Our Monthly Electronic Newsletter
June 2005

Villa Tyrrhene

This bright, outstanding villa nestled behind the charming seaside village of La Spezia is a real showcase. Recently restored to a charming and comfortable elegance, Villa Tyrrhene has even been featured in a popular Italian home magazine, showing its perfectly restored antiques, amazing frescoed ceilings, beautiful furniture, lovely Italian gardens and terraces with distant views of the gulf.

Celebration Pumpkin Cake


1 package (18-1/4 ounces) spice cake mix
1 can (about 16 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 containers (16 ounces each) cream cheese frosting
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
Pecan halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, eggs and butter in large bowl; beat with electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpicks inserted into centers come out clean.
Cool 5 minutes on wire rack; remove from pans and cool completely.

Place one cake layer on serving plate; cover with frosting. Repeat layers, ending with frosting. Frost side of cake. Spread caramel topping over top of cake, letting some caramel drip down side. Garnish with pecan halves.

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Planning a Group Trip

We’re seeing a very exciting and growing trend of clients putting together group visits to Europe. Sometimes these are family or school reunions, wedding parties, clubs and organizations whose members have a common interest such as painting, cooking, or golfing, or even special birthday parties and wedding anniversaries. But any excuse will do, and you won’t likely regret it! It really helps our scattered and over-busy friends and families to reconnect. I very much believe that relationships are the key to a joyful life!

The planning of such an adventure may seem a daunting task to take on, but in light of the many rewards let me encourage you by giving you a few ideas. Let’s say Mom and Dad are coming up on their 50th wedding anniversary and you want to do something very special for them. You know the best gift you can give them is time with the family. And let’s say Dad’s always talked about coming to America from Italy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take them back to their Italian roots, to stay in a nice big villa in the countryside surrounded with the ones they love the most in the world?

The first thing to do is ask someone to be the group coordinator. Try to choose a person who is really excited about the idea, is a good communicator, has some time during the day, and is a decisive person (maybe you!). Canvass the group by sending out a letter, e-mail or make a phone call to everyone to let them know what you’re thinking about. If the initial reaction is favorable, get a ballpark head count and give us a call for ideas. Our staff has personally visited the areas we represent and can help you put together the perfect rental. A lot of times the number of people going depends on the time of year and how much it will cost per person. We can help!

We have some lovely large villas that accommodate from 10 to 35. During the day we make it a point to answer the phones personally (no answering machine) so that your questions and/or concerns get an answer right away. After we talk to you about your guidelines, we’ll look at what we have and send you an e-mail with several choices. Then you can forward these on to the rest of the group for their feedback, and it takes off from there. Remember that we’re happy to help arrange extra services such as cooking classes, tours, wine tasting parties, sea excursions, catered celebrations, and much, much more. This just may be the best thing you'll do for yourself and your family in this decade!

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Lucca, an Italian Gem

Lucca is one of my favorite places in the world. Of the few remaining medieval towns in Italy with intact walls, garrisons, and gates, its favorite son was the great Puccini. Last fall on our inspection trip Kathryn and I had the privilege of staying for 3 nights within the old city gates in a medieval palazzo that has been divided into elegant apartments. We came and went through the ancient gates in our rental car each morning and afternoon, but in the evening we joined the locals and visitors to stroll the complex interlacement of alleys, little winding roads and inner courtyards which are connected to each other by passages and small irregular asymmetrical squares. We would stop at interesting restaurants to read the menus to help us make the choice of which to come back to. When we had our fill of shopping the elegant Via Santa Croce and unwinding from the busy day, we would surrender to the splendid hospitality of the Luccese, letting them serve us with delectable wine, bread, pasta and meat dishes.

Modern Lucca spreads well beyond the walls, out into the green and hilly countryside. It’s here you find many centuries old summer residences of the rich merchants and royalty who moved their families and court to the countryside during the warmer months. Many are completely restored to their original grandeur and available to rent. A couple of examples are Villa Festa and Piccolo Versailles. Others have been divided into smaller units which might suit you better. See Villa Quattro.

Lucca remains a small town atmosphere, yet has most of the attributes of a large Italian city. Architectural masterpieces can be found throughout, with the San Martino Cathedral being the oldest (from 1204) and most famous. In the adjoining museum you find incredible works of art and sculpture. Other structures you will enjoy are the Church of San Michele, the Palazzo Ducale, and Villa Bottini.

Lucca is an ideal location for visitors to Italy. Within 30 minutes of the Tuscan coast, one can easily enjoy the sandy beaches of Forte de Marmi or arrange a sailing excursion on the Mediterranean. And due east of Lucca is the city of Florence, just 45 minutes by freeway. One of the best ways to get there is by train which takes you directly into the center of the city from the station in Lucca. After a day of sightseeing and shopping you can easily return to your villa in Lucca.

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Dear Travelers,
For many of you, it’s time to pack up and go on your trip. Enjoy your stay in our villas and apartments! Others of you are still in the planning stage, and we want you to know there’s still some good availability and in fact we’re running a 15% discount campaign until June 15th. Please check our website.

We continually look for great villas and bargains for you, in the most prime locations. We’re very excited to now offer you properties in Liguria, Italy! Very soon we’ll also have our cooking class section completed as well as a wedding section. So, keep watching!

Happy Travels!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President

Villa Opera"It was a dream vacation rental. We will definitely plan to return. The views, the cooks were fantastic!."
C W, Williamston, Michigan

"We thought the Villa was wonderful! Everything worked well. The people were lovely, the view from the pool over the hills of Tuscany was fantastic! The location close enough to Siena was perfect and it was an easy drive to Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano as well as Florence."
F P, Toms River, New Jersey

"This is a beautiful Villa! The antiques and paintings are spectacular! Great views, very comfortable! This was a wonderful setting for our wedding!"
-T M, Denver, Colorado

Villa Opera is truly a work of art. Located in the center of a large working estate where they still produce grains. It's a large and grand villa surrounded by gardens and forest, including century old cypress trees. | Vacation Villas and Apartments |
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