Creative destinations and tips for Italian villa holidays

Be inspired to book your Italian villa holiday with this guide. It ranges from the craggy Alps and shimmering waters of Lake Garda all the way to the temple-topped beaches of Sicily, offering up wanderlust-stoking pictures of the possible destinations that await anyone on their way to the Boot this year.

What to expect on Italian villa holidays

A home away from home in the rolling Tuscan hills or the wooded gorges of Umbria is something plenty of travellers dream of. But what does it mean in practice? And what are some of the central features of these sorts of stays?

A rustic Italian cottage

A whole load of holiday rentals in Italy are farm conversions or rural cottages that have been spruced up into a modern space. They upshot is that you still get the creature comforts – a swimming pool, a big kitchen, a plush lounge – but laced with an authentic vibe, meaning architectural features like real-stone walls and terracotta patios are common, while bucolic locations near sleepy Tuscan villages and Campanian hill towns can be picked.

A private pool of your own in Italy

The private pool is what takes the humble Italian cottage and gives it that edge of luxury. However, because summers in these parts of Europe can regularly see the mercury rise above 30 degrees in the day, and many villas sit nestled far from the Adriatic or the Ligurian seas, you might find that your own place to swim is as indispensable as that evening Prosecco.

Self-catering Italian villa holidays

Almost all Italian villa holidays are in self-catering homes. In fact, Italians take pride in the importance of their cooking space, with large-scale family kitchens the norm. Local fares in market towns like Cortona in Tuscany or Orvieto in Umbria, to name just 2, are a great way to source local ingredients – handmade buffalo mozzarella, crunchy pesto, Parma ham. Pizza lovers should also watch out for wood-fired ovens in their villa rentals. Many come with a traditional baking stove for just that in the garden.

Places to have Italian villa holidays near the beach

While a swimming pool might take care of the cooling off and the serrated tops of the Apennines certainly make for a dramatic backdrop, some travellers simply won't be able to forgo the salt-filled breezes of the sea. For that, there are plenty of spots in Italy, from shimmering islands to whole coastal regions.

Be immersed in Sicily

Italian cottages and villas are all over the sun-scorched island to the south. It's a truly amazing place to be – overloading the senses with arancini balls and Moorish-style tagines in the street markets of Palermo 1 moment, throwing out turquoise seas along the Syracuse coast the next. You might even be able to bag a rental that has poolside views of smoke-spurting Etna, which rises like a sleeping giant in the heart of the island.

Sardinia for Italian villa holidays

Sardinia is the home of the glimmering Costa Smeralda. It's long been a stomping ground for A-listers and their yachts, touting white-sand bays like Capriccioli and Grande Pevero – regularly mentioned on lists of Italy's finest. Make that gorgeous region your home for a fortnight and you can also drive to explore the island's other mysterious treasures, whether that's the 3,500-year-old Su Nuraxi fortress or the elegant harbourside town of Alghero.

Puglia has loads of coast

The south-eastern end of Italy – the heel of the boot, if you will – extends out between the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic in a patchwork of vineyards and rustic villages. The unique architecture of the area imbues the villas with something special – look out for the trulli houses with their cone-shaped white-rock roofs. Beaches are everywhere but might just hit a zenith with the glinting rocks and coves of the Gargano National Park, in the north of the region.

Inland places for Italian villa holidays

A taste of rural Italy is what many people mean when they say they're pining for an Italian villa holiday. This is quintessential southern Europe, a land where undulating vineyards roll into pine-scented mountains, where paint-peeling farms give way to red-tiled villages and their espresso-clinking cafes. There's a lot to love.

A traditional Italian villa holiday in Tuscany

Tuscany has long been the king of the classic Italian villa holiday. It covers a massive cut-out of land, rolling from the foothills of the Apennine Mountains to the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Between those borders, some of the country's greatest draws can be found, whether it's the totemic art shows of Florence, the marble monuments of Pisa or the red-tinted buildings of San Gimignano – a particularly irresistible Tuscan village with excellent wines.

Consider the Italian Lakes

Italy might draw the eye with its shimmering Sicilian seas and verdant Tuscan farms, but never forget that there are soaring mountains here, too. Crashing upwards just north of Bergamo, they shroud what's known as the Italian Lakes region. It includes the great Lake Garda, famed for its deep waters, castle towns like Malcesine, and proximity to the Dolomites, along with lesser-known lakes like Iseo, where green summits tower over romantic, cobblestone Lovere.

Marche for off-the-beaten-track Italian villa holidays

Marche has the mountains and the coast in its repertoire, only in this oft-overlooked region you might just have them to yourself. Plenty of villas stud the grass-green Sibillini peaks as they spill down to the palazzos of Macerata and the handsome church tops of Urbino. They should also be relatively easy to get to, what with a port at Ancona and airports in nearby Bologna and Rimini.