Bella Via

Bella Via offers spacious country living

Bella Via

Beverino, Italy

Located 12 kms outside of La Spezia, in Canevolivo, Bella Via has it all! This charming 1400's farmhouse can accommodate 7 guests with its 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. With Cinque Terre at your fingertips, this property is very central for daytrips to Portofino, Lucca, Florence, Carrara, Pisa and the entire Ligurian Coast (the autostrada is only a ten minute drive from the villa). Restored by the owner/architect, this property has a swimming pool, a game room with pool table, a small gym with weights and an outdoor covered dining area next to the pool which is perfect for entertaining.

outdoor dining

Covered outdoor dining

The entire property is surrounded by tall hedges for complete privacy, with a small playground area in a safe and secure area for the children. There is an opportunity for horseback riding nearby. There are also three mountain bikes at the villa that are available to the guests for local touring. Included are maid services, (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 3 hours each day), a gardener and pool maintenance person. A private chef is available for special meals at the villa with a good choice of wines. Please inquire.

In addition to the outdoor covered dining area, the main floor of this villa has a separate indoor dining area with a bar, a foccacia oven, fireplace, and a table for 10. The décor includes two antique motorcycles along with many other antique memorabilia. To the right is a new, fully equipped country kitchen. To the left is the living room with a fireplace. Also on this floor is a full bathroom with Jacuzzi.

Italian bedroom

Traditional Italian bedroom

Upstairs is a game room with pool table, 3 bedrooms, a loft and 2 bathrooms. The master bedroom has a queen bed and an en suite bathroom with hydra shower. The second bedroom has two twins and the third bedroom has one single bed. From the game room there is an additional open-space loft that has two single beds that can be made into a queen. Two extra beds are available in the loft area to accommodate up to four children. There is also a small gym with weights. Baby equipment is available upon request (crib, highchair, stroller, etc).



auto and driver

Enjoy driving like a local

Driving in Europe

We often speak with clients who are trying to avoid driving, particularly in Italy and France, because they're afraid of the responsibility of navigating in a foreign country. We only agree this is the best plan if you're going to stay in a large city such as Paris or Rome, where driving is hectic and downright scarey, and taxis and public transportation are reasonable and well established. But in most other areas, if you're comfortable behind the wheel at home, you most likely will be comfortable behind the wheel in Europe. The roads and highways are in good repair, well marked in most cases, and drivers use universal rules of driving etiquette.

It's our position at that your entire holiday will be enhanced by the convenience of a personal car. Then you're not limited to the main bus and train routes. In the countryside, the pretty medieval villages, wineries, and other points of interest are easily reached on your personal timeline. And if you want the convenience of your own vehicle but need to hire a driver, this is also available. You may have a trip planned with a large family or group that requires a van or small bus. In that case you may wish to hire a local driver.

On my last trip to Italy we rented a car that had a dash mounted GPS. Just like our personal autos at home, these are popular and readily available. Linda at AutoEurope (see says they also rent portable hand-held Global Positioning Systems that come with a map of the country you are visiting. What a great help when you're looking for a particular restaurant or villa!

Be aware that in Europe the freeways are most often toll roads. You can either pay the nominal fees with cash or any major credit card. Here's how it works: near where you enter the freeway you will go through a booth where you'll receive an official receipt to show your point of entrance. At the next toll booth you will be asked to place the receipt in the slot to pay for using that particular stretch of road. It's quick and easy, and pretty self-explanatory. And there is always at least one lane with a real live person to answer questions if you need more explanation.

We also recommend you purchase the insurance offered when you rent your vehicle. One time my husband and I decided to explore the countryside "off the beaten path" so to speak, near Sorrento, Italy. Since I was raised on a fruit (apple) ranch, we wanted to see how the ranchers in Italy lived and farmed, so we took a dirt road that led us off through a large lemon grove. It was lovely until the road petered out into a single narrow lane and we met a car coming towards us! Unfortunately my husband moved over a little too close to a stone wall to let the other car pass, and ended up scrunching the fender of our rented car! He spent most of a night wide awake worrying about it, but the next morning we stopped into the AutoEurope office in town and they told us that the damage was entirely covered by our insurance. Whew! What a relief!

Personally, I love to drive a stick shift, so we found it delightful to climb the winding country roads of Italy in our little Audi. The car was small with a short wheelbase, plenty of pep, and good control. As long as your companion is OK with it, don't pass up the chance to drive like the locals!



Emmanuel and niece

Emmanuel holding his niece.

Dear Travelers and Friends,

Since 1983 when we opened our doors and wrote our first contract on a rental property, we've been listening to you, our clients. We ask for your feedback whenever you return from one of our properties and we take that feedback to heart. We love to hear about how wonderful your vacation was, and believe it or not, we deeply appreciate your candid criticism as well. Of course the good news makes us feel great, but the infrequent not-so-good news gives us a chance to work with the owners and managers of the property to henceforth improve our clients' experience.

New Properties
In keeping with our commitment to offer you a wide variety of personally inspected properties and excellent service, we've been making lots of improvements here at We've been working hard to make your experience with us even more enjoyable, and to that end we have added nearly 50 new properties to our site in the last two months. As you may know, our staff was spread out this summer as we traveled in search of properties in South Africa, Greece and Ireland. And in Italy we added to our already existing repertoire in Tuscany, Liguria, the Amalfi Coast and Rome.

