Tuscany is the quintessential Italy, and if you rent a lovely old farmhouse at Castellare di Tonda you can live right in the middle of it: vineyards, olive groves and rolling hills. The kids mightnít be impressed with the sense of history, but theyíll certainly love the mountain biking, horse riding and endless days in the sun.
The Castellare di Tonda estate has twelve farmhouses divided into various apartments. The theme is Tuscan Renaissance and very homey, but all the mod cons are there as well, including kitchens and laundry facilities. The surroundings are lovely, with a swimming pool (but watch out Ė pools arenít fenced as they are in Australia), playground and BBQ area. A professionally staffed kidsí club with large indoor and outdoor play areas, and daily activities, will also keep the kids happy.
Itís hard to tear yourself away from such surroundings, but Tuscany has plenty of things to see. Castellare di Tonda is just a few minutes from San Gimignano, a medieval town full of impressive stone mansions and a huge tower. If you happen to be here in June, kids will be thrilled by the medieval fiesta, which includes a knightís tournament and villagers dressed as lords and ladies.
Florence is the highlight of Tuscany and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Itís chock-full of art and architecture, but you might want to limit yourself to seeing only some if it, since kids usually arenít as thrilled as adults by endless culture. A good stop for recuperation is the Parco delle Cascine, which has a playground, picnic tables and a swimming pool. Pisa is the other must-see, with its magnificent cathedral and famous Leaning Tower, though kids have to be at least 8yrs to climb to the top.
A good seaside town is Marina de Pietrasanta. The wide sandy beach is ideal for families; you actually need tickets to use it, but that gives you access to changing facilities, beach chairs, umbrellas and, best of all, inflatable floats, balls and other beach toys. Kids will also love the Grotta del Vento near Barga, an amazing underground cave system with rivers, a green lake and stalactites galore. Older kids can take the longer tour, which involves climbing up and down ladders! Meanwhile, families with younger kids should head to Pinocchio Park near Collodi. Itís an old-fashioned theme park and also has some delightful puppet shows which are so amusing the kids donít even seem to notice they are all in Italian!