Enjoy Romantic Italy Out Of Season At The Villa Pia

Could there be anywhere quite as romantic as Italy?  Just lately I have been dreaming about secluded olive groves, fresh pasta and Chianti. I languish by the pool of a beautiful villa reading Proust whilst sunning myself and enjoying breezes scented with lemon.  Strangely the sounds of “mum can I have my games on” or “I’m hungry / bored/ having my human rights dramatically curtailed by my sibling” are missing from this blissful vista.

Villa Pia in Lippiano - picturesque Italian countryside

Although I love my kids, there’s no denying that I miss the heady days of holidaying senza bambini – i.e. without them because it’s cheaper, quieter and there’s more choice. Of course, if you’re a parent brave enough to risk the wrath (and fines) of your local authority, you may think nothing of booking a family holiday out of season.  Much less of a problem, of course, if your kids are pre-schoolers or your offspring are off to college.

But if you can travel out of season (and benefit from those much lower off-peak prices), I have discovered the Villa Pia in Lippiano and promptly added it to my ‘must visit’ list.

Villa Pia in Lippiano - villa pool

Villa Pia is a hugely popular, affordable, all-inclusive family villa in Lippiano (bordering Umbria and Tuscany).  Its faithful clientele includes families who have been visiting for years and lately it has also become a great location for relaxing retreats and group parties – or for anyone seeking peace and the lovely spring and autumn sunshine.

The property is set in 5 acres of land with the nearby 10th century Lippiano Castle just waiting to be explored. You can walk through the surrounding woodland or go mountain biking or horse-riding.  Then back to the village bar for locally prepared ice-cream.

Villa Pia in Lippiano - standard room

Accommodation

The villa has 25 bedrooms with private bathrooms, including large family rooms and five sets of interconnecting rooms. You can either stay in the main villa which has 17 bedrooms or at the Palazzo Regina, a restored building with another 8 rooms just 5 minutes away.

Interconnecting rooms are brilliant for those who want some separate space from their kids – particularly important if you have tweens like my two who want to be away from the eagle eye of mum and dad for a bit.

Selection of food at Villa Pia in Lippiano

Food

Holidays at Villa Pia in Lippiano are all inclusive and they have on-site chefs who will prepare traditional Italian meals using food that is locally sourced wherever possible. You’ll also find Italian cookery classes run for adults and kids where you can learn to make fresh pasta, traditional Tuscan dishes and famous desserts like tiramisu. All diets are catered for, including nut-free, gluten-free and other allergen-free dishes.

Facilities

There is both an adult and a children’s swimming pool (both heated year-round) and other play facilities such as an indoor soft play room, all-weather tennis court and a courtyard play area filled with small climbing frames and slides.

If you are going without children, there are a whole host of retreats you could try – anything from yoga and meditation, writing, wildflower and garden design or learning to play the guitar.

To find out more about the Villa Pilla in Lippiano visit their website where you can check availability and book by telephone or online. Children under the age of 2 are free if they are sharing a room. You’ll also find travel directions.

The nearest airport is Perugia but you can fly to Rome or Bologna and enjoy a leisurely drive to the Villa.

I’m off to finally sort out the kids’ passports – or to convince the hubby that my need for a week of yoga and meditation is far more important than one of the many ongoing DIY projects he likes to pretend will be finished this year.

All photos courtesy of Villa Pia.

Experiencing Italy On A Plate With Expedia

In celebration of all the fabulous places to which you can travel with Expedia, they have thrown down the gauntlet and launched a culinary competition – the “World On A Plate Challenge”.

Caitlin & Ieuan in Roman costume - motherdistracted.co.uk
Multi toned socks are an integral part of the Roman look apparently.

The aim is to try your hand at the local cuisine of one of their package holiday destinations.

Now, as readers of this blog know,  although there’s nothing I can’t do with a baked potato, the kids are, shall we say, ever so slightly discerning when it comes to ‘grown up food’ and Ieuan can take three weeks to finish one mouthful of carrot.

Nevertheless, not daunted by this fact nor by the loving moniker the Husband has given me (“Queen of The Reheat”), we decided to reproduce a beautiful sea bass dish from Italy.  I say “we”.  Obviously I mean “under maximum supervision by the Husband”.

Many years ago, I visited the wonderful city of Rome and then travelled to Amalfi and Portofino. Gazing at Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples is a view that will always stay with me; as will the sheer scale of the Forum and the Colosseum in Rome.

 

The Colosseum in Rome, source www.telegraph.co.uk
The Colosseum in Rome Credit:  telegraph.co.uk

And of course, I had to throw the famous “three coins in the fountain” at The Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain - credit trevifountain.net
The Trevi Fountain:  Credit trevifountain.net

It’s only taken me 4 years but I have finally renewed my passport so I can now legally travel further than Devon and as a family we can begin to introduce the kids to the World’s wonders.

Part of the charm of Italy, of course, is its food and much has been written about the health giving properties of the Mediterranean diet with its high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, olive oil and red wine.  Then there is also the legendary Sophia Loren’s claim that “everything you see I owe to spaghetti”.

 

Actually, many of us beleaguered parents owe a debt of immense thanks to pasta as it is frequently one of the few food groups which can be spooned into a protesting child without too many repurcussions.

We did, bizarrely, manage to get Ieuan to eat spinach recently when the Husband told him that the role of spinach was to protect carrots and it was also known as “carrot guardian” and had superpowers. Sadly,  that moment has never been repeated.

So, to create our homage to the beauty of Italy (with me hinting rather largely that Rome would be such a nice place to be taken for my next birthday, particularly the River Palace Hotel), we began our creation.

Since the kids have had pasta twice this week already in their school dinner, we adapted a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis called Sea Bass Alla Fiorentina.

The Husband playing chef - motherdistracted.co.uk
You just can’t get the staff, can you?

Ingredients:-

4 x Sea Bass fillets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly chopped baby tomatoes
Baby Bell Peppers
3 Garlic cloves
Fresh chopped Parsley
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped tomatoes, garlic and peppers - motherdistracted.co.uk
Freshly chopped tomatoes, peppers and garlic

Instructions:-

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and cook the fish until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer fish to a plate.

Sea Bass fillets - motherdistracted.co.uk
The Sea Bass fillets

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the parsley and the fish and heat for 2 minutes.

We served the fish with baby potatoes sautéd in olive oil and a heavy dose of optimism.

To add to the fun, the kids ‘went Roman’ – although the combination of tomato and bed-sheet is probably not to be recommended.

Caitlin & Ieuan as Romans - motherdistracted.co.uk
OK, so I can’t tie a toga either

Over dinner, we talked about the ancient Roman civilisation which the kids are currently studying in school.  We recently visited the Roman Baths in Bath and Caitlin’s school trip was to the Roman remains in Caerleon.

The flavours of Italy never fail to inspire – although the combination of fava beans and a nice Chianti is probably one to be avoided.

Sea Bass Alla Hobbis - motherdistracted.co.uk
Sea Bass Alla Hobbis

I’m hoping 2016 will be the year I can revisit Rome.  In the meantime, I will channel my inner Sophia and build my strength up with spaghetti.

But my chances of getting Ieuan back in a toga are slim.

*collaborative post