Unique Umbria

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tuscany may get a lot of coverage on our blog but we also have some beautiful villas within the Umbria area. Situated adjacent to Tuscany, Umbria is just as beautiful, just as rich in culture and history and there are just as many things to keep you entertained during your holiday. It is the only Italian region that neither borders another country nor has its own coastline, and is characterised by its peaceful rolling hills of green. So if you are planning a break in this stunning part of the world, what can you expect to find?

Basilica Di San Francesco, Assisi –
You may be thinking that there are so many historically important religious buildings in the area, what makes this one so special? But there are definitely a few reasons why this one should be top of your list to look around. To start with it is dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, who was born and died in the town, and serves as one of the most important Christian pilgrimage points in the world.
The structure is made up of two churches (upper and lower) and a crypt, but it’s not just the marvellous exterior architecture that will make your visit worthwhile. The murals and other art pieces inside will take your breath away and feature works from famous names such as Giotto and Simone Martini. It was established as a world heritage site in 2000 and survived two earthquakes in quick succession in 1997.

UmbriaCooks4U, Perugia
After spending some time in awe of the basilica, the chances are that you will need to refuel yourself for more adventures. And what better way to do this than a comprehensive cooking class that allows you to use some of Umbria’s most delicious and unique ingredients to prepare some local specialities that you can then eat.
Tita and Nonie invite you into their state of the art kitchen in which they will teach you everything you need to know in order to not only prepare a sumptuous meal there and then, but to go back to your villa and recreate. 

Infiorate di Spello, Spello –
If you are lucky enough to visit this area of Italy around May or June time then be sure to head to the town of Spello to enjoy a yearly tradition that offers a feast for the eyes. This festival celebrates the Corpus Domini feast which occurs on the ninth Sunday after Easter, but the celebrations go on throughout the weekend.
Overnight on the Saturday, locals take to the streets to decorate the pavements with majestic floral patterns. The bright colours, intricate designs and beautiful smells attract people in their droves who can then watch the traditional procession which takes place during the day. Incidentally, Spello is still a lovely place to visit outside of this time and will enchant you with its narrow streets and surprises at every turn.

Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore –
This waterfall is the highest in Europe and was built by the Romans around 300BC. The park that it is situated in provides a unique snapshot of nature and offers tiered views of this wonderful spectacle; depending on how far and high you are willing to trek. The various trails take you up close and personal with the waterfall, which provides a great way to be refreshed on a hot day.
Many activities such as zip lining and rafting can be booked in advance if you would like to take your adventure to the next level and create an exciting adrenaline rush. The waterfall is used to produce hydro-electricity these days and a siren is sounded every so often to signal an increase in the water which flows over the side.
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How to Get a Tuscany Villa Rental for Less

For many people, staying in a Tuscany villa rental is part of a dream vacation. But does that mean it has to cost an arm and a leg? In order to make your stay more affordable, we're offering some advice on the renting process. Who knows? If you save enough, maybe you could stay an extra week! 

1. Look for a company that specializes in Tuscany villa rentals. There are many different places that rent Tuscany villas these days: some are huge hotel chains that own property all over the world, with little specialization in Tuscany; others are Tuscany homeowners who want to take advantage of the tourist-friendly economy. But the companies that are likely to offer the best prices fall in the middle – they are rental companies that have a number of Tuscany properties at different price points and focus their business on villas specifically. These companies will be able to recommend villas to match your budget.

2. Consider what amenities you really need. Much of the magic of a Tuscany villa rental comes from the charm and beauty of the countryside. That means you may be able to do without some of the high end luxuries and still thoroughly enjoy your stay. For instance, a few Tuscany villas may have a hot tub or sauna, but you can save big money if you pass on these extravagant extras. Even a pool may be optional for some bargain hunters.

3. Look for a shared pool. If you do want a pool at your villa rental, remember you don't necessarily need a private pool. Many Tuscany villas have shared pools among two to four buildings. This can take a lot of money off the price tag, while still functioning effectively as a semi-private amenity. The other villas may not even have people in them, and the pool is likely to be walled or hedged so only you and the other villa guests can see in.

