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Our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany vs. COVID

Holiday Cottage in Tuscany

A few years ago I had a dream. A dream of a beautiful little hilltop Holiday Cottage in Tuscany. One with the most breathtaking views from a gorgeous terrace, glass in hand, listening to the cicadas as the sun goes down. This was all due to start a year or so ago, and I was going to share it with you. Lots of you got very excited about it. So did I.

Then along came a thing called COVID, and changed the course of many things for many people. Not only did it close my business in the UK for 227 days (as I write this), it also put a stop for a while to my dream of a Holiday Cottage in Tuscany. But…. we can almost smell it again now!

The pics aren’t great, which is partly why I’ve not been sharing things, but to be honest, this horrible thing called COVID put everything on hold didn’t it?.

I’ve no idea when I will be going out to finish the house off, but it’s almost done! I haven’t been in a hurry to go, even though I can as it’s business, and I can’t imagine you, dear reader, have been in hurry to get there either.

Hopefully you’ll get a feel for it with these pics anyway. I’ll take some much better ones when I get out there myself. These are the best I could get an Italian builder to take. And I’m sure there was a few hundred Euros in the invoice that week for these! Everything you’ve ever heard is true, let me assure you!

The gate on the left in this pic, leads down some steps to the rest of the garden and the cellars, which in time will be renovated and turned into living spaces too.

I’m breaking cover to bring you up to date as so many guests arrive and ask what’s happening. I get asked every week where we’re at with the house. Well, other than installing a kitchen, and taking an entire house-worth of furniture and furnishings from my storage unit here, it’s done! It’s been completely re-wired, re-plumbed, walls fixed and plastered, roof sorted, fireplace installed, new floors, fully insulated, air-con and heating system installed, and of course that awesome terrace!

This is the feel that I envisage for the kitchen, along with the tiles that are on order;

Mood board idea for the kitchen, with the tiles on order

I’m still buying things all the time that I know will look great over there. I have lots of things over there that I’ve already bought, but I want to create a mix of ‘Woodfarm England’, with traditional rural Tuscan country style. I can picture it all in my head, and I didn’t let you down with Woodfarm UK did I?

Just add a splodge of imagination with the little I’m sharing with you here, and you’ll be half way there. The terrace that I saw in my mind the second I walked over the hill to the house for the first time is now a reality, and will be the crowning glory of this little hideaway Holiday Cottage in Tuscany. Here’s a little video shot by our project manager over there to show me the gate that’s been fitted. It’s a shaky little film clip but it will give you a sense of what it’s about…

I’m double-jabbed now, and if things settle down soon, then maybe I’ll get over around September-ish for a few days. I’m hoping we can get the house ready for you circa spring-time, maybe sooner if things go well. We will keep you posted of course.

Make sure you are on our VIP Tuscany list to be the first to hear about availability and booking.

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Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage is coming together

I wrote on here just a few weeks ago with some progress, and to talk about the strange situation we find ourselves in, with that there pesky pandemic, but I just wanted to share some more photos now that things are taking shape.

I am just waiting on news now about when the railing will be finished and fitted to the Terrace, but I wanted to show you photos now that the exterior of the house has been finished. The whole place has been rendered with a thermal plaster and is now starting to look something like I’d envisaged when I bought it.

Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage is getting there!

As you can see, the house is on three levels, but for now the living accommodation is all on the top floor, which is plenty big enough. Entering the house from the terrace, you walk into the kitchen, which has a South facing window overlooking the terrace and hills, to an old church in the distance then through to the dining room with an open fireplace and the same views to the south. All of the internal floors have been ripped up, levelled, and replaced with a traditional Tuscan terracotta tile.

Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage built on the hillside

A corridor leads from the dining room right through to the lounge, with your bedroom on the left, again with those South facing views over the garden and the hills beyond. The lounge has two East facing windows, which look across the valley towards Lucca. Also leading off the corridor is your bathroom.

Garden steps leading up to your Tuscan Holiday Cottage

The bathroom has a wonderful ball and claw footed rolltop bath, where you can sit and have a soak overlooking the valley. It is also a wet room with a great two part shower.

