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The Italian Villa, San Giovanni d'Asso, Tuscany

The Italian Villa
Siena / San Giovanni d'Asso, Tuscany

The Italian Villa is a magnificent home inside the charming Tuscan hilltown of San Giovanni d'Asso. Situated near a medieval castle, the Italian Villa was built in the 16th century on one basic level, with terraced rooms to separate the living areas from the sleeping quarters.

One of the Italian Villa's spectacular viewsThe beauty and old world charm of the original structure of the villa with its exposed beam ceilings, granite and tile floors is a gorgeous backdrop for the comfortable and authentic Tuscan furnishings. The courtyard offers a splendid private pool amid formal gardens, all nestled within the ancient beauty of the rolling tuscan countryside.

The Italian Villa's generous kitchenThe interior has been carefully renovated to include all modern conveniences without losing its authenticity. With seven bedrooms and 5 bathrooms there's ample room for up to 13 guests. Ideal for those who wish to enjoy the bustle of local shops, restaurants and cafes, then retreat to the comforts of a large private home and enjoy the soul soothing views of the hills surrounding Siena.

As if this wasn't sweet enough, included in the price is a maid 6 days a week, plus a gardener to tend to the courtyard. Without a doubt, staying at The Italian Villa is a wonderful experience!

Viva la ATM!Managing Money On Your Travels

Traveling to a foreign country presents specific challenges as far as money. In Western Europe it's really very easy, especially now that the Euro is the standard currency. This means that you can cross borders from one country to another and use the same cash (very nice!). The United Kingdom is still an exception, where they use the British Pound, but rumor has it that they too will soon transfer to the Euro system.

It's very safe to meander through Europe, but Americans can become targets for pickpockets. Therefore I wear a money belt under my clothing. Here I keep my passport, driver's license, cash, Traveler's Cheques, ATM and a credit card. You can purchase inexpensive security belts and body hugging bags at travel stores or check out

Just as in the U.S., you'll find plenty of ATM's on street corners, at banks, in airports and train stations. You'll also find that most establishments in the larger cities and airports accept USD (United States Dollars) for purchases, but their rate of exchange is not as good as an ATM or bank. Therefore you may want to order some Euros from your local bank to get you started on your trip, and be sure and ask about free Traveler Cheques (most banks provide this courtesy to their regular customers).

Just a short note about tipping in Europe: the system of paying service people such as waiters, taxi drivers, porters, maids, and others is different there. The wages already include a tip so it's not necessary to tip on top of the invoice unless you are particularly delighted with the service.

Check your specific villa or apartment rental contract from because some property owners require a cash security deposit at the time of arrival. You will need to pay this in Euros and get a receipt. Then at the time of departure they will return it to you, barring any damage. Also, any extra charges stipulated on the contract will need to be paid in cash. This may include telephone calls, utilities, final cleaning fee, or baby crib rental. Again, not all owners ask for this, but your contract will clearly tell you.

Dear Travelers and Friends,

On behalf of the staff I would like to wish you a fabulous and healthy New Year filled with new traveling adventures!

2005 was a wonderful year for us. Several trips to Europe and Mexico with the addition of almost 100 new properties on our site gives you more choices than ever. We are planning on adding more new areas to visit in 2006, so keep checking our website for new listings!

Also, gift certificates are now available. Now through you can give the gift of travel to those travel bugs in your life. Does that someone special have an upcoming birthday? How about $100 towards a villa vacation in Tuscany, or a city apartment rental in Paris? How about Valentine's Day in Venice near St. Mark's Square or the Grand Canal?

We are sure that you can find many reasons and many regions for giving. Just give us a call or drop us an email and we will arrange any amount for your very special gift. Voila! Easy, unique and redeemable whenever and wherever the recipient wants to travel. Your gift will truly be remembered and appreciated.

Thanks for your continuing support and Happy Travels!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


Bird's eye view of SienaSiena, City of Art
Part I

Siena is the heart and soul of Tuscany. Surrounded by the gently rolling hills of the Chianti, numerous hilltop villages such as San Gimignano, and the clay cliffs and cornfields to the south, this outstanding hill town is a wealth of culture and artistic excellence. It reminds me of an old man who's seen much hardship but survived it all, standing straight, proud of his heritage. Like a hard working peasant, his face is bronzed and wrinkled, his steady gaze hinting of acquired wisdom and history. Such stories he can tell!

Siena had a difficult beginning. With no sea escape nearby, marauders had their way with her. She was pillaged and ransacked with regularity over the centuries, and yet always survived. Divided into 17 districts (contrade), we still witness the famous Palio horse race, where the Sienese exhibit their love and respect for the old districts, recognizing each as a valuable and unique personality. The people still embrace their civil and religious traditions, and live in harmony in this historical and artistic environment, which is unique in all the world.

Siena was a Roman colony during the Republican age. During the Imperial age and the early Middle Ages it went through its most terrible times including attacks from marauders, sieges, civil war, and epidemics of sickness. Always dominated by the greater power and rivalry of Florence, it struggled to expand. Towards the middle of the 11th century the Consuls put in a lay government. For the next century Siena reached the height of its political and economic power, especially after the famous battle of Montaperti in 1260 in which it defeated the Florentines. The many magnificent monuments of Siena were built during this Free Towns period, including the renowned "Piazza del Campo" and the "Palazzo Publico".

Most of us are just not used to the depth of historical significance that Siena exhibits, and the discovery of it is personally exciting and academically stimulating. Let yourself "feel" the culture as you step back in time. Capture your favorite discoveries and revelations by journaling and taking photos so as to enable you to revisit them in the future. Taking time for contemplation and meditation makes it all the better!

Fresh is best!Broccoli Salad

This easy and delicious salad is a nice accompaniment to dinner, a lovely make-ahead to take to a potluck, or a filling lunch served with a roll.

4 cups chopped fresh broccoli
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1 chopped red onion
1/2 cup golden raisins
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
A few florets of fresh cauliflower for color contrast

Make the dressing by combining:

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar or Splenda

Toss all ingredients together until everything is covered with the dressing. Best when served within 2 hours, but saves overnight quite nicely.

Lovely Villa Saint RemyVilla Saint Remy

Find all the pleasures of Provence at Villa Saint Remy which is ideally located near Saint Remy, in the heart of Provence near such charming towns as Les Beaux-de-Provence, Avignon, Arles and Nimes. The villa has been thoughtfully renovated, featuring a private outdoor swimming pool and can accommodate 8 to 10 guests with its four ensuite bedrooms.

For those who enjoy walking, many paths surrounding the property will lead you to the top of the Alpilles, to Roman vestiges such as the Arc de Triomphe, and the town of Glanum. Sit back and breathe deeply of the scents of Provence!

"Wonderful house, most helpful owners, good facilities". —JA, Shropshire, UK

"We were very pleased with the Villa. Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. Our vacation in Provence proved to be "French Fabulous".
—GGB, Miami, FL

"The house and the property were wonderful! It was a great experience that my husband and I won't soon forget!". —NO, Miami, FL

For a little laugh
Know why the cowboy got a daschund?

Someone told him to "get along little doggie"!

And another!
My four-year-old daughter is wonderful in all respects, except one. She fibs. So I decided to tell her the story of the boy who cried wolf.

"He kept warning the villagers a wolf was about to attack, but when they came running there was never any wolf," I explained. "And when a real wolf did come he cried out but no one believed him so the wolf ate him! Isn't that terrible?"

Sophie seemed deep in thought for a moment, then looked up and reminded me, "I was eaten by a wolf once, you know."

Submitted to Reader's Digest by Val Keogh

Newsletter editor: Kathy Hayes

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