Best for culture
Art and food in Parma
Tick several cultural boxes at once with Kirker’s new Art, Music and Gastronomy tour to Emilia-Romagna, with departures in April and October. Based in Parma, the holiday majors on the famous local ham and cheese. Musically, this is the birthplace of Verdiand Toscanini and there is a trip to Cremona, home of violin making, and visits to masterpieces by the artists Corregio and Parmigianino.
Details Six nights’ B&B is from £1,794pp, including three dinners and three lunches, flights and transfers (0207 593 1899,kirkerholidays.com)
Mummies in Turin
Well known for its role in the original The Italian Job film, Turin is also home to the finest collection of Egyptian artefacts outside Cairo, and a newly revamped Museo Egizio dedicated to them opens in April (see museoegizio.it). Also new is the central NH Collection Torino Piazza Carlina Hotel, a super-smart contemporary conversion of a 17th-century palace, close to the Egyptian museum, Mole Antonelliana, Royal Palace, Palazzo Madama and the city’s famous shopping arcades. If you want to book to view the Shroud of Turin, which is on display this year from April 19 to June 24, see sindone.org or call 00 39 011 529 5550.
Details Doubles are from £119 room-only (0870 80 7 1359, nh-hotels.com). Return flights from Manchester with jet2 (jet2.com) or easyJet (easyjet.com) from Gatwick are from £78 return
Veneto by rail
Sunvil Discovery has a new independent itinerary for 2015, exploring the “art” cities of the Veneto by train. It visits Verona (for the Giardino Giusti, a beautiful Renaissance-styled garden, and, of course, that balcony, if you must), Padua (for Giotto’s rightly famed frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel), Vicenza (for Palladio’s last work — the Teatro Olimpico) and then finally on to Venice for . . . everything.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £945pp, including flights and train transfers between cities (020 8758 4722, sunvil.co.uk)
Papal riches in Lazio
Andante Travels has an unusual new tour in May exploring the wealth and status of the papal aristocracy during the Renaissance in the shape of its sumptuous Roman-inspired villas, abbeys, gardens and estates in the rolling hills of Lazio, staying near Tivoli and in the splendid hill town of Civita Castellana.
Details Six nights are from £2,095pp including flights, all meals (with wine), services of an expert guide and transfers (01722 713 800, andantetravels.co.uk)
Opera in the Marches
To tie in with Milan hosting Expo 15, this year’s opera festival in the lovely Le Marche hill town of Macerata (July 23-27) has an all-Italian cultural theme, with Verdi’s Rigoletto, Puccini’s La bohèmeand a double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Not as well known or as touristy as Verona, it offers an equally stunning setting — the Arena Sferisterio, a 19th-century games arena.
Details Four nights’ B&B is from £1,595, plus two lunches, including top tickets for the three opera nights, guided sightseeing tours, flights and transfers (020 8799 8350, travelforthearts.co.uk)
Gardens in Lucca
Get behind normally closed doors with Ciceroni Travel’s Lucca & The Renaissance Garden tour in May. Not only do you spend time in the marvellous medieval walled city of Lucca in Tuscany, but there are visits to seven important gardens and villas, some rarely opened to the public, including Villa Bernardini, still lived in by members of the family who built it in 1615.
Details Four nights’ B&B is from £1,570pp, plus two lunches and two dinners, flights, transfers and entry fees (01869 811167,ciceroni.co.uk)
Secrets in Assisi
Voyage Jules Verne has a new tour for 2015 aimed at those who, having sampled Italy at least once, are coming back for more. Its “Return to Secret Italy” package is based in Assisi and visits the Roman Forum , the Temple of Minerva, medieval Orvieto, Ravenna’s Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the Tuscan garden of Villa La Foce. There is also a presentation of Umbrian wines at the home of a private art collector.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,295pp, and includes two lunches, one dinner, and flights (0845 1667035, vjv.com)
Best for foodies
Produce of Puglia
The Slow Food movement was, ironically, one of the fastest growing foodie trends of the Noughties and it shows no sign of running out of steam. Back-Roads Touring has a Slow Food Tour of Puglia (in a minivan, but the driver never speeds) new for 2015, which spends six days pootling between producers of cheese, wine, ham, pork and chickens while admiring the region’s caves, castles, cathedrals and palaces.
