How to choose your ideal villa in Sicily
You have heard so much about Sicily and now want to rent a holiday villa there. But how do you choose your ideal villa in Sicily without spending hours online figuring out which one is the best for you? There are so many villa websites. Where do you start?
Ask an expert. And who better to ask than Massimo Provenza? A villa owner himself and manager of an amazing collection of villas all over Sicily, Massimo has over 16 years of experience managing villa rentals and renovation projects (our story). He has a wealth of knowledge to help you with your search so here are Massimo’s answers to your questions:
What is the best way to start choosing a villa in Sicily?
Sicily is a big island with varying landscapes, architecture and culture, so your first step should be to work out where on the island to base yourself. This will depend on who is in your group and what you like to do on holiday. Most like to combine going to the beach with trekking in the mountains, seeing volcanoes, visiting historic sights, eating well and just relaxing in the sunshine. There are exceptions, but generally, most villas with pools in Sicily are situated in the hills, away from the coast. If you stay somewhere like Selinunte, Noto or Cefalu, the beach is an easy drive away.
For more remote landscapes, you can go for a villa by a nature reserve, such as Vendicari in the south-east. An adventurous option is to stay on one of Sicily’s smaller islands such as the Aeolian islands or Pantelleria, then explore on foot and by boat. Each island is unique. Some are car-free and many are volcanic.
Sociable, family-friendly beaches with restaurants and bars can be found in Sicily too, such as Trapani, Cefalu or Taormina. If you prefer to be within walking distance of the beach and amenities, then a village house or apartment with a terrace in a historic centre somewhere like Cefalu is a good option.
Can I see all the best sights in Sicily in a week?
No, you will need to stay in Sicily for 2 weeks at least to see most of it! Whereas an island like Sardinia is more about natural surroundings, Sicily is rich in historical and cultural sights to visit, as well as interesting landscapes and amazing cuisine. From exploring Roman ruins and beaches to volcanoes and other smaller islands, there is so much to see. A good way to experience the best of Sicily is to stay on one side of the island for a week and the other for another week, so maybe Noto or Ragusa for one week then Cefalu or Trapani for the second.
Is it going to be too hot and crowded in Sicily in the summer?
Some parts of Sicily are crowded at certain times of the day and other parts of the island are not, so it depends where you go. Hidden coves in nature reserves tend to be free from the crowds in summer whereas more popular beaches in places like Trapani attract a large number of visitors. Ask the villa owner or consultant about this when you are booking. No one can predict the weather but it is usually hot and sunny in the summer. Many villas have a pool, air conditioning and/or thick walls enabling you to stay cool. Villas in the hills benefit from cooling breezes compared to those in more coastal, residential areas. Ask the villa manager/owner for details before you book to avoid overheating.
We want to experience the island. Should we organise excursions and activities before we go?
You can wait until you arrive for many of them, but for activities or experiences such as a private chef at your villa, a tour guide or hiring a boat, it is best to book in advance. Have a chat with your villa consultant/manager or owner who will tell you more about which are the most popular, then you can work out which are best for you. Although talking to villa managers and owners on the phone may seem old fashioned when we have email, a conversation with an expert will help you put into words what exactly you value on holiday and what your ideal villa really looks like. So if you have never been to Sicily, call an expert like Massimo or one of his team and they will save you time by talking through your wish list and guiding you to your ideal villa in Sicily.
Are our holiday villas in Sicily expensive?
It depends on the quality, location and service. When you go to Sicily is an important factor too. The highest rental prices are in July and August when the demand is high. Rental prices tend to be lower in May, June, September and October so if you are not tied to school holidays, they are the best months to visit as the weather is still good and the main sights are less crowded.
If you book a villa in Sicily well in advance, you can save money and have a better choice. Most reputable villa companies offer an early booking discount of up to 10% or even 20%. Some also have free cancellation policies. You can also take advantage of last-minute booking offers but your choice will be limited.
The most luxurious holiday villas with a high price tag tend to be located in east Sicily between Taormina and Siracusa, the most sought-after location on the island. The villa rental market there is relatively new and thriving. Rental prices tend to be a good 20% higher than similar villas in the south near Agrigento or the north near Cefalu. The villas there are generally designed by famous architects and are luxurious in style with excellent service on offer.
Good value family villas in Sicily range in style from rustic farmhouses to more stylish, contemporary homes with all mod cons. Rustic, traditional villas tend to be better valued, but the number of more modern, affordable villas with pools and contemporary open-plan living spaces, up to date bathrooms and kitchens is increasing. One such villa is Villa Charme near Cefalu, recently renovated by Massimo and his team, the villa has been transformed from a basic farmhouse conversion to a modern home from home with infinity pool.
Why do I see the same villa featured on lots of websites with different prices?
It is the magic of ‘online distribution’! Many villa owners and villa managers have partnerships with a number of villa companies around the world in order to find enough bookings. So you will see Massimo’s villas on the Massimo Villa Collection website but you will also see some of them on websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com which have a worldwide reach. Villa companies and listing sites tend to add on a booking fee or administration charge on top of the villa rental price in order to cover their costs.
Massimo Villa Collection also has partnership policies with many reputable Sicilian villa companies, so can give you a clear understanding of how best to rent the villa of your choice if it does not appear on the Massimo Villas website. Some villa companies such as The Thinkingtraveller have exclusive contracts with villas owners, so you will only ever be able to rent their villas through their own website. When you see the same villa with a different name, it is wise to make sure you understand who is renting the villa first and that they have the permission to do so, in order to avoid disappointment.
Should I rent through a villa company or directly through a villa owner?
If you feel comfortable enough booking directly with an owner, then you can do so through a listing site like Airbnb or Booking.com. If the villa has recent 4 or 5-star reviews, then it is a good sign that the villa is worth booking and the photos and description are up to date. If a villa has been recommended by a friend and they have given you the contact details of an owner or villa company, then that is even better as you know that the owner is trustworthy and not a fraud. Before you book, double-check contact details to make sure they exist and carefully check booking conditions before you agree to the rental contract.
If you rent through a reputable villa company, the villa will have been checked for quality and safety. They will also have a support team in Sicily who are on call for assistance and will be on hand for local knowledge and any help due to unforeseen circumstances.
It is worth bearing in mind that the facilities and level of comfort provided in a villa in Sicily may not be the same as your own home. An experienced rental consultant or owner can help by providing items or directing you to a villa which has facilities which are important to you, such as extra pillows, cots, air conditioning and mosquito screens.