Tuscany on a Shoestring – How to Have a Fantastic Holiday in the Middle of a Credit Crunch

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It’s a dilemma, no doubt about it! Heather and Michael both agree, it’s going to be a scorcher this summer BUT not anywhere north of the channel and the super saver, buy one get four free industrial size bottles of sun factor 50 total sunblock are cluttering up the bathroom shelf and then to top it all, they tell you there’s a credit crunch. What’s the answer? If you holiday at home you’re in danger of getting mildew and not many people find web feet attractive in a woman. Well, as my old grandmother used to say – skinÄ…Ä? jeden jest tak dobry jak mrugniÄ(TM)cie do niewidomych kotów (she was from Gdansk, never understood a word she said). But I reckon what she was probably trying to say was – Credit crunch or no credit crunch, we all need a break in the sun, and if we can save a few bob too, then all the better.

Here’s our guide to “Tuscany on a Shoestring – how to have a fantastic holiday in the middle of a credit crunch”

Flights – A number of the budget airlines fly into Tuscany. These days things change so rapidly, you can’t assume that booking early or last minute will get you the best offer. airlines constantly change the offers/dates/prices/conditions , just to keep us all on our toes. Sign up for all the budget airline’s newsletters. Offers go fast, if you see a great deal, grab it. Even if you’re not certain about accommodation etc, if you wait too long the offer will probably have gone.

Be Flexible – If you can, travel midweek or early in the morning or late in the evening or just before or after a major holiday. Try to travel when others don’t and you can save lots. Although most villas in Tuscany rent Saturday to Saturday, arriving a day or so before or leaving a day or two after gives you the chance to see new places (a day in Pisa visiting the leaning tower or a day or two at the beach before checking in to your country villa).

Arrival Airport – As the budget airlines don’t fly into Florence airport, most people think of Pisa as the only Tuscan airport. However, as many villas are a couple of hours drive from Pisa it’s worth considering some other arrival airports too. Bologna, Forli, Perugia, even Rome is within travelling distance. Most are within a couple of hours of Central Tuscany and because they’re not the obvious first choices it can be easier to save on flights. Although further away, we have even used northern Italian airports such as Bergamo, Verona, Brescia, Treviso and Venice. If you manage to get great flight prices and treat it as part of your holiday (Verona is a stunning city, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities on earth), then it’s a real win-win situation.

Pack Light – Ladies (Ok, and guys too!!) On a week’s trip to the sun you really can pack enough in a hand luggage sized case. In summer in Tuscany, you rarely need heavyweight clothes. Lazing by a pool you don’t need to wrap up. Check with your villa that they supply pool towels. By travelling light, you’ll save money, time and the planet.

Villa Seasons – Because most Tuscan villas are rented by the owners, there are no standard seasons. Each owner decides on their own seasons. When seasons change from high to low etc can vary widely from owner to owner. Take time to check a villa’s seasons. Sometimes Italian holiday periods are considered high season, if UK holidays are different (half term breaks for example) you can make a saving. By booking the week before or after season changes you can save thousands.

Book Early – If you inquire early many owners will offer this year’s prices for next year or even the year after. Many also offer extras such as special dinners etc included in the price for early booking.

Think Big – share a bigger villa with a group of family or friends.. Many larger villas have excellent facilities – tennis courts, Jacuzzis etc. A 20 person villa shared by three or four families can work out cheaper than a number of individual apartments. Apart from being fun it can also be extremely good value.

Facilities – Rent where there are lots of on site facilities – pool, tennis, mountain bikes, horse riding, wine bar, restaurant, football school, cookery school etc. saves on rental costs and keeps kids busy without having to travel.

Rent in a Village or within walking distance to amenities. Save on travel money. Many villas sit on the edge of a village, meaning they still feel like they are in the countryside but are near the local shops, restaurants etc

Use Public Transport – Tuscany is well served by trains, buses etc. There are great value weekly passes and family passes can save you up to 20%. Ask at the local tourist office or train station for more info.

Pedal Power – fun, good exercise and cheap. Rent bikes for your holiday transport. Bikes can be picked up in Florence or even delivered to your villa.

Food – buy your basics at one of the many discount stores ( eg. the local Coop supermarket’s own brand goods), use the local village markets for the special ingredients. Choose what’s in season, it’s fresher and you’ll save. Although not strictly “Tuscan”, if you happen to be in Florence on a Sunday, you can get a good lunch at Ikea (kids lunch EUR1) it’s out near the airport.

Drink – Many Tuscan wineries (especially the local cooperative wineries called “cantine sociale”) sell bulk wine by the Litre. One even has “wine” petrol pumps, one for red and one for white! Take along a 5, 10, 25 or 50 Litre container and stock up. Prices start from an incredible 75p per liter.

Festas – Throughout the year, many towns and villages in Tuscany have local festivals, usually based on some local event or local dish (bean festival, steak festival, fish festival etc) Look out for posters advertising festa dates. Experience a slice of “real Tuscany” and dine on good, tasty local food and wine, prepared by the local women. Great prices and the sunset is free.

Be Creative – some of the most memorable experiences are free. Paint a picture of the sunset over the Chianti hills, whilst sharing a bottle of Chianti. Picnic in a local olive grove. A bbq around the pool. None of them cost much but you’ll treasure the memories for ever.

Stand up – In many bars especially in the cities you pay more if you sit down to drink your coffee. Act like a local, stand at the bar and save!

Days out – Think of things to do that last for a while. A relaxing day at the thermal springs, an evening 10 pin bowling. None of them are costly for a whole day or evening. Remember to always ask for discount offers or family passes.

Bring your Laptop – DVD’s keep the kids amused in the evening. Check if your villa has a computer you can use. Costs zero.

Designer Outlets – Tuscany has the best. Save gazillions on Prada, D & G, Armani etc. If you’re going to tighten your belt, make sure it’s a designer one! Val di Chianaoutlet village near Arezzo and Barberino outlet village north of Florence are the biggest. Many outlets aren’t publicized, so you need to know where they are. Villa specialist, Rent a Villa in Tuscany supplies a handy info pack when you book your villa with them.

Phone Calls – make sure you’ve signed up for any international deals for calls and text messages. You can also rent a mobile phone , gives great rates when in Italy.

Xmas Shopping Trip

Why not experience Tuscany in autumn and winter with great low season prices and delicious Autumn flavours with your Xmas shopping! Great outlets, wonderful city centre shopping. Many properties can offer less than a week’s stay off season.

– Don’t see anything that suits – Just Ask!

Things change daily – offers, discounts, last minute deals etc it’s even possible to get a fantastic last minute offer on a large villa for a smaller group. If you don’t see anything that suits you, Just Ask!

We all need a break especially when times are tough.

We hope you find our – “Tuscany on a Shoestring – how to have a fantastic holiday in the middle of a credit crunch” advice useful and hope to see you here in Tuscany, relaxing under the Tuscan Sun sometime soon.

Happy Holidays!

write by Amelinda

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