29 March 2015

Magnificient Modica – discover self-catering heaven in Sicily


We love the south of Sicily and whilst nearby Ragusa is modestly known, Modica is a real hidden gem.  Baroque in style, this charming city is only 15 km from Ragusa and and is divided in two areas: Modica Alta (upper Modica) and Modica Bassa (lower Modica), which are connected by hundreds of steps.  The town, located between two valleys and on Pizzo’s hill, is a harmony of churches, palaces and buildings of the eighteenth century (all built according to the late baroque style).  Think narrow, quaint streets, inspiring domes, squares, and fantastic architecture – its picture postcard perfect!


The most extraordinary example of the architecture is Saint George’s Cathedral, which is recognised by Unesco.  Polara Palace (XVIII century) which overlooks Modica Bassa, is characterised by Saint Peter’s Cathedral that is embellished by its stairway with the statues of the twelve Apostles.


Modica is also famous for its chocolate that has been made since the eighteenth century – especially as it blends some interesting ingredients such as vanilla, cinnamon or hot pepper. It’s a chocoholic’s paradise!



In addition to its history, Modica really does have a lively heart.  The Marina Di Modica, which is close by is considered a paradise for surfing and windsurfing.  The lovely long beaches offer endless relaxing days and at night there are plenty of restaurants and nightly haunts to make the most of the the long hot summer evenings.


Getting to Modica, couldn’t be easier – Catania airport is a mere 90 min drive away and there are plenty of other Sicilian delights within easy reach such a Syracuse and Scicli.

In terms of accommodation, Holiday Homes in Italy offers some wonderful villas dotted around the Modica countryside, try:


Casa di Petra

Casa di Pietra is a small stone house of the kind characteristic of Ragusa with a fab swimming pool. Its only 10 km from Modica and the beautiful beaches of Sampieri and Donnalucata can be reached in just a few minutes by car.



Mediterraneo Apartments

This beautiful complex of apartments is just a stone's throw away from the beautiful, wide sandy beach of Marina di Modica.  Its location is perfect to experience a wonderful holiday by the sea, and is also a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.


Tipico Baglio

This sunny five bedroom eighteenth-century country property is located at the heart of baroque Sicily, and recently expertly renovated. It is surrounded by the typical local carob plants, fields of grain, ancient olive, citrus and almond trees and wonderfully scented jasmine.  It offers two swimming pools, both situated in the sheltered and stylishly furnished Mediterranean courtyard. This is a wonderful base to discover the City of Modica (8 km away).



Villa Angeli

This is the property to discover an authentic Sicilian way of being, a cosy 4 bedroom patrician dwelling tracing back to end of the nineteenth century.  Situated in a quiet, sunny but not isolated location, the villa looks on to a well-maintained garden enriched by a collection of palm trees while at the back extends the large swimming pool and a panoramic small terrace with wonderful views on the countryside.

Eleganza

There’s no better way to take in the sights of Modica than staying in the centre and waking upp too its awe-inspiring view every day.  Eleganza is a refined, exclusive 2 bed house in the historical centre, just a few metres from the beautiful cathedral of San Giorgio. Its cosy terraces offer wonderful, uncommon and suggestive views of the enchanting roofs and alleyways of the old this baroque town.  Lovingly and carefully renovated, the property is a wonderful and traditional Sicilian holiday home.



La Ciliegia

A lovely old 3 bedroom country house located in the vicinity of Modica. This beautiful dwelling, which has been recently expertly renovated, belongs to an old, charming "baglio", a traditional, rural architecture which was built round an internal courtyard that includes the manor house itself and the close farmhouse, occasionally occupied by the owner. Beyond the courtyard is the large swimming pool with terrace-solarium surrounded by a luxuriant garden with citrus trees and Mediterranean plants.



Villa Modica Vista

A lovely 3 bedroom old farmhouse lying between Modica and Frigintini that dominates a wide stretch of olive trees and carobs, a peaceful place that a well-known sicilian artist has restored with love and with her own artistic style. The garden is enclosed on one side by a wall in local stone, and on the other it looks over the countryside, and is characterized by a long, 21 metre, irregular-shaped swimming-pool, with a large paved farmyard and green spaces with olive and palm trees, and is all perfectly blended in with its natural surroundings.

