1. Bike the top of the wall surrounding the old town (good fun for all ages!)
2. Tour the local wine road of the Colline Lucchese DOC for some fresh new tastes (including the well-regarded Buonamico label of Villa Santa Maria’s owner)
3. Club with the beautiful people on Forte dei Marmi beach (or shop – until 1 am!)
4. Enjoy one of the greatest ‘passegiate’ in the company of our local Lucchese aristocrat and friend, Federico.
5. Visit the source of Michelangelo’s genius with a guided 4×4 tour of the marble quarries
6. Soak up music and atmosphere at the 1-hour nightly Puccini concerts at San Giovanni, Puccini’s home church.
7. Take the ‘milk train’ from La Spezia and hike the Cinque Terre.
8. Nap in the shade after lunch – by your villa pool
In: Destination Spotlight, Italy Travel Advice, Italy Vacation Activities, Italy Vacation Destinations, Lucca, Our Favorite Things · Tagged with: cultural activities, family vacations, homebase abroad, italian villa rentals, italian villa travel, Italy events, Italy Travel Advice, Italy with Children, Lucca, luxury villa rentals, luxury villa travel, travel activities, Tuscany, vacation activities
I am delighted to introduce the Via dei Prefetti– a gloriously-designed, luminous aerie in Rome’s historic center. It is the perfect foil to a rigorous day of touring and tasting in this perennially compelling city. The location is ideal for all interests– art, architecture, history, shopping, food and of course, gelato.
This elegant apartment is beautifully-appointed and perfectly well-equipped for modern day vacationers with four double rooms, air conditioning, WIFI, a fully-equipped kitchen, expansive terraces and, of course, Homebase Abroad’s comprehensive travel planning and local concierge services.
I am also delighted to announce the launch of our City Portfolio– select homes in exciting Italian urban locations. These spacious properties exude both warmth and charm and offer a tantalizing way to combine a city stay with a villa vacation.
With minimum stays of only three or four nights, these homes make short getaways a reality. And their ample size as well as high level of comfort make them a more attractive option for larger groups who want space, privacy and the service of a fine hotel.
In: Destination Spotlight, Italian city villa rentals, Italy Travel Advice, Italy Vacation Activities, Italy Vacation Destinations, Italy Villa Rentals, Roman villa, Rome Apartment · Tagged with: holiday travel, homebase abroad, italian villa rentals, italian villa travel, Italy Travel Advice, luxury travel, Roman villa rentals, Rome
San Giuseppe, the patron saint of family brings a feast in the middle of Lent to families throughout Italy. Throughout Sicily and Southern Italy, altars and tables are built and filled with food in prodigious quantities. The women create the breads and do the cooking while the men transform a space in the family house into a small sanctuary decorated with myrtle and glossy bay leaves.
Breads are the star feature of the Feast. San Giuseppe is not only the patron saint of family but the also the patron saint of pastry chefs. Bread may be the metaphor for the magical ritual of mixing grain and water with the wild yeasts of nature to create and sustain life, but it is also a gift, a talisman and an offering.
The bakers make small decorative breads called le vastedde – in the shape of moon and stars, flowers and fruits, birds and baskets. They then create panini and other breads served at the meal. Cuccidatti, huge devotional rounds for the alter itself, are the last to be made. It is not unusual for fifteen women to work the equivalent of ten full days to make all the ornamental breads.
In Salemi, Sicily the first dish of the Feast is always three orange sections sprinkled with sugar and the last one is pasta con la mollica– spaghetti sauced with garlic, a pinch of sugar, cinnamon and crumbs grated from the interior of golden Sicilian bread.
The bakeries through out Italy are filled with happy customers enjoying Zeppole di San Giuseppe, Italian doughnuts. These light as air doughnuts are filled with delicious pastry cream and each one topped with a single amarena, the preserved wild cherry of Italy. In Milan these are called Tortelli and are flavored with vanilla, lemon, cinnamon and rum. Clearly the sweet tooth is being indulged!
