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.

29 June 2014

Our top 10 villas in Sicily

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At Holiday Homes in Italy, we absolutely adore Sicily! Its mountains, olive laden hills and above all the incredible coastline and sea. Sicily offers a rich and unique culture and is famous for its beaches, cuisine, fascinating history and architecture.

This island is a perfect backdrop for a villa holiday in Italy; the beauty of peace and nature and jaw-dropping scenery to relax and unwind, whilst a host of festivities and history on your doorstop to explore.

In terms of accommodation, Sicily is the perfect destination to find that perfect villa. Villas in Sicily are diverse; you can find modern high-end properties or rustic villas. What you will find is that all our villas in Sicily are of a high standard of accommodation, ensure a comfortable and unforgettable stay. So if you are looking for a villa or house in Taormina, a villa in Ragusa, a villa in Siracusa or a villa in Cefalu, you will be spoilt for choice.

We offer so many beautiful villas in Sicily that we really were spoilt for choice but here are our top 10 villas in Sicily:



Cornino villa – A bright and simple 3 bed villa with private swimming pool just a few steps away from the beach at Cornino near Trapani.  Light, airy and comfortable contemporary funishings. From £1,070 per week.

Siracusa seaview. Stunning 6 bed sea-front villa with private pool is situated in Fontane Bianche, a seaside resort, south of Syracuse. Stylishly decorated, it sits just a few hundred metres from one of the best sandy beaches on Sicily's east coast and offers stunning sea views.  From £2,758 per week

Tipico baglio - This sunny eighteenth-century country estate is located at the heart of baroque Sicily near Modica, and has been recently expertly renovated. It is surrounded by ancient olive, citrus and almond trees and offers two swimming pools, both situated in the sheltered and stylishly furnished Mediterranean courtyard. 5 beds, from £3,436 per week.

Villa Angeli south of Modica is perfect if you are looking for a more authentic stay. This nineteenth century 4 bed property offers a wealth of character, well-maintained gardens enriched by a collection of palm trees and a large swimming pool surrounded by a solarium-terrace.  From £2,185 per week.

Villa bella vista – this luxury 4 bed villa is situated not far from Trapani.  Combining comfort and luxury with contemporary design, the villa delivers ultimate quality and offers a private swimming pool and outstanding scenery: the Erice mountains, the centre of Trapani, the sea and the Egadi islands.  From £2,865 per week.

Villa in fiore – this 5 bed exclusive villa with private swimming pool is located just a few kilometres from Trapani, an elegant town, renowned for its beautiful historic centre with its cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.  The villa is surrounded offers breathtaking views over the countryside down to the sea. It is surrounded by lush gardens and exotic Mediterranean plants. The property evokes the aristocratic elegance of old Sicily and offers a light, refined interior, with all mod cons and is stylishly decorated to create a warm, cosy atmosphere. From £2,100 per week.

Casa bella verde – a really cute villa in a residence with shared pool.  The 3 bed property is surrounded by beautiful scenery and is a short drive from the beautiful beaches of Sampieri, Donnalucata, Punta Secca and Marina di Ragusa with its restaurants, bars and caf├ęs. From £855 per week!

Seafront villa – this charming 3 bed property is located on the seafront of Santa Maria la Scala, a small evocative fishing village on the mythical Cyclops Riviera near Acireale. The villa enjoys a splendid position overlooking the sea and boasts enchanting views over the characteristic bay with its traditional painted wooden fishing boats. Recently restored, the villa is surrounded by spacious terraces ideal for relaxing outside and is within walking distance of amenities. From £1,715 per week

Villa Taormina – this gorgeous 4 bed villa lies opposite the bay at Mazzaro' just 200 meters from the beach at Spisone and 400 meters from the cable-car that takes you to the center of Taormina. The garden, which has a beautiful view of the sea, is very well-kept and offers a large, furnished terrace overlooking the bay, where you will also find a large Jacuzzi. From £2,965 per week.