Wet room in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

Once the terrace is fully operational it will feature a barbecue and pizza oven, so you can let your creative culinary juices flow.

Anyway, just little update for you now the external walls have been finished with. More news soon.

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Holiday Cottage in Tuscany update

Okay, let’s talk about Italy. Prior to a pesky global pandemic, our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany, aka Woodfarm Tuscany was due to be finished and ready for you to go and stay at the end of May 2020. However, as we all know the brakes went on for a few months. It is all very much moving towards completion again so I thought I would bring you up to speed.

Before I go any further I will explain why I have been quiet on the subject until now. The thing is, nobody is going to want to go there just yet. I for one I am not ready to sit in a pressurised metal tube with 300 others for a couple of hours at 30,000 feet, and I don’t suppose you are. Not only has the coronavirus pandemic cost me a fortune in lost revenue here in the UK, it has also put me well behind in my beloved Tuscany. But I’m still not moaning. There’s nothing any of us can do about what’s happened, so we just need to “stai calmo e vai avanti”, or as they say in Blighty, “keep calm and carry on”.

The fact of the matter is that it will be safe for us to travel at some point, and we will wish to do so. But as I write this at the beginning of August, now is not that time. However, work is progressing nicely, and we are heading towards a lovely finished Holiday Cottage in Tuscany.

For those interested in a future stay I thought it might be nice to bring you up-to-date with what’s happening. The interior is pretty much done, with the exception of fitting a kitchen, the exterior has all been treated with a thermal render to keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and the wiring is all in for the air conditioning system, which will also act as heating. The bathroom window has been lowered to enhance the views across the valley, which you can now enjoy from the comfort of your roll-top bath, and the wet room looks fabulous.

Photo of our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany
The wet room at our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany

As you will know by now I bought this house for the views, and in order to fully appreciate the Vista that this house enjoys, my intention from day one was to build a large terrace in order for my guests to chill out with a morning coffee or a home-made pizza in the evening. I am very excited to be able to report to you that that terrace is now a reality. Work on the railings will begin soon. As you can see from the photo, steps lead down to the rest of the garden. You’ll notice the photos aren’t the best; My builders are good builders, not photographers!

The exterior of our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany
The terrace steps at our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany

So that’s about it for now. I had intended bringing you more regular updates but I didn’t allow for a pandemic in that plan. I hope by the time that we will want to start going abroad again, that the house will be ready. My focus since June, as we planned to reopen, has solely been on Woodfarm Barns and Barges, and the safety and security of a Staycation as a well earned break away from lockdown. I am very pragmatic about our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany and the adventure, as I really bought this house to fulfil a personal dream. It makes absolute sense bearing in mind what I do for a living, to share it though, as I can’t use it all of the time.

I know it still looks like a building site, but I hope that you can begin to get some sense of what we are going to achieve out there. Once we are in a position to share the house with you, I hope that many of you can fall in love with the views, just as I did at first sight.

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Extraordinary Holiday Cottages in Suffolk (and Tuscany!)

Extraordinary holiday cottages

Extraordinary Holiday Cottages. According to the old advert, The Halifax gave us extra. And that’s what we have always aimed for at Woodfarm.

I do a lot of thinking whilst running this little business of mine. One of the things that I think about is why, over the decade since I started Woodfarm, it has exceeded all of my expectations. I think it’s all about providing extraordinary holiday cottages, as opposed to ordinary. This little paperweight on my desk was a present a number of years ago and it’s a constant reminder to me of how we go about doing what we do. I hope you find it interesting.

Extraordinary holiday cottages in Suffolk
Extraordinary Holiday Cottages (and Barges) in Suffolk

I’ve always tried to be transparent when marketing the business, and in everything we do. I think people like that. All I ever tried to do from the start was to provide accommodation that I’d want to stay in, give a warm welcome and provide as many extra touches as we can think of, to make things special. On top of that we spend a lot of time finding out about the places that our guests can go, and the things they can do whilst staying with us. It’s not difficult.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it ain’t rocket science! Maybe I should stop right here in case all my competitors read this and suddenly start beating us. But I wanted to try and crystallise my thought process for you, dear (hopefully interested) reader, so that you can see where I’m genuinely coming from as a business owner. 

