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Finding a Vacation Rental for a Large Group

Pauline Kenny

I want to rent a villa in Tuscany for a larger group of people - over 10 people. How do I start?

I have been asked this question by many people. I am surprised at how many people travel to Italy in large groups (10 or more). We have never been to Italy in a group larger than two, so I am not really qualified to answer this question, but here goes anyway.

Step 1: Read some of the vacation rental reviews on this web site

Go to Italy: Vacation Rentals - Reviews. Reviews can be sorted by type of rental (apartment or house). The size of the house (number of bedrooms) is listed in the description, so you can easily find reviews for large villas. Read all the reviews for villas, just to get an idea of what they are like. If one sounds great, you may want to book that one.

Step 2: Think about what you want your trip to be like

Think about your accommodations

When booking a vacation rental for a large group, you can either rent a large villa with bedrooms and bathrooms enough for your group or you can rent several apartments on an estate.

  • Renting one large villa gives you the opportunity to stay in a fabulous home - something that can be difficult when traveling as a couple. When you travel with only 2 - 4 people, you are usually renting small farmhouses or farm outbuildings that have been converted to small houses or a group of apartments. These buildings come from more humble beginnings. Many of the large villas that are available to rent were originally built for wealthy Italian families. Also, the dining and living room areas will be large enough to seat your whole group, so you can have meals together and be together in the evening.

  • Renting a few apartments on the same estate gives each group within the larger group more privacy. Each group has their own apartment, their own kitchen, their own living space.

Think about your location

Villas in the prime areas near Florence, Lucca and Siena and any in the Chianti region between Florence and Siena will be more expensive and the areas can be busy during the high season. But, these are wonderful regions because the small towns are full of good restaurants, good delis, interesting stores. Other parts of Tuscany are also lovely and interesting. One of our favorite areas is southern Tuscany - the area around Pienza and Montepulciano. You will not want to spend all your days driving, so be sure to pick a villa close to an area with things that you want to see. Remember that the distances can be longer than they seem on a map because many roads are very winding and are one lane only in each direction.

Think about your car rental

Do you want to organize a van and driver for the whole group? The agency that you use for your vacation rental will be able to help you with this. If you do this, you will always be traveling as one group. You might want to rent a car as well, so that the group can divide up during the day. Or, if some of you are familiar with Italy, rent a couple of cars and do your own driving.

Zak from TuscanHouse represents many large villas and says: "We are recommending that groups rent several cars, not just one big van. The vans are impossible to drive into towns and to park. Plus, everyone is stuck together going everywhere as a group, and usually by the time the last person is ready and out of the bathroom, it's almost lunch-time!! This is what people tell me! Also, some of the big vans seem to make people sitting on the back row very car-sick on these curvy roads."

Think about hiring a cook

If you are a large group, you may want to have someone come in and cook dinner a few times. Having dinner in your wonderful villa could be a lot of fun and you might be able to combine the cooking with a cooking lesson. The agency that you use for your vacation rental will be able to help you with this.

Do you want a swimming pool?

If there are children in the group, or even if there are not, it might be nice to have a swimming pool for the hot Tuscan summers. You can usually swim in June through September. Some of your group may want to go touring, while others can spend the day relaxing around the pool. Many things close during the middle of the day and it is nice to come back to your vacation rental for a relaxing swim.

Step 3: Start looking for large villas

Start looking for your villa.

When you find a villa that sounds like what you want, see if we have a review on Slow Travel. If not, ask the agency if you can talk to someone who stayed there before. Ask them to send you more pictures if you need to get a better idea of what the place is like. Get a detailed map of Italy and see exactly where the villa is located. It would be nice if it was close to a town, so it would be easy to get out for a coffee or a meal or for some groceries. Is it close to good areas for touring? After all, you don't want to spend your day driving.

Here are a few agencies that have a selection of large villas:

Doorways: www.villavacations.com
This US based agency has many large villas in Italy, France and Spain.

Italian Vacation Villas: www.villasitalia.com
This agency, based in Washington D.C., represents the Italian agency Salogi, which has large villas.

