While we were planning our trip to Italy last year, we didn’t really have a strong preference of which town we wanted to be near – we knew we were going to Tuscany so you can’t really go wrong as it’s just stunning all around. Our main challenge was we needed a house with room for nine people, in peak season and preferably at a good price. I think it was around February when we were actively looking and the availability was running out fast. My mum, sister and I, all equally obsessed with real-estate listings, especially the Italian, countryside, holiday type of listing, emailed many candidates back and forth. Should we go for the house on the flats near the coastal town of Cecina? Or the house in Volterra with the tomb(!) in the backyard, or the villa on the hillside near Lucca? It turned out finding a place that had enough room to accommodate all of us in bedrooms (we didn’t want anyone ending up sleeping on a sofabed in a lounge room) and that had interesting sightseeing-destinations not too far away around was just not that easy. So when this pink house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms and a massive olive grove surrounding it showed up on airbnb we were quick to decide that our holiday destination would be Vinci, birth town of Leonardo and located conveniently between villages and areas we had not yet explored on previous trips to Tuscany (we keep going back to the region, it’s just such a great place).
So our holiday had begun and after spending a few days in Bologna just the four of us, we picked the regional road through the mountain areas and green forests, along streams and on narrow roads and met up with my mum, my sister, her partner and their kids in the town of Pistoia on a very hot morning, grabbed some fresh fruit and water from a supermarket and made our toward Vinci and the house. The house itself was a fair bit away from the village, on a hill with one side of the property looking across the olive tree-covered valley at the church towers and the buildings. We were close enough to hear the bells chime in the distance.
There was no TV, no wifi and slow phone data. And I think that was part of what really helped us unwind: the disconnect from the peripheral online world made sure we turned our attention to the here and now instead, even in those in-between moments when it’s so easy to just reach for your phone to fill a spare minute or three. In the morning, before the day got too hot and we hopped in the cars to go exploring nearby towns, we walked around the property, strolling through the olive grove on crunchy leaves, or enjoyed the view across to Vinci from the sun loungers and had our coffee on the terrace outside the house. In the afternoon, we gathered around the dining table in the large, cozy, country kitchen, cooking, cooling down after spending a day outside in up to 38 degrees.
The kids always found something to do, either inside the house building cubby houses in the lounge room, or collecting things they found outside or playing with the box of simple toys meant for entertaining small guests of the house. Not once did they say they were bored, they simply found to much enjoyment from playing together, using what was available to them, they had everything we needed.
And this leads me to a small digression if you don’t mind: I honestly believe that simplifying and reducing the amount of things, the scheduled activities, gives space for the kids’ full imagination and joy of spontaneous play to take over. I think sometimes we are worried they’ll be bored (which means we will feel the effect of that, so nobody ends up having a good time – I totally get (and fear) it too) so we arrange activities, and provide toys and technology, just so they won’t have problems filling their time, just in case. But the thing is they still manage fill their time without those things. Our experience is that every time we’ve opted for a no-tech, few toys, no set entertainment kind of holiday, the kids never have a bad time. They actually don’t even notice, because they are so fully immersed in play, having fun, fully connected to their surroundings, engaged with what they see, hear and feel. It really is a beautiful thing. And they never stop impressing me with their imagination.
At night, after the kids were in bed, we would share a bottle of red, sitting on the terrace outside, under the open sky, the only light from candles on the table, looking up at the stars, discussing anything and everything, solving world problems big and small. Every night we saw the international space station glide past, and many, many shooting stars. Almost a year later we often talk about these nights and this week we spent together and the peace we felt staying in the house, experiencing it all together. I think I can speak for everyone who spent that week in the pink house in Vinci that it was a really special time and we would all love to do it again.
Here’s to holidays with your extended family in rustic houses in the countryside without wifi.
All photos below were taken on and around the property. Enjoy!