If I can put these thoughts down lucidly for you, then maybe then it’ll go some way to explaining why our guests love what we do and keep coming back. Maybe you are one of those guests, in which case I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Genuinely. Without you, I’d be in trouble. Or maybe you are someone who is really delving into why you should come and stay with us? In which case, welcome. Grab a cuppa and read on.

I wrote this early in 2020, just before we finally left the EU. I’m more than a little intrigued as to why we have continued to beat our performance as a business, year on year, since the referendum in 2016, when there is so much doom and gloom out there. And I think it boils down to one thing: extraordinary holiday cottages, not ordinary.

I’ve touched on this subject before, but I wanted to focus on the extra little touches we have become known for. Again, it isn’t hard to do! As I said, all I have ever done is to provide accommodation that I would want to stay in. That’s it! Secret revealed! We have added all the little touches that I would like. I am human. You are human. So we should more or less appreciate similar touches right? 

I know we’re all different and that it’s subjective, but in general I think that holds true. At the risk of getting all cliché on you, we try to please most of the people most of the time. I truly believe that we cannot please all of the people all of the time. But you won’t stop me trying. And ten years in now, it seems to have worked for us.

We’ve always been dog-friendly. Since the start, that was one of the major ‘selling points’, or USPs. In the early days though I used to be really worried that we shouldn’t put off non dog-owners. But over time we developed such a stronghold and a reputation within that market that I stopped worrying about it. We still have plenty of guests who don’t own dogs and they seem to keep coming back. Again, this isn’t rocket science, we just make sure that we have a very strict cleaning and maintenance regime, and target responsible dog owners.

 Dog-Friendly Extraordinary Holiday Cottages
Dog-Friendly Extraordinary Holiday Cottages

So being dog-friendly is very much our market. One of the major things for dog owners is that we have extraordinary holiday cottages, that happens to welcome dogs. In the early days I used to get a lot of feedback from guests who would tell me that they struggled to find somewhere that accepted dogs, let alone welcomed them. Or somewhere that didn’t feel as though they were staying in a kennel!

So what is it that we do to attract dog owners? Well:

  • We openly welcome your dogs, usually before you humans, as we know that many guests treat their dogs like family. 
  • We welcome up to three of them and more by arrangement if possible. We started with two, but soon found that a lot of people have three. We restrict numbers purely to maintain our high standards.
  • We provide dog bowls. 
  • We provide dog towels. 
  • We have fully enclosed Gardens with every Cottage. The Barges are a bit different of course. 
  • We have a fully enclosed two-acre meadow at Woodfarm HQ, for the exclusive use of our guests. 
  • There’s a smaller section with the meadow for nervous or less-agile dogs. 
  • We have ‘Mucky Pups’ Shower Stations in each garden. 
  • We provide sensitive dog shampoo with the Shower Stations. 
  • Your dog gets yummy dog treats with every stay. 
  • We have optional dog hampers if you want to treat your four-legged family. 
  • VIPooches; this is where your dogs return free on your next stay. 
  • Dog-friendly pubs all handpicked for you. 
  • We have loads of info on vets, dog-friendly beaches, walks etc. 

Ok, that’s the dog-friendly stuff. What else do we do to make them extraordinary holiday cottages? 

Five Star Reviews

At the time of writing (February 2020) we have almost 400 Five Star Reviews on TripAdvisor, almost 100 on Google, and over 200 on Facebook. I was really worried when we first listed with Tripadvisor, just in case we hadn’t got it right. The other review platforms followed and I had the same worries. But with around 700 Five Star reviews at the time of writing, we’ve got something right I think. I don’t mean that arrogantly at all, but we have all tried as a team to excel in what we do. At some point I’m sure someone will think we didn’t excel, but I’d hope that when that day comes, people will say to themselves, “They’ve got 700 Five Star reviews, and one that’s not so great. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Hundreds of Five Star Reviews for our Extraordinary Holiday Cottages
Hundreds of Five Star Reviews for our Extraordinary Holiday Cottages

Visit England Gold Standard Awards

We have these for every Barn and Barge and have done since we applied to the scheme. So how does that come under extraordinary holiday cottages? Well to put it simply, if we didn’t give you extra, we wouldn’t get them! I think of our Five Star reviews as the place where our guests give us the thumbs up, and the Visit England Gold Standard Awards as our industry regulators doing the same.

