Is the house child-friendly?
That depends on the ages of the children. The unfenced pool is about 20 feet behind the house. There is an open fireplace in the living room (not an issue if you are there in the summer and do not build a fire), a stone stairway, and terra cotta floors.
On the friendlier side, the house is set well away from the road (about 400 meters, behind a large field) and approached by a private drive. The large lawns, trees, and shady spots offer plenty of places to play. We have a full size bocce ball court. There is a crib that can be put in any of the bedrooms, and a high chair. The house is arranged so that parents can be in the kitchen, dining room, or living room, while young children are in the tv room, napping in the study, or playing in the front yard. The guest house is a good place to put your teenagers.
Our first guests/clients,who stayed five weeks summer 2007, were with their three small children – ages 1, 3, and 4. All survived and had a great time. The parents report it was very child-friendly. Parents of teen-agers who have stayed say their kids also had a great time; between the pool, bocce ball, badminton, dvds, sight-seeing, and great food, there was enough to do.
Regarding Tuscany and Italy in general – this is a great place for children! Italians love children and children are warmly welcomed almost everywhere. Our son made his first trip to Italy at age 18 months, and our daughter at 4 months of age. Trips to Italy have been an important and formative part of their lives ever since.
Will we need electrical adapters, and will our hairdryers and other appliances work in Italy?
The house has plug adapters. Plug adapters mean that your American-pronged plug will fit into an Italian electrical outlet in the wall. They do not change or adapt the electric current. Italian current is 240 volts DC, whereas small appliances from the US generally run on 120 or 125 volts AC input. If you simply put a plug adapter on a hairdryer or hair flat iron brought from the US and plug it in, you will most likely short out your appliance – ruining it permanently – and trip the breakers. Our daughter has done this on more than one occasion with expensive flat irons.
Each bathroom has a good quality, standard blow (hair) dryer, so you do not need to bring a hairdryer unless you need / want to have and use your own. The house also has two curling irons and a flat iron.
Check the voltage input requirements on your hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron, or whatever before bringing it with you. It is usually located somewhere on the plug or the appliance. Men’s electric razors usually work with a range of 100 – 240 volts (but do check first).
More sophisticated appliances like laptop computers operate on 120 – 240 AC/DC, so you only need to use a plug adapters. Same for Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, and iPods.
I was unpleasantly surprised (having brought it to use in Italy) that a small scanner I brought from the US operated only on 120 AC.
What television channels do you get?
The house has satellite tv in the living room. It gets BBC news, and many other, more random channels.
Will our dvds brought from the US play in Italy?
At Podere Dadino, yes, because the house has “universal” dvd players (one in the living room and one in the tv room). So, if you or your children have favorites, bring them along.
Normally, however, dvd players and discs are unique as to region (US dvds are region 1, while European dvds are region 2). So, your US dvds cannot be played on a “regular” Italian or European dvd player. And, dvds you buy in Italy cannot be played on your dvd player at home in the US.
What about music?
We have an iPod dock and several sets of speakers to plug into your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.
Is there internet access at the house?
Yes, we now have wifi in the main house.
What will we use for a telephone?
A cell phone will be made available for your use while renting the house. You can add (purchase) additional minutes at many newsstands. If you have a cell phone with international capabilities, we suggest you bring that for calling home, and use our cell phone for local calls (like restaurant reservations). Please make sure to leave the house cell phone in the house when you leave. You will be charged for a missing cell phone.
Will the house be ready on our arrival? Will there be basic supplies?
Assuming you arrive at the time arranged in advance, the house will be newly cleaned for your arrival. Beds will be made up, and towels will be ready.
Some basic supplies will be provided to tide you over: coffee, tea, a carton of milk, a bottle or two of wine, sugar, olive oil, some pasta and a jar of sauce, bath soap, toilet paper, paper towels, dish and laundry soap.
There are so many food shops, grocery stores, specialty markets, and butcher shops that food shopping is a pleasure, and we provide a full list in our House Book. However, grocery shopping can be provided before your arrival – at extra charge.
