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Family

Meet Us In Tuscany

Tuscan tale: Casale La Canonica, the villa starring in ‘Meet Us In Tuscany’
When Janet Toll Davidson and her husband Richard embarked on a trip to Tuscany, little did she realise this fascinating trip would result in a book. Meet Us In Tuscany is the memoir of a happy holiday with extended family that’s sure to inspire your own journey to the heart of Italy. The following excerpt sees the family settle in at Casale la Canonica and begin to explore the local area…

“Our three weeks unfolded in chapters. Guests came, guests left. They stayed from four nights to seven nights. The only constants were Richard and me. For us, every week was a new beginning. Early in our planning, I had created an Excel spreadsheet with arrival and departure dates to make sure that we were not overbooked. We needed to assure ourselves that there would always be an available bed. There was. 

Mimi and Corona with the gelateria van

The villa was not air-conditioned so we hoped it would be cool enough on hot Tuscan summer days. The pool was not heated so we hoped that the weather would be hot enough to keep it warm. I think we had the perfect combination. The pool was indeed warm enough, even for me, and the house temperature was delightful thanks to the thick stone wall of a centuries-old edifice.

For all, life at the villa was at the top of their list of favourite memories. Just hanging out in the living room, the kitchen or by the pool, chatting and laughing, was such fun. However, because the villa was large and spread out, it was easy to sneak away for a nap, a read, a shower or just some quiet time. Our schedule was unstructured. We arose at different times anywhere from about 5am to 10am so the morning was very slow and casual. Zachary took a fierce bike ride each morning, Debbie did T’ai Chi by the pool, Tierna and AJ worked out, many of us took a hike and others just lolled about smelling the tantalising aroma of Italian coffee… 

The villa’s kitchen is just the place to try out some Tuscan recipes

...[One] day, while I was walking to town [Castellina] alone, I encountered a woman who had emerged from the bushes on the downward slope next to the road. She seemed to have some crops in her hands. In my meagre Italian and with lots of hand gestures, I asked what was down the slope. Apparently, she had a small garden just off the road. She showed me what she had picked that day, all fresh and beautiful. We smiled at each other and waved as she left to walk home. Each time I took that trip, I looked for her. It made me want to have my own little herb and vegetable garden… It was such fun to engage these lovely Italian villagers even if we did not speak the same language…

…When Karen and Debbie arrived just six days after our arrival at the villa… we went into Castellina… Karen was amazed that I knew so many people after such a short time. In general, Italians are among the friendliest people on this earth but in small towns they knock themselves out to make your time there such fun… I met Silvia, the owner of Il Rifugio dei Folletti [shop]… on my first day in town. She spoke little English and I less Italian but we became fast friends. I visited her every time I was in town, whether I needed items from her shop or not. That first day, I had asked her about a cheese she had out for tasting. It was unusual as it incorporated pistachios. I also asked her about some pastries on the counter. Once I had completed my purchases and paid my bill, Silvia cut a chunk of the special cheese, wrapped it up and stuck it in one of my shopping bags. Then she grabbed four of the pastries, wrapped them up and placed them in another of my bags. What a sweetheart. From that day on she always gave me a little something special…”

Family lunch in Castellina in Chianti
This excerpt from Meet Us In Tuscany: A Memoir of Life at the Villa by Janet Toll Davidson has been published by kind permission of the author and Publish Authority. Copies of the book can be ordered at www.publishauthority.com and other online outlets.

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Happy Families: what to do and where to stay

Italy welcomes families like no other destination, especially when it comes to filling tummies. From the rainbow choice of gelato to the simple culinary genius of pizza and pasta, all made with love, this is a child-pleasing place to spend the precious summer break. Travellers with bambini in tow usually enjoy VIP treatment; seen and not heard is about as far as you can get from the welcoming Italian attitude to kids. 