Details Five nights’ B&B is from £1,695pp, including two evening meals, two lunches, three guided food/ wine tastings, flights and transportation (020 8987 0990, backroadstouring.com)
Long Travel has introduced a new Gourmet Sicily package with four nights’ half-board accommodation at La Foresteria, a regular haunt of the chef Giorgio Locatelli, near Menfi (western Sicily). This is followed by three nights’ B&B at Locanda don Serafino in beautiful Baroque Ragusa in south east Sicily, which is foodie-cop Inspector Montalbano’s beat. The owner of Locanda don Serafino has a two-starred Michelin restaurant just down the road, where hotel guests receive a discount.
Details Seven nights (four half-board, three B&B) are from £1,020pp, including flights and car hire (01694-722193, long-travel.co.uk)
Flavours of Rome
You might think you know everything about Italian food, but Authentic Adventures promises fresh flavours on its new tour of Lazio’s Castelli Romani, an area of good eating and drinking best known to the locals. It includes a lunch prepared by the “Queen of the Amatriciana”, cookery lessons, pizza making and a long, languorous Sunday lunch of slow-cooked porchetta, as well as visits to vineyards, historic towns and markets.
Details Seven nights are from £1,599, including most meals but not flights (01453 823 328, authenticadventures.co.uk). Flights are from £80 (ba.com)
Walking with wine in Tuscany
Explore’s new self-explanatory trip “Tuscany — Walking and Wine” provides an eight-day, easy-graded guided walking tour in northern Italy, combined with fine food and wine. There are rambles to the hilltop town of Montepulciano, walks among the villas of Lucca, a night in a winery and time in Florence.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,095pp, including guided walks/tours, flights and transfers (0844 499 0901, explore.co.uk)
Rome’s Palazzo Manfredi, a 17th-century palace in the historical centre, comes with fabulous views over to the Colosseum, the Imperial Fora and the Domus Aurea from its rooftop terrace and Aroma restaurant. The latter has just been awarded its first Michelin star, so head there for the likes of Chianina beef tartare with rocket pesto, tomato water jelly and pecorino cheese foam and fabulous home-made pasta.
Details B&B doubles cost from £222; the tasting menu at Aroma is £99pp, £153 with wine (0039 0677 591 38006,palazzomanfredi.com)
Truffles in Liguria
Despite its name, MasterChef Travel doesn’t always involve a competitive element. Its Trofie & Truffles culinary tour is designed to showcase the food and wine of Liguria and Piedmont, focusing on the coast around Genoa and the hinterland, rather than beating your fellow guests at making the best trofie (noodle-like pasta). It includes wine, olive oil and chocolate tastings and a truffle hunt.
Details Seven days’ B&B is from £1,495pp, including two lunches and three dinners, flights and transfers (020 7873 5005,mastercheftravel.co.uk)
Primitivo in Puglia
There are interesting wines down south that rarely make it over to the UK and SmoothRed has just launched a new wine tour holiday to Puglia, in the heel of Italy, to sample some of them. This is the land of primitivo and the tour has two full days of guided, chauffeured wine tours with tastings and lunch, a visit to a local farmhouse to see the production of mozzarella with lunch to sample the produce, plus guided city tours of Alberobello (for its iconic trulli houses) and Matera, with its ancient cave dwellings.
Details Four nights’ B&B is from £1,149pp, including one lunch, wine tastings, flights and transfers (020 8877 4940,SmoothRed.co.uk)
Best new hotels
New hotel in Forte Village
Changes are afoot at the family favourite Forte Village on the southwest coast of Sardinia, near Pula. There is the new Hotel Bouganville, which offers bungalow accommodation, a new waterfront area with private beach bordered by a fresh crop of restaurants and a larger sports area with beach volleyball. Plus, for the grown-ups, there’s a new Michelin-starred restaurant.