Social Media

This is a big favourite of mine. Having fun on social media, NOT selling to you. Social media may not be your thing and that’s fine. Personally, I get really frustrated when people just use it to sell their products or services. Yes we run ads on there, and we do get business from it, but I’m talking about organic social media activity. The posts. And this is where I just have fun. I post as much as I can about Suffolk (and Tuscany now), nice places to go, yummy food and drink, that sort of thing. I like to post nice photos when I take them too. But I really like to have a laugh on there. And people like it! It’s so dull when all you see is businesses, especially small ones like mine, just telling you what discount they are offering or just showing you what they have to offer. Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but I enjoy myself and a lot of people seem to like it, so I’ll keep doing that.

Woodfarm Merchandise

For years now we’ve given things away with our name on. We have dog-poop bag holders, which I think is the first thing that we gave away. As I’ve said, our biggest market is the dog-friendly one so this seemed like a good idea. And it was! We have given away thousands of these now. If you’re reading this and you don’t have one but would like one, just ask me. You can have one. Or if you are a previous guest and you’ve broken, lost, or worn yours out, give me a shout. I’ll send you another.

We’ve given away lovely mugs for years too, and again, thousands of homes have these. There have been several versions. First we had Woodfarm Barns. Then we had to get some with Woodfarm Barges on. Now we have both brands on one mug just to make life easier and to ‘cross-sell’ the brands.

Then we added our fabulous Woodfarm Travel Cups to try and do our bit to cut down on the use of single-use, or paper cups. These have gone down a storm and I personally use mine all the time!

Travel Cups from our Extraordinary Holiday Cottages
Travel Cups from our Extraordinary Holiday Cottages

We also introduced our double-sided Barges & Barns Trolley Coins in 2019 and they were an instant hit too! They make a great little key ring as well. 

Lastly (but not finally), guests can become part of the Woodfarm family with our specially designed custom sweatshirts! We do have to charge for these as they are a lot dearer, but we only charge what they cost us to buy and send to you. If you’d like one, do get in touch. They’re £30 each. 

Why do we do it? Because it spreads the word. Our brand is present in thousands of households and we get recognised. At the end of 2019 we heard from a guest who was using their Woodfarm Travel Cup whilst wandering around a Christmas market in Germany, and they got approached by another guest who recognised the brand! As a marketeer and business owner, I loved that, and it sent shivers down my spine!

“Where everybody knows your name”

I’ve always thought of this as the ‘Cheers Factor’. Remember the TV theme tune that said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get away, where everybody knows your name”? We all love to feel that we are recognised and welcomed. It’s a basic human emotion. OK, I can’t guarantee I know all of your names anymore, but I’m pretty good with faces so if I seem like I remember you when you come back, it’s because I do. In the early days I’d associate returning guests with their favourite Barn, but I struggle to do that now because of the sheer numbers. But I really do have a knack of remembering people. And people like that.

FREE BREAK Competitions

This is an interesting one. We’ve given away a lot of FREE BREAKS now over many years. There isn’t a catch, we do it to promote the business. I do have to juggle the promotion versus giving away too much but hopefully I’ve got the balance right. I wrote extensively about this in a blog post in 2019; you can read that HERE if you wish to. But it’s another example of extraordinary holiday cottages I think, as we don’t see many people doing it. Certainly not as regularly as we do! 

As I said, we have grown year on year since we started, and we have exceeded all the expectations that I set myself and for the business. We must be doing something right for that to happen. I think it boils down to this; I have never focussed on financial targets or making money. Genuinely. All I have ever done is to focus on attracting as many guests as I can, and making sure they have a wonderful stay, want to tell their family and friends, and they want to come back. That’s it folks. It is a very simple philosophy:

Stay. Relax. Share. Repeat. 