4. Be open to a wider variety of locations. Small Tuscany villages have a lot of allure, but the reason people rent a villa is typically to have peace and quiet in the countryside. Only the most expensive villas are located within a short walk of the village center, while many that are farther out will command a lower price. If you have a hired car or enjoy being in the countryside, you may not need a central location.

Have you stayed in a Tuscany villa rental? What did you do to find the best price?
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Top Tips When Heading To Tuscany With Children

Friday, May 23, 2014

To Tuscany Photocompetition 2009
With a range of things to do and see aimed at people of all ages, Tuscany is the perfect destination for your family holiday. And that is exactly why thousands of families jet off to this stunning Italian region every year to enjoy a much needed break.
However, your slice of relaxation and enjoyment could well be short-lived if you don’t attempt to cater for your children. This isn’t to say that you have to mould your holiday around their needs, but failing to think about them may result in you needing another trip away when you return from this one.
With this in mind here are a few handy tips to make sure the kids are down with you.

Avoid Long Airport Waits –
If there’s one thing that’s going to get your holiday off to a bad start it’s having to cope with your child’s elaborate display of just how annoyed they are about the wait at the airport. Nobody wants to sit around for hours in a building that you can’t escape from, especially children, and so it’s best to think ahead to avoid this. Many airlines will now let you check in online or print of your ticket to avoid long queues. This means there’s no need to arrive four hours early for your flight and wait for the inevitable tantrum to start.

Find A Villa With Great Facilities –
At To-Tuscany we have a terrific range of luxury villas that have enough entertainment facilities to keep your little ones busy and out of your hair for a while. You can get on with a bit of sunbathing or itinerary planning whilst they splash around in the swimming pool for a bit or enjoy a few sets of tennis on the onsite court. Not only will this give you some time to yourself but it will also help to fill the gaps between your adventures away from the accommodation.

Don’t Over Do It On The Sightseeing –
Although you might have a long list of places that you want to see; filling your holiday with walks around museums and historical buildings could lead to your child getting bored. It’s best to intersperse these visits with a few things that will interest them, such as a visit to the zoo or a water park, as well as a couple of days where you don’t do much at all.
Be mindful that their legs are shorter than yours and so they are going to get tired of walking around before you do. Avoid this by booking your tickets for the busiest attractions in advance. If your child is still in a pram or pushchair it’s also a good idea to check if there are any steps that will inhibit your ability to get into any location.

Give Them Some Great Memories –
When you return from an excellent holiday the only thing you have left are the memories and so it’s a good idea to help your child create some that they can keep forever. Give them something to collect over the course of your trip, such as a postcard from every town or village you visit. Alternatively you could get them to keep a holiday journal or draw pictures of the sights that you see. This way they will be able to look back on their Tuscan adventure for many years to come.
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What to Look for in Family Villas in Tuscany

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tuscany villa rentals aren't just for young couples in love. More and more vacationers are bringing their whole family to enjoy Tuscany—and it's a trip your kids will never forget. But what should you look for to make sure your villa has everything the family will need? Here are our top tips:

Enough bedrooms 

Many villas are designed to only accommodate one couple with a single bedroom. Others only have two or three small bedrooms. While a family vacation should definitely include an element of adventure, you'll have a lot more peace during your stay if your kids don't have to share bedrooms. While less common, we've seen Tuscany villa rentals with four, five or six bedrooms—occasionally more.

Plenty of bathrooms 

Hand in hand with having enough beds, extra bathrooms go a long way toward keeping everyone happy. While you don't necessarily need a private bathroom for each individual bedroom, having at least two bathrooms cuts down on the amount of waiting and potential arguing. And Mom and Dad should definitely have their own private bathroom.

A shared pool 

Many Tuscany villa rentals come with a swimming pool, sometimes private and sometimes shared with other villas. For a honeymoon we'd recommend a private pool but, for a family getaway, it can be nice to have a shared pool. You'll get a chance to mingle with other families, and so will the kids—and it often takes a fair amount off the rental price.

Indoor and outdoor spaces 

Some villas offer relatively few communal spaces to gather in, at least indoors. But with the family along it's nice to have separate gathering places, including at least one that's inside in case of rain. A living room, as well as a courtyard or veranda, are definite pluses.


Nothing helps teenagers (and often parents) stay sane as much as having a line to life back home. Wi-Fi allows your kids to stay entertained on their devices, to stay in touch with friends, and to share photos and activities from the trip. It also means you can stay up-to-date on news and e-mail.

