Villa Fagutal

The trullo is a unique stone house.

Villa Fagutal

Martina Franca, Italy

Villa Fagutal is one of the largest sites of trulli still in existence in the Apulia region. The property has been recently restored by a team of architects with the goal of maintaining the traditional trullo building and masseria style (farm manor), and at the same time updating the property to the utmost in luxurious modern living.

Villa Fagutal dining room

Dining area w/stone walls

The villa offers two large living areas, a traditional trullo dry-stone dining room, a fully equipped kitchen, and five stylish bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. The outdoor areas have been created to offer guests privacy and outstanding views all around.

The villa is located in the heart of an estate completely surrounded by centuries-old olive groves. There is a private landscaped garden surrounding the villa, which houses a large pool furnished with chaise lounges and sun umbrellas. An outdoor shower facility is available for guests’ use. Close to the pool is a gazebo with table and chairs that seats up to 15 people, the ideal spot for al fresco dining!

Villa Fagutal

Traditional stone dwellings

A trullo is a traditional Apulian stone dwelling with a conical roof and can be found in the Italian towns of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Fasano, Cisternino, Martina Franca, and Ceglie Messapica. Trulli were constructed as both dwellings and storehouses, traditionally built without cement or mortar. The roofs are constructed in two layers: an inner layer of limestone boulders and an outer layer of limestone slabs. On top of the cone there is normally a decorative and unique pinnacle. Some of the trulli cones themselves have symbols painted on them. The walls are very thick, providing excellent insulation. Most trulli have one room under each conical roof, so a multi-roomed trullo house has many cones, each representing a room.



fist and money

Making the Most of Your Travel Dollars

The U.S. dollar has been steadily falling against the euro, British pound, Canadian dollar, and many other world currencies. Consequently, rising gas prices, airline fuel surcharges, and the plunging dollar are making travel a financial challenge. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your vacation plans. With a little more searching, planning, conferencing, and flexibility, bargains can be found, and dollars can be stretched. Most avid travelers have decided that rising costs are not going to keep them home anyway, but most of us just don’t have endless funds for such choices. We seem to be ‘between a rock and a hard place’, so to speak.

There is much speculation on the future value of the dollar. Will it go lower, or regain its former status? There are predictions both ways. There seems to be little or nothing we can do as individuals to influence the value, but here are some ideas to reduce the cost of your vacation, and stretch to the max what dollars you do have to spend.

  • Choose to travel mid-week instead of on weekends or during peak travel times. Also, shoulder seasons (spring and fall in the northern hemisphere) offer substantial reductions on airline tickets and lodging.
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  • Foreign currency transaction fees that are tacked onto credit card purchases and ATM transactions can be reduced substantially or avoided altogether. Use cards that carry a maximum 1% fee on each charge or withdrawal (most charge 3%). These are available from credit unions and local small community banks. Capital One issues a no annual fee Visa or MasterCard with no foreign currency transaction fee at all.
  • Travel in a group. Put your own group of friends and/or family together, so that when you rent an automobile or a villa or apartment you can divide the cost with others in the group. This makes a huge difference financially, and also adds to the pleasure.
  • Do free stuff. “Go straight to the tourist information office when you arrive at your destination and get a list of free things to do”, advises Tom Meyers of EuroCheapo. “Every city in Europe knows about this issue and is doing something to help restore American confidence in the feasibility of traveling there.”
  • Use public transportation whenever possible. For instance, a one-way train ticket from Fiumicino Airport to downtown Rome is about $15 compared to $60-80 for a taxi. And buses inside the city are always considerably more reasonable than cabs.
  • Think before you spend. For instance, if you take the stairs to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower it will cost about $6.30, but if you take the elevator to the top it will cost $19. Invest in good walking shoes and use your feet when you’re going reasonable distances. Wear a comfortable, moderate backpack so you can take what you need but have your hands free and at the same time save both money and energy.
  • Just like at home, eating out can be expensive. Any time you can skip restaurants in high-rent tourist areas it will save you money. Ethnic cafes and restaurants are cheaper, and cafes in general are cheaper than restaurants. Staying in a villa or apartment, or a hotel with your own private kitchen (see will always save on your food costs, and often saves substantially on housing costs. Shopping for a few basics to prepare breakfast at home each morning is so easy and cheap. And planning a picnic can be more convenient and much less expensive than finding a café or restaurant midday and paying the ticket afterwards! Also keep in mind that most every restaurant has a ‘daily special’ that will cost less than just going in and ordering anything off the menu. If you have a car rented, I would encourage you to visit small communities where there are local cafes and restaurants. These are usually more reasonably priced, more friendly, and often serve the best food.
  • Talk to people who have gone before you, and get tips from them. Also be sure and ask locals such as the owner of your rented villa, merchants, etc. to recommend where to go, what to do, and where to eat. They will give you invaluable information. And be sure and talk to your agent about your questions, and ask for particular recommendations in the area you will be traveling.
  • Choose a low profile destination. A small Provencal farming community is going to offer lower prices than Paris or the French Riviera. And we know of lots of delightful areas that are not yet overrun with tourists, and thus offer some real bargains.

