We take our children to Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano and Volterra in August and try out Airbnb for the first time, read our review of our Italian adventure here.
Famous landmarks around the world are a remarkably hot topic of conversation between our children.
This is thanks as much to the Cbeebies programme Go Jetters as educational efforts on our part.
So when the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes into view, even the sweltering August Italian heat doesn’t cool their excitement.
Children under eight aren’t allowed up the tower and the streets are heaving so we stop just long enough to take it all in.
Alongside thousands doing the same, we get the all-important pictures next to the extraordinarily slanting building, before we grab some pizza and hot-foot it back to our hire car.
We’ve already managed a day in Florence, taking our two on a whistle-stop tour of the city before their legs got tired.
The Duomo cathedral, Ponte Vecchio bridge and glorious Boboli Gardens were ticked off in a morning, before another rewarding pizza and gelato.
We’d bagged a cheap deal in an airport hotel for our first two nights to tackle the cities but now it was time to leave these bustling hotspots in search of the tranquillity of the countryside and the Dolce Vita.
Off to the country and the Dolce Vita
Our home for the next five nights is atop a hill, very much off the beaten track. Literally. A 10-minute dusty, bumpy, beaten track.
We wondered where our first foray into the world of Airbnb had taken us.
This global phenomenon lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests, from small rooms, to shared houses, villas and even entire castles, across more than 65,000 cities. Don’t miss out full guide to Airbnb here.
There were hundreds of appealing options at decent prices, even at peak season and we narrowed down our search using the list of criteria, map view, photos and reviews.
La Farneta with Airbnb
We finally chose an intriguing property on a large private estate in the hidden hamlet of La Farneta in central Tuscany.
Here there are a dozen or so apartments in a classic Tuscan setting, surrounded by olive trees, scorched fields and forests as far as the eye could see.
The only sound – apart from our children in the shared swimming pool – was that of crickets in the towering trees of this 230 hectare estate.
The pool was the big draw here. The weather can get so hot in summer I would say you have to have one if you have children in tow.
The owner Gianfausto gave us the authentic experience Airbnb has built its success on – welcoming us to his home, giving us a guided tour and even playing his piano to provide some pleasant poolside accompaniment.
The accommodation wasn’t luxurious but it was authentic and I can’t remember staying anywhere as peaceful.
It may have been 15 minutes from the nearest shop or restaurant but two Tuscan treasures aren’t far away.
The walled towns of San Gimignano and Volterra provided entertaining excursions. Our children loved the narrow alleys and the nooks and crannies of these picturesque places while the adults could enjoy the sights and sounds of Tuscany.
Pizza and pasta time!
With every second shop seemingly selling pasta, olive oil or wild boar, food is a big part of any Tuscan trip.
We found several places for a plate of pasta including Osteria Del Borgo in the pretty village of Mensano.
Staying in a remote location meant it was easier to have lunch out and dinner on our terrace with views over the rolling hills as the sun dipped below the trees.
The perfect evening temperature was ideal for a family walk around the estate, roaming the land and spotting the occasional wall lizard or deer.
We knew Tuscany in August was a gamble.
But we discovered it is possible to beat the heat and the crowds and enjoy complete tranquility.
And we ticked a landmark off that rather demanding wishlist.
For more details of how Airbnb works, read our guide here.
Accommodation: Via Airbnb. We received a discount from Airbnb for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
Travel: Flew with British Airways to Florence Airport.