TuscanHouse: www.tuscanhouse.com
TuscanHouse, based in Italy and the US, specializes in large villas in Tuscany.

Tuscany Now: www.tuscanynow.com
This agency, based in the UK and Italy, specializes in large villas.

Vacanza Bella: www.vbella.com
This agency based in Italy represents several large villas.

Home in Italy: www.homeinitaly.com
This agency, based in England and Italy, has many large villas, mostly in Umbria.

Step 4: Think about price

Someone recently asked me about prices when broken down per person, per night and I wrote this answer for him.

Price is determined by time of year and by region. July, August, Christmas, and Easter are typically the most expensive times. These are followed by June and September. Other times of year will be less expensive. Places close to Florence. Lucca or Siena, or places in the Chianti region (the wine area between Florence and Siena) will be the most expensive. Other parts of Tuscany will be less expensive. Places with a swimming pool will be more expensive.

Your choice is between renting one large villa for the whole group, or finding an estate with a few apartments and renting the number of apartments you need. Read the listings carefully to see how many people each place sleeps. Some places will have bedrooms with 3 beds (suitable for a few children) or fold out couches for sleeping extra people.

  • A villa that sleeps 10 and costs $4900/week works out to $70/night per person.

  • A villa that sleeps 10 and costs $3500/week works out to $50/night per person.

  • A villa that sleeps 10 and costs $2100/week works out to $30/night per person.

Here are a few examples of places that will sleep 10 people or over. I took their prices for July 2001. Other times of year will be less expensive. I have looked at both large villas and estates where a large group would rent a few apartments.

Example prices for renting a large villa

First a luxury villa near Lucca: $65/night for 12 people.

TuscanHouse - Villa La Chiusa
www.tuscanhouse.com/lachiusa/villa
This is a luxury villa near Lucca that sleeps 12 with 6 bedrooms/5 bathrooms. At $5500/week for 12 people it works out to $65/night. For this you get daily cleaning and a welcome dinner. A cook and sommelier are available.

Next a large villa near Florence: $35/night for 11 people.

Florence Villas - Casa Rossa
wso.net/florence_villas
This villa is close to Florence and sleeps 11 for $2700/week in July. That is $35/night per person for 11 people.

Now a villa in southern Tuscany (a less expensive area): $37/night for 14 people.

TuscanHouse - Villa San Francesco
www.tuscanhouse.com/sanfrancesco/estate.htm
This is a villa with 4 bedrooms that sleeps 8 and a 2 bedroom cottage that sleeps 6 (total of 14). At $3700/week for 14 people, that is $37/night.

Example prices for renting several apartments

Two apartments in a villa near Lucca: $50/night for 12 people.

TuscanHouse - Pesco and Timo
www.tuscanhouse.com/sanmartino/villa.htm
A 4 bedroom apartment that sleeps 8 and a 2 bedroom apartment that sleeps 4 (total of 12). At $4200/week for 12 people, that is $50/night.

An estate with apartments near Florence: $28/night for 4 people

Le Torri
www.letorri.com
This estate is in Chianti, near Florence. You can rent 1, 2 or 3 bedroom apartments. A 3 bedroom apartment sleeps 4 and costs $811/week in summer. That is $28/person for 8 people (or just 4 or more). We have a good review of this place on my web site: Review 18. Tom, who wrote the review, booked the whole estate for 28 people.

Another estate with apartments near Florence: $17/night for 4 people

Fattoria di Maino
www.contemiarifulcis.it
This is an estate just outside Florence with apartments. The prices are not on the web site, but we have a review where someone rented an apartment that sleeps 4 for $500/week. Some of their apartments sleep as many as 7 - again you could rent a few apartments. At $500/week it would be $17/day for 4 people (2 are sleeping on a fold out couch).

Step 5: Book your vacation!

Have a great trip!

Step 6: Send us your review

So that others can learn from your experience, submit your review after your trip.

Resources

Slow Travel - Large Group Travel: Read Ellen's notes on Planning and Executing a Large Group Trip to Europe.

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