What did the Romans ever do for us? The greatest gift might arguably be the villa, sumptuously decorated private residences where the aristocracy luxuriated in fragrant countryside, drank the vineyards dry while enjoying all the rustic charms of a slower pace of life. Centuries later, the concept – and the allure – remain much the same. From sun-soaked Sicilian villas with volcano views to tucked-away Tuscan farmhouses huddled amongst tree-lined hills, here are 20 of Italy’s best villas to book for group getaways or some intimate indulgence for two.
Verdant hills, vineyards, and terracotta roofs – the Bormida Valley in Piedmont is a timeless spot where life slows down. And overlooking this sleepy valley is Villa La Madonna. Each aspect of the hotel makes the most of its oil painting-worthy location, from the market-fresh ingredients in the kitchen to the swimming pool, fringed by vines. The 18 restful rooms are flooded with natural light and brimming with hand-picked furniture infused with the owners’ Scandinavian background. Here, truffles are on tap and Barolo wine flows freely from the hotel’s cellar which plays host to sommelier-led tasting evenings – you can even picnic amongst the vines after lending a hand with the grape harvest.
History radiates from the sun-drenched walls of Villa di Piazzano, a 500-year-old estate which was originally the hunting lodge of Cardinal Passerini, a favourite of the Medicis. Time seems to move more slowly here, as vegetables are plucked from the organic garden ready for a farm-to-table supper, and the white parasols dotted around the pool flutter gently in the Tuscan breeze. Set on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, this Renaissance country house puts you in pride of place for discovering the region’s highlights, whether it’s exploring the ancient Etruscan heritage of nearby Cortona or hopping over the border to pretty Perugia.
Villa Mangiacane is the quintessential fairytale villa overlooking rolling hills dotted with cypress trees with views of Florence in the distance. The powder pink walls house romantic rooms decorated with one-of-a-kind antiques and masterfully restored pastel coloured frescoes depicting hunting scenes hinting at the villa’s 15th century past. Throughout 2021, Villa Mangiacane is only bookable for exclusive use – so you can have this hilltop hideaway all to yourself if visiting this year.
Striking the perfect balance between an exclusive adults-only resort and a welcoming Sardinian home, the atmosphere at La Villa del Re is intimate and laid-back. The 48 rooms are housed within terracotta orange walls, framed by palms and fragrant cacti – all except the converted 1950s boathouse, which is set apart from the main building on the sea front. Outside, an infinity pool merges with the horizon, while down on the private beach, refreshments are brought straight to stylish sun loungers to be sipped to the sound of waves lapping the sugar-white shore.
A late 19th century country house just ten minutes from Alba in Italy’s Piedmont region, famed for the coveted white truffle and Barolo and Barberesco wine, Relais Villa d’Amelia stands on a ridge among lush woods and shaded groves. Many of the rooms overlook a pretty inner courtyard while others frame rolling hills littered with hazelnut trees. Both views are quintessentially Italian and wonderfully romantic. Rustic elements of rough stone and wood blend with beautiful fabrics, classic furniture and the slickest ultra-modern touches for a truly eclectic feel throughout Villa d’Amelia.
From the breeze rustling through the olive trees to soft bird calls, peace and tranquillity envelopes Villa Neri Resort and Spa. Nestled between Mount Etna and the Sicilian coast, Villa Neri’s back-to-nature appeal is anything but rustic – local materials, such as wooden panels or traditional painted tiles, sit alongside pared-back, modern furnishings. Whether you have a private terrace overlooking the hotel grounds, or skylights with views towards Mount Etna, the surrounding scenery is never far away – from the crumbling Roman ruins at nearby Taormina, to the lunar slopes of Etna Regional Park.
Packed full of contemporary works of art by world-famous artists from Marc Quinn to Damien Hirst, Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà is a grand, classic Venetian-style villa sitting in a beautifully manicured five-acre garden. Inside, ultra modern design by renowned architect and designer, Alessandro Mendini, stands out in stark contrast to the historic building. Take in the dizzying colours and original paintings of your individually decorated suite, before sitting down to a Michelin-starred tasting menu at The Amistà Restaurant.
Standing proudly on Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio, Hotel Regency puts you right at the heart of Florence’s rich culture and history, while feeling a world away from the everyday hustle and bustle. This majestic villa has welcomed guests since the 1800s, when it played host to many of Florence’s most illustrious figures. Inside, the Regency décor, Renaissance art and original features have a timeless charm. Outside, you’ll find the ‘Secret Garden’ – a tranquil spot to enjoy an aperitif or simply bask in the Tuscan sun.
With an enviable spot amid Positano’s old streets, yet moments from the shore, Villa Franca is a peaceful haven overlooking the enchanting Amalfi Coast. Once a private home created to celebrate its sublime setting, Villa Franca is still run by the same family who have filled its whitewashed walls with contemporary works of art and unique pieces by designer names. Gold Champagne Bar & Seafood Grill along with the fine-dining restaurant Li Galli are the perfect places to drink in the pastel-coloured coastline with an aperitivo in hand.