Casa Licata – an impressive 4 bed villa with Mediterranean garden and swimming pool located on the south side of Sicily. The property is part of a country estate dedicated to growing organic produce and offers wonderful views of the surrounding softly rolling hills and olive groves. Guests can dine al fresco on the large terrace and cool off in the large swimming pool. The villa is decorated in country house style, with original ceiling beams and simple rustic elegance. From £1,443 per week

More accommodation

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View houses and villas in Modica, Ragusa and Noto areas (south Sicily)


21 June 2014

Our pick of new hotspots in Italy's up and coming Le Marche

View holiday rentals in Le Marche


We have been championing Le Marche as a region for holiday rentals for many years and its no secret why; the region offers a rich diversity of arts, history and culture that sets it apart from the rest of Italy and it a perfect location for a relaxing and more traditional holiday in Italy.

Urbino

Le Marche is like an outdoor museum, with a backdrop of historical hill towns, countryside villages and beautiful beaches. Set along the Adriatic Sea, the region offers spectacular coastline, the Sibillini mountains and gorgeous rolling countryside to rival that of Tuscany.

San Benedetto

Whilst Urbino, a beautiful hillside town in the northern Marche and San Benedetto del Tronto in southern Marche on the coast tend to gain many column inches in international travel magazines (we had to admit that we love these areas too), we think that there are more absolute gems in this region, which are often overlooked and lend themselves to perfect holiday spots;

Macerata

- Macerata countryside - The rolling hills of the countryside around Macerata offer a wonderful location for a holiday.  It is dotted with exceptional little towns such as Montecassiano (with its historic centre, lovely piazza, XV century Palazzo Priorale and panoramic views) and Appignano. The medieval provincial capital of Macerata is a good place to visit and offers a broad range of shops, festivals and architectural treasures and the coast is only 30 mins drive away.


- 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 situated on a hill, this town is rather flat inside the walls. Many 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 there are a host of activities on offer including fishing, mountain biking and horse riding.

Sibillini mountains

- Numana and Sirolo - An active port, Numana has today the characteristics of a typical Italian beach resort with very large sandy beach and sea of deep blue. Its location, only a few minutes away from Mount Conero, make it an ideal base for excursions to the Conero Regional Park with regular boat services link Numana with the most beautiful beaches some of which only accessible by boat. Sirolo has a medieval centre and a tree-lined, balcony piazza that teeters high above the sea. The best beaches are accessible using a half-hourly bus service that drops down to each of the coves. Wild beaches, steep cliffs, caves, white rocks covered by pine trees overlooking deep and transparent seawater, make of Sirolo the ideal place to discover a still uncontaminated nature. Both resorts are within 30 minutes of Ancona airport.

Conero

- Jesi countryside - Jesi itself is impressive with the high walls that surround the historical centre and well worth a visit but it is the surrounding countryside that offers breathtaking scenery and lovely hill towns such as Belvedere Ostrense, Ostra and Apiro.

As a holiday destination, Le Marche offers most of the highlights of its nearest and most popular neighbours but without the tourists! Our four suggestions are just a handful of ideas in an area full of beautiful countryside, impressive towns and a great coastline.  If you are looking for a peaceful and authentic holiday in Italy, then Le Marche hits the spot.

Accommodation


View property in the Le Marche countryside

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Casa Sibillini

25 May 2014

Explore the south of Sicily



Sicily is Italy's largest island and lies proudly just off the mainland, in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Famed for its beautiful beaches, cuisine, and cultural melting pot, the island makes for an excellent destination for travellers who want to immerse themselves in its astounding beauty and rich history.

Whilst many travellers head to the popular hotspots of the north and east such as Taormina, Cefalu, Etna and Palermo, the south west part of the island can often be undeservedly overlooked. Take a look at our snapshot of some of the most outstanding towns in the South of Sicily;

Noto



The island is well known for its Baroque art and architecture, which are most evident in the eight towns of Val di Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the southeast.  The town of Noto itself is located at the foot of the Iblean Mountains. The town offers numerous palaces and religious buildings, the most notable of which is the Noto Cathedral. The town also has plenty of archaeological sites that date back to 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The Villa Romana del Tellaro, one of the oldest Roman villas in Sicily, was built during the late Roman Empire.  The famed Baroque churches, and palazzo are must-see destinations.



Nature seems to have endowed all its wonders to this area; mountains and hills surround the area and above all the sea, with its incredible colours and crystal-clear water is unforgettable.  For wild unserviced beaches, the stretches in the Vendicari near Noto, Eloro, Calamosche are amongst the best in Sicily.

