Celebrities That Have Houses In & Around Tuscany

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Celebrities That Have Houses In & Around Tuscany

Posted by Dympna (29/04/2016)

Tuscany is an absolutely stunning region, so it’s not hard to see why some celebrities choose to live and purchase lavish holiday homes here. Many celebrities have been seduced by the charms of Tuscany including its wine, food and breathtaking landscapes. Some of the celebrity homes in Tuscany are mind blowing. Prepare to be green with envy, here are some celebrities that have amazing houses in and around Tuscany.

Sting, being the former frontman of Police, a hugely successful band, has many holiday homes. However, one of the places he spends a lot of time is in Tuscany. He and his wife, Trudie Styler head to Tuscany most summers.
He has an enormous 900 acre estate and 16th century villa in Il Palagio. It has a swimming pool obviously, exotic gardens and Sting also produces his own wine, honey and olive oil on the property. Sting is definitely a fan of Italy in general, as he also has a house in the ultra fashionable Lake Como. 

Roberto Cavalli
One of the world’s most successful fashion designers also chose to purchase a home in Italy. This fashion mogul has a 32 acre estate just outside of Florence, which was designed by Italo Rota, a world famous architect. 
His house has a sauna, gym, vineyard, two pools and a landing pad for his helicopter. The interior of his farmhouse is reportedly filled with animal prints and paintings and antiques from different eras, reflecting his flamboyant style. 
Fellow fashion designer Giorgio Armani also has a home in  Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany. 

George Clooney
Hollywood Royalty also resides within the vineyards of Tuscany. George Clooney recently made an offer on a holiday home in the seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia. This area was recommended to him by his chef friend Federico Salza. 
Apparently he has been looking all summer for the right place in Tuscany, as it is an area that his wife Amal loves. George also owns properties in Mexico, LA and Lake Como, this place in Tuscany is a new addition to his collection of enviable homes. You never know, you could soon bump into George Clooney whilst holidaying in Tuscany!

Helen Mirren
Puglia, not actually in Tuscany is a region in Southern Italy that’s often called the ‘Florence of the South’. Helen Mirren visited Puglia after promoting her film ‘The Queen’ and fell in love with the area. She has an amazing 500 year old castle that needs a bit of love and restoration. She will probably have to spend a lot of money on improvements to the castle but it is stunning nonetheless.

George Lucas
The creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie series also appreciates Italian property. With the money he has made from all his films, he is certainly not restricted in terms of budget. Lucas has a 16th century property that reportedly cost him around 15 million dollars to purchase.
It used to be a convent for monks, and it has been transformed into a luxury villa for George Lucas. It has a spa, swimming pool, billiard room and picturesque grounds. His home from home is located in Passignano sul Trasimeno, Umbria, which borders Tuscany.
Debi Mazar
Not as well known as some of the above celebs, Debi Mazar was in Batman Forever, GoodFellas and Entourage. Her husband was born in Italy, and they spend their time in LA and Tuscany. Her husband’s parents gave their 14th century Tuscan house as a wedding gift to Mazar and her husband. The pair also run a Tuscan food website and restaurant, called Under The Tuscan Gun.

Frances Mayes
Frances Mayes wrote the famous book ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, so naturally she had to have a place in Tuscany. She owns a property in Cortona, Bramasole which is not far from Arezzo. Many people come to her house to try and photograph it as she is well known within the region. 
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Why Tuscany Is A Family Friendly Destination

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Tuscany Is A Family Friendly Destination

Posted by Mikolaj (22/04/2016)

Tuscany is often considered the perfect destination for couples, but it’s also a fantastic place for family holidays. There’s so many things to do and authentic, interesting experiences for the whole family to enjoy. Many families book private villas, which are the perfect setting for a memorable and relaxing family holiday.

If you are thinking of taking your family to Tuscany for the first time, don’t worry, there are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy while you unwind. From family friendly beaches to theme parks, caves, castles and days out in amazing cities, Tuscany has it all. Here’s why Tuscany is a family friendly destination.

