Dreaming of a villa vacation in Italy with pristine countryside views in every direction, a plethora of incredible outdoor spaces for lounging, kid-friendly luxury hotel quality interior design, and exceptional service? Sound too good to be true? It usually is as the Italian villa rental market in Tuscany is tricky with thousands of seemingly good options and just a handful of truly exceptional homes, particularly when you add kids to the mix.
We struck gold this summer when I booked Podere Palazzo, located deep deep in the countryside where the regions of Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria meet. If you are mulling over a 2013 holiday villa rental in Italy, it’s time to get busy because this villa sells out year-after-year. But it’s not too late to be one of the lucky guests for next season!
Expansive outdoor spaces enable every member of the family to decompress
I don’t like independent villa rentals for single families in the Italian countryside — you are too isolated without the benefit of the services and social environment offered at group oriented accommodations. In the countryside of Italy, I love the agriturismo category (farm stays) with kids. We call them “resorts” on Ciao Bambino and they usually include apartment-style accommodations with room to spread out, plus a shared swimming pool. They are a terrific value for the quality…
That said, if you are planning a multi-generational trip with extended family or traveling with friends, a villa rental is an amazing option. In our case, we had two families with kids ages 6, 8, and 9. Here’s a look at what we loved so much about Podere Palazzo.
Heated swimming pool
Glorious Outdoor Spaces
When renting a villa in the summer months, the quality of the outdoor spaces for kids and adults alike is critical. When you are not sightseeing, you will likely be swimming or lounging outside. If these spaces are not appealing for the adults or work for kids, the enjoyment factor will go down exponentially. A highlight of Podere Palazzo is the huge number of hangable spaces from the pool, from the al fresco dining table to hammocks strung through the trees.
The swimming pool is offset enough from the main villa so parents don’t need to be outside all times supervising their kids. Moreover, the pool is cleaned every day. This is a huge perk! I can’t tell you how many villa pools are not appealing and ornamental because they are dirty. The best part, however, is that the swimming pool at Podere Palazzo is heated. This is rare in Italy! Even with hot weather, a heated pool is much more pleasant for all.
Excellent grassy yard for kids to run around
Flat grass should not be taken for granted in Italy as there are plenty of lovely villas that don’t have a good place for kids to run around. Not so here. Podere Palazzo offers just enough grass for kids to kick a ball or play with the croquet set provided by the owners.
Picture perfect al fresco dining table
Al fresco dining is a must to take advantage of Italy’s warm summer nights. Palazzo Podere has a wonderful dining table just outside the kitchen with seating for 10-12 people. The owners have thought of every detail as evident in the high quality outdoor lighting (on a dimmer!) so you don’t need to run inside when the sun goes down.
Luxury Hotel Quality Interior Design
The design of Podere Palazzo is magic. It’s fresh, creative, stylish, and fun while feeling luxurious and kid-friendly. The quality is as nice — or nicer — than many of Europe’s design hotels that charge a pretty penny for their rooms. Moreover, the owners have added just enough personal touches via art and books to make it feel like home, not just a sterile rental.
The house features four king-bedded rooms and one room with twin beds. There’s not a bad room in the house — all are spacious and three of the king-bedded rooms have an en-suite bathroom. Especially with a group, having equal room options makes things so much easier as nobody feels like they are getting the short end of the stick. See my How to Rent a Villa with Friends and Stay Friends article for more tips on optimizing the home rental experience.
Spacious and comfortable rooms with king sized beds
Palazzo Podere does not have air-conditioning but it doesn’t need it as the property is set on top of a bluff and has a constant breeze. Key to making the set up comfortable, however, is the presence of screens and this villa has them on every, single window. This is essential! Bugs are part of life in the Italian countryside and miserable wouldn’t begin to describe the experience of having to keep windows open without any bug protection.
The kitchen is well-equipped with all you need to prepare even the most elaborate meals. There’s an outdoor wood-burning fireplace and grill ready to roll with wood and matches. Plus, there’s a dishwasher, microwave, large refrigerator, freezer, and a coffee maker. The owners also stock an honor bar of reasonably priced (and delicious!) Italian wines.
Kid-approved Pienza in Tuscany is a 45-minute drive from Palazzo Podere
If there is one Families Should Know to understand about Podere Palazzo it’s the location. Although the setting is absolutely extraordinary with fantastic views from every window, the tradeoff is that there’s no fast way to reach the A1 highway and most sights of interest are at least a 45-minute drive away. We made the most of our week and visited Orvieto, Pienza, Montepulciano, Bagno Vignoni, and Siena for day trips, but we definitely felt like we spent a good amount of time in the car.
That said, it’s critical to understand that, if you put a villa of this quality an hour North nearer to the heart of tourist central, the price would double. It’s also very fun to be in the midst of local, small towns where you discover little gems. In Podere Palazzo’s case, for example, we treasured our amazing dinner at La Parolina in the village hamlet of Trevinano, just a 2-minute drive from the villa.
Meticulously placed chairs provide quiet spots to take in the scenery
It’s a risk to rent a villa directly from an owner without a local management company available to address issues and questions. Podere Palazzo’s owners are Italian, but reside in Chicago. This is a non-issue here as the owner’s sister lives in Rome and is available via her mobile 24 x 7. There is also a caretaker on the property daily to take care of the pool and garden. We felt safe and comfortable at all times.
We also used the owner to book a welcome dinner (phenomenal meal cooked by the owner’s sister), a babysitter, and used him to answer random questions that came up during the week. He was always immediately responsive.
I checked two references before booking this villa. I recommend that you always do this for an unknown rental that is not recommended by a friend or reliable guide like Ciao Bambino.
Palazzo Podere Age Rating
We know that different ages have diverse needs and provide age ratings for all the Italy family hotels we recommend on Ciao Bambino. Podere Palazzo is not a good place for toddlers. There’s a big pond in addition to the swimming pool that is close to the house. There are too many doors leading right out to the garden to feel good about safety when parents are occupied. Otherwise, the villa is perfect for school age kids and up.
Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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