8 March 2015

My top ten favourite things about Sardinia


1. Windsurfing


Not my usual holiday activity but tried it a couple of years ago in Sardinia and it was fab! Sardinia is a paradise for windsurfers with thousands of kilometres of coastline and wind blowing from every direction.  There are plenty of windsurfing schools, so no problem if you are a beginner like me.  For the real experts, Porto Pollo near Palau is renowned as one of the best locations in Europe!  Oristano in the West, Villasimius on the South-Est coast and the Costa Rei are also great spots.

2. Alghero 


This town is amazing! I made the mistake on my first visit to Sardinia by bypassing the town as it was where I flew into. How wrong could I have been? I think it is probably the best town in Sardinia. Beautiful old streets, quaint squares, a lovely historic centre and great port. This is a perfect destination for eating out in the many restaurants, sitting in the port with an aperitivo and watching the world go by or shopping in the many cute boutiques. Don’t miss it!

3. Maddelena 


The Maddalena archipelago off the coast of Sardinia's Costa Smeralda is simply stunning!  It’s a quiet place of turquoise seas and sandy coves. The seven large islands and 55 tiny islands has some of the most spectacular beaches you'll find anywhere in Italy with the most clear water.You can reach the island in 20 minutes by ferry from the Sardinian port of Palau and after a day of relaxing, it’s worth spending some time in the town of Maddelena itself. It’s a lively, sophisticated town, buzzing with bars, shops and restaurants. If you are into exploring, then this is a must!

4. Taking a Vespa 


I do like to spend some time on a Vespa and although you could do this anywhere in Italy, in Sardinia it really is fantastic.  From the bike you can really take in the island’s breath-taking landscapes and feel the salty breeze, whilst catching some sun. It’s a real adventure for a day away from your car rental and the reason that I presser it here on the island is simple the space and freedom and lack of traffic and congestion.

5. The food!  


I love Italian cuisine – my Dad has a restaurant, so it’s in the family. What I love about the food on this island is that its true Mediterranean cuisine with a wealth of strong local tradition. Sardinia is by tradition a largely shepherd country, and this is reflected in its cuisine. Staples are grilled or spit roasted meat, cheeses, breads, salamis and olives. Flavours are simple, intense and natural. You will be spoilt for choice with restaurants but here are 3 of my favourites: 

1. Agriturismo Montiferru, south of Alghero in the countryside offers a real Italian agriturismo experience.  


2. Kings is an excellent restaurant right by the seaside in Alghero.  The food, service and atmosphere are amazing. 


3. If you are in search of a great pizza, Pizza D'Autore close to Cagliari was really some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.


6. Vista sul porto 


Whilst I have stayed in our villas and apartments over the years, I really enjoyed our stay in Vista sul Porto apartment last year. It has great views over Porto Cervo, was so relaxing and we had direct access to the sea. We were also very close to the town and its very upmarket harbour. I can’t recommend this holiday retreat enough!

7. Hiring a boat for the day


It’s not as expensive as you think and you can often combine with another small group. I think a holiday in Sardinia is not the same without going on a boat.  A day charter is often the most memorable part of the holiday - swimming at a secluded beach away from the crowds, snorkelling and just seeing the islands’ beautiful coastline and coves. There is no better way to discover the real Sardinia, it’s most beautiful beaches and bays!

8. Stintino


I can’t help but go back to this fab place each time I return to the island.  Stintino is a really quaint coastal community filled with culture and history and well known for La Pelosa beach. The town is cute and there are plenty of great restaurants serving excellent seafood. The beaches are out of this world – plenty of fine white sands which are lapped by shallow, warm, tranquil waters and you can catch a boat to nearby islands.

9. Sardinian history 



People just associate the island with sun and sand and I think that’s a shame.  There is a great culture here with some fantastic traditions, festivals and events. For culture vultures, I would recommend visiting the Nuraghi, the beehive-like stone dwellings from the Bronze Age, and can only be found on Sardinia.  Exact use of the Nuraghi is unknown, but many believe that they were either used as religious temples, or military strongholds. The most well-known one is Nuraxi su Barumini, which has been declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  At Tharros, near Oristano in the west, or Nora, near Pula in the south, you can also visit Roman ruins as both sites are practically open-air museums!

