There’s a time and a place for a hotel. A quick stopover in a city, say, or a flirty weekend par deux. But proper holidays – those balmy two-week stretches of drowsy, sun-blasted days and languorous, star-lit meals – those holidays need something more.
A place of your own – that’s the true stuff of a proper holiday. Forget the self-catering clichés, though, or any thoughts of tidying and cooking. Our pick of the best villas to rent around the Mediterranean combines the very best of a hotel with the complete privacy of having the run of your own property. Expect fabulous meals cooked by resident chefs and served by a bevvy of waiters, and maids discreetly keeping everything sparklingly clean. Concierges can arrange excursions and get reservations at the top tables in town, and round-the-clock security will ensure a bother-free stay.
Best of all, you dictate what you do and who you do it with. Fancy a solitary walk through the grounds? Easy. Want to throw a wild party around your rooftop pool? Done. Renting a villa means you don’t need to share your space, your meals or your time with anyone you don’t want to. Live it up, villa-style.
A very slick indoor/outdoor infinity pool is one reason to love this villa, built on the super-swish Aleomandra peninsula. It’s a curvy sort of a place, like a little pile of rounded sugar cubes, with lots of voluptuous arches and domed roofs inside. Decor is super-modern, with select pieces of design classics livening up the pure white walls and furnishings. There’s also a separate guest villa with kitchen, plus a staff cottage if needed. The villa’s own staff are right next door to the main building, and cook breakfast and one meal a day; there’s a cleaner, gardener and manager on hand, too.
Sleeps 10. Five Star Greece (+44 208 422 4885; www.fivestargreece.com). As with most properties on this company’s books, prices are available on request.
This treat of a villa has the rare advantage of possessing its own waterfront terraces and jetty, where breakfast is served every morning and guests can lounge on scattered cushions, or paddle about in kayaks. Up a few levels is the infinity pool, looking over Kalkan Bay, plus a spacious dining area. Rooms are bright white, with sexy touches like the master suite’s bath surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, giving it the feel of a saucily al fresco soak. Staff consists of a “holiday PA”, a caretaker and a daily cleaner. Meals (other than breakfast) can be supplied at extra cost.
Sleeps 10. £12,500 (€15,500) for seven nights, including breakfast, return flights to Dalaman from the private jet terminal at London Stansted, transfers, a Turkish Bath and seven days’ jeep hire. Contact Exclusive Escapes (+44 208 605 3500; www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk).
THE EMPORDA ESTATE
This restored Catalan mansion, which is on its own 68-hectare estate, is modern and chic without losing sight of its heritage – expect lots of locally sourced antiques and hand-woven rugs artfully placed alongside Bang & Olufsen gadgets. Suites are minimalist and high- ceilinged, some opening onto private terraces. The infinity pool, with pool house and summer kitchen, is surrounded by lawns complete with their own sunken speakers. You can escape the summer heat with a good book in the double-storey library, or explore the estate on horseback – it is home to one of Spain’s leading equestrian facilities.
Sleeps 18. Available through CV Private Collection (+44 207 401 1031; www.cvprivatecollection.com). Prices from £32,975 (€41,000) per week, including a chef, butler, concierge and housekeeping team.
A good choice for yachting types, the Bay Estate is built into a terraced hillside surrounded by gently rustling olive groves. Near Agios Stefanos, it has three villas sleeping up to 10, each with mooring space for yachts of between 60 and 70ft.
The main villa has access to a small, secluded beach, reachable only otherwise by boat, while the sprawling sun terrace has big sea views and a 40ft infinity pool. Inside, it’s all marble floors and white sofas piled with silvery cushions, and floaty chandeliers tinkling in the stairwell. The master suite has a private balcony, while French doors in the lower bedrooms open onto the garden. There’s also a beach house, where BBQs can be cooked up at dusk.
Sleeps 10. From £14,160 (€17,600) for seven nights, including maid service. Available through CV Travel’s Private Collection (+44 207 401 1031; www.cvprivatecollection.com).
CAP FERRAT, FRANCE
There’s something of the James Bond villain’s lair about the Villa O. Super- modern and semi-circular, the villa is knocked into a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean on France’s swish Cap Ferrat peninsula. There are floor-to- ceiling windows and wrap-around terraces aplenty, and a glass lift sweeps between the floors. There are four bedrooms in the main house, and there’s a guest cottage with two suites, each with private terraces. The bedrooms are starkly modern and edgy – one has a huge painting of Al Pacino’s Scarface over the bed – and the master suite sprawls over an entire floor. There are two pools including the rooftop pool, which can be turned into an “intimate” nightclub. There’s also a gym, hammam, staff bedroom and cinema.
Sleeps eight. £76,800 (€95,600) per week, including return economy flights with British Airways, transfers and round-the-clock service. Available through Elegant Resorts (+44 1244 897 771; www.elegantresorts.co.uk).
QUINTA DO ESPERANCA
This unassuming manor house, overlooking two acres of hilly, landscaped gardens, is a hit with families – the swimming pool is walled, the airy house is family- friendly, there’s a big playroom and, most importantly, it has on-site nannies. Suites are spread over two floors, all airy white with splashes of rose and sea-blue, with sunny balconies and terraces, and a further two bedrooms are in a separate cottage. Other facilities include a flood-lit tennis court and pool.
Available through Scott Dunn (+44 208 682 5040; www. scottdunn.com). Sleeps 12 in the main house and four in the cottage. From £19,500 (€24,275) per week.
LE GRANDE CHATEAU
ST TROPEZ, FRANCE
This bijou chateau is the place to throw a party, bang in the middle of St Tropez and with a gorgeous pool surrounded by 3,750 square metres of manicured gardens, lit by flickering torches at night. The main building looks suitably imposing and is reached by a palm-lined drive. But inside things are stylish and airy, with a pleasing nod at local party people from St Trop’s glory days, such as the enormous print of a wind-swept Brigitte Bardot in the hall.
There are four bedrooms in the chateau, and another four in the separate La Maison d’Etoiles, some with exposed beams and beds draped with airy voile, others with French doors sweeping on to balconies.
But back to those parties. Staff can decorate the grounds and whip up a shindig for 200 guests, or if you’d prefer a more low-key escape, there are a housekeeper and gardener, and an extra €15,000 gets you a concierge, a chef and three waiters, plus a 24-hour security guard.
Sleeps 16. From £80,780 (€100,500) for seven nights. Contact SJ Villas (+44 207 589 4390; www.sjvillas.co.uk).
VILLA STELLA DI PRAIANO
AMALFI COAST, ITALY
With rooms spread across an ancient cliff-top watchtower and a mansion built on flower-filled terraces, this is the spot to live out those Roman Holiday fantasies. Stars of the silver screen seem to agree: actors Ben Stiller and Michael Keaton have stayed here. There’s a pretty cliff-side pool with dramatic views down to the sea, and the two master bedrooms are cool white with antique furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows. The other rooms have vaulted ceilings, and there’s a nanny’s room in a separate section. Two hundred steps lead down to the water’s edge, where there’s a restaurant and boats which skip across the water to Positano.
Sleeps 12. Available through A&K Villas (+44 845 618 2205; www.akvillas.com). Seven nights from £22,575 (€28,000), including a butler, maids, concierge and breakfast.
All prices are based on high season departures (July-August) and do not include transfers or flights, unless otherwise stated.