June 12, 2010, 05:28 PM
Traveling with Family and 84 yo Mother
Lourdes or Valentina:
Although I have traveled throughout Northern Italy to Venice and the upper coast near San Remo I have never visited Tuscany. I have family members that had a memorable stay at Villa Montesassi near Florence and friends that will be staying at Il Borro (Ferragamo Family) Villas. I would like to plan a trip for the end of July - early August in the region for my husband and myself, daughter - 25, and son - 14 AND my 84 year old mother, daughter of early 1900's Sicilian immigrants. Our goal is a farmhouse or villa near Florence where we can either be together in one villa, apartment or adjoining units. A kitchen would be nice. A nice bed and breakfast where we get to interact with the owners is not out of the questions either. Air Conditioning I think would be nice, but I'm not sure about the necessity of this at this time of year. We would like to cook, be cooked for, see wine vineyards and olive groves, shop at the Prada outlet or similar nice Italian fashion stops, and sight see. My budget is up to $8000 Euro week, however, I would like to spend about half that. Comfortable beds and nice furnishings are desired but we are more about the experience, surroundings and culture. My desire is to give my modest mother a trip to her family's country in a somewhat rural setting. I have questions about, the best accommodations for this that will still allow us to get out and about easily. I am assuming a car rental is a must or perhaps there are places that have drivers or tour guides that will take you into surrounding areas. I am very confused as I search the internet and have stopped at your site sensing you both are very knowledgable and will steer us to the right place and help us avoid common mistakes first time travelers to the region may make. Thank you for your trusted advice.
June 17, 2010, 07:53 PM
recommend staying close to Florence in the surrounding hills
Thank you for trusting us so much with your questions, I hope we can be useful in your search for the perfect accommodation for your family in Tuscany.
The car rental isn't a must but really depends on where you end up staying - if you're open to renting a car if need be, then at least your accommodation choices are wider. But if you really don't want to drive, then I'd recommend staying closer to the city since it makes it easier to organize drivers and days out.
End of July-early August can be already quite warm in Florence itself since it is in a valley but as soon as you go up into the hills around the city, you'll notice a difference in the temps.... even if warm, you often get nice evening breezes and you sleep quite well without the need of an AC. Since you're looking into a villa or farmhouse in an apartments or adjoining units, I'll recommend several places outside of Florence so that the heat shouldn't be a problem.
Seeing as you'd want both the possibility to cook for yourselves as well as have the possibility to be cooked for, I highly recommend you contact Agriturismo La Topaia just outside of Borgo San Lorenzo in the Mugello valley to the north of Florence. They have both apartments with a kitchen as well as just rooms in the main villa. They have a dining room where both lunch and dinner are also available to guests (as well as to non-guests when there is space and only upon reservation). It would be a good mix of both options, the possibility to cook on some days and other days dine in the main hall. The villa was recently refurbished and the style is a mix of Tuscan country style with the colors of the Mediterranean. The scene is completely rural, there is a pool and outside picnic area where you could also cook out.
A car rental would be recommended since it would make moving around more comfortable.
I have to say that the restaurant-style service that Topaia offers is not a rule for all agriturismos. Those that offer apartments generally each have their own kitchen and it is assumed you are interested in sometimes cooking in, sometimes dining out. I think it is often the case that you'll want to go out and try new places to eat, not always at the same place.
Those that offer B&B style accommodation generally only provide breakfast. Those that offer more (lunch and dinner) will definitely say so by offering the options of "half board" (mezza pensione) or "full board" (pensione completa) but this means you do pay for those meals, whether you end up eating there or not.
If you don't want to rent a car for sure, then stay close to the city at the Fattoria il Milione. It is on the outskirts of Florence in the Galluzzo area and offers both apartments and rooms as well as a restaurant in a rural setting but really close to Florence which makes it really convenient.
If you do feel comfortable with a car, I'd recommend a few other places that just offer accommodation and no meals, but do let me know what you think of these two and whether you want a few additional recommendations.