairs has a
door leading straight into the garden, and very attractive chestnut wood
beams. All other differences are so slight as to be immaterial. ________________________________________________
WHAT DO WE NEED TO TAKE WITH US?
Only your personal belongings - everything
else is provided. We supply towels and bed linen for £16 per week per
double bed, £8 per single bed, but you
may prefer to bring your own. If you take fitted sheets please note that the double
beds are larger than standard (UK) size, so some fitted sheets may not
be large enough; you need "king-size" sheets. In each apartment there are plenty of
blankets; there are no duvets. ________________________________________________
CAN WE DRINK THE LOCAL TAP WATER?
Yes, no problem - it conforms to EU standards. However, despite being safe to
drink it isn't always pleasant, so you might as well do as all the locals do
and buy mineral water which is very cheap and refreshing.
WHAT ARE THE LAUNDRY FACILITIES?
There is a washing machine in a washing shed in the garden for the use of
residents in both houses. There is also a launderette in Cascia and various dry cleaners in the both Cascia and Reggello. To dry clothes
there is a 'whirly-line' in the garden (to be used with discretion if
other residents are sunbathing etc.) Additionally upstairs residents can use a washing line
frame outside the bathroom window; downstairs and cottage residents can take a drying
stand outside the back door of their apartment.
IS THERE AN IRON AND A HAIR DRYER AT THE HOUSE?
Yes. Each apartment has an iron, an ironing board and a hair dryer. ________________________________________________
IF IT'S COLD - WHAT IS THE HEATING LIKE, AND DOES IT GET TOO
HOT IN SUMMER?
In the both houses each room has an air conditioning system as well as central
heating for cooler seasons. The
bathrooms are warmed by large towel-hangers. ________________________________________________
WHAT ARE THE COOKING FACILITIES, AND ARE UTILITIES LIKE GAS, ELECTRICITY &
WATER SIMPLE TO OPERATE?
All three apartments have a good cooker with gas rings, grills and a
large oven. There are a range of pan sizes and cooking utensils. Details are
displayed at the house about operating the gas, electricity and water.
The gas supply for both houses is from an underground
tank in the garden. ________________________________________________
CAN WE ENGAGE THE
SERVICES OF A COOK?
Yes. A local cook will prepare a splendid
five-course meal, including wine, for 30 euros per person. This can be
arranged directly with the cook and is subject to her availability. ________________________________________________
WHAT ARE THE CLEANING ARRANGEMENTS?
Visitors are asked to give the place a
quick, basic cleaning before they leave, our cleaner then does a
thorough cleaning before the next visitors. However if you don't feel like
cleaning when on holiday you can book a local cleaner (subject to
availability) for 10 euros per hour. If the person who checks the
property finds that it has been left exceptionally dirty, so that we need to
arrange for extra cleaning, then we deduct the cleaning cost from
the deposit before returning it. Similarly, the cost of breakages
is deducted unless guests have provided a replacement for anything
broken or damaged. ________________________________________________
IS SMOKING PERMITTED?
We prefer that smokers should only smoke
outdoors, and well away from other guests. Smoking in the wooden shed is strictly prohibited.
HOW SUITABLE ARE THE HOUSES FOR CHILDREN OR ELDERLY PEOPLE?
Visitors with children are welcome and there is a travel cot for
visitors with a baby. However, people with very young children should
note that neither house has been set up with very young children in mind,
(e.g. power points are positioned low
down and the plugs are easy to extract). Younger children should not be
left unattended on the road close to the house as, although only spasmodic,
traffic can be fast (note that access to the garden for upstairs residents
is a few paces along this road). For older children it's fine, but
other than a cinema in Reggello, there are not many amenities to entertain them
locally, unless of course they enjoy cycling, swimming or country pursuits such as
walking, horse riding, fishing, etc. It is essential that any visitors with children can guarantee that they will be
quiet enough so as not to disturb the peace and tranquility that other occupants
will be seeking on their holiday. We prefer that children do not
play with footballs etc. in the garden, and parents must make sure that
they respect the property and furnishings.
For elderly people there should be few problems if they take the
downstairs apartment in the main house "La Villetta), which has no steps at all, or the
cottage "La Capanna" which has only a couple of steps between the back of the
building (bedroom 2 & bathroom) and the front (sitting/dining room
& bedroom 1).
WHAT IS THE GARDEN LIKE, & ARE THERE
PLACES TO SIT OR EAT OUTDOORS?
Yes, several places. Since acquiring the neighbouring cottage, the garden
which we have had for some years has been greatly enlarged by merging the
gardens of the two properties, offering several well separated areas to sit, eat or
sunbathe. There are lawns, patios, two pergolas, outdoor tables with sun
umbrellas, chairs, sun-loungers, two bbqs, trees, shrubs and plenty of
herbs for cooking. The garden is tended by our gardener, but any visitors who
gardeners are welcome to do a bit of weeding!!
