When we travel abroad, it is often difficult to find hotels that can accommodate a family of five, so we often turn to apartment or house rentals instead of paying for two hotel rooms. Renting a home allows us to live as locals because we learn about daily life in that country. We visit their grocery stores and restaurants, learn the history of the place, and meet new people. Usually the places we rent don’t have televisions, so we are unplugged and able to spend some quality time as a family. The reason we travel to these places is to teach our children that life can be wonderful even when it is simple. It allows us to turn off technology and explore the world, often learning about ourselves along the way.
We have experienced many successful rentals overseas, so when we started to plan our 2014 trip to Italy, it only seemed natural that I would search for somewhere to stay off the beaten path. When we were deciding where to stay in Tuscany with a family, I envisioned staying in a villa in the countryside just like in the movies. I quickly learned that what I wanted was an agriturismo accommodation on a farm or ranch.
Finding the Right Agriturismo
I spent hours searching through books and Google for “agriturismos” in Tuscany. The “Tuscany” area is close to 9,000 square miles, so I had to narrow it down. I knew we wanted to be close to Florence instead of Siena, but even then there are hundreds of places to choose from.
My decision was finally made when I came across an article about an agriturismo known as Corzano e Paterno. Not only do they produce wine and olive oil, they produce an award winning cheese, once featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”. That was when I knew I had found a winner. My husband will do anything for cheese and we both love wine. The kids would love the farm animals on the property and the swimming pool. There’s also an endearing story about the history of the farm on their website that sealed the deal. We knew we had found the agriturismo for us.
Corzano e Paterno
We arrived at the property in San Casciano Val di Pesa after driving 30 minutes from the Florence airport. The last 10 minutes in the car were uphill on a very uneven dirt road. I don’t know what we expected to find, but I can say we were pleasantly surprised to see gorgeous old stone buildings surrounded by vineyards and olive groves upon our arrival. Once we opened the car doors, the kids took off running, determined to explore the property they would call home for the next week.
Corzano e Paterno has four large country houses that are available to rent. We chose the Gina lodging for our family of five . Rates for this guest house in 2014 were 800 euros per week in the low season and 1100 euros in the high season, which we thought was reasonable.
When we walked inside, we were amazed by the high wood beamed ceilings, old stone floors, cozy kitchen, and large, spacious sitting and dining area. Everything was clean, there was a guide to the area on the counter, and coffee and wine for us in the kitchen. We were off to a great start.
We climbed upstairs. (Note: This will be difficult for small children or people who have difficulty climbing stairs. There is a rope along the stairwell, but the stairs are quite steep and uneven due to the age of the building). We were thrilled to find three very spacious bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. The views out the windows from the second floor revealed the gorgeous Tuscan countryside everywhere you looked.
Learning Our Way Around
Shortly after our arrival we were greeted by the hostess who told us the ins and outs of the house as well as local information (grocery store, transportation connections, etc.). During our stay, she also found the time to give our family a tour of the facilities, and brought a cheese and wine tasting to our house.
One day we hiked an hour across the farm to see the sheep operation in action (the property is 140 hectares, or about 345 acres). The kids loved the sheep, the dogs, the horses, and the pigs. It was like having their own menagerie. For them, it doesn’t get better than that.
We often found ourselves in the wine shop chatting with the owners and other visitors or simply walking through the olive groves. We were also centrally located to Florence, San Gimignano and Volterra, and enjoyed day trips to each of these cities.
The kids still talk about our stay at Corzano e Paterno. They learned about the manufacturing process for wine and cheese and the hard work involved in running a farm. Corzano e Paterno is one of those exceptional properties you want to revisit over and over again. A visit to this special agriturismo will make you wish you had more time to stay on vacation.
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