We spent two weeks here along with our kids and my parents. We were after a place in the Tuscan countryside to experience the local area, relax by a pool and visit the larger cities in the region and this ticks all the boxes.
Being on the northern edge of the region it's not particularly touristy, which is great - you get a real sense of the local community and area and are not flooded with tourists. The local town Scarperia is wonderful - lovely old buildings and a good selection of cafes, restaurants, and supermarket to keep you going.
The house is big enough to give everyone some space and is well equipped to cook (in the kitchen and on 2 BBQs), and the pool and terrace area was lovely to relax and just take in the surrounding valley whilst cooling off.
Locally there's still lots to do - drive up the hill to the WW2 site and see the stunning views, the german WW2 cemetery, Mugello race circuit at the bottom of the hill, and Lake Bilancino all well worth a visit.
Florence, Pisa and Siena are all reachable and well worth a visit if you can to explore and do the main touristy things - we use the train for Florence from a nearby station and drove to Siena and Pisa.
The food locally was amazing, sadly we couldn't eat at the much-hyped local restaurant, but still experienced some great food, the highlight of which was the degustation at the local farm L'Aia di Martino.
Janilee was a wonderful host, on hand to answer questions and help, as well as baking us a wonderful strawberry tart. The neighbouring cats and donkeys were much loved by the kids as well!
All in all we had a fabulous 2 weeks and lots of happy memories for us and the kids.
My wife and I plus our two young sons stayed in Janilee’s villa for two weeks at the end of June / beginning of July this year. If you don’t have time to read what follows I’ll summarize our stay with one word – fabulous!
Our idea was to find a hub location in Tuscany from which we could do day trips by car (or train to Florence), live in a place away from the most touristy areas and chill out by the pool when the weather got too hot. Janilee’s place ticked all of those boxes and we were very glad that we chose her place.
The house itself is spacious and has a real “lived in” feeling, i.e. it’s not staged for renters but gives a sense of home which we really liked. The kitchen was great to cook in and all rooms were easily big enough for us and the kids. The pool is big enough to have fun in and we used it every day. Sitting under the shade by the pool watching the surrounding nature was something we really enjoyed, the hills around the house are wonderful.
Janilee herself is a lovely host. She welcomed us in a very genuine and caring manner, baked a tasty cake and even washed our clothes. She lives in another part of the farmhouse and we enjoyed chatting with her every time we bumped into her. Having her around felt good and she was always happy to provide tips and share her deep knowledge about the area. In one sentence, Janilee’s presence made the holiday more fun.
Here is a relatively random list of places / restaurants, etc. which we enjoyed most while in Tuscany and we can highly recommend any of them:
• Mount Altuzzo, WW2 Gothic Line – a few minutes drive from the farmhouse and an important place where in September 1944 the Allied forces fought against the Germans thus breaking through the famous Gothic line. Well worth a visit if you are interest in recent history and would like to see some of the restored bunkers from the 2nd World War
• Ponzalla Gothic Line Museum – also a couple of minutes drive from Janilee’s house in the village of Ponzalla, a great little museum about the point above. We took the guided tour and we were amazed by some of the artefacts which are housed in this museum and also about the guides stories and knowledge
• Osteria Nadone – We had Florentine steak (the only dish served at this place) and it was amongst the top three dining experiences we had during our holiday. The restaurant is at the top of drive which leads to Janilee’s house. A meal there is a must but you have to reserve well in advance, in fact, it’s best if you ask Janilee to do so. The waiting time can be weeks (!) and it’s best to ask Janilee to book a table for you when you first book her house. I recommend you book for two dates well in advance since I am sure you’ll want to go back there!
