We've trawled the globe to find the best properties on the market, from a bubble palace above the Bay of Cannes to a historic château in the Czech Republic.
Historic grandeur in Tuscany – Price on application
You’d have thought that whoever named this Tuscan villa, set in 31 acres near Bagno a Ripoli, south-east of Florence, had a quirky sense of humour: La Tana means ‘the burrow’ in Italian – an unusual choice of moniker for a triumph of period opulence. In fact, the name appears to date from the house’s early days, when it was somewhat smaller and ‘burrowed’ into the local woods.
Even then, it can’t have been too humble an abode if it caught the eye of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who bought it in 1570 for his mistress, Bianca Cappello. After Bianca’s long-suffering husband, Pietro Bonaventuri, was murdered (possibly on Francesco’s orders), she moved to a palace in Florence (much to the chagrin of the Grand Duke’s wife, Joanna of Austria). After Joanna died, Francesco married his mistress in 1579 – only for the pair to die eight years later; rumours flew that his brother, Ferdinand, had them both poisoned.
Meanwhile, Villa La Tana made its way into the hands of another family of Tuscan aristocrats, the Ricasoli, who spearheaded a renovation programme. First, architect Giulio Foggini remodelled the house, giving it the grand look it has now, then painter Antonio Cioci frescoed the double-height salon. Centuries later, the villa charmed Harold Acton, who praised its ‘suave’ façade and ‘superb views’. Painstakingly renovated, it is for sale through Knight Frank, price on application.
Waterside living in La Paz – $19.5 million (about £15.15m)
This property near La Paz, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, was originally designed to be the ultimate beach house and has remained true to that vision.
With four pools, a water slide, a tennis court, a gym and, for evening entertainment, a home cinema, it feels like a giant waterside playground.
Many rooms, outdoor living areas and pavilions at this 20-bedroom compound – split between a main residence, four guest villas and seven suites – overlook the palm-fringed sand of the aptly named Bahía de los Sueños, Bay of Dreams, with the crystalline waters of the dolphin-inhabited Sea of Cortez beyond.
Bragging rights in Bel Air – $500 million (about £383 million)
If it’s records you’re after, there’s no beating The One in Bel Air. Designed by architect Paul McLean for developer Nile Niami (who used to be a film producer), this 20-bedroom, Californian property is not only gigantic – the master suite alone, clocking in at 5,500sq ft, is bigger than most London houses – but is also thought to be the world’s most expensive, with a cool $500 million (about £383 million) price tag.
Obviously, it comes with every conceivable feature, from five swimming pools to a 36-seat cinema and long views of Los Angeles.
On the market exclusively with Branden and Rayni Williams of Williams & Williams www.thewilliamsestates.com
Wildlife spotting in Plettenberg Bay – R200 Million (£9.8 million)
If you are after lions, leopards and rhinos, you can’t do much better than the Plettenberg Bay game reserve, which is the largest in the Western Cape – and the biggest local sanctuary for white rhinos.
With more than 3,200 acres of shrubland, grassland and forests, this vast estate also teems with hippos, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras and 101 species of birds – perfect for both 4×4 and horseback safaris.
Accommodation includes a striking 10-bedroom safari lodge, three manager’s houses and 10 staff cottages, together with a reception building currently housing a restaurant, bar, coffee shop and children’s play area.
Unbridled creativity in the Bay of Cannes – Price on application
Hungarian architect Antti Lovag disliked the boxy shapes of traditional housing, which he found constraining, so he chose to give his buildings sinuous forms. Never is this approach more evident than at Le Palais Bulles, the Bubble Palace, which sits on the Massif de l’Esterel, in Théoule-sur-Mer, taking in magnificent views of the Bay of Cannes.
The property was originally designed for visionary entrepreneur Pierre Bernard (for whom Lovag also created nearby Maison Bernard, now open to the public), but was later bought by another creative genius, Pierre Cardin, who called it his ‘own bit of paradise’.
This cluster of interlinked pods, broken up by swimming pools, waterfalls and a 500-seat theatre, is not for everyone, not least because the interiors are equally as curvy as the outside – think round doors, elliptical windows and undulating staircases.
Its very originality appeals to free spirits and collectors – the 10 bedrooms have been decorated by contemporary artists.
Contemporary glamour in Barcelona – €22 million (about £19m)
Set in the hills above Barcelona, this villa enjoys extraordinary views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The building itself, however, rivals the panorama for interest. Designed by architect Marc Canadell, it’s a contemporary masterpiece of clean lines, vast spaces and a seamless flow between inside and out.
Arranged across three floors linked by a grand basalt staircase, the 16,145sq ft interiors include a large living and dining area, a kitchen with Gaggenau appliances, five bedrooms, a home cinema, a gym and an artist’s studio.
All the main rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, but the best vantage points are the outdoor living room and the infinity pool.
Old-world charm in the Czech Republic – . €26.5 million (about £22m)
With its towers, covered walkways and waterside setting, Château Žinkovy looks straight out of a fairy tale.
Originally dating from the 12th century, but remodelled at the end of the 19th, it is the largest privately owned castle in the Czech Republic, spanning about 240,000sq ft of interiors, complete with frescoes, statues, chapel, grand wooden staircase, panoramic balconies and ancillary accommodation. The grounds total just under 47 acres of grass, arable and forest land.
Take a look at our pick of some of the finest international properties to appear in Country Life over the