Details Seven nights are from £1,645 per adult (£175 under-12s sharing the parents’ room), half-board in a bungalow at Hotel Bouganville, including flights but not transfers (01204 821419,destinology.co.uk)
Stay on Lake Como
Anyone yearning for that Grand Budapest Hotel experience of a grand old dame of a hotel with a colourful history and impeccable service should try the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como, which has recently been carefully updated (a new spa opens next door soon and many of the upper suites now have outdoor hot tubs). With its lakefront terrace and “floating pool”, it exudes both grandeur and glamour (after all, Garbo stayed here).
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,385pp, including flights from Heathrow and transfers (01244 355 527, itcluxurytravel.co.uk)
Eco hotel in the Dolomites
The Naturhotel Miraval, a new opening in the Alta Badia area of the Dolomites, is a modern 12-bedroom, 10-apartment eco-conscious complex that sits on Sasso Santa Croce Mountain. In late spring and during the summer months it is an ideal starting point for both easy and challenging hiking trails, climbing walls, mountain biking and motorcycle tours around the area’s impressive mountain passes.
Details Half-board doubles are from £68 (00 39 0471 84 40 55,naturhotelmiraval.com). Flights to Innsbruck or Venice with easyJet (easyjet.com) are from £50
Short break in Naples
This city is a very much an up and coming destination, with a new no-nonsense mayor determined to clean up its act, a metro system that functions as public art (including Monte St Angelo by our own Amanda Levete and Anish Kapoor), new flights from Luton, and two new additions to the i-escape hotel portfolio in the city — Attico Partenopeo, a B&B with a roof terrace for views over the city and the cinema-themed boutique Hotel Partenope Relais.
Details Attico Partenopeo has B&B doubles from £70 per night; Partenope Relais is from £105 B&B (both through i-escape.com). EasyJet (easyjet.com) has flights from £80
Mandarin in Milan
Milan is not exactly under-resourced when it comes to luxury hotels, but surprisingly it has never had a Mandarin Oriental — until now, that is. A conversion of three lovely 19th-century buildings on Via Monte di Pietà, this swish 104-room hotel is conveniently located for that all-important Milanese sport — shopping.
Details Doubles are from £469 (00 39 02 9731 8888,mandarinoriental.com). Flights cost from £54 (easyjet.com)
Two hotels in one in Florence
The Garibaldi Blu is a new four-star hotel in Florence that is internally linked to an existing three-star one (the Hotel Rosso 23), thus offering a two-in-one experience, with shared common spaces and facilities and the chance to experience bars and restaurants in both hotels. The Garibaldi is on Piazza Santa Maria Novella — handy for the station. And — although Garibaldi, himself, once stayed at this historic building — the hotel features fiercely contemporary touches (and very comfortable beds), including lots of blue — it has a denim theme.
Details B&B doubles are from £95 (00 39 055 277300,whythebesthotels.com). Flights cost from £102 (cityjet.com)
Rough luxe in Rome
“Rough Luxe” is the hotel equivalent of very expensive, ripped and stressed jeans. G-Rough, opening near Piazza Navona in Rome in March, is a deliberately scuffed 16th-century building that now celebrates several generations of Italian designers, while promising a “Fellini-esque visual landscape that meshes fantasy and baroque,” although whether you’ll need the “lifestyle manager” it comes with remains to be seen.
Details Doubles are from £326 (00800 374683 57,designhotels.com). Flights cost from £90 (ba.com)
Palace in Genoa
Genoa remains one of the unsung cities in Italy, despite an abundance of classic art and architecture, a fantastic maze of medieval alleys known as “caruggi”, good Ligurian food and easy access to the local Riviera and the Cinque Terra. A recently opened hotel adds to the attraction. The 12-bedroom Le Nuvole is on the fourth floor of the Lamba Doria Palace and doesn’t shy away from celebrating its 16th to 17th-century heritage with frescoes, marble floors and ornate plasterwork. Not one for those who prefer minimalist boxes.
