Ten jaw-droppingly beautiful Italian villas
Few summer holidays are as romanticised as that of the Italian villa vacation. There is good reason for this, of course.
Few summer holidays are as romanticised as that of the Italian villa vacation. There is good reason for this, of course. Italy is dotted with aristocratic villas that allow guests a total immersion into the country's culture, history, rocky coastlines, and rolling verdant hills.
If you are considering escaping the winter to the beautiful summer – where the sun dapples the Tuscan countryside and the citrus trees are heavy with fruit on the Amalfi Coast – now is the ideal time to make this fantasy a reality. Here we unlock the doors to the 10 Italian villas to book this season.
Villa Astor, Amalfi Coast
This neoclassical villa high on a bluff in Sorrento was built in the 19th century for William Waldorf Astor, then U.S. ambassador to Italy. Priced from about $US80,000 (about $A106,900) per week, Villa Astor's dramatic position on the sea affords spectacular views of Mount Vesuvius from virtually every room.
Renovated in 2016 by the famed French interior designer Jacques Garcia, the estate pays homage to the 1800s with flourishes like marble columns and Roman statuary, but with the designer's signature bold colour choices and gilded accents.
The garden — filled with ancient porphyry, friezes, and objets d'art — is considered one of the finest in Italy. Walking paths lead down to the Bay of Naples, where guests can enjoy a dip in a private green grotto. (Ultravilla.com)
Villa Emo Capodilista, Padua
A former hunting lodge built in the 1500s for the aristocratic Capodilista family, Villa Emo Capodilista is one of Italy's most historic vacation villas. The estate was designed and decorated by the architect and artist Dario Varotari (a pupil of the Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese) and features beautifully preserved frescoes throughout.
A four-year renovation that concluded in 2012 has left the property in peak form, blending a mix of Venetian antiques and classical furnishings with 21st-century comforts. The villa sits adjacent to a 27-hole golf club with a Michelin-star restaurant. (ultravilla.com)
Il Convento dei Cappuccini, Umbria
Movie buffs will adore Il Convento dei Cappuccini, a villa restored by the filmmaker George Lucas and set on 24 hectares of Umbrian hillside. Located in an ancient stone convent overlooking olive groves and Lake Trasimeno, the property delivers cinematic style with vintage movie posters on the walls and dramatic chandeliers in the two-story library.
Each of the 10 bedrooms is named for a different Italian luminary, such as the Michelangelo Suite, which features a private study, multiple fireplaces, and a terrace overlooking a walled garden.
Priced from about $US91,300 (about $A122,000) per week, the villa also features a restored chapel, a hidden wine cellar, and, as might be expected, a private cinema with seating for 16. (redsavannah.comtext in bold)
Casale I Bianchi, Tuscany
This five-bedroom Tuscan farmhouse is the largest villa for rent in the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, an 800-year-old estate with an ancient castle that was once home to the Medici family.
Surrounded by the 27-hole golf course, Casale I Bianchi, from around $US11,000 (about $A14,700) per week, is also one of the resort's most private villas, featuring such historic details as parquet floors in the bedrooms and vaulted tile ceilings.
Still, modern conveniences abound, with a spacious chef's kitchen, rain showers, and a swimming pool. The garden with lavender and rosemary bushes and a pizza oven is perfect for dining on balmy evenings. (castelfalfi.com)
Villa La Cassinella, Lake Como
Set on Lake Como's secluded Lavedo peninsula, the seven-bedroom Villa La Cassinella is a 19th-century masterpiece featuring perfectly restored antiques, Italian furnishings, and fine art.
Priced from around $US92,000 (about $A122,900) per week, the estate is accessible only by boat, making for a completely private and secluded stay. Still, there's plenty to see and do once you've arrived — from an L-shaped infinity pool and tennis court to a sprawling garden with green lawns and Cypress trees. (redsavannah.com)
Villa Roma, Rome
Villa Roma might just be Rome's most elite holiday address. The seven-bedroom walled estate — which has hosted celebrities, CEOs, politicians, and heads of state — is located roughly two-and-a-half miles from Vatican City, yet its vast park-like grounds dotted with palm and orange trees ensures privacy and peace far from the city hustle and bustle.
Priced from around $US35,500 (about $A46,800) per week, the six-bedroom villa offers a contemporary-meets-mid-century-modern style, decorated with original photography and watercolour paintings and Italian-designed furnishings, and featuring a top-notch concierge service that can arrange private cooking lessons and visits to local ateliers. (ultravilla.com)
Villa Sant'Anna, Montalcino
Set within the lavish grounds of the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, overlooking nearby Sangiovese vineyards and the town of Montalcino, Villa Sant'Anna might seem a traditional Tuscan farmhouse at first.
But beyond the estate's historic fireplaces, ancient stone walls, and wood-beam ceilings are modern amenities like a private tennis court and a heated swimming pool. Rosewood has upped the ante further with such experiences as in-villa Tuscan barbecues and pizza parties. (rosewoodhotels.com)
Villa dei Poeti, Liguria
The four-bedroom Villa dei Poeti is located in Lerici on the Gulf of La Spezia, a favourite vacation destination of poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and D.H. Lawrence.
Priced from around $US11,000 (about $A14,700) per week, the estate is minimalist and elegant with a neutral palette of beige, white, and natural wood. Folding glass doors open onto a terrace with views of the imposing Castello di Lerici, a castle turned palaeontology museum that dates to 1152.
A platform and stepladder provide direct access to the shimmering sea below, and a motorboat can be arranged to transport guests across the gulf to the island of Palmaria and the villages of Cinque Terre. (redsavannah.com)
Rocca delle Tre Contrade, Sicily
Once abandoned and rundown, the 19th-century Rocca delle Tre Contrade is today a spectacular historic residence with a clean and contemporary style. A former wine farm and summer residence, the property features a blend of modern and antique furnishings sourced from throughout Europe.
The terraced grounds are planted with fragrant lemon and fig trees, and the infinity pool offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, Etna, and the lush countryside. Priced from around $US15,350 (about $A20,500) per week, the villa also hosts culinary events with well-known chefs like London-based Skye Gyngell and Australian chef and restaurateur Stefano Manfredi. (trecontrade.com)
Isola Santa Cristina, Venice
Isola Santa Cristina isn't just a villa — it's a private island. Located on the Venetian lagoon, the 19th-century estate functions as its own eco-retreat filled with cypress and olive groves, organic orchards, vineyards, and a forest where wild peacocks nest.
Priced from $US2200 (about $A2940) per night, the nine-bedroom villa underwent major renovations in 2015; today, larch wood floors and white walls give the villa a beach house vibe, while a custom Swarovski crystal chandelier and a private art collection lend plenty of sophistication.
Tamerici trees planted along the island's shore to protect from erosion ensure total privacy. (ultravilla.com)