Family villas in Tuscany
One of the most popular accommodation types for families in Tuscany is private villas. Our private villas have all the facilities you need for a stress free family holiday. From villas with pools to child friendly facilities and free Wi-Fi. The kids can play out in your private garden while you sit back and take in the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, coastline or city views. Check out our wide range of family friendly villas.

Eating out
The restaurants through Tuscany are child friendly, and the locals will make your kids feel right at home. Your kids can sample many delicious Tuscan delicacies, or if you have a fussy eater, then they can always tuck into a simple pasta or pizza. Lots of restaurants in Tuscany have gorgeous gardens to occupy the kids while you enjoy being wined and dined.

Things to do
You certainly won’t run out of things to do in Tuscany. You and your family will have hundreds of attractions on your doorstep. No matter what sort of activities your kids enjoy, you will manage to keep them occupied in Tuscany.

There are lots of magical castles to explore, as well as spooky dungeons, towers to climb and fascinating museums. Florence is home to three child friendly museums including the Museo di Storia della Scienza, Palazzo Vecchio and Museo Stibbert. Older kids will be impressed by the fact that some scenes for the Twilight movies were filmed in ancient Tuscan towns.

The Boboli Gardens in Florence are also ideal for families, it’s one of the biggest parks you can find in the city, covering 11 acres. The kids will love the enormous maze and playing amongst the beautiful flowers and trees.

If your kids love animals then don’t miss Pistoia Zoo, which has lots of different exotic animals including tigers, elephants, penguins, bears and lions. There’s also a large children’s playground and a cafe.

Pinocchio Park is also a bit family attraction, it’s a little village where the author of Pinocchio lived which is now called Collodi. Here there are activities for kids such as puppet-making workshops and a butterfly park.

Tuscany is not short of theme parks, there are two main waterparks which are both called Acqua Villa. One is in Cecina and one is in Follonica. If your kids don’t like water much then Cavallino Matto, a huge theme park with a 4D movie theatre and pirate shows is another option to consider.

Check out our ‘Tuscany for children’ page on our website for a list of all the best family friendly attractions in Tuscany.

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My Tuscan Travel Adventure

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stunning Countryside, Charming Hilltop Towns And Impressive Cities - My Tuscan Travel Adventure

Written by Kiri (15/04/2016)

I have just returned from the trip of a lifetime, and I want to share with you everything I have discovered about this spectacular Italian region. It’s now my all-time favourite destination, and after reading this, you will soon see why. In summary, it’s mostly because of the beautiful landscapes, the ridiculously tasty food and the world class wine.

The only way I can describe what it’s like to travel through Tuscany is it’s kind of like living in a dream world. The pace of life is slow, you are bombarded with the most stunning views, and the scenery is constantly morphing in front of your eyes. I felt like I was living in dreamy Tuscan bubble for a week, and sadly, now that bubble has burst.

We stayed at Pesci at Montefiorile, in Lecchi in Chianti. The apartments are out in the countryside, and are perfect for a peaceful getaway. Upon arrival we enjoyed a glass of Prosecco on the balcony and took in the gorgeous views.

The main thing I remember about this apartment is sitting out on the balcony and literally hearing nothing apart from the birds chirping away, and the bees buzzing around the pretty flowers. The apartment had everything we needed, and had a cosy feel about it, we particularly liked the furnishings and the interior decor.

Here is a full account of what we got up to on our Tuscan adventure. Hopefully you will find my tips useful and get some ideas for your next trip to Tuscany.

I would definitely recommend visiting Lucca, a city encircled by Renaissance walls and famous for the olive oil it produces. Lucca is about a 30 minute drive from Pisa airport, so it’s an ideal place to stop off.

The best way to enjoy Lucca is by bike, there are lots of places to hire bikes. Spend a few hours cycling around the city walls and in the city centre. You can see views of the mountains and peek into the city as you cycle round. Lucca has a selection of great restaurants and plenty of shops where you can buy local specialities such as olive oil, wine and pasta.

