Top 10 Tips For Villa Holidays in Italy

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As more and more people are discovering each year, a villa rental holiday offers so much more flexibility, and much better value, than staying in a hotel when you travel to your favourite holiday destination or romantic getaway. In Italy alone, there are literally thousands of villa holidays available. The choice can be bewildering, and it's easy to go wrong.

Abruzzo local David Brenner shares his Top 10 Tips to help make choosing the right Italy villa much easier; get your holiday off to the best of starts; and help you enjoy it more.

1. Why Choose a Villa Rental Holiday?

In a word - Freedom! You can come and go exactly as you please; you'll have a lot more space and a lot more privacy; and taking a villa rental holiday with your family, your friends - or just each other - allows you to tailor your own perfect holiday environment.

2. All Areas of Italy Aren't The Same

Perhaps more so than any other European country, there are big regional differences in Italy. From the far north-east in the Sud-Tirol region, where German is the most widely-spoken language, to unspoiled Basilicata in the far south, which is completely off the beaten tourist track.

And in-between, are cosmopolitan modern cities like Rome, Milan and Turin; the artistic and historical heart of Italy in Venice and Tuscany; the vibrancy of Naples; and the stunning scenery of the Amalfi coast.

And weaving among them all, a less-travelled side of Italy: Abruzzo, Le Marche, Umbria and Puglia, where you'll find a great choice of villa rentals and amazing value-for-money.

And don't forget Italy's two big islands. Sardinia, with its rugged coastline offset by the glittering Costa Smeralda; and Sicily, which offers a great year-round climate and Europe's biggest active volcano, Mt Etna!

3. Choose Your Villa Carefully. (Location, Location, Location...) 

The internet - and in particular, Google and Bing Maps - are better than a metre-high stack of brochures and booklets when it comes to choosing where in Italy to stay.

You can literally see what's next door to your potential holiday villa and discover where all the local amenities are.

Is the property on a busy, noisy road? Or down a rutted 5km track? Is it at the end of an airport runway? Or in an idyllic spot on the beach? Is the view fabulous? Or frightful?

Nowadays, there's really no excuse for arriving anywhere and thinking, "Oh, no…"

4. And When You've Decided Where to Stay…

Make a checklist of important factors that could make or break your holiday. 

For example:
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms are there?
- And what about other indoor and outdoor living space?
- Is there a pool?
- Are bed linen and towels provided?
- How far away are the shops? The beach? Bars and restaurants?
- Is there a No Smoking policy?
- Is there central heating? And air-conditioning?
- Are any of the facilities shared?
- And does the villa have a good internet connection? You'll probably want to keep up with social networking or blogging; and you'll definitely want to show all your friends back home what a great time you're having!

Jot down your own personal choices too of the essential ingredients that go into a great holiday, and check them out with the villa's owners.

5. Getting Around 

Your villa may be conveniently-placed for public transport, but the odds are you'll need a car for going to and from the airport and getting around during your stay.

The more rural your villa, the greater the certainty you'll need a car, because although buses do operate outside Italy’s towns and cities, they don't run especially frequently, especially at weekends. They're more geared-up to getting people to work in the morning; and back home again in the late afternoon.

There's a big choice of car renters and it'll be easy to collect your vehicle at your arrival airport. Here are a couple of little getting around tips to make life easier:

- You'll have pre-booked your car about the same time you booked your flight and paid for it in full with a credit card. But it's essential you have a credit card handy,  ideally the same one, when you collect your car at the airport. That’s because the rental company will take an imprint of your card to use if you damage the vehicle. It's a 100% unbreakable rule: No card = No car!

- When you collect your car, it's worth asking about a free upgrade. The most popular rental cars are small, budget vehicles. Such is the demand however, especially at the busiest times like summer weekends, you may have to wait until one is returned by a homeward-bound holiday-maker before it can be given to you.

On the other hand, larger vehicles are often left unrented and the rental company might be more than happy to let you have one at no extra charge. It means you could be on your way quicker in a better and more comfortable vehicle, while the rental company have the bonus of an extra budget car for someone else. A win-win situation all-round!

?  And if possible, ask for a diesel-engined car. The cost of diesel in Italy is cheaper than regular petrol - and you’ll get much better mileage too.

6. Read The Reviews 

If you've booked your Italian villa through one of the specialist villa rental companies like HomeAway or Holiday Lettings, you'll invariably find a load of helpful comments and opinions from other holiday-makers who've also stayed at your chosen destination. Your villa may even feature on TripAdvisor too.

These reviews can be enormously helpful in confirming you've made the right choice; giving you a few little insider tips on the area, and of course warning you off if the place doesn't come up to scratch.