A panoramically positioned retreat just a stroll from the centre of Taormina, Hotel Villa Carlotta was built in 1860 for a local aristocratic family and still retains that home-from-home feel. Warm, earthy colours and antiques mix with contemporary styling to create an overall modern feel, all set to a backdrop of views across the sea and towards Mount Etna. Be sure to book Apartment Four, a spacious seafront Sicilian palazzo from the 1700s with two beautifully furnished bedrooms for the utmost privacy and lived-in luxury.
A truly majestic Belle-Epoque villa resting on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Grand Hotel Majestic Pallanza Verbania was built in 1870 when fashion dictated a palatial façade, large rooms and delightful English-style gardens. Unwind in the tranquil, flower-scented garden and gaze across the lake to the Borromeo Islands and the distant mountains, both within easy distance of Grand Hotel Majestic by boat.
Hotel Villa Athena has an astounding position within a stone’s throw of the magnificent Temple of Concordia, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valley of Temples, just outside Agrigento. The 300-year-old villa is set in pretty landscaped gardens, and has recently been sympathetically extended to make room for more elegant suites with historic views. Foodies will find homegrown Sicilian produce at the villa’s farm, or simply sit in the garden with a cold glass of limoncello amid the lemon trees and take in the temple on the hill.
The exterior of Villa Spalletti Trivelli is classically Italian, but behind the door wait warmly lit drawing rooms filled with antiques and artworks to welcome you into a world once linked to the Italian royal family. There’s a feel of aristocratic grandeur throughout the individually decorated suites, while up on the rooftop the shaded loungers, bar, Jacuzzis and soothing music make this the place to be as the sun sets over the Eternal City.
On the site of an ancient Roman villa dating back to 100 BC on the Sorrentine coast, Grand Hotel Angiolieri is wrapped in herb gardens, citrus groves and swaying palm trees overlooking the Bay of Naples. Maintaining the feel of a private house, the recently restored villa features floors in Vietri Majolica, while a statue of Pulcinella stands between the pool, inscribed with the verses of “Era de maggio” by Salvatore di Giacomo on its tiles, and breath-taking sea views.
Situated in an elevated position above Taormina, life at Hotel Villa Ducale revolves around its stunning terrace. From here you can enjoy the most wonderful views across the Taormina coastline and Mount Etna, from Giardini Naxos Bay to the Straits of Messina, accompanied by Sicilian cakes and crisp cannoli, fresh fruit and Etna honey, delicious cheeses and local salami. If you can tear yourself away from this panoramic perfection, the historical sites and artist-approved beauty of Taormina is just on your doorstep.
Villa Soligo owes its noble Palladian style to its inception in 1782 as the summer hunting lodge for the Counts of Brandolini, and since then has welcomed a star-studded series of guests including Sophia Loren. Walk past imposing, Romanesque columns framing the entrance and you’ll feel immediately at home, as you look out onto views of the original water fountain and beautiful parkland, filled with swathes of fragrant pine and cedar trees. Venture out of the Treviso period style interiors and you’ll soon come across the floating city of Venice, or the bubbling Prosecco region where you can sample some of Italy’s most famous fizz.
An elegant Tuscan seaside villa overlooking the sea, Hotel Byron sits in an attractive garden with a pool and decking area. The beach is directly in front of the hotel, so all the contemporary rooms have a wonderful view of the sea or the Apuan Alps. When you’ve had your fill of watching super yachts glide along the coast, sit down to a locally sourced meal at La Magnolia, a Michelin-starred restaurant celebrating the cuisine of Campania and the Tyrrhenian coast.
With its manicured gardens and delicate balconies, Villa Eden celebrates its art nouveau origins. Yet once you’ve settled into your room or suite, you’ll find an approach to wellness that’s ahead of its time. A dedicated team of spa therapists and medical professionals will help you plan a bespoke programme focused on your health and beauty goals, sharing their well-researched secrets to longevity. Between treatments you can simply lounge beside the outdoor pool and soak up the Alpine views.
Originally built in the 15th-century on the site of a first-century Roman fortress, Il Salviatino was a villa for an aristocratic Florentine family high in the Tuscan countryside. Surrounded by over 12 acres of private parkland and organic gardens, the suites and rooms each tell their own story through frescoes, paintings and curated artisan furnishings. Outside, the two-tiered heated swimming pool and courtyard terrace are the perfect places to while away an afternoon in the sunshine before sampling a seasonal menu at La Terrazza – expect an authentic, just-picked experience, where many of the ingredients are indigenous to Tuscany and grown in the hotel’s organic garden, designed by the famous Architect Isabella dalla Ragione.
Backed by hills, dotted with myrtle and citrus trees, and facing a beautiful Calabrian seascape, Praia Art Resort makes a striking first impression. Poised between mountains and the sea, the resort’s villas sit perfectly in their natural surroundings. Each villa is crafted from local rustic materials and bathed in natural light, bringing a sense of the outside world in – think bare wood and terracotta, exposed brick and mosaic tiles.