As an exhausted mum with a four-month old baby, I was desperate for a break and a little 'me-time'. A friend recommended the 'Mum and Baby Experience' in Tuscany, so I booked onto their yoga and cookery holiday.
There were two other mums and four children - aged from 16 months to 14 years - on the five-night escape. Our home for the duration was Villa Radicata, a 300-year old farmhouse in the quiet village of Caprese Michelangelo. Positioned at the end of a bumpy track, it has gorgeous views over Lago di Montedoglio and the surrounding hills.
The breaks are hosted by Rita Kobrak, a London-born Italian, who was inspired by her own travels with daughter Alessia, now seven. She wanted to prove how it's possible to have a positive travelling experience with kids!
The Mum and Baby Experience promises relief from the 24-7 childcare routine at home, largely thanks to helpers such as Fernanda. A true Italian mamma, Fernanda is known as the 'baby whisperer' as babies just seem to love her. She's also an exceptional cook and each day taught us how to make a variety of Italian classics, from fresh pasta and aubergine parmigiana to tiramisu.
Rita and Fernanda use local produce where possible and many of the vegetables are grown in Fernanda's own garden, while the breakfast eggs are laid by her chickens. The kids are encouraged to get involved and loved kneading the pizza dough, before watching it being cooked in the wood-fired oven outside.
Whatever is made in the afternoon is the dinner that evening, served alongside free-flowing Italian Chianti and Pinot Grigio. Mealtimes are social affairs around a large communal table in the dining room or on the terrace outside.
The thing I liked most about living with Rita and her young family - she also has a son Sebastiano, aged 20 months - is that it offers an authentic taste of Tuscan life. Days are relaxed and everyone is made to feel at ease, with an 'open door' policy on the well-stocked fridge!
The villa is cool and dark inside, with tiled floors and shuttered windows. Everything has been carefully thought out with children and babies in mind. There's a wide selection of toys and books, as well as practical items such as bottle sterilisers and monitors, plus a cot in each bedroom.
Of the five bedrooms, three are double en-suites and two smaller ones share a bathroom. A lounge on the first floor has comfy sofas for collapsing in and bouncers and play mats for the little ones.
Twice daily yoga is practised on a grassy ledge by the pool, with sun and shade options. Instructor Renata taught a relaxing Ayurvedic style of yoga aimed at giving mums a well-earned hour to themselves, in order to breathe, stretch and relax.
While dads are welcome on the breaks it was a real bonding experience to get together with other mums and share stories over a glass of wine. It was the first holiday I've ever been on where everyone was in bed by 9:30pm - something I fail to do at home as I find myself doing the washing or some other dull task.
It's also possible to rent out Villa Radicata for a self-catering family holiday (including cook, babysitting, spa treatments, yoga, pizza and pasta making).
I'd definitely recommend this as a relaxing break for mums and their babies - or older children.