I recently wrote about some of the best hotels in Rome for travelchannel.com. There really are so many more places I could have included. So stay tuned here for more suggestions.
Tuscany is, without doubt, one of the foremost locations in the world for your honeymoon. Whether you wish to visit the tiny, romantic, hilltop villages or simply watch the olive groves and cypress trees gently sway in the wind, Tuscany offers some of the most romantic hotels that you are likely to come across and allows you the opportunity to enjoy a perfect honeymoon. Here are a few romantic hotels in Tuscany available for booking from Escapio.com by guest blogger Holly Maguire.
Monsignore della Casa Country Resort, situated in Borgo San Lorenzo, is a four-star country house hotel with breathtaking views of the Mugello. Within 5 km of the resort are a variety of bars/pubs, discotheques, restaurants, cinemas, and shopping opportunities. The extensive grounds of the hotel offer fabulous gardens, a pool and spa area inviting to relaxation. This is ideal for couples happy to spend their honeymoon without lifting a limb, as every necessity and modest luxury is available on the hotel grounds. The hotel was named after Giovanni Della Casa, best known as the official secretary of Pope Paul IV. (Melanie: nothing says romance like the Pope’s personal secretary!)
UNA Palazzo Mannaioni, located in Montaione, is an enchanting castle hotel with a distinct historic character encompassing 400 years of romance and history. Montaione has forged a reputation as one of the most spellbinding areas of Tuscany. It is also home to the much celebrated Montaione Castle. The original building was constructed in the year 1500, and over the years the hotel has undergone many renovations, most recently in 2006. The local area sings with vineyards, olive groves, oak and lemon trees – perfect for hand-in-hand strolls, or even one of Tuscany’s many bicycle tours. You can also take advantage of the many in-house facilities that this sublime hotel has to offer. The De’ Mannaioni restaurant in the old mill will cater to candelit dinners after days sunbathing and sipping exotic cocktails by the outdoor pool.
San Biagio Relais is an old patrician mansion which was converted into an intimate 41 room hotel in 2006. Situated in Orbetello, the hotel’s muted modern décor inside historic walls guarantees a unique experience, and this may well be the perfect place for star-crossed lovers to retreat. Take in the spectacular views of the Monte Argentario mountains from the stylish rooms and savor breakfast and outstanding cuisine in the Ristorante Wine Bar. Rooms offer large comfortable bed, stylish furniture, and wonderfully crafted historic arched ceilings. While romantic couples will find everything they need in the hotel, they can also enjoy the Orbetello peninsula, which has a lively nightlife district full of bars and restaurants.
Mediterranea Luxury House is a small bed and breakfast offering four star luxury in a beautiful, romantic setting in Quercianella. Quercianella, known for its macchia – the evergreen Mediterranean vegetation enveloping the landscape – is a nature lover’s paradise and is just a stone’s throw from the sea. Mediterranea Luxury House is a private retreat which affords stunning views and personal service. This exquisite bed and breakfast serves up local hams, cheeses and home-grown tomatoes as part of the renowned morning fare. Owners Roberto and Vania will ensure your stay at this white villa is a memorable one, and can help you with recommendations for nearby activities including mountain climbing, sailing, surfing, and fishing.
Villa Campestri, a 13th century country home, is set in the awe-inspiring natural surroundings of the village of Campestri, not far from the magic of Florence. Villa Campestri pampers honeymooners with homegrown fruits, vegetables, and finely tuned cuisine; enjoy regional specialties and vegetarian options accompanied by a glass or two of the local Oleoteca wine. From the outdoor pool, couples can enjoy views of vineyards, olive trees, forests, and meadows stretching out to the horizon. In addition to the attractions of Florence, the Medici fortress at San Piero a Sieve is a great day trip from here. This beautiful hotel offers high-flyers a helipad should they wish to arrive in style and horse-drawn coach rides are an opportunity to lap up romance and style with a timeless touch.
Contributed by Holly at Escapio.com. These are just a selection of the luxury, design and boutique Tuscany hotels available for booking. All photos courtesy of Escapio.