Extraordinary holiday cottages in Tuscany

Extraordinary holiday cottages, including one in Tuscany!
Extraordinary holiday cottages, including one in Tuscany!

Hopefully our forthcoming Holiday Cottage in Tuscany will be the start of great things. Although we only have one in the pipeline as I write this, we have had a LOT of interest in the progress of the renovation. And the feedback we are getting is that people are interested because it’ll be a Woodfarm Cottage. They know what to expect. We are spending a LOT of money on it to make it extraordinary, and we already have a great colleague out there who will look after you in the Woodfarm way!

I think other than getting the accommodation right, ultimately it comes down to providing great customer service, which is not difficult! Hopefully you’ll agree that we are doing everything we can to give you extraordinary holiday cottages?

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Tuscan Holiday Cottage update – Nov 19

RSJ's going in to the cellars of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage is under way. It looks like a building site but then again, it is! Just thought I’d put an update together as I’m over for meetings and checking on progress.

With a little bit of luck our Tuscan Holiday Cottage will be ready to open it’s doors to guests around Easter 2020. So far the builders have taken up crumbly concrete floors and re-laid nice and level, put all the ducting in for the electrician, plastered the kitchen and bathroom, and put RSJ’s in the cellars to hold the ceilings up, thus ensuring the whole lot doesn’t fall down!

Oh, and on top of that they’d made a real mess of the garden as there was a lot of junk to clear from the cellars before they could start work! 

I haven’t really published photos of the interior of the house before as it just looked like an old, grotty, dated building. I know from years of renovating and development that a lot of people can’t envisage what something will look like if they are presented with ‘before’ photos, way before anything is finished. 

I’ve now decided to share some photos of the progress of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage as I’d promised, because it is now very evident that this is not the finished article!

Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage garden before we landscape it!
Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage garden before we landscape it!

We all know that a renovation project starts from the bottom upwards. With three cellars, the first thing that needed to happen was for a whole bunch of RSJ’s to go in to make sure this old farm building doesn’t come crashing down around our ears!


RSJ's going in to our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
RSJ’s going in to the cellars of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage


RSJ's going in to the cellars of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
More RSJ’s going in to the cellars of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

Ok, so to the inside of the house itself. The floor was very old and crumbly, having not been laid very well originally. So all that had to come up, then a new concrete screed was laid, with a reinforcing mesh inside it. This is the lounge. I promise you it won’t stay pink and it won’t have that old wall heater! Your Tuscan Holiday Cottage will feature a modern air conditioning and heating system. Warm in the colder months and nice and cool in the Summer. And boy, will you need that!

Reinforcing mesh and new concrete floor being laid in the lounge of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Reinforcing mesh and new concrete floor being laid in the lounge of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

There was originally a corridor from the dining room, with the bedroom, lounge and bathroom opening up off it but we’ve taken it out to provide much more light and space. You will have the most amazing views across the valley towards Lucca from these windows

The lounge of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
The lounge of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage. There was a wall there but we’ve opened it up for space and light. Both windows have stunning views across the valley towards Lucca

Ok, let’s start imagining what it’s going to look like soon shall we? Well, I’ve just been tile shopping and am over the moon with what I’ve found! Throughout the house we will have these traditional terracotta floor tiles. They have a lovely texture to them and they are so typically Tuscan. They will be in every room, except the bathroom, which will have a gorgeous grey slate, to offset the white, bevelled wall tiles. I don’t have pics of these, but they look awesome and the quality as you’d imagine with the Italians, is just amazing. Mind you, so is the price!

The floor tiles in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
The floor tiles in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

I’m especially pleased with some wall tiles I’ve found for the kitchen of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage. These are crazy money but so worth it. I’ve just put a kidney on eBay to pay for them! They are just 7.5cm square each and we’ll have them running around the kitchen units as a splashback. The kitchen itself will feature some very old pieces that I’ve picked up at auctions and antiques showrooms back home in Suffolk. We will have an eclectic mix of traditional Tuscany, combined with a slice of Suffolk. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Kitchen wall tiles in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Kitchen wall tiles in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

We may go for fairly plain wall lighting in most of the rooms, with these natural plaster ones that you simply paint the same colour as the walls, though I’m also looking at some really cool copper and brass ones too! We’ll just be going with fresh, plain white walls for all the internal rooms and then we’ll make sure we have plenty of interest with lots of lamps, furniture, pictures and accessories to spice things up.

