It never occurred to us to go to Italy. That strikes me as particularly odd considering how much we have discovered we love the place. We certainly were aware how much we loved the food. As a history buff I knew the history. But for some reason, it hadn’t been on our roadmap of places to see… until we got the call.
A friend of ours, Chris, was planning on celebrating his 40th birthday and had decided to do it at a villa in Tuscany. With the proceeds of a recent bonus he had rented out a villa in Tuscany near the mountain top town of Maltalcino and was now putting out the word to come and join him. That’s the sort of offer that does not happen that often so even though we didn’t know a Vino Nobile from a Brunello, even though we hadn’t read “Under the Tuscan Sun”, we booked our tickets nearly immediately.
The villa itself was out in the country. Our friend Chris had chosen this villa from a number of villas available for rent and because of its larger size (it slept 25). And while one could easily have rented a single room in the Villa there was something about the experience of having the entire villa to ourselves that made us feel like Italian nobility. Our kids had the run of the property with my daughter running here and there to take pictures of the small lizards lounging in the sun.
As part of Chris’s birthday celebration he hired a local chef to prepare a wonderful meal. The chef, as is the way in Tuscany, turned whatever was fresh in the market, whatever was in season into a feast accompanied, of course, by more than a few bottles of Tuscan wine.
We explored the hill town of Montalcino which can easily be done in a single afternoon. The town still retains its medieval wall and small fortezza, a duomo (cathedral) and the main plaza the Piazza della Principessa Margherita. We also explored the region taking day trips as far as Florence to see the Uffizi Gallery and the statue of David, the duomo and the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). Closer to Montalcino is my favorite of the Tuscan cities, the walled city of Siena. Unlike bustling Florence Siena is traffic-free so you can stroll its cobblestone streets or eat at a cafe in its main square in relative calm. Relative that is if you are not there for the annual Palio di Siena which is a bareback horserace around the main piazza. Take the time to climb to the top of Sienna’s signature clock tower for a great view of the city.
To hear more about Tuscany, listen to Travel to Tuscany, The Hill Towns of Southern Tuscany – Amateur Traveler podcast episode 350
In Europe we have stayed in hostels and hotels, pensions and apartments, castles and villas and many as those stays have been enjoyable. But don’t be too surprised if you mentioned villas or Tuscany if it elicits from me a wistful look and a satisfied sigh.
Renting Your Own Villa
The trip I recounted here happened before the web when it was harder to find your own villa to rent. Now sites like Airbnb (get a $40 credit) will help you find anything from a room in someone’s house to a whole villa. There are also specialty sites like VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) and Villas International where you can find houses (and villas) to rent.
This article first appeared on the tuscany-villas.it website Amateur Traveler Villa Experience