Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Thu April 16 2015

Tuscan Villas Beckon with the Coming of Spring

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | April 16, 2015

Tuscan Villas Beckon with the Coming of Spring

PHOTO: Rediscovering childhood at the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. (Photos courtesy of Toscana Resort Castelfalfi)

An old Roman once said, "In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas,” which translates, "In wine there is truth, in water there is health." And to that I’d add there’s plenty of wine and water in Tuscany as well as plenty of health and truth and Chianti. Spring is here and Tuscany beckons.

The Tuscan countryside is an affirmation of life itself and visitors naturally flock to it to drink wine, hunt truffles, wander vineyards, ride horses, hike, eat and enjoy a lifestyle as old as the idea of Europe itself. It was really in Tuscany where the current idea of the villa rental emerged as a full blooded experience of family and tradition. A very diverse inventory of villas is now available throughout Tuscany at very good per diem prices.

Tuscany Now offers 180 rental properties in Tuscany and the rest of Italy as well. A family-run business, Tuscany Now puts a family focus on what it offers with a lighter sampling in the way of churches and art and more of the kind of outdoor experience that appeals to families.

Their newly renovated Villa Astori exemplifies the kind of experience they offer. Imagine the alfresco family dinners you could have in the hilltop villa with all of the terraced gardens ranging below. A swimming pool is built into the hillside below the house, with capacious views of the rolling farmlands. The villa comes with four cots/cribs, three highchairs and the services of a maid. Tennis courts, scooter and bicycle hire are also in close proximity. The villa has 10 bedrooms that sleep up to 20 people for about £4,111 ($6,076) per week or about $870 per day. For that many people, that’s an amazing bargain.

The Podere Santa Giulia, another villa from Tuscany Now, is a 400-year-old stone farmhouse built on the foundations of Etruscan ruins on a hillside. Now it’s a home with a terraced garden, a private pool and two guest houses. Outside the kitchen there is a shaded dining area with a barbecue outside the living room with two shaded seating areas, and on the main lawn a second shaded dining area under a pergola with views and a pool. It has a well-equipped kitchen with a large dining table. This five bedroom property sleeps up to 10 people for about £3,886 ($5,744) per week.

Toscana Resort Castelfalfi

 The spring has arrived at the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, an 800-year old medieval village in Tuscany, transformed into a 2,700-acre multi-dimensional resort with villas, hotel, golf, spa, castle and cooking school. In 2007, the travel group TUI acquired the village which had been abandoned as the original inhabitants moved away. TUI sought to repurpose it as a tourism model that “connects land, leisure, tourism, sport and a sustainable way of life.”

The €250 million transformation began in 2011 with the renovation of 41 apartments that were completed in the summer 2013, and with the development of the first of three planned hotels. “From the very outset the idea was to restore the ancient village and bring it back to life,” said Director Stefan Neuhaus. “We are preserving the site’s original structure and reinstating part of Italy’s heritage, but with all the additional modern services and standards that you would expect from such an upmarket resort. “

PHOTO: At the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi you can live the life of the padroni.

The resort’s 31-room Hotel La Tabaccaia reopened on March 16 among the vineyards, olive groves and hills. The hotel’s building was once a tobacco factory. All guests of Hotel La Tabaccaia have full access to the grounds, activities and services of Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. A second hotel, a five-star 120-room luxury property, will open in 2016 with a new restaurant, spa and wellness center. Two new clay tennis courts and a new biking center are coming this May along with a new gelateria.

The residential component of the village is La Collina where contemporary homes combine with an existing restored farmhouse that houses five apartments. Castelfalfi’s 18 country villas are now being restored and updated. Two completed villas are located near the 27-hole golf course and are available for purchase and short term rentals. In the Borgo (village), restoration is underway on seven apartments that will join the 41 renovated one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, which can be rented through a rental pool or purchased.

The resort uses renewable bio-fuels and conditioned rainwater. A new restaurant in the castle, La Rocca di Castelfalfi, is headed by Michelin Star Chef Michele Rinaldi. Castelfalfi manages its own olive oil and wine production as well as retail shops in the village. The original village, which was inhabited until the 1960s, was located between Florence and Volterra about an hour from Florence and Siena, Pisa and Lucca.

Castiglion del Bosco, a 4,500-acre country estate, located near Montalcino, 30 minutes from Siena, also features an entire Tuscan village whose surrounding farms have been transformed into a network of suites and villas. The estate is also home to Italy's only totally private golf club as well as vineyards producing Brunello di Montalcino wines. There is also a heli-pad, fitness center, tennis courts, bocce court, hiking trails, Kids Club and spa.  Last year, the Castiglion del Bosco unveiled its 10th villa, the Villa Oddi, housed in a refurbished 18th- century farmhouse. The 4,800-square-foot Villa Oddi is one of the resort's largest villas, and features six bedrooms, all with large en suite bathrooms; a living room with fireplace; dining area; kitchen stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of food products.

Every villa at Castiglion del Bosco offers the option of a personal chef and in-villa private events. Designed for family celebrations or to host private business retreats or social gatherings, Villa Oddi reflects the essence of the Tuscan lifestyle and tradition while exuding understated luxury and rustic elegance. Rates start at $6,500 per night. 

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