From Tuscan charm to the citrus sweet shores of the South of France, Europe is abuzz with beautiful villas offering idyllic stays. These majestic mini resorts can be a dream for families and friends who value privacy and perfection in their own home-away-from-home. Now it’s not just a matter of plunge pools and cookie cutter charm, the modern villa scene has bloomed the best of boutique. These spots take the need for R&R seriously, offering everything from onsite chefs to built-in spas. Prepare to drool as we explore the best of the boutique villa scene. By Christine Lee & Jodie Oakes
Bastide Des Virettes
Cote D’Azur, France
Sitting pretty in the hills of Provence, this stunning stone villa is steeped in romance, filled with rare antiques, and expertly staffed. The fragrant medieval village of Tourrettes-Sur-Loup is a stone’s throw away. Aptly named the village of violets, the delicate floral scent blends beautifully with the salt air sweeping in from the Mediterranean. Well-tended gardens and terraces relax around the four-bed home, inviting al-fresco suppers and starlit swims in the 15-meter pool hewn into the rock.
Open plan interiors capture a beautiful baroque feel, punctuated with well-collected wood furnishings and artworks from across France. A children’s playroom and double kitchen make it an idyllic family retreat, along with a private entourage of a chef, nanny and concierge to make your visit run like a dream. Upstairs, four elegant bedrooms dressed in pastel shades invite easy sleeps. The master bedroom boasts a marble bathroom, French doors and balcony views that sweep across the sea.
Don Arcangelo all’Olmo
Between the smouldering black rocks of Mount Etna and the grace of the Ionian Sea, this 12-bed, 12-bath villa is a five-star vision capturing the laid-back lore of Sicily. Don Arcangelo all’Olmo is the ancestral home of the Marquis and Marchioness Paterno Castello di San Giuliano and has been for over a century. Onyx lava stone and bright tile work weave tradition together with modern luxury.
The ancient vineyards have been swapped for zesty citrus groves, a generous swimming pool and wistful wisteria – perfect for a summers day. Inside, the open fire in the lounge invites long wine-soaked conversation, and the fully serviced kitchen means that guests can sample the finest Sicilian treats without lifting a finger. Spread across two buildings – the new villa and the old farmhouse, 24 people can stretch out in style. Days are best spent taking cooking classes, sipping and swirling at the vineyards on Etna, and exploring the jewel of Taormina close by. thethinkingtraveller.com
Far from the grabbing hands of mass tourism, this secret slip of a spot perched on the Ionian Sea offers a divine retreat from the world. Imaginatively executed, the Alati Cove villa is a sublime example of understated luxury. Outside, the crescent moon pool invites perfect plunging, and the mature grounds that wrap around the property deliver plenty of space for shady siestas, and lingering lunches of fresh fish and Greek salad. Direct access to the pebbled shore and gin clear waters are sure to step the pleasure measure up a notch.
The cool interior of the villa is a welcome retreat on scorching days, with cool polished concrete floors, etched out wooden beams, suspended lights, hints of steel and splashes of uplifting colour. The sea-view dining room is sure to amp up any formal dining plans – and with the option for a private cook included, you can entirely lose yourself in the rejuvenating experience of Alati Cove. thethinkingtraveller.com
Lounge in luxury on top of the world, as you drink in Corsica’s breathtaking views in this 5-bed endlessly elegant villa. With soaring floor to ceiling windows that welcome the light, the Zen-like design of Cala D’Istria leaves you soothed both inside and out. The interior design calls on open plan spaces, muted tones, and hints of exposed brick and beam. The kitchen is a MasterChef’s dream boasting wine coolers, charcuterie slicers and a breakfast bar for mimosa-soaked brunches. Bedrooms come complete with sophisticated sea-views.
