Flinging open the shutters the next morning is paradise. Brilliant light, with lavender-grey hills rolling into the distance. Our terrace looks down on to a pool. To the left, a tennis court, to the right, olive trees.
There is a note on the table in large spidery handwriting inviting us to dinner at the pool side to meet the property's American owner.
What a dame. In her 90s, she's had four husbands, each one richer than the last. She has bright blue hair, eyebrows drawn at crazy angles and drips with gold. Her enormous bed holds her phone, a fax machine, books, a bell for her maid, several pairs of glasses and a hand mirror.
The dinner party, with bankers, politicians, and a couple of professors of fine art, yields so many invitations that we are instantly absorbed into Florentine high life. Our fortnight passes in a social whirl of sunning on the terraces of Medici villas, sipping aperitifs at sunset, and eating and dancing under the stars at local wild boar and porcini festivals.
At the end of the best two weeks ever, we go to the signora's villa to thank her. "Well, dahlings," she says. "I just wanted you to enjoy my special part of Italy. I may be in the departure lounge, but I'm not dead yet."
Worst We book a cottage in Ireland because the ad says that it has a resident donkey. Great for the kids, we think.
The ferry crossing is terrible, but the prospect of a pet donkey keeps the two boys focused in between bouts of throwing up.
It rains steadily all the way to County Cork. We drive along without being able to see more than 100 yards ahead. Suddenly we come upon an old lorry stacked with slates. As it goes round the next bend, three fly off and whizz through the air like Frisbees. They bounce off the bonnet but would have decapitated us if the windscreen had shattered.
Things can only get better, we think. Wrong.
The cottage is damp and chilly so we light a fire. One of the boys tries to produce a draught under the peat to get it blazing, but the last tenants haven't cleared the ashes away. Dust and ash fly round the room.
We need to get out of the house, but there isn't much to do in Cork in the rain with a young family. And to get anywhere at all we have to negotiate 20 miles of sunken lanes, fearing badly-loaded lorries at every bend. Of course the television in the cottage does not work, and only two of the four rings on the hob have any life in them.
But what about the donkey? At least we have the donkey to cheer us up.
"Ah sure, the little fella died five years ago. Didn't I tell you?" says the owner over his shoulder on his way down the garden path. We came home in the rain three days ear **
Myra Robinson teaches in Newcastle
Over the summer, The TES Magazine is turning the spotlight from lessons to holidays. Tell us about your best and worst holiday and we'll pay you Pounds 100. Email no more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org