But be careful. If the large majority of reviews are positive, don't be too disturbed by the occasional bad one. Sometimes a villa simply won't be to a traveller's taste. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, just that one particular traveller didn’t like it.

If you need reassurance on this point, take a look at the reviews of some of the world's finest hotels. Among the 5-star comments, you'll always find a few 1-star brickbats too.

7. When's A Good Time For You?

It can come as a bit of a shock to find that the sun doesn't shine every day in Italy. It rains. And it can be cold too!

The Alps in the north and north-west; the Dolomites in the north-east; and the Apennines running down the centre of Italy all have an effect on local climates. As do the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Tyhrrenian seas. Generally (and very generally) in the north, winters can be hard. Autumn comes early; spring comes late. Summer won't be as hot as it can be further south (which, if you don't like it too hot, may be a bonus) - and they may be a little wetter.

Central Italy perhaps enjoys the best climate. Winters not too cold and warm weather arriving in May and lasting well into October. From mid-July to mid-August is the hottest time of year.

In the south, the winters are cool (making it a good choice for an out-of-season getaway) and the summers can be baking hot.

It's worth bearing in mind that Italy goes on holiday in August and that many shops and businesses simply close down.

Italians like to spend their holidays ‘al mare’ (at the seaside) and the coasts are consequently jam-packed. Inland though, it's invariably a lot less crowded.

8. And Remember

Whether you rent your Italy villa from a company or a person, check out how they expect to be paid and see what safeguards are in place to protect your money.

You'll need to know about any cancellation policies the owners have and it's a really good idea to have holiday insurance in place if, for whatever reason, you can't go through with your holiday as planned.

And for your own peace of mind, it's worth finding out if the owners live on-site at your villa rental, or in the UK or some other country. If your travel plans are delayed, it's reassuring to know there'll be someone around to let you in, no matter what time you arrive.

Neither do you want to be making a long-distance call on a Sunday night to find out where the spare lightbulbs are!

9. Learn a Little Italian

You'll actually be surprised by how much Italian you already know, even if you've never been to Italy and never picked-up a phrasebook!

- You can order a capuccino. Or a glass of vino.
- Enjoy a pizza. Or some spaghetti. Or fettucine. Or linguine. (Get the idea?)
- And what about that huge shopping vocabulary you've got? Versace; Prada; Armani; Dolce and Gabbana!
- And your favourite car? Ferrari of course.

Unlike a certain nationality, (OK, the French), who'll swear they haven't a clue what you're talking about if you leave out so much as a comma, the vast majority of Italians will do all they can to help you over the language barrier.

And if you're able to thank them (Grazie!); or say "Hi!" - or "Bye!" (Ciao!); or even, "Can I buy you a coffee ?" (Posso offrirti un caffè?), so much the better.

10. Don't Pack What You Won't Need. (But Don't Forget What You Will…)

Especially if you're flying with a budget airline on your Italy holiday, baggage space will be at a premium. The single biggest luggage space-saver is to find out exactly what's provided as standard in your holiday villa and don't waste space bringing anything that's already there.

Don't use up pounds of luggage space with books. Many villa owners provide a stack of holiday-reading paperbacks. Or why not invest in a Kindle, or similar reading device, that weighs a fraction of the latest brick-sized bestseller.

All those iPads; iPods; Smartphones; and other portable electric devices will need charging-up while you're away, so don't forget to get a couple of adaptors for Italian plugs.

Most travellers nowadays sensibly pack a few basic medicines to deal with upset tummies; headaches; insect bites and other little ailments that can so easily spoil your holiday. Be doubly-sure you do this when you travel to Italy.

Not that it's hard to find these basic remedies. Far from it. They're widely available at all pharmacies. It's just that they're extremely expensive in Italy, up to three of four times what they can cost elsewhere.

And of course it goes without saying that if you happen to be taking prescription medication, bring an ample supply for your holiday and a copy of your prescription too if for any reason you should need it during your stay.

But don't necessarily load yourself down with sun care products. Perhaps a small bottle of high-factor sun screen for the first day or so, but it's easy to find cheap budget ranges. Just leave them behind when you go home.

Have a great villa holiday in Italy!

Special Travel Deal:

Quote "UltimateTravel" for bookings of 7 days or more to receive a 10% discount with VillasFor2 in Abruzzo. Valid until the end of 2014.

Where To Stay:

David Brenner and wife Pauline are co-owners of VillasFor2 which is a collection of three well appointed Italian style villas exclusively for couples in Abruzzo. It's located between the mountains of the majestic Majellan National Park and the Adriatic Sea with some of the best views of the region, and some of the best wines in the world.

Tel: +39 366 204 4567
Check out David Brenner's guide to Abruzzo wines.
And we have a handy guide to the Abruzzo region.

David Brenner in Abruzzo