Siracusa



Syracuse or Siracusa as it is known in Italian is a lively coastal town, overflowing with amazing remnants from its long history. Romans, Vandals and Normans are but a few of those who ruled here after the Greeks. In the harbour, the old City which is known as Ortygia Island offers many attractions, including the 17th cathedral and the Fountain of Arethusa. Its charming ancient and medieval streets offer great sightseeing and shopping alike.  Here you will find the ruins of ancient Greek walls that were built by Dionysius the Great, and see the Apollo temple in Piazza Pancali.


The Piazza del Duomo is the town’s beautiful central square, with plenty going on as well as lots of places to sit back and watch the world go by. Just outside the town, the area is blessed with some beautiful beaches. Arenella is popular with the locals and offers a sandy beach and cliffs. Fontane Bianche is further south and is a popular resort with lots of restaurants and bars and perfect if you are looking for a full service beach. If you prefer a rural nature reserve, again try Vendicari.


Ragusa



Set amidst the rocky peaks northwest of Modica, Ragusa is a town, which is effectively split into two. On the top of the hill is Ragusa Superiore, the busy and ‘working’ part of the town, while further down on the hillside is Ragusa Ibla, its historic centre. This part is absolutely outstanding; a labyrinth of alleyways, quaint stone houses and baroque palazzi and architecture, which has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Its history and culture makes it fascinating but the sight of the town clinging to the hill upon its approach is really quite breath-taking.


The beaches near Ragusa are spectacular – it has half the blue flag beaches of Sicily - here you will find golden sand, clear water and clean and uncrowded beaches. Marina di Ragusa is the most popular and lively resort, Sampieri and Marina di Modica are both perfect for families and Modica also offers a bay which is windsurfers’ paradise.  Further afield in Pozzallo, you will find some beautiful coastline with crystal-clear water and a great Mediterranean backdrop.

Is the south of Sicily for me?



All in all, the southern part of Sicily is a real gem.  Unique and intense sceneries, scents and flavours of uncontaminated nature, the land is surrounded by green olive groves, almond trees, citrus orchards and vineyards that stretch out to the sea. Its town and cities are rich with history and amazing monuments. The locals are proud of their traditions, which is why the entire Province offers a calendar rich in fairs and festivals.


To come here simply for a beach holiday and not explore would be a shame but you will find the best of both worlds. Amazing scenery and food, which is blessed by the land and sea and some very interesting culture and history right on your doorstep. The apartments in Sicily are lovely and many offer sea views and the villas in Sicily and out of this world. A great combination for a holiday in Italy…

Accommodation


Looking for your perfect home away from home in Sicily? Holiday Homes in Italy offers a great selection of holiday homes, villas and apartments in the south of Sicily:

View villas and apartments in the south of Sicily



21 May 2014

Blue flags in Italy – the best way to choose your holiday beach?



Every year an increasing number of countries and seaside resorts throughout the world submit their applications to gain this award.  The Blue Flag is an award 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.  Approximately 3650 beaches and marinas in 41 countries are part of the Blue Flag Programme.

Finale in Liguria
If you see a ‘Bandiera Blu’ flying over an Italian beach it means that the quality of water is good, the shore is tidy and environmental management measures are in place. Italy has always played a major role in this competition with the number of blue flags increasing every year with 248 blue flags assigned in the last year alone.

Ancona, Le Marche
The Italian region with the highest number of blue flags is Liguria with 20 beaches awarded, followed by Marche and Tuscany with 18 and 17.  

Viareggio, Tuscany
However, along with the celebrations about the awards come the controversies. In fact there are lots of complains and criticisms every year after the list of the awarded resorts comes out. In fact, it seems often that regions such as Sardinia or Sicily which have some of the best beaches and Caribbean blue sea water, have so few blue flags.

Santa Teresa in Sardinia
One of the reasons is that the assignment of the award comes under the application of the municipality to the programme and the fact that a place doesn't have the blue flag does not mean that it doesn't deserve it – it could well mean that it just didn't apply for it in the first place!

Ragusa, Sicily
Nevertheless, the blue flag award is only one aspect and criteria to choose your next holiday destination - Italy boasts so many beautiful places and beaches throughout the country! 

For a list of Blue Flag beaches in Italy, visit the Blue Flag website

Holiday Homes in Italy offers some fantastic self-catering beach properties in Italy, for further details: