One Week in Tuscany

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Early morning light in Tuscany.

Early morning light in Tuscany.

A hilly, fertile region in central Italy, Tuscany was the home of the Etruscan civilization, and later the birthplace of the Renaissance. It’s known for its picturesque landscapes and charming, historic towns like Siena, Arezzo, Cortona, Lucca, San Gimignano, and Volterra. It’s also renowned for its bold red wines and fruity extra virgin olive oils. Tuscany’s capital, Florence, is a great art center whose well-preserved centro storico remains closely linked to its medieval past, in spite of year round tourist crowds. The region’s Tyrrhenian coast is famous for its white sand beaches and pine forests. Come August, Florentines depart en masse for spots such as Viareggio, Camaiore, Forte dei Marmi, and the island of Elba.

Ready to book your villa rental experience in Toscana? Here’s a one-week itinerary to inspire your travel planning:

The table is set for lunch at Villa del Cielo, near Siena.

The table is set for lunch at Villa del Cielo, near Siena.

Saturday – Arrival

Meet your local contact at the villa. Familiarize yourself with the property, ask for restaurant recommendations, the closest grocery store, and whether there are any special events happen­ing during your stay! Most stores will be closed on Sunday, so shop for any supplies you’ll need before Monday morning.

Sunday – Get Your Bearings

Sunday is a day of rest for most Italians, so relax at your villa. Head into town for a casual lunch at a trattoria; in the late afternoon, join the locals in la passeggiata, a leisurely stroll along the main street.

Explore the hill towns in Tuscany!

Explore the hill towns in Tuscany!

Monday – Hill Towns

Depending on your location in the region, visit a notable hill town such as San Gimignano, Volterra, Cortona, Montepulciano, or Mon­talcino. Spend all day in one spot or drive to another town after lunch. In the evening, return to your villa for a simple meal of pasta topped with chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Add a green salad and a bottle of local red.

Tuesday – Day Trip!

Spend the day in Florence, Siena, or Lucca. Visit museums, investigate churches, and shop for local crafts. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in the shade at an outdoor café or trattoria. Return home before dark so you can stop at a local rosticceria or tavola calda for delicious take-out.

Wednesday – Learn Something New

Shop for local salumi and cheeses--perfect for a simple supper at the villa!

Shop for local salumi and cheeses–perfect for a simple supper at the villa!

Sleep in; then eat breakfast Italian-style by visiting a bar and ordering un cappuccino e cornetto (a cappuccino and a croissant). Afterward, head to class! Cooking, painting, olive oil tasting, or perhaps a visit to a farmer’s market to practice your Italian – whatever your interest, take some time to learn something new. If you’re planning ahead, this is a great evening to have a chef come and prepare a gourmet Tuscan dinner for your entire group.

Tasting wine in Tuscany--a great day trip during your villa rental week!

Tasting wine in Tuscany–a great day trip during your villa rental week!

Thursday – More Hill Towns

Head out to a hill town you haven’t yet explored. Hand-painted ceramics, linens, and leather goods make great gifts and souvenirs. With dinner in mind, keep your eyes open for a salume­ria, where you will find cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, and bresaola. Don’t forget the marinated artichokes and roasted eggplant!

Friday – Pool and Relaxation

Enjoy the pool at your villa!

Enjoy the pool at your villa!

Spend your last full day sunning by the pool, catching up on your travel journal, and reliving the week’s adventures with your companions. In the late afternoon, pack your bags and treat yourselves to dinner in a local restaurant.

Discover Umbria and Le Marche!

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Umbria is Italy's Green Heart!

Umbria is Italy’s Green Heart!

Umbria and Le Marche: A Travel Guide

Both refined and wild, Umbria is characterized by verdant rolling hills, fields of red poppies, the smoky flavor of truffles, and the tang of sheep’s milk cheese. It is a land of Etruscan and medieval origins, steeped in spirituality. East­ward, the mountainous natural parks of Le Marche descend into medieval seaside towns and popular beach resorts on the Adriatic frequented by Italians on holiday. Don’t expect everyone to speak English; do expect to be enchanted. Ready to plan your villa rental experience in Umbria and Le Marche? Here’s a brief travel guide for inspiration:

The beautiful town of Assisi. Photo: Roby Ferrari

The beautiful town of Assisi. Photo: Roby Ferrari

Food in Umbria

The pasta in this region is delectable, especially the umbricelli, a specialty of Northern Umbria. Perugia’s delicacies include bruschetta, zuppa di farro (an ancient form of wheat), pork dishes, wild pigeon, and squab. As for truffles, dogs or pigs sniff out these precious mushrooms in the area around Norcia and Spoleto. The cuisine of Southern Umbria highlights the subtle combination of truffles, olive oil, cheese, and homemade pasta. The white wine of Orvieto is the region’s best.

