Fattoria Barbialla Nuova

Montaione, Tuscany, Italy Book from Book from £71 per night

Pure city escapism in converted farmhouses (sleeping 2-8) on a 500-hectare organic farm - a remarkably tranquil and hospitable retreat
If you've ever dreamt of ditching the city rat-race for a simple rural lifestyle, here's your chance. Set in 500 hectares of private estate, these 3 farmhouses, tastefully converted into 7 rustic-chic apartments for 2-6 and 1 villa for 8-10, are surrounded by nothing but woodland, hills, pastures and utter tranquillity.

Forests full of wild boar, deer and locally-prized white truffles cover half of the estate, and there's a remote wildness quite unlike postcard-Tuscany, with its uniform lines of cypresses and vines. Guests are welcome to roam the land as they please, and you could explore for days. As well as walking and tracking wildlife, you can go truffle hunting in autumn, pick wild herbs in spring and gorge yourself on figs and cherries in summer - all of it organically grown. Wine-tasting and sightseeing opportunities abound: the towers of San Gimignano and the underrated town of Volterra are on your doorstep, Siena and Florence not much further. But it's the sense of remoteness, nature and space which mark this place out, and may have you pondering a permanent move to the countryside.

Highs

  • This is utter pastoral bliss, yet just 1 hour from Florence, Siena and Pisa
  • The wonderful hosts, Guido and helpers, believe in Slow Food and offer bread-baking lessons, pasta-making demos, guided truffle hunts, even an intro to bee-keeping
  • The apartments combine simple rustic stylishness and spaciousness - a cut above most Tuscan farmhouse conversions; and all are good for families
  • Each building has its own pool: a large one for Doderi apartments, another for Brentina guests and a private plunge pool for Trosce villa
  • There's a huge variety of plantlife on the estate: blackberries, figs, apples, plums, nuts, herbs, elderflower, pears, cherries, peaches... go forage

Lows

  • After entering the estate, you have to drive over bumpy tracks to reach your accommodation, but nothing an ordinary hire car can't handle
  • These are self-catering cottages, so you bring your own food or stock up at their lovely farm shop
  • Doderi and Brentina are split into 3-4 apartments, so sound can carry between them; but most guests are peaceful, and we weren't bothered by any noise
  • Be aware that it's Saturday-Saturday rentals only in summer (and check in before 6pm)

Best time to go

Summer in Tuscany is busy, but this place is a haven from the crowds - and the pools are a godsend too (though bear in mind there's no air-con). If you're planning to do some sightseeing then May-June or September-October will have fewer tourists yet reliably good weather, while winter is blissfully quiet but can have cold, frosty weather, rain and occasional snow. Each season brings something new here - don't forget the truffle season, which runs from October to December. The hotel is closed from the end of December until mid-March.

Our top tips

One of the great things about Italy is the availability of local produce; Barbialla Nuova is truly Italian. On our first visit we stayed over a public holiday and hadn't stocked up at all... but we needn't have panicked. We ended up cooking an organic, seasonal feast of zucchini flower frittata with tomato and basil salad, and new potatoes crushed with sage, garlic and olive oil. Foraging and feeding from the land, in such a stunning setting, made it a very memorable meal and one that fitted in well with the ethos of Barbialla Nuova.

The famous Mostra del Tartufo Bianco (White Truffle Festival) takes place each November in San Miniato (about 30 minutes away) - it's foodie heaven in this part of the world and well worth exploring. There are also guided truffle hunts around the local area if you want to try your hand at tracking down the elusive delicacy for yourself.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Stylish Agrotourism
  • 7 apartments for 2-6, 1 villa for 8-10
  • Self catering
  • All ages welcome.
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

Spread across the estate are 2 converted farm buildings (Brentina and Doderi), which between them house 7 apartments for 2-6; and a third building (Trosce) which is a separate villa for 8-10.

