Abercrombie & Kent Villas
Five decades of experience as a luxury travel operator has given A&K a healthy head start with its 200-property villa-rental offshoot, which launched in 2009.
Best For: Excursions; local staff; user-friendly website
What We Love: Rentals can include the on-point services that have helped make A&K famous: customized itineraries; wine tastings; cooking classes.
Properties From: $3,000 a week
Standout Rental: C’Awanui, a four-bedroom villa in Majorca whose 32-foot-long swimming pool has views of cypress-lined hilltops ($8,765 a week). 800/652-8413; akvillas.com.
While the Sonoma, California–based agency is known for its far-flung properties, its current agenda is to offer more value-oriented options.
Best For: Flexible minimum stays; special events
What We Love: The events the company can create or access: Ferrari race-car driving, costume balls in French châteaux, even a party where guests blend their own barrels of Bordeaux wine (later shipped back to the States).
Properties From: $5,925 a week
Standout Rental: A restored six-bedroom stone farmhouse just 40 minutes’ drive from the Tuscan wine capital, Montepulciano ($11,250 a week). 800/495-9961; beautiful-places.com.
Carpe Diem Luxury Travel
The 25 properties Marina Gratsos represents all belong to people in her social network. After a telephone interview or brief e-mail exchange, you’ll receive password-protected links to suitable properties’ websites.
Best For: Local connections; over-the-top services
What We Love: Those looking for privacy and discretion will find it here.
Properties From: $22,500 a week
Standout Rental: A hilltop palazzo in Umbria with 12 bedrooms whose staff will organize hunts for truffles or even wild boar ($42,618 a week). 44-20/7402-5330; carpediemtravel.co.uk.
A list of about 500 properties includes pricier Dream castles, villas, and yachts, as well as relatively affordable Charme properties in France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.
Best For: Travel services
What We Love: The Milan-based company is also a travel agency, offering one-stop shopping for plane tickets and car rentals.
Properties From: $7,000 a week
Standout Rental: Charme’s two-bedroom mountainside chalet in the South Tyrolean region of Trentino Alto Adige, with a retractable drawbridge to keep out unwanted guests ($11,680 a week). 39-02/8050-3457; dreamcharme.com.
The company’s approximately 1,000 properties are especially strong across Italy, France, and the Caribbean.
Best For: Exclusives
What We Love: LaCure’s zealously guarded private portfolio is not just for over-the-top properties; owners of reasonable midrange rentals also prefer to keep their places out of the public eye.
Properties From: $4,000 a week
Standout Rental: Listings include a former hunting lodge with six bedrooms in Tuscany that was once owned by the Medici family ($51,528 a week). 800/387-2726; lacurevillas.com.
Luxury Lifestyle Management
Even if your budget is modest, owner Maria Salazar will likely find
the best possible option for your dollar among her 2,000 or so rentals. Her favorite values right now: the Azores and Greece.
Best For: Emerging destinations
What We Love: Salazar deftly steers clients away from “outrageous” high-season rentals in favor of secret shoulder-season deals. She also offers frank advice about the true costs of the trip.
Properties From: $2,800 a week
Standout Rental: The 4,305-square-foot, four-bedroom Quinta das Oliveira, with panoramic views of the Algarve coast and the Atlantic—not to mention easy access to Vilamoura Golf Course ($8,425 a week). 866/293-9061; dreamexoticrentals.com.
The agency aims to represent only the two or three finest villas in its destinations (currently 140 properties in 70 countries), handpicking them for privacy, style, and individuality.
Best For: Exclusives; local staff
What We Love: All properties are fully staffed and include a local guide and concierge services.
Properties From: $35,500 a week
Standout Rental: A 10,000-square-foot, six-bedroom town house right on Hyde Park. The open-air rooftop living room is divine ($70,700 a week). 44-20/7723-5599; privateworldvillas.com.
Unique Properties & Events
Each of the 80 properties—in France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and, later this year, Corsica—includes private concierge service and a local host.
Best For: Special excursions; exclusives
What We Love: The company is equally known for the “events” portion of its name (a tasting of rare wines in Tuscany; access to private yachts during the St.-Tropez regatta).
Properties From: $14,000 a week
Standout Rental: A five-room travertine palazzo in Cortona, Italy, surrounded by ancient olive trees ($36,231 a week). 44-20/7788-7815; cedricreversade.com.
Hosted Villas (formerly HomesAway)
Each of the 125 properties comes with a host who will greet you and help tailor an itinerary as relaxed or intricate as you’d like. The company rents properties in Croatia, France, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Argentina,
and Turks and Caicos.
Best For: Local staff
What We Love: Booking promotions, such as a recent offer for $500 toward a chef’s services in an ivy-covered château in the Dordogne.
