Founded in 2000 by Ileana von Hirsch and Evi Aidonopoulou, Five Star Greece is the oldest independent villa rental company in Greece. By always staying true to the philosophy of matching discerning clients to villas and yachts that perfectly suit their needs, Five Star Greece has remained an undeniable leader in its field, delivering a service that is second to none in Greek holiday rentals.
Five Star Greece is headquartered in London, but Greece has a special place in Ileana’s heart, as she hails from an old Ithacan shipping family. And this Grecian heritage led Ileana to establish her now incredibly successful company.
“I founded Five Star Greece almost accidentally over twenty years ago when my sisters and I inherited an extravagantly beautiful but impractical beach house on the island of Ithaca in Greece that needed to be brought back to life and required more cash than we had available,” explains Ileana. “We had to find a way of commercialising it, and back in those days, there was no luxury Greek villa market at all — Greeks didn’t rent their houses out, and there was simply no conception on the part of foreigners that there were any wonderful Greek houses that might be for rent. We were lucky enough to have had Madonna as one of our very first clients, and after that, we would go to Greek friends with lovely houses and say, ‘It goes without saying that you don’t rent your house out, but if Madonna wanted it for two weeks next year, would you consider it?’ And, of course, they would. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and renting out your house via a prestige agency like Five Star Greece, often off-market, is a sign of status and something to be proud of.”
Whether in search of a contemporary island oasis or a chic village retreat, Five Star Greece has it all, with a burgeoning portfolio of properties that encompasses only the best of the best. But it doesn’t stop there; the company’s team of professionals also advises on all matters regarding Greece to ensure their clients experience the country’s finest offerings.
By spending a lot of time getting to know each individual and their wants and needs while visiting Greece, the company goes over and above to make their client’s dreams come true. One aspect that makes Five Star Greece stand out is the fact that it’s a boutique agency. By remaining small, privately owned and independent, Five Star Greece can focus on what’s really important: the client, says Ileana: “Instead of having commercial backers and obligations to meet revenue targets, we can focus exclusively on offering the best possible advice to clients and only accepting villas into our portfolio where we feel very comfortable that our client will have a great time and expectations will be met and, if possible, exceeded.”
Underpinned by complete honesty and transparency while offering the highest standards of behaviour, service and hospitality, Five Star Greece’s philosophy has resulted in the company garnering a stellar reputation with its clients. With mutual respect and trust as the guiding tenets, the company forges relationships that withstand the test of time and deliver exceptional results.
“The villa and yacht business is built on relationships and expertise,” says Ileana. “If you behave decently over many years, have great knowledge of Greece, love the country deeply, and your advice is honest, you gain the trust and respect of a hugely precious network of quality suppliers who prioritise your clients and go the extra mile for you. It also means that we have the accumulated wisdom to understand what clients really want, think creatively, solve problems and offer those unexpected extras. I don’t think anyone has been at this longer than I have in Greece — I am even sometimes called ‘the doyenne’, which makes me feel a hundred years old, but it does mean that people listen to me!”
“I am touched by how many of our clients consider us to have become their friends and stay in contact even after they have returned home. We get to know people, their families, their likes and dislikes, what makes them happy, and how to solve their problems, and I think clients just enjoy the feeling that they have us as friends who can look after them and give them honest advice.”
As for what Ileana believes the company’s unique selling point is, it’s all about exclusivity, she admits: “I think that where we stand apart in a now fully mature and even over-saturated industry is our ability to present off-market villas and estates to clients who want something special and then to provide the discreet and smooth service to go with it.”
“Our team of six are almost like a close family and totally dedicated to making sure that our guests experience Greece in the best possible way for their individual taste and needs, and our guests appreciate our very personal approach. We are fast, responsive, detail-oriented, imaginative and pay close attention to what our guests tell us. The team offers complementary skills, so there is always an expert on hand to advise on any villa, yacht or destination, and even cast a guest’s horoscope. Meanwhile, on the logistics side, our unsung heroes in the office liaise seamlessly with our local concierges to ensure guests get to their villas, track lost luggage, arrange wine deliveries, book taxis and tables, deal with health emergencies, arrange special requests and solve problems as fast as possible. In the end, it is simple — if we have succeeded in creating a wonderful holiday full of memories and have been a pleasure to deal with, people stay loyal!”
Luckily for Ileana, her job is made even easier courtesy of her deep admiration for Greece and its people. With so much beauty on offer, her passion for the country grows stronger every time she visits.
“I fall in love with Greece and the Greeks every time I go,” says Ileana. “Greeks are brave, clever, chaotic, hospitable, soft-hearted, emotional, generous, funny, honourable, undisciplined, provocative, individualistic, talented, impatient, philosophical, patriotic, and totally irresistible. The country is heartbreakingly beautiful, from the chestnut forests, lakes and high mountains to the white pebble beaches and translucent water, the village fiestas or panegyria with bouzouki music and dancing, white churches, goat bells, the scent of herbs, hiking paths, the colourful boats, storms, stars and full moons, and the sea everywhere. Each island has its own personality, and visitors often find their special island that becomes their own, to where they return again and again, which welcomes them as one of its children.”