Proximity to activities 

Seclusion is nice, but so is history, culture, and night life. Make sure your Tuscany villa rental is close to villages with shopping and cultural activities the whole family can enjoy.

Have you brought your family to Tuscany? What was your favorite part?
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What to Look for in a Romantic Tuscany Villa

Monday, May 19, 2014

Whether it's your honeymoon, an anniversary celebration, or just a romantic getaway with your sweetheart, there is nowhere more romantic on earth than Tuscany. And what better way to experience it than by renting an authentic villa and living the good Italian life for the time that you are there? But some rentals will end up being more magical than others. How to get the most romance out of your villa rental? Look for these four things:

1.  A private pool – Many Tuscany villa rentals have access to a swimming pool, but often these pools are shared among several villas. While there's nothing wrong with hanging out with your neighbors, when you're looking for a romantic getaway, you want a chance to be alone. A private swimming pool is not only a chance to frolic together, it means you can sun yourself with no one watching and you can sit beside the pool together in peace. Seeking out a private pool is worth it.

2.  An isolated location – Tuscany villa rentals come in all different shapes and sizes, from walled properties in villages to old homes at the edge of town to hilltop villas. While each of these options offers its own benefits, for a romantic getaway, you'll probably want isolation. If you or your sweetheart get the itch to go into town, it's very easy to call for a car, but if you're staying in close proximity to other houses, it's hard to get true alone time. Focus your search on villas that advertise an isolated locale and you'll be able to have all the space you need.

3.  Villages with wine and culture – Even though you will want alone time, you'll also want romantic activities to do together. Not every village offers the same access to shops, wineries, and fine dining. Check out the village or villages closest to your rental and consider only the locations that offer some great couples' activities.

4.  Don't stress – While all of the above guidelines can help you narrow down your search and get the best Tuscany villa rental possible, none of them are written in stone. The truth is that no matter where you end up, villas are charming and full of the possibility of romance. So, above all else, don't stress over planning the perfect getaway!

Of course, there are many other ways to get the most romance out of your Tuscany villa vacation. What do you look for when planning a romantic Tuscany getaway? 
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Peaceful Pistoia

Friday, May 16, 2014

Image source: ufficiodelturismo.it
Although not the biggest settlement in the Tuscany region; Pistoia could be the perfect location for a relaxing family holiday. Its peaceful nature combined with the fact that it is only a short drive from the much livelier city of Florence mean that it could either provide a calming retreat for those looking to do little more than sunbathe their troubles away, or a quieter base camp for those wanting to see the sights of nearby Firenze and Siena but avoid staying in the main tourist places.

So whilst you think about which of our fantastic villas in the Pistoia area you would like to stay in, here are a few things you might like to see and do during your stay.

Giardino Zoologico di Pistoia –
Situated just outside the town itself, and a must see for animal lovers, thiszoo could be a great place to start your Tuscan adventure. It is filled with over four hundred animals and is mainly focussed on preserving the numbers of some of the most endangered animals on the planet; having successfully bred large numbers within its walls. You’ll be able to view over a hundred different species including lions, bears and elephants and a walk on the wild side will only set you back a respectable €14.50, too.

The Church Of Sant’Andrea –
If you are a fan of historical architecture and interesting buildings then this 8th century Romanesque church is definitely worth a visit. It is still used today by people from the surrounding villages that wish to perform baptisms and stands proudly in the centre of Pistoia, close to the public gardens. The main attraction inside is the stunning Pulpit of Sant’Andrea which was created by Italian sculpture Giovanni Pisano and which draws in the crowds from all around.

Piazza del Duomo Market –
If you are lucky enough to be in the area on a Wednesday or Saturday then head on down to the Piazza del Duomo in the morning to enjoy a feast for the eyes and taste buds. Every week on these two days the central square is transformed into a bustling local market offering plenty of regional delights for visitors to try. After midday the tents and marquis are taken down to reveal the piazza in its full medieval glory. There’s the stunning duomo to explore as well as the museum and a few beautiful restaurants.