Properties From: $12,000 a week
Standout Rental: Le Jardin, a spacious eight-bedroom manor in the Côtes du Rhône wine region, with a shady terrace and Provençal antiques. ($13,400 a week). 800/374-6637; hostedvillas.com.
Ville et Village
Carolyn Grote has a sleuth’s knowledge of both the 250 properties she offers and the towns they’re in (how long it takes to walk there; how good the market is). Listings also include Italian options.
Best For: Local connections
What We Love: Ville et Village is straight with clients, warning when authenticity means no window screens, no microwave, or a gravel patio.
Properties From: $1,250 a week
Standout Rental: A restored three-bedroom farmhouse in the Vaucluse with its own lavender field and views of Mont Ventoux ($3,938 a week). 510/559-8080; villeetvillage.com.
The Best in Italy
Many of the 80 gems offered by Florence-based Countess Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda are owned by her friends. She has visited all the properties and regularly spends the night, so you know they’re up to her very high standards.
Best For: Exclusives; local connections
What We Love: Want to taste wine with the owners of Antinori or Frescobaldi, or meet the jockeys behind the scenes at the palio in Siena? The countess can make it happen.
Properties From: $11,326 a week
Standout Rental: A 16th-century manor with five bedrooms built by the bishop of Fiesole ($20,000 a week). 39-055/223-064; thebestinitaly.com.
This group’s 93 listings are pure fantasy. Strict standards ensure that every villa is of the highest quality—with prices to match.
Best For: Exclusives; regional expertise; special excursions
What We Love: Unique outings, such as helicopter flights over Mount Etna, wine-tasting trips, and in-villa spa treatments. In 2009 the company launched Think Puglia, with a handful of properties on the fashionable Salentine Peninsula.
Properties From: $2,600 a week
Standout Rental: Don Arcangelo all’Olmo, a 12-bedroom manor in the countryside between the sea and Mount Etna (from $21,410 a week). 800/490-1107; thinksicily.com.
Suzanne B. Cohen & Associates
The firm’s specialists thoroughly interview all
potential clients before steering them to any of their
395 cottages and manor houses. Additional listings include Italian options.
Best For: Attentive service
What We Love: Every property is managed by the same exacting company, so you can expect consistency.
Properties From: $1,130 a week
Standout Rental: The Gates, a three-bedroom, stone-walled house in the village of Castle Combe, near the Cotswolds ($2,040 a week). 207/622-0743; villaeurope.com.
Aqualiving specializes in Mykonos and its sister islands of Antiparos
and Paros. Its on-island headquarters means you’ll get easy access to the local staff. The 80 listings also cover Santorini, Tínos, and Kea.
Best For: Local staff; regional expertise
What We Love: The company’s own catering service, Aquafusion (mykonoschefs.com), ensures a stellar roster of private chefs for its villas.
Properties From: $5,687 a week
Standout Rental: The five-bedroom, Cycladic-style Magic Garden, in Mykonos, whose entire second floor is dedicated to the master bedroom and its terrace ($17,717 a week). 44-20/7060-6244; mykonosvillas.com.
White Key Villas
The Athens-based owners focus only on properties they believe are in prime destinations, from the golden beaches of Halkidiki to cosmopolitan Santorini. All 112 retreats are beachfront or have sea views.
Best For: Superb locations; local staff
What We Love: A concierge is always available, and on-site requests (a fully stocked fridge; personal-training sessions; private security detail—you name it) are encouraged.
Properties From: $10,000 a week
Standout Rental: Villa Jade, a minimalist villa with five bedrooms on its own small bay in Kardamili ($23,100 a week). 30-210/721-5530; whitekeyvillas.com.
This Madrid-based company’s 80 villas and 200 apartments are located all over the country, from Catalonia to the Balearics.
Best For: User-friendly website
What We Love: Searching online is easy with the aid of categories.
Properties From: $1,203 a week
Standout Rental: An eight-bedroom house on the Cap de Creus peninsula, near the Costa Brava; it has views of Salvador Dalí’s house ($23,650 a week). 34/91-523-7451; spain-select.com.
This nine-year-old company’s 350 villas represent
the lion’s share of the growing market in Croatia; it also has listings in Bosnia, Montenegro, and Slovenia.
Best For: Flexible minimum stays; emerging destinations
What We Love: The staff can arrange local transportation and guides.
Properties From: $780 a week
Standout Rental: A one-bedroom apartment in Korčula’s Old Town with an ancient Roman column that was uncovered during a recent renovation ($780 a week). 44-20/8888-6655; croatianvillas.com.
Pricing: Weekly rate listings are for high season; prices often drop significantly in low season.