I am often asked how I find the villas I recommend in Italy and France for my clients. The answer is that for each enquiry, I consult a huge list of villas and contacts that I have built up over the years. I also draw on personal experience of my own travels.
Do I find villas via agencies or owners?
It depends on the villa. 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 that are managed by local or UK villa companies on behalf of the villa owners. There are a select few which are so private that they are only available for rental through word of mouth. I have visited many of these villas but I rely on my contacts to keep me updated.
Which villa companies do I recommend?
Getting to know villa companies is key to my service because many of the best villas are only available through villa companies. 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, observing how well they are managed and taking time to get to know the team. I can then see how efficient and passionate they are about what they do. Feedback from guests, villa owners, local representatives and managers is also valuable to ascertaining which villa companies are best.
How is my villa finding service valuable?
Firstly, I am independent because unlike villa companies I am not tied to a set portfolio of villas that 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.
Do I have examples of villas I found for my clients in 2022?
Yes, here are three examples of searches this year:
1 – A 50th birthday celebration villa in Italy
A large Italian villa for 6 couples from the USA. They wanted a villa with six double bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, a pool and lovely views. They also wanted interesting activities available nearby, such as winery tours, cookery classes and cycling trips. Lastly, they asked for a chef to prepare meals, a bartender for evening drinks and full housekeeping staff. The budget was open at first.
After a zoom call with five of the party, we established that Sicily and Tuscany would be the preferred regions for a villa holiday and that they would prefer a week in September or October. I checked the availability and price of a few top-end villas I knew in Sicily and Tuscany 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 three best villas which were available in each region.
The villa they booked
It was a close call. They almost booked a villa in Sicily through luxury specialist, The Thinking Traveller, but in the end, they booked a stylish villa in Tuscany with a heated pool. It was a villa I had in mind when I first received their enquiry. I know the villa owner personally and I have visited his exquisite villas in southern Tuscany. He is an architect and his wife is an interior designer. Together they have own and manage their portfolio of villas for rental. I put the group in touch with a Tuscan specialist who organises bespoke itineraries for this kind of group so that they can plan their activities well in advance. I know that they will be in good hands. The total villa rental cost was about £6000.00 for a week in October, plus the cost of the chef, bartender, food and activities, all within budget.
2 – A large family villa in the South of France
This one was a family group of 20 looking for a villa for a week in September. With five pre-school children in the group, security features such as a gated pool, as well as equipment like cots and high chairs and some kind of cook service were important requirements. They needed at least three double rooms and twin bedrooms for children. Nothing too chic in style. The preference for travel from the UK to France was by train, so the villa has to be near a train station. The budget was around £10,000.00 for the week, including the cook service.
I have visited a number of fantastic family villas in France, so after speaking to the client about his plans, I started reaching out to the villa owners I know there. It took a while to check availability and filter through the villas available through villa companies, dismissing those which were not child-friendly enough. Out of the best villas I found, I recommended the three most suitable villas.
The villa they booked
A grand manoir with 11 bedrooms, situated in the Languedoc. It has two heated swimming pools, each with a self-closing/locking gate along with fencing all around the pool area. They have 3 cots and high chairs, so enough for this group. There’s also plenty for all ages to enjoy at the villa, from a games room to a wine cellar. I haven’t visited it personally but I know that the villa company has checked it for quality and recommends it highly. The total villa rental cost was approx. £6,000.00 for a week in September, plus the chef service, so within budget.
3 – A summer villa in Tuscany near the coast
The goal was to find a family villa for 11, with a pool in Tuscany, not far from the beach and historic towns, with a pool and air conditioning. They needed three double bedrooms for the parents and grandparents, plus more bedrooms for five children and teens. A rustic/authentic style was the preference as opposed to a modern villa. The budget was around £12,000.00 for two weeks.
I spoke to two of the party via Zoom in order to find out more about their requirements and give them a heads up on the lack of availability. I had lots of villas in mind for this enquiry, however many turned out to be over-budget or booked already. Tuscany is sought after for villa holidays. Otherwise many were 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 that were suitable for the group.
The villa they booked
A converted 18th-century farmhouse in the hills, not from the beautiful town of Lucca and the Tuscan coast. Although I haven’t visited the villa personally, I know that part of Tuscany well and can highly recommend it for its picturesque landscapes and proximity to historic towns, villages and culture. Apart from the private pool and large gardens, table football and a ping pong table were welcome bonus features for the children. The bookings for the villa are managed through a Tuscan villa company I regularly recommended villas through, so I am confident the villa has been checked for quality. I spoke to my contact there who has visited the villa and we agreed it would be suitable for the group. The total villa rental cost for two weeks was approx. £11,000.00 so within budget.
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