Country living is reflected in the rustic charm inside. Simple, sturdy wooden furniture (well-worn dining tables, four-poster beds and capacious wooden chests) sit comfortably on original tiled floors, next to large traditional fireplaces (in some apartments) and exposed original brickwork. All kitchens are thoughtfully stocked, and there are enough utensils and chairs for the number of people in each house. In the summer, the rooms are blissfully cool thanks to thick stone walls and small windows; in the autumn and winter, they're cosy and snug, with open fires (in some apartments). Don't expect a luxurious finish, but know that all the bathrooms are modern and surprisingly stylish.

Doderi is a typical Tuscan hilltop farmhouse split into 3 apartments, sharing a larger pool that has panoramic views of the farmland and beyond. It's a 20-minute walk from a lake, and surrounded by fruit and olive trees. All 3 apartments have their own outdoor dining space - we particularly liked the covered terrace and elevated views from Doderi Alto, where we stayed in 2013.

Brentina is more remote, tucked in a dip out of sight from the main track that cuts through the farm. The traditional farmhouse and converted barn make 4 apartments that share a pool, in gardens full of plum, apple and pear trees. Rambling roses climb up the walls, while lizards scuttle into log piles collected for firewood. You'll have your own designated outdoor area for eating and relaxing.

Le Trosce, built in the 19th century and rented as a villa for 8-10, is an ivy-covered farmhouse with 4 double bedrooms (though only 2 bathrooms). The terrace is a perfect place to sit and take in the fantastic panoramic view, and you can cool off in a small but stylish decked plunge pool. Bags of communal space include a large dining room, a sitting room, a kitchen, a dining area and large covered terrace. We found a little darker and less funky than the other 2 houses, but wonderfully cool in summer.

You can find factual info on each apartment (bedrooms, facilities etc) on our Rates page - click the names to see full details. As a pointer, we thought the best option for a couple is Doderi Ovest (overlooking olive groves, with an open fire in the terracotta tiled kitchen, and a cosy double bedroom); the best for a family of 4 is Brentina Ovile (a funkily converted sheep barn with great original features in its open-plan living space); the best for a larger group is Trosce (see above), because it has its own pool.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Kitchenette
  • Oven
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

The villas are self-catering so bring what you need, though you're encouraged to help yourself from the garden, or to stock up from their lovely organic shop (see below). If you're arriving late, you can ask for your fridge to be pre-stocked.

The kitchens in the apartments are well supplied with plates, utensils and pans. Each apartment also has its own outdoor area with table and chairs, as well as table and chairs in the kitchen. There are crates of local bottled water in the outdoor area - you can help yourself, leaving cash in the box and bringing your empties back to the same place for recycling. You can also buy boxes of firewood here.

One of the best things about Barbialla Nuova is its organic shop, with staples like milk, bread, tea and pasta, home-grown products (olive oil, honey, meat, eggs, jam, ragout sauces, white truffles), local wines and, if you're lucky, something from their gardens. If that's not enough, there are several village shops close by, and a larger supermarket in nearby Montaione; or owner Guido can direct you to another organic farmshop about 10km away.

As well as a list of local shops, they has also compiled a list of restaurants worth a visit for lunch or dinner, ranging from the local trattoria to fine dining in Florence (60km). Our new favourite is Osteria il Papero, a funky little place in nearby Balconevisi whose young owner-chef specialises in classic Tuscan recipes that have been creatively updated using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Kitchenette
  • Organic produce
  • Oven
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the vast swathes of woodland on marked walks put together by Guido, looking out for wild boar, badgers, porcupines and wild roses; or stroll through the farm, visiting the organic veg garden and the friendly chianine cattle
  • We really recommend booking their excellent activities, which include cookery courses with a local chef, pasta- or bread-making lessons (including a delicious sour dough), and an introduction to bee-keeping for the curious
  • Guests also rave about the guided truffle hunts in the autumn - it's one of the few areas boasting highly prized white truffles, and porcini (cepes) are also abundant
  • You can fly-fish in the estate's lake, or sit with binos and a bird book looking out for hoopoes, bee-eaters and buzzards
  • Horse-riding is available 3km away (Le Mura) and there are 2 golf courses within 15 minutes (San Miniato and Castelfalfi)
  • There are countless lovely villages to explore, including Palaia and Montaione
  • Head to the touristy but pretty medieval towers of San Gimignano and the under-rated town of Volterra, both 40-50 minutes' drive away
  • It's only as a little further to Florence, Siena or Pisa - each is about an hour's drive
  • There are plenty of vineyards around for a spot of wine tasting too
  • Or just sit by the pool and appreciate the tranquillity - you couldn't be any more immersed in nature

