Snapshots from Italy: A Five-Family Vacation in Tuscany - Page 3
Before You Search
- Determine your budget and the number of bedrooms needed. Consider having an extra bedroom or two for children, even if they are young enough to sleep in a crib in your room. Some of us had our children sleep in our rooms, while others made use of extra space.
- Research the different areas of Tuscany (or wherever you happen to be traveling) and have a general idea of where you want to stay. The topography varies; for instance, the Val D'Orcia in southern Tuscany has open expanses of rolling hills, the Chianti region is more woodsy, and Lucca, to the north, is like a small city. Also consider where you might take day trips.
- Give yourself plenty of lead time. Some villas book up a year or more in advance.
Where to Look
There is no lack of companies offering villa rentals in Tuscany or elsewhere throughout Europe. Most have an online presence, and allow you to search for properties by budget, size, and location. I simply typed, "Tuscany villa rental," into Google's search engine for a lengthy list of results. Here are a few we checked out:
TuscanyItaly.it: We found Il Casato through this Italian company. The owner, Franco Gren, was very helpful in making sure the villa had everything we needed. They have a beautiful selection of villas in varying sizes and locations around Tuscany.
Italian Vacation Villas (villasitalia.com): Based in Washington, D.C., this company offers over 400 vacation rentals in Tuscany, Umbria, Venice, and other parts of Italy.
Invitation to Tuscany (http://www.invitationtotuscany.com/): This UK company has hundreds of villas available for rent. Search their website or request a catalog by mail.
VBRO Vacation Rentals by Owner (vbro.com): The name says it all. This website has thousands of vacation rentals listed by the property owners all over the world, including a substantial Tuscany section. The advantage of using this resource is the potential to save money, since there is no agent's fee.
When You're Ready to Book
- Look for reviews of the villa you plan to book. If you can't find any online, try posting a query to a Tuscany travel forum. Or ask your rental agent to provide you with references. We did that and received very insightful feedback from previous clients.
- Ask the agent or owner about providing cribs or other baby gear. You never know what they might include if you ask.
- If you book through a foreign company, try to agree on a rate in U.S. dollars. Most companies ask for a deposit up front and the remainder later. With the increasing Euro, you could end up paying more by the time the balance is due.
A five- to six-bedroom villa can run anywhere from about $5,000 to $20,000 during the high season (which generally starts beginning of May, though some villas bump their rates as early as mid-April and as late as June 30). Our villa ran around $7,500 for the week.
Additional optional costs include meals cooked by a villa host ($30 per person per meal), a stocked kitchen upon arrival ($100, including bread, pasta, sauce, tomatoes, fruit, cheese, meats, wine, water), and a rental car for the week (around $400 for a vehicle large enough to accommodate car seats, luggage, and gear for the kids).