It’s exciting to climb up to a remote village, then snake down through woods on a surprisingly well-paved road. This sturdy three-storey farmhouse has been transformed into a modern retreat with enchanting views and Donatella, a local with perfect English, will be on hand to welcome you.The house is superbly equipped for groups, from the kitchen with double fridges to an outside pizza oven and barbecue. Settle by the fireplace with books, games or DVDs in colder weather, or gather by the heated pool in summer; pick cherries and plums in season and go barefoot on the grass.You can walk to the local restaurant in Vellano, which has no menu, just what’s fresh that day. There are scenic trails – ask your hosts about guided walks – and ten medieval villages within a 15-mile radius, all complete with castle or church tower. The beach and the city of Lucca are less than an hour away.