Details B&B doubles are from £74 (00 39 10 2510018,www.hotellenuvole.it). Flights are from £46 (ryanair.com)
Best for families
Learn in the Dolomites
Perhaps best known for its skiing and challenging Via Ferrata tours, this year the venerable, family-run Rosa Alpina is launching an ‘educational programme’ for families, with adventure walks in the local natural park. Children are taught to identify wild mountain flowers, including protected species and healing plants, distinguish between different types of trees and learn how the mountains were formed. The hotel even has a supply of buggies in case little legs get tired.
Details B&B doubles cost from £325, with children sharing a room paying from £27.50 a night (00 39 0471 849 500, rosaalpina.it). Flights to Innsbruck cost from £50 (easyjet.com). Car hire is from £130 a week (020 3740 9859, holidayautos.co.uk)
Beach babies in Sardinia
A good family option on Sardinia is Chia Laguna, which sits on a rocky knoll overlooking a bay, offering a variety of accommodation options and nine restaurants (including a dedicated children’s one), plus plenty of sand (some of Italy’s best beaches are nearby) and snorkeling. There are also kids’ clubs, catering for all ages, from babies to 17-year-olds.
Details Seven nights’ half board is from £1,141pp (a family of four sharing a room pays from £3,728), including flights and transfers (01293 738641, citalia.com)
UTracks has just launched a group Italy Family Adventure, exploring from Rome by foot and bike before transferring to Naples for Herculaneum and a hike to the top of the Mount Vesuvius volcano, then the Amalfi coast for a guided walk on the “path of the gods” followed by a swim at the picturesque beach in Positano, a boat trip to the island of Capri, a tour of Pompeii and a typical Italian lunch at a family-run vineyard. Phew.
Details Eight days is from £950pp (children between the ages of 8 and 12 pay £870), mostly full board, including all activities and transfers (0845-241 7599, utracks.com) but not flights into Rome, out of Naples. (ba.com, from £98)
Beaches in Elba
It might be a bit of a schlep to get there (flight, car, ferry) but Elba, with its 156 beaches and pretty harbours, is a top Italian family destination and increasing popular with the British. The desirable Hotel Désirée, set in 17 acres of private parkland in Spartaia Bay, has been refurbished for this year, adding family rooms that sleep up to five.
Details Seven nights at the Hotel Désirée is from £925pp half-board including car hire, return ferry transfers and flights to Pisa from Gatwick (01293 731 753, citalia.com)
Basilicata is a coming area of Italy for the UK market and the Hotel Gabbiano, near Maratea, occupies one of the best spots on the coast, sitting on a little cove with all rooms having sea view and a balcony. Right on the beach, it has good food, friendly owners and a great wine list — perfect for families.
Details Seven nights’ half board costs from £433pp per adult (£144 per child under 12 sharing a room) including flights (01694 722193,long-travel.co.uk)
Island life in Ischia
For something different, try Ischia, a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, famous for hot springs and revitalising mud baths, and accessible by boat from Naples. The Garden & Villas resort is a lovely family-friendly hotel consisting of nine whitewashed villas scattered throughout the extensive hillside gardens in the northeastern corner of the island, a short walk from the beach (though there are steps, so it’s not for a toddler) and with an American Bar set into a cave.
Details Seven nights’ half board is from £1,325pp (under-12s pay £1,170) including flights and transfers (020 7359 3938,realholidays.co.uk)
Coastal retreat near Livorno
Completed only last year, the stylish and modern Villa Claudia in Pineta di Roccamare (on the coast between Livorno and Rome) is a new rental. Ideal for two families with young children or teenagers, the villa is set in a pine forest and is a short walk from a quiet beach, has a private tennis court 100 metres away, and bicycles to explore on. It has five bedrooms and sleeps up to ten.
Details The villa costs £4,348 (01749-812721, scottwilliams.co.uk). Flights to Pisa are from £95 (ba.com)
Best spa breaks
Yoga in Itria
Destination Yoga has a charming family-run retreat in the heart of the Itria Valley in Puglia, with some accommodation in the region’s conical trulli houses. There are three vegetarian meals daily and two yoga classes plus an open-air swimming pool on site and a range of massage treatments available.