Spend a day on the sands at Punta Ala. Photo: imageBROKER/Alamy

The most successful summer holidays centre on the beach, and although Tuscany is famed for its rolling countryside, the local coast is a real beauty. There’s plenty of it, too; some 230km, including protected nature reserves, bustling fishing towns, and some very glitzy resorts. Developed beaches come with umbrellas, sun loungers, cafes, showers and loos. These can be a real boon for families with young children, although you’ll have to pay for the convenience – potentially pricey. But there are plenty of wilder spots where you can plonk your towel, picnic on panini, and let the kids run free. 

Don’t miss the Gaudi-style sculptures of the Tarot Garden. Photo: Valerio Mei/Shutterstock

The Maremma, for example, comes with a protected nature reserve and has some of Tuscany’s most pristine stretches of sand, including Chiarone, set at one end of Burano Lake in a protected oasis with clear, calm shallow waters that are perfect for children to play in. Nearby, Spiaggia di Punta Ala and the glorious white sands of Spiaggia delle Marze are backed by shady, pine-sheltered bays. (If you visit Chiarone, don’t miss the gaudy Gaudi-style sculptures of the Tarot Garden, built by French sculptress Niki de Saint Phalle and her husband, Jean Tinguely.) Fun is guaranteed at water parks such as Acqua Village, which has two locations on the Tuscan coast, at Follonica, near Grosseto, and Cecina, near Livorno. Inland, in Tuscany’s hills, you’ll soon realise why international cycling teams train here – cycling here is not for the fainthearted. But little legs will do well on the flatter terrain of Val di Chiana, or the coastal route Sentiero della Bonifica follows a flat, 60km, car-free path between Arezzo and Chiusi. For bigger thrills, go rafting in the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park, or take to the high ropes at Parco Avventura Il Gigante, just outside Florence.

Check out the children’s activities at Museo Stefano Bardini. Photo: MUSE

The Renaissance powerhouse of Florence can fatigue families trying to tick off all the treasures of the Uffizi Gallery. More easy-to-digest slices of culture are served elsewhere. There are lively tours with historical costumed characters at Palazzo Vecchio, you can climb the bell tower and step down into the crypts at theMuseo del Duomo get hands-on in art workshops at the modern art museum Museo Novecento, and do child-centred activities at Museo Stefano Bardini Populated with priceless work by the likes of Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Andrea della Robbia, the recently renovated Museo degli Innocenti, formerly an orphanage, has been designed specifically with children in mind, with audio guides in English written by children’s authors, interactive installations, and children’s workshops.

Florence is a great place to learn about the Leonardo da Vinci's life and works. In the outlying town of Vinci, close to his place of birth,Museo Leonardiano Vinci displays some 300 madcap models and flying machines created by the prolific Renaissance polymath.

Young thoughts rarely stray far from the next meal. Turn mealtimes into an event at one of the sagre that take place at this time of year in towns and villages across the region. These food festivals celebrate specific dishes or prized produce; expect everything from July’s seasonal fried zucchini flowers in Piancastagnaio, to mini moscardini octopus in Talamone, and Livorno’s cacciucco fish soup. The cook-offs, street-food stalls and culinary markets are very enticing, and the food is often accompanied by great Tuscan wine – the complete package to transport back to your villa, for that perfect al-fresco family dinner.

Image courtesy of Le Pratola

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It’s time to get together - luxury villas for large groups


After a turbulent few years, we know that lots of you are already making big plans to get together with family and friends next year. But we know that lots of you are already making big plans to get together with family and friends next year. So to help you find the perfect villa we’ve picked six of our best properties for large groups, sleeping 12 or more people. They’ve got flexible accommodation, secluded locations and spacious interiors and grounds. And, don’t forget, all our big villas in Tuscany have private pools, too.

The delightful pool area, surrounded by shrubs and trees, is one of the many tranquil spots in the grounds of Villa Agresto
Villa Agresto, near Gaiole in Chianti
Ideally located for exploring the Chianti region,Villa Agresto is a six-bedroom property hidden away in the Siena hills. It offers sweeping views of the vineyards and forest below and plenty of tranquil spots – including a delightful pool area – from which to admire them. Inside, the décor blends traditional features with a contemporary colour palette. The kitchen and its mod cons, as well as large indoor and outdoor dining areas, make this a good choice for groups who like to host large, convivial meals.

