Villa Vita Dolce

Stately 5 bedroom villa

Villa Vita Dolce

Belgirate/Lake Maggiore, Italy

Overlooking majestic Lake Maggiore and just a five minute walk from the lively resort town of Belgirate (restaurants, shops, post office), Villa Vita Dolce sits as a perfect example of Italy's fascinating 19th century lake architecture.

view from Villa Vita Dolce

View from Villa Vita Dolce

Recently and carefully restored by its current owner, the villa is decorated with beautiful antiques and furnished with every modern convenience. The home is surrounded by a lush and extensive manicured park, providing ample shade for relaxing and a heated pool for sunning.

Villa bedroom

A lovely Villa bedroom

The English-speaking owner lives nearby and is happy to greet you upon arrival and help you get settled. The caretakers live on-site and provide daily breakfast and cleaning services six days per week. Dinner and lunch service is available upon request.

The Villa's boat

Handcrafted mahogany boat.

The villa has its own handcrafted mahogany boat that is available (upon request) to guests. Please note that as the boundary of the park abuts the train tracks 200 meters away, noise can be an issue for some.



What's New In Travel Gear, Part II

Last month I began an article on the latest innovations in travel clothing, shoes, and accessories. It's been fascinating to research this subject, and I have so much valuable information that I want to share with you. I must say it's been a personal struggle to keep my debit card securely tucked out of reach!

Moseau manufactures products made from bamboo fiber. There are a lot of advantages in purchasing these 100% biodegradable, renewable fabrics. The fiber is 23 degrees cooler and more absorbant than cotton or polyester. It's antibacterial and hypoallergenic, dries faster than cotton, has natural UV protection, and feels silky soft.

At TravelSmith, there are all kinds of goodies and must-haves. Microfiber raincoats that look chic and stash in tiny pouches are 100% waterproof and 100% breathable. Also available are a variety of fashionable, supportive, and durable shoes. They emphasize a cushion walk, lightweight materials for easy packing, and good ventilation. They even sell socks that are designed to stimulate circulation through gradual compression, to stop swelling and help guard against swollen feet and legs due to decreased blood flow. And for dress-up they feature silk and microfiber blazers, dresses, skirts, and dress shirts that resist wrinkling and are easy to pack. Many accessories include carry-on purses, luggage, backpacks and more.

personal security alarm

Personal security alarm

Besides clothing, there are some other unique and very useful items available for the traveler. For instance in the area of security, Eagle Creek Security Pouches, commonly referred to as money belts, are meant to carry the bulk of your money, a passport and perhaps your return ticket home. They also sell true money belts with hidden zippers. PacSafe travel security products offer an innovative Travel Safe pouch. Their Stashsafe waist pouch and security belts with wire cables will have you forgetting about pick-pockets and enjoying your journey without worry. Also available are personal security alarms, socks with zipper pockets, locks for luggage and doors, silk neck pouches, door lock alarms, shoes with pocket wallets, etc.

Then there are compression bags to compress clothing up to 50% along with all kinds of luggage organizers to compartmentalize your items into categories easy to find and use. Other smart PackingLight luggage accessories include bright luggage identification tags and luggage straps, lightweight travel hangers, cable locks, garment carriers, gel cushioned shoulder straps and even shoulder straps with metal cables running throughout for added security.

Travelon purses

Travelon Travel Purses

PackingLight's variety of travel purse styles and organization choices give women and men shopping options in carrying their travel essentials.

Choose from PackingLight's pick-pocket-proof purses loaded with pocketing choices, organization compartments for cell phones and travel documents and some even come equipped with wire reinforcement in the strap to ward off bad guys.

air filter

Airplane air filter

Many of PackingLight's Travel Purses have the capability to be worn around the waist, over the shoulder, across the body or without the shoulder strap as a clutch. They also carry laundry aids, carry-on luggage and backpacks, adapters and converters.

Before a trip many travelers have the best intention to learn the language of their destination. They buy language books, tapes, CD's, and take a three-month language course at the local junior college. Unfortunately, we may get to our country of choice and feel so inadequate at speaking the language that we forget everything we've learned. However, there are many language translation selections available, such as phrase books, electronic language translators and menu translation booklets, targeted to those looking for the most essential language translation medium.

In the area of sanitation, a few products capable of keeping you comfortable and clean are water purifiers, an Ozium air sanitizer, sleepsheets and even toothbrush covers as well as trip protection packs that include toilet paper and seat covers, quick-drying microfiber towels, a feminine urinary director and hand sanitizer.



Greek Spinach Pie

The flakey crust is inviting

Greek Spinach Pie

This delightful and healthy dish is perfect to take to the next potluck, either as a main dish or an appetizer.

7-8 cups blanched spinach
1 medium onion
½ lb butter
6 large eggs
2 lb ricotta or cottage cheese
½ - 1 lb crumbled feta cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ lb filo dough, thawed to room temperature

Chop spinach and dice onion. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in large frying pan and sauté onions until soft. Add spinach, then turn up heat and cook until all moisture is gone. Remove mixture from heat and set aside. Melt remaining butter in a small pan.

