Our Monthly Electronic Newsletter
March 2005

Casa Invitare

Casa Invitare is an exquisite and unique villa situated on a flat hilltop in the distinctive countryside outside Siena. On a vast estate that includes fields of grain, sunflowers, olive groves and vineyards interspersed with virgin oak forests, it offers spectacular views over the surrounding valleys and hills. Its history goes back to the 1600’s but its recent restoration focused on preserving the ancient architecture without compromising comfort and modern amenities.

The successful result is a lavish 6,000 square feet of living area for up to eight people that provides four private bedroom quarters with private baths, a modern kitchen, spacious living and dining areas, laundry, powder room, as well as expansive outdoor terraces with BBQ, pool, and pool house with bathing facilities. Two hours daily maid service plus final cleaning is included in the price. Olive oil and wine from the estate is available for purchase. For those looking for an unusual Tuscan experience a little off the beaten path, don’t overlook this property! The estate is just 10 kms from Casole d’Elsa, 35 kms from Siena and San Gimignano and 60 kms from the Florence airport.

Healthy Olive OilChoosing Olive Oils

The very best olive oils are unique among cooking oils because they are made directly from the fresh juice of the olive. The fruit is picked, milled and pressed and the resulting juice is separated into oil and water. If this oil is of the required standard it is bottled with no extra processing. This is labeled “virgin” if it’s less than 2% acidity. If it’s less than 1% acidity it’s “extra virgin”.

Olive oils which fail the tests for virgin status are sent to the refinery to be cleaned up to make ordinary olive oil which is flavored with a little virgin oil. This is the oil to use for frying, basting and general cooking. The best olive oil is the freshest and youngest, so look for oils which date from the most recent harvest. Ignore the color of the oil as this is not a good indicator of what you will find in the bottle. Green oils, for example, are not always very pungent and golden yellow oils may not be pepper-free.

Cloudy oil simply means that the oil has not been filtered. The choice between filtered and unfiltered oils is a matter of personal preference. Avoid oils which have been kept in the shop window or on shelves which attract direct sunlight. Olive oil should be stored in a cool dark place, though it is not necessary to refrigerate it.

Some labels carry phrases such as “first pressed” or “cold pressed” or “traditional production”. These phrases are meaningless. Modern equipment is such that there is no second pressing except at the refinery and no hot pressing. Nor is there any particular virtue in the traditional, hydraulic method of production. If used correctly, each method can produce a first-class extra-virgin oil. The only important words are “extra virgin” and “virgin”.

Olive oil is the traditional cooking medium of the Mediterrranean and is used as butter and vegetable oils are used in more northerly countries. Do not use virgin olive oil just for dressing salads. Think about using it to finish soups, vegetables, mashed potatoes or grilled fish. Experiment with pot roasts, baked breads, cookies and cakes or serve in the Mediterranean manner at the beginning of a meal as a dip for bread and raw vegetables.

Mixing and matching virgin olive oil with other ingredients is exciting. Try mixing a strongly herbaceous oil from central Italy with a dash of balsamic vinegar and serve as a dip or salad dressing, use a sweeter French oil to highlight grilled fish fillets with fresh herbs or make a wonderfully moist and flavorsome carrot cake with Californian oil. Experiment with recipes and discover the many delights of good olive oil!

- Judy Ridgeway

Four questions to see if you would make a good consultant:

1. How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator? (Answer: You open the refrigerator, put the giraffe in, and close the door. This tests whether you tend to make things too complicated.)

2. How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator? (Answer: You open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door. This tests whether you can think through the consequences of your previous actions.)

3. The Lion King is holding a conference for all the animals in the kingdom. Which animal will not be there? (Answer: The elephant because he’s still in the refrigerator. This tests your memory.)

4. You must cross a river inhabited by crocodiles. How do you get across? (Answer: You can swim across. All the crocodiles are at the animal conference. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.)