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Bee keeping talks
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Pasta making
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Truffle hunting
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting

Kids

This is a great option for adventurous families. Children are very welcome at the farmhouses and there are no expensive fittings, ornaments or furniture to worry about. There's no TV so it's a great chance to reconnect as a family. It's also great value and a self-catering farmstay makes a fun family holiday if you can cope without modern entertainment on tap.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

They're all good for families; we'd say book an apartment in Doderi if there are fewer of you (they sleep 2-8), or book out Le Trosce (sleeping 8-10) if you are a larger group as it has its own small pool.

Babysitting:

The hotel work with an English speaking babysitter who can be arranged with prior notice.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • High chairs
  • Plastic crockery, cups and dishes (on request)
  • Stair gates
  • Baby bath tub (0-6 months)
  • Changing pads

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Kitchens are functional. You can request a pre-stocked fridge with local goodies (recommended) or head to the nearby towns for groceries (15 minutes' drive). Book a chef in advance if you want, again they are superb. There are plenty of family friendly places to eat in neighbouring towns as well as crowd-pleasing gelateria.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Large shared pool for Brentina apartments, a large shared pool for Doderi apartments, private pool for Le Trosce house
  • There's a wooden swing outside the Brentina cottage
  • Kids cooking classes
  • Plenty of animals nearby, including white Chianina cattle, wild boar and hens
  • Truffle hunting with the local dog, in season
  • Walk, enjoy nature and enjoy each others' company
  • Play boules, football or ping pong

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Day trips to Siena, Florence and Pisa
  • Horse riding
  • Castles
  • Museum
  • Bike hire
  • Pinocchio Park, Collodi
  • Gelato sampling!

Families Should Know:

Those with smaller children should bear in mind that the gardens are very natural, without boundaries and with some steep drops. The pools and the pond are not protected.

Distances:

  • Airport: 50 minutes (Pisa)
  • Doctor: 15 minutes
  • Nearest shop: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 15 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Rooms
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

A completely fabulous stay at Barbialla for us and our 8 year old boy. We spent a few days in Florence and drove - managed ok without a 4x4 - to spend a glorious week in the spacious and beautifully converted barn. Hosts were super helpful but not intrusive and location was spectacular. Amongst many highlights from a great family recharge included lingering meals on the terrace, lolling by the pool with new friends young and older, listening to snuffling boars whilst partaking of a glass of wine by night and even the wrong turn on the hike was a memorable addition to family folklore. Car that can cope with the gravel road definitely needed but a fab base for exploring the wonders of Tuscany and an absolute pleasure to return to our new home at the end of our day's exertions. Supermarket nearby (go the extra few feet to the bigger one - deli counter of note) and some truly brilliant local restaurants worth visiting too. Check out the v helpful info folder you receive on arrival. Close enough to the main motorway to make visiting beautiful towns like Lucca, San Gimigniano, (obligatory for our son) Pisa and more, as well as beautiful beaches south of Livorno backing onto pine forests, all accessible by day trip. Thanks for the memories and I know we'll be back soon.

