Breakfasts during the week are most often a real rushed affair. I sling a bowl of weetabix down my throat whilst simultaneously slurping half a cup of tea and trying to persuade Maya to eat her breakfast like a civilised human being before rushing out to work. So, where possible, we try to make weekends count by sitting down to breakfast as a family (note: ‘where possible’and ‘try’).
One of the opportunities offered to guests at Villa Pia is a two-hour Italian cookery class in which pupils can learn how to make pasta, gnocchi, various sauces, and other dishes including desserts. I cook a lot at home but jumped at the chance to learn more about authentic Italian home cooking (also it was two hours without parenting duties). So, along with two of my fellow holiday-makers, Ruth and Helen, I signed up.
We really needed a holiday. Our son, Asher, is just about eight months old and our daughter, Maya, is soon to turn three. It’s been a wonderful but exhausting eight months and we really needed a holiday.
We were recommended Villa Pia by a friend and it seemed to fit the bill. Requirements were; plenty of entertainment and activities on-site to keep Maya happy and occupied, other children for her to play with, facilities to make staying with a baby comfortable, and of course, great food. Villa Pia is all-inclusive too, so there are no worries about what and where to eat while we’re there.
Down a track on the hillside opposite a castle in the tiny Umbrian village of Lippiano, Villa Pia boasts a spectacular setting. We were greeted and shown to our room by Aniko. We’d booked inter-connecting rooms and what we got was essentially a two-bed apartment (minus the kitchen) – our own private corridor with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Perhaps not five-star luxury, but lovely, clean and full of character for sure.
At Villa Pia the children are served dinner at 6pm before the adults sit down to a beautiful, home-cooked four course meal at around 8pm. In the summer months I believe dinner is served outside in the courtyard but it was a bit chilly for that when we went in October so we ate in the large converted barn. Although on the first night, we were struggling to get our little delights to sleep in time for dinner so the staff very kindly served our meal in the dining room next to our bedroom.
A buffet lunch is served at 1pm and I don’t even know how they do it. There are around twenty dishes lined up on the table from cold salads, to tarts, to pasta to chicken wings, ribs, sausages grilled on the open fire, the list goes on. During our stay it was absolutely delicious every day.
At eight months, Asher was the youngest child there during our stay and a lot of what was served up was not really suitable for him. The staff were incredibly accommodating though and produced an individual meal (pretty much adult sized too!) every lunch and dinner. Asher is new to eating solids and in the week we stayed at Villa Pia he came on immensely due in no small part to the kindness and hospitality of the kitchen staff.
Thursday is the one day of the week that lunch and dinner is not provided. Breakfast is served as normal, but after that, you’re on your own. It’s probably no bad thing either as it forces you to go out into the local area and eat elsewhere. I was loath to go anywhere throughout the week that would cause us to miss out on the lunch. We took a day trip to Perugia, about a hour’s drive south, and had some really good pizza. They were setting up for a big chocolate festival while we were there but, frustratingly, the stalls weren’t allowed to sell us any chocolate as it wasn’t opening till the following day.
There was so much for Maya to do while we were at Villa Pia, from splashing in the pool, throwing herself around in the soft play and bouncing on the trampoline to playing the piano, messing about in the playroom and creating something special in art class. As well as all that there were cookery classes for both adults and children (separate classes I should add!). Maya sat with the other kids and made biscuits, a pastry tart, chocolate muffins and a little pizza. The pizzas were then served up to all the kids at tea time which was really nice. I did the adults cookery course too, but that’s another story.
All in all, we had an incredible time at Villa Pia, so good in fact that we started to plan next year’s trip before we had even left. And the food, oh, the food!
I’m a big fan of ice cream. Possibly not quite as big a fan as Maya, but a big fan nonetheless. In Italy it seems the ice cream, or gelato actually, is on another level.
We’ve spent the last ten days or so on holiday in Tuesday and Umbria. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Italy prior to this but I love Italian food so was excited about the culinary delights that awaited us.
I have not been disappointed. We have eaten wonderful food (and lots of it) every day – more to come on that – and today we had a stupendous Florentine steak.
We love eating as a family, with the kids. There’s little that gives me more satisfaction than seeing my kids eat the food I’ve made for them. Thankfully Maya is a great eater (read pig) and Asher looks to be heading the same way so, more often than not, they both gratefully throw the food down their necks.
Having said that, sometimes it’s lovely to be able to sit and eat dinner in peace, after they’re both tucked up in bed. No flying food, no faces and hands to mop up, no light little fingers stealing food off our plates. We’re able to take our time and really enjoy our meal. Tonight was one of those nights.