The three-tiered swimming pool is the haute couture highlight of Cala D’Istria. The glass infinity edge suspended over the gardens deliver unrivalled sunset and sea views. You couldn’t ask for a better plunging spot. Shaded lounging spaces and a Japanese garden offer even more room for spreading out, and the winding path down to the beach entices moonlit strolls on empty sands. thethinkingtraveller.com
Bellaria is the perfect spot for salt air and stunning views across the Camogli and Portofino National Park. 7-bedrooms and 7-bathrooms offer more than enough space for 12 people to explore the dizzying delights of the Italian Riviera. Master bedrooms sit prettily turned towards the coastline, ensuring the last sight you see is the twinkling lights. The living areas have been designed with laid-back coastal entertainment in mind; soaring ceilings, tasteful artwork, a grand piano and flickering fireplace invite late night soirees. It wouldn’t be La Dolce Vita without an al fresco dining scene and fortunately, Bellaria is beautifully set with outdoor dining offering sweeping vistas across the coast. Just below the villa, an infinity edged pool entices guests to spend the afternoon with a good book relaxing by the spa pool. A step down from the pool you will also find a Turkish steam room, sauna, gym and everything you need for your own Portofino pamper day. tuscanynowandmore.com
Worthy of its own page in Greek mythology, this 7-bed villa on cool and tranquil Kolokithi Bay is a beautiful place for rekindling your love for Aegean adventures. With plenty of sculpted outdoor space, the concept of summer living radiates from the cool modern design. A series of vast boardwalks connect the open plan living spaces that seep both inside and out. The interior is pale and breezy with artistic touches that bring a flair of personality.
The master suite comes complete with its own jaw-dropping terrace and bathroom views across an ornamental walled garden. Mezze magic is nurtured here on Kolokithi Bay, where the outdoor lounging space is a series of shaded terraces, an infinity edged sea-view pool, and al fresco dining space complete with a beautifully equipped outdoor kitchen. Wild garden paths interconnect the main house to the wonderfully romantic cottage – the perfect place for a honeymoon escape. thethinkingtraveller.com
In the rolling patchwork fields outside Florence, art aficionados and lovers of luxury will fall head over heels for the 6-bed, 6-bath home of Podere Nuccioli. The sparkling heated pool with hillside views, the generous terrace and soft lawned gardens set a spectacular precedent for soaking up the summer days. The open plan lounge manages to find that sweet spot between seasons – bright and airy in the warm weather and snug and cosy on colder days.
The kitchen space encourages the art of Tuscan cooking and mornings are sheer magic thanks to the professional coffee maker that could rival anything a chic café in the city could offer. A romantic courtyard set between the ochre hues of the home transports you to another world, an idyllic spot for sipping a Chianti to the melody of the fountain. Spacious bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms with freestanding tubs are the finishing touches to this genuinely immaculate home under the Tuscan sun. tuscanynowandmore.com
Cloaked by the fresh pine forests of Lefkada, this 6-bed, 7-bath villa is just a two-minute stroll from the indigo waters of the Ionian Sea. Madreterra makes it so easy to feel closer to nature, with sea-facing terraces, curved infinity pool and outdoor kitchen for endless barbeques. Spread across three floors, the airy bright home blends coastal charm with chic style. Blonde wood beamed ceilings, handcrafted cabinets in the kitchen, a bespoke fireplace, and French doors that blend indoor and outdoor living set the mise-en-scene for decadently delightful living.
Bedrooms boast sun shaded balconies, four-poster beds, and whimsical touches to keep you calm and relaxed from dusk until dawn. A spa room with bubbling jacuzzi and steam room is sure to soothe tired muscles after hiking in the thick green forests that flank the property. Sublime sunsets, infinity swims, and the enchantment of being alone with nature make Madreterra a magical place to be. thethinkingtraveller.com
The Estate of Petroio
A 12th-century villa is a perfect place to stay and play when visiting the cradle of the renaissance town that is Florence. Two beautiful homes – the villa and the old stone farmhouse have been renovated to move ancient traditions into a 21st century based on style and comfort. The estate itself spans 900 acres and feels like its own luscious private resort with endless lounging spaces, two large shimmering pools, a football pitch, tennis courts and a professional chef should you wish to dine in decadence. The main house – the Borgo is all Tuscan charm with its warm terracotta floors, plump living room sofas, polished parquet floors and bright and breezy bedrooms. Whimsical features like stand-alone bathtubs, beamed ceilings and draped four-poster beds bring in notes of pure sweetness. The villa boasts two wings, panoramic picture windows and fully professional kitchen and diner for throwing exceptional gala dinners whenever the mood moves you. tuscanynowandmore.com ◼
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© This article was first published in June-July 2018 edition of World Travel Magazine.