I have a confession to make about Villa Pia. I’ve been avoiding writing this post since our holiday** in September. It’s not that I don’t have much to say about the family friendly villa, right on the border of Umbria and Tuscany. I have LOADS to say about it. The thing is, there’s a sneaky part of me that doesn’t really want anyone to know what a fabulous time we had. I’d like this place to remain my little secret.
Which is ridiculous considering a) I’m part of the villa’s social media strategy team and b) Villa Pia is hardly a secret, having recently celebrated 20 years in business.
So let me slip off my strategist hat for a while and share our personal experience, as a family, and tell you why we fell head over heels in love with Villa Pia.
Have you ever been somewhere you’ve heard people rave about, maybe dreamed about… then when you visit it exceeds every expectation?
Welcome to Villa Pia.
We arrived late at night, after a tricky day (missing our flight to Perugia) had been turned around (catching a later flight to Rome, scenic 2 hour drive through the countryside). We stopped for dinner in a neighbouring village, where the boys sampled their first pizza in Italy.
Then we drove to Lippiano, reaching the villa after 11pm. We received a warm welcome from manager Paola, who told us they’d kept our dinner warm in case we were hungry. Almost instantly, we felt at ease. The boys were thrilled (not half as thrilled as Abiye and I) to be sleeping in their own room across the hall from our bedroom.
Villa Pia offers 25 bedrooms including twin rooms, large family rooms, interconnected rooms and extra lodging in the handsome Palazzo Regina up the road. In the height of summer, you might even get roomed in Lippiano’s fairytale castle right opposite Palazzo Regina!
The main house has an Italian rustic chic aesthetic, original features, decorative tiling, cosy furnishings and wall hangings that hark back to its previous owners (an aristocratic Italian family).
The view when we opened our bedroom blinds in the morning made me gasp. Gorgeous countryside that spills and cartwheels for miles in every direction.
The Umbrian-Tuscan region is pinch-yourself stunning. Wandering across the villa’s 5 acres of grounds, you feel quite romantic amidst the setting of olive groves, bamboo trees, wisteria and vineyards.
Before we let the kids run rampage, I gave Ezra a lecture about locking their bedroom door and keeping his key safe. But by that evening, we’d realised keys were practically unnecessary as nobody felt the need to lock their doors.
That’s the mildly hippy spirit of Villa Pia — there’s not even a gate at the main entrance. You just let it all hang out (ok, there are kids about, don’t take that too literally!) and there’s a great atmosphere of trust and freedom.
This extends to food and drink, all included in your package. Now I’ve been on all-inclusive holidays before, but I’ve never had such free access to the fridge and bar as at Villa Pia. Throughout the day, you can help yourself to milk, tea, coffee, yoghurts, cereals, breads, fruit, wine and beers. Stay respectful though and don’t just barge into the kitchen as the cooks are rightly protective of their space!
The staff at Villa Pia are great, they operate seamlessly and there’s a strong sense of family. We were soon on first names with most of the team, from managers Paola and Aniko to groundsman Alissandro, babysitter Gabriella and their 12-year-old son Christian.
Christian made friends with Ezra and Jed, two of the older kids during our stay. They got on really sweetly and have kept in touch via email and YouTube!
From day one, the babes couldn’t get enough of Villa Pia. The villa is a dream for parents of tiny ones, but even at 10 and 7, Ezra and Jed found plenty of ways to occupy themselves.
Whether leaping on the trampoline, whirling on the tyre swing, crawling commando style through toddler play tunnels, or bashing about in the soft play room. They spent many happy hours perfecting their ping pong skills in the games room.
There are two pools at Villa Pia and it’s heavenly swimming in such breathtaking surroundings. Both pools are heated year-round but the kids’ pool is almost like being in a jacuzzi. I climbed in with the boys and didn’t want to get out!
On our first couple of days, we only left the villa to visit the local bar for ice cream. Lippiano is a quiet town and it felt safe for the kids to go back and forth on their own.
Being at Villa Pia reminded me of holidays in Nigeria in the village, where there’s a sense of freedom and space, and the kids gain independence
go a little bit feral. It’s ideal for a #childhoodunplugged style break, as there’s no TV and wi-fi is sporadic. We’d brought their Kindles but apart from a couple of rainy afternoons, the boys preferred to be outdoors.
For parents, Villa Pia offers a chance to unwind, relieving the daily pressure of childcare and cooking, and giving you some grown-up time back. I indulged in a 30 minute massage from the amazing Maria and wished I’d booked for a full hour. Also, I read three books in one week — something I haven’t managed since before having kids!
Some of my favourite moments were curled up on a sofa in the piano room, or swinging in the hammock overlooking the lower garden. The best seat in the house.
Now let’s talk about food at Villa Pia because OMG the food! I’d heard loads about the cuisine but it’s way better than I anticipated. They also do Italian cookery lessons for kids and adults — here’s what we whipped up in one afternoon.
The cooks take utmost pride in their work and it shows. You start with a leisurely Mediterranean breakfast that runs from 8am until around 11am. Lunch is an exquisite spread of salads, vegetables, sliced meat, homemade pasta, fresh figs, watermelon… plus kid-friendly bits like pizza and drumsticks.
Around 3pm, they bring out yummy cakes for tea. But save space for dinner because it’s sensational.
The children eat at 6pm, then younger ones are put to bed (my two would disappear to the games room). This leaves adults free to mingle, with aperitivos laid out before dinner is served around 8pm. Every evening, we’d spend about 3 to 4 hours at the dinner table, working our way through a 4 course feast (and booze), while chatting up our fellow guests.
Villa Pia has a house party vibe, and with new arrivals every few days, it’s like being at a dinner do every night. If that fills you with alarm, maybe a standard hotel with kids club might be more your cup of tea.
Dinner is communal and unless you want to be a Nelly no-mates, you will have to interact with strangers. Luckily Villa Pia attracts fairly laid back, like-minded types and it’s refreshing to meet such a mix of people. We’ll remember Villa Pia fondly for some quite hilarious evenings spent with a really lovely bunch.
Day Trips from Villa Pia
On Thursdays, the kitchen staff have a day off (although someone is on hand to feed you if, for instance, you arrive on a Thursday). So most guests take the opportunity to visit a nearby town. Villa Pia’s location makes a great starting point to explore some of Italy’s wonders.
We took a day trip to Siena, where we had the gelato of life!
Then we drove a couple of hours to Chianti to meet a friend of Abiye’s, world famous butcher Dario Cecchini. I’ll write more about our 5 course steak dinner at Dario Cecchini’s in a separate post, but mark it as a ‘must-do’ if you’re staying at Villa Pia or nearby.
After stopping overnight in Chianti, we drove to nearby Florence, taking in the city’s sights and delicious pizza in the Mercato Centrale. We timed our drive back to Villa Pia perfectly to arrive by dinner. It felt like coming home.
Flights to Perugia are just a 40 minute drive from Villa Pia. Other nearby airports include Bologna, Rome, Pisa and Florence. We recommend hiring a car as taxis can be expensive, and you’ll want to take advantage of the fantastic day trips in the region.
Villa Pia tends to book out in peak summer months (July-August), but in low season (September through early May) the value for money is outstanding, and visiting the villa when it’s less hectic can be a bonus.
Villa Pia only accepts Euros and payment is in cash, so make sure you bring enough, as well as for extras like massage, art classes, excursions etc.
Take advantage of low-season rates until mid-June and enquire about a holiday at Villa Pia.
**We were guests of Villa Pia and paid for our own flights, transportation and extras. All opinions are my own.