Details Seven nights’ full board is from £895pp, including yoga and transfers from Bari, but not flights (020 3235 0122,destinationyoga.co.uk). Flights cost from £180 (ba.com)
Spa in Basilicata
The Santavenere Hotel, which spills down the hillside near Maratea, on the southern coast of Italy, is a slice of old-school dolce vita from the 1950s (a favourite of Claudia Cardinale, Anita Ekberg and Ben Gazzara ). Opening this month is the La Terme spa, with five treatment rooms, a shiatsu room, sunroom with gold sand and cell-stimulating sunlamps, salt room (Himalayan and Sicilian salt), sea-water hydromassage pool, sauna, “emotional” showers and Turkish bath. There is a wide range of treatments, both conventional and esoteric, including the Venus Miracle, an ancient Roman-inspired therapy, an immersion in rare, therapeutic ‘jenny milk’ — from donkeys — and ‘snail nectar’.
Details Room-only doubles are from £99, with a complimentary mini-massage (00 39 0973 876910, hotelsantavenere.com). A three-day fly-drive to Naples is from £130pp (ba.com)
Meditate in Umbria
Learn how to meditate at Casa Faustina, a stone country house set on 40 acres (16ha) in the Umbrian hills. The daily programme includes two mindfulness meditation sessions and two of Lujong — a Tibetan yoga to strengthen bodies and minds. There’s also a pool, walks through the countryside, historical Assisi, Spello and Orvieto nearby and three vegetarian meals a day (including wine with dinner).
Details Seven nights’ full board in September is from £888pp, including meditation and yoga sessions (00 33 638 027303,mindfulnessjourneys.com). Flights to Perugia cost from £62 (ryanair.com)
Therapies in Fasano
The stunning white Borgo Egnazia is in the south, near Fasano on the Adriatic coast, and its recently revamped wellness centre is reckoned to be one of the best spas in the country, offering psychosomatic naturopathy, Kneipp hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, graphology, wellness life coaching, even shaman consultations, but fear not, the usual spa suspects are here too, with treatments based on local, organic ingredients.
Details Five nights’ B&B is from £749pp, including flights and transfers (01306 747008, kuoni.co.uk)
Best active breaks
Hiking in Liguria
One of Exodus’s new soft adventures for 2015 is walking the gorgeous Ligurian coast, including super-chic Portofino and a section of the famous Ligurian Blue Path, through vineyards and ancient olive groves. The trip is based in the seaside town of Moneglia in the Gulf of Poets, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is graded moderate with 9-13km per day.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £999, including two lunches, one dinner and one winetasting, as well as flights, transfers and guided walking (0845 287 2320, exodus.co.uk)
Sea kayak in Sardinia
The deserted coves, spooky caves, towering limestone cliffs, ancient watchtowers and sandy beaches make the southwest cost of Sardinia ideal for sea kayaking. Responsible Travel has an eight-day, guided excursion that includes plenty of down time from paddling (four or five hours a day) for snorkelling, swimming or sunbathing.
Details Seven nights are from £865pp including most meals and a mixture of accommodation (hotels, agriturismo, camping) and all instruction/equipment, transfers but not flights (01273 823700,responsibletravel.com). Flights cost from £98pp (easyjet.com)
Tuscany on horseback
On Equine Escapes’ Learn to Ride with Spa and Wine package, you ride out from a turreted castle on the Tuscan/Umbria border, which also comes with tennis court, two swimming pools and mountain bikes. As the name suggests, you’ll get the chance to ride to a natural hot water spa (massages available) and visit a vineyard for a wine tasting, on a non-riding day.
Details Seven nights’ half board is from £895pp, with four days’ riding, spa (or cookery lesson) and wine tasting (01829 781123,equestrian-escapes.com). Flights to Rome cost from £90 (ba.com) and airport transfers cost from £180 per car
Walking Umbria’s Sabine Hills
On Foot Holidays has an unusual self-guided route following Italy’s scenic backbone, from medieval Spoleto to the famous Abbey of Farfa, in the Sabine Hills of Umbria, a trip designed specifically for experienced walkers (five to seven hours on hill tracks per day, graded medium-hard). Highlights include the vine-clad landscape to Il Lago di Piediluco and Greccio in the Sabine Hills, where St Francis was believed to have invented the Christmas nativity scene.
