Italy is a great choice for a villa holiday, offering a fantastic selection of rental properties, plus a national cuisine that lends itself to self-catering.
Most holiday villas are designed for families and have plenty of facilities for children. While the most popular regions remain Tuscany and Umbria, many travellers prefer to travel to quieter and cheaper areas, such as Le Marche.
Here we’ve identified five of the best villa holidays in Italy.
Borgo della Meliana Villa, Tuscany
Best for location
In the heart of Tuscany is Borgo della Meliana Villa, perfectly located for day trips to Pisa, Florence and Siena. Situated near ancient villages such as San Gimignano and Certaldo, the property is surrounded by vineyards and rolling countryside.
The villa is made up of 11 apartments that are all spacious and individually decorated, and all guests have use of the pool and whirlpool bath.
Seligo product manager Simonne Fairbanks said: “San Gimignano is a beautiful, typically Italian town, filled with historic buildings. There are plenty of restaurants and bars and it’s the perfect place in which to relax for a week.”
Sample package: Seligo is offering a week’s stay in a one-bedroom apartment sleeping a maximum of four people at Borgo della Meliana for £598 in September 2008, excluding flights and car hire. Visitors can rent classic cars on site. Golf, horse riding and tennis are available nearby.
Villa Orizzonti, Le Marche
Best for child-friendly facilities
Villa Orizzonti is situated in the little-known region of Le Marche. Although the scenery is as stunning as Tuscany and Umbria, prices are lower and there are fewer tourists.
Despite enjoying a secluded setting, Villa Orizzonti is only 10 minutes’ drive from the ancient town of Tolentino, which is famous for its spa.
The family-run villa has great facilities for kids – there is a basketball net plus a pool with mini sun loungers for youngsters. The house also has an annexe where teenagers could stay for more freedom and privacy.
In addition, there is a good stock of CDs, DVDs and books. Local activities include go-karting and swimming in a nearby lake, while the coast is just a 40-minute drive away.
Vintage Travel operations manager Lisa Hall said: “There is stunning scenery and good access to the beach. It’s very family-friendly.”
Sample package:Vintage Travel is offering a week’s stay for up to six people in May 2008 for £995, not including flights or car rental. This increases to £1,250 to hire the annexe, accommodating two more people.
Casa Coccola, Tuscany
Best for stunning scenery
Casa Coccola is set in Tuscany’s renowned rolling green countryside. The main house sleeps six and there is a cottage that sleeps two – ideal for a couple, grandparents or teenagers who want privacy.
The pool area affords fabulous views and there is also a covered eating area with a barbecue and rotisserie. The beautifully kept gardens are perfect for a stroll.
Cottages to Castles director Jonathan Magoni said: “The villa and the cottage have been renovated, decorated and furnished as if the owners were going to live there themselves and this creates an instant homely feel. The kitchen is fully equipped and reflects the passion the owners have for food. It is the perfect family-sized property.”
The small town of Terontola is a mile away, while Cortona is three miles away, offering a selection of shops and banks.
Sample package:Cottages to Castles offers seven nights at Casa Coccola for £529 per person, based on up to eight people sharing, for July 2008, including flights and the hire of a nine-seater Fiat Ducato.
Villa Il Lago, Umbria
Best for large families
With room to sleep up to 10 people, Villa Il Lago is an ideal property for a big family get-together.
Situated in Umbria, this sprawling stone house is cheaper than similar properties in Tuscany but is within easy touring distance of Italian cities such as Perugia and Assisi, as well as lesser-known historic medieval towns. The house has a pool, picturesque gardens and a barbecue area.
Nearby is Lake Trasimene, where there are plenty of opportunities for water sports and lake swimming: a perfect alternative to a beach holiday.
Sample package: Hoseasons offers a week’s stay for £879 (£88 per person per week if occupied by 10) in April, May, September and October 2008, excluding flights and car rental.
Villa Caterina, Tuscany
Best for luxury
Villa Caterina in southern Tuscany is a charming, rustic property that is typical of the region, with natural stone walls and a homely atmosphere. Situated in a quiet, picturesque area at the foot of the hill, the nearest town, Cortona, is four miles away.
The attractive garden is a riot of flowers, shrubs and trees. There is also a fishpond and a private freeform swimming pool. The patio has a barbecue and furniture for outside dining.
Horse riding is available at the nearby village of Frantoio. The Hotel Relais Il Falconiere, with its Michelin-starred restaurant, is a short walk away.
Sample package:Citalia offers a week’s stay at Villa Caterina for £993 for up to seven people in May 2008. The price excludes flights.