A luxury converted convent that sleeps 14, Convento sits on the hills near Carmignano, west of Florence. With a private pool, air-conditioning throughout and all rooms en-suite, this is a luxurious villa in Tuscany.
In the hills west of Florence, a short distance from Vinci, Leonardo's birth place, are the convent of Carmignano and the home of Leonardo's grandparents' .
This will explain the feeling of familiarity one feels on gazing across these hills - the views you are seeing are the same Leonardo himself drew from when painting and sketching.
Today the hills remain largely unchanged and Convento sits among them, an ancient convent restored to a new life. The building is now a luxurious place to stay, with a private pool overlooking the views and with every bedroom an ensuite and the whole building air-conditioned. If you're going to explore Tuscany, do it in style and stay here, with a live-in concierge to organise your tours and make your days slide by.
Double doors in the central arch of its wide facade leave no doubt as to where to enter and the entry hall with multiple doorways and touches of grandeur are a welcoming starting point.
To the left three stone steps lead to the largest sitting room, with sofas and the original open fireplace. Here, as throughout the ground floor, the stone walls are exposed, yet the rooms are warmed by the presence of brick arches, gleaming woodwork and bright furnishings. This is seen in the adjacent small sitting room, furnished passageway and music corner - all of which ensure that members of a large group can find a quiet corner when the mood requires.
Wide corridors lead to a large dining room with an open fireplace where four square tables can arranged to the group's preference. Further down the corridor is a cinema room whose television provides satellite channels and DVD options for viewers in comfy armchairs.
Feeding a group of 14 requires a serious kitchen; Il Convento's provides all the modern appliances marble-topped preparation space a good cook needs, while its open fireplace, stone carved sink and corner bread oven reflect its heritage. Near the kitchen is a stairway down to one of the convent's cellars, now restored to offer space to store or sample wine produced on the estate.
Off the entry hall are double doors into a room with armchairs and a corner coffee and cocktail bar, a room popular also because it has the best WiFi coverage in the thick-walled structure. This is because it is adjacent to an internet-served office, staffed during the day to offer any concierge services required. The final room on the ground floor, a few steps down to follow the slope of the hill, is the fully equipped Billiards Room - probably not something the earlier monks go up to, but very popular with modern guests.
All sleeping accommodations are located on the top floor, situated around a wide corridor running the length of the building. Halfway up the stone stairway to this floor is a handy WC with toilet and twin stone carved basins.
Each of the seven spacious bedrooms, 4 double bedrooms and 3 which can be set up as a double or a twin with prior request, have ensuite shower rooms, with one exception that offers a marble dressed tub instead. Midway along the corridor is a small sitting room with seating around a fenced opening to the entry hall below.
On this floor the stone walls have for the most part been plastered and painted - in the bedrooms in pastels referring to the produce once harvested at the convent, e.g., peach, yellow plum, sage, while in the bath or shower rooms bright marble harmonizes with touches of wrought iron and stylish fittings. Fine fabrics and quality antiques feature throughout the large villa, with attention paid to the maintaining the look of country comfort.
The panorama that greets you upon stepping outdoors merits places from which to appreciate it and at Il Convento there are several - the large dining pergola with a table for 20 and a convenient kitchenette; a pool area with a generous flagstone surround for sun beds and bistro tables; and furnished gazebos both on the lawn by the pool and on a small hill reached by winding stone stairs behind the dining pergola.
We had an amazing time! There are a lot of things to discuss, but overall it was a magical place and Paolo is just the best!! He helps with EVERYTHING - train schedules, reservations, you name it, and he is just a lovely human. I think that having so many of us (demanding people) probably gave them a good breaking in...
Hopefully Joan hasn't bothered everyone any more - she was quite a pill...but, we dealt with it :)
The house is truly unique and beautiful kept/manicured gardens, etc... However, it is much farther to the train in Prato than we thought, so you may want to make sure you tell people how far away it is positioned from points of interest. Over a half an hour to Florence (especially with commute traffic) and about 20 minutes to the Prato train, etc.. Picking up the rental car in Prato went well, sweet Paolo took us both ways.
It's a pretty steep and graveled walk to the little town of Bacchereto - too rough for the 80-85 year olds - but, with our car we brought them down the hill, we liked hanging out at the little bar/store, super cute area. We thought it would be a bit easier to get to the town and that there might be one more restaurants a bit closer-by, but we made the best of it and we cooked a ton of food, even used the BBQ. We also had the cook come in one night which was delicious, she is a joy. The owner is very sweet as well, but only Italian speaking.
