Team up for a thriller villa: After two years apart, families and friends are banding together for a celebratory catch-up in magnificent high-life mansions that are just a plane-hop away
- In Sicily, the three-bedroom Marea villa near Ispica has a housekeeper who can whip up classic Italian cuisine
- On Corfu, the Bella Mare is a much loved family-run hotel on Avlaki beach, complete with a kids’ club
- Salema Alegria Beach House in Portugal brings some Hamptons-style glamour to the Algarve
It’s surely a recipe for the perfect family holiday – a getaway to a spacious villa where you can mark delayed milestone anniversaries and birthdays together, in a way that can make luxury destinations more affordable.
And it seems that increasing numbers of people are driving this trend, keen to make up for the lost opportunities caused by the pandemic.
‘Half our guests have always been repeat business, but this year it’s striking how many new customers we have for our villa holidays,’ says Graham Simpson, who founded Simply Travel in the 1970s and now owns Simpson Travel.
Historic Villa Da Vinci in Tuscany, bookable with Simpson Travel, can sleep 12 between the main house and guest cottage
And Graham is noticing other differences with bookings this year, adding: ‘Although beach villas will always be popular, we’re seeing people who want to feel safe by booking more remote villas, allowing them to self-cater without others around.’
Lisa Fitzell, managing director of Chester-based Elegant Resorts, which caters to the luxury end of the market, has spotted the same trend, with customers splashing out significantly more as they see Covid restrictions ending after two long years.
‘We’re seeing large families or big groups of friends booking together,’ she says. ‘Our average booking is about £23,000. Before the pandemic, it was about £15,000. Our villas can cost anything from £20,000 to £200,000 a week.’
It’s safe to say that Graham and Lisa, each with more than 30 years’ experience in the travel industry, are feeling positive about this summer’s bookings.
‘Increasingly people want the protection of a tour operator,’ Lisa points out. ‘We’re covered by Abta and Atol and we have our Elegant Promise, which means we’ll amend the holiday right up to the day of departure, and that gives real peace of mind.’
Your own slice of the Med
At Marea villa in Sicily, pictured, there’s a path in the garden that leads straight to a small sandy bay
A housekeeper can whip up classic Italian cuisine for guests staying at Marea villa
A double bedroom at Marea villa. The house is simple but stylish with plenty of comfortable chairs, sunloungers and space to pad about
Villa Nichola on the Greek island of Kefalonia is set above a small cove and it has a private swimming platform
In Sicily, the three-bedroom Marea villa near Ispica has beach-house charm in spades and a housekeeper who can whip up classic Italian cuisine.
It’s all on one level, with a long, shady veranda and an olive tree in the garden, and a path leads straight to a small sandy bay. The house itself is just as desirable – simple but stylish with plenty of comfortable chairs, sunloungers and space to pad about. A week starts at £3,514, accommodation-only (thethinkingtraveller.com).
You won’t need to shell out for a swimming pool at Villa Nichola on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Above a small cove, it has a private swimming platform, a shady private terrace, four double bedrooms and a pleasing open-plan living area with French windows. Harbour town Fiscardo, with shops and tavernas, is a ten-minute walk away. From £1,742pp for 14 nights, including flights and transfers, based on eight guests (gicthevillacollection.com).
On Corfu, Olive Tree House may be walking distance from Kalamaki but it feels private, with a seascape on to the Med and Albania beyond. There’s an infinity pool to make the most of the views, plus six bright double bedrooms with doors to the outside, and a large kitchen diner. From £951pp for villa and flights for seven nights based on maximum occupancy (cvvillas.com).
Villa Castello is part of the luxury hotel Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, which sits on a 5,000-acre estate in Tuscany
Room to relax: One of the simple yet elegant bedrooms at Villa Da Vinci. A week’s stay costs from £4,565 with Simpson Travel
Villa Da Vinci’s views encompass vineyards, mountains and olive groves across Chianti
The dining room at Villa Da Vinci, which was originally built as a watchtower in the 11th Century
On one of the oldest estates in Tuscany, the three-double-bedroom Villa Castello is part of the luxury hotel Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco but still manages to be private. There are 5,000 acres to explore and lose yourself in, including the estate’s own vineyards.
The hotel has a spa and children’s activities, plus two restaurants, but you’ll arrive in the villa to a stock of wine and food from the estate that’s replenished daily, which makes self-catering very easy. A week’s stay for six sharing, costs from £5,995pp, including flights, private transfers and lounge passes (elegantresorts.co.uk).
Also in Tuscany is Villa Da Vinci, built as a watchtower in the 11th Century. Its views encompass vineyards, mountains and olive groves across Chianti, but it’s the set-up that’s a real winner.
Sleeping 12, the rooms are split between the main house and a guest cottage that grandparents in need of some peace may want to nab for themselves. Games and toys are supplied for younger children, while a housekeeper can be booked to provide meals. A week costs from £4,565, accommodation-only (simpsontravel.com).
