A Week at a Tuscan Villa

Have you dreamed about renting a villa in Tuscany or going on a food tour in Italy? Both of these have been on my bucket list for quite sometime and it was a dream come true when I received an invitation from Luisa Donati and Nancy Krabill, who run tours in Tuscany and Le Marche, Italy. More details about the tour in another post. Here I share my experience staying at a real Tuscan Villa.

tuscan villa Sienna

I was picked up from Maria Novella, the main train station in Firenze and we drove off into the Tuscan countryside. We passed by Chianti area, stopped for a brief look at San Gimignano (a small Medieval town), and went through beautiful hills of Siena. An unmarked sign led us into Montestigliano, a privately owned farm estate spread over 2475 acres. We drove into a long narrow pathway with cypress avenues, olive groves and fig trees till we reached Villa Pipistrelli.

Villa Pipistrelli is a magnificent 17th century Tuscan farmhouse restored with modern day amenities while maintaining the architectural integrity of Tuscan countryside architecture.

Villa Pipistrelli Tuscany

The ground floor of Villa Pipistrelli has a cozy living room, dining room, spacious kitchen, two master bedrooms with attached baths and a laundry room. We took a lot of inspiration from the furniture in this place. We loved it that much that we even took it upon ourselves to look into sites such as Antiques World.co.uk, just so we can replicate what we saw while we were away. Staircases lead up to the second floor which opens up to another sitting area and three more rooms with baths and a balcony overlooking the olive groves.

room at villa in tuscany
The two large master bedrooms seemed perfect for couples as they had king size beds, high ceilings, wood floors and oversized tubs. I stayed at the smaller one in the corner which had exposed beam ceilings, lime washed walls in soft colors and touches of modern Italian design in the bathrooms. It felt like I had stepped back in time sleeping on antique carved bed adorned with floral bedsheets, yet having the luxury of modern living.

The living area is the communal gathering place where guests enjoy a glass of prosecco, chat about their day and connect home with WiFi internet. A fireplace constructed from the original rocky foundation of the home becomes the cherishes spot on chilly nights. If you like the look for the chairs in the images above, you can purchase cheap Philippe Stark ghost chairs from various online retailers.

Our meals at the villa reflected home cooked Tuscan cooking using only farm fresh ingredients. We had a local lady come in to cook breakfast, lunch and some dinners at the villa’s rustic open kitchen. Handmade tagliatelle Bolognese, spinach and ricotta nudi, baked ziti, tiramisu, crostata and other specialties cooked with olive oil, pecorino flour and ham sourced within 0 kilometers enhance the flavors of simply prepared dishes.

breakfast at Villa Pipistrelli

We would enjoy breakfast of fresh baked pastries, eggs, fruit and coffee indoors and lunch al fresco in the patio.

dining room at Villa Pipistrelli

There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a delicious authentic Italian meal during pleasant spring time temperatures on a quiet farm in Tuscany. One of the aspects I liked most about this trip was that the members of the Donati family (including Luisa, her brother and her daughter) would join us for the meals. It was a more personal experience to eat with the locals and be able to talk to them about everyday life in Italy.

dining area at Villa Tuscany

Outside the villa is a quaint garden and infinity pool (open seasonally) with a backdrop of rolling Tuscan hills as far as the eyes can see. In fact the nearest village is about 30 minutes walk so its not likely you can see or hear any traffic during your stay.

morning mist at tuscan villa

There are plenty of paths to go walking, hiking or biking though. Some of the gusts would wake up early morning to take photos of the rising mists in the hills. I enjoyed long evening strolls trough the canopies of trees and often got lost on the lush property.

walking in Tuscan CountrysideI walked through the olive groves and tasted the Montestigliano brand of olive oil in the food I ate everyday. It was spicy and rich, unlike any other table olive oil I have cooked with before. The olives start growing in the summer and in November, guest can help with harvesting. If anybody is interested in learning more about the working of the farm, Massimo Donati, the family farmer, is eager to give lesson and even host a blind olive oil tasting at the farm’s granary.

Montestigliano olive oil

Montestigliano has several other properties right on the property that were a few steps away from our villa. At one time, the entire place was a working farms and the Donati’s had the farmers living in these homes. Now the homes have been renovated and converted into property rentals. There is Villa Donati – Casa Luisa – Virginia 1 – Virginia 2 – Casa Marta – Casa Adriana – Ropoli Sopra – Villa Pipistrelli, each of which is equipped with multiple bedrooms, private baths, living rooms, kitchens and lots of view of the Tuscan countryside. You may rent a room, a villa with your friends, or the entire estate, as people do for weddings and special events.

pizza dinner in TuscanyThe common kitchen also prepares special dinners, happy hours and pizza nights where one can socialize with other vacationers. I happen to be in Montestigliano during Easter so the family prepared a special meal for all of the 80 guests staying on the premises that weekend.

family dining in Tuscany

How much does a villa rental in Tuscany cost, you may ask. Prices start at only 700 Euros per week (2 bedrooms at Casa Damiano). A total of 70 beds are available at Montestigliano, and the prices differ by the size of the houses. Villa Pipistrelli rents for 7,400-9,900 Euros per week and accommodates 10 people.