The apartments are lovely, however, there's quite a bit of a steep uphill to the main villa, it was a bit tough for Mary Ann because she has a bum knee, so most of the time my husband fetched her in our rental car. Jean also commented that they told her she had to buy dish soap and toilet paper and all that in the apartment, which seemed odd for a home rental? I hear they are wildly popular, almost all booked for 2019!
Also, the 12th century (rocky bumpy) floor in the bar room was a bit hard to maneuver for the older folks. Rooms were all spacious and the air conditioning was appreciated in them! The place is well-kept and very clean and you definitely feel like you are having a truly special experience. They are all very friendly and it was comforting knowing the caretaker was always there in case of emergency.
We Americans are very different when it comes to paper consumption. We had to ask them (a lot) for more toilet paper, because we were using so much to blow our noses, from allergies LOL. I am sure they thought we were eating the stuff - we had to bother them a lot for tissues as well. We also bought paper towels and even some soap ourselves, so it may make sense to tell renters what they do or do not provide. When you go to Co-Op or the PAM supermarkets they pack the groceries in plastic bags which they use for inside the garbage cans, they also did not provide garbage bags which seems a bit odd. We told Paolo the owner should keep a closet full of toilet paper and paper towels and tissue so that when guests ask for it Paolo can hand it to them, rather than waiting for her to get to the market and bring it back :) The only napkins were cloth so we purchased those as well. All in all the kitchen was fairly well-stocked with the exception of paper products. We used the dishwasher so much we broke it - just kidding, I think the electrical got overloaded and blew it out. All ended up being fine, but would have been nice to know what we needed to buy, sort of set expectations.
We loved L'Amante Bistecca there and thought Carmignano is really charming - we enjoyed Osteria Su Pei Canto there...we had a great agriturismo lunch at Fattoria Bacchereto Winery - the daughter took us around and a delightful man prepared us the most delish, fresh bruschetta we've ever had - and it's VERY close to the villa. In Florence we fell in love with the truffle pasta at Osteria Pastella a friend had recommended, just delicious...
The only thing I would tell people is that it takes quite a while to get anywhere - and it's a bit of a walk to the town, and steep and to shop ahead. We thoroughly enjoyed our lazy days at the pool and it's really a very popular winery called Collina San Biagio, we loved the table red wine at 10 euros a bottle we drank more than 22 bottles of it!! They have won a ton of awards and many restaurants serve it. Not sure why you don't promote the villa as that name instead of Il Convento?
I also have the names of the drivers we really liked - there's a local guy, Massimo, Paolo had him take us to the restaurant our first night - he was lovely and speaks pretty good English :)
We are already planning a return in 2020 or so - thank you for everything!!N.G. from USA staying in Convento . Dec 2018
The nearby village of Baccheretto places fresh bread and the buzz of village festivals within walking distance while a short drive brings one to the beautiful fresco for which Carmignano is famous or to two grand Medici villas - the fortified villa purchased by Lorenzo and finished by his son Pope Leo X in Poggio a Caiano and UNESCO's World Heritage Site La Ferdinanda, 'villa of 100 chimneys' located in Artimino, a hamlet noted also for its fine Etruscan museum. Half an hour away is Prato, the center of the Slow Food Movement and known since the Middle Ages for its textile industry and Vinci, Leonardo's natal town with a small, but enlightening museum.
To the south is Montelupo Fiorentino, one of the most important pottery centers of Italy during the Renaissance and still today a mecca for visitors seeking colorful ceramics and San Miniato, a charming hill town that was once fought over in the Middle Ages and now acclaimed for its precious white truffles. Naturally, a trip to Florence is a must and probably, to avoid the big city parking nightmare, most easily done via train from Prato. The Queen of the Arno and its wealth of palaces, museums, bridges and gardens is eminently walkable, though this does mean that, duly inspired, by the time you return to your quiet hill north of Prato, you will have renewed appreciation for the peace of convent living.
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Many local administrations now charge a “Tourist Tax” for people staying in rented accommodation and these vary from town to town. The charges are generally per person per night with a maximum number of nights, usually around 5 but sometimes 7, beyond which they will not charge. The charges range between 50 cents to 3 euro. Children are sometimes included, sometimes not and these charges should be collected by the property owners.
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