We (two couples and a single friend) were going to rent a house in Lucca—but we are so glad we didn’t. Il Rifugio (15 minutes from the city of Lucca) gave us the “off the beaten path” Tuscan experience we were seeking. The hosts, location, and accommodations all added up to a perfect week in Tuscany.
Call me a skeptic, but I suspected many of the glowing reviews were probably posted by their friends and family. They are not. From the moment we pulled into the parking place, we felt like we were visiting old friends. From making reservations, giving directions, offering suggestions or just chatting, Bill and John were gracious, warm, and accommodating. Bill has a wicked sense of humor and a wealth of information on the area. You can certainly find lovely rooms all over Tuscany, but you will not find any with hosts as entertaining and thoughtful as Bill and John.
Our group rented all three of the “suites” and each room was nice for different reasons—in fact each of us felt like we got the best room. In the main house, the ground floor is made up of the kitchen (not for use from the guests), living room, and dining room (where breakfast is served). There are two separate staircases. One staircase leads to the owner’s private rooms and the other staircase leads to the two guest rooms. On the second floor is a spacious room, “The Cecilia Suite,” with private bath. On the third floor is another bedroom “La Soffita,” which includes a small sitting room and private bath. Even though these rooms are in the main house, they feel very private. I normally don’t like B&Bs, but the layout was perfect: Everyone had their own space and could interact with others as much or little as they wanted.
Behind the main house is a small “cottage” with its own entrance. It has a ground floor living area, small kitchen, and upstairs loft bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. As a bonus, it also has its own little private patio.
As noted in other posts, the property is surrounded by gardens and little places to sit and relax. Even though there are quite a few cats roaming around outside, they kept their distance and someone in our group is pretty allergic to cats but they were not affected. The inside is spotless and the outside is beautifully maintained.
The location is perfect. It's located in a little village of less than 500. I was a little afraid I’d be bored in such a small town, but I could have spent another week (or two) there. We took day trips to Lucca, San Gimignano and Volterra, Cinque Terre, took a cooking class, and just spent time sipping wine and enjoying the gardens. The people from the village were warm and inviting--regardless of the language barrier. We became friends with a lovely couple from Scotland who just bought a house nearby, watched farmers as they brought their olives to be pressed, and spent too many evenings in the little bar just up the hill.
We traveled all over Italy and can unequivocally say the pizzeria up the hill (less than 5 minute walk) had the best pizza we had anywhere. From Milan to Florence we couldn’t find a better pizza—and we tried.
Everyone in our group all agreed (and we rarely all agree on anything) the highlight of our trip was Il Rifugio it’s everything you hope Tuscany will be. We can’t wait to return.
“IL RIFUGIO” - Hidden Jewel in the Rolling Hills of Luca
Although our stay was a disappointment, we will attempt to provide a sincere evaluation to include the positive as well as the reasons for the negative experience we endured.
Il Rifugio is located in the hills outside of Lucca. We were 2 couples and our reservation required a full size bed and bathroom with shower for each couple. The accommodations were very tastefully decorated and clean. There was also a number of TV channels available in English allowing us to keep up to date on the news back in the US. The proprietor provided a nice selection of breakfast items with tea and coffee every morning and attempted to be helpful with regard to information and directions.
Below are some things that made our experience disappointing.
Our suites were located on the 2nd and 3rd floor within the home of the proprietor and we were not provided keys for the entrance of the home nor our rooms. We travel extensively and this was uncomfortable and quite different from any other experience we have ever had while traveling. We had never had to sleep anywhere, much less in another Country, without the ability to lock our bedroom door, not to mention, forced to trust that our unlocked belongings would be safe while we were away each day. It was also made clear that the kitchen belonged to the proprietor and was “OFF LIMITS.” Our prior information never indicated that we were basically renting 2 rooms in someone’s house.
The home had a live-in cat and the proprietor’s daily regimen of feeding, in his words, 12 neighborhood cats at the entrance/exit of the residence made it very uncomfortable and very detrimental to our allergies. The cats were the likely source of fleas that we encountered each day while eating breakfast or when entering /exiting the premises. We were quite surprised to discover the cat in our room one day which made it necessary to keep our doors closed at all times instead of being able for our group to be more accessible and socialize while we were all in our accommodations.
I was quite confused when the proprietor approached me to “grease his palm” on the first day. My confused look prompted him to request that the account be settled in cash at the beginning of our stay. Since our previous week at a lovely villa in the Chianti area of Tuscany provided us with a normal check-out procedure at the conclusion of our stay, we were quite surprised as well as insulted.
The advertised Wi-Fi internet that was available was spotty at best and not even always available in our rooms. When available a speed test revealed a download speed with a range between 4-5 and a non-existent upload speed of 0.25 making it impossible to stream or upload any video.
Since we travelled with two weeks worth of luggage and needed a car that would accommodate our needs, it was impossible for us
to be out with the car after dark because of the narrowness and lack of lighting of the driveway up to the residence. These conditions limited our late day activity for the entire stay.
Although we paid for the week up front in cash, we decided to leave after six days and spend our last day and night in a very comfortable hotel in Florence. We did not request a refund for the last day but the fact that an offer of some type of compensation was never offered reveals all you need to know about the business acumen of this entity.
After traveling for 3 weeks in Europe we arrived at Il Rifugio for our final stop. From the moment, we arrived to the moment we left all are expectation were exceeded. The property is beautifully restored and in a great location near Lucca, Pisa, and Florence. There are 3 bedroom suites and we rented all of them for the 5 of us.
We were concerned with the heat of Italy in the summer. The location could not have been more perfect. It was cool in the evenings where you did not need AC to sleep. Every morning it was still cool to late morning. We were meet with a wonderful breakfast every morning. In the late afternoon, we had a very enjoyable happy hour including great conversation with Bill & John.
Bill & John were wonderful host. By second day they were more friends than hosts. They were very helpful in arranging dinner reservations every night and recommending day trips.
When we return to Tuscany we will go out of our way to stay with them again.
Just a must stay when you are visiting the Pisa and Lucca area.
A peaceful and beautiful hide away - a top renovated property with the touch you will love it!
Just stay and enjoy this property and the host
Patrick and Angélica
When people ask us about our Italian vacation, I have to tell them our stay at Il Rifugio was the highlight. We stayed in Rome and Florence, but what we remember most fondly is our stay will Bill and John in the countryside. They were great hosts, always attentive and never intrusive. No detail was overlooked. We took over the whole inn for our family. We were welcomed very warmly. We were so comfortable during our visit. The breakfast every day was delicious with fresh baked goods from a local bakery. We enjoyed happy hour in the afternoon on the patio overlooking the gorgeous gardens. Bill and John made excellent recommendations on activities every day. I honestly can't say enough about the inn and the wonderful innkeepers.