Is there someone who can cook for us occasionally?
Yes, the house is self-catering (and perfectly equipped indoors and out for those who love to cook and eat), but arrangements can be made for someone to come to the house and prepare typical Tuscan meals (highly recommended by our previous clients and guests), charged according to number of persons and ages.
What do we do about laundry?
The house is equipped with a washing machine for doing your own laundry, several racks for hanging clothes outside to dry, and an iron and ironing board.
Does the house have plenty of towels?
Yes, a bath towel, face towel, hand towel, and pool towel is provided for every person (and laundering at the end of your stay is included). The house has many additional towels which you are welcome to use, but you are expected to launder them before you depart.
Do we have to wash the sheets and change the beds?
The beds will be made and ready for your arrival. If you are staying for one week, a change of linens is not included, though you are (of course) welcome to wash and change the sheets and towels during that week if you wish.
If you are staying for two or more weeks, linens will be changed at the end of the first week, the end of the second week, and so on.
Are laundry and housecleaning services available?
Yes, both are available. Please note that send out laundry service (wash, dry, fold) is quite expensive in Italy.
The cost of final cleaning (after your departure) is included in the rental price. If you would like additional cleaning or maid service, the hourly rate is to be paid directly to the person providing the services.
We don’t have to take care of the pool and the garden, do we?
No, someone from the pool maintenance service comes once a week to clean and maintain the pool. Piero, the gardener comes to mow the lawns and take care of the garden, and to clean the pool in between. You will see them on the property; do not be alarmed, they are very nice.
What is included in the rental price?
- Pool and garden maintenance.
- Utilities: electricity, gas, and water.
- Basic supplies (see above).
- Whatever is in season in the garden.
- Firewood for the pizza oven and bbq grill.
- Linens and towels.
- Final, normal cleaning.
- Heating costs are not included.
Are arrival and departure times and dates strict?
Yes. The house is in the country, and someone will be making the trip there to greet you, give you the keys, and explain the workings of the house. If you show up at a different time than arranged, that person may have to make another trip or wait, for which time you will be charged. Please do telephone well in advance if your flight or arrival will be delayed. If you arrive late, there are hotels very nearby, just off the motorway exit.
If you want to stay an extra day or so, that may be possible depending on availability, and will be charged at a pro rata amount. During the summer season, the house is generally fully booked, so staying an extra day is probably not possible. If you want to leave early, there will be no refund.
We strongly suggest that you purchase travel insurance in case of any emergency or problem.
Who do we call if there is a problem with the house or if we have a question?
First, check the House Book, which fully describes how the appliances work. Advice and emergency contact information will be provided. Our caretaker, Piero, lives nearby.
What should we do if we trip a circuit breaker?
Try to avoid tripping the breaker by not using too many electrical appliances at any one time (oven, dishwasher, washing machine, iron, hairdryers, etc.). If the breaker does trip, you can find the circuit box outside near the study. It is explained in the House Book.
Are there bugs and other unpleasant things one associates with life in the country?
Yes, bugs, spiders, bees, mosquitoes and the occasional mouse all can be found. Keep the window screens down and the door screens closed, and they should all stay outside. Our first guests saw a garden snake – which their fearless four year old daughter caught. Lots of adorable geckoes sun themselves on the stones in the mornings and evenings. The area is known for wild boars (cinghiale, or cinghiali if more than one – whose meat makes a very tasty sauce for pasta), which is why the property is fenced.
What are any negatives?
A row of electric towers parallels the far side of the property (they are not on the property). They are visible on the right as you drive up to the house, and one is visible from part of the pool. They are not visible from inside the house or from any of the outdoor eating and sitting areas. Our competitive rental prices take this into account. All our guests/clients have said that the towers are completely unobtrusive after the first drive up the driveway.
Where can we buy the International Herald Tribune newspaper?
