Villa Lena

Palaia, Tuscany, Italy
Book from GBP Book from £372 per night

Villa Lena

Palaia, Tuscany, Italy

A unique creative agriturismo offering workshops with artists, an easy community feel and organic Italian food (included in rates)

A unique creative agriturismo offering workshops with artists, an easy community feel and organic Italian food (included in rates)

Talk about remote. As we drove along ever-narrowing roads in the beautiful Tuscan hills, we began to wonder if we’d missed a turning for this hidden rural retreat. Then suddenly it appeared. Turning a corner, the magnificent salmon-pink walls came into view, backdropped against a cobalt-blue sky and surrounded by tall green cypress trees. Co-founded by Russian art consultant Lena Evstafieva, Villa Lena is a fascinating hybrid of hotel, organic farm and not-for profit artists' colony. Its 19th-century outhouses have been carefully renovated to create 18 rooms plus 5 apartments and a self-contained house dotted across the 500-hectare wooded estate, with spectacular views in all directions.

Guests share the space with artists-in-residence, who stay here for a month-long creative retreat, and in return lead diverse talks and workshops. The main pool and restaurant are the heart of everything, a place to all come together and share stories over farm-to-table meals. We loved being swept up in the easy boho vibe of the place; you're continually interacting with the ethos of the Villa, joining debates, admiring donated art on the walls, perhaps listening to a candelit performance in the piano room. A rare find.


  • Inspirational workshops and talks with resident creatives, who may be painters, poets, photographers, conceptual artists, designers, botanists, poets, even meditation dancers
  • We loved watching the mist rise from the valley during morning stretches on the yoga deck
  • Although this is a sociable place, the accommodation is so spread out that it's easy to find peace and privacy if you need it
  • Great for families: the Renacchi apartments share a separate pool and playground, and there's a cinema and games room. Bikes to borrow, too
  • The Slow Food is an explosion of colour and flavour - there are chefs-in-residence, too


  • Remote. Nothing in walking distance and not for those seeking a buzzing nightlife on holiday
  • The children’s splash pool is right next to the main pool and bar area, and excited little ones can get noisy
  • Guests in Renacchi apartments, Casetta Bella and Maison Stento have a 10/20-minute (albeit beautiful) walk to the restaurant, or will need to drive
  • Rates do look expensive, but bear in mind that most rates include dinner, as well as some creative workshops

Best time to go

Villa Lena opens annually in early-April, when the poppies start to bloom and the weather reaches perfect T-shirt-in-the-evening temperatures. Easter sees lots of special (mostly child-friendly) activities, including a Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea Party (with magical cakes and pastries) and Easter Egg Hunts. The shoulder seasons (May, June, Sept, Oct) are perfect for exploring the wooded estate, with beautiful wild flowers and wine tastings respectively.

Summer brings the heat and tourists to Tuscany, but Villa Lena feels like the region’s best-kept secret. High in the hills and away from the crowds, its cool rooms and poolside bar give respite from the sun - and they throw a mean Ferragosto pool party! In the colder months there's a secret Winter Bar with a wood-fired stove, cocktails and a speak-easy vibe; October-November is also prime truffle time. Villa Lena normally closes from December to March.

Our top tips

Walk 20 minutes up the hill to the abandoned village of Toiano. Eerily quiet – bar the occasional stray cat – views from this deserted place are spectacular. Go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat, though the stroll there takes you along shady lanes lined with wild flowers in spring and blackberries in late summer.

Make the most of the villa's activities and workshops (some of which are free to join): when you book, ask what's on and be sure to reserve in advance for the ones you like the sound of.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 18 rooms, 5 apartments, 1 house
  • Half-board stays (B&D); restaurants a drive away
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car recommended
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available


Villa Lena’s beautifully simple accommodation is bright, cool and airy: perfect for siestas once Tuscany’s summer heat kicks in. There are artistic touches everywhere, with carefully chosen art hanging on the walls, and small additions that bring interest to otherwise modest interiors: ours had an old typewriter, an Oriental room screen and tiny pops of colour throughout.

The handsome San Michele Large Superiors are great value, with views across the valley and comfortable furniture to make guests feel at home, plus space for an extra bed if you're bringing the little ones. If you'd prefer a little extra space, the Fattoria rooms are housed in a former stable block and have lovely beamed-ceilings, exposed stonework and big French windows.

Families with older kids love the Renacchi apartments (2-3 bedrooms), which are a 10-minute stroll from the main house, and perfect for dipping in and out of Villa Lena’s social side. The building has its own pool, plus a playground and lots of space to run around. Or, for ultimate privacy, there's Casetta Bella, a 3-bedroom house set 15 minutes' walk from the main property, with it's own patio area and private pool shared with the larger 4-bedroom Maison Stento, which has a full kitchen and separate living area.

