Your guide to booking private villas

Once upon a time, the private villa was the preserve of the elite, drawing Roman emperors and political luminaries to the countryside for bouts of unbridled rest and relaxation. These days, a home away from home on the Tuscan plains or the Spanish costais a possibility for us all, what with so many enticing holiday rentals in the category to pick from.

The standout features of private villas

From Italy's bucolic heart to the French Riviera, villa stays continue to enchant travellers of all types. Here are just some of the reasons they remain such a favourite.

Private villas with their own pool

Visions of glittering swimming pools abound in the private villa rental market. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small splash pools overlooking the Grazalema ridges of Andalusia to hidden 10x12 pools spreading between the cypresses of deluxe Italian estates.

Real seclusion on private villa holidays

Be whisked away to the undulating vineyards of Tuscany or the dust-blown peaks of the Sierra Nevada by picking private villas. So secluded are these stays that the nearest village might even be a car ride away. That said, there are options that put sleepy hill towns and hamlets with cappuccino-clinking cafes within walking distance – you know, for those morning pastries and chats with the locals.

Plenty of space in private villas

You should have plenty of room to drop the luggage, unpack and spread out in private villas. Usually beating cottages on the square metre count, these sorts of rentals can have large lounges, sprawling kitchens and big outdoor spaces for making the most of sultry Spanish evenings under the stars.

The locations of private villas

 There's really no limit to where you can find private villas. Whether you want to wake to the sounds of the sloshing Mediterranean Sea or to sweeping panoramas of the Dinaric Alps, there should be a pad to suit.

Private villas near the beach

The allure of the beach isn't lost on villas with their own private pool and garden. Sometimes, there's nothing like a bout of sand and salty sea. Thankfully, there is accommodation of all sorts in the coastal reaches of the world, ranging from bamboo-clad cabanas in Bali to chic modern condos on the side of Florida's Mexican Gulf.

A private villa holiday in the mountains

Heading for higher ground often means getting a private villa with a view. Take Italy. As the Alps begin to peak above Bergamo and Brescia in the north, they host opulent homes that cast their gaze across Lake Garda and the Dolomites. And that's not even mentioning the rentals perched on the glowing ridges of Montenegro or Croatia.

A private villa escape to the country

Few sorts of accommodation can do rustic escapes like the private villa. Channelling a touch of agritourism, many homes are converted barns or farmhouses, now imbued with luxury frills, such as swimming pools and sun terraces. These sorts of rentals are especially popular in the wooded vales of the Dordogne in France or the sculpted landscapes of Umbria in Italy.

Take private villa holidays to Europe

For decades, Europe has been the destination of choice for private villa holidays. It's easy to see why, what with enticing archipelagos of lonely islets in Greece, snow-plumed mountains in Italy and stunning beaches aplenty in France. Here are just a few of the top places to consider for your escape this year.

Private villa rentals in Spain

For real seclusion, you can head away from the buzzing Costa del Sol and into the rising mountains of deep Andalusia. It's a land of “pueblo blancos”– white villages – strewn along beige-hued peaks. You're bound to find plenty of time to meditate, read and soak up the sun in the lonely villas that stud the Sierra del Pinar, Sierra de Grazalema and other off-beat regions there.

Private villa holidays in the south of France

The south of France is an accessible – think Eurostar, ferry links and low-cost flights – destination for private villa holidays. Under 2 hours in a plane could see you searching for your home between the grand chateaux of the Dordogne or the meandering bends and sunflower fields of the Garonne.

Private villa holidays in Italy

Pop the Chianti corks and roll out the pizza dough, because Italian villas are your chance to taste “la dolce vita” in southern Europe. Regions such as Umbria and Tuscany always top the bill with their come-get-me villages and wineries. However, it's also worth considering Marche, where jaw-dropping mountains cascade to green valleys, or the Alps, which have plush home rentals right by cobalt-blue lakes like Garda and Como.