Have you ever wanted to rent a villa in Italy but didn’t know where to start? Or, are you having trouble being convinced of the value and/or utility of renting a villa over booking a hotel? This excellent guest post, from Linda Dini Jenkins, author of Up At the Villa: Travels With My Husband, provides five great reasons how renting a villa can work with your travel lifestyle and budget. And, if Linda’s five reasons don’t spur you to action, her fun photography, featured throughout this post, should have you wanting to research Italian villas right away.
Are you ready to start planning your Italy villa vacation? Let’s get started!
Five Favorites: Reasons to Rent a Villa in Italy
There’s nothing I like better than gathering up six of my friends and my husband and heading off to Italy for a villa vacation. The first time I did this, I was a villa newbie and didn’t know what to expect. But since that first world-changing trip in June of 2000, I’ve gone almost every year and the experience just gets richer and richer.
Most villa rentals are offered for a week at a time, with a Saturday afternoon arrival and a departure the following Saturday morning. But check around — I know some offer more flexibility, with shorter stay options; it’s up to the owner and/or rental company. But why, with all the affordable hostels (if you’re young) and wide range of hotels (if you’re older, like me) would I opt to stay in a stranger’s home for a week or two? Let me count the ways . . .
1. Unpack once. Maybe twice.
Packing and unpacking are not the highlights of anyone’s holiday. So even if you’re visiting two regions over a two-week period (one year, for instance, we stayed one week on the Italian Riviera in Pieve Ligure and one week outside of Rome, in Frascati) you can stay put for a week at a time and only have to re-pack once. That means you can focus your attention on the village or city you’re staying in, and not whether your underwear is dry enough to put into the bag today.
2. Live like a native.
You start to feel like this is your home. You relax a little, maybe get to know some townspeople or at least the keyholder or caretaker. You can practice your Italian. Frequent the local trattorias and caffés. Haggle with the natives over the gorgonzola or a colorful scarf at the weekly mercato. Take a rest in the afternoon. Stroll through the piazza, arm-in-arm, after dinner with the villagers. You can even do laundry in most villas (washing machine are common; dryers are a luxury, but your clothes will smell amazingly fresh from drying outside in the sun all day). Renting a villa lets you enjoy an authentic Italian experience away from the touristy fast lane that hotel living usually implies.
3. Eat like a local.
If you’re like me, trying out different restaurants on holiday is half the fun. I love exploring the side streets and finding out where the Italians eat with their families. And I also love going all-out once or twice during my stay and eating in a place that I’ve read or heard about. But during the course of a week or two, this can get expensive. What I really like is meandering down to my very own kitchen in my bathrobe in the morning and putting on a pot of espresso, then opening the bag of cornetti and letting the aromas wake everybody up. A little Italian yogurt (it’s so creamy over there!) and some fruit is all you need at the table to help everybody wake up and plan the day. No “I’ve got to get out of the room so they can clean” or “Where can we all go to get a cup of coffee this morning? (and will we all have to stand up?)”. It’s your house. Get started when you want to. And be sure to buy some food at the local supermercato and try cooking dinner once in a while. And eat it al fresco on the patio that no doubt comes with the villa. Watch the scenery go by as you sip a glass of local wine that’s still so cheap you can’t believe it, and mamma mia — you’ll wonder why you waited so long to do this!
4. Gather together.
This one’s easy: you’re traveling in a group and you want some quality time together in addition to seeing the sites. Where the heck do you do that in a hotel? The lobby? Usually, too small or impersonal. The bar? Only for so long and only at certain times of the day. In a villa, you’re home. There are living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, sitting rooms, bedrooms . . . you can hang out anywhere. Take a walk through the piazza. Lounge in the garden or poolside, if there’s a pool. The kind of stress you sometimes feel in a hotel vacation just isn’t here. A villa is your home away from home. Relax and talk to one another. Tell stories. Write in your journal. Take photos. Plan for tomorrow. Somehow, it’s different in a villa. You’re in control of your time and itinerary.
5. Save money.
While this is the factor that gets most people to try villa vacations, experienced villa renters realize that, although price is very attractive vs. hotel stays, the other four “reasons why” are really much more important. That said, imagine if you wanted to go to Florence or Rome for a week with another couple, and each couple wants its own room. Reasonable hotels start at around $150 and go to more than $500 per night for two people (much more, of course, if money is no object). Say you found something for $200 per room . . . that’s $2800 for two rooms for one week. And all you’ve got is a room. You have to buy all your meals out (you might get a little breakfast, if you’re lucky). And every time you go in and out of your room, you’ve got to turn in your key, then get it back, etc. etc. It can be a pain. Now, if you were renting a villa, you and that couple plus one or two other couples could stay in a well-appointed country home or updated city apartment (maybe even historic) for that amount and divide it three of four ways. So instead of $1400 per week per couple, you could be down to $700. And you’ve got all the advantages laid out above.
Finding the right villa takes some time, admittedly. You need to figure out the number of bedrooms and bathrooms required, the location, whether you’ll be driving or relying on public transportation, how much you’ll cook, to pool or not to pool . . . but that’s part of the fun of planning. You can spend as little as a few hundred dollars a week for a cozy place for two or tens of thousands of dollars for a grand historic palazzo in the country for a wedding or family reunion. For me, it’s the only way to go! Buon viaggio!
Linda Dini Jenkins is a unabashed Italophile and the author of Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband, which was named one of the “Ten Travel Books I’d Give My Girlfriends” in 2009 by Journeywoman.com. Linda is also strangely attracted to Italian doorknockers. She blogs about travel and travel writing at www.travelthewriteway.com.
All photos © Linda Dini Jenkins
Stendhal in Parma [NY Times]
The Cursing Mommy Cooks Italian [The New Yorker – humor, of course!]
Italy’s Reality is a Vita Not So Dolce [The Globe and Mail]
Italy Made Easy [The Telegraph]
Body Scanners Coming to Rome, Milan Airports [USA Today] Continue reading Round-up: Parma, Body Scanners, Sightjogging, House-Sitting
If you’re going to Italy for longer than a week, you may want to consider renting an apartment. An apartment rental allows you to come and go as you wish without the feeling of being a tourist. You can make your own meals (or eat them at the local cafe or trattoria) and establish a home base – perfect if, say, you want to base your entire trip in Rome and take just a few day trips.
Sure, you may not have a hotel pool, room service, or an elevator at your disposal if you rent an apartment. But you do get a better sense of the daily goings-on of your chosen city. Apartment rentals are also ideal for traveling families; you have to worry a little bit less if your tots are running amok.
You can find many Italy apartment rentals by searching in Google. Slow Travel – Italy has a number of them. But I am particularly impressed by Halldis, a holiday rental company with properties in 13 Italian cities and several other European destinations like London and Paris. The current roster of apartment locations include Bari, Genoa, Catania, Lake Como, Bologna, Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence, to name a few. They haven’t even BEGUN to make inroads into the Tuscany market, so I’m sure that Halldis’ list of properties will continue to grow.
Just for the record, I have no affiliation with Halldis at all. I came across their website while researching apartment ideas for a friend. For a little taste of Halldis before you click over to book your apartment, have a look at this video.
Photo by Kuw_Son
Fashion designers have known for a long time that it’s good to diversify. Not only have Italian fashion houses like Armani, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana ventured beyond clothing to include perfume, accessories, and restaurants among their branded items, they’ve also gone into the business of designing and/or maintaining luxury hotels and suites. This weekend, in the wake of the end of Milan Fashion Week, Sophy Roberts profiles Ferragamo’s Tuscan Estate Castiglion del Bosco for the Financial Times. As the writer points out, discussing this vast estate in today’s economic climate seems “absurd.”
The numbers involved in the project – by spring 2010 it will include 20 villas, 26 “hotel” suites, a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, spa, two restaurants, winery and stud – are clearly not for the credit-crunched. Nor are the sums easily accessible: Castiglion del Bosco has been set up as a membership club where fees are confidential. One source recently estimated it to be 120 memberships at €2m each.