The closest newsstand is just inside the walls of Lucignano. It sells the International Herald Tribune and a number of other foreign (European, non-Italian) newspapers. Buy the paper and sit outdoors for a morning cappuccino in one of the two cafes just outside the town gate.
Where can we shop for groceries?
There is no shortage of places to shop for food! You can go the large supermarket route, frequent the weekly markets and the local farm stands, visit the artisan producers and direct sellers, or employ a combination of all – which is what we do.
Our House Book explains it all.
Lucignano (inside the walls) has a more than adequate small supermarket, two excellent meat markets selling locally raised beef, pork, and chicken, and fruit and vegetable vendors. Lucignano’s weekly market is on Thursday mornings, with two additional vegetable and fruit stands.
Monte San Savino’s weekly market is on Wednesday mornings. Monte San Savino also has a larger grocery store (larger than Lucignano’s) and many excellent meat markets. Cortona’s really impressive weekly market (with a fabulous cheese stand) takes place on Saturday mornings.
There is a giant Ipercoop supermarket outside Arezzo.
Throughout the area are a number of local, direct sellers of vegetables and fruits, and local products like olive oils, honey, wine, cheeses, cured meats like salami and prosciutto (salumi), and porchetta (roast pork). There are some fabulous olive oils in this area. Look for signs that say “vendita diretta” (direct sales).
In our garden are herbs (basil, rosemary, parsley, sage, mint, tarragon, oregano) and vegetables (tomatoes – try to get them before the birds do, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, onions, garlic, mountains of lettuce), fruits (raspberries, strawberries, currants) and various fruit trees that produce tons of dark plums, yellow plums, apricots, pears, figs, and tiny apples – all for free.
Will we be able to find our favorite products?
That depends. You can find things like peanut butter and brand name cereal at the larger coop supermarket in Monte San Savino or at the Arezzo Ipercoop. You might want to bring with you whatever you cannot live without.
What restaurants are good and how do we find them?
There are SO many good restaurants – including four excellent restaurants in Lucignano alone! A full list of local and nearby restaurants that we can vouch for is included in the House Book, along with their telephone numbers, addresses, and closing day (restaurants in Italy generally are closed one day each week).
What are some local specialties?
The special foods of this area (the Val di Chiana and the Val d’Orcia) are truffles, truffles, and more truffles (both black and white) – on everything and in everything.
The local salumi (cured, sliced meats such as prosciutto and salamis) are made from Cinta Senese pigs (these are a certain kind of local pig that is black with a white “belt” or stripe – the “cinta” – which can be seen in old Sienese paintings) and are much better than those from Parma.
Chianina beef from local cows / steers with white droopy skin (seen in old photos in some local restaurants) is traditionally prized and quite expensive, and this is the beef used for the best bistecca alla Fiorentina and the tagliata (which is a fabulous dish of sliced steak, usually served with tomatoes, arugula, and sliced pecorino or parmesan).
The most prevalent cheese of the area is pecorino. The younger the pecorino, the softer and milder tasting it is. Pecorino stagionato is the older, hard, strong-flavored, that our daughter loves. You can also find pecorino with bits of truffle in it.
We have a list of area artisan producers of meats and cheeses in the area, Slow Food Guide recommended. The house also has a variety of great cookbooks, a large outdoor BBQ grill (burns charcoal or wood), a traditional outdoor, wood-fired pizza and bread oven, and all neccessary pots, pans, and utensils for creating your own fabulous meals.
Will there be restaurant food our children will like?
Assuming your children like pasta, everything should be fine. Most restaurants in Italy (especially local and country restaurants) welcome children and will go out of their way (within limits) and try hard to make something that your children will like / will eat. Pasta with butter and cheese is always an option. When our daughter was very young in Italy, she lived primarily on ravioli with tomato sauce and tortellini in broth. Our son lived mostly on steak, as soon as he could chew.
Are there places to get just a snack?