In this stressful time of the shrinking dollar, your vacation is even more necessary than usual for your personal health and wholeness. Be good to yourself and take the break you deserve!


Red Pear Tart

Red Pear Tart
simple and special!

Red Pear Tart

Prepare one 4 1⁄2 X 21 X 1-inch tart shell, or shell of your choice, baked and cooled.

Red Wine Poached Pears:
1 bottle dry red wine
1 star anise
1 juniper berry
1⁄3 c. crème de cassis
zest of 1 bright-skinned orange
2 whole cloves
1⁄4 c. granulated sugar
5 firm but ripe Bosc pears, with stems left on, peeled

2 eggs
1⁄2 c. granulated sugar
1⁄3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 c. heavy cream
4 Tbsp. pear liqueur (optional)

To poach the pears, combine all ingredients, except the pears, in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pears, lower the heat, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the pears are tender. If necessary, turn the pears very gently by rotating the stems with your fingertips so that they cook evenly. Remove the pears to a bowl, bring the poaching liquid to a rapid boil, and reduce by half. Pour the syrup over the pears and refrigerate, covered, for at least 6 hours, and preferably overnight.

To make the custard, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour, mixing well. Add the cream and liqueur and beat until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To make the tart, halve and carefully core the cooled poached pears, being careful to leave the stems intact on the most perfect half. Place the 5 perfect halves on the baked pastry shell. (Depending on the tart frame you use, you may need a different number of pears. Pour the custard evenly into the baked tart shell around the bottom of the pears. Use just enough to come halfway up the pears. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the custard is set and lightly golden. Remove from the oven, dust with powdered sugar, and bake for 5-10 minutes more, just until the sugar melts. Serve warm.
By M. Stewart


Rooftops of Rome

Rooftops of Rome

Rome, Italy

I'm always delighted to steer travelers to Rome! What a dynamic, elegant, elaborately and richly structured city, stuffed full of history and art. The Roman people are perfect hosts, helpful and friendly. And you'll notice a distinctive confidence and pride not found elsewhere, perhaps stemming from their fierce loyalty to the long and illustrious legacy of the Roman way of life.

In the geographical center of Rome you will find reference to the meager village roots of the city. Palatine Hill is where Romulus founded the city in the 8th century B.C. He and his brother Remus were said to have been raised by a she-wolf who found them abandoned in the forest. Later Romulus rose to power after killing his brother. Here you find great museums and palaces including Palazzo Venezio, the Senatorio (the Renaissance seat of the city government), The Temple of Jupiter, Palazzo Nuovo, and much more. The Capitol and the facades of Piazza del Campidoglio were designed by Michelangelo in the 1500's. Below the capitol are the ruins of the Roman Forum, once the center of political, social, legal and commercial life. The Colosseum, Rome's greatest amphitheatre, was built in A.D.72. Deadly gladiator combats and wild animal fights were presented here by emperors and wealthy citizens for entertainment. The Colosseum could hold up to 55,000 people, who were seated by rank.

Monument of Vittorio Emmanuel

Monument of Vittorio Emmanuel

The Piazza Navona Area lies to the northwest of the ancient center, along the eastern banks of the River Tevere. The narrow streets are busy with cafes, restaurants, and coffee houses. This is also the city's financial and political district, home to Parliament, government offices and the stock exchange. Around the Piazza Navona are elegant palaces where throughout the Renaissance and Baroque eras princes, popes and cardinals lived. They commissioned the best artists and artisans to build and adorn their lavish palaces, churches, and fountains.

Piazza Navona itself is considered Rome's most beautiful Baroque Piazza. Its long and narrow shape is patterned after an early stadium used for athletic contests and chariot races. There are fountains at each end, but the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center of the piazza is Bernini's most magnificent.

The Pantheon is probably the oldest and best preserved building in Rome, dating from the first century. It was built as a temple to all the gods, and now the walls are lined with tombs, the burial place for Italian monarchs. Many ornate and beautiful churches such as Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Sant'Ignazio di Loyola are worth seeing, and a bustling morning market at Campo de Fiori is one of the largest in Rome.

