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Now that the cold has set in and the holidays are approaching, your thoughts are no doubt far from your travel plans for next summer, but savvy travelers know that this is exactly when you need to set up your villa vacation rentals for next summer.

I’ve recently returned from a trip scouting even more villa options for clients in Italy’s most desirable vacation areas, because villas increasingly provide an ideal price-quality ratio for discerning travelers.

Italy consistently ranks as the most expensive place in Europe for hotels. The Trivago Hotel Price Index name Venice, at 281 euros per night on average, more costly than famously pricy London, Stockholm and Geneva.

But, thankfully for families and groups planning an Italian summer, villa rentals all around the boot are primed to accommodate travelers disenchanted with astronomical hotel rates. Thanks for the recession, more rental properties are available than every before, as Italians open their previously private second homes to rentals, and owners are in the mood to negotiate.

As you narrow your choices for next summer’s accommodation now, to secure the best properties at the best prices, keep in mind these three key villa rental booking tips:

1. Solidify Your Group’s Priorities First


Take an informal poll of the one or two things each person wants to get out of the trip and the things they can’t live without.

The answers may surprise you—even from your own spouse!

Some normally tight-laced individuals will want to taste all the wine they can in one week, while otherwise easy-going friends may have very specific needs in regard to their bedroom and bathroom requirements.

2. Italian Villa Rentals Run Saturday to Saturday


Most properties book at weekly rates, but the structure of that week is not up to the guest.

It is customary throughout the country for villa stays to run Saturday to Saturday with packed roads each Saturday as visitors move from one property to the next.

Try to structure your travel dates accordingly, with one night on each end in a hotel in the city you are flying in and out of.

3. Tuscany is a Big Place: Where Do You Want to Go Exactly?


Even if you know that you want to rent a villa, the biggest question is where, and it’s more complicated than you think.

Tuscany, maybe? Well, it’s a big region. And there may be other areas that have the same attractions or features you’re interested in at a better price point or in greater quantities.

We can help you find the right area to match your interests and budget, whatever the region.
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On the blog, we usually like to keep things short, but we recently did a feature on Italian beaches in the newsletter, and I couldn’t contain myself.

With 4,725 miles of coastline with beaches of every color, temperature, variety and backdrop, it’s impossible not to gush.

Since Roman times, the coasts of Italy have hosted vacations to stars and powerful political figures from around the world. But they're not just for the rich and famous, of course.

For the summer, Italians everywhere decamp to the coast, whether near, such as the lucky Ligurians and Puglians who really don't have very far to go, or far, like the Romans who head to glamorous Amalfi or Ponza, undiscovered by US market, or the well-heeled Milanese who like to spend their summers "roughing" it in Calabria or travel down to the heel to Puglia.

Here’s our guide to Italy’s best beaches on each coast of the boot:

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When you think of different types of dining establishments, most fall into one of two categories-sit down or take out, fine dining or casual, restaurants in cafes.

But in Italy, they seem to have a dizzying number of names for places that, ostensibly, all seem like sit down restaurants: trattoria, ristorante, osteria, enoteca, and the list goes on.

When you're out in Italy, how do you know what you're getting? There are basically five grades of sit-down restaurant, two types of wine bars, and two main types of take-out place.

Sit-Down Restaurants:



  • Ristorante - This is the top grade of Italian dining establishments, with conscientious service, fine dining plating and dishes, and often a well-known chef.

  • Trattoria - Trattorias are wonderful casual places to eat, whether for a pre-set lunch menu or a dinner out. They focus on typical Italian fare, without the fusion flare you may see in ristorantes.

  • Osteria - Osterias are much like trattorias, but a bit more casual with a focus on regional specialties.

  • Tavola Calda - In a tavola calda, there is typically no table service. You choose your food from a cafeteria style serving set up. These are primarily in Florence.

  • Pizzeria - In Italy, pizzarias are sit-down restaurants that predominantly serve pizza with wine, a variety of salads, and a few pasta selections.


Wine bars:



  • Enoteca - For a more formal wine tasting experience in line with American wine bars, head to an enoteca. Today, many are high-design and high-tech, though the food options are typically limited.

  • Taverna - Tavernas are more old-fashioned, like an Italian version of a British pub, with wine instead of beer. Food is very traditional, simple fare.


Take-out:



  • Pizza a taglio - For a slice of pizza on the run, look for a pizza a taglio (literally: by the slice). There may be limited seating, but squares of pizza, calzones, and occasionally some desserts are packaged up to take away.

  • Rosticceria - Unlike pizza a taglio places, which expect people to be eating their food on the go, rosticcerias typically serve hot food, primarily meat and roast vegetable dishes, to take and eat at home. If you're looking for an entire chicken, this is the place.

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As you may have seen recently via email, I was fortunate to be selected to speak on a panel at the New York Times Travel Show earlier this month with several other Italian travel specialist:

  • Kathy McCabe from the Dream of Italy magazine

  • Steve Perillo of Perillo Tours

  • Dominic Siano of Tour Italy now


In "How to Plan a Luxurious (But Affordable) Italian Vacation," Susan Van Allen, a friend and author of "100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go" and "Letters from Italy," moderated a panel of experts to help travelers enjoy Italian luxury without breaking the bank.

To be completely honest, I was very nervous beforehand. Though I've been leading tours for decades, that's different than sitting, facing a group of people you don't know at all, and hoping they're interested in what you're saying!

I ended up being very surprised though, because the other panelists didn't have a lot to say and ended up taking notes on what I was saying (!). In particular, I talked about the kind of experiences that a travel specialist can arrange for you through the people they know in Italy that can really add a sense of luxury to your experience even without an over-the-top price tag.

Watch my whole talk on YouTube here or the embedded video above.
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2008 - 2012 CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER ITALY SPECIALIST

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