Italy is one of the world's great countries. A place many people dream about visiting and renting a villa in the countryside to mix with the locals and soak up the culture, food and wine and scenery.
Jason had the enviable assignment of doing all of that and came up with a couple of options, starting in Tuscany.
The beautiful Tuscany boasts Florence as its capital city. It has divine landscapes and is highly cultural. Widely acknowledged as the true birthplace of the Italian, it has been influential to some extraordinary people. Petrach, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Amerigo Vespucci, Luca Pacioli and Puccini are some of those who have graced the world with music, art and science. There are several wonderful museums celebrating the culture of Tuscany.
Six Tuscan localities are World Heritage-list sites and there are more than 120 protected nature reserves. It also has outstanding culinary and wine traditions.
Jason was lucky enough to enjoy La Novellina in the Chianti region between Florence and Siena.
It dates back to the 11th century and is on 28 hectares of vineyards, cypress trees and olive groves, overlooking the Tuscan hills. The estate specialises in the production of extra virgin olive oil. The classic Tuscan villa!
The renovated and elegantly furnished farmhouse is set over three floors and sleeps up to nine in five air-conditioned bedrooms. There are four bathrooms, two living rooms, large eat-in kitchen and a pergola for al fresco dining. There's even a wood-burning pizza oven. There's loads of room for children to run around and a pool for after-siesta dips.
A welcome dinner, basic groceries and three hours of housekeeping a day are included. The keyholder is fluent in English and is extremely helpful. She will help with tours, recommend local restaurants and even give cooking classes if you desire. The Italian-speaking mother of the owner lives on the estate and is on hand to assist if needed, but is careful not to intrude!
If you don't fancy travelling with an entourage and La Novellina is a little large for your needs, there are plenty of options. An apartment in a villa gives the benefits of staying in an entire house, and is easier on the pocket.
Casa Monica has three apartments, each with its own kitchen, and views over Florence. It's in the elegant Bagno di Ripoli area. It has three apartments, or small villas, named 'Violetta', 'Tosca' and 'Mimi' honouring much-loved opera heroines.
The estate has breathtaking views over Florence and a shared pool. Each apartment has its own kitchen so you can truly live the Italy way, cooking up wonderful local produce.
The friendly English-speaking owner Monica loves on the estate and is always helpful.
Location, location, location. Anywhere in Rome is good, but Raffaello ticks all the boxes. The apartment, on the first floor of a small block, is in Borgo, one of the oldest and most prestigious parts of the city. It's close to the Vatican City entrance, just 200 metres from Piazza San Pietro.
There are two king bedrooms and a sofa. Large windows bring in views across the city. There's a fully equipped kitchen, a large and small bathroom, heating, air-conditioning and washing machine.
Rafaello has exposed wooden beams, parquetry flooring, elegant walnut furniture and a welcoming ambience. Its entrance leads to a lounge with large table and sofas. The kitchen overlooks a pretty courtyard and the main bedroom's large window overlooks the antique Borgo Pio. It's a short walk to bus stops and the underground.
Jason did what the Romans do. Lived, dined and walked locally.
Tuscany and Rome.
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La Novellina main villa is $6030 a week for up to nine people. Welcome dinner, groceries and maid service are included.
Casa Monica's Mimi is $1344, Violetta $1978 and Tosca $1659 a week for up to four people.
Rafaello apartments for two people start at $125 a night and for four people, $200 a night. There is a minimum two nights' stay.
Prices correct at November 26, 2011.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: 02 9313 4633
Fax: 02 9313 4475
Italian Villa Vacations
Ph: 03 9484 0924
Mob: 0402 552 607
Fax: 03 9830 1754
Italian Government Tourist Office
Level 4, 46 Market Street
Ph: 02 9262 1666
Fax: 02 9262 1677
Visa: Australians don't need a visa to enter Italy for stays of up to 90 days.
Electricity: Standard voltage is 220V. Plugs are the European standard, with two or three round pins.
Time zone: GMT +1 hour.
Currency: The euro.
Telephone code: +39.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for areas you will be visiting. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.