10. The glamour of Porto Cervo 


I normally prefer quaint and unassuming Italian towns but there is something about the glitz and glam of Porto Cervo which is magnetic.  The Costa Smeralda, in the North-East of Sardinia, is the favourite holiday destination of some of the wealthiest people in the world.  This is really the place to do the ‘passeggiata’ and watch the world, or should I say the yachts go by. 

View our Sardinia guide

2 January 2015

What's hot in 2015? – Our guide to the top 5 Italian destinations to go to this year


Life is all about adventure and Italy has plenty of that to offer.  Let 2015 be a year of discovery and try a destination that you may not have considered in Italy. Whatever you are planning for your holidays, Italy offers a classic blend of natural, cultural and historical attractions. 


Italy is a very beautiful and diverse country with plenty to explore from rolling countryside to endless beaches and fantastic historical towns.


At Holiday Homes in Italy, we obviously love the country in all its entirety and selecting 5 destinations is always difficult but here are our predictions for the hottest locations in Italy this season;


1. Puglia 


You can’t keep this region down. It’s been a favourite of ours for many years now. Despite the huge amount of media coverage, it has not quite driven the expected amount of tourists down in the ‘heel of Italy’. This is not a bad thing! Undiscovered towns and villages, beautiful and uncrowded coastline with kilometres of sandy beaches and wonderful rugged countryside with orange soil and olive trees, reminiscent of Greece.  That’s without mentioning the food, the wine and the people…. Polignano and Monopoli are beautiful coastal towns in the north, Alberobello is a heritage site with fantastic countryside and a myriad of Trulli houses and Otranto and Gallipoli in the south offer a mixture of great architecture and fabulous coast.  Puglia offers a refreshingly different and affordable holiday destination.


- Read our Puglia blog 









In comparison to its famous sister Garda, Como is a more tranquil and wooded lake with beautiful surrounding countryside.  With lots of activities taking place around the lake in 2015, this is really a great year to visit Como. With renaissance villas, castles and beautiful gardens, the lake offers a calm and magical destination.  Bellagio in the south is most definitely the prettiest town on the lake with cobbled streets, pretty piazza's and lovely views but the lake is awash with great resorts such as Menaggio and Como.  Great food, a relaxed lifestyle, warm summers and autumns make it a perfect destination for holidays in 2015.


- Read our Lake Como blog 






It’s all about the lakes this season and not hard to see why.  The largest lake offers a more active and family orientated slant to its sister lake Como. The beautiful towns around the lake are buzzing with life and international tourists and the shores are pretty, dominated by vines, olive trees and lemon trees.  Garda offers a great temperate climate and a wealth of outdoor activities such as cycling, windsurfing and walking. On its doorstep are vineyards, the beautiful city of Verona and Gardaland for the children.  Lake Garda is the place to go if you are looking for a combination of a relaxing and active holiday – a great all-rounder!


- Read our Lake Garda blog 







4. Sicily


Sicily is quite simply stunning! It is so much more than a beach destination, although it is home to kilometres of heavenly beaches. The sunny island combines awe-inspiring coastlines with wonderful architecture, fabulous food and Europe's greatest natural wonder, Mount Etna.  It really is an island of contrasts – chic resorts like Taormina, picture perfect coastal towns such as Cefalu and the Baroque town of Ragusa, you will be spoilt for choice!


- Read our Sicily blog 









5. Tuscany 


Its back again in our list and it’s not hard to see why; sun-soaked landscape and glorious, peaceful scenery, the region is home to some of Italy's greatest artistic treasures. The most well-known part of Tuscany has to be the Chianti region, perfect in its beauty with rolling hills dotted with vines and silvery olive groves and with dozens of pretty villages. However, the countryside around Lucca and Florence offer equally beautiful countryside, housing some great villas.  Tuscan cities such as Florence, Siena and Pisa as well as towns such as Lucca, Cortona and Arezzo offer a great cultural day out to compliment a relaxing holiday. From City apartments to rustic village properties to farmhouses with pools, Tuscany is wonderful holiday destination that combines nature with medieval history.







