21 May 2015

The Amalfi Coast road trip

The Amalfi coastline


Located in Salerno, Amalfi boasts some of the most impressive coastline and architecture in Italy.  As one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, it would be a crime not to drive along the coast if you are staying in the region.  Many people take this stunning road trip to marvel at the dramatic Mediterranean view and to experience one of Italy's most picturesque destinations.  For those who want to experience as much as possible, staying in one of the lovely villas in Amalfi will provide the perfect base form which to explore this breath taking region.

Picturesque Positano



Positano is worthy of a full-day stopover for those going on a road trip.  This little town is nestled into the cliffs of the spectacular coastline, making it an ideal spot for inspired summer getaways. Many movies have featured Positano, the Rolling Stones have written songs while holidaying in town, but its true appeal lies in the small cafes along the harbour that offer visitors such a magnificent view of the beautifully painted houses.  As with most villas in Amalfi, accommodation in Positano is wonderful because most houses and buildings are built along the cliffs, which adds to the natural charm of the already gorgeous place.  These houses slope down the hills and converge around one of the town's most famous landmarks—the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.

Spectacular Scala



Another hilly town worth stopping at is Scala, located in Campania. The town has a number of churches that have become top tourist destinations because of variety of influences in their architectural style. The Angevine-Gothic style is evident in the architecture of San Pietro Church, located in Campoleone. In Campidoglio, the San Giovanni Battista Church has a Moresque bell tower, while the Duomo of Scala showcases Baroque architecture and features the famous Bishop's Palace.


Apart from its churches, Scala is also known for its annual chestnut festival, the Sagra delle Castagne. The two-weekend festival every November is held in the town square and aims to further drive tourism and awareness of the town's local products.

Fascinating Furore



A wonderful contrast to Scala's classic ambience and Positano's busy environment is Furore's nostalgic and relaxing feel.  Dubbed the 'Painted Village', virtually the entire town of Furore is a work of art.  Amongst the many delightful villas in Amalfi, which are usually painted white, houses and walls throughout the town of Furore are painted with stunning images in bright colours.


With intricate wall murals all around town, Furore is best toured by foot than by car. Walking through the town is like visiting a huge, outdoor museum. A lot of the murals, done by artists who have visited over the years, depict local culture and atmosphere. Over the years, what started as a simple bit of fun became a tradition, so much so that Furore now celebrates with the event named Muri d'Autore. Every September, artists from all over the world gather in the town to contribute a new artwork to the walls of Furore, making it ever more colourful and inspiring year after year.

Sassy Sorrento


Sorrento is an old favourite and for those looking for a livelier resort. The town itself has excellent views over the bay of Naples and although there is no beach, there are plenty of bathing platforms for sunbathing and accessing the sea. This is the perfect place to explore the coastline with a busy harbour and plenty of boats to neighbouring islands (including Capri). The backstreets of the town come alive in the evening with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.

Ravishing Ravello



Ravello is a must see town nestled in the hills above Minori which offers the theatrical gardens of Villa Ruffolo (with a host of summer events), pretty courtyards, ancient churches and some of the best views over the coastline. With its crumbling walls, rows of lemon trees and wisteria, the town gives just the sort of visions that you go to Italy for!

Finding a holiday hideaway



Holiday Homes in Italy have a great selection of properties on the Amalfi Coast. Have a look at our:

Apartments on the Amalfi coast

Villas on the Amalfi coast


Read More

Read our Positano blog

Read our Fall in love with the Amalfi Coast blog

Read our 5 things to do on the Amalfi Coast blog

Summer food festivals in Sicily

Bella Sicilia



The gorgeous Italian island of Sicily is a true jewel in the Mediterranean Sea. Abundant with culture and history, it is overrun by celebrations each year. Nicknamed 'God's Kitchen', the island offers those who wish to visit the best of Italian cuisine, from wines to pastries, and from pasta to seafood. While its welcoming shores are inviting all year round, the ideal way to enjoy this vibrant place is to come during festival season, when the streets are alive with partying and local products, fireworks light up the night sky, and festivities go on for days. By staying in villas in Sicily close to the action, visitors can get front-row access to these events.


Sagra dell'Olio in the Nebrodi Mountains



Blessed with breath taking mountain ranges and incredible beaches, the island offers the best of both worlds. Travellers who prefer a mountain view can go to the local town of Funari, located in the Nebrodi Mountains. Booking in to villas in Sicily here on the last week of July will reward tourists not only with a fantastic view, but also an unforgettable experience.


The Sagra dell'Olio, or the Festival of the Olives, is celebrated in Funari every July. The festival starts as locals gather to showcase locally produced olives, olive oil, and wine by setting up tents and stalls, and ends with a party filled with music, good food, and good wine.

Fruits of the Sea Festival in Marsala



The island is also an incredible place to visit for fresh seafood - after all, it is ideally located in the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors can take advantage of this by staying at the heart of celebrations, in one of the many holiday villas. In Sicily, there is an abundance of family accommodation in Mazara del Vallo, Marsala, the home of the largest Mediterranean fishing fleets. It is also where the La Sagra del Mare Festival, or the Fruits of the Sea Festival, is held every August. The culinary festival's highlights involve locals cooking seafood dishes in gigantic pans to serve guests, and culminates in a grand celebration of dancing, fireworks, and wine.



PizzaFest in Seccagrande



No visit here is complete without sampling the best local pizza! Located in of Agrigento, Seccagrande has a sprawling beach that gets packed with tourists during summer. At night, the beach comes alive with bonfires and dancing, especially during PizzaFest, when locals set up stalls selling pizza and other traditional food. PizzaFest is celebrated annually at the height of summer, every second week of September.


If visitors tire of the superb beach and delicious pizza at Seccagrande, they can roam around Agrigento for a different kind of view on Italian life. The city is also known for the Velle dei Templi, a UNESCO Heritage Site consisting of the archaeological relics of seven temples - namely Temple of Juno, Temple of Concordia, Temple of Heracles, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Vulcan, and Temple of Asclepius.


Accommodation


From townhouses to apartments and villas, Sicily offers some wonderfully comfortable accommodation,  to make that stay in Sicily special.  For a list of self-catering accommodation in Italy, click here.

View apartments in Sicily

View villas in Sicily


Take a look at our top 10 villas in Sicily blog

Read More

Check out our Sicily webguide

Read our Sicily blog

Read our Cefalu blog

Read our Taormina blog

Read our Modica blog

Read our Southern Sicily blog

Read our Trapani blog

Read our Top 10 things to do in Sicily blog

6 May 2015

San Ginesio – the gem of Le Marche


Le Marche is often overlooked by tourists but this beautiful region offers its own rich diversity of arts, history and culture that sets it apart from the rest of Italy and it a perfect location for a relaxing holiday in a traditional and unexplored part of Italy. If you are looking for a peaceful holiday, welcoming atmosphere and your own slice of Italy, then this hits the spot.

San Ginesio and surrounding countryside 


Situated on a hill, this walled town provides an ideal position from where to admire the Sibillini Mountains. It is hard to describe the beauty of the landscape with the green valley below and the towering peaks covered in snow. Although it’s a hill-town, it is rather flat inside the walls and as a town, it’s as pretty as any in Tuscany.  Quaint shops and a lively square framed by historical buildings dating back to XI century offer the visitor a welcoming atmosphere.

During the summer a few folkloristic festivals take place and the town seems to go back in time with actors dressed in costumes, drums, medieval music, dances and “battles”. This area offers a great base for walking and is close to ski resorts.

What to do



If you love the outdoors, then this is the place to be.  For walkers, the nearby Sibillini Mountains offer plenty of variety through pastures and woodland as well as dense forests against a backdrop of alpine scenery.  Paths will take you along rivers, past stunning waterfalls and caves, through gorges and up the many peaks.


Nearby Macerata is a fab local City immersed in Renaissance art and architecture. Its squares come alive in the evening and there are plenty of caf├ęs and restaurants. For those who love shopping, the City is famous for its Wednesday market and there are some great little shops.


For the sun worshipper, Le Marche offers beautiful beaches.  It is set along the Adriatic Sea, with 80km of spectacular coastline.  In a mere 45 mins, you will find yourself at the wonderful seafronts of Porto s. Georgio and Civitanova Marche, where there are endless sandy or pebbly shores and natural bays along the rocky coast to explore.



Food and wine


Le Marche offers a wide range of centuries-old traditional food products and dishes featuring olives, ham and fish and there is an array of good wines including Verdicchio.  Local specialities such as pecorino cheese, truffles and roast pork are a real treat!  If you head up to the mountains, make sure you include a visit to one of the many great Rifugii that serve superb food using local produce.

How to get there

Le Marche is served by Ancona airport but it is also possible to access the region by Perugia and Bologna airports.

Where to stay

Holiday Homes in Italy offers a wide range of self-catering accommodation in Le Marche. Try these near San Ginesio and the Sibillini Mountains:

Casa Sibillini - 3 bedroom villa from £980 per week
Villa San Ginesio - 6 bed villa from £1,545 per week

Villa Sarnano - 2 bed villa from £920

Villa Usignolo - 7 bed villa from £1,335

Click here to view all our Villas in Le Marche





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