In: Events in Italy, Foods of Italy, Italian Festivals, Italy Travel Advice, Our Favorite Things · Tagged with: cultural activities, Feast of St. Joseph, food, italian cooking, italian festivals, Italy events, regions in Tuscany
The March issue of Condé Nast Traveler just arrived in our office. For the seventh year, I am humbled to be chosen by Wendy Perrin for her Villa Rental Specialist award. I want to thank Condé Nast as well as Klara Glowczewksa, Wendy Perrin, Kathryn Maier and the entire team for being such incredible thought leaders and bringing professionalism as well as transparency to our industry.
One benefit of being recognized as a Villa Specialist is an invitation to the Condé Nast Travel Specialists Summit. During our conference, we discussed the reasons for pleasure travel– experiencing new cultures, reconnecting with family, relaxing and enjoying great food. This sounds like what you have been telling us is the true value of villa travel in Italy.
It’s your trip. Where are you going?
P.S. The front cover of the March issue also features one of our properties–Podere Alto. A stylish, designer farmhouse located in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany, this updated stone building with multi-level living and an open plan is an ideal location to relax in comfort and have a good time with family and friends.
In: Italy Travel Advice, Italy Vacation Activities, Italy Vacation Destinations, Italy Villa Rentals, Uncategorized · Tagged with: homebase abroad, italian villa rentals, italian villa travel, italy, Italy Travel Advice, luxury travel, luxury villa rentals, luxury villa travel, Tuscany, Tuscany Villas, villa rentals
I fell in love with Venice on my first visit as an impressionable 18 year-old. I am delighted to be back, writing from the deck of Palazzo San Pietro in the warming sun of a quiet afternoon.
Most people, in my opinion, do not feel ambivalent about Venice. You fall for it– or you don’t. I am delighted to introduce Palazzo San Pietro, a gracious home located on a canal in Castello. With six ensuite bedrooms, dining terrace and very flexible, local cook, Palazzo San Pietro is an ideal base from which to explore Venice and the wonders of its lagoon.
We are delighted to reintroduce Venice as a destination for villa travel with the Palazzo San Pietro. This being Venice, we need to say ‘palazzo travel’ just as we say ‘campo not ‘piazza’ and just as we have ‘chicchetti’ rather than ‘appetitivi.’ Venice is very much alive and its profound charms remain undimmed to those open to her sultry ways.
The point of a successful visit to Venice is to know how to visit appropriately. And this requires detailed planning and strategizing. At Homebase Abroad, we are here to help– to make sure your time in Venice is different and wildly successful– whether your first or your fifth time here.
So we begin– with Palazzo San Pietro.
P.S. I invite you to visit our newly launched City Portfolio where you will find exceptional homes in Florence, Venice and Rome.
In: Destination Spotlight, Italy Vacation Destinations, Italy Villa Rentals · Tagged with: concierge service, homebase abroad, italian villa rentals, italian villa travel, italy, italy travel, luxury villa travel, Venice
In: Italy Vacation Destinations, Italy Villa Rentals, Our Favorite Things · Tagged with: cultural activities, Florence, holidays in Italy, italian villa rentals, Italy events, romance, Rome, travel tips, vacation activities, Valentine's Day
One of the most sublime luxuries of villa travel is having at cook at your home to look after you and take care of the home-making responsibilities. Who wants to prepare menus, shop and cook when on vacation?
One cook who does all of this and more is Monica. Monica is from the village and takes wonderful care of our guests in one of our signature Umbrian villas. She is, as you might image, a great cook who turns quality ingredients (some of which are from her own garden) into memorable meals.
Here are two of her signature dishes. Buon Appetito!
Ciriole with Porcini Mushrooms
Ingredients for Ciriole (pasta):
14g of flour per person
Mix the flour with water, add the egg that will serve as a binder.
Work the mixture and form a loaf.
With a rolling pin roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3 MM (this is key, as it results in a “square” pasta)
Roll it up and cut it into strips about 3 MM wide, separate and let pasta dry.
Select porcini of modest size, very fresh. Brush the dirt off and cut into chunks. Sauté in a good olive oil with 2 cloves of garlic.
Cook pasta and add to mushrooms. Top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese, to taste.