Dear Travelers,
I hope you are enjoying our new website and new look! If you haven’t visited the website recently, please visit and let us know what you think. Next month we'll be adding a recipe page with all of our favorites.

We've tried very hard to design the site with you in mind, so it is both easy and enjoyable to use. We continue to add new properties from our last travels, so check with us periodically. Sometimes you'll discover new choices. Make sure you call us. We enjoy talking to you directly and it’s always easier to get a better idea of what you're looking for! Spring is just around the corner and the travel bug is ready to bite!

Happy travels!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


Facelift Boosts Family Owned Business

The power of the web is something VillaNet must reckon with – a kind of love/hate relationship that demands constant grooming and attention but pays big dividends. The fast-track growth in home based PC’s has propelled this Seattle company into a dominant role in the market of short term self catered villa rentals. But to maintain this elite position and continue to grow, it’s not only time for a facelift, but also a name change.

Emmanuel de Ricard, owner and president of the company, says he’s known for a while that people have a hard time relating to VillaNet, the name he inherited with the company 5 years ago. That’s why we’re changing it to “because it says what we do and also points to our website address”.

Casa Apuan

This feel-good family owned business was conceived over 21 years ago as Hilde Freeman penned her graduate school thesis. An Austrian immigrant, she had fallen in love at a young age with the fascinating world of travel. But when she became a mom, she realized that traveling abroad could be a real strain. Hotels gave her baby little room to play and little tolerance for his squeals and giggles, and hotel staff often frowned at the natural antics of a toddler in their stiff white linen dining rooms. So out of her frustration came the vision of making available to traveling families the comfort and cultural experience of renting a fully furnished villa or apartment.

Now the company offers more than 450 hand picked properties, mostly in France, Italy, and Portugal, with a few in other parts of the world (including Seattle). They range in size and price from luxury castles that sleep up to 30 people, to economical studio apartments. “We have something for just about everybody,” Emmanuel explains. “We have selected areas of Western Europe that we’re familiar with. I was born and raised in France so that’s a given. Italy is very popular, so we do a lot of travel there to research the best accommodations for our clients. Portugal is an up and coming destination and a personal favorite. My wife Cori and I traveled there a couple of years ago to select properties.”

We congratulate for growing with the demands of the times, and will continue to expect the personal, honest service that is their trademark.

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Appartement Michael Angelo

Newsletter Facelift Too!

Hope you enjoy our newsletter as always! Seemed to us we needed a fresh look to go along with the company’s new name and website.

As you navigate our new website, we want to make it easy and fun! So here are some travel-with-your-fingers tips!

Home gives you special property discounts and newsletter subscription page. From here you can enter the country and region of your choice. In your selected region, note that we have icons on the right margin to help you with such things as Travel Tips for that area. Also, when you select a property you’re interested in, the “Send it to a friend” icon will attach that property to your email! How easy!!

About Us will reveal most of all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask about each person involved in It’s fun to “see” the people you talk to on the telephone, huh?!

Testimonials of course are comments from our clients to help you select the best property for your upcoming travel.

Booking gives you the Booking Form either in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat. Pretty handy!

Planner takes you to an easy-to-fill-out vacation planner. It doesn’t ask for any personal information – just gives us a chance to better match your wishes with available properties.

Questions gives you a list of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers. You can always call us during office hours, but sometimes you’re dreaming about travel in the middle of the night, right?!

Links puts you in contact with lots of helpful information on such things as transportation, maps, weather statistics, concierge services, travel merchandise, and so much more. We’ll be adding to this page often!

Newsletter takes you directly to the present issue and the archives of past issues of “Doorways to the World”, with lots of travel information at your fingertips.

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Casa d'Odibos B & B"Fabulous B & B!"
- R A, Arlington, Virginia

This Bed and Breakfast, Casa d'Obidos, is a manor house dating back to the 19th century, carefully restored and redecorated in 1998. | Vacation Villas and Apartments |
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