Self-Catering Villas and Apartment Holidays in Italy
Italy is more than a glorified art museum so catering to your own tastes can be as rewarding as the Renaissance art. The country is full of Leonardo da Vinci landscapes and Piero della Francesca views. All you need is the right ‘room with a view’.
Rural Italy is what most of us dream of. Farm stays (“agriturismo”) embrace everything from staying on a real farm to a converted granary or country estate. But you can often have a similar experience by choosing rural self-catering. This might be in former farm buildings, stables or granaries on an olive-oil or wine estate. On an adjoining farm, you could sample the local produce, from wine, olive oil and salami to home-made bread, cheeses, pasta or jams.
Creative conversions: the self-catering choice may lie between an Umbrian farm-house, a Sicilian manor house, or a truly scrumptioustrullo, a bizarre beehive-house in Puglia. In Puglia, the masseria fortificata, the authentic rural residence, traditionally doubled as a fortress and a family-run working farm. But many have been converted into luxurious country retreats.
Location location: look beyond the typical tourist haunts and you should find excellent value for money and a warm welcome. This is true of much ofthe South. It should also be true of such unspoilt regions as rural Abruzzo,Liguria, Puglia, Le Marche, and Emilia Romagna.
In Matera, in deepest Basilicata, cave dwellings are enjoying a makeover after Mel Gibson’s controversial movie, The Passion of Christ, was filmed there. The cool cave-apartments reveal a labyrinth of Stone Age walls, carved out of tufa-stone, with views over a lunar landscape.
But even in perennially popular Tuscany and Umbria, there are still `secret’ discoveries. The same is true of Lake Garda, the ski resorts, and on the most sought-after islands. If hunting for the perfect family beach apartment, be prepared to choose between a pricier, more functional beachside haunt and a rural apartment that is still only a short hop from the coast. Given the need for insider knowledge, trust a specialist tour operator rather than a random web search.
Art-house chic: In the classic art cities, particularly Florence, Rome and Venice, the rental prices might seem high but bear in mind the savings to be made by dining in rather than dining out. The appeal of a city-centre apartment also includes a superior sense of feeling like a native, whether shopping for fish on Venice’s Rialto market – or actually living in a Renaissance apartment in Renaissance Florence. Smug-ness is part of the appeal, as is sheer convenience.
While the typical self-catering rental period is a week, some savvy operators also offer short breaks, including in Le Marche and Tuscany. There is usually a premium to be paid for a pool, coastal or city centre location but booking early through a specialist operator is still the safest bet.