18 August 2014

Autumn holidays in Italy; smart prices, less crowds and plenty of sunshine

Most tourists visit Italy predictably in the high season months of June, July and August.  You also have to remember that millions of Italians themselves staycation in Italy (can you blame them?) mostly during August. Even September in Italy these days but towards the end of September and October really is a magical time to visit!

Visiting outside of peak season will bring lots of benefits to the potential visitor. Prices for a start are significantly lower and can range from 25% to 50% less than high season – you can normally cherry pick your choice of self-catering villa or apartment with ease.  The weather tends to still be good in September and often well into October in many regions – it can drift easily into the late 20’s in most places but obviously cooler in the mornings and evenings and becomes a little more unsettles to add even more drama to the beautiful landscape. A refreshing change to the often stifling heatwaves of July and August.

Visiting Italy in the autumn will often help you to discover the real regions; visiting historical hamlets and villages without the midsummer crowds, and driving on quiet country roads with crisp blue skies can really be a joy.

Another benefit is the fantastic food. Italian food is always wonderful but during this period, many areas will boast festivals and start harvest season showcasing their local produce.

In terms of activities, it is also perfect for a game of golf and other activities of interest such as sailing and diving, horse riding and fishing.

Where to visit

Autumn is fab all over Italy but here is our pick of areas:

Lake Garda – We love the lakes but they can get so crowded over summer with too many campervans heading down from northern Europe. Once the Italians are back to work and the high season families have scattered, Garda becomes elegant again and a real joy to navigate around.

Tuscany – One of our favourite places like many others but autumn really is a joy here are the roads are not congested and you are not surrounded by tourists at every turn. You can really see the true Tuscany and sample some of the wonderful food and wine.

Sardinia – Most would think of visiting earlier but the weather often holds out. What then remains is a beautiful island; tranquil, endless sandy beaches and enough space to find your own piece of paradise.

Sicily – similar to Sardinia, this island really shines in autumn. You will probably find some of the best weather all over Italy in Sicily in autumn, where the locals will often swim in the sea into November. A truly magical place.

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4 August 2014

Italy for the kids – family holidays in italy

When planning a child-friendly holiday that will suit the whole family, there really cannot be a better destination than Italy. There is so much to see and do making it one that suits any age.

Go self-catering

The best and most economical way to see Italy, especially in a family, is to rent a self-catering apartment or villa in a country area for a week.  Even though the accommodation comes with a kitchen, it doesn’t mean you need to use it as there are an abundance of restaurants but often being able to have the familiar snacks and food on hand will contribute an enormous comfort factor for your children.

Not only do you have plenty more space renting a villa or apartment in Italy than taking hotel bedrooms, this type of self-catering holiday offers you privacy and freedom.  There are no schedules or timetables for meals and you can come and go as you please. And, not forgetting, there is no morning urgency to secure a lounger or your place by the pool as the pool is all yours and private; perfect for relaxing or keeping your children safely entertained.  Kids can watch early morning children’s programs on television (they don’t seem to notice which language cartoons are in) and Mums and Dads can have that after dinner quiet time, all in peace and privacy.

For people travelling with young babies, it is worth putting a used pillow slip or blanket in with your packing to provide the comforting smell and feel of home, even if the property is provided with a cot or crib.
Whichever part of Italy you want to see, the regions are jam packed with things to do and experience - you will be spoilt for choice! Each night when you return to the same place and each morning when you wake up in the same beds, your children will relish the familiarity.

The whole family will find it more relaxing to be in the country with day trips to the city rather than the other way around.  Most accommodation comes with a swimming pool or at least a garden or terrace, so cultural excursions can be balanced relaxation time back at the accommodation.

Eating out

Meals in restaurants are much more fun than the UK; most Italians love children and will bend over backwards to welcome them and it is not frowned upon to take children out to a restaurant, piazza or bar in the evening. Over the summer, Italian children often stay up late as there is no school.
Many country restaurants also have lovely gardens or spacious piazzas where the children can play within eyesight, whilst the parents finish their wine.

Culture vultures

One of the biggest challenges for any parent is how to get a dose of city culture. There are guide books for older children (such as those by Dorling Kindersley), which provide simple low downs, suggested itineraries and lots of pictures and diagrams that will help the children to better understand things in a visual way.