Perugia is a wonderful city to explore! Photo: Larry Ferrante

Perugia is a wonderful city to explore! Photo: Larry Ferrante

Day Trip: Orvieto

Midway between Florence and Rome, Orvieto is perched on a pedestal of volcanic tufa (compressed rock) 900 feet above the valley floor. The cathedral, one of the Italy’s greatest, is a must-see. The Pozzo di San Patrizio, or Well of Saint Patrick, has a beautiful double helix staircase that allows you to walk 200 feet down and back up again without retracing your steps. Nearby, the area around Rocca Ripensa is littered with Etruscan ruins and hiking trails. Local villages are inhabited by artists producing traditional handicrafts.

The beauty of the Umbrian countryside will astound you!

The beauty of the Umbrian countryside will astound you!

Food in Le Marche

In general, the cuisine of Le Marche is a mix of rustic Italian fare and seafood. The signature dish is porchetta: a roast suckling pig served whole or sliced into crispy rolls. Also try brodetto (fish broth) or zuppa di pesce, a fish soup flavored with saffron. The classic wine of Marche is verdicchio, a crisp white with a tinge of pale green, excellent when paired with seafood. Rosso Conero and Rosso Picenso are both excellent reds, based on the Montepulciano grape.

Day Trip: Urbino

Urbino should be your first destination in Marche. It is the jewel of the region, and one of Italy’s most beautiful walled hill towns. The Palazzo Ducale, completed in 1482, is particularly stun­ning. The town of Macerata is also not to be missed. It, too, is a lovely hill town that remains off the beaten tourist track. Rimini, both tourist resort and Renaissance town, is worth a mini detour (depending on the season!) to see Roman ruins and the Federico Fellini Museum.

A Week in Provence

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The lavender fields of Provence.

The lavender fields of Provence.

 A Week in Provence

With its golden landscapes, atmospheric café towns, and medieval heritage, Provence is a land of artists and dreamers. Thanks to mistral winds, sunlight really is more luminescent here – inspiring some of the most beautiful works of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso. You don’t need to be a master artist to appreciate Provence… but it helps if you’re a romantic at heart. Ready to plan your villa rental experience? Here’s a week’s itinerary to inspire your travel planning:

The incomparable colors of Provence.

The incomparable colors of Provence.

Saturday – Arrival

Meet your local contact at the villa. Familiarize yourself with the property; ask for restaurant recommendations, the nearest grocery, and whether there are any special events happening during your stay! Most stores will be closed on Sunday, so shop for any supplies you’ll need before Monday morning.

Sunday – Market Day

Stock up on groceries at the fabulous outdoor produce market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a town known for its antiques. On Sundays, the streets overflow with vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other artisanal products. Take the afternoon to explore the area around your villa.

Monday – Art Appreciation

Provence has inspired many world-class artists, so pick your favorite and investigate. Follow the “Circuit Van Gogh” plaques in charming Saint-Rémy to see many of the settings used in the artist’s paintings, including his famed Starry Night.

Tuesday – Wine Tasting

Pack a picnic lunch of fresh baguette, cheese, olives, and fruit. Then set out to visit some of Provence’s incomparable wineries in the area of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Stop for dinner in Aix-en-Provence, renowned for its cuisine based on simple, locally grown ingredients enhanced with the native flavors of fennel, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

Plan on wine tasting along the routes des vins.

Plan on wine tasting along the routes des vins.

Wednesday – Avignon

Devote a day to the medieval hub of Provence, still surrounded by its ancient city wall. It’s impossible to miss the enormous Palais de Papes, a masterwork of gothic architecture. According to legend, the picturesque Pont d’Avignon was built by a shepherd after a visitation from a mystical apparition. The covered market of Les Halles is a great place to stop for ingredients on your way home.

Thursday – Roman Remains

Grab your camera and explore the amphitheatre in Orange, the Pont du Gard, or (for the brave and the bold) the still-active bullfighting arena in Arles. Want to go back further in time? Explore Les Baux, inhabited since 6,000 BC. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to rest your weary feet, indulge in another Roman tradition: thermal baths.

Friday – The Luberon

There are so many wonderful villages to explore in Provence.

There are so many wonderful villages to explore in Provence.

To complete your Provençal experience, head to the Luberon, a landscape dotted with charming hilltop villages. Wander, explore, take photos, eat, and relax. There are many villages to visit, but Gordes, Joucas, and Roussillon shouldn’t be missed. Celebrate your final evening by having a private chef prepare a gourmet dinner for your entire group.

Discover Southern Spain!

Finca Ronda - Villa Sol, located near Ronda.

Finca Ronda – Villa Sol, located near Ronda.

In Andalucía, rolling mountains cloaked in green give way to bright white hill towns and hundreds of miles of coastline.  Though Moorish rule in Spain ended hundreds of years ago, Arabic culture still exerts a strong influence in the south, lending exotic flavors to food and architecture. Sophisticated cities like Sevilla, Granada, and Cordoba make wonderful day trips from your villa, as do the Pueblos Blancos, a series of picturesque while village in the region’s interior. Ready to plan your villa rental experience in Andalucía? Here’s a travel guide for inspiration:

 Food

Rice, lemons, oranges, olives, and grapes figure prominently in the cuisine of southern Spain, as well as spices such as saffron and cumin. The region is famous for its grilled fish, sardines, and fried squid. Some of the best jamon serrano (cured ham) is sliced and served as tapas: small snacks that originally accompanied a glass of sherry. Tapas range from cold meats or cheeses to elaborately prepared hot dishes of seafood, meat, or vegetables.