Extending from the garden there is
plenty of open land, mostly olive groves, and it is worth pointing out that Italians are generally less
territorial than the British. This should not, of course, be taken to suggest that we
can officially give permission for our visitors to use the neighbouring land; however,
nobody has ever returned disappointed for lack of outdoor space.
HOW SECLUDED AND QUIET IS THE SETTING?
Fairly, but not entirely. The hamlet I Tallini consists of five or six houses,
a farm yard (disused), and a tiny chapel (also disused)
which is next to our house. The back of the house looks across a little valley
to the mountains. All the neighbours are very pleasant, and usually
(but not always) quiet.
For much of the time the environment can be blissfully peaceful, but being a
typical rural community there are, inevitably, sounds of rural life, such as poultry,
people working in their homes and gardens or picking or pruning
olives. Likewise, the little country road in front of the house varies from
being relatively quiet (a car once every fifteen minutes or so) to rather
especially if there is an event of some sort taking place down the road, which
happens on certain public holidays; the occasional inconsiderate driver
sounds his horn at night time!
IF THERE IS NO CARETAKER WHAT HAPPENS IN CASES OF EMERGENCY?
There is information at the house giving the nearest hospital, and other essential medical facilities and emergency phone numbers. If necessary, people can always telephone us in Britain.
Some neighbours who are very good friends speak some English and their names and
phone numbers are available for emergencies. They also hold spare keys.
WHAT IS THE INSURANCE SITUATION?
Visitors’ personal possessions are not covered by our insurance policy,
so it is essential that all visitors arrange their own insurance to cover their
time in Italy or having to cancel their holiday.
WHY ARE THE HOUSES RATHER CHEAPER THAN ONE MIGHT EXPECT?
We deliberately ask less than other equivalent holiday accommodation in the
area because the property has never been
primarily a commercial venture for us. Although we feel that both houses are
very comfortable and well equipped we make
no claim that they have been
"stylishly furnished"; and as this is our personal holiday home we hope that everyone, whether they are personal
friends or not, will feel as though they are sharing in the place rather than
simply doing business with us. The fact that so many people return there
regularly leads us to believe that that the prices we ask reflect and encourage
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AMENITIES, ATTRACTIONS & THE ENVIRONMENT
ARE THERE PLENTY OF PLACES TO VISIT NEARBY?
Enough to keep you there for several lifetimes!! We give all visitors a
brief summary of places worth visiting, both locally and further afield;
and as well as the local Tourist
Information Centre there are some guide books at the house, and also books in which
past visitors have left numerous suggestions and descriptions of things to do and places to see.
In addition to some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe there are the great medieval and renaissance
cities such as Florence, Arezzo and Siena, and numerous smaller towns of breathtaking beauty, many perched high on hilltops. The local village of Cascia
is home to the Masaccio triptych
and other paintings in the superb
Romanesque church adjacent to which is a museum of sacred art and artifacts. Within
a few miles of the house there are art galleries, museums, churches, palaces, Roman and Etruscan ruins, numerous restaurants and shops of all types. There are concert halls, opera houses, theatres, cinemas, equestrian centres, fishing places, swimming baths, thermal baths, sports facilities, many local wine and antique fairs, and plenty
more (see below).
The Maggio Musicale festival in Florence takes place in May and June. August is festival
month with numerous Feste del Popolo (people's festivals) throughout Tuscany, the famous Paglio horse race in Siena, mediaeval football in Florence and countless small traditional village festivals all around the area.
For a summary of the many cities and areas to visit see the Places
to visit page. Despite the availability of so many attractions, we have spent many days simply wandering around the area, stopping in quiet little villages for a glass of local wine in a sunny piazza - heaven on earth, in our opinion!!
WHERE CAN WE GO SWIMMING?
There is an excellent new open-air pool within easy walking distance of
the house which also offers sun-loungers for hire. There is also a large 'Olympic' open-air pool at the camp site Girasole
near Figline, and another pool at San
Giovanni, neither of which are far from the house. The sea is easy to reach by train or motorway (e.g. Viaréggio
or Castiglioncello) but the coast
west of Florence can get very busy. We recommend a longer journey to Marina di
Alberese (a nature reserve, so no shops etc.) just south of Grosseto.
ARE THERE GOOD WALKS & CYCLE RIDES NEARBY?
