Cliché’s happen for a reason, right? Take the concept of staying in a villa in Tuscany. I always found it very easy to picture myself waking up in a grand room. I’d look out the window at my sculpted garden and my vineyard rolling over the hills. Breakfast would be laid out downstairs, maybe on the terrace. Very easy to take. Over the years, on my Tuscany walking tours, I’ve met a few villa owners, and – while there’s no denying it’s a good life – those 16th century roofs have been known to spring a leak or 50. How much does it cost to pay the gardeners? I can’t imagine.

I realized a long time ago that a villa-hotel was the way to go. You get the look, the feel and the lifestyle. You don’t have to wash the espresso machine or clean the pool or pay the taxes.

Which brings me to Villa Le Barone, the perfect boutique hotel we now stay in for three decadent nights on our cultural walking tour of Tuscany and the Cinque Terre. It’s just 30 kilometers or so from Florence and about the same distance from Siena. A mere 700 years ago or so, the original structure was a tower built for a baron. Later, it was replaced by a villa for the della Robbia family. (That’s della Robbia as in the Renaissance sculptor who created elaborate ceramics famous for their wreaths of fruit and flowers.) Later, the villa was a wine and oil estate. In the ‘70s, the property underwent another transformation to become a private guesthouse. Today, it’s owned by our friends Corso and Jacqueline, otherwise known as the Count and Countess.

Villa Le Barone hotel
Villa Le Barone has been in the famous Della Robbia family since the 16th century

Villa Le Barone hotel
The villa contains just 28 uniquely decorated rooms.


There are vast gardens thick with roses, chestnut trees and a great collection of native plants. It all overlooks the tiny village and church of San Leolino. You keep discovering little hidden garden nooks or a patch of grass where a chaise is pointed at the view. A swimming pool is compulsory. (Your villa fantasy had to include one, yes?) As for the food, I have this one tip for dinner: Don’t mistake the antipasto buffet for the meal. It’s easy to do, but the kitchen turns out amazing Tuscan cuisine that tastes even better because you’re dining in the old winery or out on the terrace.

Villa Le Barone gardens
The vast gardens offer enchanting views of rolling Tuscan hills and the tiny church of San Leolino

Villa Le Barone pool
The estate’s swimming pool is a piece of paradise, perfect for relaxing on warm Tuscan days. ​


I promise that if you have your own version of the Tuscan Villa Fantasy, you won’t be disappointed – except maybe when we tell you it’s time to check out.

The first three nights of our walking tour of Tuscany and the Cinque Terre are spent at Villa Le Barone. You’ll have plenty of time to settle in and enjoy the estate’s amenities. In addition, your days here will include a visit to San Gimignano, a scenic walk to the fortified village of Monteriggiono, and time with a Tuscan shepherd who offers a taste of his homemade cheeses.