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Staying in an agriturismo (definition of agriturismo) or vacation rental can be a good way to save money on an Italy vacation and the owners often provide valuable information about the area and may include special activities.
I recently stayed at Le Torri Vacation Apartments in the hills south of Florence and recommend it highly. Apartments include a full kitchen (a good way to save money on food) and there's a lovely garden with a barbecue and swimming pool. On Saturday evenings, there's a welcome buffet with typical Tuscan food included in the price.