The best of the country’s secret beaches and holiday homes
Fabulous farmhouses and villas
Casa Del Lago, Umbria
Set in grounds of olive trees and vineyards, this Umbrian farmhouse, with its original features, has great views of the Apennines in southern Tuscany and the Monte Amiata. Sleeping 14 in seven rooms, it has stone walls, beams and tiled floors. It has a cinema room and sauna. Details A week’s self-catering costs from £3,062 for 14 people (01242 547705, akvillas.com)
The Parish House, Puglia
This cute Italian villa, with its whitewashed façade, has been refurbished, but retains its charm. Inside, the living area is spacious with a cool kitchen and cosy alcove. The two small bedrooms are bright and airy, with antique furnishings. The villa is 6km from Ostuni and there’s a private swimming pool for guests. Details A week’s self-catering costs from £1,650 for four (01223 460100, essentialitaly.co.uk)
Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, Tuscany
Set on a 1,200-acre farm near San Miniato in Tuscany, Fattoria Barbialla Nuova is surrounded by woodland and hills — yet is only an hour from Florence, Siena and Pisa. There are seven rustic-chic farmhouses (sleeping between two and ten), all with modern kitchens and large fireplaces. Spend days exploring the countryside or relaxing in the sun and dipping in the pool — there’s no television or wi-fi — or visit the nearby cities. Bread-baking lessons, pasta-making demos and guided truffle hunts are available. Details A night’s self-catering costs from £70 for two in the Doderi Ovest farmhouse (0117 946 7072, i-escape.com)
Villa Dimora, Tolentino in Umbria
Perched on a hill overlooking Tolentino, Villa Dimora is a restored 19th-century villa, surrounded by lawns, pines and olive trees. Lounge on sunbeds by the pool and dine alfresco in the illuminated grounds. All is spacious here — the five bedrooms, the bathrooms and the living areas. The kitchen is smaller, but modern. Details A week’s self-catering costs from £3,198 for ten people (0800 0740122, jamesvillas.co.uk)
Masseria Petrarolo, Puglia
This striking farmhouse has the wow factor in spades. With its rooftop pool and vintage Airstream and another pool in the garden, plus its 17th-century chapel, it is one cool property. It sleeps 18 and the bedrooms are beautiful, with free-standing baths and vaulted ceilings. The nearest beach is a 15-minute drive away on the Adriatic coast. Details A week’s self-catering costs from £9,975 for 18 people (01749 812721, scottwilliams.co.uk)
Villa Marcia, Sicily
Sitting in 250 acres of gardens, with views of Mount Etna, this 17th-century Sicilian farmhouse is perfect for groups. Orange trees and palms surround the property, while the ten annexes of the villa’s main house have been transformed into bedrooms, with en suite bathrooms. There are spacious communal areas, a swimming pool and gym. Details One night’s self-catering costs from £1,985 for 24 people (00 33 18 364 3103, lecollectionist.com)
Italy’s secret beaches and where to stay
It takes about an hour by boat from Sicily to reach Marettimo — a verdant outcrop in the Med. The island is the ultimate couples’ hideaway, with secluded coves, car-free streets and one hotel. It’s popular with in-the-know walkers, scuba divers and sunseekers.
Details A week’s self-catering at the island’s only residence in a studio bungalow is from £325 for two (00 39 092 392 3202, marettimoresidence.it)
The powdery white sand and jewel-coloured waters of Capo Bianco on the island of Elba
Laconella, Elba The island of Elba has more than 70 beaches. Laconella, the “little sister” of Lacona — the island’s most well-known beach — is our pick. It’s great for snorkelling, with warm water, gentle shelving and plenty of fish. Elsewhere, the popular Capo Bianco and Sansone beaches wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean, with powdery white sand and jewel-coloured water. Stay at the traditional Villa Capitorsola, 6km from Laconella.
Details B&B doubles are from £60 (00 39 056 593 3546, villacapitorsola.it)
Flanked on one side by the pretty hilltop town of Pisciotta and on the other by the green hills of the Cilento rippling down to the sea, Marina di Pisciotta is a swathe of undisturbed sand linked to the village by a long footpath (also accessible by road). Stay at the Marulivo, a former medieval monastery that has been carefully converted into an 11-room hotel.
Details B&B doubles are from £60 a night (00 39 097 497 3792, sawdays.co.uk)
Cala Gonone, Sardinia Halfway down Sardinia’s eastern coast, Cala Gonone is hard to get to, but it’s worth it. Stroll beyond the town’s main cluster of buildings and you’ll find pebbly and sandy coves and crystal-clear waters for snorkelling. If you’re a real adventurer, the cliffs are popular with free climbers. Stay at the Calaluna Hotel, which has sea views, although some of the rooms could do with a refurb.
Details B&B doubles are from £80 (00 39 078 49 3133, calalunahotel.com)
The Cinque Terre coastline may be famed for its pastel-coloured villages — but not for its beaches. There is one, however, but it isn’t easy to find. There are two options: down a sheer goat track off the main Vernazza-Corniglia coast path (look for a fading sign) or, from the other side of Corniglia, along a disused rail tunnel. However, once there, the shingle and sandy cove and warm waters are a treat.
Details Airbnb has rentals in Vernazza from about £70 a night for two (airbnb.co.uk)
Caldane, Isola de Giglio, Tuscany
The quiet island of Giglio made headlines when the Costa Concordia ran aground in 2012. Peace has been restored and among the island’s stunning beaches, Caldane is the least discovered. Take a picnic, because there’s no café. Regular boat taxis run from the port (costing about €10 return), which is a five-minute stroll from Hotel L’arenella.
Details B&B doubles cost from £85 (00 39 056 480 9340, www.hotelarenella.com)