Day Trip: Valencia

Finca Oliva, our villa for 20-24 near Ronda.

Finca Oliva, our villa for 20-24 near Ronda.

This is the spot where Spain’s national hero, El Cid, fought the Moors. In the old town, ancient churches present their honorable facades to eager photographers, while parks, gardens, and bridges offer relaxing places to stroll. Valencia isn’t all history, however; it has a bustling nightlife and visitors throng to the beaches all summer. Virtually any sport is available, whether on land or in the water.

The Alhambra

Constructed in the 14th century by the Moorish rulers of Granada, the Alhambra is perhaps the pinnacle of Islamic architecture in Spain. Described by poets as a “pearl set in emeralds,” it was designed to reflect the beauty of Paradise. Exterior gardens inhabited by nightingales surround plain stone exteriors, which in turn give way to room after room of complex geometric patterns, calligraphic art, and inner courtyards cooled by fountains.

Day Trip: Ronda

Known as the birthplace of bullfighting, Ronda is more instantly recognizable for its Puente Nuevo – the 18th century bridge straddling a breathtaking gorge. After you’ve taken in the views over the Serrania de Ronda mountains and explored the charming old town, be sure to visit the Plaza de Toros. This bullfighting arena serves as a museum most of the year, but every September during the Feria Goyesca, it returns to its original festive glory.

Terra Mítica

Enjoying the sun at Estepona - La Piscina, our apartment for 2 near the beach in Estepona.

Enjoying the sun at Estepona – La Piscina, our apartment for 2 near the beach in Estepona.

Open from March to December, the Terra Mítica theme park is a great outing for families traveling with kids. It is divided into five themed areas: Egypt, Greece, Rome, Iberia, and the Mediterranean Islands. A range of coasters and rides are suitable for a variety of ages – and stomachs! There are also a number of shows, including a pirate attack, dancing, and gladiator fights. hidden

One Week in the Greek Islands

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The village of Oia on Mykonos.

The village of Oia on Mykonos.

Cerulean blue seas, sleepy fishing villages, and endless sunshine remain as constant in the Greek Islands of today as they were in Odysseus’ time. Here, the best luxuries are truly the simplest: A good book and a spot on the sand is all you really need! If you want adventures, you’ll find them. Hike through ancient ruins, try your hand at water sports (windsurfing, kayaking, or SUPing), or island-hop by ferry or hydrofoil. Of course, there’s also the cuisine and no end of portside tavernes in which to sample mezethes, small dishes–hot or cold, spicy or savory–that are enjoyed family-style. Ready to go? For inspiration, here’s a 1-week itinerary for your villa rental experience in Greece:

Saturday – Arrival

Depending on your arrangements, meet your local contact at the port or villa. Familiarize yourself with the property, ask about the nearest grocery store, and the best local restaurant. Get some food in your stomach and stretch your legs with a leisurely stroll. Most stores will be closed on Sunday, so shop for any supplies you’ll need before Monday morning.

Sunday – Relax

Explore the islands on foot!

Explore the islands on foot!

Since most shops will be closed, grab a towel and head for the nearest beach. Enjoy a lunch of fresh fish and salads at a local taverna.

Monday – Hiking

Pack a lunch and head for the hills! Whether composed of verdant farmlands or rocky hills, the islands offer stunning land and seascapes. Exercise is also a great cure for jet lag! Be on the lookout for windmills and crumbling monasteries. Prefer not to walk? Rent a scooter and explore the island’s rural roads.

Tuesday – Water Sports

Windsurfing, sailing, stand-up paddling–you name it; rentals and lessons are available in most villages, so pick your favorite activity and enjoy the sea! For dinner, enjoy an authentic Greek island feast of assorted mezethes such as spanakopita, grilled octopus, and tzatziki. And don’t forget the ubiquitous Greek salad: a luscious combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta, lettuce, and Kalamata olives.

Wednesday – Island Hop

The islands are serviced by an extensive ferry service, so pick one and visit for a day. Keep your eyes out for wonderful linens, pottery, and other handicrafts. For dinner, try a classic gyro with lamb or chicken and a glass of the traditional white wine, retsina.

Island-hop by ferry or hydrofoil!

Island-hop by ferry or hydrofoil!

Thursday – Ancient History

Every island has its own place in Greek history, so visit archeological ruins or a local museum. Have dinner in one of the larger towns… and stay late to sample Greek nightlife with a glass of ouzo at one of many bustling clubs and bars.

Friday – Make-Up Day

Didn’t get enough of the beach? Want to visit another island? Need to photograph those ruins at just the right time of day? Whatever you missed or simply want more of, go for it! For your last night, feast on rustic food at a local taverna – and try line dancing, if you dare!

Plan a Perfect Wedding in Italy

Plan a wedding in Tuscany!

Plan a wedding in Tuscany! Our U.S.-certified wedding planner will assist you with all aspects of coordinating your special day. Pictured: Monteriggioni Estate (see rentvillas.com for details).

