There’s no better way to soak up Italian culture and lifestyle than by staying at a beautiful villa in Tuscany. This had been a dream holiday of mine for many years, which I fulfilled when my family hired a villa outside San Gimignano in Tuscany, Italy. We stayed for seven nights and during that time we enjoyed leisurely visits to local villages and wineries interspersed with a few day trips to the Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa.

A villa holiday allows you to unpack for a week and experience life in the surrounding villages. Our villa was divided into four self-contained apartments that we filled with various family members. It was an authentic stone building with quaint furnishings, lush gardens, spectacular views of the countryside and a generous swimming pool to enjoy on the hot summer afternoons when we returned from sightseeing.

We hired a car which was essential for getting around Tuscany and we quickly adjusted to driving around the country lanes on the opposite side of the road. We recommend that if you are making a day visit to the big cities, leave your car at a local train station and commute. We did this for our day trip to Florence and it was a relaxing and easy train ride.

San Gimignano is a beautiful medieval village easily recognised by its numerous tall stone towers at the top of a prominent hill. Being our closest town, we visited it often for sightseeing, grocery shopping and some delicious meals.

Siena is a must-visit when in Tuscany. Its heart is the central Piazza del Campo and there is plenty to see. During our day trip we visited the spectacular Duomo full of beautiful frescoes and sculptures, enjoyed spectacular views over the surrounding terracotta rooftops and had lunch at a café on the Piazza.

Obviously, Florence has enough attractions for several days, but allowing just one day we focused our experience on the artworks in the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia, then enjoyed a leisurely lunch on a restaurant sidewalk before meandering the streets and riverside to soak up the atmosphere of this magnificent city.

We visited Pisa and Lucca in one day. Pisa was very quick, because the Leaning Tower was our main reason to visit. We then headed to Lucca which is a beautiful city where we hired bikes and rode around the city walls.

Our holiday in Tuscany was everything we dreamed it would be. Beautiful scenery and weather. Delicious Italian food and wine. Magnificent historic art and architecture. All with the comfort of our lovely villa as our home for a week.