Get an insight into what to expect when booking a luxury villa break in Italy and pick the region that’s right for you. Whether in Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Abruzzo, the Amalfi coast or Sardinia, we’ve got you covered.
Umbria and Tuscany are long-held favourites among British holidaymakers, and we’ll cover why here, but if you’re fancy venturing further afield, we’ll look at what some of the regions of Italy have to offer.
Italy is fiercely divided between North and South, but the whole country was only recently unified in the nineteenth century, and the different regions bear small clues of the invading forces that once held sway. Equally, as you near Italy’s borders you’ll be struck by how much the locals have adopted from their neighbours.
For example, a unique quirk of areas like Piedmont and other towns in the north-west, is that many locals prefer all things French whether culinary or cultural. Go further north and you’ll hit German speaking areas and blonde haired Italians. While if you head roughly due east from here, slavic languages enter the mix.
In certain areas towards the Albanian border, the language spoken remains Italian but the local delicacies include flat breads and dips borrowed their Mediterranean neighbours to the east.
This is to say nothing of the south, which while holding some of Italy’s most beautiful holiday destinations and arguably some of its finest food (this is where you’ll find the best pizza, or at least the most famous), is also where the Greeks, Arabs, Africans and Spanish among others all once held sway.
If you drink much wine, the names of parts of Tuscany will probably be familiar. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are primarily made with Sangiovese grape (like much Italian wine) whereas the Vernaccia grape is the basis of the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
As well as good drinking, there are extremely picturesque areas in Tuscany like Val d’Orcia, just south of Siena, characterised by gentle green rolling hills which have drawn landscape painters for generations. Villas here can more often than not be guaranteed a fantastic view.
Umbria meanwhile, is Italy’s only landlocked region, but it hides some of the most beautiful small towns in the country. If you’re looking for beautiful villas, steer clear of Perugia and the other larger, more industrialised towns and head south instead to the more rural villages with their good food, good wine and friendly locals.
If you’re looking for a bargain, head east from the incredibly popular Tuscany and Umbria to neighbouring Marche. There are still spectacular landscapes here, but they don’t come with the accompanying price tag. Marche isn’t quite as green, the hills here are usually rocky, so maybe take a look at photographs of the region and decide for yourself.
While the other regions are blessed with many more medieval and historic towns, Le Marche still has a few - Urbino and Ascoli Piceno are definitely worth a look. Le Marche is always inevitably compared with Tuscany, but it has many unique charms of its own.
Heading far south now, to the ‘heel’ of Italy, we find Puglia. It’s famous for its Romanesque architecture, which admittedly you can find all over Italy, but Puglia has whole towns built in this way: Bari, Trani, Barletta, Molfetta and Ruvo di Puglia chief among them. It’s become hyped as a holiday destination in recent years, and its beaches have been a favourite of southern Italians for a long time now.
Most famous of the beaches in Puglia are those of Gallipoli. Probably most famous in Britain as the site of a bloody battle, for Italian teens its beaches are a right of passage after completing their high school studies. That may sound like your ideal of hell, but there are still some quieter areas and the beach is really something to behold.
Pick where you stay in Puglia carefully. Like much of Italy, it is increasingly covered in less-than-beautiful modern architecture, built without much consideration for the former beauty of the area. Part of the reason Puglia is so built up is because it is one of the flatter regions of Italy. As in Modena, expanses of flat land that can hold factories come at a real premium in Italy, so where they have them they build big.
Also at the very south of italy is Basilicata. Historically a desperately poor region, it’s finding its feet and the tourism industry is growing. Or if you’re thinking of visiting, look for somewhere in Matera and make sure to check out the local sights.
Calabria is not as well known as a holiday destination, and perhaps for good reason. Scenic spots are less plentiful, but there are resorts are Sapri and Tropea, and of course there is the Pollino national park.
Abruzzo is another region famous for its wine, but it’s much less developed than Tuscany. but boasts beautiful countryside.
Like Tuscany, Abruzzo is a region famous for its wine, but is relatively untouched. The unspoilt countryside boasts green hills, national parks and untouched wilds. There are charming small towns in abundance, and of course very good wine.
We could write a guide on just the Amalfi coast, but bear in mind it is far more built up than some of the other regions listed here. It stretches from Naples to Capri, all busy in their own way, and even Pompeii may surprise you with its urban sprawl. A stunning region to visit to be sure, with some of the finest food in Italy, but not the spot for a quiet villa retreat.
That said, it boasts some of the best beaches in Italy, with beautiful sunsets practically guaranteed. If you have an idea of the ideal beach holiday in Italy, it’s probably Amalfi you are picturing.
Heading further south, you find yet more sandy beaches. Like Amalfi, the beaches are stunning, and also like Amalfi you can find many ancient Roman sites.
Sicily is beautiful, but still a little behind the times. Modern infrastructure is lacking, but that should be something to bear in mind, rather than a reason to avoid the area which probably has more famous sites and views per square mile than the rest of the country combined - Mount Etna, the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains, the Egadi and Aeolian islands, and many beautiful small towns.
You can see all our luxury villa listings in Italy here.