These over-the-top villas offer privacy, modern amenities, luxury services, and enough space to sleep a dozen friends and family (or keep them all for yourself)
by nubia duvall-wilson
Renting a villa or manse for a week is nothing new, although airbnb.com has made doing so easier now than ever before, and Europe has no shortage of properties to choose from. If a summer retreat with a private pool, gym, spa, a staff to handle every whim, unobstructed views of the sea, and total seclusion is on your travel to-do list, this roundup of homes in Spain, France, Italy, and Greece is your guide.
A trip to the Spanish island of Ibiza can offer plenty of glamour and glitz, but if you need a break from all that, you won’t do much better than Can Zama. This very private, 5,600-square-foot house is filled with natural light, courtesy of remote controlled floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto gardens, the pool, and views of the nearby hills, forests, and, in the distance, the azure Mediterranean.
Can Zama’s six bedrooms, on two floors, will sleep up to 12. There are two double rooms (the additional bedrooms can work as either doubles or twins). Each bedroom has its own bathroom and is furnished with colorful silk canopies, chaise lounges, and dressing tables. Oversized tubs offer great views to go with your relaxing bath. These rooms, too, have enormous glass doors that open onto terraces.
The villa’s ground level features open-concept living and dining areas, featuring sliding glass doors. A sunken outdoor lounge has sofas and a fireplace. One side of the house opens to the beautiful gardens and an ocean vista, the other onto a courtyard and lawn.
Ibiza, Spain; edgeretreats.com, $$
The heated swimming pool has sunbeds and a shaded pergola at one end. Additional amenities include a cinema room, a 10-seat dining table, and a modern kitchen (a private chef is available upon request). A stunning rooftop terrace is a great place to enjoy a drink or meal, not to mention the 360-degree views.
When not relaxing in the villa, plan to visit the caves at Cova C’an Marça, tour the quaint nearby village of San Juan, or visit the Sunday artisan market in Santa Gertrudis. A must-do is the popular
Sunday drumming session at sunset on Benirrás beach. Summer rates range from $16,000 to $27,000 per week.
Villa Dolce Vita
Mykonos, Greece; mykonosdolcevita.com, $$
Villa Dolce Vita has long been a favored retreat for Europeans who value their privacy. The gated, 2.5-acre villa, which sits in a natural amphitheater at the end of a private road on the island of Mykonos, is actually a complex of four houses, all recently renovated and each with its own style. What all the buildings have in common are unobstructed views of Agrari Beach, one of the finest on Mykonos.
The property is designed so that each room enjoys the same exceptional views of the beach and, across the sparkling Aegean, the nearby island of Naxos. The main house features a sheltered courtyard, a large living room complete with a fireplace, a dining room, a spacious country kitchen, a master bedroom with its own dressing area, and a bathroom. A second bedroom also has a private bathroom. The upper level, referred to as the Guest House, includes an entirely separate bedroom suite, a loft sitting room/sleeping space, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a roof terrace with those same spectacular views.
Beside the large infinity pool is the two-level Pool House, whose ground floor has a bedroom, living room, and open kitchen. Below the living room is a separate guest room accessed through a private courtyard.
The terraces around the house and swimming pool offer numerous sitting and dining areas. From one terrace, steps lead down a lighted pathway to a secluded patio carved right out of the natural rock, offering a quiet place to relax and drink in the natural splendor.
There are plenty of services and amenities, including chef-prepared meals, bartenders, massages, private yoga classes, a beautician, and, if requested, 24/7 security.
There’s lots to do nearby. Just a short boat trip away is the archaeological gem of Delos, an island considered sacred by the ancient Greeks (who believed it was the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis). Other easy-to-get-to attractions include the historic 16th century monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Guests interested in more active pursuits can play tennis or mini golf at Agios Stéfanos, beach volleyball at Agia Anna, or try sea parachuting at Eliá or Kalafátis. Summer rates start at $3,400 per night.
La Bergerie, Cote d’Azur
Cannes, France; bergerieterreblanche.com, $$$
If you plan on villa hopping with a private helicopter, La Bergerie might be a good choice, since there’s a helipad just two miles away. This fully staffed property, part of the exclusive Terre Blanche Golf Resort, is just 25 minutes from Cannes and its famous beaches. The home sleeps up to 16 people, with six bedrooms in the main house and two more in the new guest house (added in September of 2016). The staff includes a hostess, chef, concierge, housekeeper, butler, nanny (if needed), and driver. Golf, tennis, and swimming instructors are available.
The master king bedroom includes a fully equipped study, stand-alone shower and tub, fireplace, and private terrace. The rest of the family-friendly bedrooms in the main house have a mix of queen, king, and twin beds. The new guesthouse features two twin-bedroom suites with bathrooms and terraces. The rooms offer direct access to gardens and a lounge area with fireplaces.
Amenities include a media room, a wine cellar with special vintages, table tennis, video game consoles, and even underfloor heating for when nights get chilly. Outdoors there’s a swimming pool, bikes, alfresco dining, and even a bocce court.
The villa is convenient to the Terre Blanche Golf Resort, and guests at La Bergerie have access to the resort’s facilities, including a golf course, a spa, tennis courts, and a kids’ club. Rates at La Bergerie start at $64,500 per week.
Rocca delle Tre Contr ade
Sicily; thethinkingtraveller.com, $$$
Views from this former estate will impress even the most jaded traveler. The recently renovated and refurbished Villa Rocca delle Tre Contrade sits atop its own hill on Sicily’s east coast, with 360-degree views that take in the sparkling Ionian Sea on one side and Mount Etna on the other. Its lush grounds boast orchards, lemon groves, and vegetable gardens. Besides peerless views, the most popular feature on the grounds is the L-shaped infinity pool, which makes you feel as if you’re heading out to sea.
The three-story villa sleeps 24 in 12 panoramic bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The property also has a tennis court, a steam room, a gym, a cinema room, a professionally equipped kitchen, and a large dining room. There’s even a traditional lava-stone olive press!
The furnishings are an elegant blend of authentic antique pieces, reclaimed furniture, and original mid-19th century accents. There are two master suites on the first floor with stand-alone tubs and showers and access to a large shared terrace with stunning sea views. Outside, the villa offers panoramic terraces, a selection of al fresco dining areas, a large garden, and that 82-foot pool, accessible via a set of steps that tunnel through an immense lava wall. The villa rental includes daily maid service, a housekeeper, a cook, and a caretaker to make sure all is functioning properly.
Rocca delle Tre Contrade is near Santa Venerina on the east coast of Sicily, about halfway between Catania and Taormina, so it is a good base for visiting those towns as well as Mount Etna. Day trips to Syracuse, the baroque towns of the Noto Valley, and the quiet beaches of Vendicari and Capo Passero to the south and Messina to the north are rewarding. The Thinking Traveller can arrange flights over Mount Etna or helicopter excursions to the Aeolian Islands. Summer rates start at $28,970 for 9 bedrooms/18 people and $32,700 for 12 bedrooms/24 people.