Cafes are the best places to get a midmorning snack or pastry, or a quick sandwich for lunch. Some cafes are better than others, of course. Look over their offerings. Monte San Savino has some very nice cafes serving both breakfast pastries and lovely small lunch sandwiches.
Just before you get to the main gate into Lucignano (heading from the house), you will pass a pizza place on the right side of the road, at the corner of Via A. Toti (look for the wine barrels out front). It is a nice place to stop for a pizza or a simple inexpensive lunch.
What are usual restaurant hours?
Lunch usually runs from 12:30 to 2:30 or 3:00 pm. Showing up at 2:30 or 3:00 without a reservation, however, may be too late, depending on the restaurant.
Restaurants usually open for dinner at 8:00 pm, sometimes 7:30 in the winter. Pizza places tend to open about 7:00 pm.
Reservations are always a good idea, especially necessary for Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunches, or any time (lunch, dinner, any day of the week) at the very well known restaurants, or if you are a large group.
Always book if you want to assure seating on a restaurant’s terrace.
How dressed up do people get – or what kinds of clothes should we bring?
It’s the country, so casual is fine (but not shorts and tank tops for adults at dinner – male or female). Dinner on a Friday or Saturday evening, or a long Sunday lunch, calls for slacks and a shirt, or skirt.
Dinner at a nice restaurant in Florence is a different story.
Is it difficult to drive there?
That depends on your stress tolerance and where you are going. You can take relaxing country roads – and then get stuck behind a tractor. You can take a wrong turn (as we often still do), but usually will find that the road connects back to where you want to go. I always carry a map.
Driving into Florence or looking for a place to park in Siena or Arezzo for the first time can be a bit intimidating – but easy after that.
Most rental cars now have GPS systems, which makes things easier. Even GPS cannot tell you where to park in a new town or city, however. So you might want to Google “Cortona parking” (or whatever town) before you head off to get a sense of your options.
One group of guests who found the autostrada drivers a bit “crazy” took small roads locally, and took the train from Arezzo to both Florence and Rome for day trips.
How close is Podere Dadino to the designer outlets?
The Prada outlet is located in Levanella, just past Montevarchi – or before it, depending on which direction you are headed – on the SS 69. It is not signposted. The building is white and has a sort of “saw-tooth” shaped roof. Drive all the way around the back for the entrance. From Florence, take the San Giovanni Valdarno exit off the autostrada and follow the signs for Arezzo. The address is 55 Levanella. Tel: 055 9196528
The Mall – Gucci, Ferragamo, Marni, Pucci, Tods and Hogans, etc. outlets: take the Incisa exit from the autostrada, and head towards Firenze/Pontessieve. Many small black signs (“The Mall”) mark the way. Via Aretina 63, Leccio.
The Mall and the Prada outlet are actually worth the trip. Things are not half price or anything wonderful like that, but you can find some savings – especially on Prada sweaters and Tods shoes.
What are the nearest big cities?
Florence to the north, Rome to the south. Nearby Siena and Arezzo are cities – but not big.
Can you recommend any restaurants in Florence?
Absolutely; we have lots of favorites, and can make a recommendation depending on what part of the city you want to be in.
What does Podere Dadino mean?
It means “the Dadino farm plot” or “Dadino farm.” Until about the late 1950s and 1960s, this area (Arezzo and Siena provinces) was farmed under the mezzadria – or sharecropping – system. For centuries, large landowners divided their property into family-sized plots, each of which was worked by a sharecropping family required to give the landowner half of all crops grown every year and to contribute half the capital. (“Mezzo” means “half” – hence mezzadria.) Podere means “plot” of land – as in small farm plot. The stone and brick houses, like ours, that you see throughout Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marche, were the homes of sharecropping families – though without swimming pool, heat, plumbing, or running water, and with animals on the ground floor and hay in what is now the guest house. The mezzadria system slowly died out after WWII, as fewer and fewer wanted the back-breaking life of a sharecropper, and more and more young people moved away from rural areas and found other work.