France and Italy are the preferred Villa countries with Provence, Dordogne and Tuscany the top favourites. Croatia and Spain also offer great villas as well and are perfect for repeat travellers.
All villas are rented from Saturday to Saturday so it is very important that you consider how this fits into your itinerary. Typically you can only access the villa after 2pm on the Saturday and need to depart by 10am (they need time to clean the villa between guests). If you are travelling in high season consider a two-week stay as the combination of really hot weather and very busy villages & towns makes a slower visit very attractive.
Price – really makes a difference to what you get in terms of location, amenities and filling expectations. This cannot be stressed enough. The price often goes up by around 50% through high season (Jul/Aug) and these get booked out quickly.
You need to choose your villa carefully! We will ask you lots of questions so that we can best match you to the right villa. Ie, if you are a real foodie, then we need to ensure your villa has a good range of cooking equipment (most don’t). If you are not keen on cooking, we need to ensure you are within walking distance to a local village with a selection of restaurants.
Location: Villas are usually remotely located which means you do need your own transport and if you are eating out you need to be able to drive back to the villa after dinner (in the dark, with no street lights, on the wrong side of the road, after a wine or two!!). Some villas are standalone and others are part of a larger complex – you need to choose what suits.
Villa in Provence – Chris stayed in a villa last year with some friends and her ‘choose a villa in Provence’, mission was all about being within walking distance to plenty of restaurants. Top of the list was 2 bedrooms, a pool and a washing machine. Success was a gorgeous standalone villa just 500 metres from the heart of St Remy de Provence.
Villas are great for:
Couples travelling together – great fun in that you can go to the local market and buy your fresh produce, chianti and goodies, cook up a storm in the kitchen and kickback enjoying the surrounds, atmosphere, views and company.
Families – Great value as you can do some meals at home. You will enjoy a lot more space than typical European hotel rooms. Most villas have a pool so you can happily mix sightseeing with some relaxed downtime. Locals are very friendly towards children so you can enjoy dining out, especially with tinies. Some villas will not allow toddlers (due to lack of pool fencing, or steep stairways). We do however have some very good child friendly villas available.
Villa in Tuscany – this year Peter enjoyed a two week break in the heart of Tuscany with his family including his 2 year old and 3-month old daughters, his wife, mother and mother-in-law. Mission ‘choose a villa in Tuscany’ took Peter over 5 weeks as he worked to find the perfect Tuscan villa with enough bedrooms for everyone, flat access, safe for a busy toddler and close to a supermarket – all at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.
Amenities – Expect not to have laundry or restaurant facilities unless you choose carefully. Also often there is limited seating inside – always sufficient outdoor dining space though to enjoy the good weather. Often you will find that the hosts are not good English speaking, but they are usually helpful. Electricity is paid for (in the Villa rental) and is used sparsely. You may find you have no heating!! Villas have designated timeframes for electricity usage, pool usage etc – so do check these carefully.
Sleeping Arrangements – Most villas will include the pullout couch in the lounge as bedding for two. This is fine for a night, but if you have 3 couples spending a week together, we would really recommend getting a villa that has 3 bedrooms. A bit more expense, but no fighting over who is sleeping on the couch as part of their dream holiday.
A Typical day – is rise whenever, relaxed breakfast outside, then head off for your day trip. Back to the villa mid afternoon for a swim and siesta, perhaps out again for the 5-7pm promenade at local village. Then dinner out at a restaurant, or back to the villa if cooking yourself.
Some tips for Villas:
Many supermarkets close on Sundays so do your shopping enroute to the villa on Saturday, remembering they shut for siesta and don’t necessarily open after that. For example – stop in the supermarket and spend about $130 and have supplies for a couple of dinners , breakfast, some wine, heaps of salamis and cheeses and treats from the Deli, plus necessities like soap, coffee, rocksalt, olive oil, water , bread, milk, fresh herbs, tomatoes, pasta , and chocolate (yes its great too).
Most villas do not have a kettle – you need to boil water in a pot on the stove. They do however have stovetop coffee pots – yum!
Recommendations on things to take from NZ to make it easy for you when buying in markets and having picnics. They are all cheap but very useful, and most of these can be biffed on the way home to make way for shopping!
6 Pack fabric Wine Carrier – great for carrying wine, water and drinks
2 or 3 Green Grocery Bags – for carrying all your market shopping
Sharp Vege knife (usually knives in villas are useless) remember to pack in your checked luggage. The ones with blade guards are good.
Very small plastic chopping board (Warehouse) easy to take on picnics
Small (6pack size) chilli bag – perfect to pop your meats and cheeses in from the markets and good for your picnics.
A few little stackable plastic containers – for non spillage of olives, pestos etc
A corkscrew – they haven’t progressed to screw tops yet.
Keen winos will appreciate a couple of glasses for wines on picnics.
Also recommend taking a large but lightweight beach bag for taking togs/towels etc.