Our first holiday abroad AK (after kids) was a week in Tuscany when The Boy was 9 months old, and it was quite possibly our best holiday yet. We’d already fallen in love with the Italian city of Florence on a trip there for work, and spent a long weekend in Cagliari – the capital of neighbouring island Sardinia – a few years beforehand. But this was our first taste of the rolling Tuscan countryside in all its glory, and boy did we fall head over heels in love with the place.
Location – Cerreto Guidi and central Italy
We flew in to Pisa airport, hired a car and drove 50 minutes east (mostly via the SGC highway, which there’s more info about here) to Cerreto Guidi. Any guidebook will tell you that the main attraction in this traditional Renaissance town is the 16th-century Villa Medici, which is now a museum. Alas, we didn’t venture in, but I’m reliably told it’s worth a visit – particularly if you’re interested in historical whodunnits (Isabella dei Medici was allegedly murdered here by her husband, and locals say her ghost still haunts the place).
Local food and drink
Ameneties-wise, the village is home to a few shops and restaurants plus a fairly decent local supermarket where we stocked up on food. The supermarket at Empoli is much bigger and only a 15-minute drive away, but factor in some extra time to get around the aisles – the Italians love babies and we were mobbed by a gaggle of women cooing over The Boy (in a nice way) every time we went. Away from the shops, vineyard tours in the area are ten a penny – this is Chianti country, after all – and Leonardo Da Vinci’s hometown, Vinci, is a 5-minute drive away.
Nearby towns and cities
Further afield, the city of Lucca is a 45-minute drive away, the Medieval walled town of San Gimignano and the city of Florence are just under an hour (in different directions), and Siena is around an hour and a half. We skipped Florence as we’d already been a few times, but we visited the other three over the week and they’re all very do-able as daytrips.
We stayed in a self-catering apartment at La Colombaia – an agriturismo, which is essentially a farm with rooms (it’s a combination of the words ‘agriculture’ and ‘tourism’). The accommodation was fairly basic – it had a small kitchen diner with a microwave, kettle, sink and two-ring hob, and although it wasn’t exactly cutting-edge cooking equipment, we managed to cook a decent meal on the nights we were home for dinner. There was a sofa bed in the same room, plus a separate double bedroom with a full-sized cot.
At the front of the apartment there was a little covered patio area that turned out to be a real blessing – The Boy spent most of his time crawling around on the floor out there as there wasn’t much space to play inside. We had all our meals out there, too – I don’t think any of us ate a single meal indoors.
We took it in turns to stay back at the apartment while The Boy napped after lunch each day, so that whoever was ‘off duty’ could go down to the pool for a bit. Having that patio meant still being able to relax outdoors, and it also had an eyeline to the pool (for frantic ‘he’s awake – come back!’ waving).
Outside – the pool and gardens
Speaking of the pool, it was a bit of a stunner. I think the photo speaks for itself.
Needless to say we spent a lot of time here, and for most of that time we had it all to ourselves (lots of the other guests seemed to be off exploring during the day, and we were the only ones with a baby, so they may have just been avoiding us). It wasn’t heated, so The boy didn’t last overly long in there, but we took a paddling pool for him as well as a UV tent, and set them both up on the grass next to it.
It meant he could paddle and stay cool in the shade while we attempted to get a bit of a tan or took it in turns to have a swim. Although the area was surrounded by grassy lawns, the ground was so prickly we couldn’t actually let him crawl on it, so if you’re bringing kids, pack some jelly shoes and a decent picnic blanket.
The courtyard and the pizza night
Between the pool and the apartments at La Colombaia there’s a big courtyard area where the owners, Elena and Daniele (who were hugely helpful and friendly during our stay), hold a pizza night for all the guests at the end of each week. We all brought along anything left in our fridge, picked some fresh veg from the communal allotment (which is where we also got a lot of ingredients for our nightly dinners in the manner of The Good Life), and chose our own toppings to be cooked on a fresh dough base in Daniele’s pizza oven.
We’re not massively outgoing as a couple, and on a bad day I think we would have shied away from mingling with the other guests, but I’m so glad we went along. We loved chatting to people – a complete mix of nationalities, from Dutch to Russian – and sharing one last meal together. Plus, the Boy was in his element – everyone made a fuss of him and he got to munch his way through a mountain of pizza. He sat in a highchair at the head of the table while we tucked in to home-made pizza and watched the sun set over a few glasses of the owners’ Chianti.
Suffice to say, we were sad to go home the next morning, and the hangovers certainly didn’t help. The one thing that softened the blow was a box of said Chianti on order to share with friends and family back home. Although I’m not sure any of the bottles ever reached their intended recipients…