RentVillas is excited to announce a partnership with an American wedding planner who has lived and worked for over 20 years in Italy.

  • Our English-speaking expert is a U.S.-certified wedding planner and designer.
  • She has arranged over 120 weddings throughout Italy, including Tuscany, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Venice, Rome and the Lake District.
  • Her services include all aspects of event planning, including location, travel, accommodations, hiring reliable, hand-picked local vendors, and legal paperwork assistance.
Get married in Florence!

Get married in Florence!

In the words of our wedding expert:

The most important part of my job is serving as the go-to person while the couple and their family and friends are in Italy. My role is to solve any problem and answer any question—in English! My customers tell me time and time again how much they appreciate being able to count on me to address even the smallest issue, and how they were relieved to have someone who was bilingual!

A ceremony at Villa Monte (sleeps 22) near Lucca.

A ceremony at Villa Monte (sleeps 22) near Lucca.

FOR RESERVATIONS:

For pricing, please contact Sarah at 800-726-6702, ext. 405 or email sarah@rentvillas.com.

Renting a Villa – The Costs

LaCappelladell'Alfina

Even if you have rented a villa in the past, you probably have questions about costs and how they might compare to a hotel stay. Here are some points to consider:

Price Ranges

One of the many things that sets villa rentals apart from hotels stays is the savings for groups. The more people staying in a property, the greater the savings per person. Average mid-level price ranges for small rentals (2 people/1 bedroom) are $1,000-$2500 per week. A medium-size rental (4-6 people/2-3 bedrooms) is $2500-$4000 per week. A large rental (8+ people/4+ bedrooms) is $4,000-$8000 per week, depending on the quality of the property and the season.

Seasons

The weekly rental price of a countryside villa varies according to season.  However, the rental prices of city apartments may not fluctuate as much.  Although the price/season breakdowns vary according to property, here is a general guide:

  • High season is generally July and August (although, June and September are sometimes included), the three Christmas weeks, and the two Easter weeks. During these periods, prices are highest and crowds are largest.
  • Mid-season, or shoulder season, is generally June and September. This is a good time to travel because the weather is warm, but not yet hot.
  • Low-mid-season, or low-shoulder season, is generally late April through May, and again in late September to late October. This is a good time to travel, thanks to milder weather, fewer tourists, and lower prices.
  • Low season is generally January to the end of April (except during Easter), and late October to Christmas. Prices are at their lowest during this period, though conversely, due to cold weather, heating costs (which are usually extra) must be factored in. See below for more details on heating.

What’s Included

With very few exceptions, all linens and bath towels are included in the rental price. In some cases, utilities (such as gas and electricity, but excluding air-conditioning and heating) are included in the price.

What’s NOT Included

With some exceptions, air-conditioning, heating, gas, and electricity are metered according to consumption and are not included in the rental price. This is because energy costs in Europe are much higher than in the United States. In particular, the laws governing the use of heating are restrictive in the interest of energy conservation. For example, in Italy heating is generally only allowed from the 1st of November until the 1st of April, although this can vary. If your property has a working fireplace, it will be stated in the description whether you need to request and pay for firewood.

Most of our properties are privately owned, so the provisions in the house will vary according to owner. Some villas are well-stocked with basics such as salt & pepper, dish soap, bath soap, paper towels, and toilet paper, while others provide the bare minimum. It’s always a good idea to pack a few small spices, and then plan to stop at a grocery store en route to your villa on Saturday (since smaller stores are usually closed on Sunday).

A Final Cleaning fee applies to most of our villas. This amount covers the cost of cleaning following your departure. Usually, this amount, in addition to any stated extra charges not included in the rental rate, is deducted from the security deposit (paid in Euros upon arrival), which is returned to you upon departure. The total amount of both the security deposit and the final cleaning fee will be specified at the time of booking.

What Savings Can I Expect?

Unlike hotel rooms, all properties are equipped with a furnished kitchen and amenities such as a stove and/or oven and refrigerator. This makes it possible to store groceries and prepare meals both simple and elaborate, therefore eliminating the added expense and hassle of eating out for three meals a day! Calculate that this also includes incidentals, like snacks and drinks. Imagine the pleasure of enjoying a good bottle of wine and local meats and cheeses on your private terrace at the end of a long day of sightseeing! While of course a similar experience could be had at a local bar or café, you’d pay twice the amount (even three times in a touristy locale), and there would be no gorgeous vista or sunset to admire—let alone privacy and space.

If you’re traveling with children, the convenience factor of a villa is extremely appealing. Not only do you have the ease of a kitchen for quick, inexpensive meal preparation and snack storage, but you have the added bonus of ample room for young ones to run around and expend some of that boundless kid energy. Villa rentals provide a degree of flexibility that hotel rooms do not! In this case you may not save a calculable amount, but you certainly gain peace of mind and sanity–which, as only a parent knows, are priceless.

Easy Italia: The Helpline for Tourists

Get real-time tourist info for free in Italy!