Receive 30% off 1 week and 50% off 2 week rentals at select properties in Tuscany with discount code TUSCANVILLA. For more information or to make a reservation click here.

Eating and Drinking with the Padlots

Picture my surprise when I was told that a group of 9 Italian men were coming over to cook dinner for us (a group of journalists) in Italy! The group is called Accademia del Padlot meaning the academy of “a giant ladle that is used to pour wine.” Founded in 1996, a group of men in the village of Mercatello sul Metauro, nestled between Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and Umbria, decided they needed a formal organization to eat, drink and forge friendships.

academia padlot

The groups consists of men of different ages, political views and professions, but are united by their love for gastronomy. Their programs consist of a daily drink, monthly dinners and yearly trips. Renting a little bus, the group has traveled to Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Chianti, Amarone, Sauvignon, Gewurtz-Traminer and many more regions of Italy.

Mission Statement: The Academy of Padlòt is the free association of all those who, moved by a passion for learning, explore and transmission to future generations of all that concerns the good drink, want to put a glass of good wine in good company.


An article in their bylaw says: The “drunk Plenary” is the most solemn moment of the life of the Academy, where academics find themselves in harmony taste. Plenary decided that the drink is done on a weekly basis, on the day Thursday beginning at quarter past six p.m. (approximately). At that time the academicians can express themselves freely.

This group of men rarely prepare food for outside groups, preferring to cook for themselves and their close family and friends, but they cooked a special feast for us – their visiting friends from US and Canada.

The Padlots came marching into Palazzo Donati (a 8-bedroom villa where I was staying) prepared with an ambitious menu. I was certain they had done this before, for the dishes were well thought out and ingredients already sourced from local farms.

Padlot dinner menu

They started working hard in the kitchen making sauces, boiling fresh pasta, roasting vegetables and sautéing cuts of meat I had never seen before. They ensured we all had our glasses filled with Prosecco as we watched them cook and chit chatted in the kitchen.

Palazzo Donati kitchen

The first course or antipasti was simple yet flavorful creations: Charcuterie – salami and various cuts of meat; Bruschetta – toasted bread slices rubbed with  garlic, olive oil and salt; Crostini con Paté – sliced baguette with sausage and liver pate; and Fave e Formaggio Fresco – Fava beans with holiday cheese. They instructed us to peel raw Fava beans, dip them in salt and eat them with farmers cheese and bread. Torta pascuela, a traditional Easter cheese bread (made with gruyere, pecorino and romanesco) from Umbria was brought in for the special occasion.

Palazzo Donati has two kitchens – one for commercial use and the other a rustic open hearth with family style tables. We convened in they instructed us to peel raw Fava beans, dip them in salt and eat them with farmers cheese and bread. Torta pascuela, a traditional Easter cheese bread (made with gruyere, pecorino and romanesco) from Umbria was brought in for the special occasion.


Meanwhile Lanfranco stirred Coradella – lamb’s liver with young garlic. This kidney and lungs combination looked pretty scary to me but I’m sure it was a carnivores delight. On another stovetop, they cooked Goletta con salvia e aceto o vino bianco – pig’s jowl with sage, vinegar and white wine. And a third tended to wild boar stew called Spezzatino di Cinghiale. We were definitely in for a manly meal!

lamb liver and kidney casserole

A local resident named Lina has supposedly won every tagliatelle pasta challenge in this part of the world, so a meal would be incomplete without trying it. It came through well together with the succulent guinea pig ragout and tomato sauce.

Fresh tagliatelle pasta in Le Marche

The open fire was well utilized. For sides, Italian red Chicory known as Radicchio rosso in graticola was grilled to where it was crispy, and whole potatoes wrapped in alumni foil were cooked in the ash from the firewood, rather than baked. This ash potato was called Patate Sotto il Fuoco.

grilled hearts of palm

The party got bigger once friends from the village joined in. The prosecco gave way to a fruity Rose, then a full bodied red wine, followed by after dinner Spumanti.

Palazzo Donati Italy We ate Italian-style, which meant the food never stopped coming and not accepting seconds was an insult to the chefs. Many of the nine men were posting photos on Facebook already, so I dared not offend their culinary skills (which by the way, were simply outstanding) or be publicly shunned on social media.

academia padlot men prepare dinner

Alas the dessert was a homemade Crostata prepared by by Elizio (one of the Padlot’s) wife. A delicately laced tart made with butter, sugar, flour and eggs and filled with an interesting combination of plums, elderberry and tomatoes played a sweet-tart melody in my mouth.

elderberry crostataNo family style Italian meal is complete without some singing. It was a real treat to sit around the table, singing old Italian tunes with a bunch of locals who were passionate about food and wine.

It is almost impossible to book this experience online through a travel agent, as Academia del Padlòt exclusively hosts guests of Palazzo Donati. The villa is available to rent throughout the year and one-week packages include cooking classes, language course, wine tasting, walking tours, one on one with local artists and of course, a dinner with the Padlots!