Natalie from the popular baking blog Hello Cuppies is no stranger to the Italian lifestyle. She took a break to the dazzlingly beautiful island of Sicily, but now she has opted for a more rural escape and took to the rolling hills of Tuscany. The commune of Altopascio in the province of Lucca offers a highly desirable getaway, with striking scenery and a cultural history dating as far back as the ancient Romans. In fact, it gained popularity because of the hostel Spedale where pilgrims stayed, who travelled on the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage starting in the English cathedral city of Canterbury and leading to the capital Italian city of Rome. But, today it has slowly become an ideal place for an escape to the rural Italian countryside. Natalie gives her tips for an exciting villa escape in Altopasico...

What was Altopascio like?

If I had to sum Altopascio up in one word it would be traditional. Which is what I love. Completely unspoiled and quaint almost. The kind of town where the people are friendly and everyone knows everyone. We only had to mention we were staying at Villa Cerine and we'd be given a discount at places. 

What was it like to stay in the country house?

Peaceful, relaxing, and comforting. We loved that everything was provided for. Some villas I've stayed in we've needed to buy lots of stuff in like soap, BBQ equipment, salt & pepper etc. But at Villa Cerine the cupboards were equipped with all the basic things needed. One of the first things I do is inspect the kitchen and we'd been left pots of homemade jam, new bottles of oil, even some coffee pods to use. The house was super clean and I slept more soundly than I have done in a while. 

Hello Cuppies Natalie

Picture was taken from 'Arriving in Altopascio, Tuscany'

How close was the property to shops/restaurants?

Very. Whilst the property is lovely and peaceful it is very close to everything in town. The train station, which by the way is great as the trains go so regularly to everywhere, was only a five-minute walk, the nearest restaurant ten minutes and supermarket around 15/20. We had a hire car but you could easily manage without one here. 

On the property page it says you were close to Pisa, how easy was it to go there for a day trip?

Super easy. It took us around 45 minutes and we parked with no issues too. The train goes twice an hour if you prefer. Pisa airport is even closer, 30 minutes max. 

Did you eat out all the time or did you cook in the villa?

We always had breakfast at the villa and ate out on the terrace or in the dining room if it was a bit fresh! Lunch was always out when we were on day trips. One evening we had our own chef come cook for us too. The villa owners help set this up and again we sat out on the terrace. It was lovely and a real treat. 

 

What was it like to stay in a converted Italian farmhouse?

Different, but different in a good way. It gives you a real taste of what Italian life is really like. We struggled to leave some days as we just all loved it so much. Olive trees and grape vines surround the property, the views over the area are lovely and the sun shines through all the windows. It has been beautifully restored too. 

Altopascio Tuscany

Picture was taken from 'Arriving in Altopascio, Tuscany'

If you were to choose one thing for someone to do in this part of Italy what would you recommend?

A day trip to Lucca. As much as I love the big impressive cities I'm a sucker for something a little more traditional. Lucca is extremely historical, pretty and we had such a fun day hiring bikes and exploring. 

Which Clickstay property would you like to stay in next?

Difficult question, there are so many beautiful ones! We're keen to travel to Malta, Iceland and I'm dying to travel to India too. Although I was looking at some of the UK properties the other day as we do like our long weekends here too. We've been very lucky with regards to our holidays and love to discover new places. 

 

Villa Cerine

This beautifully restored farmhouse offers a rustic break to the Italian countryside. You can relax in your own private pool, head out and enjoy many bars and restaurants, or sit back and chill out with a delicious BBQ in your own private garden. 

Villa Cerine, a four-bedroom manor with swimming pool