Florence, Italy (Vrbo): Some people dream of lounging on pristine white beaches all vacation long. Others have visions of busily exploring a new city or summiting a new peak. But those who are truly one of a kind long to spend their break from the daily grind living like a Medici. The latter crave vast grounds, epic ballrooms, and frescoes as far as the eye can see. For those with aristocratic dreams, only a holiday home like the historic Villa Le Rose in the Tuscan countryside will do. This Renaissance villa is overflowing with that coveted authenticity (by way of its 15th century heritage) and convenience (only 10 minutes from Florence), while still maintaining a regal distance in the countryside between its high-falutin’ habitants (aka you!) and the city bourgeoisie.
It’s good to get the most dramatic details out of the way first. Yes, your next vacation could feature a fully frescoed ballroom. While the home does come fully staffed—a phrase that any pretenders to the ducato will consider their secret password—hiring a string quartet, inviting guests of only the right sort, and teaching them to do a proper tarantella are up to you.
Please notice the hunting trope prominently on display in both the wall art and statuary in this stately entryway. We believe this is requirement No. 2 in the handbook for how to properly decorate a home for the landed gentry. What is requirement No. 1, you ask? That’s obviously the stipulation that the home’s residents and staff—both of whom traditionally live in the house full-time, we might remind you—are not to lay their heads to rest in the same vicinity of the dwelling. It’s upstairs/downstairs for a reason, my dear Medici.
Oh good, there’s a Steinway ready to go just in case Andrea Bocelli happens to drop by for dinner. (Your vacations surely feature such esteemed guests, no?) We hope your holiday party includes someone who can tinkle the keys in accompaniment.
This is a bona fide villa, which means it has plenty of rooms (seven) and bathrooms (eight) to house all of your guests (up to 14). But laying your head down in a bed that makes you feel like a principessa? That’s just the icing on this many-tiered cake.
The one beef we have with regal country homes is their lack of creativity when it comes to naming rooms. May we introduce you to—drumroll, please—the Blue Living Room. This sitting room received the Michelangelo treatment in 1780, though by someone who was plying the fresco trade nearly three decades after the Old Master fancied up the Sistine’s ceiling.
This room goes to show that mounting the spoils of your hunt isn’t always a low brow move. It’s no surprise given its age (the home in its current Renaissance incarnation dates back as far as the 15th century), that this villa is full of history. During WWII, for instance, this home was “borrowed” by the U.S. Army who turned it into perhaps the fanciest quarters one lucky group of officers had ever had the privilege of calling (stolen) home.
The view through this window gives just a taste of the treasure that is the Tuscan countryside. You will be happy to know that the approach to the house is equally dramatic, with a long driveway lined with cypress trees leading to the front door.
There is a very good reason why this pool, beyond being fetching and nontraditional, has taken an unusual shape. For centuries, the villa’s horse coral was on this very spot. But when cars rendered horses more of a hobby than an everyday means of transportation, the space was given a very summery makeover.
The home has received some nips and tucks over the year, but has largely remained architecturally the same for centuries. Despite it always being a giant and fabulous villa, its early days were also filled with practical applications. For instance, early in its life, the ground and basement floors were reserved for family rooms while the top floor was used for wheat storage. We assume back then, when you couldn’t sleep you counted grains of wheat in your head.
People of a certain set want it all, and all they shall get. So no, you don’t have choose between an olive grove and a vineyard at Villa Le Rose—you can have them both just outside your very dapper walls.
Even the showers have a little artistic flare. This is where you might wash off the sweat after spending a day outside wandering your grounds. Why would you spend so much time on said grounds, you’re wondering? First of all, there are over 27 acres of them. Secondly, in addition to the aforementioned vineyard and olive grove, there is also a lake where you can spot the local wildlife, and two famously designed and meticulously manicured gardens, the Porcinai Garden and the Cedar Garden.
Speaking of land as far as the eye can see, there is room on the Villa Le Rose grounds for you to land your helicopter. We repeat: You can arrive to your vacation via a bird in the air and no one on this property will blink twice.
When you have a house this old, you can bet your 17th-century petticoats that it has gone through more than a few renovations. Despite getting a modern refresh as recently as 2004, the basement, which hosts the kitchen and breakfast room, has retained its authentic 15th-century appearance. Please give a little curtsey to the bread oven in the corner.
The one bad thing about vacation—the only bad thing—is that they all eventually end. This villa may fulfill all of your Italian Renaissance fantasies, but it is important that we add one important disclaimer: The hosts offers no guarantee that when you return to your real life, your staff (aka your exasperated family) will continue to address you as Duchessa.
Book Your Stay: Villa Le Rose, Florence, Italy, $7,900 per night