Last summer, on the WanderDad’s birthday, as he was lamenting the fact that this was his last thirtysomething birthday, my wheels started spinning with plans for a 40th birthday party celebration. It would have to be something special. With most of our families in Europe it made sense to combine “the event” with a vacation.
I went into planning overdrive. How do you arrange a get-together for 30+ people anyway ? Firstly, I emailed all the siblings to find out if they’d be interested in vacationing with us – even if they only joined in for a weekend. The response was a resounding “yes”. Excellent. License for me to continue doing what I enjoy to do best: namely planning a trip.
Borrowing from a habit I’ve developed in my real job (never present a question without also offering a solution), I had floated the idea of Italy in June and no-one had complained or offered any alternate suggestions. Super. Then the fun began. Finding accommodation for 21 adults and 12 children in a place which everyone will enjoy, with enough space to not get on each other’s nerves and plenty of kid-friendly activities is non-trivial. Keeping costs in mind added another layer of complexity.
A guidebook (or two) was needed to direct my research. I picked Frommer’s Florence, Tuscany & Umbria and Lonely Planet Tuscany & Umbria” at my local used book store. I chose Lucca as good possible location, being easily accessible from Pisa airport and with rail and bus connections to Pisa, Florence and the beach. An entry in the “Best Of” section in the Frommer’s guide caught my eye: a working farm with multiple remodeled farm buildings in the hills above Lucca. With a restaurant on site specializing in local cuisine.
The owners of this farm have remodeled three out-buildings into apartments each sleeping 2-4 people. The owners live in two apartments with their families. The remaining 12 apartments are available for weekly rental. The facilities are rustic but charming. The apartment in which the WanderDad and I stayed with CAM and BigB was part of the old mill. There was a stream running through the kitchen (under glass tile). That was a huge hit with the kids – we were deemed to have the coolest apartment. An walled garden with a pool and outdoor dining area was perfect for shared dinners every evening – with plenty of space for kids to play. The restaurant provided the perfect location for the actual birthday party.
I’ve been nominated to arrange the next get-together in 2010. If you have any suggestions or ideas, do let me know.
Information on other agriturismo: http://www.italy-farmholiday.com/, http://www.agriturismo.net/
Weekly rentals start on Saturdays.
Rates: $800 – $1200/week – depending on the size of the apartment.
Dinner menus (set price): $25 – $50. Up to 5 courses including wine.