Boutique hotels have always had my heart, but lately I’ve been having an affair with Airbnb. Where the best hotel feels like a luxurious escape and launching point to explore a new place, the best Airbnb feels like playing house (usually in one far nicer than your own!) and trying on a different lifestyle for size. My favorite finds so far have been a Tuscan villa in Healdsburg and a farm house on a goat dairy in Tomales, where, between the two, I learned how to use a pizza oven and make homemade pasta, played croquet and bocce, and helped herd goats and saw how to milk them. Plus, there is no better way to gather a group since many of the options have multiple bedrooms, become more affordable when split across several people and provide the perfect backdrop for quality catch-up time over long meals and lazy mornings. The only downside? Complete and utter real estate envy. Here are some highlights…
Tuscan Villa, Healdsburg
Villa Amici had my husband at “pizza oven and bocce.” It had me at “Tuscan villa,” since we’ve always had a sweet spot for Italy and this charming home with its own vineyards is truly like finding a slice of it in Sonoma. Peacefully nestled in Alexander Valley, it’s an ideal location for soaking up wineries or popping into downtown Healdsburg and led to some of my favorite new discoveries, which I wrote about here if you missed it and are curious. But, if you come armed with groceries and some bottles of wine, you could truly never leave the house and be perfectly content. Between the bocce court and croquet set, a cozy backyard with endless seating options, a stocked and sprawling kitchen for cooking together, and the star – that pizza oven, days and nights quickly come and go. And half of a good Airbnb experience is a lovely owner, which Donna is and then some, leaving loads of tips, quickly responding to any questions and sharing her passion for all things food and wine.
From biking (our own) to croquet to bocce, there are plenty of ways to play. But there are also plenty of places to sit and do absolutely nothing at all.
The pizza oven lured us here and did not disappoint. My husband had an absolute field day making pie after pie, and our friends had an absolute field day eating them all.
Pizza wasn’t the only thing on the menu. A stack of cookbooks we’d been meaning to read from home and a stop at the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market provided plenty of inspiration and ingredients for delicious meals. I’m not going to pretend I cooked a single one, but I sure enjoyed them.
Farm House on Goat Dairy, Tomales
If you read about our pasta making class at Flour + Water, you might remember that we sat next to a wonderful couple, David and Tamara, who own Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Creamery. We loved meeting them and couldn’t wait to visit their farm to try their delicious goat and sheep cheeses. In a crazy, small world circumstance, our friends booked a going away weekend at an incredibly gorgeous farm house that I realized just happened to be theirs! First, the home is truly stunning. It’s modern, rustic, minimalist, warm, artistic, cozy and open all at once. Cue that real estate envy I was talking about. Next, there’s the peaceful property with long walking paths and beautiful views. Then, of course, there are the adorable sheep and goats. You can help herd and milk them or simply be entertained by watching them for hours. Oh, and, the ridiculously good cheese left in the fridge for your arrival is reason alone to visit, though you can also find it at all of these spots. Bonus of the weekend? Finally catching up with Tamara!
The impeccably decorated interior feels straight off a Pinterest board.
Sheep and goats and more sheep and more goats. We especially loved this last one who clearly had a mind of its own.
Don’t worry, hotels. I still can’t resist your upscale feel, 24-hour room service, silky sheets or bustling lounges. But until you give me a homemade pizza oven or help me herd goats, you’ve officially got competition.