Tuscany Villa Rentals: Live Your Dreams

Renting a villa is a family-friendly way to enjoy Tuscany.

It’s a pretty popular fantasy: renting a villa in Tuscany. I am happy to report, with proper planning, that it's an attainable reality. Part of the dream for a lot of people though seems to be sans kids. Is your daughter going, I am asked? Well, yes. It is a family vacation. It’s a funny question to me, but one that I have been asked time and again when we have traveled to England, Germany, Canada and elsewhere.

Comments made to me in return include, “I am waiting for my kids to get older.” “I would never travel with my kids.” “They are too fussy. What would they eat?” “What would they do?”

Kid-Friendly Italy

I counter that one of my daughter’s fondest memories is of discovering strawberry gelato in Florence when she was four years old. The fresh treat was a brand-new experience and she asked for one every time we passed a gelateria. Another favorite story is of eating pizza in the shadow of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In fact, a lot of her (and our) fondest memories involve food. At almost every restaurant we went to, Sadie was treated like a little princess. Staff would bring her fresh bread or pieces of cheese to nibble on. Even if we didn’t order dessert, invariably she would end up with some sort of treat. At one restaurant, the server brought her into the kitchen to say hello (with me at their heels).

Before our trip, we had visions of drinking red wine and eating loads of pasta, all while looking out at vineyards. Of course, we also had visions of churches and Rome, the statue of David and Vespas zipping around—all the romantic pictures from films and books. We were thrilled not to be disappointed. We were also thrilled at how happy Sadie was touring around, as long as we didn’t try to pack too much in. A nice rhythm was to go out early, come back early, nap, swim and then figure out dinner.

Where to Stay

When we decided to go to Florence, we asked friends who’d been where they went. We knew we wanted more than a hotel setting; we wanted more room and somewhere we could relax with the friends who were meeting us there. We also didn’t want to spend too much time in the car. We wanted a pool. We wanted to be near Florence, but not in the city proper. Finally, a friend recommended the villa we settled on and it fit the bill perfectly. 

Villa Caffagiolo is near the town of Pontassieve, about 7.5 miles from Florence. Owned by the Pucci family, the property actually has two villas on it. One is the home of the Puccis. The other has been converted into three apartments, which they rent. Two have three bedrooms; the other one has two bedrooms. Each has its own private entrance and patio and they all share a pool. The villa, which is a restored 1700s stone farmhouse, sits on almost three acres. The property is fenced and very private. For a one-week rental, the two-bedroom goes for about $1,800. To hold the reservation, half the fee is required up front, which is standard practice.

It’s important to make sure you are clear exactly what you are getting into when you rent a property. Find out if there are animals (we were surprised by the resident cat!); whether you’ll share amenities, such as a pool, with other guests; and who to contact if you have trouble. We had to pay for gas at our rental, which is used to heat the stove (about $20 for the week). Often property owners are elsewhere, so they may have a manager, but they may not. We felt lucky the Puccis were on the property to talk to and give us advice.

Day Trips

How you get around largely depends where you stay. In Florence a car is a hassle, if not an outright hindrance. However, if you’re outside the city, you’ll need wheels. For trips into the city, we took the local train, which was easy enough. Between the Puccis’ tips, our guidebook Italian and the English the train staff spoke, we managed just fine.

From our home base at the villa, we ventured to the medieval walled city of Lucca one day, which took about an hour-and-a-half. Another day we spent exploring Pisa. Since we had traveled with friends without kids, one day my husband and I left our daughter with them and took the high-speed train to Rome and back (about two hours each way).

The options for day-trips and excursions were plentiful. However, for a couple of days we did nothing but go to the market, lounge by our pool and cook with the freshest ingredients we could find—tomatoes, olives, fresh bread and mozzarella cheese one night, mushroom risotto the next, which we enjoyed from our patio. We drank cheap local red wine, which beat any of the fancy Italian wines we buy at home. Our view of the olive trees and vineyards outside our villa matched the fantasy perfectly.

I am in the early stages of planning another visit to the area, bringing a half-dozen family members with me who were impressed with my tales from the first trip. I have no doubts their Tuscan dreams will be realized too.

Destinations: Tuscany, Florence

Themes: Family Travel

User Comments

Be adventurous Tuscany is fun but a bit of an overcrowded theme park these days. Think about renting a house or villa across the border in Umbria. The countryside is sensational and it's got lots of small, beautiful hill towns and villages to explore. If you're in Northern Umbria you're also only two hours away from Florence - if you simply must visit the Uffizi - although this is not something I'd recommend anyone to do anytime between June and September. Visiting in Spring or Fall is also something worth considering.

Cute By the way, clever pose in the photograph with the little girl and the tower!

Wish I were there... Wow, seems like a dream come true! How long in advance do you suggest the villas need to be reserved?