Details Eight nights’ B&B is from £750pp, staying in an interesting range of hotels from abbeys to townhouses, plus four dinners and one picnic, luggage transfers, and detailed route information (01722 322652, onfootholidays.co.uk). Flights to Rome cost from £90 (ba.com); the company can advise on transfers
Cycle Venice to Rome
Discover Adventure’s new Venice to Rome group trip is probably not for the Sunday cyclist. From Venice it heads south through small, rustic villages, over the rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria, along the Adriatic coast, then turns inland for long climbs and steep gradients, before a relatively flat (and welcome) run to Rome. You need to take (or hire) your own bike.
Details Six days in May or September is from £949pp including most meals, flights, transfers and the services of the support team (01722 718444, discoveradventure.com)
Soft pedal in Puglia
Have your luggage transported from masseria to masseria (large converted farmhouses) while you cycle on a self-guided tour of the quiet backroads of the Plains of Sorrento — which forms the heel of Italy — and lovely coastal routes. Inntravel’s easy Pedalling Through Puglia package takes in from 31-65km a day on easy Grade One routes. Tandems are available on request.
Details Eight nights’ B&B is from £1,085pp, with seven dinners, and bike hire, but not flights or transfers (01653 617003, inntravel.co.uk). Flights to Bari cost from £130 (ba.com and easyjet.com. Transfers cost from £105
Windsurf on Garda
Most Italian lakes are known for their scenery and sedate ferries, but Lake Garda, especially to the northern section with its reliable, steady winds, is a great place to sail and windsurf, suitable for beginners and experts alike. The area is dotted with windsurfing centres that can offer tuition/hire packages from a day to a week and Surf Segnana is one of the most established, having been there for 35 years.
Details Six nights’ B&B is from £225pp including nine hours’ tuition and seven days’ board and bike hire (sailing packages are also available). Stay in simple hotels/apartments at either Torbole or Riva del Garda, both excellent locations for reliable winds (00 39 0464 505963, surfsegnana.it). Flights to Verona cost from £82 and car hire from £26 a day (ba.com)
Best special interest breaks
Painting in Umbria
Learn to paint the rolling hills and towns that form the backdrop to biblical Italian Renaissance paintings at Chiesa del Carmine in Umbria, an 11th-century church that, together with its adjoining 18th-century farmhouse, is now a luxurious seven-room country house. Tutor Alan Reed will teach guests how to capture the light and landscape of the stunning surroundings.
Details A week’s painting course in May is from £1,050pp, half-board, with daily tuition (0039 075 9414219, chiesadelcarmine.com). Flights cost from £120 (ryanair.com)
Snappers in Venice
Learn how to capture Venice in photos by following a top professional photographer around the calli and over the canal bridges, taking pictures of art and architecture. Then discuss/analyse your work at seminars back at the grand canalside Bauers Hotel, which is organising this new Venice through A Lens package.
Details A three-day workshop in the Spring is from £268. Room-only doubles at the Bauers Hotel are from £230 per night (00 39 041 520 7022, bauervenezia.com). Flights are from £70 (easyjet.com)
Flowers in Marche
Naturetrek has a trip exploring flower-filled alpine meadows of the Sibillini National Park in the eastern Apennines of the Marche region. Guided mountain walks take in carpets of gentians, edelweiss and clouds of butterflies, including many fritillaries and blues. There is fantastic birdlife, too, in these mountains — Alpine Choughs, Alpine Accentors, golden eagles, goshawks and Snow Finches — as well as, less easily spotted, wolves and wildcats. To see the flowers, you walk eight to 11km a day, all from a comfortable hotel base.
