Villa Raffaello is a classic villa we just discovered near Florence, only 1.5 kms outside the charming town of Pistoia. Newly remodeled to high standards, the three level structure dates back to the early 1700's and boasts fine old exposed wood beams, original hardwood floors, terracotta tiles, arched windows and vaulted ceilings. Terraces overlook the swimming pool, town, and even the Duomo of Florence in the background.
On a hot summer evening, after a long hard day, pour yourself a tiny glass of limoncello straight from the freezer. It's cold as ice, with the fresh zesty taste of lemon, and somehow refreshes like nothing else. It can also be used to spike lemonade, flavor cocktails, or splash on ice cream, poundcake or fresh fruit. The tasty drink was invented in Sicily about a hundred years ago. It’s best made with Sorrento lemons, but the regular supermarket Eurekas do quite nicely (choose lemons with thick waxy skins, that are fully ripe). It's fun and easy to make, about a third the cost of the imported liqueur, and a fancy little bottle of this stuff makes a perfect gift.
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
(2) 750-ml bottles 100 proof vodka
Remove just the yellow part of the peelings from all 12 lemons with a sharp peeler or fine grater. You must avoid the white pith layer. If any pith remains on the back of a strip of peel, scrape it off. Place all the yellow peels in a jar or bottle, add 1 bottle of the vodka and seal tightly. Leave the bottle to steep until the peels lose their color, at least 2 weeks.
Put water and sugar in a saucepan and boil until it turns clear. Let the syrup cool.
Strain the vodka from the peels and mix it with the remaining bottle of vodka and syrup. Put the liqueur in bottles, seal tightly and let the components marry for at least 1 week before using. For drinking straight, store the limoncello in the freezer.
Makes 9 1/4 cups. Serving size: 1 ounce.
International Driver’s Permit
If you're planning to rent a car in Europe it would be wise to get an International Driver's Permit (IDP). In fact in Italy the police can now impose a fine if you're stopped and cannot produce this special permit. In Spain you can't even rent a car without it. So we recommend you be safe rather than sorry and avoid any hassle on your vacation!
Melody from AutoEurope tells us, "The easiest way for clients to obtain an IDP is through any AAA office, and they don't have to be a AAA member." Click here for an application and further information.
To receive an IDP, you need to fill out a brief application form, provide two passport-sized photos with your signature on the back of them, make a photocopy of your U.S. issued drivers license, and provide a check or money order. You can either take this package to any AAA where they will issue the permit while you wait (in this case make out the check or money order for $10), or you can mail it to any AAA office in the United States (in this case make out the check or money order for $11.88 to cover shipping back to you).
If your regular driver's license is not from the U.S., you must obtain the IDP from the country that issued your driver's license. You will need to carry your regular Driver's License as well as your new IDP.
Kathy Hayes, Editor
Dear Travelers and Friends,
Thanks for the wonderful feedback you send us when you return from your trips. Your comments help us maintain and increase the quality of our service and properties.
We are very excited to inform you that our marketing director Chris recently returned from a 10 day trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, raving about his stay in an outstanding new property we've just added to our portfolio. During his stay, he viewed over 30 properties of which a number will also be added to our website. Look for these new properties in the coming weeks.
On the European front, we are happy to see that many people are already booking for 2006, which promises to be a fabulous year! Have a wonderful summer and keep on traveling.
Emmanuel de Ricard, President
Venice, City of Serenity, Part I
Venice, the lagoon city that rose to become Europe's most powerful merchant empire, is unique and unforgettable. When the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, barbarians swept across Italy. Thousands left their homes in the interior and took refuge on dozens of flat islands around a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea. Over the centuries they built a thriving economy on fish and salt and their camps developed into clusters of solid buildings placed on wooden pilings driven deep into the mud. The men cooperated with each other to not only ward off enemy invaders, but also the sea. Unlike every other major city in Italy, the governance of this floating city has never fallen to the despotic rule of one man or family. Venetian character called all men equal but subordinate to the common good.
Today the city of Venice has an official population of 300,000. It lies in the center of a broad, shallow lagoon that in places is only waist deep. Concentrated on the island group Rialto, the people built bridges between islands, filled in narrow channels, and dredged areas until the historic center consists of over 100 islands linked by hundreds of bridges over interlacing canals. Massive stone sea walls were built in the 1700's for the lagoon's defense. The S-shaped 3.5 km long Grand Canal is an extraordinary traffic artery and offers an ever-changing parade of barges, ferries, water taxis, private speedboats, gondolas, and police boats. Lining this major thoroughfare are more than 100 palazzi (palaces), some dating back to the 12th century. If you want a fun look at Venice, rent the movie "The Italian Job". It shows much of the Grand Canal and the boat traffic there. A good movie too!
The flat-bottomed gondola, which can spin on its axis, evolved to navigate the canals, many of which turn at right angles. However, today most people and goods are taken by motorboat or water buses, but there ’s still plenty of opportunity to take a romantic ride in a gondola with a colorful oarsman standing at the helm. We found it particularly fascinating to watch goods loaded and unloaded all along the canals. As workers renovated a building, each piece of broken tile and debris was carefully stowed in a work boat to be hauled away. Cases of wine and fresh produce arrived at the restaurant dock. Vaporettos (public water ferries) stopped just long enough to load and unload a hundred or so pedestrians.
The city is divided into six districts or regions. San Marco is the most fashionable and contains the major historical buildings. San Polo is the center of commercial activities. Castello and Cannaregeo are mostly residential areas. Others are Santa Croce and Dorsoduro. Each has its own personality and charm. Take a look at our Venice apartments and consider visiting this fascinating city. (Read part II in our next newsletter)
Kathy Hayes, Editor
Don’t judge people by their relatives.
When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Appartement Michael Angelo, both spacious and well furnished, will provide you with a wonderful location from which to explore the beautiful city of Paris. The apartment is in a quiet residential area of the 16th arrondissement on the Rue Michel Ange. Within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower and close to metro and bus stops, this locale offers easy access to most of the Paris monuments, museums and shopping areas. Within a short 5 minute stroll you can find many different shops or savor many kinds of cuisine including French, Chinese, Japanese or Turkish. Please note that this apartment is available only May through September but other periods may be available upon request.
"We did enjoy our stay in the apartment and in Paris very much. We hope to return many times!"
H D, Alameda, CA
"Great locale. Very satisfied overall!"
- K M, Wyoming, MI
"We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the apartment, and our time in Paris was magical. The view of the Eiffel tower provided extra excitement. We are deeply appreciative for the ability to have such a gracious home for our group. We mastered the two metro lines quickly, visited the neighborhood stores and bistros, and could not have asked for more!"
- L T, Washington DC