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain

In the Northeast Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps offer Rome's most famous square. The narrow streets around Via Condotti are lined with the most exclusive shops and coffee houses in Rome. Those who want to see and be seen frequent this area, long being the haunt of movie stars, artists, writers, and composers. In this area you're going to want to see Trevi Fountain, the largest and most famous fountain in the city. Villa Medici is lovely, and many gorgeous churches including Santa Maria Maggiore and San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane feature architectural feats as well as art. The fresco detail in Palazzo Barberini is outstanding.

Vatican City is the world capital of Catholicism and also the world's smallest state. It lies on the northwest of the river, separated and adjoined by Trastevere. Completely encircled with high walls, it's where St. Peter was martyred and buried. The Pope lives in a papal palace, and visitors are shown his bedroom window where followers watch for his light to go out upon his nightly retiring. St. Peter's is the most famous church in all the Christian world, and the Piazza San Pietro is the square where the people amass to wait for the Pope's blessing. The dome can be climbed on ancient narrow stone steps that circle the interior, (not recommended for those who are claustrophobic), and when you get to the top you're rewarded with a breathtaking balcony view of the entire city of Rome. The Sistine Chapel where you'll see the frescoed ceiling by Michelangelo is used by cardinals when electing a new pope. The vast Vatican Museums are also a must-see.

Trastevere is an old and picturesque quarter where the people consider themselves the only true Romans. The Botanical Gardens are a restful change for the busy tourist. The earliest Roman churches include Santa Maria and Santa Cecilia. Villa Farnesina is a fabulous house built by the famous banker Chigi. He designed it purely for lavish banquets, where artists, poets, cardinals, princes and the pope himself were entertained in magnificent style. You'll find many trendy restaurants, clubs and shops in this lively and young-at-heart area.

Be sure and plan to spend some time in Rome! With every visit I've wished I could stay longer. There's so much to do and see, but it's also delightful to relax at a sidewalk café or on your private veranda and enjoy the ambiance. has been serving travelers here for over 20 years, and is very familiar with the city. We offer a wide variety of accommodations in whatever section meets your personality and needs.



Emmanuel & family

Dear Travelers,

We have been hearing many people complain about the weakening value of the dollar against the Euro. Even though it makes it a bit difficult for Americans to travel to Europe these days, it is definitely time to consider renting a villa as opposed to staying in a hotel. If you split the cost between all participants, you will see the cost is much lower than staying in a hotel. Plus, you get more room, privacy, a pool most of the time and you can cook or hire a cook which allows huge savings on restaurant bills.

We added over 100 properties on our site last month alone. Most of those properties are located in Puerto Vallarta, the Apulia region of Italy, Tuscany, Provence, Barcelona and Sitges, Spain. We understand our American clientele's desire to travel to destinations where the US dollar still has good value. That's why we have decided to expand our portfolio of properties not only in regions such as Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but also Costa Rica, Hawaii, and South America. So, keep checking our site for wonderful new destinations.

Happy Spring and have a wonderful villa rental stay!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President



Villa Brunello I

Delightful Villa near Montepulciano

Brunello I

Tuscany, Italy

Villa Brunello 1 is as close to the universal dream of a perfect Tuscan country retreat as can be found! Set amongst a haven of natural tranquility and beauty, surrounded by twenty five hectares of vineyards producing the marvellous Brunello wine, Villa Brunello 1 is a charming stone built house that sleeps eight, with an additional cottage that sleeps four. The owners have lovingly restored this Tuscan gem using only natural materials found in the area. It is approximately eleven kilometers from Montalcino which is well known for its Brunello wine. The stylish Tuscan villa with its cottage can accommodate twelve guests with four bedrooms and four full bathrooms in the main villa and two bedrooms and two full baths in the cottage. The Villa as well as the cottage have two stories and are elegantly and tastefully furnished with a comfortable mix of antique, modern and traditional Tuscan country style.

A splendid swimming pool, set in terraced lawns, enjoys breathtaking views, and a delightful gazebo makes the grounds utterly magical! Guests will find a gazebo for dining al fresco complete with barbeque and an original pizza oven. Also in the garden is a small two floor building with a modern gym, jacuzzi and sauna. Villa Brunello is a Tuscan dream come true!

"The Villa is wonderful and more than lived up to our expectations. We would highly recommend this property!".

- BN, Surrey, UK.

"The most beautiful scenes of Tuscany were from our terrace at the villa. Our chef and our hostess were wonderful! Our trip was outstanding!"

- BH, Landsdale, PA.

"This was truly a beautiful villa. Everything we imagined and more!"

- PK, Sudbury, MA.

"The property was beautiful! We loved it!"

- LS, Bellevue, WA.


For a little laugh

a little laugh


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