Courtesy of Jiva Puri
“People from around the world have been falling in love with Bali for almost a century,” says Rahul Mookerjee, owner of Jiva Puri, a private villa that opened last year on the southwest coast of the Indonesian island. Indeed, Bali harbors an undeniable natural beauty and mystique. Musicians from Canada and Germany frequented the country in the 1920s and 1930s; Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger got married there (and converted to Hinduism during the ceremony) in 1990.
True to its location’s allure, Jiva Puri, perched on a 30-foot seaside cliff surrounded by rice fields, is truly spectacular. Designed by Singapore-based architect Ernesto Bedmar, the villa takes a contemporary approach to traditional Balinese open-courtyard layout, and comprises five bedroom pavilions (each with its own outdoor ponds and gardens) and a common living room with wraparound views of the sea.
Other highlights include extensive lawns, tropical gardens, a nearly 100-foot swimming pool and sights of one of Bali’s most beautiful temples, Pura Batu Ngaus. Pristine beaches and a world-class golf course are found outside the grounds, as is the adjacent village of Cemagi, which offers shopping and nightlife options and is perfectly positioned for side trips to the nearby towns of Ubud and Seminyak.
“There is a sense of genuine retreat from the frenetic pace of the 21st century,” says Mookerjee, adding that the idyllic escape offers another invaluable indulgence: time for oneself. Rates start at $5,000 (minimum three-night stay); 62-812/380-7286; jivapuri.com.
Courtesy of Think Sicily
Located on the east coast of Sicily, overlooking magnificent views of the Ionian Sea and the lava peaks at Mount Etna, Rocca delle Tre Contrade is a villa with history and contemporary personality. Built in 1850 on a sizable wine estate, the home was originally a summer residence for a local well-to-do family. When Jon Moslet, a current owner, came across the property, he jumped. A lover of the Sicilian countryside (and the plethora of abandoned country homes ready for revamping), he and his team set out to rescue the abode.
Without skimping on modern conveniences, the renovation, which began in October 2008, preserved all of the home’s original details, including lofty lava-stone arches, vaulted ceilings and reclaimed terracotta floors. That use of authentic materials and traditions paid off. Rocca delle Tre Contrade won second prize this summer in the Italian architecture competition PIDA, and its blend of new and old offers an idyllic homebase. (It is an exclusive property of villa rental company Think Sicily.)
Up to 22 guests can stay in its 11 en suite bedrooms, and the dining room table sits 32. Nearly all of the bathrooms come with views of the sea, some also housing private balconies and central cast-iron bathtubs. An infinity pool overlooks a lemon grove. Though staying in is a treat, there are numerous activities in the surrounding area, including trips up Mount Etna, a tour of nearby Taormina, visits to local villages and markets, a boat trip up the coast and a helicopter outing. From $16,710 for 12 people; trecontrade.com; thinksicily.com.
Ladies in a Garden, John Singer Sargent, 1910 / Courtesy Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi
For more than 100 years, Americans have been drawn to Tuscany and its villas. Edith Wharton enthused about “Italian garden-magic”; historian Bernard Berenson created the ideal Renaissance garden at Villa I Tatti; and countless Americans rented or bought villas dotting the hills overlooking Florence. “Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists” at Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (through July 15) invites visitors to discover Florence through the eyes of the painters, like John Singer Sargent and James Abbot McNeill Whistler, who flocked to the city at the end of the 19th century. Not only does the exhibition show the impact of the landscape on the artists, it also reveals the lasting effect they had on Florence’s cosmopolitan cultural life. palazzostrozzi.org.
Read More: The Top Villas in Tuscany
Courtesy The Mustique Company
Long a favored haunt of triple-A-list celebrities (Prince William and Kate Middleton among them), the island of Mustique is home to some of the Caribbean’s most sumptuous rental properties. Seventy-four independently designed villas are scattered across the island’s 1,400 acres, most of them ranging from barefoot luxe to outrageously opulent. In January, two new villas—which definitely belong to the latter category—were made available to guests for the first time. Sienna, an Italianate five-bedroom manse with views over Macaroni Beach and Pasture Bay, is surrounded by tropical gardens, statuary, and bubbling fountains (and comes equipped with a staff of five; rates start at $30,000 per week). The four-bedroom Tanama, set in the island’s Endeavour foothills, has a 48-foot-long pool with sun loungers and a pavilion for entertaining (rates start at $10,000 per week). Both are clearly fit for a (future) king.