The availability of larger properties (6+ people) goes quickly. So if you are thinking of vacationing with family and/or friends sometime in the rest of 2007 or even 2008, contact us soon and we'll check availability on the perfect spot for you. Or visit our Vacation Planner page to request information about any area that you'd like to consider.

Bon Voyage!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower overlooks Paris

Eiffel Tower

Paris, France

The primary symbol of Paris is, without a doubt, the Eiffel Tower. Therefore, as you might expect, it has more visitors than any other Parisian landmark. It was erected for the World Fair in 1889. These were the years of the Industrial Revolution, when man's industrial progress and advancements in science were in the forefront. The attempt was made to adapt every art to this new direction in life and to make every human activity correspond to the new sensibility created by these rapidly changing times.

Architecture also was showing radical changes. The use of glass, iron and steel were being experimented with to make buildings lighter, more dynamic and more modern. The result was that much more blatant engineering took place in the designing process. And so it was that an engineer, Gustave Eiffel, designed these extraordinary lines of metal that soar above the Parisian skyline. Completely appropriate for a World Fair, the Eiffel Tower thrust us into the future and the conquests which man would achieve.

The tower is 1050 feet high, and is an extremely lightweight interlaced structure in which 15,000 pieces of metal are welded together. Its weight of 7000 tons rests on four enormous pilons with cement bases. It has three floors; the first floor is at 187 feet, the second at 377 feet and the third at 899 feet. On each floor are bars and restaurants so tourists can pause and enjoy the unique panoramic view, which on a clear day allows you to see a distance of 45 miles.

Beneath the Eiffel Tower is the green area of the Champs-de-Mars, a huge military field that in later years was transformed into a garden. The enormous, mostly flat public park is used for numerous fairs, festivals, and you'll find it especially lively on July 14, Bastille Day. The garden, whose design was supervised by Formige between 1908 and 1928, is composed of vast expanses of green lawn divided by wide avenues and scattered with flower gardens and small watercourses. It's a most beautiful and memorable place to stroll.



Villa Flora

Villa Flora

Villa Flora

Lucca, Italy

Not far from the delightful and urbane town of Lucca, in a small charming village, lies a unique bit of local history. Surrounded by lush green hills, pine scented woods and olive groves, it is called Villa Flora. In the 1600's it was a manor house of a very large estate belonging to the most influential and powerful family of the time - the Mansi Family. To learn more about the family and its history, one can visit the Palazzo Mansi Museum - a converted palace - in the center of Lucca. Or... for a more personal way to experience their story, a stay in Villa Flora is perhaps a more esoteric option.

The home has been restored and refurbished over the years, always maintaining its elegance and charm, and is now equipped with all updated comforts. Modern architectural elements have been introduced by the current owner and include the great inside staircase. The villa is about 900 sq. meters and includes a large annex, The Barn, which can sleep an additional six guests. (Please note, the annex cannot be rented separately, and there is an additional cost for its use). The surrounding gardens are quite expansive (about 10,000 sq. meters) and include a relaxing area equipped with tables and chairs. The pool area offers a large gazebo, sun chairs and sun umbrellas. For a truly unforgettable Tuscan vacation, a stay in the picturesque and charming Villa Flora is a must!

"Villa Flora was the perfect "home away from home" for our family of 15. The villa and the grounds were immaculate, the owners were so hospitable and went out of their way to help with whatever we needeed, and we loved the location just outside the center of Lucca. We couldn't have asked for better!"

- KL, Manhattan Beach, CA.

"The owners were delightful and the property better than we could ever imagine."

- PS, Santa Cruz, CA.



lemon tart

Lemon perfection!

Lemon Mousse Damask Tart

One 7-inch heart-shaped pate brisee tart shell, baked and cooled (See recipe below; for a shortcut you can use ready made pie crust from the grocery store).
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 Tbsp cold water
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
7 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
grated rind of 1 lemon
garnish: candied lemon peel, as desired

In a small heavy saucepan, soften the gelatin in the water. Add the lemon juice and sugar and stir over a very low flame just until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Do not let it boil or cook too long. Remove from the heat and let cool to a syrup-like consistency over a bowl of ice water. This mixture must be completely cooled before being added to the egg whites.

Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Still mixing, slowly add the gelatin mixture. Whip the cream until stiff and gently fold it in. Take care to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients without deflating the egg whites and cream. Finally, fold in the grated rind.

Mound the mousse in the baked tart shell and chill for at least 4 hours. Garnish with candied lemon peel and serve.
Serves 4.

Pate Brisee (basic pie crust)

This recipe makes two 7-10 inch tarts, one 8-10 inch double-crust pie, or twelve 2 to 3 inch tartlets.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add ice water, drop by drop, through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet, sticky, or crumbly. Do not process more than 30 seconds.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, pressing the dough into a flat circle with your fists. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Lightly butter or spray the pie or tart pans. On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place the pastry into the pan and press it into the bottom edges and along the sides. Trim using scissors or a sharp knife. Crimp or decorate the edges of the pastry if desired.

To bake unfilled pastry pans, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully line the pastry with aluminum foil, pressing it into the corners and edges, and weight with beans or rice. Bake for 15-18 minutes. When the pastry begins to color around the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue to bake just until the pastry dries out and turns a nice golden brown color. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling. Baked shells can be stored in tightly covered plastic containers, or well wrapped in the freezer.


For a little laugh

a little laugh

Dogs have owners, Cats have staff

Remember... Once you get over the hill,
you'll begin to pick up speed.

If you look like your passport picture...
you probably need the trip.


Newsletter Editor: Kathy Hayes

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