Villas in Italy
Italy is quintessential villa country and bedazzles us with beds with a view. How would European art-house cinema have survived without saturation coverage of Tuscan tower-houses, gracious lakeside villas or Palladian piles? But even at the more modest end of the market there’s room at the inn.
At the luxury end of the scale, you may be salivating over timeless villas and palatial apartments that evoke tales of Papal rivalries, or Casanova-style escapades with lusty nuns. But, this being Italy, even modest villa and apartment conversions may boast the odd frescoes, marble halls – and views over vineyards once fought over by rival city-states. Your bed might even occupy a monastic bolt-hole, a Milanese designer den or a converted hay-loft.
Choosing your view is paramount. For lovers of seductive settings, Italy bewitches. The drama of the Alps gives way to Piedmont’s patchwork of wine estates. The glittering ‘lake district’, framed by the jagged pinkish peaks of the Dolomites, creates the illusion of the Mediterranean meeting the mountains. Emilia Romagna’s castle-encrusted hills rival Tuscany. Chiantishire is a gentle vision of olive groves, cypresses, vineyards and Medicean villa gardens. Domesticated Tuscany melds with the hazy spirituality of Umbria’s green hills. Further south, Campania’s natural wonders are as wild as Italy gets, from a smouldering volcano to belching, sulphurous springs and eerie lakes that ancient myths refer to as the gateway to Hell.
Budget, size, season and setting are the variables you need to bear in mind. Love Italy operators are often specialised in different regions but tend to know each property intimately. Many companies pride themselves on catering for individual requirements. It might be a recommendation for a romantic beach getaway in Sardinia, or a sprawling villa in Lazio to suit a luxurious house-party. Many properties have maid service and the rest is a la carte – from food hampers to a babysitter, full-time chef – or even a yacht charter.
For a special occasion, consider succumbing to a lakeside retreat. Lake Garda boasts ‘Liberty’ villas, Italian art nouveau, with belle époque or neo-classical villas around Lake Como.
For a holiday in style, an archetypal Chianti villa might spring to mind, or a Medicean villa near Florence. But also look beyond Chiantishire to the lovely areas around Siena, Lucca, or Cortona. Tuscany has been landscaped since time immemorial, with the Val d’Orcia, south of Siena, tempting you with a graceful villa overlooking clusters of cypresses, ribbons of plane trees, vineyards on the slopes, and farms perched on limestone ridges.
If looking for a good-value family break, ideally with a pool and easy access to the ‘cities of art’, consider Umbria, Le Marche and Emilia Romagna. In the rugged hinterland behind Rimini are quaint medieval villages (borghi medievali) full of quirky apartments. These make a cosy base for exploring Ravenna, Bologna and Ferrara – as well as the sandy Adriatic beaches.