Beat eggs and mix in cheeses. Add spinach mixture; season with salt and pepper (I like to add a pinch of nutmeg also.) Carefully spread out the filo dough and cover with a moistened towel so it doesn't become brittle as you use it. Butter a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and place a sheet of the dough on the bottom of the pan. Brush lightly with melted butter and continue layering sheets of dough, buttering each sheet until you have a stack of 10. The dough should just fit the pan. If it doesn't, tuck in any excess dough; it doesn't have to be terribly neat. Spread the spinach mixture evenly on top and stack with another 10 sheets of dough, buttering them as before.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, and then turn oven down to 350 degrees for an additional 30 minutes. If the top layer begins to get too dark, cover with brown paper. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into squares. Serves 12 as a main dish, or 16 as an appetizer.


Cured meats

Typical Firenze cured meats

Firenze (Florence) Offers Unique Cuisine

Tuscany includes many splendid cities, all with their own art, atmosphere and food. But the Tuscan capital of Florence seems supreme in both art and cuisine. This mark of distinction comes mostly from the Renaissance, where women played a fundamental role. You see, most all the poultry merchants and greengrocers were women, and toward the end of the 15th century Florence had eight shops run by women - who sold game: woodcock and hare, venison and foxes, wild boar and peacocks. And at the open market women presided over fruit, vegetable and flower stalls and were known for selling medicinal herbs such as nettles, calamint and mallow. Thanks to the ladies of the Medici court, Florentine cooking was developed and refined to perfection. Noblewomen who came to Florence with their husbands from Rome, Venice, and other areas of Italy together with those from Spain, Austria, and other European countries combined their native dishes with local recipes to make a distinctive Florentine cuisine. Not only were they masters of food preparation, they developed a style of entertaining with dishes and decorations that many considered works of art. Dinners became veritable banquets, with an infinite number of courses.

The royal chefs were so innovative that not far from the church of Santa Maria Novella deep trenches were dug in the earth to store winter ice, which was used even in the hot summer months. At the Florentine court, people were "wowed" with fresh lemon and orange sorbets, often served at the end of the banquet. You can still find similar refinements available in gelato shops. The royal chefs perfected such specialties as béchamel sauce, which was the envy of all. Of course at court there was always good wine, as Tuscans were well known for their love of wine long before the Renaissance.

One of the renowned chefs of the time, Bartolomeo Scappi, gave detailed and accurate instructions on how to prepare wafers that are still made today. Another famous Renaissance cook, Sacchi, evolved a unique philosophy of food. His recipes and writings about serving food are used today. One of the things he wrote was, "first eat all those things that activate the stomach and give light and measured nourishment, such as an apple or some pears…also lettuce or anything that can be eaten either raw or cooked, dressed with oil and vinegar. Then eggs, and confectionery sweetened with spices, honey and sugar."

Delicacies of Florence

Delicacies of Florence

During the Renaissance, antipasti made its debut. The word antipasti literally means "before the meal", and consisted of white meat and almond aspics, cured meats such as hams, salamis and small game birds, stuffed eggs, pickled olives and greens, cheese, and a variety of fried dough. Sound familiar?

In the middle class kitchen, roasted meat, often stuffed with bunches of bay, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and sage, were popular. These might have been cooked on a spit or slowly cooked in wine with chopped vegetables on the side. Still today, Florence is famous for its stews, usually simmered in shallow earthenware casseroles and seasoned with garlic, herbs, and spices. Dolceforte, a sauce that means "sweet and pungent", is often used with wild boar and tongue. This is made very simply by dissolving sugar in vinegar and adding raisins, pine nuts, and a little chocolate.

The poorer servant class of Florentines ate bread, millet, fava beans and chestnuts, which are still important in the Tuscan diet today. Wild plants were and still are used to flavor bread and eggs. This is where the modern pizza originated. Panata soup is a mainstay for busy families, and consists of stale bread ground and mixed with egg, grated cheese and nutmeg. These poorer people often worked for the wealthy and would on occasion bring home leftovers to add to their fare.

When you visit the colorful and vibrant city of Florence, you will notice that the people and character of this place reflect the earthy and creative mix of taste, color, and texture found in their cuisine. If you think you love going to your local Italian diner, how much more pleased you will be to taste the authentic fare!


Villa Saint Remy

Aerial view of the Villa

Villa Saint Remy

Saint Remy, Provence, France

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 completely renovated and has a private outdoor swimming pool and can accommodate 8 to 10 guests with its four ensuite bedrooms.

Saint Remy interior

The interior is charming.

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. This is a perfect retreat for a family or four couples vacationing together. There's nothing more to do than to sit back and breath in 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.

"Fantastic place, very friendly owner! Would go back again."

- RM, Louisvbille, TX

"The owner was very helpful. A lovely house in a great location!"

- RM, Louisvbille, TX



Emmanuel and niece

Emmanuel and his niece.

Dear Travelers and Friends,

Our goal at is to make your villa rental experience more fun and enriching than ever. That's why, in collaboration with many owners, we can enhance your villa rental experience by providing not only the property but also a number of extra services such as cooking classes, wine tasting, winery tours, language classes, massages etc. In fact, anything is possible. Just let us know what you want and we'll arrange it for you. In order to promote this new villa rental spirit, we have collaborated with one of our long-time Tuscan owners to provide you with more services at the same price! Check out Borgo Type C.

Spring is right around the corner and the best properties are now getting booked fast. So, for those of you who have not yet made arrangements, now is the time! We'll see you on Drop us a line via email or give us a call at (800) 964-1891. We love hearing from you!

On behalf of the staff I wish you a happy month of March.

All the Best,

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


For a little laugh

a little laugh


When people ask me how old I am, I tell them I'm 39 - with 25 years experience.

Chuck Norris

Newsletter Editor: Kathy Hayes

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