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The Michelangelo apartments are located in the Piazza de' Ciomopi, found in the old city center of Florence. There are twenty-one beautifully renovated apartments in the building, two of which sleep 6-8 people. These are each approximately 120 square meters and have a spacious living room, and a well equipped kitchen corner with oven, stove, dishwasher and fridge. Two queen bedrooms and one twin bedroom which can be made into a queen upon request besides a large hall which has a double sofa bed give plenty of sleeping arrangements. There are two bathrooms, one with a tub and the other a shower.

I traveled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor England! Did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

- Wordsworth, I Traveled Among Unknown Men, 1807

Travel, in the younger sort,
is a part of education;
In the elder, a part of experience.

He that travelleth into a country before
he hath some entrance into the language,
goeth to school, and not to travel.

- Frances Bacon, Essays of Travel, 1625

Visit TuscanyTuscany

Tuscany is the region central to Italy, bordering the western coast along the Mediterranean Sea. Tuscan cities such as Florence, Siena and Pisa, together with smaller towns like Lucca, Cortona and Arezzo contain some of Italy’s most famous artistic treasures. Medieval villages such as San Gimigniano, Asciano, and Vescovado di Murlo are at the heart of the glorious pastoral countryside for which the region is equally renowned. Here you find vast fields of sunflowers, vineyards, olive orchards, wheat and other grains.

It’s an ideal location for a villa rental because this area offers something for everyone. One can spend a day touring the architectural and artistic treasures of Florence and yet drive a short distance home and be surrounded by the calm and beauty of the agricultural landscape. The motorways and rail network are good, connecting the major cities and towns. The weather is mild, usually sunny and pleasant. For those hot summer periods, a relaxing day of sitting in the shade garden with an occasional dip in the pool does the trick.

Most of our requests for holiday destinations are to this region, and because there is so much to experience people return again and again. Most of the people in this area speak English, particularly youngsters who are taught in school, and merchants in the towns and cities. Even though the written and artistic history goes back a thousand years and more, modern amenities remind you of home.

The rich culture combined with genuine joy of hosting make the people incredibly friendly and accommodating. Food is probably the most important “international language of love”. The tastes and smells of genuine home cooked dishes and local wines bring people together.

Burgundy Beef

This traditional French recipe is sure to become one of your family’s favorites. Be aware that preparation time is 1 hour + 12 hours marinating, and cooking time 2 hours 30 minutes. Serves 4.

1 large carrot cut into chunks
1 onion cut into chunks
1 celery branch cut into half inch pieces
2 garlic cloves
1 bouquet of herbs (leek skin, bay leaf,
thyme, parsley, tied together with string)
3 T Brandy
10 gray peppercorns
1 1/2 bottles of red wine
2 T olive oil

2 lbs. Beef stew meat cut into 1 inch pieces
1 T tomato paste
2 T flour
4 c beef bouillon
32 pearl onions, peeled*
1 T butter
1/2 T sugar
1/3 lb mushrooms, quartered
2 T Chopped garlic
1/2 lb salt pork, cut into small pieces
2 T fresh parsley

1. Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together and marinate beef, covered, in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Take meat and vegetables out of liquid and strain to remove all seasonings. Bring to a boil, making sure to skim off fat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes and strain once again. In a large, heavy pot, heat butter and oil. Pat meat dry and brown pieces on each side a few at a time. Set aside. Brown vegetables over medium heat stirring from time to time. Put meat and veggies back in and add tomato paste, stirring over medium heat for 3 minutes. Dust with flour and put in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well. Put pot on medium heat, add marinade, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add bouillon and bouquet of herbs. Bring to a boil, cover, and move pot back to the oven. Bake for 90 minutes, until the meat is tender.

3. Put the pearl onions, butter, sugar and salt in a sauce pan and cover with water. Cook over medium heat until most of the water has evaporated. Stir to make sure onions are all browned. Saute mushrooms in butter, season and drain. Cook garlic and bacon in a little oil, strain, and add onions and mushrooms.