Palazzone has two stylish lounges, so there is plenty of space for everyone to relax
Palazzone, near Torrita di SienaPalazzone, an imposing stone villa surrounded by lush lawn, is an elegant retreat for friends or family. Six bedrooms offer flexible accommodation – two of them housed in a separate, cottage for extra privacy. There are two lounges in the main house – including one with a striking glass-covered atrium – so everyone can find a peaceful spot. The outdoor lounge or the Jacuzzi by the pool are ideal for gazing towards Montepulciano and the mountains. Plus, historic Montefollonico and Siena are a short trip away.

The chic country retreat of Borgo San Polino is pure Tuscan with designer elegance.
Borgo San Polino, Gaiole in Chianti
Nestled in the heart of the Chianti region – which, for some, is the only place to stay in Tuscany – Borgo San Polinooffers a tranquil setting, surrounded by manicured olive groves, vineyards and wild oak woodland. And yet, the popular day trip spots of Siena, San Gimignano and Florence are just a short distance away. The property itself, spread over three grouped cottages, lends itself perfectly to an extended family getaway, with both large, elegant communal areas for coming together – including an incredibly positioned swimming pool - and cosy nooks for enjoying some well-deserved ‘me’ time.

Panoramic vistas, wide open space and idyllic comfort are waiting for you at Le Cannelle
Le Cannelle, Castellina MarittimaLe Cannelleis an incredibly special and unique find when it comes to Tuscany rental properties. Not only is this villa a short distance from the coast so you can enjoy warm sandy beaches at your leisure but it is also perfectly located for exploring Tuscany's Archipelago and Bolgheri's five-star vineyards. That’s if you can tear yourself away. Reached by a winding private road, flanked by centuries old oak forest, the property comprises of three cottages, each with their own private entrance, kitchen and living areas, and each the perfect balance of traditional splendour and modern amenities. 

Step out onto the pool terrace and take up your first class seat in front of Il Santo's awe-inspiring views
Villa il Santo, Barberina Val d’Elsa
This exquisite property is a perfect marriage of traditional and contemporary styles – where an historic tower and barn have been sensitively united by a modern glass structure. Villa il Santo, luxuriating in its surroundings on top of a Chianti hill, is a study in stripped-back style and serenity. The spacious yet comfortable interiors are enhanced by the light from huge arched windows, while outside the fragrant gardens also seem endless… until you stumble across the studio cottage and the swimming pool with adjoining hot-tub. 

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Six great days out in Tuscany for children


It’s easy to keep the whole family happy on a holiday to Tuscany; just balance a bit of ‘me’ time with some ‘them’ time.With its family-first culture, Tuscany is a wonderful place for children. From water parks to museums, these attractions are sure to be a big hit not only with the little kids in your group but the big kids too!
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
Children will love the interactive exhibitions in the Leonardo Da Vinci Museumin Florence. More than 40 machines have been built to scale using the plans of the great Italian Renaissance polymath, including his famous flying machines. Plus, there are reproductions of his masterpieces on display, too, including ‘The Last Supper’ and the ‘Mona Lisa’.
Pinocchio Park
The puppet who would be a boy is the star of Pinocchio Park near Lucca. Follow the trail through the park, dotted with tableaux of different episodes from Carlo Collodi’s 1883 fairytale The Adventures of Pinocchio. There’s a museum, gardens and a butterfly house, too.
Pistoia Zoo
From lions to giant cockroaches, there are more than 400 creatures to see close up at Pistoia Zoo where conservation and education are the watchwords. The zoo takes part in programmes to protect animals in the wild, as well as preserving endangered species within its gates, and children can find out more about the residents through special family-friendly activities.
Acqua Village
Cecina and Follonica are the places to head for with water babies. These Hawaiian-themed water parks, on the Etruscan and Maremma coasts, are packed with giant slides and play pools where young and old can make a splash. There’s also circus school, football and volleyball, and elastic carpets to bounce about on.
Museo d’Arte per Bambini
The Tuscans are so determined to get kids to embrace art that they’ve even created a museum dedicated to children aged three to 11 years of age. Museo d’Arte per Bambini in the prestigious museum complex Santa Maria Della Scala, features a collection from down the centuries that will inspire young minds, from paintings to sculpture and photography to video.
Parco Aventura Saltalbero
Does your family have a head for heights? Then take a walk in the treetops at Parco Aventura Saltalbero near Rapolano Terme in the Ombrone Valley. Wobble your way through the branches via rope bridges, ladders and swinging logs, with a variety of routes available for all ages.

