Hand-picked villas for a taste of Europe

One top reason to holiday in Europe? The abundant markets and delectable fresh produce that fills the piazzas and plazas of towns across the continent. Buying and cooking the best food from local suppliers is a wonderful way to appreciate the flavour of a country, so it’s a deal breaker that your holiday accommodation has a beautifully-equipped kitchen and on-site barbecue. To experience some of southern Europe’s best gastronomy take your pick of Villa Plus rentals and feast like a local, whatever your destination.

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Villa Trulli Isabella, Puglia

Tucked among verdant plains and olive-grove hills of Puglia, Italy’s whitewashed towns in Valle d’Itria are a gourmand traveller’s paradise. Home of the ‘slow food’ movement and boasting some of the country’s most abundant farmland, this region bustles with enchanting trattorias, busy greengrocers and fishmongers aplenty. Drop by the charmingly traditional town of Martina Franca to browse the weekly market for a kaleidoscope of local produce, from just picked tomatoes and pallets of lemons to vast barrels of the region’s silky olive harvest. Look out for orecchiette pasta, the local favourite, which is best served with cimie di rapa (a leafy broccoli), chilli, garlic and olive oil. For a romantic escape to the heart of Italy, Villa Trulli Isabella, is ideally positioned just 15 minutes’ drive from the town. Mixing contemporary interiors with the traditional architecture of a conically-roofed Italian trulli and surrounded by rural landscapes, this one bedroom villa is the perfect spot for gourmand couples. Boasting a fully equipped kitchen and an alfresco dining space looking out over the surrounding rural vistas, it the perfect place to cook up an Italian feast with the plentiful produce of Puglia.

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Villa Burici, Croatia

The fruits of the sea are plentiful along Croatia’s southern coast. Soft as butter octopus cooked Peka (slow-cooked under glowing embers), black cuttlefish risotto and brodetto, a vinegary fish stew, are all on the menu when you’re looking for dinner inspiration on the country’s balmy coast. Head to the picturesque harbourfront of Rovinij early in the morning to pick up the best of the daily catch from local fishermen before heading down the waterfront in search of the open-air green market, where farmers from the surrounding area sell their best produce. Among the overflowing pallets of grapes, pomegranates and melons, look for the knobbly shapes of Croatia’s legendary truffles. Just outside Rovinj and surrounded by the beautiful Croatian countryside, the impressive Villa Burici boasts easy access to Rovinij and sleeps up to eight. Within the traditional stone facade, you'll find four airy bedrooms and plenty of space for entertaining all the family, thanks to a games room and home cinema. Equipped with a brick barbecue and expansive outdoor space, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a laid-back escape. Try grilling octopus, and serving it in a salata od hobotnica with chopped onion, parsley and capers with a drizzle of local olive oil.

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Villa Rhodos Apollo, Rhodes

Tucked under the south-eastern Pefkos peninsula of Rhodes, the small village of Lardos offers a taste of idyllic Greek island life. Sitting between Africa and Europe and basking in the Mediterranean sunshine amid azure waves, you’ll find sweeping beaches five minutes from the village, crumbling castles dotted in the surrounding area and a historic cuisine influenced by invaders of times gone by. Once home to the Ottomans, Venetians, Franks and Italians, local cuisine includes pitaroudia (fried chickpea-balls with mint, onion and tomato), the delicious dolmades dish of cyclamens’ leaves stuffed with rice in an egg and lemon juice mixture and the sweet fried dough of mantinades soaked in honey and rose water. Head to the centre of the village to find local shops stocked with the best of Rhodes produce, from sweet watermelons and juicy peaches to burnished tomatoes and brilliantly yellow lemons. Sitting within the village, and a short walk from the butchers and mini market, the contemporary Villa Rodos Apollo sleeps up to seven and offers a cool escape from the Southern European heat. Sit under the airy pergola with a glass of wine made from the region’s atheri and moschato grapes, and tuck into a Greek feast cooked on the brick barbecue.

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Villa Barco Sea View, Andalucia

Waterside seafood shacks and tapas bars humming with Spanish revelry are aplenty in the breezy Andalucian town of Nerja. Drenched in sunlight, the southern-most state is fuelled by a fiery cuisine of Jamon, fresh seafood and vegetables ripened in the hot Spanish sun. Head to the beachside restaurants for a table looking out over the Alboran Sea and fresh fish specialities, or take a twilight walk through the town to catch the buzzy street markets, filled with delectable street food. Churros and calamari might be more familiar dishes to the discerning traveller but for hispanofiles looking to taste authentic Andalucian cuisine, the fish market in the nearby town of Torre del Mar is a must-visit location. Mountains of scallops piled high in their shells, neatly stacked lines of red snapper and, of course, rows of gigantic bluefin tuna can all be found ready for sale. Spanish Rojo tuna, sustainably caught, is considered some of the best in the world (it’s a staple Japanese import). Pick your catch and head back to the spacious Villa Barco Sea View, where a state-of-the-art kitchen and barbecue await your buys. Only 400 yards from the golden sands of Penoncillo Beach and sleeping up to 10 guests in five sleek bedrooms, tuck into the best of Spanish produce in the alfresco dining terrace, soaking in the sea views.

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Villa Risco, Lanzarote

With average temperatures hitting the mercury at a comfortable 22C year round, and sunshine almost guaranteed, Lanzarote is an island of everlasting sun. Home to spectacular volcanic landscapes, uninterrupted views across sapphire blue seas from remote beaches and golden sandy stretches and a first-rate food scene, it’s the ideal place to soak up sun, sea and delicious food throughout the year. Tucked behind the old town of Puerto del Carmen, on the south side of the island, the airy Villa Risco is a stunning modern villa that sleeps up to seven. Laze by the heated pool for a chilled-out day before heading into the town for a taste of true Canarian cuisine or sloping down to Playa Chicha Beach, just over a mile away. Alfresco dining options reign supreme under star-lit skies, with tastes of Africa, Spain and America all making it onto the menu. Order grilled sea bream and parrot fish served with the island favourite of papas arrugadas - the famous Canarian ‘wrinkled potato’ - or enjoy the local delicacies of tender beef and goat cuts barbecued over hot lava rocks.

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VillaPlus has villa holidays available for this summer across 18 destinations. Its expertise online makes it perfectly placed to help you find that special place for that special time.

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