You can’t really go to Tuscany without checking out Florence. It’s not easy to park in Florence, and there are some restrictions over where you can and can’t drive in the centre. We parked in the Station car park which is ideally located and is about 3 euros an hour, which is fairly reasonable for a big city.

The main things you need to see in Florence include the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile,  Palazzo Vecchio, The Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and the  Palazzo Pitti. Apparently, the Palazzo Pitti used to be the home of the government, and they built the Ponte Vecchio so that they could walk to their offices without being bugged by the general public.

The best views in Florence can be seen from the Piazzle Michelangelo. I hear it's particularly beautiful here at sunset, but sadly we had to leave before then. However, it was a bright sunny day and we got some fabulous shots of the city. Stop half way up the climb to the Piazzle Michelangelo and stroll round the pretty gardens which have stunning views.

On the way down we stopped at a restaurant that did a buffet with a glass of water for 8 euros. The buffet had aubergines, meatballs, potatoes, omelette, vegetables and green beans. We also had to try some ice cream in Florence, because the city is very famous for its ice cream shops.

Radda in Chianti
Radda is a breath of fresh air. It seems untouched by tourism, and still has lots of locally run shops and restaurants. A lot of the hilltop towns have amazing views, but Radda can compete with some of the best. The view surrounding the town are far reaching and mesmerising. Radda is a good place to meet as its quite central and you can easily get to lots of places from here.

The local shops sell fresh ingredients, so you can stock up and cook yourself a Tuscan meal in your apartment. Radda also has a small spa which I wanted to check out, but we didn’t have time. Make sure you pop into some of the wine shops, you can taste a few different wines for free. There’s also an art gallery in the centre, an ice cream shop and a few restaurants.

San Gimignano
Of all the medieval hilltop towns, San Gimignano is perhaps the most famous. After reading so much about it, and seeing lots of spectacular pictures, I wanted to check it out for myself. It was raining when we visited which was a shame, but we still managed to enjoy everything this charming town has to offer. It has lots of cute shops selling all sorts of things, from art and pottery to souvenirs and food.

The town appears to be set inside castle walls which makes it seem rather grand and impressive. It looks even more striking when viewed from afar, so be sure to get a few snaps as you drive towards the town. We wandered round the town, took pictures of the views and ate pizzas in a family run restaurant.

I actually preferred Siena to Florence, but that’s just my personal opinion. Florence has all the big landmarks, but Siena is more laid back, spread out, and inviting. Although it was busy, unlike Florence, we didn’t seem to notice.  
Siena is only about 45 minutes from Radda in Chianti. We parked outside of the city walls in a car park for about two euros an hour. We paid ten euros each to climb a ridiculous amount of steps to the top of the bell tower (Tower of Mangia). This 87 metre high stone building is the tallest bell tower I have climbed. The views at the top were pretty overwhelming, you can see all of the city, the countryside and the mountains in the distance.

Hot springs
I was dying to go to the hot springs, so we planned a day trip to Bagni San Filippo. There are quite a few places where you can enjoy the hot springs in Tuscany, Saturnia perhaps being the most well-known, but it was a bit too far for us.

We considered going to Terme di San Giovanni Rapolano which is essentially a spa that uses the natural hot springs. In the end decided on San Filippo as we wanted to visit the natural hot springs in the woods as well as Montalcino, and the Crete Senesi (an area with lunar like craters), which are both on the way back.

The drive from Lecchi in Chianti to San Filippo was absolutely incredible. This was by far the best scenery we saw the whole trip, I literally could not stop taking pictures and videos of the landscapes. The fields in this part of Tuscany are such a vibrant green. The scenery in central Tuscany and near Radda is much more rustic, the scenery changes as you go south, it’s much richer and fresher.

The hot springs are well worth a visit, they are right in the middle of the woods, and you can choose which temperature to bathe at. They get cooler the further downhill you go. We settled for a hot bath temperature, which was very soothing. There’s also some mud you can use as a scrub and skin mask if you are brave enough.

