Have you ever dreamed of spending your birthday somewhere special? Instead of a few drinks down the local, or, like me, insisting that no one goes to any trouble and then ending up doing not very much at all? Well, celebrating at Villa Le Capanne, Tuscany may be the perfect solution!
When it comes to my birthday Mr Dais Like These will ask me what I want to do to celebrate, and my usual answer is “honestly, it’s fine, we don’t need to do anything”. And I’m (usually) not even fibbing! With our boys both having birthdays in the same month as me, our time, efforts and money are spent making their celebrations special, and I tend to just feel happy celebrating with a glass of prosecco on the sofa.
This year, however, I inadvertently ended up celebrating my birthday in a beautiful villa in Tuscany, eating, drinking and laughing with 12 other family travel bloggers. We were lucky enough to be being hosted by the wonderful Giovannini family who own and run Villa la Capanne, a stunning property near Volterra, which is less than an hour’s drive from Pisa.
I was there as part of a trip organised by the lovely Jo from Bookings For You (who have over 350 properties on their books, mainly in Italy but also in the South of France) and despite my birthday falling on the last day of our trip, and my doing my normal “we honestly don’t need to do anything special”, I had no idea that I would end up celebrating in such style.
For me, the true Tuscan hospitality of the Giovannini family, the location, space and set up of Villa Le Capanne, and the amazing array of catering options were the key ingredients that perfectly combined to create such a wonderful birthday celebration for me, and I can see just how perfect the villa can be for many different celebrations too. And it’s not just me who can see how perfect the villa is for special occasions, they already have 35 weddings booked for this season alone!
So let me show you just how amazing this place is, and why I think it is the perfect holiday house for a special celebration:
Set in over 100 acres of land, with olive groves and vistas over the rolling Tuscan hills, Villa Le Capanne is a 100-year-old farm-house, bought and renovated by the Giovannini family in 2004. On arriving (but not before we’d been welcomed with a glass of bubbly and some Tuscan nibbles) we were taken on a tour and given the history of this charming villa. Historically, the downstairs would have been home to a variety of farm animals, and the upstairs would have been where the family lived – being warmed by the heat of the animals below!
The family have given a complete renovation but have managed to perfectly preserve the charm and history of the building by retaining key features such as the large fire places, the exposed original brickwork, and even a water trough downstairs, which is now filled with corks from all of the bottles consumed during the many celebrations that have taken place here.
As well as retaining key features, the family have added to the authentic Tuscan charm by furnishing it with key pieces from their own collection that have been acquired over the years; from large farmhouse dressers, antique mirrors to vintage radios.
There are nine en suite bedrooms, two of which are beautiful suites, and can sleep up to 22 people. The rooms are all bright and airy, decorated in a traditional style and all enjoy views out onto that amazing view. My room during our stay was located downstairs and had doors opening out onto the view of the olive trees and a vintage tractor and I can just imagine how wonderful that would be on a summer’s morning.
There are formal and informal dining areas both inside and outside the villa – all consisting of sweeping long tables; perfect for big group meals. We ate all of our evening meals in the kitchen style dining room, under the warmth and glow of the roaring log fire. The outside table afforded the most wonderful views, and it is not hard to imagine just how amazing this would be for a celebration dinner, be it a wedding or any other celebration, either bathed in warm sun during the day or under the starry sky in the evening.
A snug sofa area is the perfect place to kick back and relax with a book or a movie, we would retire here after our meals to chat over a few more glasses of wine. We even hooked our phones up to a bluetooth speaker, which is available for guests to use, so we could listen to some (possibly questionable) tunes.
To add to the luxury and relaxation of Le Capanne, there is not only a spa area inside, with hot tub and massage table, but also a fantastic pool with views over the rolling hills to one side and mountains to the back. Because we were visiting out of season, and it was far too chilly to take a dip, we were asked to use our imagination when it came to the pool area, and I have to say that it wasn’t too hard to do so! I could happily imagine long summer days spent by this amazing pool – I think I would find it hard to leave. And whats more, we were told that by Summer 2018 there will be a brand new pool house bordering one side of the pool; complete with bar, BBQ and relaxation area, which sounds simply amazing.
The Hospitality and Catering
I was lucky enough to meet the Giovannini family at an Italian cookery masterclass a month or so before our trip, and I knew from that short meeting that we were in for a treat to be able to join them for a whole weekend. From their friendly and welcoming nature to their knowledge and passion for produce and cookery, I was excited to meet them again in their own setting.
The family is headed up by Giancarlo and Fabiola, but it is their son Dario and his wife Vera who take charge of the hospitality at Le Capanne. They have lived all their lives in this beautiful region of Tuscany (joined more recently by Vera, who hails from America) and as well as owning and running Le Capanne they also own and run the oldest pastry shop in the small nearby town of Volterra – Dolceria del Corso, as well as a renowned catering company that has been the winner of countless awards throughout Europe.
Villa Le Capanne is bookable either as a completely self catering property, where you are left to your own devices with Vera and Dario on hand should you need them, or as a fully catered and concierged holiday, and anything else in between! As well as a comprehensive list of catering options, Vera and Dario can also be on hand to organise anything from a massage, a babysitter, or even your food shopping. How you holiday or celebrate at the villa is completely up to you.
We were lucky enough to be shown a few of the different catering options that guests can experience when staying at the villa, and I have to say that after tasting and experiencing them myself I would find it hard to return on a fully self catered basis! The food, service, and hospitality provided by Vera and Dario along with Fabiola and Giancarlo is second to none, and really made the weekend so special for us.
What makes each meal even more special is the fact that the family are so passionate about local produce, they source everything locally to Volterra.
Breakfast and Brunch
Each morning we were greeted with a whole table full of breakfast goodies, from pastries and fruit to freshly cooked eggs and bacon, accompanied by fresh coffee and a selection of teas and juices.
