Abercrombie & Kent Villas
Best For: Excursions; local staff; user-friendly website
Five decades of experience as a luxury travel operator gave A&K a healthy head start with its 135-property villa-rental offshoot, which launched in 2009.
What We Love: Rentals can include the on-point services that made A&K famous: customized itineraries; wine tastings; cooking classes.
Standout: C’Awanui, a four-bedroom villa in Majorca whose 32-foot swimming pool has views of cypress tree–lined hilltops ($8,265 a week). 800/652-8413; akvillas.com.
Best For: Great values; flexible minimum stays; special events
While the Sonoma-based agency is known for its far-flung properties, its current agenda is to offer more value-oriented options.
What We Love: The events: Ferrari race-car driving, costume balls in French châteaux, even a party where guests create their own barrels of Bordeaux wine (later shipped back to the States).
Standout: A restored six-bedroom stone farmhouse just 40 minutes’ drive from the Tuscan wine capital, Montepulciano ($11,132 a week). 800/495-9961; beautiful-places.com.
Carpe Diem Luxury Travel
Best For: Local connections; over-the-top services
The 25 properties Maria Gratsos represents all belong to people in her social network. After a telephone interview, you’ll receive password-protected links to suitable properties’ websites.
What We Love: Those looking for privacy and discretion will find it here.
Standout: A hilltop palazzo in Umbria with 10 bedrooms whose staff will organize hunts for truffles or even wild boar ($47,872 a week). 44-20/7402-5330; carpediemtravel.co.uk.
Dream & Charme
Best For: Travel services
A list of 500 properties includes pricier Dream or less expensive Charme properties in France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.
What We Love: The Milan-based company is also a travel agency, offering one-stop shopping for airfare and car rentals.
Standout: Dream’s fully staffed six-bedroom ski chalet near St. Moritz, with chauffeur service to the slopes and an in-house spa ($94,212 a week). 39-02/8050-3457; dreamcharme.com.
Best For: Exclusives; great values
The company’s 700 properties are especially strong across Italy and France, with a growing presence in Spain.
What We Love: LaCure’s zealously guarded private portfolio is not just for over-the-top properties; owners of reasonable mid-range rentals also prefer to keep their places out of the public eye.
Standout: The private portfolio includes a former hunting lodge with six bedrooms in Tuscany that was once owned by the Medici family ($48,772 a week). 800/387-2726; lacurevillas.com.
Luxury Lifestyle Management
Best For: Great values
Even if your budget is inflexible, owner Maria Salazar will likely find the best possible option for your dollar among her 2,000 listings. Her favorite values right now: the Azores and Madeira.
What We Love: Salazar deftly steers clients away from “outrageous” high-season prices in favor of secret shoulder-season deals. She also offers frank advice about the true costs of the trip.
Standout: Casa Alta de Cerro in Algarve, Portugal, a hilltop property with five bedrooms and views of the Atlantic ($11,845 a week). 866/293-9061; dreamexoticrentals.com.
Best For: Exclusives; local staff
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.
What We Love: All properties are fully staffed and include a local guide and concierge services.
Standout: The five-bedroom Tyringham Hall estate, in Buckinghamshire, set on formal gardens ($55,486 a week). 44-20/7723-5599; privateworldvillas.com.
Unique Properties & Events
Best For: Special excursions; exclusives
Each of the 80 properties—in France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland—includes private concierge service and a local host.
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).
Standout: A five-room travertine palazzo in Cortona surrounded by ancient olive trees ($36,231 a week).
What’s Next: This year, the group will introduce a small selection of villas in Corsica. 44-20/7788-7815; cedricreversade.com.
* A note on pricing: Weekly rate listings are for high season; prices often drop dramatically in low season.