Wall lights in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Wall lights in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

I do want to make a statement in the lounge though so will have something like these beautiful picture lights on the walls in there.

Picture lights in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Picture lights in our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

Whilst we are on the subject of lighting, we’ll probably have these beauties on the exterior walls;

Exterior wall lights at our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Exterior wall lights at our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

Ok, I’m off for a meeting now with the builder, architect and project manager, so I hope this little update will start to give you a feel for what’s been happening and how things will start to take shape. I will share some news soon of the sort of furniture I’ve been buying for the house, but rest assured it’ll all feel very ‘Woodfarm’. And I know that’ll go down well with you, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this! 




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Tuscan Holiday Cottage update!

Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage renovation is now properly underway, and should be ready for you to stay in Spring 2020!

Owning a Tuscan Holiday Cottage has been a dream of mine for many years, and finally I can see it happening!

As you may know from our previous posts, we have a Tuscan Holiday Cottage that you will be able to enjoy from 2020. You can read all about it in my launch Blog Page Here.

Holiday Cottage Location
The location of our Tuscan Holiday Cottage in the Garfagnana Valley

‘Trebbio’ will sleep 2-4 and has breath-taking views across the Garfagnana, which is the upper valley of the river Serchio, just 20 minutes North-West of Lucca. It’s just 45 minutes from Pisa, which is only a couple of hours from the UK. So now we have your staycation covered, as well as short breaks or holidays in Italy!

Trebbio - Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Trebbio’ – Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

‘Trebbio’ forms part of a tiny hamlet near a tiny village called Piazza Di Brancoli, on a hillside overlooking the Garfagnana Valley towards Lucca. This is a hilly region, and ‘Trebbio’ is a ten minute drive up from the bottom of the valley.

As I write this in the middle of October 2019, the purpose of this post is to bring you an update on progress. The easiest way to describe the ‘journey’ so far is that it has been both interesting and challenging! I bought the my little Tuscan Holiday Cottage for the location and it’s stunning views. It required a full renovation, which is nothing new to me having done this sort of thing for many years in England. But they work a little differently out there!

The legal side of things

The legal side of buying and renovating in Italy is very tight and the purchase was really efficient! I actually enjoyed the process; I viewed the property in November 2018 and did the equivalent of exchange of contracts just one month later, on my birthday in December, a week before Christmas. I hadn’t told any of the people that it was my birthday, so there was some confusion and head-scratching in the room when we were going through the contract and tying up dates!

Present with me at that meeting, I had my estate agent, an interpreter, the architect, the solicitor, a paralegal, and the vendor! You all sit around, go through the contract, iron out any queries and then sign it! Similarly at completion you have the same process, with the addition of a bank manager coming in to take a cheque from me to clear the outstanding vendor’s mortgage as part of the purchase price. They don’t trust anyone!

Contract signing for our Tuscany Holiday cottage

I then engaged the estate agent to act as project manager because I have to steer the ship over on the UK. The usual shenanigans then ensued, with getting quotes from three builders, which all took some considerable time as it is a very formal process. I ended with detailed quotes on an excel spreadsheet that they call a ‘Preventivo’. This is the foundation of the contract with the builder.

A stubborn Englishman

I shan’t bore you with all the details here, as my friends have all had that, but it has taken months of me making it very clear, that despite all efforts to the contrary, that I am not prepared to pay more than I should for any part of the work. I made it pretty apparent that I have renovated a lot of properties in the UK and that I was not some wealthy foreign developer with bottomless pockets. But this didn’t seem to have any impact.

Anyway, we finally agreed on things and engaged a builder, whose work I have seen, and it is excellent!

A well-meaning mate

In July I was moaning to my mate Steve over a curry that things were dragging on and on and that they want so much money for everything. They wanted €2,500 just to take the tiles up, which is not the most skilled of jobs on a renovation! Being retired and an all-round thoroughly decent egg, he said “I’ll go over and give you a hand if you like”.