Be sure to heat pasta and sauce together in the pan to bind flavors and coat pasta.
Parsley / olive oil / salt
Pecorino “semi-stagionato” (not too hard)
Bake all the vegetables in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil until browned. When hot out of the oven, lay the slices of pecorino on the hot vegetables and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: italian cooking, recipe, Umbria, Villa Cooking
As we stretch and yawn on this first day back from the holiday weekend, coffee and more of it is on our minds. Coffee is as much a part of Italian culture as food and wine and there are rituals to the coffee drinking that are set in stone. Here are a few tips…
In the morning a cappuccino, caffe´ latte, latte macchiato or any other milky form of coffee. From 11 am on, only un caffe´ or espresso as we say here. A un caffe´doppio, a double espresso is also permitted, but this is not an Italian habit. While Italians drink what appears to be a lot of coffee, they do it in small steady doses. Why no milky drinks after 11 am? Italians believe that that milk interferes with the digestion. You can get around this by ordering a caffe´macchiato, an espresso “stained” with milk, just a bit of foam on the top. If the day seems more then daunting there is an answer for that to… caffe´corretto, espresso “corrected” with a shot of liquor – grappa, cognac, sambuca, etc. So welcome back from the long weekend and head out to see your local barista, run into a friend and say “Prendiamo un caffe´?” …” Fancy a coffee?” and show off your new knowledge of the Italian drinking culture. Welcome!
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: Caffe´, cultural activities, Espresso, Italian Culture, travel tips, Visiting Italy
It’s happening as I write this – Olio nuovo or “new oil” is being produced. I see lines of trucks and cars – even women dressed in high heels – carting bins of freshly picked olives to the Frantoio for pressing. EU regulations require exacting controls by the Frantoio - as to whose olives, how many bags or bins or truckloads, date in, where stored, when pressed, date out, etc – so people bring in their olives and leave with their oil. Most people say its best if the olives are a bit mixed, some green and some black. Including the olive oil leaves in the pressing makes it pizzico, meaning spicy. The young oil is cloudy at first but after a few days it clears as the sediment falls to the bottom. Cloudy or clear it is delicious.
My first taste of this season was at Homebase Abroad’s Villa Bianca in Tuscany with Rosanna, Michaele, Krina and Riccardo, the fabulous staff of the house. The bruschetta was amazing: toasted local Tuscan bread rubbed with raw garlic, passed over with the salt mill and then drenched in oil that had traveled barely 10 meters from where it was pressed to our lunch table. At that point there was a lot of eating and not much talking.
Olive oil is only nuovo for three weeks so you have to come here to get it. If you have the opportunity to travel through Italy in late October – early November you will be treated to this other-worldly food of the Gods. Mangiare!
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: Bruschetta, homebase abroad, italian cooking, Italy events, Olio Nuovo, Olive Oil, seasons, Tuscany Villas, Viila Bianca
My work is about the most wonderful work anyone could invent. I travel throughout Italy visiting stunning homes, searching out the best travel experiences and meeting generous, thoughtful people who are more than excited to welcome and assist our Homebase Abroad clients.
I am also lucky enough to stay in the lovely Homebase Abroad homes, which is all part of testing and editing each property. As I write this, I am at Podere Due Scale in the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany being cared for by the amazing Giovanna, who leaves me a fabulous salad every evening – composed a bit differently each time with just picked produce from the vegetable garden that surrounds the house. Giovanna has also tempted me with different and delicious soups of the season as well as aromatic side dishes involving ceci, farro and cannelini. On arrival at Podere Due Scale, there was a fresh-that-morning ‘torta di crema’ that was beyond rich and delicious. Now, I cannot remember why I did not have her prepare some of real hand-made pasta for me – Fatto a mano, made by hand, not by a macchina – machine. Clearly a foolish oversight on my part. Especially as we have had some rain and the porcini are everywhere in the local markets.
What I know is that every hard working woman (and man, but especially woman) needs a moment with Giovanna. Coming home to a freshly prepared meal and walking away from the resulting dirty dishes is one of the greatest luxuries one can enjoy.
Thank you Giovanna, you made my stay perfect.