Hitting the beach

Italy offers some of the best beaches in Europe and it has always played a major role in The Blue Flag awards given by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), which assesses the best beaches and marinas through strict criteria such as water quality, environmental management, safety and services provided close to or within the beach area.  Italy was assigned 248 blue flags in the last year alone!

The beauty of many Italian beaches is that the ‘lido’-style beaches are perfectly family friendly. Each beach normally offers facilities in terms of a bar, showers and toilets. There are lifeguards on hand and even better, many have fenced off play areas for children.

Our recommended areas

Whilst we believe that Italy is completely family-friendly, we have selected our top 3 family-friendly areas:

1. Lake Garda – the largest lake in Italy. This is a great all-round family destination. You have beautiful towns like Torri del Benaco, Garda, Bardolino and Lazise to welcome you, plenty of space for relaxing strolls on the lakes side and sunbathing on the small nice beaches.  You can hire bikes, try watersports or a bit of fun for the families, there are amusement parks like Gardaland, Caneva and Movieland on the doorstep.

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Antica Fabbrica
Try Antica Fabbrica - lovely residence with pool and mountain views. The residence also offers many activities including tennis court, table tennis, bowls court, volleyball/Football pitch and a playground for the younger children.

2. Sardinia – if you are looking for a pure beach holiday, Sardinia ticks all the boxes! Sardinia is very family friendly and you will certainly see a lot of well equipped "lido" style beaches, where children can play safely with plenty of activities to keep not only the children happy but adults alike! Sardinia’s beaches have won many awards and have featured highly in International Magazines.

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Villa Daisy

Try Villa Daisy - great for families; pool, garden and walking distance of a beach...

3. Tuscany – dotted with vineyards and olive groves, this destination is perfect for a more rural back-to-nature type countryside holiday. Neighbouring Umbria and Le Marche will offer a similar experience but for its sheer beauty and popularity, Tuscany offers offering spectacular scenery, authentic cuisine and a great splash of culture for the parents. The children won’t be bored, you can still take a day trip to the beach, there are water parks and lots of activities like cycling and horse-riding.

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Toscana beach
How about The Toscana beach resort? A beautiful property surrounded by nature with 3 pools (including childrens pool), sports facilities and miniclub for children.

30 July 2014

Time for Trapani in Sicily

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West Sicily is an ideal location for an unforgettable holiday; immersed in nature, history and tradition, this area boasts amazing sunny beaches, islands surrounded by turquoise waters, breathtaking views, ancient villages and archeological sites.

Trapani on the far Western corner is the perfect location for a holiday in Sicily and a great point to explore western Sicily. The town itself is famous for its lively historical centre with its boutiques, restaurants, caf├Ęs and bars.  This is an ideal place to soak up the traditional Sicilian atmosphere and watch the world go by. Its restaurants are well-known for producing excellent cuisine, including many fish dishes.

Trapani also benefits from being positioned on the Tyrrhenian coast, which offers magnificent marine scenery and areas of outstanding beauty. From the beaches of Castellammare del Golfo and San Vito Lo Capo, to the rock formations of Scopello, the Zingaro nature reserve, and the islands of Levanzo, Marettimo and Favignana, the area is simply stunning! All around Trapani you can find unique fishing villages, where you can experience an unspoilt and authentic Sicily.

The road from Trapani to Marsala (where the well-known liqueur is produced) passes through a characteristic landscape of salt pans and windmills, which have become world-famous postcard scenes. Further south lies the town of Mazara del Vallo with its fascinating historical centre.

This area is diverse and Arab influence can be seen on the island of Pantelleria, known as the ‘Black Pearl of the Mediterranean’, and the temple of Segesta and the archaeological park of Selinunte, are a must-see.

All in all, Trapani is quickly becoming a wish list destination. It doesn’t have the crowds and tourism of Taormina or Cefalu’ but offers a real slice of Sicily and comparable charm. The coast is wonderful and there are so many villages and so much history to explore.

Although this is an ideal for a relaxing holiday, it would be a real shame to miss architectural and historical treasures on Trapani’s doorstep.

How to get there

Trapani has its own airport, Vincezo Florio, with various connections around Europe but it is less than an hour to Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino Airport by car and with both bus and train connections, getting to Trapani could not be easier!


Holiday Homes in Italy offers a great selection of holiday rentals in Trapani from apartments in the centre of Trapani to villas with pools in Trapani. Take a look at a few of the gems in and around the area;

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9 July 2014

Crazy for Chianti in Tuscany

Tuscany is without doubt the most talked about region in Italy. It is well known for its outstanding landscape, walled towns, Cyprus trees, rolling vineyards, its rural lifestyle. Chianti, in the heart of the region is the epitome of all of these things.

The Chianti region extends over the provinces of Florence and Siena, covering all of the area between the two cities and extending to the east toward the Valdarno and to the west to the Val d'Elsa.

Picture postcard scenery

Chianti offers a unique landscape, with green, gentle hills covered with wide fields of vineyards and olive groves, small stone villages and traditional Tuscan farmhouses and villas. It is one of the most beautiful areas in Tuscany, as well as the most well-known and appreciated by visitors from across the world – the landscapes are so beautiful that they inspire photographs and paintings which are sold around the world.

Travelling around the enormously beautiful region of Chianti is literally like turning the pages of a marvellous photo album. It seems that behind every corner, even more beautiful scenery or a more delightful village bursts into view.

What to do

It is perfectly possible to relax and do absolutely nothing in Chianti! The beauty of the region is its rural nature and history. An afternoon can be spent relaxing by the pool or wandering through the streets of a medieval village. A simple walk becomes a joy in these surroundings and you are faced with hundreds of years of civilisation. Strolling through medieval streets, you will fall upon endless art and architecture that is second to none.

Many come to the region to walk or cycle through the breath-taking countryside and in terms of activities, you will be spoilt for choice. During the year there are many events that take place in Chianti: the most important is the wine harvest, celebrating some of the most famous wines in the world. You don’t need to come at harvest time, as there are plenty of bars and vineyards along the main routes, where you can taste and purchase the local wine.

Don’t forget that you are in the heart of Tuscany, so everything is within easy reach; a day shopping in Florence; a trip to Siena; an afternoon in Pisa; a meander through the streets of Lucca or a day trip to the gorgeous Tuscan coastline.

The village gems

The region is simply blessed with so many unforgettable villages and towns but here are a few of the gems;

Radda in Chianti; a beautiful medieval town enclosed in large defensive walls is perfect for relaxing holidays in Tuscany. Several restaurants and wine shops in town offer excellent Tuscan dishes and the opportunity to taste the Chianti Classico DOC produced in the area.

Castellina in Chianti dates back to the Etruscans and is in a great position, located in the middle of the Chianti region between Florence and Siena. The castle offers breathtaking panoramic views and there are many historical buildings that belonged to Florentine and Senese aristocracy. The town offers many restaurants and wine bars.

Greve in Chianti is a lively town, famous for its square which is a triangular shape with large porticos along three sides that protect it and host many quaint local shops, wine bars and restaurants.

Gaiole in Chianti is surrounded by wineries, old villas located in the hills and churches, dating back to Romanesque times – that is why Gaiole is attracting tourists. The town square, lively atmosphere and beautiful scenery make this destination a must-see.

When to visit

Most tourists visit Tuscany predictably in the high season months of June, July and August. Even September is busy in the region these days but towards the end of September and October really is a magical time to visit and rental prices drop significantly!

How to get there

Pisa airport is the main International Airport in Tuscany and the number and diversity of flights has increased dramatically in recent years.  Amerigo Vespucci airport in Florence also has options and it is also possible to fly to Rome and travel north into Chianti.

Where to stay

As you would expect with a popular destination, the holidaymaker really is spoilt for choice in a region full of sun-soaked landscape and glorious, peaceful scenery. Holiday Homes in Italy offers an exclusive range of Tuscan villas for your holiday in Tuscany.  From family villas with pools in Tuscany to luxury Tuscan villas, rustic villas with pools in Chianti to small charming villas in Tuscany, we have an excellent selection of self-catering properties to suit all requirements. Take a look at the following;

Villas with pools in Chianti

Apartments in Chianti

Self-catering properties in chianti

Or let us take the stress out of choosing the perfect villa or property for you and offer you our knowledge on this region, combined with a first-class service – send us an enquiry today.