• Osteria all’ Aglione (Scarperia e. S. Piero, 10 mins drive) – We ate three times at this wonderful and inexpensive place. The food is outstanding and we especially loved the pasta and crostini there. That together with a house wine was the perfect meal for us
• Fattoria il Palagio (Scarperia, 10 mins drive) – we had lunch in this place towards the end of our leave and were sad that we hadn’t found this place before. The food was so good that we really wanted to go back but didn’t have time anymore. The ever present Tuscan wild boar was also on the menu and a boar stew and the boar pappardelle were to die for. The filet steak with mushroom was also so, so good. A great place to eat in a rustic environment
• Barberino designer outlet (ca. 30km away) – we ran out of some clothes and this outlet was more than capable to fill out “attire gap” and also invited us to spend some more money for nice shoes, handbags, jeans, t-shirts, etc. It’s best to avoid weekends when shopping there since the whole region seems to descend on this place
• Knives in Scarperia: L’ Artigiano Scarperia, Di Conti A. E. Gasparrini (Via Roma 77) – We heard about how famous Scarperia was for its ancient knife manufacturing and wanted to buy some quality knives which would remind us of this glorious holiday. We found the shop named here and a super friendly, yet discrete lady showed us her merchandise. In the end we settled on two sets of steak knives we found most attractive. Knives in Scarperia are not cheap but considering that they are handmade and top quality we were happy to spend the money
• Florence, Pisa, Siena, Chianti, Lucca – all of these gorgeous places are about 1.5h drive away from Janilee’s house and can be easily reached by car (Florence takes less time). There is no need here to make recommendations what to visit in these wonderful towns as you can find great guidance in any travel book. To avoid the hassle of driving and parking in Florence we took the train S. Piero A Sieve to Firenze main station. This was a cheap and most efficient way to get to Florence where you simply park your car at S. Piero train station (lots of free parking) and then hop on the train, another great recommendation from Janilee
The two weeks went too quickly and we were sad to leave Janilee’s house and the Tuscan lifestyle with its unique mixture of culture, food, art, history and nature. I hope that we can return one day to this lovely place with a perfect hostess.
We had a wonderful family holiday with our two children 7 & 3 years. Janilee’s home is beautiful and the surroundings are lovely including the sound of the donkeys. The house is well equipped and nothing is too much trouble for Janilee to help you with, the home baked Italian desert was very much appreciated. The villa is a good base to explore Tuscany from, and the pool is very much welcomed after a long day out. I can’t thank Janilee enough for her help when our daughter fell and split her chin open, Janilee took us to hospital and stayed with us to help translate. My only comment would be if you have younger children (under 5s) they constant supervison due to number of steps, however if you are prepared for this it is a wonderful place to stay.
We have just returned from a super relaxing family holiday in Janilee's lovely Tuscan villa 5th - 19th July 2018. The directions to the villa were great and took us just over an hour from Bologna airport. The final 800 yards of the drive to the farmhouse is down a gravel track and the view on the way is amazing. The house is medieval and very charming. Our kids 16y / 14y / 12yrs loved the pool and the 2 donkeys Bartolo & Messuta. Janilee was on hand to help with bookings to local restaurants, advice on places to visit etc throughout our stay. Excellent wifi for our son who was doing some study. The local town Scarperia (10min drive) is typically Tuscan with a medieval square and tower in the middle and is famous for making cutlery & knives. The famous Mugello moto GP circuit is on the outskirts of Scarperia and was worth a visit. The WW2 Gotica line museum in Ponzalla was very informative. Local train station at San Piero e Sieve was a 15 min drive away with frequent trains to Florence. We visited Florence on the train (30 min) and Pisa (1 hr from florence) and drove to Lucca (1h15min by car). Janilee recommended the steak restaurant at the top of the gravel drive (Osteria Nandone) which was truly amazing - Not to be missed!!. Gelateria in Scarperia square was delicious also. Overall a wonderful family holiday in a beautiful home.
We've just returned from a wonderful 2 week holiday in this amazing 500 year old house equipped with everything we needed to make ambitious meals and feel completely comfortable. It is hard to do justice to the incredible natural beauty of this place - staggering. Our two kids had a wonderful time exploring the wildlife, swimming in the pool and eating the fresh amazing food we bought locally. We used this as a base to travel by car around Mugello and to visit Florence by train. The owner is incredibly supportive and kind - giving as little or as much support as you need. We needed help to book a local restaurant for example, and she also baked us the most amazing tarte. If you fancy wild oregano, blackberries, figs, donkeys, incredible wildlife and the most stunning mountainous views this is the place for you!
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