We had the great fortune to stay at Villa Pecille for 7 weeks in August and September 2013 with our 3 small children (ages 4, 2, 1) and absolutely loved it!
Given the length of our stay (I am taking a sabbatical from work), we had initially planned on renting a villa. When we started looking online we were overwhelmed by the number of options, but also wary of horror stories we had read about renting villas sight unseen (things not working, not looking like the pictures, etc.). We read about Villa Pecille in an old Conde Nast article from someone who had rented a villa and later visited Villa Pecille and wished she had stayed there. The more we read about it and corresponded with Gabriele, the more we thought it might actually work better for us, kind of a cross between a hotel and a standalone villa. It couldn't have worked out better. Here are some of the things that make Villa Pecille the perfect vacation spot in Tuscany:
The People: Gabriele (whose title is "receptionist" but would probably be better termed "property manager"), is wonderful. His English is excellent, and he was extremely helpful both before and during our stay. He is at the villa every morning (on his one day off a colleague is there), and can arrange everything from tours to cooking lessons to restaurant reservations. He acts very promptly if there were any issues with anything in the apartments, and even helped us arrange to ship a bag home as we were leaving. He also helped arrange childcare.
The housekeeper Anila, and her sister Rudina, are amazing. The standard housekeeping is less than a hotel - twice a week - but they are willing to do extra cleaning for very reasonable hourly rates. It is impossible to overstate how great an attitude they both had. They were always looking for ways to help, from moving clothes from the washer to the dryer without needing to ask, folding laundry, helping with children, etc. They are really treasures. Anila has been at Villa Pecille for 13 years, and we look forward to seeing her on our next visit back.
Most importantly, we were never, ever made to feel unwelcome. With three very small children, there was often a lot of noise coming out of our apartment. And we had our share of broken dishes, spills, etc. But Gabriele, Anila and Rudina always treated us with so much kindness and understanding. We couldn't imagine a more family-friendly place to stay. And that made all the difference in the world.
The Location: We really wanted to be able to walk to a town, and it was fairly hard to find a villa that was walking distance to a town. Villa Pecille is very well situated in that respect. The walk up into town is a bit uphill, but even with our little kids we managed it fine. Panzano is a great little Italian village, with a little town square where people gather at night for drinks, a handful of restaurants, 2 bakeries, 2 gelaterias, a supermarket, a hilarious world-famous butcher, and more wine shops per capita than just about anywhere you'll ever go. At the same time, the villa is right on the Fontodi vineyard (if their Chianti Classico production is down this year it will be because our kids ate so many grapes) and has absolutely stunning views of the "Conca D'Oro" valley covered in vineyards and olive groves. If you walk to the bottom of the hill, you'll find the white Chianina cows that Dario serves in his famous butcher shop. We sat at our table every morning and marveled about how it looked like we were living in a postcard. Panzano is also very centrally located for sightseeing in Tuscany- more or less an hour from everywhere (Florence, Siena, Arrezzo, Pisa), though the roads are extremely windy so you have to be prepared for that. There is good bus service to Florence (1hr 10min, buses every hour or so). If your main goal was city sightseeing (museums, churches, etc.), you'd be better off staying in the cities, but if you are looking for a relaxed vacation in Chianti with great food, wine, vineyards, and a smattering of sightseeing then it is perfect.
The Villa: The villa is very comfortable and well appointed, and the grounds are beautiful and immaculately maintained with flowers and fruit trees throughout. The manager of the other villa in town, Sammy, is an American expat who worked with the architects to set up the villas in a way that would work well for foreign visitors, especially Americans. We stayed in La Colonna, which is one of the two 4 bedroom apartments (the other, La Loggia, is unquestionably quite a bit nicer and would have worked better for us with small children, but was already fairly booked up by the time we made our reservations). The kitchen was well equipped with plenty of plates, glasses, pots, pans, etc. even when we had guests. The bedrooms are all air conditioned, not as powerfully as the central air we are used to in the US, but we only found it lacking on the hottest days in August. There are some oddities of the layout in La Colonna- for example, while every bedroom had a bathroom but there are no bathrooms in the common area which I think is the case in all the apartments and was sometimes inconvenient (though apparently common in Italy). La Colonna has a nice outdoor area to eat, but it is a bit of a trek from the kitchen and is adjacent to the shared pool area (one of the nice things in La Loggia is a covered outdoor porch right off the kitchen). The internet connection was quite good by Italian standards, and thankfully free of all the nonsense vouchers and passwords and constantly logging back in that we found in nearly every Italian hotel we stayed in, but only so-so by US standards (particularly slow at uploading photos, and sometimes went through a few hours of being super slow downloading). However, most of the time it was fast enough for streaming a movie or doing Skype, which is saying something in Italy.
Our chief complaint was probably the swimming pool, which looks beautiful and inviting but is unheated and was shockingly cold, even when the weather was very hot. If you forced yourself in, you got used to the water after a bit, but we had imagined swimming every day with the kids and really teaching them to swim but the water was always too cold to convince our 4 year old to get in. Heated pools are rare in Italy, but in our opinion it would be well worth the investment to add a heater. That would be our one hesitation about coming back- particularly if we were looking for a relaxing holiday around the pool.
Overall, we had a great time and would highly recommend it. We expect to be back (they have some frequent repeat customers who leave luggage at the villa so they don't have to bring everything back, which is a testimony in itself). We were inspired by the group who rented the whole villa (24 people) and found ourselves imagining doing the same thing for a family reunion or special occasion down the road.
- Also Known As:
- Villa Pecille (Azienda Agricola Fontodi S.S.) Panzano, Italy - Tuscany
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Villa Pecille is located near Panzano, a town of medieval origin in the heart of Chianti, halfway between Florence and Siena. The Villa is an elegant 17th Century building restored to respect the original rchitectural style. From the Villa, which faces the famous Conca d’Oro (Golden Shell) valley, you can enjoy one of the most delightful landscapes in Tuscany, while the town of Panzano with its typical shops and restaurants is only a short walk away. Villa Pecille is composed of five independent apartments, from one to four bedrooms with bath, each with its own garden. Communal facilities include a very large panoramic terrace, two large meeting and eception halls, a large swimming pool located in the garden of the Villa and verlooking the valley, as well as a laundry room for guests with washing machines and dryers. There is also a tennis court available to guests nearby. Each apartment includes a fully-equipped kitchen with dishwasher, a fireplace, an outdoors dining area with barbecue, heating and air-conditioning, stereo, satellite TV, telephone and free high-speed broadband (WI-FI) internet access. ... more less