Staying with friends in Tuscany

Jessica Way and daughter Holly report on their totally unique family holiday experience.

How many times have I heard parents say that they are in need of another holiday, following immediately from their return to home; feeling more tired and bewildered by the experience of travelling and coping with their children’s needs, while abroad, than before their family voyage had even begun?

Imagine that you and the family are going on a holiday to visit friends who have re-located to Italy, living in a large 18th Century Manor House located high on an Umbrian hillside, surrounded by glorious views of classic Italian landscape.

When you arrive you meet around 16 other families: your new friends and holiday companions. With a glass of wine in your hand and the warmth of the fire you are made to feel completely at home from the very moment you arrive.

Welcome to Villa Pia.

Kevin Begley, Morag Cleland and their three children are the friends that you never knew you had. The couple previously lived in Godalming, Surrey. Kevin working as a chef at the Dorchester, and Morag a therapist. Their careers along with becoming parents themselves gave them all the ammunition and confidence they needed to spot a gap in the market and act on it. Their Italian dream was to provide a special holiday home, ultra family friendly, offering fast-paced pressed English families a place to unwind, relax and recharge, somewhere they would want to come back to year after year. This dream has been successfully achieved.

The large manor house was formerly a barn and stables. Today it provides seventeen bedrooms, all with private bathrooms; plenty of communal rooms for breakfast; sitting; dining; music; play and games, plus specialist beauty therapy and treatment rooms. Every room is different, retaining original features and furnishings.  Palazzo Regina is a beautiful additional building with a further eight rooms divided into two interconnecting room suites, which accommodates four families, each with private bathroom and kitchen.

Breakfast, lunch, children’s tea and your evening meal is all catered for by local people creating delicious genuine local dishes with fresh produce. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, usually eaten outside; at 4pm there is home-made cake, followed by children’s tea at 6pm. A four-course dinner for adults, eaten together Italian style around a long table in the dining room, is served at 8pm.

You can help yourself, just as if you are in your own home. Milk, fruit juices, yoghurts, tea, coffee, mineral water, ice, cereals, bread, butter, jams, fruit, wine, beer, spirits and liqueurs are on tap. Families with babies can help themselves to fresh puree and there is a microwave available when needed too. All at no extra charge.

There is so much for the children from dressing up clothes, slides, sand pits to trampolines.

For babies there is a cool indoor soft play room, toys, books and excellent changing facilities. Within the five acres of grounds you will find sun terraces with exceptionally beautiful, adventure play spaces and woods.

There is a vineyard – for their own wine, formal Italian garden, and a fabulous all-weather tennis court. Cookery lessons are held twice weekly where guests can learn to make pasta, Tuscan dishes, tiramisu and more.

Walking, mountain biking, horse-riding and truffle hunting is also possible.

Meal times are the main socialising high points, at all other parts of the day families literally choose to do whatever they fancy doing and everyone just sort of mills around, remembering to stay relaxed, enjoying the children and the conversation.

If, of course, you fancy a family day out, you are equally as spoiled for choice. Sightseeing, renaissance art and architecture, or simply strolling and shopping Italian-style is all in close reach to Villa Pia. The medieval village of Lippiano itself is worth an explore, or you could visit the beautiful towns and villages of Tuscany and Umbria including Florence, Siena, Assisi, Arezzo, Sansepolcro, Gubbio, Perugia, Urbino and Cortona.

To sum up the Villa Pia holiday experience I would describe it as family friendliness to perfection. The children are in paradise enabling their parents to enjoy themselves and their holiday to the full too. For further information visit