We arrived at Villa Pia which is situated just over the Tuscan border in Umbria around 4pm. Guests who had arrived the day before welcomed us warmly with a cold beer and a gin and tonic and we felt instantly at home.
NB: We were hosted by Villa Pia but all extras such as flights and car hire etc were paid for by ourselves.
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This was a check in with a difference. No-one rushed us to move the car to its car parking space or show us to our rooms until we had finished our drinks, and it was with some reluctance that the kids moved away from the play area in the courtyard to see our rooms. Not rushing and a sense of being at home was a theme that was to continue throughout the week.
The 25 rooms at Villa Pia are large and spacious. Rustic rather than luxurious, but with crisp white linen sheets and daily cleaning I certainly didn’t require anything else. With a healthy dose of sanity and no suggestion that we would need three rooms, three beds were easily placed in a large room for the girls. Our rooms were within the main house off the Courtyard just at the top of the stairs. Two bedrooms and a bathroom led off the entrance hall within our apartment and whilst the rooms are obviously lockable it was only on the fourth day I realised I hadn’t asked for a key to lock it. I always lock the door whenever I stay anywhere but at Villa Pia I just didn’t feel the need.
Shutters ensured the rooms stayed dark if you were lucky enough to have kids sleep in in the morning, and the radiators kept the rooms warm on the occasion that we needed it. There isn’t any air conditioning at Villa Pia but having read the many fabulous Tripadvisor reviews of Villa Pia – it really doesn’t seem like it’s needed at anytime of year.
Time quickly passed that first evening and before we knew it it was 6pm and time for kids tea. As with every evening after that a collection of food was set out for the kids them ranging from home made pasta, lasagne, chips, sausages, salads, vegetables, pizza and fish fingers. Always lots of choice and rarely a time when the kids couldn’t find anything they wanted. A different dessert was also provided every evening but the kids could help themselves to yogurts from the never empty fridge all day if they wanted to, and some often did.
Fresh juice jugs were regularly topped up in the fridge and a water machine the kids were encouraged to use themselves meant they were never thirsty and there was always a helping hand around to make hot chocolate if that was wanted too.
After kids tea a lot of the guests took their kids back to their rooms to settle the kids before adults dinner at 8pm. Knowing ours wouldn’t sleep that early on the first night (and them being a little older than some of the other kids) they played out for longer and then cuddled up in bed with their iPads whilst we opened a bottle of wine, helped ourselves to some nibbles and chatted to other guests with older kids around the kitchen table. This was also to become a theme for the week.
Two properties sit on the Courtyard at Villa Pia and who stays in which depends on the make up of the guests that week. During our half term week, everyone with a baby stayed in the smaller property which housed 4 families and the guests with older kids, ours and a couple of families with kids from 8-12 stayed in the main house. Sleep and noise wasn’t a problem at all for us in the main house, but I think the soundproofing can be an issue in either of the houses if babies cry in the middle of the night which obviously can often be the case.
For us though the only thing that woke me in the morning was our kids at about 8.30 so we couldn’t really complain about that.
Villa Pia also has two other properties that can be used if they are busy, and returning guests informed me that they had chosen to be based up at the Palazzo Regina a short 5 minute (probably less) walk away from Villa Pia up into Lippiano village.
These properties have their own kitchen and play area, and the rooms are even bigger than those at the main house. The added benefit (depending on your age of children) is that there is a babysitter up there every evening from just before 8pm so they or you can put your children to bed and you can head down to the main house for dinner.
Before I visited I enquired with Ting from My Travel Monkey who had visited in 2016 whether people had got changed for dinner and she said they had done. Not overly dressy but had changed. During our stay, whether anyone got changed for dinner seemed to depend on if they had returned to their rooms after kids tea to put the kids to sleep. As we hadn’t had to head up to our room and plenty of others hadn’t either, we tended to stay in the days clothes for dinner. I can imagine this is different in the summer months though when there has been more time spent in the pool.