23 November 2014

The Milky Way – Italy’s temptingly sweet ski area


In the UK, it may mean another thing but the Milky Way is fast becoming a pull for skiers from all over Europe.  Many holidaymakers look at individual resorts without realising that they offer access to a much broader ski area.


Sauze D’Oulx and Sestriere are definitely the big attractions in this ski area but the Milky Way also the less-known San Sicario, Cesana, Pragelato, Claviere and the French Montgenèvre, representing a mouth-watering 212 pistes (7 green, 67 blue, 97 red and 41 black) and 69 ski lifts. Those who only think of going to the Dolomites should really reconsider!




The ski in the Milky Way area is characterized by wide open spaces, panoramic and sunny slopes that connect traditional villages with modern amenities.  From the peaks and slopes you have magnificent views in all centres. The vastness and variety of the area can satisfy both the more demanding skier, thanks to the variety of long and difficult slopes, and those who are dipping their toes into the world of skiing for the very first time.  Snowboarders are also well catered for in the Milky Way with a fantastic new snowboard fun park available in Sestriere as well as mini parks available in each of the resorts themselves.


As a destination it's much more laid back than its rivals in France, Switzerland and Austria, so expect a great all-round holiday experience.

Family fun



For families, there are a myriad of activities available to children; fun parks with inflatable structures, great ski schools and plenty of off-piste activities.  Families with young children are welcomed even in the most chic hotels and restaurants.

Tasty food


Lovers of Italian cuisine will be completely satisfied by the Milky Way: there are over 30 mountain huts comforting skiers who prefer to stay on the slopes all day – prices are great in comparison to other resorts and neighbouring France. You will find plenty of pasta and Lasagna on offer but also more traditional mountain stews served with flavoursome and wholesome polenta, which is famous from the north of Italy.


How to get there

The Milky Way skiing area is located in Piemonte and is within easy reach thanks to its privileged geographic position and to the proximity to Turin airport. Most resorts can be reached within an hour of the airport, making them an ideal ski weekend or week’s holiday destination. Other connections are also available from Geneva, Nice and Milan. For those contemplating to attire by train, high speed trains stop daily at Oulx from Rome, Turin, Lyon and Paris.

Accommodation


Holiday Homes in Italy offers a great range of affordable ski accommodation from quaint Italian bed and breakfasts to self-catering ski apartments suitable for both families and larger ski groups.


View ski apartments in Sauze D’Oulx

View hotels and b&b’s in Sauze D’Oulx

View ski apartments in Sestriere

View hotels and b&b’s in Sestriere

5 October 2014

2014/15 Italian ski season prices released

Italian ski accommodation


With only a couple of months away until the start of the ski season, Holiday Homes in Italy is pleased to release prices for Italian ski accommodation.


Italian ski resorts


Skiing in Italy is a friendly and relaxed affair, involving not just skiing, but eating, drinking and sunbathing!  This season, we are pleased to offer a variety of locations, from quieter family resorts, to lively and chic resorts.  With a mix of old and new, ski resorts in Italy continue to delight visitors with their traditional customs and stylish facilities.

Food is one of the cornerstones of Italian culture, so expect some great food both off and on the slopes.  In addition to this, most Italian ski resorts have plenty of bars and nightlife, so apres-ski can be lively, particularly at the weekends.


This season, we are pleased to include the following resorts in our portfolio:



All resorts are well-served by flights from the UK and worldwide.

Ski accommodation


We offer a wide choice of ski accommodation in Italian ski resorts from fantastic ski apartments to chalets, B&B's and luxury hotels, with something to suit every budget and requirement. We also offer a wide range of resorts, so you can choose on the basis of facilities, piste network and altitude.

Click here to view our Italian ski accommodation


Book early

There's money to be saved with planning ahead - if you are thinking of taking a ski holiday this winter, book early!  Leaving bookings to the last minute will not necessarily result in an excellent deal as Italian ski resorts notoriously stick to advertised prices and airline ticket prices often increase close to the departure date.  If you book early, not only are you more likely to secure the desired resort and accommodation but also benefit from reasonable flights and early bird booking discounts.