Montalcino has a reputation for producing excellent quality wine, it’s famous for its Brunello de Montalcino, which is one of the most expensive reds in Tuscany. Montalcino is a sweet hilltop town with picturesque views and a few restaurants and shops. We ate inside a restaurant with panoramic views of the countryside.

Private chef
When you visit Tuscany, you should definitely consider hiring a private chef. It’s a unique opportunity to see Tuscan food being cooked in front of your eyes, and get a real taste of the local cuisine. We had Andrea as our chef for the evening. He was very friendly and happy to answer all our questions. We had the most unbelievable four course meal that I struggled to finish.

To begin with we had a Tuscan starter which consisted of Pecorino cheese with honey, Salami, Tuscan ham and bruschetta. Then we had ricotta and spinach ravioli with a tomato and pesto sauce (this was our first course). Our main (second) course was chicken cooked in Chianti wine, which was very tasty. Andrea also served up a massive side of garlic spinach. Finally, we had Portuguese milk which is similar to crème caramel.

Wine tasting
We also had the pleasure of going wine tasting at an adorable local farm called Casanova di Ama. It’s about a 25 minute walk from the apartment, which is handy, because I wouldn’t recommend driving afterwards.

This was another highlight of the trip, our host, Daniela really spoiled us. She was a typical Tuscan mum who just wanted to feed us lots of delicious food and wine. We tried around seven different wines including one white and a dessert wine. Be aware that these are not your usual tasting portions, you get a decent amount of each wine.

Our favourite was probably the Chianti Classico Riserva, which is supposed to be one of the higher quality wines. Daniela taught us so much about how the wines are made, the history and how she runs her farm. I will definitely be writing a blog post about the wine tasting as I can't fit in all the detail here.

We had so much food including mozzarella and tomatoes, chicken liver and veal spleen pate (warm), a Tuscan vegetable hummus, bruschetta, salami, Tuscan ham, Pecorino cheese of varying maturity, a cheese, bacon and egg tart, and sweet biscuits to enjoy with the dessert wine at the end.  

Castellina in Chianti
We stopped off at Castellina in Chianti on our last day to try the ice cream there, lots of people told us how good it was, and we weren’t disappointed. It was by far the tastiest ice cream we had all holiday. Castellina is also a nice place to stop off for lunch or to spend an afternoon.

Brolio Castle
Don’t miss out on the chance to go and see this spectacular castle. It passed onto the hands of the Ricasoli family thanks to an exchange of lands in 1141, and the first stones date back to the middle ages. It costs 5 euros to gain entry into the gardens, which also enables you to do wine tasting in their shop (you get to taste one wine). I think these were the best views of the entire trip.

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Tips On A Wedding In Tuscany

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tips On A Wedding In Tuscany
Posted by Virginie (08/04/2016)

Tuscany is frequently mentioned as one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world. Perhaps that’s why it has become popular as a wedding destination. When it comes to wedding venues, there’s so much choice, from Tuscan castles and adorable chapels to vineyards and private villas. You can choose to get married on the beach, in the countryside, in a medieval hilltop town, or in a magnificent Tuscan city such as Florence or Siena.

You may think that getting married abroad would be really expensive, but a wedding in Tuscany can cost the same amount as getting married in the UK. You just need to do your research and find a venue to suit your budget. Planning a wedding in a foreign country can be tricky, so we have put together some helpful tips.

Tuscan Wedding Top 10 Tips

Follow these Top Ten Tips and make your dream come true…

Do you think getting married abroad is an impossible task to achieve? Do you want to break away from a traditional wedding, but don’t know where to start? We’ve put together some information and top tips you MUST read before planning your big day, because a romantic wedding in Tuscany might be easier than you think...

The Location - A quick overview
Located in the heart of Italy, the region of Tuscany is best known for its artistic legacy and mountainous, hilly countryside offering up the finest of Italian produce and wine. Widely recognized as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Tuscany has some stunning architecture, tucked away in historical towns and nestled in among sun-kissed landscapes, criss-crossed with Italian vineyards. Its romantic capital Florence is brimming with artistic and medieval history, while the West is home to a beautiful coastal region stretching from Pisa with its famous leaning tower in the North to Grosseto in the South. A mild climate with plenty of sunshine and a myriad of charming towns, villages and sights mean Tuscany truly is a picture-perfect wedding location.