In the heart of the Dordogne, La Valade features six double bedrooms, a swimming pool, and a home cinema
Bella Mare, pictured above, is a much-loved family-run hotel on the shores of Avlaki beach in Corfu
At the Little Avalon villa in the Languedoc there are six doubles, all on one level surrounding the swimming pool, including a separate annexe
The pool at Little Avalon villa. Guests will be glad to hear that fresh croissants and baguettes are just a two-minute walk away in the town of Pezenas
On Corfu, the Bella Mare is a much loved family-run hotel on Avlaki beach, complete with kids’ club and a relaxed taverna. On the hillside above is The House, a vast contemporary seven-double-bedroom beauty with its own 30m infinity swimming pool. Families staying in the villa can also enjoy the hotel facilities – if they can be lured away from the loungers and those views. A week costs from £688pp including flights, accommodation, car hire and welcome hamper, based on 14 sharing (simpsontravel.com).
In the heart of the Dordogne, La Valade has six double bedrooms and masses of space, from acres of peaceful grounds to explore to the well-stocked games room. Alongside the swimming pool, there’s a home cinema and well-equipped kitchen. From £500 per night, accommodation-only (sawdays.co.uk).
Being within walking distance from shops and restaurants cuts down on arguments over who’s the designated driver. In France, that starts with the boulangerie. At the Little Avalon villa in the Languedoc, fresh croissants and baguettes are just a two-minute walk away in the town of Pezenas, which also has cafes, restaurants and boutiques as well as a market. There are six doubles, all on one level surrounding the swimming pool, including a separate annexe. A week costs from £1,738, accommodation-only (vintagetravel.co.uk).
Privacy comes as standard
Le Clos Colombier in Limoges is owned by a Michelin-starred chef and the luxury kitchen is state-of-the-art
Cottages in the middle of nowhere that are so rural they come with a scent of silage are very last-century – they can be much more appealing these days.
Near Veyrac in Limoges, Le Clos Colombier is an old stone farmhouse in a gloriously quiet and rural part of central France. Up to 16 friends and family can bed down, with private parkland to enjoy and a swimming pool. Dating from the 12th Century, it offers all the sense of history you’d want, but as it’s owned by a Michelin-starred chef, the luxury Gaggenau kitchen is definitely state-of-the-art. A week costs from £8,550, accommodation-only (simpsontravel.com).
The Croatian peninsula of Istria, near the border with Italy, has all the olive groves and cypress trees of its neighbour as well as pastel-coloured fishing villages and great food. Villa Moncitta is a seven-double-bedroom farmhouse with a heated 12m swimming pool, table tennis, lawns, bicycles and a big country kitchen. There are herbs and fruit to be picked from the grounds, and great walks and cycling nearby. From £286 a night, accommodation-only (i-escape.com).
Blow the budget
The Canacati villa in Mallorca boasts an exceptional setting with views on to the Puig de Maria monastery, mountains and beaches
The heated pool at Canacati villa, which also features six double bedrooms and indoor and outdoor kitchens
Bay watch: The terrace at Salema Alegria Beach House, which brings some Hamptons-style glamour to the Algarve
There’s a term in the travel industry to describe customers who have promised themselves the holiday of a lifetime in 2022: vacation millionaires. The Canacati villa in Mallorca really fits this bill.
Just outside Pollenca, there are six double bedrooms, a heated pool, indoor and outdoor kitchens and seating areas. Even though there are restaurants and cafes nearby, there’s a villa manager and private chef on tap.
The setting is exceptional, too, with views on to the Puig de Maria monastery, mountains and beaches. A week costs from £29,200, including flights and B&B accommodation, based on 11 adults staying (scottdunn.com).
At Salema, on one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches, Salema Alegria Beach House brings some Hamptons-style glamour to the Algarve. The four-double-bedroom villa features multiple terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, air-conditioning and an open-plan kitchen, plus rooftop swimming pool. A week costs from £18,581, accommodation-only (akvillas.com).
One of the slickly designed bedrooms at Villa Serradal, which is located an hour outside Barcelona
The hot tub at the Villa Serradal. A week’s stay costs from £7,884 with Oliver’s Travels
Villa delle Erbe on the Sorrento coast of Italy even has a private cable car to take you down to the beach
We might not want to live in a designer house, but they’re great fun for a holiday. And an hour outside Barcelona you’ll find the grandiose stone, steel and glass montage that is the Villa Serradal, which is designed to keep you happily in situ for a whole week.
As well as the swimming pool and six double bedrooms, there’s a tennis court, yoga studio and fully equipped gym, while evenings can be spent mellowing outside in the dining area or home cinema. A week costs from £7,884, accommodation-only (oliverstravels.com).
The Villa delle Erbe on the Sorrento coast of Italy even has a private cable car to take you down to the beach.
Part of Marriott’s ultra luxurious villa collection, all six double bedrooms showcase the stunning blue of the Med, while terraces house the wood-burning pizza oven and infinity pool. Restaurants are a ten-minute walk away. From £1,875 a night, with a minimum seven-night stay (homes-and-villas.marriott.com).
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