We stayed at I Melograni del Chianti for the last 7 days of our 11 day holiday. Throughout l Melograni's reviews Serena, the owner, is mentioned with much praise - and it's no wonder. From the moment you arrive you know that she is close by to advise, resolve and chat; Serena is one of the most friendly, knowlegable and helpful people you will ever meet. She is at the villa for most of the day everyday other than Sunday (I'd find it impossible to write this review and not sing her praises).
The property is as gorgeous as it looks in the photos on Tripadvisor and the properties website. It is clean, tidy and in an idyllic setting; all around you (as in most of Chianti) are the familiar views from paintings seen in galleries back home. The countryside was apparently particularly green this year, and maybe this is why the undulating hills reminded me of a very neat Derbyshire but with all those striped acres of vineyards and lines of Cypress, associated with Tuscany.
Poggibonsi is the local town, around a five minute or so drive away. It's not pretty, as much of the original town was destroyed in the war (apparently). We didn't shop in the town itself but it seemed to have everything you would need. On the outside of the town, next to the motorway is a very large Coop supermarket, which sells everything you will need (the fridge freezer in our apartment was full-size and held enough food for a weeks stay).
When I booked Melograni I hadn't really paid much interest to certain details which others out there might over look or not consider too.
*There is a shared washing machine which you can use (pay by slot).
*Do buy wine from Serena, as she has an excellent wine cellar.
*Italians drink coffee not tea, so there wasn't a kettle, but I made do with a pan.
*There were a few basics in the cupboard which I guess we're left by other guests; you may want to have a look before visiting the Coop (balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, honey, sugar, olive oil).
*Mosquitos; how could I have not thought about those nasty little devils - take your repellent or ask for a room with a mosquito net if booking for the Summer (our apartment, Scrittorio, didn't have any).
*There isn't any air conditioning at Melograni, and our upper floor apartment got very hot (well it was July). Serena does supply electric fans though, which are better than nothing; speaking to other guests I discovered that the downstairs apartments are much cooler, therefore the heat of the night isn't an issue. (Because of the mosquitos, we didn't open the windows in the evening; the only way not to get bitten to hell was by covering yourself from foot to neck with a sheet.)
We visited many local medieval walled towns, all of which are only a short drive away. I think both Florence and Siena were only an easy 45 minutes drive away. Due to having read about heafty fines if you are caught driving in these old towns I had planned that we would get the train from Poggibonsi to both these places, but Serena told us which car parks to use outside the city walls and it was plain sailing (just tap the road name of the car park in your satnav and you're there). Talk to Serena - she's lovely, knowledgeable and loves to use her language skills.
Monterrigioni - Serena recommended the medieval event here which was held one evening. It was very busy but very well organised. We paid around 8€ each to get in (we weren't charged for our 10 year old), and it was worth every penny. To buy things you exchanged your euros for groats (1€ = 1grt) which was all part of the fun. Plenty of locals attended, some wearing medieval dress. The stalls, music, crafts and even smells, transported us back to another time; though I don't doubt our experience was much cleaner and smelled considerably more pleasant. If you attend - know your italian or take a phrase book; it took my husband two attempts to get hot food and we still didn't get a voucher for the BBQ he asked for whilst pointing at (we didn't go home hungry just feeling rather ignorant).
Florence (Firenzi) - A big hot dirty smelly let down. Too many of us tourists; but I'm talking of cruise ships full queuing up for every attraction, being frazzled in the heat and sunshine in the process. I will go back to Florence in the future because I am sure that we had timed our visit here badly; next time it will be May/June/Sept/Oct. We ate in the main square which goes against our dining out ethos: restaurants on squares are generally not that good, over priced and like a high turnover of customers. We ate where we did as everywhere else seemed to be on smelly or busy street; people sat at tables on roadsides with cars flying past and sewerage trucks doing their thing. Yuk! NB If you love designer wear etc - shop! No prices displayed in these shop windows.
