We had a wonderful week at La Pineta. The photos we received did not really do the house justice. In fairness the pool had only just been installed in the delightful garden and was not therefore in any marketing photos, but no photos could amply reflect the peace and tranquillity afforded by this house high up in the foothills of the Apennines. The quality of both the air and the light was amplified by this spacious and well considered house whose excellent shutters and fly screens kept the hot July sun and any bugs at bay while plentiful windows could be opened in the morning and in the evening when returning from a day out.
We loved the kitchen as we tend to cook a lot. I am blessed with a wife and two sons who are excellent cooks, and there were ample pots, pans and utensils including decent knives (although I confess to bringing our own) and such ‘luxuries’ as a tea pot and an excellent Nespresso coffee machine as well as numerous mugs, glasses, cutlery and the like, enough for twice as many as the house catered for.
We get frustrated in many rentals that offer the bare essentials of six glasses, six cups, a couple of useless knives and a poor assortment of cookware on the assumption perhaps that every group of guests must eat out every night. Well why would you at La Pineta? Cooking in the large bright and well-appointed kitchen was a delight; sitting and eating out on the wonderful terrace overlooking the garden and surrounding countryside until the stars came out was a joy, only enhanced by some of the most excellent local wines we found.
We all agreed that the house was so ‘homely’, not the often rather soulless commercial offerings we have experienced. It was as if the considerate owners had just moved out and allowed us to live in their stead for a precious few days. There was a great sense of trust, of wanting to ensure you left everything as you found it, or perhaps better than you found it as there was not the usual barest of essentials; two toilet rolls and a small bottle of oil and salt! There was even a bottle of local frizzante chilling in the fridge, what a welcome!
Maps and useful stuff for travellers wanting to explore the Garfagnana and other local regions were all on hand at the little desk; there were candles and lots of towels and books galore including some excellent ‘Tuscan’ cook books which we really enjoyed putting to use with the fine local ingredients we found everywhere (except on Sunday!) as if someone who cared had just lent us their house.
As high summer visitors we rarely used the lounge or sat indoors as the weather was very hot and dry, but these areas too were so comfortable it was a shame not to. A winter visit might be in order? The bedrooms too were all spacious and welcoming with comfortable beds, good quality bedlinen and views onto the garden or down the valley.
The pool was delightful and provided with ample comfortable loungers, parasols, a shaded swing seat and an excellent thermally heated poolside shower (what a great idea!) it was just perfect for an early swim and perhaps even better on returning from a long day walking in the mountains.
On that note we should mention that we were able to do some fine mountain walks in the Alpi Apuane within an hour’s drive of the house on well-marked trails with some challenging ascents and descents in spectacular countryside, we soon learnt that setting out early, even when walking at well over 1000m, is essential in July.
A very minor caution for sensitive folk is that the area is very rural with all the activities that brings. The neighbouring dogs barking, especially late at night, could sometimes be irritating; the early movement of tractors and farm vehicles; some crashing and banging in a nearby ‘yard’ from time to time can all be expected. For the most part this did not detract from the tranquillity of the area (and in many respects added to its authenticity) which remains a rural working environment with visitors and not a tourist hotspot with little cultural reality.
The local people we met in Lunigiana were both kind and helpful and we felt welcomed and rarely overwhelmed in this essentially peaceful, less travelled part of Italy. We managed a visit to the beach in the pretty nearby resort of Lerici where we swam in the clear warm water of the ‘Golfo di La Spezia’ and were more engaged by the ‘passeggiata’ of folk along the water’s edge than by the hotels’ serried ranks of beach parasols and loungers: but this is to experience Italy in July, albeit we were pleased to return to the quiet of La Pineta, its garden and pool.
We can honestly say that La Pineta is one of the nicest houses we have ever stayed in, we have stayed in quite a few, and we would highly recommend it.