Luxury baby death-trap with garden

So you thought that villa in Tuscany would be perfect for a family holiday? By Laura Tennant
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The Independent Culture
WHEN I came back from my last child-free holiday, which I'd spent, seven months pregnant, lying by a pool and reading, parents laughed hollowly at my description of the lovely, relaxed time I'd had. That's the last time you'll do that, they told me darkly. Parents take an almost unseemly pleasure in imparting the full enormity of motherhood to their pregnant friends.

It can't be that bad, I thought. But it is. There's a load of stuff you should try to get done before you have children, but one of the more important is acquiring a working knowledge of world literature, because you won't get a chance afterwards. Oh no.

We went to the same Italian villa earlier this year, so I was able to make some direct comparisons. My eight-month-old daughter was able to crawl in reverse gear only, so the house was a minefield of terrifying baby death traps. The two more mobile one-year-olds with whom we were holidaying, accompanied by their parents, were even more likely to topple down the terracotta-tiled staircase, seize pointed or breakable objects from the fashionable doorless cupboards, fall into the swimming pool, or empty the low shelves of their books and magazines.

My daughter is (naturally) a sophisticated baby, but in the event of bad weather, she couldn't be expected to take the same pleasure as we did in the traditional fall-back positions: expeditions by car to soak up the marvels of Renaissance Italy; or trips to restaurants to eat and drink too much. Naive fools that we were, we did try to take her to a restaurant once, reasoning that Italians love babies, but failing to see it's not the Italians who are going to have to deal with the little blighter.

Your only real hope of R&R is enough baby-minded adults to allow a lap- to-lap rota. My mother completely transformed our Italian holiday by baby-sitting while my husband and I went out to lunch. Obviously, I had to ring home after each course to check the little angel was still alive, but oh, the joy of being able to have a conversation with your husband which doesn't include the words bottle or nappy. So guess what we talked about. When to have the next one! It's true. Our brains have been slowly sucked out and replaced by the overwhelming urge to make babies.

By the end of the holiday, we'd had to take a few harsh realities on board:

l Try to find out how child and baby-friendly your villa is before booking.

l There is no point holidaying with childless people, particularly bachelors; you are doing the sisterhood a disservice by putting them off children for life. Other babies will help to amuse your own.

l You want somewhere warm enough so that you can lounge outside while baby scampers safely, but not so hot that you're endlessly applying the factor 45.

l Don't waste money on an expensive holiday with adult pleasures you won't be able to take advantage of.

l Take an au pair or a relative - any relative - someone you can hand the child to from time to time.

You can't expect to return from a holiday with your child feeling relaxed, exactly. But you'll have looked after your baby in slightly hotter, nicer surroundings. If you're lucky, your spouse may also have changed more than his fair share of nappies - a small but significant triumph.