Details Eight days’ full board in June is from £1,295pp, including flights and transfers (01962 733 051, naturetrek.co.uk)
Golf and cars in the Veneto
Mix’n’match a few rounds of golf in the Venetian hinterland with touring in classic cars (such as a 1962 Alfa Romeo Guilietta Spider; 1966 Triumph Spitfire Mark 2, 1969 Alfa Romeo Duetto), plus wine-tasting, olive-oil tasting and learning to cook a little Italian food.
Details Eight nights’ B&B is from £2,745pp (non-golfers pay £320pp less). The price includes three dinners and a lunch, six rounds of golf, driving vintage cars on two days, a boat cruise on Lake Garda, tastings, cookery lesson, and transport but not flights, which can be arranged by the company (01992 579 697,greatgolfadventures.net)
Best new villas
Wish Sicily is a new company renting villas on the island. Its portfolio includes several budget options, including Green Villa, a modern white cube of a house, close to the seaside resort of Mondello, near Palermo, which comes with a large garden with a lawn and small children’s play area, overlooked by a terrace with an outdoor kitchen, dining and sitting area. There’s no pool, but there’s always the sea.
Details Green Villa sleeps six and costs from £659 a week (020 7 193 7302, wishsicily.com). Flights to Palermo are from £92 (easyjet.com)
On Tuscany’s border
New on the rental market for 2015, Casale Fonte Sant’Angelo is a beautifully restored and updated beamed farmhouse that straddles the Umbrian-Tuscan border, with an immaculate lawn dotted with Puglian olive trees, framing a view of nearby Lake Trasimeno, with its lakeside restaurants and watersports. Quite honestly, though, you may find it hard to get away from the rather splendid pool and its loungers.
Details The villa sleeps 14 and costs from £4,995 per week (01954 261431, vintagetravel.co.uk). Fly to Perugia from £60 (ryanair.com)
Stay in a Tuscan quarry
It might sound a little bleak, but Cava di Calbello villa sits in a former stone quarry. Luckily, greenery has reclaimed most of the rocks and it now makes for a very private and spectacular setting, albeit just 15 minutes from Siena. Renovated late last year, the multi-level property has new wood and marble floors, a large kitchen, in- and outdoor dining areas and a 6 x 12m pool.
Details A week for eight is from £2,629 (020 8444 9500,invitationtotuscany.com). Flights to Florence (80km away) are from £102 (cityjet.com)
Masseria in Puglia
Masseria Monopoli is a pretty fabulous white fortified farmhouse designed to keep Saracens and pirates at bay, and which makes you feel as if you could keep out the marauding hordes for months, while living in considerable style. It has olive groves, a pool with a pool house, a kitchen and herb garden, and a housekeeper as well as eight very chic bedrooms (sleeps 16).
Details One week is from £8,700 — or £544pp if fully occupied (020 7602 7602, bellinitravel.com). Flights to Bari are from £130pp (ba.com)
By the beach in Sicily
Massimo Villa’s La Mannera is close to that rarity in Italy — a lovely unspoiled little beach: there are no loungers, pedalos or jet skis. The villa is surrounded by Sicily’s Vendicari Nature Reserve and a footpath through it leads to Cala Mosca, a quiet, little-known beach within the reserve (and next to the archaeological site of Eloro). Just make sure you don’t take a wrong turn to the nudist beach. The villa itself is single-storey, nicely equipped, with a Zen garden, covered terraces and a plunge pool. It sleeps eight.
Details Seven nights for eight are from £1,760 (0203 529 8013,massimovillas.com). Fly to Catania (85km away) from £98 (easyjet.com)
Heated pool in Chianti
Tuscany Now’s Il Trebbio has a nice touch — a pool heated by solar panels (even in the heat of an Italian summer, villa pools are often distinctly chilly). It is also a 13th-century hilltop farmhouse surrounded by the sort of countryside that first put Chiantishire on the UK map (it’s two miles from Castellina-in-Chianti). It has a lovely kitchen, plus a wonderful pergola for shaded outdoor dining. It sleeps up to ten.
Details Seven nights for ten are from £3,662 (020 7684 8884,tuscanynow.com). Flights to Pisa are from £64 (ryanair.com )