A week later, the poor unsuspecting man was sat with his eyes wide open, looking like a rabbit in the headlights, on a Pisa-bound plane, regretting ever opening his mouth!

With suitcases packed full of knee pads, gloves, masks and goggles we got cracking. Literally! 

Steve wondering how he ended up as the first guest in the Woodfarm Tuscany Holiday cottage!

Three days of smashing up floor and wall tiles in the full heat of the Italian Summer is quite tiring I can tell you! We got through about 5 or 6 litres of water each per day just to keep hydrated! We got a lot of cuts and bruises from flying tiles but I’ll spare you those photos!

Me removing tiles from our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

At least we created a nice piece of modern art in the garden! I’ve had the Saatchi Gallery on the phone asking if we’d part with it but I’m holding out for a better price! Maybe I should approach the ‘Loo-uvre’? Sorry, couldn’t resist!

Modern art at our Tuscan Holiday Cottage

On our first night there, Sting was playing as part of the Lucca Festival. We tried to get tickets but it was completely sold out. However, we got the best seats right outside the nearest restaurant to the town square and listened to the whole set over dinner, watching Sting’s head bobbing up and down when we craned our necks! It’s quite an experience having dinner, whilst singing “Just a castaway, an island lost at sea-oh”, with a bunch of complete strangers!

You’d have thought that I could have called Sting for tickets as we are now neighbours. Mind you, his Tuscan house is a little grander than mine!

Sting's Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Sting’s Tuscan Holiday Cottage

During our time there, we got adopted by a local cat who hung around every day to ‘help’. The only thing he helped us with was eating our lunch! We named him ‘Gordon’, in honour our Sting experience.

Gordon the cat at our Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Gordon the cat at our Tuscan Holiday Cottage, hanging around waiting for lunch

After three days of toil and sweat (and the aforementioned blood) we had removed all the tiles, ready for the builders to begin their bit! As a reward on day four I let Steve have the afternoon off so I could show him around the area!

Time off from working on the Woodfarm Tuscan Holiday Cottage
Time off from working on the Woodfarm Tuscan Holiday Cottage – we got photobombed by our new German friends!

Roll on to the middle of October 2019, and more mullarkey with overquoting on tiling as well as a few other things, we finally agreed everything. The builders started work on the Woodfarm Tuscan Holiday Cottage on Wednesday 9th October, just 8 months after I took ownership! I decided from the start to adopt a very Italian philosophy to the project in order to avoid unnecessary stress. Couple this with my determination not to pay over the odds for everything, it has certainly taken longer to get to this point than I’d anticipated! First world problems and all that!

Be a Woodfarm Tuscany VIP and hear about availability first!

VIP Tuscany signup button

Anyway, all being well, we should be able to open the doors for you in the Spring of 2020. I’ll have to keep popping over in the meantime to make sure it’s all going well for you. Not sure Steve will want to join me again in a hurry though!

If you’d like to be amongst the first to hear when we release availability, then sign up to our Tuscany VIP group HERE

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Dog-Friendly Holiday Cottage in Tuscany

VIPooch - Dogs return FREE to Woodfarm

Our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany is Dog-Friendly too! We are delighted to have been awarded the Pets Welcome accreditation by the VisitEngland governing body ‘Quality in Tourism’ which backs up our approach to pet-friendly holidays in Suffolk. We just carry this ethos and approach over to Tuscany, giving you peace of mind.

Just like our Barges & Barns in Suffolk, our Holiday Cottage in Tuscany is also Dog-Friendly. We welcome up to three dogs. It’s unlikely for UK guests to be taking their dogs unless you’re driving and making it a longer trip. We’ve made sure that option is there for you, as well as for European guests, closer to our Tuscan home.

Fully Enclosed Garden

You can rest assured that your pooches are safe and can nip out for a wee. They can enjoy our own little slice of the Tuscan countryside whilst you put your feet up and chill out.

