*For a taste of the high life Italian style, gather friends and family in a villa with a view.
*Casa a Noto, south-east Sicily Gather 15 pals for aperitivi on the terrace with views of vineyards and the nearby town of Noto, renowned for its World Heritage-listed Sicilian Baroque architecture. An hour's drive south of Catania airport and half an hour from the city of Siracusa, the villa is surrounded by groves of olives, citrus, figs and almonds on a wine estate. Too relaxed to fuss in the kitchen? There's a cook on hand. The closest beach is five minutes' drive, though guests might find it hard to stray beyond the swimming pool in the garden, and more aperitivi on that terrace.
Villa Il Galero, Asolo, Veneto
Though only an hour's drive from Venice Airport, the hill town of Asolo is charmingly unspoilt. The 17th-century Villa Il Galero is an elegant launchpad for daytrips to La Serenissima or the prosecco vineyards of Valdobbiadene, and an easy passeggiata from the town's historic centre. Surrounded by olive groves, lawns and gardens, the villa sleeps 13 in style, with an assortment of ornate drawing rooms and shady terraces for dining and lounging. The best views of the valley and the town's fortress are from the heated swimming pool.
Villa Robilant, Todi, Umbria
About 10 minutes' drive from the peaceful Umbrian town of Todi, this contemporary villa sleeping up to eight teams traditional design with uncommon features: a private cinema, cutting-edge sound system, and a spa with steam bath, plunge pool and gym. Eat in the big family kitchen or in one of several dining rooms and terraces, or throw a party in the garden house, with its own outdoor kitchen, pizza oven and armchairs surrounding a fireplace. The split-level garden has an infinity pool on the lower level with views of the gentle Umbrian countryside.