To Tuscany has a fantastic range of family-friendly villas. Explore our collection of family-friendly villas for the best places to stay whilst you’re in Tuscany.

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What to look for in a family villa in Tuscany


Over the past 20 years, we have been kindly trusted with thousands of family holidays in Tuscany. During this time we have picked up plenty of insider tips to make your next villa holiday an unforgettable one. Here are our top tips when it comes to choosing the perfect villa for your family: 
Book enough bedrooms…
While many of our villas offer flexible living, some including sofa beds to maximise space, try to avoid skimping on the amount of bedrooms. The kids will have a more peaceful night in a room on which you can shut the door – and you won’t have to tiptoe around the villa after you’ve put them to bed.
… and bathrooms
As well as enough beds, extra bathrooms help keep everyone happy. You might not need a private bathroom for each individual bedroom, but book a villa with at least two to cut down on the amount of waiting – and potential arguments.
What kind of pool do you fancy?
We pride ourselves on the fact that the vast majority of our villas have access to a swimming pool. But which to choose for a family holiday, private or shared? There’s no doubt a private pool is a real treat – and if you opt for one, you might like to make sure it’s fenced or close to the house to keep children safe. But a shared pool offers the chance to mingle with other families, an easy way to help the kids make holiday friends.
Is there space inside and out?
Choose a villa with a few communal spaces, both inside and out. This will enable everyone to find a quiet corner should they want some private time and to ensure you’ve somewhere to gather under cover if you’re unlucky enough to experience a rainy day.
Keep connected
You might dream of taking a break from digital life, but for many families Wi-Fi is the key to a happy holiday, especially if you’re travelling with teenagers. Wi-Fi allows your kids to use their devices for entertainment, to stay in touch with friends, and to share photos and activities from the trip. It also means you can stay up-to-date with news, social media and, if you must, your emails.
Stop the boredom
Lots of our villas have activities on site, from tennis courts to snooker and ping pong. In many you’ll find books, DVDs and board games, too. Check out the fine details of your preferred villa’s page to see what is available.
Get out and about
Seclusion is nice, but so is history, culture, and nightlife. Unless you are a very self-contained family, it’s a good idea to choose a villa that is close to a town or village with shopping and restaurants – if eating out is important, choosing a villa within walking distance of good eateries is a bonus.  

Explore our range of excellent family-friendly villas to find the perfect one for your holiday.

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Things to do in Tuscany for any itinerary


With so much on offer in Tuscany, it can be difficult to know where to start. We have compiled the top things to add to your itinerary during your Tuscan holiday whether you are looking for something to do with your children, places to try the very best local wines or galleries of some of the world’s most famous art collections.Tuscany’s art
Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is a must-see if you’re making a day trip to Florence during your stay because it’s home to one of the world’s best collections of Renaissance art. Michelangelo’s ‘Holy Family’, Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, and Canaletto’s ‘View of the Grand Canal’ are just a few of the treasures to tick off your list.
Leonardiano Museum
TheLeonardiano Museum, in the master’s birthplace, Vinci, west of Florence, is no dusty parochial detailing of Leonardo da Vinci’s life. Instead, at its heart is a fascinating collection of models of the mechanisms he imagined, including a flying machine, and there’s a high-definition digital reproduction of his famous mural, ‘The Last Supper’. 

The Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato is welcoming
visitors again. Photo: Michela Osteri/Creative Commons
Centro Pecci
The visual arts, cinema, music, architecture, design, fashion, literature, the performing arts – no branch of contemporary art is unscrutinised at Centro Pecci in Prato. The gallery – itself a saucer-shaped spectacle, designed by Italo Gamberini and extended by Maurice Nio – has hosted distinguished exhibitions including ‘Nudes’ by the late Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang.
Tuscany for children

Children will love the park showcasing the world-famous fairytale character Pinocchio. Photo: Jack Sullivan/Alamy
Pinocchio Park
Children can immerse themselves in one of the world’s favourite fairytales atPinocchio Parknear Pistoia. Carlo Collodi’s story about the puppet with ambitions to become a real boy is gently told in a garden set with bronze and steel sculptures of characters and settings from the book, plus there’s a small museum. A zipwire adventure in the trees adds a few thrills.
Acqua Villages
The fun is more raucous at Acqua Villages at Cecina and Follonica, two South Seas-style fantasy sites cast adrift in the Tuscan landscape. Whizz around snaking flumes and shoot down perilously steep slides for the ultimate splashdown in the cool pools below. Plus there are safe spaces for tiny tots to enjoy some watery fun, too.

Treetop family fun at Parco Avventura Il Gigante.
Parco Avventura Il Gigante
Another place to get the family’s adrenaline pumping is Parco Avventura Il Gigante near Florence. Young or old, your head for heights will be put to the test on the ziplines and Tibetan bridges that weave through the canopy of an oak forest.
Tuscany’s Gardens

'The Planets’ is another striking installation in Daniel Spoerri’s Garden. Photo: Susanne Neumann
Daniel Spoerri’s Garden
Art meets nature in several locations across Tuscany, including at Daniel Spoerri’s Garden. It’s named after the Swiss artist who has carefully positioned his collection of 113 installations by 55 artists here in a wild mountainous spot near Seggiano. Look out for the two works by the renowned Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, famed for his kinetic art.
Tarot Garden
The eye-popping Tarot Garden near Garavicchio is the legacy of the late French-American sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle. Here, she constructed more than 20 monumental figures about the symbols of the Tarot, assisted by her second husband, the sculptor Jean Tinguely (see above). If you’ve been to Parc Guell in Barcelona, you’ll immediately recognise the influence of the Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi in the giant mosaic-clad sculptures.

The Pratolino Medici Park is home to some monumental statues, including the 10.7-metre-high ‘Colosso del Appennino’. Photo: Luca Lorenzelli/Shutterstock
Pratolino Medici Park
More monumental works of art can be seen at thePratolino Medici Park near Vaglia, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Famed for its Renaissance grottos, fountains and statues, you can’t miss the park’s 10.7-metre-high Appennine Colossus, gazing into the waters of a small lake. These massive marvels were adornments for a villa that once stood here, designed by Buontalenti for the powerful Medici family in the late 16th century. Tuscany
Tuscany’s Wines

The Antinori winery in Chianti Classico is an organic sculpture that blends into the surrounding landscape. Photo: Ivan Franco Bottoni/Unsplash

One of Tuscany’s greatest attractions, of course, is its delicious wines. Many of the local vineyards are opening for tastings once more, not only of the red and white wines they produce, but also Vinsanto, Grappa and extra virgin olive oil. Among their number is Casanuova di Ama, near Gaiole, a family-run farm in the prime vineyards of Chianti Classico. AtCastello Nipozzano near Pelago, a medieval castle provides the backdrop to the winery in Chianti Rufina territory, with cellars and a house to tour, as well as tastings. Col d’Orcia, an organic producer overlooking the Orcia river near Montalcino, is in Brunello country and offers tours of the farm that provide an insight into its biodynamic approach. Meanwhile, cutting-edge architecture meets venerable winemaking atAntinori nel Chianti Classico, south of Florence. The Antinori family has been making wine in Tuscany since the Middle Ages, but the sculptural winery by architect Marco Casamonti, with its glass tasting room suspended above the cellar, is thoroughly 21st century. .

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