Pistoia Baptistery –
If you are not yet done with beautiful buildings then the baptistery, situated opposite the duomo/cathedral, is another that should be on your list of things to see. It’s free to get in and visitors often marvel at the fact that the exterior is covered in marble yet the inside is made up of exposed brick work. Across from the baptistery there is also the courtyard of the Praetorian Palace which often plays host to some temporary art exhibitions.
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Are Tuscany Villas the Perfect Vacation Destination?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Everyone has their own idea of a dream vacation. Some want to rough it on an adventure safari, some want to relax with a tropical drink on a beach, and others crave the fast pace and nightlife of a big city. But the classical villas in Tuscany, Italy, have quickly become one of the most talked about and sought after vacation experiences on the planet. So what makes a Tuscany villa the perfect getaway? Here are just a few of the factors at play:


One of the reasons villas are among the most desirable vacation rentals is privacy. When you stay at a hotel or even a bed & breakfast you may have luxury, but you will always be in close proximity to other people, including staff and other guests. A villa gives you the same luxury within a private house, and villas in Tuscany, Italy, have some of the most secluded and private locations possible.


Tuscany has become the premiere villa destination for a reason. The villas in Tuscany, Italy, are more than just glorified farm houses; they are beautiful little country houses with grace and comfort. And the surroundings are positively magical, with carefully tended gardens, ancient orchards and vineyards, stone walls and rustic roads winding over the hills.


Many villas in Tuscany, Italy, have been standing for hundreds of years. The area has a recorded history dating back to the Roman Empire and has monuments, ruins, museums, and artifacts from 3,000 years of human culture.


Not only is Tuscany one of Italy's premiere wine regions in its own right, it is also a crossroads where some of the best wines from Italy, France, Germany, and Spain come together. Every wine lover should take time to travel in Tuscany.


Italian food is famed the world over, and Tuscany's food is famed across Italy. Northern Italian dishes are different from the Sicilian fare often served in the United States, featuring lighter sauces, fresh crushed tomatoes, and an emphasis on the use of fine cheeses. It's hard to find better food anywhere in the world than you'll have served in a restaurant near your Tuscan villa.

Of course, everyone who rents a villa in Tuscany, Italy, has their own reason why it's their preferred vacation spot. What draws you to Tuscany? Are you ready to experience it for yourself?
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Essential Travel Tips For Whenever You Go Abroad

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ian Jones - To Tuscany photocompetition 2011

As much as a break in the beautiful region of Tuscany is likely to be relaxing; we all know that travel can have its down sides. The endless waiting around before you even leave your own country, the stresses of getting everything organised and, of course, that feeling of being half way through your break and beginning to cheerlessly count down the days you have left.
But imagine if a lot of the stress was taken out of travelling and you could concentrate on enjoying your amazing accommodation and taking some much needed time for yourself? Well imagine no more as here are some great travel trips that will leave you with plenty of time and energy to enjoy your holiday.

Track Your Airfares –
After finding a great deal from the To Tuscany website the last thing you want to do is to pay excessive airline fees in order to get to Italy and enjoy it. Therefore, as well as using comparison sites to find the best website to book from, you can also use tools such as Yapta to track the price of your flight and receive an alert when it reaches your preselected amount. It’s so much more time saving than constantly logging on to see if it’s gone down.

Park It –
Airport parking can be so expensive but driving is often the easiest way to get to your flight. Therefore instead of paying the sky-high fees they like to charge; book yourself into a hotel near the airport for the night before you’re due to fly. Not only will this mean that you won’t be rushing around in the morning in order to get to the gate on time, you can also find somewhere that lets you park your car whilst you’re away. This may not be offered as a free service but it will be a lot cheaper than airport prices.

Sanitiser’s A Saint –
One thing that will really ruin your holiday is if you get there and you’ve managed to pick up a cough or cold from the aeroplane. To reduce the risk of this it’s a good idea to carry a small bottle (remember there are restrictions on the amount of fluid you can take on board) of hand sanitiser. This will stop you picking up any nasty bugs from the armrests or lap trays. Keep yourself hydrated as well as this will help your body fight off any unwanted germs.

Get Your Money Straight –
Firstly, you should always ensure that you inform your bank of your trip abroad as forgetting to do this may result in them stopping your card once they start to see unusual payments. Secondly, get your currency before you arrive at the airport otherwise you’re likely to pay much more than you would do in your local travel agent or post office. And finally, travellers checks are relics of holiday history and should no longer be used. Not only are a lot of foreign banks reluctant to accept them; you’ll get a shabby exchange rate these days when you attempt to convert them.