10/10, , August 2016

We had a really enjoyable stay, the location was excellent, the apartment was comfortable, the staff were friendly and the shop interesting and useful. The following are minor points for improvement: all the bedrooms could have had more hooks for hanging clothes and the bathrooms could benefit from window blinds for privacy. The kitchen could have had washing up sponges.

8/10, , October 2016

We had an absolutely wonderful stay at Fattoria Barbialla Nuova. The estate is beautiful and a place to completely unwind and relax. There are plenty of walks on site and we particularly loved the organic farm shop. It is in a perfect location to explore Tuscany and the friendly hosts provide detailed information on places to visit and things to do and see, which was very useful. You do, however, need to hire a car to reach the property and visit nearby cities and towns. The traditional farm houses are a little way off the road, but this is part of the estate's charm and makes it even more peaceful. A lovely break for a couple wanting to escape city life.

10/10, , October 2016

Wonderful, peaceful and wonderful people running this place (Ilaria, Francisco and Frank). It’s really unique.

10/10, , May 2016

Our apartment Doderi Est was very spacious, clean and very well equipped. From a well equipped kitchen, to the many soft towels in the bathrooms, the shared large pool surrounded by deck chairs, the private outside eating area, it was perfect. We were told to help ourselves to fresh fruit from the trees, I highly recommend the figs, and were generally encouraged to explore the extensive grounds. Ilana and Fransesco, the hosts, are very welcoming and have lots of great recommendations and tips for day trips, restaurants in the area, wine yards, etc. A car is essential. The dirt road leading up to the house is steep in places but any good car will manage. Bring mosquito spray. It is the countryside. Florence, San Giminiano and Pisa are easily reached on day trips. I'd recommend visiting Voltera, too. But also make sure to explore the grounds and spend some time by the pool overlooking the Tuscan hills. It's so peaceful.

10/10, , September 2015

We stayed in Doderi Est which is far from anywhere and yet has excellent Wi-Fi. Every view seems to have been designed and yet just happens to be beautiful. The accommodation is basic and comfortable. There's lots of hot water and enough furniture though limited hanging space. We cooked a lot, both indoors and outdoors. We were visited on a few evenings by a little badger snuffling out fallen figs. We found signs of wild boar and fallow deer around the place. The pool is small and well-maintained. Looking up from it into trees and skies is beautiful. There are walks around the estate that are ranked from easy to difficult. I was glad to have quite solid trainers with me as even the easy paths are steep in places. Our hosts Francisco and Ilaria were really lovely to be with. We made sour dough with Francisco and thoroughly enjoyed it. He really knows his stuff. The only downer was the horseflies which apparently come out not long after heavy rainfall. Repeated applications of insect repellent, and keeping covered up at night outside helped me to avoid bites but others weren't so lucky.

9/10, , August 2015

Absolutely loved Barbialla - beautiful location, fantastic hosts, gorgeous cats and very conveniently located for day trips if you can bear to tear yourself away from the relaxing site itself.

9/10, , October 2014

Francesco and Ilaria were the perfect hosts and so lovely, as was the whole experience. Definitely try the truffle hunt and then go to a local restaurant to eat your truffles with pasta and steak... truly delicious. Our apartment was quaint and delightful and we chilled out more than any other holiday in recent memory, the farm was great for our youngest, great walks and wine and weather and culture, and Florence, and yada... you get the picture. Go.

10/10, , October 2014

The self-catering house (Le Trosce) was of fantastic value, and the 360-degree views of the Tuscan hills provided probably the best views of any place I've stayed at while traveling. The service was very warm and friendly. The steaks from the farm's own cattle were ridiculously good. And we highly recommend joining the truffle hunt with truffle-themed lunch - a rare experience not to be missed.

9/10, , September 2014

We have been here twice now and each time has been the escape we so needed. This time we went with our 8 week old and were well looked after by the lovely hosts. A special spot in the Italian wilderness, thank you.

10/10, , September 2014

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