The Italian government has launched a new, free service called Easy Italia to provide real-time travel information and assistance via phone to foreign visitors in Italy. The live help is available in 8 languages, including English.

Easy Italia offers tourist information, translation help, advice on travelers’ rights, updates on local and national emergencies, and information for the disabled.

Imagine: You’re stuck somewhere, need assistance,  and your rudimentary Italian isn’t cutting the mustard. Call Easy Italia and have the person who answers translate by passing the phone back and forth with whomever you’re trying to communicate.

We recommend entering Easy Italia’s numbers into your cell phone’s contact list so that you’ll have them wherever you travel in Italy.

  • If you’re dialing from a cell phone in Italy: Dial 039.039.039
  • If you’re dialing from outside Italy: Dial +39.039.039.039
  • If you’re dialing from a land line or public phone in Italy, call toll free: 800.000.039

The Easy Italia helpline is available from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM seven days a week. From 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM, voicemail is available in English and Italian with a return call promised within 30 minutes. During the months of July, August, and December, the number will be answered live until 10:00 PM.

For even greater convenience, there is a free Easy Italia app for iPhone and iPad!

Photo courtesy of .v1ctor @Flickr.

Tuscan Food Experiences

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Matisse, your private Tuscan chef

Enjoy a culinary tour and wine tasting during your villa rental week!

Booking a food and wine experience during your villa stay is a fun, enriching way to truly savor life in Tuscany.

Here are a selection of culinary tours and tastings available through RentVillas:

Explore the San Lorenzo market with a local guide!

Explore the San Lorenzo market with a local guide!

1. Florence Market Walk (half day with lunch) (RP)

  • Overview: Acquaint yourself with the heart and soul of Tuscan cuisine by visiting Florence’s  famous open air markets: Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo and Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Your tour includes transportation, a guided walk through the historic center, and lunch.
  • Meet your guide at the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo or, if you’re staying at a villa within a 30 km radius of Florence, enjoy pick up at your door.
  • Your food experience begins on the newly renovated upstairs level of the market, which has multiple artisan food courts featuring fresh and prepared foods, including seafood, meat (salumi and offal included), pasta, cheese, and bread. Your expert local guide, a language student at Florence University, will introduce you to the very best of Italian cuisine!
  • Next, enjoy a stroll through the historic center of Florence as you make your way to Sant’Ambrogio, the market that is most popular with locals, not tourists. Your guide will educate you on local history and architecture along the way.
  • Tour the Sant’Ambrogio market and then sit down to a typical Florentine lunch with the locals in the market trattoria (meal includes vino della casa–house wine).
  • A driver will return you to the San Lorenzo market, or directly to your villa near Florence.
  • Cost: 90 Euros per person. Minimum 4 people. Maximum 7 people. Transportation and lunch (including wine) are included. Free pick up/drop off applies only to villas that are within a 20 km radius of Florence. For an additional cost, wine tasting in the San Lorenzo Market can be arranged.
Plan an evening to remember at this historic jewelry shop in Cortona!

Plan an evening to remember at this historic jewelry shop in Cortona!

2. Artisan Food & Jewelry in Cortona (evenings) (FB)

  • Overview: Enjoy a private, gourmet tasting dinner in a magical setting–an exclusive artisan jeweler’s shop in Cortona.
  • Your special evening includes private access to the historic show room (which is also comprised of a cigar room and dining room) and handcrafted gold and silver jewelry. Handmade shoes are also on display. Guests will be treated to a jewelry-making demonstration.
  • The meal includes an aperitif with gold and silver flakes and gourmet tasting dinner.
  • You will meet the Jewelry Tour Guide in the Cortona Main Square. Transportation to/from Cortona may be arranged for an extra cost.
  • Cost: 210 Euros (2-3 pax); 139 Euros (4-5 pax); 112.50 Euros (6-7 pax); 98 Euros (8-20 pax). Children are welcome, but adult rate per child applies. 
  • Note: wine is not included in the price.
Enjoy dinner at the home of a Tuscan winemaker!

Enjoy dinner at the home of a Tuscan winemaker!

3. Dinner at Winemaker’s Home (evenings) (CDF)

  • Overview: Experience firsthand the harmonious relationship between Tuscan food and wine. Enjoy a chef-prepared dinner and wine pairings at the home of a local organic winemaker, located between Montepulciano and Chianciano Terme.
  • During the meal your host will share his passion for wine and describe each pairing.
  • Sample menu includes: a Tuscan appetizer with chicken liver paté and bruschetta with organic extra virgin olive oil paired with Somaio Bianco IGT 2013; a first course of handmade tagliatelle with Tuscany ragù paired with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2011; a second course of grilled sliced steak with rocket salad and parmesan accompanied by a side dish of Tuscan white beans–both paired with a Riserva di Vino Nobile 2008; and classic tiramisú for dessert.
  • Cost: 112.50 Euros per person (minimum 4 people).
A Tuscan truffle hunter and his trusty hounds on the scent.

A Tuscan truffle hunter and his trusty hounds on the scent.

