I am often asked how I find the villas I recommend in Italy and France. The answer is that for each brief, I consult a huge list of sources which I have built up over 20 years. Some are villas owned by those who prefer to manage their own bookings via their own website or online listing. Others are villas advertised online which are managed by local or UK villa companies on behalf of the villa owners. I have visited many of them.
I also get to know villa companies. I believe it is important to understand how they are run and the kind of service they offer both guests and villa owners. I can then choose which to trust and recommend. I observe how well they are managed, meet the team who deal with villa rentals and keep an eye on their efficiency and how passionate they are about what they do. Feedback from guests, villa owners, local representatives and managers is key too.
This all makes my villa finding service unique. Firstly, I am independent because unlike villa companies I am not tied to a set portfolio of villas which I need to rent. Secondly, I save my clients time by managing their online search, identifying only the villas which are checked for quality and are truly suitable. Thirdly, it’s an informed service built on years of experience.
So here is how I recently sourced three villas for summer 2020:
1 – The brief: A family friendly villa in rural Provence for a couple with two pre-school age children, two weeks in May/June
It was important for this couple to have a gated, heatable pool and to be within easy reach of a village with shops and restaurants. Budget = up to £8000 for two weeks.
The Search: I immediately checked the availability and price of a few villas I knew in Provence which met the criteria and have fantastic reviews. I then checked through the portfolios of 8 villa companies. Out of all of those, I recommended the 4 best villas which were available (many were already booked) and matched their wish list.
The villa they booked: It was the first villa I had in mind when I received their enquiry. I know the villa owner personally, we meet regularly in London and I have visited her villa in France. Her villa is superb for families with young children because she has kitted it out with her children in mind, so there is a fenced, salt water pool which is heatable, toys and baby/toddler equipment. It’s also beautifully furnished and regularly upgraded. The total villa rental cost was £5200.00 for the two weeks, so well within budget.
2 – The brief: A large villa in Sicily for a three-generation group of 12 for a week in August
They wanted to be near the beach and a village, not too far from either Catania or Palermo airport. They needed at least two double rooms, preferably with everyone in the same house ie. no annexes. Budget = Up to £6000.00 for the week.
The Search: I have visited a number of fantastic family villas in Sicily, mainly managed through my friends at Massimo Villas, so that is where I started the search. I then checked availability with 6 other villa companies and a couple of direct owners. Out of those, I recommended the 4 best villas.
The villa they booked: A modern villa near Siracusa which I haven’t visited personally but I know that the local management team and villa company have checked it for quality and recommend it highly. I do know the area and love it for the beaches, nature reserve and the town of Siracusa itself. The total villa rental cost was approx. €6200.00 for the week, so within budget.
3 – The brief: A villa in rural Tuscany for a family group of 16 for two weeks in August
They needed four double bedrooms for the couples and more bedrooms for
children and teens. They wanted a pool and a comfortable villa located in an area which is not too remote. The budget was around €16,000.00 for two weeks.
The Search: I had lots of villas in mind for this enquiry, however many turned out to be over-budget or unsuitable in terms of the bedroom layout ie. annexes or too many double bedrooms so unsuitable for young children. After checking with 10 villa companies and around 6 villa owners, I whittled the list down to three villas which were suitable for the group.
The villa they booked: A classic villa in a key location in Tuscany with contemporary interiors and a lovely garden with a pool, situated within easy reach of Siena. Although I haven’t visited the villa personally, I know that part of Tuscany and can highly recommend it for picturesque landscapes and proximity to amazing historic towns, villages and culture. The bookings for the villa are managed through a local Tuscan villa company I regularly recommended villas through, so I am confident the villa has been checked for quality. The total villa rental cost for two weeks was approx. €14,000.00 so within budget.
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