Nevertheless, Castiglion del Bosco does allow non-members (“discerning guests,” according to its website) to stay at Il Borgo, the so-called heart of the 4,500-acre estate, for roughly €600-€3000 per night, based on availability. This latest Ferragamo venture is located in Val d’Orcia, but the Ferragamos also own other (more reasonably priced?) properties in Tuscany that are open to guests. Il Borro (not to be confused with Il Borgo, above), near Arezzo, has villa and farmhouse accommodations starting at $475 per night. In addition, the family also runs Lungarno Hotels, which includes several hotels in Florence and some suites in Rome.
Of course, the Ferragamos aren’t the only designers in the hotel game in Italy. The FT article also lists The Bulgari Hotel in Milan, the (Alberta) Ferretti’s Castello di Montegridolfo and Carducci 76 near Rimini, and the Bottega Veneta suite in Rome’s St. Regis Hotel.
If luxury and design are important criteria for you when choosing a hotel, you can also check out the Fashion Designer Hotels round-up from Forbes Traveler, which includes properties from around the world designed by Italians and other big names in the fashion world.
Photo of Castiglion del Bosco
Ironically, with all the hotel review and booking sites out there, it’s become almost impossible to find just the right place to hang our hats when we travel, especially for those of us that prefer smaller, independent inns or hotels with a bit of panache. We guidebook writers like to think that travelers will use the few suggestions that we provide, but we’re also realistic. That’s why I’d like to share a hotel site that I recently found: tablethotels.com.
Touted as a website with “hotels for global nomads,” tablethotels.com has a very simple site which allows you to choose accommodations by area, name, deals, and a few other criteria including “I just want to get away,” which is a select list of hotels categorized by destination, landscape, agenda (e.g., wine region, gambling), or hotel type (e.g., “traditional elegance,” “cutting edge”).
Tablet has listings for hotels all over the world, including Italy, and you can even click on a link called “TabletKids,” which lets you define specific kid-friendly criteria, such as a crib, connecting rooms, or a kid-friendly menu. We did this search for Italy with the above three requests and found some lovely looking lodgings from as far north as Lake Como to as far south as Puglia.
Sure, some people may find that the Tablet website is a bit too cosmopolitan for their tastes (indeed, you can download soundtracks for your trips and connect to them via twitter). But they do have hotels that start at under €100 per night. And, I love the pared down, almost bespoke approach Tablet has taken to create a hotel recommendations site.
Believe it or not, I don’t have any affiliations with Tablet; I just saw the site and liked it. So, go have a look…
Lots of Italy-related articles this time of year. So, here goes:
The Washington Post
Smart Mouth: His Palermo Restaurant Is Popular, But It’s No Mob Scene
Naples (FL) Daily News
From the Ground Up: Part-Time Naples Couple Found Their Italian Villa a Full-Time Restoration Job Over Two Years (Brindisi, Puglia)
The Guardian (UK)
The Amalfi Coast On a Budget
Caught in the Spell of San Pietro (Sardinia)
Hidden Gems (Sibillini Mountains, Le Marche)
Little Po Peep (Emilia-Romagna)
Flying Visit: Venice
A Greener Way to Umbria’s Capital
Sydney Morning Herald
How to Shop Up an Appetite (Milan)
Night in Italian Prison Promises Gourmet Fare (Tuscany)
Master of the House (Palladio in Venice)
Holiday in Harmony with Gregorian Monks (Tuscany)
A Bloodbath, Italian Style (Florence)
Have you ever rented a villa and arrived to find out that linens were not provided? Or, have you ever rented a rustic country cottage only to find out that it was impossible to childproof? Well, these and many other mistakes can befall first-time villa renters. Luckily, Travel + Leisure’s February issue features a User’s Guide to Renting Villas.
While the article focuses largely on villa rentals in the Caribbean, its general tips are helpful for every destination. T+L has also listed the “best” villa agency in Italy (called, appropriately, thebestinitaly.com). But, if you can’t afford $43,000 per week on your vacation, consider these other villa rental agencies:
–Wimco.com, has properties in Tuscany, on the Amalfi Coast, and in Sicily (“weekly rates on the new villa inventory in Tuscany start at $3,490”)
–Homebaseabroad.com, has private home rentals in Tuscany, Umbria, and Lake Como
–Italian Vacation Villas, has rentals in Tuscany, Umbria, Venice and the Veneto, and “by the seaside”