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Anyone who has had a small taste of the sweet life in France and Italy has definitely fantasized about renting an estate in Italy, a chateau in the Loire Valley or a restored farmhouse in Provence .

No hotel stay  can really compare to having a grand European home of one’s own and filling it with great friends and family.

Finding a home can be very simple but choosing the right one with the best value really takes some serious planning.

Owners versus agencies.

First you have to decide whether you want to rent from an owner or an agency. From an owner the price will be lower but also higher risk. With an agency, the converse is true.

With the rise of the Internet, renting directly from an owner has become much easier and more popular. Seasoned renters always go back to a familiar area. After paying a membership fee, owners will post their vacation rentals on the website of companies such as vacation rentals by owner ( vrbo.com) and also homeaway.com. Potential renters can find a gems, such as the perfect villa , one is a six bedroom 15th century house near Cortona with three living rooms and a large pool. This home is listed on vrbo and available at a very decent price!. Also do keep in mind that prices depend on the season.

Removing a rental agency from the equation can reduce the cost up to 40 percent.  Sometimes on occasion, individual owners might be willing to waive the week long rental requirement and allow a shorter visit. Keep in mind that only the owner’s word guarantees that a property is as described. Also the villa may indeed be a very lovely home, but also be in need of a deep cleaning or maybe close to a very noisy road.

In contrast, the best rental agencies hire staff to inspect and choose the finest properties in the region. Also an agency will help renters decide what villa is best suited for their needs, considering children, pets or aging parents. Then, an agent is very useful in helping you choose the perfect place.

If your villa is located not far from a church and that the bells ring frequently some people may see it as a downside. The best agencies will provide lots of material about a house as well as its neighboring villages along with restaurant, shopping and sightseeing information.. Also an agent can solve problems that are not uncommon with a 15th century chateau or rural house.

France and Italy really appear to a lot of travelers such as the warmth of the summer season, the gastronomy, the wines and the sound of the language spoken with romance.

I have read that Provence and Tuscany renters may bump into a lot of Brits and Americans which can reduce the immersive feel. When I take groups to France & Italy, we never bump into English speaking tourists and have local drivers & tour guides take us to very interesting spots!. If you really enjoy authenticity renting a villa is a great choice!.

Books have been a great inspiration for travelers who love both the hill towns of Tuscany , thanks to Frances Mayes’s ” Under the Tuscan sun” but the adjacent rolling hills of Umbria and the wonderful cuisine is also very famous for travelers in search of the ultimate experience. Also most adventurous travelers won’t shy away from rural homes  next door to Umbria.

The classic destinations for villa rentals are Provence, Dordogne, the French Riviera. Languedoc -Roussillon in Southeast, France is starting to get more attention  but is still a sleeper hit.Great food and very good wines from Marsanne, grenache and Syrah grapes. Also a lot of little towns and hamlets surround historic cities such as Nimes and Carcassonne.

The best time to visit France & Italy is before summer and after summer. I will take groups in May, June, September and October.  July & August are high season, so try to avoid the hordes of tourists heading down the coast ( Provence). Restaurant reservations, hotels are in full swing and it hard to walk on crowded streets . If you want to rent a villa , do it 7 to 8 months in advance. Also if your best choice is to be a little further away from the action, because there are many small towns and they never feel crowded, even in July or August.

When renting always make sure that the sleeping arrangements suit the group. Every villa has its very own layout and if a property is listed as sleeping 10 guests, that does not mean that it translates into 5 bedrooms. It can be 10 individuals or 5 couples, also make sure there is a bathroom with each bedroom. Always make sure that the owner or agent describe the property while you look at the photos online.

Amenities.

Every agency or owner must list the amenities such as Linens, washer & dryer access. In France & Italy a daily maid or gardener along with pool maintenance. Other services  can include babysitting, concierge and cooks.

Also remember as an American you can get used to certain comforts but when you are abroad some amenities can be in short supply such as window screens or air conditioning. Many pools may not be large enough for lap swimming. Sometimes internet maybe  not available.

Additional fees will be added for bicycle rentals, a stocked pantry or for fresh linens. You can also have a babysitter watch the kids and it usually runs from $20 to $ 30 an hour in France or Italy.kitchen2vbedroom2vlivFrontView

A deposit is always required to secure a villa rental and payment in full is usually required 90 days before arrival, sometimes even often an owner or an agency will require a security deposit, sometimes they are not refundable. Do not forget to have insurance in case the trip is cancelled. ( Travelguard.com).

Anne Suire

http://www.luxurytravelconsultant2.com

” Anne had done her homework with regards to the house, grounds, amenities and cleanliness of this wonderful home. The entire group really enjoyed themselves. It was peaceful, beautiful and well orchestrated.  It was a home, private pool and guest house in a very beautiful setting”

Kate & Ted Smith , San Francisco.