TUSCANY VILLA HOLIDAY
The best places to stay, when to go, and what to expect
There is nothing more sublime and restful than a summer spent in the rural Italian countryside in a gorgeous old refurbished castle, with a vineyard owner as a friendly neighbour, and an organic garden bursting with produce. Imagine long lazy afternoons by a pool, mornings spent cycling through villages and olive groves, and evenings with a fine wine in hand, and delectable food to savour under a starlit sky with friends or loved ones. This is the optime of la bella vita and it is totally within your grasp!
The Exotic Yoga Retreats team returns to Tuscany for summer yoga retreats and holidays every year, and over the years, we’ve stacked up some knowledge of the area and its customs. We’d like to share that with you, to help you search for and book the perfect rural Tuscany villa holiday.
In Tuscany the most favoured, and expensive region to stay in is Chianti. Of course there is plenty to offer and tourists flock here year on year. If you’re a discerning wino, you might be most satisfied with the vineyard and wine tasting options here. However, if you would like to beat the crowds, it may serve you to search in Montalcino or Pienza. There are more varied landscapes in this area, less traffic on small roads, and charming uncrowded towns to discover.
If you love hiking and adventuring, why not stay in northern Tuscany, in the quiet regions north of Lucca, such as Partigliano and Loppiglia. Here you are situated just below the incredible Parco Alpi Apuane - a protected natural wilderness area, close to the coast. If you are after a cultural fix and need quicker access to larger centres, galleries and museums, we recommend staying in the area west of Florence and Siena, around Radicondolli or Camporbiano.
Time of year
Pricing across Italy is sensitive to tourist seasons. So in the height of the summer months, July-August you are going to pay the most for accommodation, however you are guaranteed hot (88F) 31C average temperatures and blue skies. June is still touristy, but you’ll pay slightly less. The shoulder season times of May and September are sublime, with lower average temperatures (80F) 27C, and far fewer people.
If you want something very different, try turning up in winter months, but be prepared for rain, cold weather, and for many of the vineyards tasting rooms, and restaurants to be closed.
Type of villa / property
In broad terms, there are four accommodation types for those looking to stay in the Tuscan or Umbrian countryside. The first is a refurbished historic castle or farmhouse, with staff to tend to your every need and highly prized Tuscan chefs to whip up all your meals. This, of course, is the priciest, but certainly the most luxurious.
Second, are refurbished historic farmhouses or buildings on a self-catering basis. You may well have gorgeous fittings and original Tuscan decor touches, and the building could well be on a larger private property, with locals to interact with. This is ideal for bigger group bookings.
Third, are apartments, or flats in a larger rural complex, often sharing a pool, with meals included (or not) and served in a restaurant or bistro on site. These are popular with couples, and small families, and tend to have lovely gardens and play areas.
Fourth, is an agriturismo, where a working farm has converted some of the rooms/ cottages on its land into guest rooms. To be recognised as such, an agriturismo farm must earn money from agricultural activities as well as tourism, and must serve some of its produce (wine, olive oil, vegetables and fruit) to its paying guests. Agriturismo are generally only found in Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily, so this is a unique and heavenly experience we highly recommend!
The most important extra cost to factor in is transport. Your experience of the Tuscan, or Umbrian countryside will be vastly inhibited without your own wheels. Whilst there are buses that link towns and cities across the region, and trains between major centres, these are notoriously unreliable and priciest in high season. Public transport will not take you to rural lodgings and vineyards, either, so it’s best to have your own car (a classic little Fiat 500 can be rented for under $300 for 10days), or at the very least, a vespa! Don’t presume a bicycle will get you far - Tuscany is full of hills and dangerous windy roads.
There is an additional tourist tax added on your accommodation. The rate for apartments and houses is €1.5 per person per night, up to a maximum of 7 nights per accommodation (max €10.50 per person total). The rate for hotels varies according to the number of stars and ranges from €0.5 to €4 per person per night.
Our top recommendations
This is where we LOVE to stay for a Tuscan and Umbrian countryside experience, Exotic Yoga Retreats style. Some are more pricey than others. If none of these suit your needs, then please reach out to us personally, and we’d love to share a longer list of recommendations!
Villa Lena, Toiano, Tuscany; agriturismo - ranging from luxury to mid-range. Villa Lena’s sparkling rose is to die for!
Podere Palazzo, Lazio (border of Tuscany/Umbria); large, self-catering refurbished historic farmhouse with large private pool.
Castello Vicchiomaggio, Greve in Chianti Tuscany; converted castle with luxury rooms, and apartments on site. Also has a winery with a variety of tasting experiences.