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Entrepreneurs: Travel & Experiences

Aug 01, 2016 Velocity - Cityjet
Chianti Wine Tour

Tuscany Now & More turns 25 this year, and co-founder Simon ball is celebrating the milestone by overhauling its offering to include tailor-made experiences in the area, as well as luxury villas.

Simon Ball founded TuscanyNow, marketing his parents‘ farmhouse and a new neighbouring properties to holiday makers. The impetus for setting it up was the realisation that the agencies previously tasked with marketing the properties were selling them short, with short seasons and sky-high prices, Simon’s connection to Tuscany stems from his childhood, growing up in the hills near Florence from the age of 14. He studied at art school in Florence, then trained in architecture, and met his wife in the region.

This summer, TuscanyNow has become TuscanyNow&More, offering more than lust accommodation. “A change was needed as offering a house on a hill top with a private pool was not enough: explains Simon. ‘There are many portals that offer this, so I decided we needed to invest in offering more services and experiences, such as wine tours, cooking lessons, cycling tours and so on. At the same lime, my father and mother had passed away and my siblings wanted to sell our home. You could say that the raison d’etre of TuscanyNow was slowly melting away and we needed a rebirth. TuscanyNow&More has more front office staff dedicated to looking after our clients after they have chosen the house they want to stay in.” TuscanyNow&More is based in offices in London and Barcelona, with 14 internal staff, external specialists and around 400 people working to make sure the 180-plus exclusive rental properties are “all up to scratch and that our clients get the best service possible.’ since starting the company at the beginning of the 1990s. Simon says there’s been I dramatic shift in the holiday property rental market. ‘Every house, even if it’s an apartment on the 10th floor, is now called a villa, and the word luxury is overused to the point that it now means very little.” he says. “So many companies, especially the larger ones, state that they know each home’s location, which, sadly, is not the case. “There are very few companies that really know each house, each manager and that only have staff at the end of the email or phone that are from that same territory. All our front desk staff, in sales, accounts or concierge, are from Italy and visit me houses in spring and in autumn. A bit of magic has been lost in renting a villa, it’s more like buying a commodity off a supermarket shelf.’ Simon attributes that change in part to the rise of companies such as Airbnb, which have ‘enabled the market to be flooded by properties, but there’s a total lack or quality control.”

Quality is paramount for TuscanyNow&More, which has been pushing villa owners to make improvements such as adding air-conditioning, heating the pool, installing hot tubs and creating better shaded areas over the last three years. It’s also constantly looking to expand the property portfolio, with recent acquisitions including a small castle near Florence. The best bit on the job, Simon says, is working with the owners. ‘We have houses owned by a famous bone surgeon, a prince, a senator, a renowned Italian architect, writers, painters, sculptors… People that come from many walks or life, and I have to speak a lot of time with them in italy and try to get under their skin to ensure a strong working relationship.

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