4. The True Truffle Hunt Experience (half-day) (GB)

  • Overview: Join truffle hunter Giulio and his truffle hound Edda on a hunt for black truffles.
  • After your time in the woods, you’ll proceed to Bagno a Ripoli (near Florence) for a delectable lunch in Giulio’s Tuscan kitchen featuring truffles in each course. A local Sangiovese will be served with lunch.
  • Available weekdays during March-December (except May) (10 AM – 2 PM). Cost per person: 130 Euros (4-5 pax); 120 Euros (over 5 pax). Transportation not included.
  • Note: Scroll down to the bottom of the page to read a customer review of  The True Truffle Experience!
Dining at Casa del Tartufo

Dining at Casa del Tartufo

5. Wine and Truffle Tasting  (evening) (GB)

  • Enjoy an evening of wine tastings paired with local fare highlighting truffles in Bagno a Ripoli (near Florence).
  • Taste four different Tuscan wines (all produced by friends of your host, Giulio) and savor light Tuscan fare such as local prosciutto and salame, olives, garden salad, and frittata with truffles.
  • Giulio, your host and guide, will discuss the wines and truffles and share insight into regional food culture.
  • Complete the meal with homemade dolci.
  • Available Monday-Friday March-December (except May). Cost per person: 90 Euros (2 pax); 85 Euros (2-5 pax); 75 Euros (more than 5 pax). Transportation not included.

Customer Reviews:

My husband, Paul and I, would like to formally thank you for offering the “True Truffle Experience” to your clients. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think that we would go on a truffle excursion while vacationing in Italy. Not only are we true foodies, but we are also morel mushroom hunters. This is an experience that we will certainly never forget, and one that we will share will family and friends for a lifetime to come.

We had been in contact with Giulio prior to leaving for our trip. His emails were very helpful and his directions were very easy to follow from our villa. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by him and his lovely partner, Christina, at their beautiful estate La Limonaia. They were very welcoming and spoke great English.

Giulio presented us with an overview of the evolution of truffles as well as his credentials. The knowledge and passion that he has can be seen by a certain twinkle in his eye whenever he speaks of the truffles. We were pleasantly surprised to have an impromptu olive oil tasting. We definitely learned a lot and have expanded our pallets. Unfortunately, we are now spoiled with Tuscan olive oil, and we will probably never be able to use anything else!

When it came time for the actual “hunt”, we first had to meet his partner in crime. Etta or Edda, is his beautiful hunting companion. The very key to a successful truffle experience. After she happily responded to us, we loaded into his car and drove up into the hills. From up top, we had the most amazing view of Florence. We quickly headed into the woods and followed 10 steps behind the hunting duo. Not knowing what to expect, we were very surprised to have found a black truffle 15 minutes into our hunt. We continued up the hills and through the woods for over an hour. The end result was 5 truffles!

When we returned to his estate, we were shown the correct way to clean the truffles. Christina then prepared a phenomenal potluck of dishes that were blessed with a generous amount of truffle shavings on top. My husband and I still talk about her Tuscan white bean soup. She is as gifted in the kitchen as he is in the woods. In fact, on our next visit to Tuscany, we want to do the truffle experience again as well as a cooking class with her.

We were very sad to say our goodbyes. It was as if we were leaving old friends. The only satisfaction we had was knowing that we will meet again.

This was definitely one of the highlights of our whole Italian experience.

Thank you again,

Brandy & Paul, October 2011

FOR RESERVATIONS:

Please contact RentVillas at (800) 726-6702.To confirm a reservation, a 20% non-refundable deposit is required. Upon receipt of the deposit, you will be put in direct contact with the Cook or Tour Guide, who will be able to answer your specific questions regarding the details of the meal and/or tour, including balance payment, extra costs, and the meeting time and place. We recommend that reservations be made at least two months prior to your departure.

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Rome Tours

The Eternal City... Experience it with a native guide!

The Eternal City… Experience it with a native guide!

ROME is so full of fascinating things to see and do. Where to start?

  • A private, guided tour (1-7 people) with a native, English-speaking guide is an excellent way to see the best of what Rome has to offer, maximize your time, and gain exclusive access.
  • We offer both driving and walking tours of the main sites in the historic center, including the Coliseum, Roman Forum, and Vatican.
  • New for 2016: A VIP tour for 1-6 people that includes an exclusive visit the Pope’s private mosaic studio!

QUESTIONS? Call Amanda at 800-726-6702 or email amanda@rentvillas.com

Here are tours in Rome available through RentVillas:

  1. Driving Tours (Basic and Fully-Guided)

Rome driving tours allow you to enjoy the city’s highlights from the comfort of an air-conditioned private car. Owner/tour manager Fabrizio and his staff of trained drivers are knowledgeable, attentive, and fluent in English.

There are two types of guided driving tours: Basic and Fully-Guided. Both tour types allow you to enjoy “front door” access. There’s no need to make the long trek from parking lot to entrance!

  • Basic Tours offer the comfort and convenience of having a local escort and air-conditioned car, but give you the independence of exploring tour stops on your own.
  • Fully-Guided Tours offer a complete historical explanation of each stop, as well as additional insider information shared while en route.
Uncover the real Rome!