Features include:

  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Minibar
  • Mosquito net
  • WiFi


Grown on-site or sourced locally, the food at Villa Lena is beautifully fresh and full of flavour. The set dinner menu changes daily, and a couple of specials offer alternatives if you need them. Everything is distinctly Italian, but resident international chefs change on a monthly basis and bring their own individual style to the table. Our mushroom risotto flan starter was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, but it was the homemade pasta that really stood out. Light and fresh, a simple ricotta ravioli tasted even better when laced with butter, sage and parmigiano.

Breakfast is a buffet of cold meats and cheeses, fresh bread and cakes. For a supplementary cost, guests can order from a small menu of cooked breakfasts (the smashed avocado was worth it). Light lunches are available on request, served on the terrace beside the pool; dinner and breakfast are eaten in the light and airy restaurant, which overlooks rolling Tuscan hills. If you're staying in the apartments you'll find the kitchenettes useful for whipping up lunches or snacks, likewise in Casetta Bella; the San Michele rooms share a communal kitchen.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Communal dining
  • Kids' meals
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian options


  • Immerse yourself in creativity: workshop with the artists in residence, listen to talks, join in debates and try various mediums: perhaps ceramics, songwriting or painting
  • We particularly like the sound of the woodland poetry readings, mask-making sessions and fresh floral potions
  • Join a morning or evening guided yoga session on the beautiful shaded pavilion, with its long views over rolling hills
  • Borrow a mountain bike to explore or join the 1.5-hour guided hike that takes guests to secret corners of this beautiful estate and through the kitchen gardens
  • Learn to cook like an Italian. Join the resident chef to make pizza and pasta, or go foraging for a true farm-to-table experience. We tried the pasta making, and our kids loved getting their hands dirty
  • Spend an afternoon wine-tasting or join a cocktail-making evening in San Michele’s bar. You can day-trip to nearby vineyards, too
  • Step back in time as you explore the cobbled streets of medieval town San Gimignano, a Unesco site. Don't miss the famous Gelateria Dondoli, with its exciting gelato combinations
  • Late September-December is truffle-hunting season; search with the expert dogs, then take home what you find - or have it whipped up into pasta dishes by the resident chef, and served with Villa Lena's own wines

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Truffle hunting
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga


All ages are well catered for at Villa Lena, with under-3s staying for free. A shallow pool, playground and toy-room keeps little ones entertained, while older children will love the cinema and games room. A long way from anywhere, there’s not much within walking distance to explore. But with more than enough space for all ages to run around in, and creative workshops such as pizza-making and foraging tours that appeal to kids, they certainly won’t get bored. During school holidays, there are free art activities for children, led by visiting art educators.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Close to the main pool, splash pool and restaurant, the Fattoria rooms are well-suited to families with young kids. For large family groups, we’d recommend the spacious Renacchi apartments, which are 10 mins' walk from the main restaurant and share their own pool and playground. Or at 15-20 minutes' walk there's Casetta Bella, a 3-bedroom self-contained house (2 doubles, 1 twin) with a kitchen, living area, and patio, and the even larger Maison Stento which has 4 ensuite bedrooms (3 can be twins), plus a full kitchen, dining, living, and patio; both of these share a private pool.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots can be provided for all rooms
  • High chairs

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

Children's meals:

A children’s menu includes simple meals such as tomato and basil pasta, or grilled chicken and chips. And gelato (of course)!

Kids Activities on site:

  • 500 acres of estate to explore
  • Splash pool for little ones
  • Two additional pools
  • Games room with snooker table, table tennis, table football and jukebox
  • Cinema room
  • Toys, books, and art and craft materials
  • Creative workshops and sessions include painting, ceramics, pasta making, truffle hunts, cookie decorating, flower arranging
  • Small playground
  • Bikes to borrow

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Sample world-famous gelato at Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano’s Piazza della Cisterna
  • Visit Amedei chocolate factory for a guided tasting tour!

Families Should Know:

The pools aren't fenced. The estate begs to be explored, but we were warned to take particular care with little ones as wildlife (including wild boars) come out at night


  • Airport: 45-minute drive (Pisa)
  • Hospital: 20-minute drive
  • Shop: 15-minute drive
Kid Friendly:


Reached via roads barely on the map (though our satnav did get us there), Villa Lena feels a long way from anywhere. And yet, while you’ll need a car to reach it, many of the region’s big hitters, including Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca, are under 2 hours’ drive, making day-trips possible.

By Air:
Pisa Airport (45km) is a 45-minute drive, and Florence Airport (63km) is just over an hour.

From the Airport:
Villa Lena offers transfers but we'd recommend you hire a car so you can explore the region.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.


  • Pisa Galileo 45.0 km PSA
  • Florence 63.0 km FLR


  • Beach 60.0 km
  • Shops 0.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests


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