Most couples fear that the hotels they swooned over during singledom won't accommodate their "expanded" lifestyle once they enter parenthood. Fear not. Around the world, we're discovering the special spots that work for all phases of life, such as Tuscany's La Bandita. Here, London-based mama-to-two and superstar journalist Katherine Wheelock shares what has brought her back again and again, from engagement to motherhood.
The truth of family vacations is that the moments most enjoyed aren't always shared. The ramble to a working farm was the pinnacle for the kids. Yours was drinking vino bianco in the midday sun, gazing out at the Val d'Orcia. Pienza, as breathtaking a medieval Italian town as any (maybe more so, for its relative serenity within the Tuscan tourist hive), has a magic about it that lets little and big people revel in equal measure—especially if you stay, and you must, at La Bandita. La Bandita Country House sits on a hill on a nature preserve a twenty-minute drive from town; La Bandita Townhouse is on a cobblestoned street right in it, a tantalizing two-minute walk—even for a toddler—from the fantastic trattoria Latte di Luna and X, a gelateria worth traveling for if you're not lucky enough to be staying a toddle away. Both properties are the holy grail for a certain kind of traveler—beautiful, comfortable, food and wine that makes it hard to go elsewhere, and yet not remotely fussy in the way that makes travelers with kids feel constantly apologetic. A 10-minute drive from La Bandita Townhouse, my 1 and 3-year-olds had a gander at donkeys and some fascinating-to-all-of-us pigs; my husband and I drank vino bianco in the midday sun. Back in town, the multigenerational buzz of the piazza pleased all of us, every evening. So when we look back at pictures from long aperitivo hours outside Poppy's, a bar perched on the wall that wraps around town—a bar with one of the most achingly beautiful views we've seen—there's me and my husband, and oh, the kids are right there, having just as good a time as us.
We first came to La Bandita as a soon-to-be-engaged couple on holiday. We share vivid memories of the aperitivo we had by the pool overlooking rolling hills and stalwart cypress trees on a hot July afternoon—the vino bianco, the spritz, the little piles of tender parma ham. That was six years ago, and we've come back nearly every year since; the owners of La Bandita are now dear friends. The time of year we come doesn't really matter. Summer, as it was that day several years ago, is tawny. May is brilliant green. November, when we most often come, as our friends' work has wound down for the season, is a muted golden. The draw remains the same. We were happy then, and with two small children in tow, we are happy still. Very little changes quickly in this part of Italy—and that's a gift.
Katherine Wheelock is a London-based writer and editor whose contributes to the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ and more.