Uncover the real Rome!

2. Full-Day Basic Tour (7 hours) or Full-Day Fully-Guided Tour (8 hours)

  • Your guide will pick you up at your apartment at 9:00 AM and take you directly to Piazza Venezia, a 19th century piazza dominated by the gigantic monument to Vittorio Emanuele II–often referred to as “the wedding cake”.
  • From here, it’s a 10-minute drive to Capitol Hill and the Roman Forum (the ancient center of Roman political, religious, and judicial life), where you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view.
  • Then, it’s just a short walk to monumental Piazza del Campidoglio, where you’ll see a spectacular building commissioned by Pope Paul III, and designed by thebrilliant Michelangelo for the visit of Emperor Charles V. The Jewish Ghetto is not far away from here. You’ll be able to explore the area and learn about the long history of this Jewish community. 
  • After many scheduled and impromptu stops, you’ll arrive at the stunning Piazza Navona. Here, you’ll view the fountains masterfully designed by Bernini, as well as the Church of St. Agnes, designed by his rival, Borromini.
  • Your guide will take you to the Pantheon, the best preserved and most fascinating building of Ancient Rome. This architectural masterpiece was a meticulous and demanding test of the technical abilities of the architects in Roman time! From atop the Aventine Hill, Rome’s panorama is laid out before you.
  • Your next stop: the Coliseum, a structure that could accommodate 50,000 spectators to watch gladiatorial contests, animal hunts and naval battles.
  • You’ll then have time to indulge in an authentic Roman lunch served in a restaurant located well off the beaten path of tourists.
  • Following lunch you’ll visit the catacombs located along the Appian Way, known in ancient times as the main road of the Roman Legions.
  • Prior to return to your apartment, there will be two more fun stops: the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. Be sure to throw a coin into the fountain to ensure your return to the Eternal City!

Please note that both Full-Day tour options include a stop for lunch at a locale selected by your guide; cost is extra. Total cost per Full-Day Basic Tour for 1-7 people: 413 Euros; Total cost per Full-Day Fully-Guided Tour for 1-7 people: 523 Euros. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot.

–Coliseum: 12 Euros per person

–Catacombs: 8 Euros per person

PICK UP/DROP OFF: Your guide will meet you at your apartment or at another central location in Rome. This service is included in the tour price.

3. Half-Day Basic Tour (3 hours) or Half-Day Fully-Guided Tour (4 hours)

  • Your guide will pick you up at your apartment at 9:00 AM and take you directly to Saint Peter’s Basilica. You’ll admire the mighty cupola, designed by Michelangelo.
  • Next stop is near Gianicolo’s panoramic view. Here, along the banks of the Tiber River, you’ll enjoy one of the most spectacular scenes in Rome! Then, the tour will make a brief stop in front of the Acqua Paola, which was commissioned by Pope Paul V.
  • Continuing on, your guide will take you to the Trastevere district. There, you’ll learn about ancient legends and Medieval beliefs. This stop also includes a visit to Piazza Venezia, which is still considered the heart of the city. Many roads converge here, including the Via del Corso, Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via del Teatro di Marcello, thus proving the adage that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.
  • Finally, the tour arrives at the ramp leading to Capitol Hill and the Forum. Here you’ll gaze onto what remains of the great Roman Empire. You will marvel at the magnificent Piazza del Campidoglio, also designed by Michelangelo, and the former political center or Renaissance Rome.

Total cost per Half-Day Basic Tour for 1-7 people: 206 Euros; Total cost per Half-Day Fully-Guided Tour for 1-7 people: 275 Euros. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot.

–Catacombs: 8 Euros per person

PICK UP/DROP OFF: Your guide will meet you at your apartment or at another central location in Rome. This service is included in the tour price.

4. TOUR 4 KIDS – Ages 8-10 – Half-Day (3 hours):

  • Ancient Rome comes alive! On this half-day tour designed for 8-10 year olds, kids will hear and see what happened in the Colosseum in ancient times: Gladiators and beasts emerging from huge cages into the arena; Thousands of spectators watching the arena, which was sometimes filled with water for naval battles; Emperors in chariots speeding through triumphal arches in the Roman Forum and then descending 3 layers beneath the floor level of the amazing San Clemente church!
  • Next, your guide will transport you back to the 1st century A.D. In fact, St. Clemente is on the top of a 4th century basilica with the interesting “St. Clemente miracles” frescoes and a curious “comic-strip” dating to 1100 AD.
  • The tour culminates with a visit to  the wonderful mosaics in the 12th century church.

Total cost per Just For Kids Tour for 1-7 people: 248 Euros. Please note that for an additional cost car service is available: 187.50 Euros for 1-7 people. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot:

–Explora, Il Museo dei Bambini di Roma: 0-1 years free, 1-3 years 3 Euros, 3+-adult 7 Euros

PICK UP/DROP OFF: According to local custom, your guide will meet you at your apartment or location of your choice in the city center. He/she will then call a taxi and you will travel by taxi  to the first itinerary stop. Return transportation is also by taxi. Please note that taxi fares for you and your guide are not included in the tour price and are an extra cost to you.  Also, standard-size taxi’s will accommodate 3-4 people; there are also taxi vans available.

