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The easiest way to live like a local in Europe

By Anna Sarjeant.

Villa holidays are the best way to experience local life in gorgeous France and Italy. You get your own European home for the entire week, complete with doorstep markets, local fresh food, bonjour (or ciao!) shouting neighbours and home-cooked meals enjoyed al fresco, on sun-drenched patios.

THE ENJOYMENTS: Swap the hotel in favour of an authentic address. 10 things we love about villa-living:


1. Villas are great for people who like to take each day as it comes; staying put for a week or two at a time and living like a local.

2. Choose to eat out at local restaurants or visit the market for some fresh produce before a relaxing night in.

3. Perfect for longer stays but also ideal for families and groups of friends who want a little extra privacy and above all, more space.

4. Your favourite home comforts are available all holiday long – oven, dishwasher, a fridge and freezer. A washing machine… hmm, not so much.

5. Extra-large kitchens with grand AGA cookers and tiled flooring; your own garden and enormous windows overlooking the quint­essential French or Italian countryside.

6. Visit markets and mix with the residents, meander from sight to sight and explore nearby towns and villages.

7. Nip out in the morning for an espresso or cafe au lait with the locals.

8. Locking lips with rich red wines and tasting your way through the region. Discovering historic places, fine food and vistas you’ve drooled over in magazines.  

9. At day’s end, pick up a bottle of $50 French wine for ten euros, de-cork it on your veranda, sit back and watch the sun set.  

10. Your own private swimming pool. 'Nuf said.


THE PRACTICALITIES: 10 Questions to ask yourself before booking.


1. Where do you want to go? 
Sounds obvious, but the South of France spans seven regions alone. Start with must-see landmarks, cities or a preferred landscape. Do you want to be close to the coast, the capital, or châteaux?


2. Are you taking the kids?
Look for villas with living spaces well away from the kids’ bedrooms — for when the younger guests have been put to bed… Preferably close to the wine cellar!


3. Do you want to be completely isolated?
The rural lifestyle is dreamy; stone cottages surrounded by nothing but sunflowers — lovely. But do you really want to get the car every time you need bread? Choose villas in walkable distance of local shops.


4. Which attractions do you want to be close to?
Start by marking on a map all the places you want to visit, then ask your consultant to find a villa right in the middle.


5. How much do you want to spend?
You might be drawn the Côte d’Azur, but so is everyone else unfortunately. Go inland to push down the price. You’ll lose the sea views, but you’ll gain more Euro for other indulgences, such as a swimming pool, or daily croissants from the patisserie.


6. When do you need to book by?
Villas fill even faster than you might think. The French love to holiday in their own stunning country (clever folk, the French) so you’re not just competing against foreign visitors, but residents too.


7. What are the shoulder months?
Villa prices can drop by at least 15-20 per cent in April, May and September, with weather staying mostly fair. Worth bearing in mind if you aren't restricted by school terms.


8. What kind of villa do you fancy? 
An Italian villa may be just that, a country retreat, but there are also farmhouses, palaces and monasteries that have been converted into hotels and apartments and sit under the ‘villa’ category.


9. What’s inside?
In France for example, they might provide a special bread bag just for your French stick, but there won’t be a hairdryer in sight.  


10. How do I avoid the sharks? (Not the teethy kind) 
By booking through House of Travel you’ll avoid any possibility of online scams. You’ll benefit from assistance before and during your trip, and if anything does go awry, your consultant is a phone call away.


Let's make your villa dream a reality. Click Here for all our UK and Europe deals, or pop ins-tore to discuss further. 



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