We are very happy to interview Morag, the owner of Villa Pia, a fantastic Italian family holiday spot on the border of Tuscany/Umbria. Villa Pia has been the sponsor of the Villa Pia Baby Chillout rooms at Big Fish Little Fish parties for the past few years. Hannah and her family adored visiting this baby and toddler-friendly villa which is the ultimate place to relax if you love great food and amazing scenery.
Morag explains why she started her business and how they’ve managed to reopen safely and welcome visitors back after lockdown. There’s also a special offer for our readers at the end of this post!
How long have you owned Villa Pia and what inspired you to open it?
Villa Pia has been going since 1997. I worked in a therapeutic community for children for 10 years and when I had my own children, I wanted to find a way to work and be around for my children as much as possible. It’s a very short time when your children are young and you only get one chance. I also realised that there was very little choice of holidays for families. Self-catering was no rest domestically and a hotel was more stressful as little children tend not to go by the rules all the time. This can be quite stressful for the whole family. So Villa Pia was a mix of my experience of working in a therapeutic environment and wanting to provide maximum relaxation for both parents and children.
What do you think makes Villa Pia stand out from other family holidays?
When Villa Pia first opened there was no alternative to either hotels or the large resort/kids club type of holiday. There is more choice now but I still think Villa Pia stands out for its unique family atmosphere. We are quite small and most of the staff are from the local village and have worked here for 20 years. The food is all locally sourced and the cooks are local Italian women who cook completely genuine Italian food. The atmosphere amongst the staff is that of a family and this transmits throughout the whole environment and service.
How have you and Villa Pia staff been coping with the 2020 crisis?
COVID-19 has been extremely stressful for everyone — staff, guests and me. It has been a huge relief to be able to open up again. There has been no coronavirus around Lippiano, so there is a certain worry about any infection but, on balance, the staff are over the moon to be able to work. Villa Pia felt very strange with no children running around.
Do you think Italy will get back on its feet?
I think Italy will really struggle to get back on its feet. It was already struggling prior to the pandemic and now so many businesses have not been able to open up again. I only hope it stimulates the government to carry out reforms that have been needed for a very long time.
What changes have you made to help visitors feel safe post-lockdown?
We usually have a buffet, breakfast, lunch and children’s dinner. These are still buffets but a staff member serves everyone, so the quality and variety has been maintained. We have transformed the ‘help yourself’ drinks and snacks into a bar system so everything is still available but delivered by a staff member. The cleaners have a special antiviral cleaning product which they use every day and we are also ‘nebulising’ inside and outside every morning — this is a machine that creates a fine mist with products recommended by the Italian health authority. Masks are obligatory inside. I have also reduced the number of families in order to allow for social distancing at meal times and around the pools. The pools are also checked for chlorine levels 3 times a day and all the play equipment and sun loungers are sanitised every morning.
What’s the best thing about collaborating with Big Fish Little Fish?
It’s fantastic to collaborate with BFLF as I think the families who enjoy BFLF also love the atmosphere of Villa Pia. We both have a strong sense of community and fun.
Do you enjoy festival culture and do you have any favourite memories?
I adore Glastonbury and was devastated not to be able to go this year, especially as I was going to be working in the welfare barn. There are so many fabulous memories… dancing in the glades to vinyl soul music, witnessing Barry Gibb look amazed at the response of the crowd… Adele… seeing people in tears as Kate Tempest roared … all the fantastic conversations while waiting for the drop toilets… pulling people out of the mud and masses of laughter… David Attenborough.
How else do you like to let your hair down e.g. hobbies etc?
I completed a foundation in fine art at City Lit last year and discovered a love for ceramics, so I pursue that whenever I can. Otherwise I have a wonderful group of friends whom I love spending time with. The best times are also with my grown up children.
What are your hopes for 2021?
I really hope Covid is behind us and that governments wake up to the dreadful inequality and climate crisis.
To find out more about Villa Pia and for any holiday enquiries, visit www.villapia.com/bookings
**As a special offer for Big Fish Little Fish followers, Villa Pia is giving away £100 discount on a holiday booked off-peak (outside of regular UK school holidays, subject to availability). Quote BIGFISH2020 when you make your holiday booking.