I travelled to Villa Elena for a week in June and was welcomed to the sight of Prosecco, Parma ham and a Pint! Villa Elena is very close to Pontremoli and Villafranca, towns you can catch trains to Parma, Pisa, Florence etc. though I would advise you to hire a car as there are many sights to spend a day at. I travelled West as far as Portofino (where I moor my yacht when I'm not using it) and hiked along the Cinqueterra. I still only achieved about 50% of what I had set out to do in that week (didn't get near the Carrara mountains).
This is the ideal place for couples and families alike who want to get away from the cities and enjoy the true Italian experience. Helen and Jimmy are there to give you sightseeing guidance using Helen's very detailed guidebook but also allow you to enjoy the peace and tranquillity you can only get up in the Italian Mountains.
We have just had the most amazing holiday & I highly recommend this villa & location. If you're looking for a slice of real rural Italy close to medieval cities, villages & towns then you should consider staying at this villa.
The villa is situated in a hamlet, Cravilla where the only commercial premises is the La Pineta hotel. The food there was excellent & really good value.
Since the villa is so rural, access to a vehicle is really essential, but the driveway accessing the villa is extremely narrow & quite challenging. Our fairly moderate sized estate car could just about get through, but a 4x4 might not fit.
Places to visit - we had some fantastic days out - Pisa, Lucca, & Bocci di Magra (amazing gelato!) all within an hour's drive. We also took the train from nearby Villafranca to get to Cinque Terre which is absolutely as beatiful as Google images shows! However the absolute highlights for me was the wild mountain swimming - we found some simply stunningly beautiful canyons, waterfalls, pools & streams. Accessing them involved quite a trek, but they were simply amazing & absolutely free!
Our hosts, Helen & Jimmy were fantastic - really friendly, helpful & sociable - accessible if needed, but also very low-profile if you prefer privacy.
Villa facilities - We are a family of 4 with older children & we had 35 degree temperatures for the whole of our 2 week stay, which was around 10 degrees hotter than would have been typical for the time of year. The pool was fantastic! It is about 10m x 4m & is not chlorinated but managed with salt & algae repellant instead - the result is that whilst you might get slight salt deposits on your sunglasses, the water tastes very close to fresh water (It's not salty). This brought an additional benefit in that every morning & evening we were treated to a flying display from swallows who swoop over the pool to drink from the water as they go.
The villa, itself has everything you need as a base. It has a small quaint kitchen which is well equipped & has retained what appears to be an authentic italian 1950s units & marble work tops. In terms of the 2 bathrooms; one has a shower cubicle & the other has a bath with a hand-held shower head. There are 3 bedrooms, each with a double or king size bed. There is also a single bed in the 2nd bedroom and a sofa bed in the living room.
Bedlinen, bathroom & good sized pool towels are provided.
Overall, staying in Villa Elena (also called Stone Villa) was absolutely perfect for us. We had an amazing time & I thoroughly recommend it.