Siena - Amazing. A beautiful place with ambience oozing out of every crevis. We ate at Antica Osteria da Divo; we just came across it, noted it was mentioned in our Lonley Planet book and went for it. No wonder it is ranked number 2 on Tripadvisor (I don't know what number 1 do but number 2 hit the spot for us). The best meal we ate in Tuscany and it was a very reasonable price, for what was close to the best fine dining I've ever had. We were seated in a cellar under a cellar; which the cynicism in me though was because our 10 year old was with us, but no, other adults joined us. It was cool in every sense of the word. It was perfect!
San Gimignano - Nice. There isn't much there as it is quite a small town, but it was a lovely calm place to visit with the all important medieval ambience. We ate a very traditional Tuscan lunch at another fell upon golden find, Osteria Del Carcere (ranked 46 for some reason). Our son, who generally eats well didn't like anything but we loved the food and atmosphere, as we sat on the upper floor. Our sons lunch was a specialist Gelato from the main square - well we were on holiday in Italy:-)
Volterra - we stayed our third night in Tuscany outside the city walls. It was a nice place to have lunch and spend a few hours. The prison, which forms part of the city walls, is probably the most outstanding architecture there; we sat briefly in the park listening to the shrill of the prison bells. We ate lunch at Ristorante Sala Dioniso, on Porta via all'Arco; despite the clear signage outside we didn't realise that it was an organic vegetarian establishment - we were just hungry and stopped at the first appealing frontage on the steep hill. The food was a bit odd but totally acceptable - amazing I imagine if you are a vegetarian (all quite ironic when the town was chosen to be the home of the Volturi in the Twilight Saga). In the evening we ate at La Vecchia Lira, in via Matteotti, where my husband and son shared a T-bone steak that weighted 1.5kgs (£40 per kilo). I guess this experience made up for the vegan fodder at lunchtime; I don't think they ate breakfast and lunch the next day;-)
Lucca - We stayed 2 days, and it's fabulous. Well worth a visit or stay. We ate in several places; Gigi's (sat inside) and Locanda Sant'Andrea (sat outside); both meals were eaten in the evening in a lovely atmosphere. If you are able to cycle I recommend you hire bikes and cycle the city walls (wide roads with paths and trees, so you feel very safe, although police and groundsmen vehicles are allowed up there). You get great views of the town and you can sit or play in the parks up there. A lovely experience for a leisurely hour. You are probably best parking outside the town walls, as driving around Lucca is horrendous. It's all one way, the roads are VERY narrow and will more than likely be full of pedestrians - Oh and you can't use satnav. Top Gear didn't chose to film a task of getting out of Lucca for nothing! (I am not sure if you need a pass to drive around Lucca; our landlord arranged parking for us inside the city walls.)
Pisa - On our way back to the airport on our last day we visited Viareggio, a costal resort just west of Lucca. We were more or less thrown off the beach here; we found sunbeds and were prepared to spend 40€ for an hour on them, only to be told by beach security that all the chairs on the beach were booked up (regardless of colour or company name on them). Weird because I would say 98% of them were quite obviously vacant! We found a sign on the shoreline with an arrow pointing to a 'free beach'. (Yes, painted crudely in white emulsion on a piece of MDF). The closer we got to a manmade quay wall made up of rocks, the dirtier the water became and filled with sludgy brown seaweed. Here we found a thin slither of beach, probably 20 feet wide, that ran from the dirty waters edge to the road. It seems that this impoverished stretch of sand is all there is here for the locals and people like ourselves (we aren't rich but we don't do without - our son attends a private school). So, this beach is huddled with locals and Africans, who are camped out selling fake Louis Vitton! (Maybe if we had bought some of this in the first place we could have haggled for sunbed hire?). As often is the case in life, being removed from the beach was a twist of fate, as we decided to visit Pisa. So many people had told me Pisa wasn't worth a visit as there's nothing there and it's done in an hour; but what a great way to spend an hour I say! It was amazing (despite the coach loads of cruise ship tours). We parked on the road just outside the city walls; I think you get an hours free parking- just time for a gelato too but not time to queue and go into the Leaning Tower. Pisa amazing and unmissable.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The “I Melograni del Chianti” farm holiday residence is located in the Tuscan hills, in the small medieval town of Talciona, a perfect barycentre in between the biggest cities of art in Tuscany: Florence, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- i Melograni Del Chianti Hotel Poggibonsi
- I Melograni Del Chianti Poggibonsi, Italy - Tuscany