Dog Walks on your doorstep

‘Trebbio’ is in the country, nestled on a hillside overlooking the Garfagnana Valley. You have fabulous dog walks right from your front door, ensuring happy dogs every day! Jump in the car and drive down to the river and there are countless spots to stop and walk the dogs, with some breathtaking scenery.

Dogs Welcome Award from Visit England. There is a point to this…

Ok, we know it isn’t in England but the point is, that you can rest assured that our approach in Italy is the same as in England. To be fair, your dogs may not be too excited about this, but this award does give you the comfort that we meet the exacting standards set out by Visit England.

Dog Treats

We leave doggy treats in all the Barges & Barns in the UK, and we do it in Italy too! We have a great selection box from Bob & Lush that we leave for our canine guests.

Dog-Friendly Bars

The Italians love their dogs and there are loads of bars around the area that will welcome your dogs. When dogs are happy, humans are happy. It’s quite simple really.

Roaring log fire to snuggle up by

‘Trebbio’ has a fabulous open fire that your dogs will love. It’s in the kitchen / dining room so as it’s all fairly open plan, they’ll be able to relax and hear that you’re nearby, wherever you are in the house.


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Florence is a magical city and within easy reach of our holiday cottage in Tuscany.

Only an hour and a half from our holiday cottage in Tuscany and surely on your bucket list?

Steeped in history and an absolute Mecca for tourists, it really is a must if you have a midweek or week long break with us. I only say that as it’s a 3 hour round trip, but it still makes Florence very doable.

I first went there about 20 years and again with my Daughter 15 years ago. Having been back again recently, it’s still as exciting. Stunning architecture around every corner, you can just feel a magic here.


I’ve been in touch with a great travel blogger called Indiana Jo and this is her photo as I love it! And this is her guide to Florence so do have a look for more info.

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Montecatini Alto and the Funiculare

Montecatini Alto and the Funiculare Tuscany

Sat above Montecatini is Montecatini Alto, which can be reached by car but it’s probably more fun to take the ‘Funiculare railway’.

It’s well over a hundred years old but is still fully functional. If any of you have been to Capri, there’s one there. Actually it’s there whether you’ve been or not!

It’s a medieval village built in the Romanesque style of the 12th century. There’s a picturesque Church there, with a white marble baptismal font, and a series of important and famous frescoes. In addition to the churches there it’s worth visiting the ruins of the ancient walls that defended Montecatini hundreds of years ago.

The view from Montecatini Alto

For art lovers, a visit to the art academy “Scalabrino” is an absolute must, which you’ll find in the spa area. If all that wasn’t enough, it’s also great if you’re into haute couture shops.

For more information there’s an official website for Montecatini

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Montecatini Terme

Montecatini Terme Tuscany

Medieval thermal baths just 3/4 of an hour from our house. It is considered as one of the biggest spa towns in Italy and to be honest, a bit like Pisa with its tower, this is what it’s known for. That said, there’s plenty more to see here too


Click here to find out more about Montecatini


Thermal waters and spas

Not only can you have everything from saunas and beauty treatments, to massages and mud baths, you can actually drink the waters of the Terme di Montecatini!


You have nine thermal centres to choose from and architecturally speaking, the spas of Montecatini offer a fabulous example of open-air Art Nouveau


Viale Verdi is worth a visit; also known as “Vialone dei Bagni”. Bagni literally translates to bathroom but of course in this case refers to the baths, as opposed to a toilet!  Wander the length of the Viale and you’ll find;

The “Palazzina Regia”, which is days gone by was the summer residence of the Medici family

The War Memorial in the Royal Park, opposite to the Town Hall

Then the Town Hall itself, built just over a hundred years ago

The Padiglione dei Sali (Pavilion of salts) This is at the entrance of the Verdi theatre; in days gone by it was where salts were sold but is now home to a number of businesses.

The fountains

There are some amazing fountains in Montecatini Terme. Some within the spas themselves, as well as within the streets and squares. The most important notable are the Fountain Mazzoni in the square in front of the railway station, the Guidotti Fountain in Piazza del Popolo and the Fountain of Shingu, which surrounds the two spas of Leopoldine and Tettuccio in Piazza Giusti at the end of the long Vialone dei Bagni.