Yes, superb; for us this is one of the great joys of the area, and one of the main reasons why we bought this
particular house. In the mountains there are numerous walks, some steep and leading to remote mountain peaks, others running along mountain ridges giving spectacular views that include Florence in the distance. Some walks are quite strenuous, others very easy; and there are also many delightful and shorter walks nearby in the valleys. Walks are numbered and indicated to correspond with special walkers' maps which are available locally at any stationery
shop (Cartoleria). For the best walks we particularly recommend that you drive to the end of one of the tracks leading into the mountains and walk from there (a particularly good starting place is known as Ponticelli).There is more information on this subject at the house.
There are two mountain bikes in the garden shed and the local roads and
tracks offer delightful cycle routes, though being mountainous many are somewhat
strenuous. Visitors are expected to repair any punctures or breakages that
happen whilst using the bikes._______________________________________________
WHAT SPORTING ACTIVITIES ARE AVAILABLE LOCALLY?
Within a few hundred metres of the house there is an equestrian
centre offering both riding instruction and accompanied rides. For fishing
enthusiast there are special fishing lakes nearby in the village of
Vaggio, and the river Arno offers some excellent fishing. There are tennis
courts in Reggello, and for golf enthusiasts Golf Club
dell'Ugolino, an 18-hole course close to Grassina, near the A1
motorway south-east of Florence.
IS SHOPPING EASY & IS THE LANGUAGE EVER A PROBLEM?
Shopping is very easy and great fun. There are plenty of good local shops of
every type, as well as many markets. Wine and oil (perhaps the
finest oil in the world!) can be bought directly from
many local producers.
Many of the food shops are self-service, so the language need never be a
problem. As described on the House Information page,
a few kilometres away there is an exclusive shopping mall which includes factory outlets for top designers (Gucci, Armani, and others), offering clothes, shoes, etc. at discounted prices. Here language will never be a problem! In Florence there are shops of every sort including numerous antique shops, elegant clothes shops,
jewellers, etc. There is a famous leather market in Piazza S. Lorenzo and a large market in Cascine park on Sundays. In
Florence, as in Siena, many shopkeepers speak some English. In general the
Italians love communicating, and are usually very helpful to foreigners.
In general shops open from 8.00 am to 1.00 pm and then again from 4.00 to 8.00
WHERE CAN MARKETS BE FOUND?
There are several local markets selling food, clothing, shoes and
items. For details see the Reggello information page.
There are some superb antique fairs at:
Arezzo: 1st Sunday of each month, but starts
Saturday afternoon (huge)
Pistoia: 2nd Sunday of each month
Terranova: 2nd Sunday of each month (small - but nearby)
Florence: Last Sunday of each month ________________________________________________
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
In recent years there have been some remarkably untypical spells of weather,
but the usual pattern is (or used to be!) roughly as follows:
WINTER MONTHS: Mostly cool, sometimes very cold. The house is in quite a high
location, and the mountains behind the house are often snow covered. Sometimes
there are beautifully sunny winter days; at other times it may be rainy, though
seldom as persistently as in Britain.
MARCH & APRIL: Unpredictable. Warmer days increase in number and temperature,
sometimes becoming very warm towards the end of April. However, there is
always the possibility of a wet period, lasting several days.
MAY & JUNE: May can be an especially beautiful month, like warm summer in
Britain. June is usually very warm, sometimes really hot, but never
JULY & AUGUST: Usually vary from hot to very hot, though being mountainous the
air is far fresher than down in the valleys or in the cities, so the heat
seldom feels insufferable. Despite the heat, rain is not uncommon at this time
of year, and sometimes there are dramatic thunderstorms. On the other
hand there have also been severe droughts in recent years.
SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER: These months can vary considerably from year to year (as
any Chianti wine grower will confirm!). Often September is still beautifully
warm, and October can also be very pleasant. However, summer can end
surprisingly abruptly at anytime in September, giving much cooler, wetter
weather; and sometimes October can sometimes get a bit chilly.
IS THERE MUCH WILDLIFE, AND ARE ANY ANIMALS OR INSECTS DANGEROUS?
There are numerous different species in the mountains including deer, wild
boar, porcupines, eagles and other birds, and a variety of exquisite
butterflies. There are also many beautiful flowers, mosses, shrubs etc. In
the appropriate season the nightingales and fireflies behind the house at night
are magical. As to dangerous animals, you would be unwise to try and get too
friendly with a wild boar, or worse, to try stroking a porcupine! In fact you
will be very lucky to get that close to either. Be a little careful about
snakes in undergrowth, though they are mostly no more dangerous than in
Britain. Like all warmer countries the mosquitoes and other insects in
Italy can be irritating (there are
repellents in the house); however there are far fewer insects in our locality
than lower in the valleys. There are the usual summer wasps, but the only
insects to be careful about are the occasional hornets, whose sting can be nasty. If you happen to see little miniature scorpions don't worry - their
sting is no worse than an ant bite.
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