I’m looking for a really special villa in Tuscany for a family reunion for my mom and dad’s 40th wedding anniversary. There will be 18 of us, ranging in age from three years old to 82. We want a great setting with fabulous views, and also a good base for making day trips to the hill towns. Can you suggest a village or villa for us—or a good resource for securing a rental?
Thanks for any help you can offer,
You’ve got a challenge, Margaret: The dreamiest villas in Tuscany tend to be restored farmhouses or castles filled with things that can be treacherous to toddlers or grandmas or both: slippery centuries-old stone steps, open-hearth fireplaces, wobbly antique furniture, spiky medieval-style door latches, etc. I know this from personal experience, having rented an ancient Italian farmhouse with my own mom and kids. I went to sleep every night worried my two-year-old was going to trip over an antique, go flying into a door latch, catapult down the stairs, and end up in the fireplace.
But I do, in fact, have a place in mind for you. Several years ago, when I was in Tuscany I was shown a rambling property called Ca di Pesa that is actually an historic borgo (medieval village). I’ve remembered it since because it struck that unusual note of being sophisticated enough for adults (it’s got a wine cellar where you can dine by candelight, for instance, not to mention a cinema and a bocce court), while also kid-friendly enough for tots (it’s got plenty of flat lawn and a freshwater pool with a child-friendly gate). It’s in an ideal central location amid the vineyards and olive groves of Chianti, near the charming town of Panzano, halfway between Florence and Siena. And it fits 18.
Two caveats: First, a lot of people who rent homes in Tuscany like to be able to walk into town, and while it’s only a five-minute drive to town, it’s a 3.6-mile walk—and not on a charming country path but just on the regular road. Second, the price tag is high, so it helps if you can fill the house. (Maybe you can scrounge up two more family members to make your group 20?) The price in May is $22,500 for the week—which sounds exorbitant until you do the math and realize it translates to $161 per person per night and includes a concierge and a welcome dinner.
So it’s a splurge, for sure, but then again, you did ask for “really special.” And, to this day, whenever I fantasize about the Tuscan villa vacation I desperately need, I think back to Ca di Pesa and look through the photos above. My favorite touch in the house? The jungle fresco in one of the bedrooms.