“Pure city escapism in converted farmhouses (sleeping 2-8) on a 500-hectare organic farm - a remarkably tranquil and hospitable retreat”
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.
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.
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.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
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.
The hotel work with an English speaking babysitter who can be arranged with prior notice.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
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.
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.