Plan Your Adventures –
A lot of holidays are about having no plans at all for the duration of your stay and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, if you are planning on exploring the country you are in it’s best to do your research before you come out. Knowing exactly where you need to go and the attractions that you definitely want to see will save you heaps of time when you arrive and you won’t have to worry about asking the locals for directions. Also, booking your tickets for these before you fly out is sure to save you plenty of money. Tuscany has so much to see and do and so a quick look before your holiday is sure to give you lots of ideas of how to fill your time.

Back Up Plan –
We all know that however much you organise yourself and plan ahead, disaster can strike at any moment. Therefore it’s best to have a back-up plan. This includes spreading your clothes across different bags to avoid being without all of them should your bag get lost, emailing yourself all of the important documents you need for the trip just in case you need to refer to them and always carrying a photocopy of your passport. This is unlikely to be accepted should you lose your real one but it will make getting a new one so much easier.
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3 Great Road-Trips Across Tuscany

Friday, May 2, 2014

One of the best ways to see this stunning and picturesque region of Italy is by car and the great thing is that it’s pretty simple to get around in this way too. Not only will you be able to cram as much action-packed fun into your holiday as possible, you will also be the master of your own destiny; deciding where you want to go, at what time and for however long you like.

We have luxury accommodation all over the area in the form of beautiful Tuscan villas and so wherever you choose to stay you will have a great place to use as base camp for your expeditions. A few tips before you set out on your road trip though:

*       Avoid hiring your car from the airport if you can as companies tend to charge over the odds for the convenience.

*       Hire the smallest car you can all fit into in order to bring the price down some more.

*       Take a quick look over the traffic laws in Italy as there may be a few differences to your home country.

*       Be aware that there are few road signs in Tuscany that detail the road names and so it’s best to be conscious of a big city that you are heading towards. These will be clearly marked.

*       Always carry a map.

So how about some great road-trips that allow you to see some of the best sights in Tuscany? Here’s three of the best.

Pisa To Grosseto
Time: 1 Hour 50 MinsDistance: 100 MilesEstimated Fuel Cost:  €25

This journey from north to south will take you on a costal drive via a route which includes the A80 and the SS1. Follow the beautiful coastline from Pisa, through the city of Livorno, passing by Cecina and Fallonica before arriving in Grosseto. The first place of interest you will pass on your journey is the Parco di Migliarino, a picturesque national park which is the perfect spot for a picnic and to do some wildlife spotting amongst idyllic scenery.

Be sure to stop off in Livorno to take in a view of the city from the top of the Santuario di Montenero and then take your pick of fabulous beaches to explore as you head towards your final destination of Grosetto.

Siena To Florence
Time: 1 HourDistance: 45 MilesEstimated Fuel Cost: €12

This drive is great for an afternoon out as it is relatively short and lets you take in the sights of two of the most popular cities in Tuscany; as well as one of the best hidden gems the region has to offer. Follow the Raccordo Autostradale Firenze – Siena from north to south as you twist and turn through fantastic countryside and quaint towns and villages. But before you leave Siena be sure to check out some of the popular attractions; most notably the Piazza del Campo and the Torre del Mangia.

Along your route be sure to stop for lunch at San Gimignano; the aforementioned hidden gem. This classic medieval town will immediately transport you back in time and put you under its spell with its unique charm. Hunt down the scale model of the town hidden in a back-street building and marvel at all nine of its churches.

Florence To Rome
Time: 2 Hours 50 Mins
Distance: 236 Miles
Estimated Fuel Cost: €43

This road-trip is a long drive but is perfect for your last day in the region as you could book your flight home from Rome and spend your final day travelling this pleasant route. There is so much to see along the way as you drive down the A1 and the E35 from north to south. You will pass major settlements such as the city of Arezzo with its historic 6th century town hall and Orvieto, a town with an intriguing set of manmade caves running underneath it.

You will also pass close to the area of Montepulciano which is a must visit for any wine lovers, whilst your route will intertwine gracefully with the river Tiber for almost the whole of your journey. It may mean you have to stray from the boundaries of Tuscany but this drive is definitely worth it.
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