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Ah, the classic holiday villa. There's really nothing like it. These are the places for those long, lazy days of sunning yourself by the pool, smelling the scents of pine drift over the Tuscan hills. They are the pads from which to launch driving adventures through the hilltop bastides of the French Dordogne. They are the ones you look to for those memorable family meals as the sun sets across the Adriatic, the Aegean or the Med.

It's the unique atmosphere that sets the villa stay apart from other getaways. This vibe is created by channelling vernacular styles in the building and its gardens, whether that means terracotta tiles in Umbrian kitchens, a pizza oven attached to those Lazio homes, or armies of swaying sunflowers surrounding a French escape. But it's also created by the balance of relaxation and exploration that a villa allows. One day you could opt to kick back in an armchair with a good book, the next you might find yourself cruising over Tuscan valleys in search of UNESCO-tagged monasteries. You make your own choices on a villa holiday.

Villas are such a popular choice of stay for so many, they can now be found all over the globe. From the surf-washed shores of Bali to the coastal reaches of California, Expedia has options aplenty. However, Europe remains the home of the vintage villa. Just one glimpse at the sheer wealth of converted Italian farmhouses, of pretty French gites and red-tiled Spanish haciendas should be enough to prove that.

So, whether you're after villas in Rome or villas in Santorini, a place to call yours for a week on the sun-splashed Ionian isles or a country escape in the dusty sierras of Andalusia, there's sure to be something in store.

Houses with big gardens and multiple bedrooms are easy to come by, making places like the Villa Nocetta near the Eternal City a prime pick for large groups and families. Bag somewhere like that and you get the whole villa experience – a private pool, al fresco eating spaces, a self-catering kitchen for those feasts of regional produce. Other types of stay, like the whitewashed villas in Mykonos town – think the likes of Nama Villas – might be better for couples, touting patios with sea views and cosy suites with a 'his and hers' bathroom, a plush bed and pint-sized cooking area.