During our stay the weather wasn’t warm enough to eat outside in the evening but there is a large table in the barn with roaring fires that is a really cosy place to sit down for a 4 course meal every night (save for Thursday when the kitchen is closed). The prospect of a four course dinner party every evening before we went did concern me a little. What would we do if we didn’t like people? Would we find enough to chat about? Would we be there for hours and not want to be? My concerns were put to bed on that very first night as some guests went off to bed straight after dinner at 10pm and others (us included) sat around chatting and drinking vino until around midnight. You really could do whatever you wanted to do.
After a fairly late night I was grateful to be in the main house as when the kids woke up at 8.30am they just popped on their flip flops and went down for breakfast in their pjs. Lots of English cereal was laid out in the kitchen with fresh juice from around 7am and fresh bread and croissants arrived around 8. Fresh milk of all types was available in the fridge and they had got in soya milk ( and actually made dairy free bread and cake) for those with allergy requests, all for no additional costs.
The only challenge that first morning when I made it down for breakfast was how to use the industrial size coffee machine and whether I needed to get dressed or whether Pjs for me was acceptable. Turns out pjs was fine and on one occasion I was still in them at 11am only getting dressed in time for lunch!
Villa Pia is fully inclusive and you are served lunch and dinner but you’re asked to clear away your own plates and cups to the kitchen throughout the day and keep the general state of the common areas tidy. During our week everyone was happy to do this and there wasn’t really anyone noticeably expecting others to do it for them. Everyone mucked in and played by the rules.
Days passed at Villa Pia punctuated by the ring of the bell for mealtimes. After the four course dinner on the first night I was looking forward to lunch the next day especially when all the guests who’d been before said it really was the highlight. So every day around 1pm, whenever we had been in the morning we arrived back in time for lunch and they had been right. Lunch (or possibly feast!) was over twenty different salads which seemed to be slightly different every day too. There was some plainer bits for the kids, but we could choose from some exceptional vegetable choices, fresh meats and cheeses and bread. There was always the option of a lunchtime alcoholic beverage too.
What we liked about the vibe at Villa Pia the most was that there was always somewhere different to go. You could be in the heart of things in the kitchen or the courtyard and chat to everyone who made their way through, or take yourself off to play tennis, swim in the pool, be by the trampoline or the other play area.
Kids frequently disappeared off to play in the games room or even the small soft play room and of course you could head out for the day to one if the many many beautiful hill top towns.
Paola and Aniko and together with their staff, are always around to answer any questions about the villa, local area, places of interest for day trips and anything else you require. The other guests many of who had returned year after year were also particularly valuable for tips and hints.
During our week the back lounge seemed to be reserved for quiet book reading and when the kids art class was on 2-4pm that first Monday and the babies were napping it felt incredibly chilled indeed.
Speaking of activities, twice during the week there are art classes for kids between 2 and 4pm for an additional cost of E15 per child with additional siblings at E10. Maximum age for this would probably be around 8 and minimum probably about 4 in order to leave them, but there are no strict rules. The same applies to the kids cookery class that takes place on the Friday.
Adult cookery classes are timed to fit in with the times of the art classes so if you chose to both learn to cook the Umbrian way, you can do so. I had intended to do the class on the Wednesday afternoon but a slight mess up with the dates of the tour bookings in Florence ( all my own) meant we had to be in Florence on Wednesday and sadly couldn’t take advantage of these lessons.
Speaking of Florence there will be a full blog post on our day in Florence with Kids soon but if you’re heading to Villa Pia and fancy a day trip to Florence (perhaps on Thursday when no food is provided save for breakfast) I can highly recommend you get in touch with Europe 4 Kids and do one of their child friendly tours in Florence, you won’t be disappointed.
Florence and Sienna are both within an hour and a half of Villa Pia as are many other beautiful places which are worth a visit. Market days are posted on the board in the kitchen so you can time your visit to coincide with, or avoid those as you choose.
Other guests were a little more adventurous in their day time trips than we were, although they often came back for lunch, but as we had already done a city break in Bologna with kids at the beginning of the trip as we flew into Bologna, and spent a day in Florence exploring the Ufizzi, a couple more hilltop villages was enough for us.
You can perhaps get more of a feel for how amazing a week we had at Villa Pia and why you should visit this quirky family friendly holiday in Italy by watching this short video we made. We LOVED it and will be suggesting to friends that we head back in the future – possibly even for October half term 2019!
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.