Firstly there are private villas where the entire wedding party stays together in the one place, and secondly, there are hamlets where your guests can each have their own private apartment or villa but the wedding party is still all in the one location. To Tuscany have several hamlet type properties that are ideal for larger wedding parties, as well as beautiful villas for more intimate weddings.

The Cost - Cheaper than you think!
Did you know it can cost the same to book a venue, honeymoon and accommodation for your guests abroad as it can just to book a venue in Ireland or the UK?

Tip One: Choosing a location
Think first of what type of ceremony you would like as it might help determine your Tuscan wedding location. Are you dreaming of a beach wedding, or do you see yourself tying the knot in a romantic chapel in the centre of a historic town? The possibilities are endless!

Another thing to consider is the proximity to an airport. The closer you are to a main airport, the easier it will be for your guests to travel to and from the wedding. Likewise, certain airports might be easier to reach from a specific location in the UK than others, which can be good to know if the bulk of your guests are travelling from the same area. The two airports in Tuscany are Florence (FLR) and Pisa (PSA), although many of our villas are very near Bologna (BLQ) as well. Perugia (PEG) and Rome (FCO) also provide good links to the area.

And finally, although the Tuscan climate is overall mild and dry, there is slightly more chance of rain in the hilly areas.

Tip Two: When to get married
To catch the best weather conditions in Tuscany, the spring or summer are your best options, but autumn is a less busy time. Here are some things to consider:

The summers in Tuscany are usually dry, very sunny and very hot, with the highest temperatures on the coast and in the valleys.
The summer months (July & August) are also the busiest, meaning prices are higher.
The hilly areas have a more continental climate where rain is more likely.
Autumn (October and November) might be rainier, but still has dry days and is less busy and less hot. The Tuscan landscape is also extremely colourful during this time.
Winter in Tuscany can have sunny, mild days, but the nights can get very cold.

Tip Three: Book a villa
Whether you’re paying for your guest’s accommodation or not, the most cost-effective and efficient way to accommodate all your wedding guests is in a private villa or hamlet. In a private villa, all your guests will stay together in one place and in a hamlet, groups of guests or separate families will each have their own villa, set within the same grounds. Here are some of the advantages of booking a villa:

All your guests are in the same place, making travel easier to organise.
A villa or hamlet provides more spacious and private accommodation than hotel rooms.
Self-cateringfacilities mean your guests can take care of their own meals before and after the wedding.
Some villas or hamlets also have facilities to hold the wedding ceremony and wedding celebration, a great way to keep everything more intimate and keep costs down.

To Tuscany have a huge list of beautiful villas and hamlets to cater for wedding parties of all sizes and that can accommodate a wide range of needs. For US couples, the great news is that we have just lowered our US prices by a huge 20% due to the exchange rates! Click here for some great options for wedding accommodation. Or to choose a location first, click here for a great overview of Tuscan towns and villages.

Tip Four: Pre-wedding trips to Tuscany
Planning a wedding in Tuscany is fun because you’ll have an excuse for at least one trip to Italy’s finest region to iron out the details and legal requirements for marrying in Italy. Why not get a taste of Tuscan villa living and book one of the smaller options To Tuscany have to offer for your stay? If you make your trip during the low season, we’ll even offer you a few nights accommodation free of charge!

Once you’re here, you’ll be looking at different locations and the best way to get around is by hiring a car. It is usually more cost-effective to book your car hire from home and it’s also worth checking if your airline is offering any car-hire deals. The best deal To Tuscany has found is Auto Europe, who offer a good service at the lowest prices.

