Nestled amongst walnut groves, on the outskirts of the famously beautiful hilltop town of Monterchi, Il Mulino is an idyllic, 17th century former mill, which has been lovingly restored by friendly owners Paul and Sofia. The 3-bed villa with private pool sleeps 6-8 plus cots and offers the benefit of being an independent villa but with native-English speaking caretaker owners onsite who are happy to be called on for tips and advice, even babysitting, but are rarely seen unless needed.
Thanks to their experiences with their own two youngsters, the Heightons have carefully equipped the villa with essential baby gear and safety kit making it an idyllic, yet child-friendly retreat. They've sensitively restored the former water mill so it now offers a charming combination of traditional furnishings and modern comforts, all of which combines to make a relaxing holiday with kids in tow almost a foregone conclusion.
The safely fenced pool, numerous private terraces and spacious shared lawns, scattered with tot-friendly play gear, are perfect for long lazy days but with all powerful pull of such beautiful towns as Gubbio, Perugia, Siena, Assisi and Florence, plus the odd tempting designer outlet, all within a an hour or two's drive, usually tempt guests away at least a few times a week. That said, with a fully stocked 'help yourself' vegetable patch (in season) in the grounds, and a great selection of restaurants within a few minutes’ drive, there's really no need to venture far. Most guests tend to relax into a routine of egg collecting before breakfast, perhaps a morning cappuccino and some people watching in Monterchi's pretty town square, followed by an afternoon swim and play in the garden, then maybe take advantage of Paul and Sofia's babysitting skills to enjoy an adults only night out in one of the many good restaurants within a short drive - it's easy to see why Il Mulino's guest book has the same names appearing year after year!
Set over three floors, Il Mulino's ground floor entrance leads into a cool, shady study with cosy sofa perfect for retreating from midday sun. This leads into a utility area with laundry facilities on one site and the spacious open-plan kitchen-diner to other other end. The kitchen diner itself seats 6-8 plus up to 3 highchairs, although its rarely used since patio doors from the kitchen leads to a lovely shady dining terrace with brick BBQ, that tends to become the focus of meals from April to October. The kitchen is fitted with all mod-cons including dishwasher, microwave, full oven, 5-ring gas hob and full-size fridge freezer plus useful gadgets such as toaster, kettle and French and American-style coffee makers.
Upstairs, there's a large comfortable lounge with a TV, DVD player and Hi-Fi. There's several comfortable sofas and a good selection of books and games, added to those found in the downstairs study. Two bedrooms lead from the lounge; a double and a family room with a single bed and twin bes, which can be made up as a double. Each of the bedrooms has space for a cot. Both have ensuites, one with a bath, the other with a shower. A gated spiral staircase from the first-floor lounge leads up to a third bedroom with a double and single bed. It occupies the entire third floor and has the benefit of an ensuite shower room, as well as plenty of space for a cot, although defending the stairs tot in tow, might not be too easy. In addition, two spare single beds can be provided and placed in the ground-floor study, so it can be used as a fourth bedroom.
Outside, there's a private dining terrace with brick BBQ, a side terrace usually laid with reclining chairs or sun beds, and, up a few steps, the large private pool which has plenty of loungers, umbrellas for shade and a cosy table, ideal for evening drinks by the pool.
The medieval hilltop town of Monterchi, said to be amongst Italy's most beautiful towns, is just five minutes drive away. Its main claim to fame is that its home to Piero della Francesco's masterpiece, Madonna del Parto, and throughout summer there are free classical concerts every Wednesday in the grounds of the Madonna museum.
There's good choice of local restaurants, a bank, fruit and vegetable shops, a decent-sized supermarket and an open air market every Sunday. Amongst the restaurants, La Pieve Vecchia, is possibly the most family friendly. This lively pizzeria is located in the new part of the town, and has a useful take-out service, which can be handy after a tiring day's sightseeing.
Florence, Siena,San Gimignano, Cortona, Arezzo, Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio are all within 2 hours drive, as are a long list of incredibly tempting designer shopping outlets including those for Prada and Gucci - Shopaholics, you have be warned!
Both the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts are no more than 2 hrs easy travel.
Getting There: Car hire is essential. The nearest airports are: Perugia (60min away - see Ryanair), Bologna Forli (90mins away - see Ryanair) and Florence (90mins - see Meridiana). Ancona, Bologna, Pisa, Rimini and Rome are within 2-2.5hrs.