Europe Trip Planning: On the Villa Hunt

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We’re deep in the throes of planning our three-and-a-half weeks in Mediterranean Europe this summer, and per the norm, I am making wishlist after wishlist, bookmarking page after page, compiling spreadsheet after spreadsheet of places I’d like to stay. There are few things I love more in the travel planning process than scouting out killer lodging options and finding them at an affordable price. And funny enough, this will be my first time to ever stay in a villa in Europe, despite all the time I’ve spent over there.

revisiting Florence on our 2013 European vacation
revisiting Florence on our 2013 European vacation

When I was a student living in Scotland in 2003, I spent several months backpacking around the continent and trying to find any hostel dorm room for under $20 a night (a feat even back then). In 2005 living in Holland and 2006 living in Denmark, I traveled frequently with a group of friends (including my now-husband), and we often would book a private hostel room with six or so beds. Subsequent trips back to the continent have been with the ship or in hotel rooms. But this time, in honor of SVV’s upcoming 40th birthday and following our two-week cruise, we’ll be going the villa route for 10 luxurious days.

Looking at planning a similar trip? Here are some of my favorite destinations for European villas:

via Sim Dawdler's Flickr

via Sim Dawdler’s Flickr

Sicily. The apex of our vacation will be a week in Sicily, where SVV lived for three years. Currently, we plan to stay in a villa near Catania, though I’m also contemplating breaking up our trip and spending a few days in the wine region with soaring views of Mount Etna at our fingertips.

photo from our Algarve trip in 2006

Portugal. SVV’s and my 10-day trip around southern Portugal was one of our favorite vacations to date. Again, we were on a tight budget, having just lived in (and played our way around) Europe for a year when the dollar didn’t go far. Still, I long to go back to the Algarve and book a villa with a view like this.

Greece villa

via Rol100’s Flickr feed

Greece. My two-week trip to Kos in 2006 was on a student’s budget, so we stayed at the most economical hotel we could find. On this upcoming trip, we’ll be making a brief stop in Corfu for a day with the Royal Clipper, but I hope to eventually return to Greece for a lengthy period of time in true Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants style.

Slovenia villa

via Alexander Kagan’s Flickr feed

Slovenia. Of the nine stops on our 11-night cruise, I’m most excited to visit Slovenia, a country I’ve never visited before. While we won’t be staying overnight, I already have plans to return to Lake Bled at some point and sleep in a lakefront villa like the one above.

The Alps. It’s the height of ski season—we’re still trying to plan a snowy Colorado getaway before it’s over—and all of my European friends have been causing me turn an embarrassing shade of green with my envy for their Alpine ski retreats. But summer or winter, Switzerland is gorgeous—tied with Scotland and South Africa as my favorite countries in the world—and I can’t help but wanting to plan a future vacation to this lovely mountainside spot.

France villa

France. One of my greatest “local experiences” while traveling was Couchsurfing with an adorable elementary school teacher in the south of France just outside of Marseilles. My friend Helle and I were working on a project about gentrification, and Vincent let us stay in the villa of his olive farm for the better part of the week. One day, I’ll return with my husband in tow.

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy. This was one of the first spots overseas that truly stole my heart—when I was but a 20-year-old solo backpacker and almost was eaten by rabid mountain goats—and I long to go back with more money in my pocket and have a truly luxe experience on the lake (next door to George Clooney, perhaps?).

How about you: Have you ever slept in a European villa? Any recommendations for us for our upcoming trip?

  • January 27, 2014

    Did you try guardian.co.uk? Travel…

    • January 27, 2014

      No, but I am writing for the Guardian’s travel section these days 😉

  • January 27, 2014

    I stayed in one in Tuscany, just incredible! I can’t wait to see your pics from your upcoming Europe trip!!!

    • January 27, 2014

      I remember your photos well! That whole trip looked like a dream!

  • January 28, 2014

    Airbnb? I always wanted to travel slow with the kids in the suburbs of Europe, somewhere…I don’t know exactly where yet LOL and have been browsing villas and farm houses (ok not what you’re looking for) in Airbnb.

    Looking forward to your travel stories!

    • February 13, 2014

      AirBnB seems to have truly amazing offers in Europe. Offers that blow away anything Stateside.

      I was even able to find AirBnB apartments with stunning views of Lake Como for as little as $104!

  • January 28, 2014

    I love the architecture in Europe – every country seems to have their own style of villas too.

  • January 28, 2014

    Slovenia looks gorgeous, and I die for that big outdoor pool in the Alps.

  • January 28, 2014

    I stayed in a few villas in Spain through CharmingVillas.net — you should check them out! 🙂

  • January 29, 2014

    The Alps villa is incredibly beautiful. Just visited UK and Spain but I can say these European villas are worth to visit soon.

  • January 29, 2014

    Love these places! I have yet to go to Slovenia/Lake Bled but it is tops on my list!!

  • January 30, 2014

    The snaps look like dream here.. can I just say that I would trade my most stuff for just a dip in that outdoor pool in Switzerland…:)

  • February 1, 2014

    Despite my repeated protests that I’m “not that into Europe” it appears I am heading there this summer! While my digs won’t be quite this luxurious, I am looking forward to exploring 🙂

  • February 5, 2014

    Lake Como..I hear it is beautiful there. I want to go soo bad!

  • February 11, 2014

    These places are absolutely adorable. The Alps has the most amazing view.

  • February 19, 2014
    Kelly Rogers

    Wow! Way to go! I would also like to stay in a villa. But I can’t do it this year. Hopefully, you will have a good time in Europe. Have fun. 🙂

  • February 25, 2014

    Last week i booked my Algarve accomodation for this summer! If you’re still searching a Villa there it might be interesting for you to check agoda.com, I think I saw some nice Villas. in my opinion, the Algarve offers some of the most amazing beaches in Europe!

    On my blog you can find a blogpost about the Cyclades in the Agean Sea, just in case you’re planning to head to Mykonos, Santorin etc….:)

    enjoy your travels

  • February 26, 2014

    Never been to Europe, have a lovely trip 🙂

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