The Italians certainly know how to brunch, and on top of all the usual breakfast offerings, the table was also loaded with quiches, salads, and bubbly.
Each evening before dinner we tucked into local produced cheeses and salamis, washed down with a glass of bubbly, what a perfect way to start the evening!
And the evening meals themselves were just amazing! We were there for three nights and got a chance to experience three different options available; the formal dinner with cookery masterclass with Fabiola herself, the Tuscan Mommies dinner again catered by Fabiola, and finally a pizza party using the outdoor pizza oven.
Formal dinner with cooking masterclass
After having the privilege of stepping into the kitchen to watch Fabiola at work, we headed back to the dining table and enjoyed a feast of perfect saffron risotto, Parmigiana di Melanzane (sliced aubergine with mozzarella, tomato and parmesan), roasted pork flavoured with fresh herbs, and a desert plate of delicacies from the family pastry shop; award winning panforte, a panpepato (which is currently on the menu on a Michelin star restaurant!) and biscotti. Washed down with perfectly matched wines and followed by desert wines and then a digestivo of limoncello, we were certainly in the party mood by the end of the meal.
Tuscan Mommies Dinner
What better way to experience true Tuscan cuisine than have meal cooked for you by a genuine Tuscan Mommy?! We were lucky enough to have Fabiola cook for us again, but there are a few different Mommies part of the catering team who also come to the villa to cook.
Our traditional meal started with a simple but absolutely amazing bread soup (a traditional dish made with old bread and tomatoes, garlic and olive oil) and a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, followed by a traditional pasta dish and then a slow roasted leg of wild boar with olives.
You can’t visit Italy without indulging in a pizza…or 22! That’s how many pizzas, both savoury and sweet, that Vera and Dario knocked up for us at our very own pizza party.
We ate inside, as it was just too chilly and rainy, but lovely Dario braved the weather to ferry the pizzas in to us. And Vera did an amazing job of encouraging us to have more, despite us feeling so full – I genuinely didn’t realise just how much pizza I could eat in one sitting! But it was just so good.
This was one of my favourite evenings, and I think that is because I know just how much my kids would have loved to have joined in, they adore pizza and would eat it for every meal if they could!
I can see a pizza party being a real winner at any celebratory occasion at Le Capanne, it is hard to find someone who doesn’t like pizza so this is something that appeals to the masses and across generations.
A Special Birthday Treat
I think unexpected treats are sometimes the most special, and so when at brunch on our last morning I was presented with an epic birthday cake, personalised and topped with a mini indoor firework, I was completely taken aback. Vera and Dario didn’t know it was my birthday that weekend until it came up in a conversation on Saturday night (when I was tipsily telling them that brunch is my favourite meal and I was so glad that we were scheduled to have a brunch on my birthday on the Monday!), so I was so surprised, chuffed and grateful that they had organised this special treat in such a short amount of time.
I have mentioned above that the villa is set in 100 acres of land, with olive groves and views to die for, but there is so much more to the location than that.
Closer to home, just up the hill, there are hiking and horse riding trails that head off into the woodland and past stunning waterfalls.
Around 15 minutes drive is the beautiful hilltop town of Volterra, where the Giovannini family hail from, and where their famous pastry shop is. I loved walking the streets of this pretty town, finding a stunning view, pretty building or cute little traditional Italian vehicle at each turn!
I could honestly wander the pretty streets of Volterra for hours on end. This quintessential hilltop town is smaller than Siena and Florence and less touristy too, which for me makes is just that little bit more special 😊 We were lucky enough to walk around with Vera and Dario from @countryrelaislecapanne (which is only 15mins away) who know it so well. If Tuscany sounds like your kind of holiday destination then it’s definitely worth checking out @bookings_for_you. #presstrip
At around an hour drive from the villa is the beautiful and historic city of Siena, home to the famous Palio di Siena on the Piazza del Campo. This medieval town is not only beautiful but also once had real religious importance, being part of the pilgrim route between Canterbury and Rome.
And at a 90 minute drive is the world famous city of Florence. This is an easy day trip from the villa, and we did just that, taking a couple of walking tours with LivItaly Tours to make the most of our time there. With food markets, gelato and treasure hunts there really was something to appeal across the age groups.
Ahhh #Florence, what a beautiful town you are!! I was there just over a week ago, touring all the best bits with @livitalytours – discovering that walking tours can be super family friendly too (I mean, which kids don’t love gelato and treasure hunts!?). I’ve written a post over on the blog all about our day, definitely worth checking out if you’re planning a trip to Florence with kids. This beautiful town is only a 90min drive from @countryrelaislecapanne, which is where we were staying on a trip organised by @bookings_for_you
The Perfect Villa to Celebrate in Style
If I could get married again I would and I would do it here, I am kicking myself that I didn’t know about Le Capanne in 2016 when we had a big party for our 10 year wedding anniversary and I am feeling a bit bummed that my 30th birthday as been and gone. But I am also feeling super grateful that I managed to celebrate a birthday here, surrounded by such an amazing group of family travel bloggers, who helped to make it such a special weekend.
I think it is clear to see that this special villa combined with high-class hospitality, love, passion, location, and history, creates just the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Villa Le Capanne to anyone looking for a knock out venue for a special occasion, and I really hope to be returning with my family one day soon.
But don’t just take my word for it, hear what my fellow family travel blogger shad to say about their own weekend at Villa Le Capanne:
Maria from One Tiny Leap describes Le Capanne as “no ordinary villa” and I couldn’t agree more!
Disclaimer: I was invited by Bookings For You and Giovannini Enterprises on a Press Trip to spend the weekend at Villa Le Capanne in return for an honest review. As always, all views and opinions are my own.