Planning ahead is essential to make the most out of your pre-wedding planning trip, which brings us on to our next tip…

Tip Five: Hire a Wedding Planner
At To Tuscany, we strongly recommend you make use of a wedding planner to help you with all the important details, such as finding a venue, catering, flowers, entertainment, the wedding cake, or even local traditions to really enhance your big day. Here’s why:

A wedding planner can do all the legwork for you and send you images and information via email so that your trips to Tuscany can be short and to the point, just to finalise decisions.
A wedding planner can help with language barriers and will have more local knowledge to make sure you are paying the right price for services.
There are legal requirements when marrying abroad and a wedding planner can help you with these too, so you don’t experience any unnecessary hold-ups! Our next tip gives you some preliminary advice.

If you’re not sure where to start, click here for some local wedding planners we can recommend.

Tip Six: Legal requirements for getting married in Italy
There are some legal requirements for getting married in Italy, although the process is fairly simple and in most cases can happen with short notice. Here are some rough guidelines to the paperwork required to get married in Italy. For full guidelines you should always contact an Italian Consular Officer in your country or the City Registrar (Ufficiale di Stato Civile) of the city where the marriage will occur.

Any foreigner wishing to marry in Italy will first need the following documents in place:

A passport (always check how long beyond your length of stay your passport needs to be valid for , e.g. 6 months)
Full birth certificate
If previously divorced/widowed, your divorce decree or death certificate
Documents may need to be translated into Italian and authenticated by an Italian Consular Officer.

You can then obtain any other important documents you will need to get married in Italy:

Nulla Osta: This certificate grants permission for you to marry in Italy and must be obtained from your country’s appropriate regional Consulate or Embassy in Italy. This is usually the only other document needed from UK or Irish citizens.

US citizens will need two extra documents:

Atto Notorio (Sworn Affidavit): This affidavit needs to be done prior to the wedding in an Italian Consulate in the US.
Apostille: This is a form of authentication issued to original documents (birth and, if applicable, divorce) for use in foreign countries.

There are costs involved with this process and you must always check how long the paperwork is valid for as it will expire after a given amount of time (usually three months). Different rules apply for each nationality, so always check with an Italian Consular Officer in your country.

Tip Seven: Travelling to and from Tuscany
The fastest and easiest way to reach Tuscany is by flying. It is by far the most popular option, especially as there are now a number of no-frills airlines offering good value flights from the UK and Ireland. It also means you know exactly when your guests will be arriving and it’s an easy way to book for large groups. Flying into Pisa or Florence is the most convenient way of reaching your villa in Tuscany, but other airports to consider with good links to the area are Rome, Perugia and Bologna.

Tip Eight: Give Guests plenty of notice
This is particularly important for weddings abroad, as it is likely that your guests will have to book some time off work, as well as making the necessary travel arrangements. Send out ‘save the date’ cards, emails, or even texts before your official invitations to make sure everyone can make it. It is a good idea to do this as soon as you have confirmed your wedding date.

Also make sure you remind your guests to check their passports will still be valid at the time of travel, so they have plenty of time to renew them. (In some cases your passport will also need to be valid for a certain amount of time beyond your stay, e.g. 6 months).

Tip Nine: Overseas wedding insurance
It is advisable start thinking about overseas wedding insurance as soon as you start finalising some decisions and putting down deposits. This will cover you for things like cancellations or damage to the wedding attire. Most overseas wedding insurance policies DON’T include travel insurance, so make sure you get that separately as well. After all, weddings are a large investment and you’ll want to have peace of mind and not take any risks. It’s worth using the internet to compare prices and to find the best deals for your requirements, as deals are always changing!

Tip Ten: Brides and grooms, choose suitable wedding attire
If you’re planning a wedding in the glorious Tuscan sunshine, you’ll want to make sure you’re not too hot on the day and choose your wedding attire accordingly. When shopping for your outfits, ask to see destination wedding dresses and groom outfits which are designed to keep you comfortable in warmer climates.

Another point to consider is getting your wedding outfits to and from Tuscany safely. Make sure you pack them carefully and allow for the extra luggage. Hang them up the moment you arrive - preferably in a steamy bathroom. 
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