Gain exclusive access to the Pope's mosaic studio!

Gain exclusive access to the Pope’s mosaic studio!

5. VIP Rome Tour – 8 hours – New  for 2016!

The Vatican Mosaic Studio is typically reserved for heads of state... Now you, too, can visit the inner sanctum!

The Vatican Mosaic Studio is typically reserved for heads of state… Now you, too, can visit the inner sanctum!

  • Enjoy the full-day services of a private driver and licensed guide!
  • The day’s itinerary (you decide!) can include the Coliseum and Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, or whatever else may be of interest!
  • The highlight: Gain exclusive VIP access to the Pope’s private mosaic studio. This inner sanctum is typically reserved for heads of state when they visit the Papal apartment; the Swiss Guards stand at attention outside!)

Total cost per VIP Rome Tour: 825 Euros for 1-7 people. A 20% non-refundable deposit is due to reserve. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot

 

Explore ancient Rome with a private guide!

Explore ancient Rome with a private guide!

 

Walking Tour of Ancient Rome (3 hours)

This family-friendly tour will introduce you to the highlights of the ancient city. Skip the lines to see the interior of the Colosseum, the grandest amphitheater of Roman Empire. Learn about the gladiators, who were actually enslaved to fight for their lives against one another or ferocious animals to entertain crowds of thousands. You’ll also walk over to the Roman Forum and walk along the ancient streets to learn about the life of the early Romans. You will see the ruins of the Emperors’ Palace, the Arch of Titus, ancient temples, and important political buildings from the time of the great Roman Empire. Kids love this tour! Total cost per tour for 1-7 people: 248 Euros. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot:

Colosseum: 12 Euros

PICK UP/DROP OFF: According to local custom, your guide will meet you at your apartment or location of your choice in the city center. He/she will then call a taxi and you will travel by taxi  to the first itinerary stop. Return transportation is also by taxi. Please note that taxi fares for you and your guide are not included in the tour price and are an extra cost to you.  Also, standard-size taxi’s will accommodate 3-4 people; there are also taxi vans available.

See Roma at night!

See Roma at night!

Rome by Night Driving Tour (2 hours)

Take an after-dinner drive and then stroll through piazzas and admire the fountains under moonlight. You’ll enjoy unmatched views of the Forum Romanum from Capitoline Hill and Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Total cost per tour for 1-7 people: 206 Euros. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

PICK UP/DROP OFF: Your guide will meet you at your apartment or another central location in Rome. This service is included in the tour price.

Learn the fascinating history of the Vatican

Learn the fascinating history of the Vatican

Vatican Walking Tour (3 hours)

Embark on a treasure hunt through one of the most beautiful and impressive art museums in the world! This family-friendly 3-hour walking tour will introduce you to the history of Rome through the paintings of some of history’s most famous Italian artists: Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio and more.You’ll also have access to take a special passage from the Sistine Chapel to the Basilica of St. Peter’s. Here you’ll see the Swiss Guards protecting the entrance to the holy staircase of the Pope’s former residence, which today is used for meetings with ambassadors and dignitaries. Your tour includes the most famous and interesting highlights of the Vatican museums, including the Rooms of Raphael, the famous painted ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Michelangelo’s Pietà. Traveling with kids? No problem! Your expert guides will make learning about the treasures of the Vatican fun and interesting!

  • Fully-Guided Vatican Walking Tour with English-speaking tour guide (includes historical explanation; 3 hours): Total cost per tour for 1-7 people: 358 Euros. Larger groups can also be accommodated; please inquire for rates!

ADMISSION FEES: Admission fees per person are extra and paid on the spot.

–For an additional cost, advance reservations for the Vatican Galleries are available: adults 24 Euros; children ages 7-12: 14 Euros. Children under 6 are free.

PICK UP/DROP OFF: According to local custom, your guide will meet you at your apartment or location of your choice in the city center. He/she will then call a taxi and you will travel by taxi  to the first itinerary stop. Return transportation is also by taxi. Please note that taxi fares for you and your guide are not included in the tour price and are an extra cost to you.  Also, standard-size taxi’s will accommodate 3-4 people; there are also taxi vans available.

For reservations: Please contact RentVillas at (800) 726-6702. A 20% non-refundable deposit is required. Upon receipt of the deposit, you will be put in direct contact with the Tour Guide, who will be able to answer your specific questions regarding the details of the tour, including balance payment, extra costs, and the meeting time and place. We recommend that reservations be made at least two months prior to your departure.

*Note: Unless otherwise stated, prices for Rome Tours do not include meals, museum entrance fees, transfers, or gratuities. Prices for driving tours include pick-up and drop-off in Rome (at your apartment or other central location). The order of the tour stops may change depending on local conditions.

Photos courtesy of:

Titoy’ @Flickr (Coliseum)

HarshLight @Flickr (Roman Forum)

jo.in.pink @Flickr (Vatican City)

Steph & Adam Kahtava @Flickr (Roma at night)