4. When the meat is tender, remove to heat resistant serving dish, cover, and place in slow oven to keep warm. Strain sauce and put back in pot without veggies or bouquet. Boil sauce for 15 minutes until it thickens. Make sure to skim off any fat. Season and pour over meat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add onions, mushrooms and bacon. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve with rice or pasta. Enjoy!

* An easy way to peel pearl onions is by putting them into boiling water for 2 minutes, which will make the skin easy to remove.


Our good friend and neighbor Rick Steves gives hundreds of seminars each year. Interesting but “How to Pack for Europe” is the most popular. So I thought I would take his lead this time and give you some basic suggestions on what to take and how to pack for your trip. First and foremost, limit what you take! 20 pounds is a good goal, and believe it or not it’s easy enough to include in this the clothing, shoes, cosmetics, and camera gear that will equip you for most every circumstance.

Choose a good, lightweight backpack or suitcase that is carry-on size (9” x 22” x 14”), with rollers if you have back problems. This will make it less fuss getting through the airports and handy to have everything with you in one place. It’s a good idea to gather and lay out all the gear you intend to take on a table or bed and thoughtfully scrutinize each item. Rick suggests you consider what you can do without, not what will be handy.

Basics should include: 2 pair of comfortable shoes, one a sturdy walking shoe and the other a sandal for beach and/or evening wear. 2 or 3 comfortable and easy-care outfits. These should be made of a wrinkle-free dark fabric that is lightweight and easily washed in the bathroom sink and dried overnight. For the women, be sure one of these is a dress or skirt, as European women wear dresses or skirts more often than pants. 3 sets of underwear and socks, here again of a fabric that will be easy to wash and dry. A light jacket or sweater for mild seasons, and heavier for cooler seasons. Camera gear, film, toiletries (you can purchase more along the way as you need it). Using stuff bags helps you stay organized and compact. For instance, put all your toiletries in one bag, underwear and socks in another, camera gear and film in another, etc. Roll and rubber-band the clothes or zip-lock in airless baggies.

Remember to leave out of your suitcase one outfit, pair of shoes, and sweater or jacket for traveling on the airplane. Even with all this, you should end up with extra room in your bag for a water bottle and purchases. Most gift and souvenir purchases you make in Europe can be shipped home directly from the shop where you bought them. Have a wonderful, casual, and lightweight trip!

-Kathy Hayes, Editor

There are some real winter bargains out there. Particular properties to note are those in Lucca and Provence. Our managers there have negotiated with some owners for a low season reduction of up to 40% less than high season! It’s still a lovely time to be abroad.

In America there are two classes of travel –
First class, and with children.

- Robert Benchley in Pluck and Luck, 1925

Dear Travelers,

As we’re beginning a promising New Year, many of you have already rented your villa for the coming seasons! As we embark on the second year of our popular Doorways Newsletter you will notice that we have added a new section entitled “Travelogue” in order to provide you with more in-depth information on areas you will want to visit. I encourage all of you to review the back issues in the About Us section of our website where you will find fantastic recipes, featured properties, and Kathy’s Tips to help organize your trip. As a valuable resource supplement we are designing a link page to help you further. I want to voice your comments that Kathy (our Editor) along with our designer Cory have done a tremendous job on this publication. And with the addition of our Marketing and Property manager Cori, the site is improving all the time! So I invite you to log on and enjoy the ride!

On Behalf of the VillaNet family, I wish you a wonderful New Year that includes lots of memorable travel!

Warm Regards,
Emmanuel de Ricard, President

View the property"The apartment was comfortable, very cheery and extremely roomy. We appreciated all the extra things and the managers were so helpful. The central location to the sights, restaurants, bakery, stores and the metro was wonderful."

- EW, Prides Crossing, Massachusetts

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost in Road Less Traveled

A big challenge of running a small business is dealing with employees’ requests for time off. One morning an employee said, “I need to leave early tomorrow.” Later that same day, he followed up with, “Looks like I’ll be coming in late tomorrow, but if my coming in late runs into my leaving early, then I won’t be in at all.”

- Reader’s Digest, May 2003

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