Blessed Occaision Villa

Blessed Occasion Villa was built in the 1600's as a convent, hugging the ridge above the La Freddana Valley. The peaceful setting among olive trees and vineyards affords a superb view of Lucca, Montecatinni, and Florence in the distance.

Architecture is among the most important arts; it is desirable to introduce taste into an art which shows so much.

-Thomas Jefferson

Fagiolini in Umido (Italian green beans)

4.5 pounds fresh green beans
1.5 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
celery, carrots, onions, basil to taste
hot red pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop celery, carrot and onion fairly coarsely. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil, add the celery, carrot and onion and sauté until tender. Trim and wash the fresh beans and add to the pot. Continue cooking gently, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. If the beans begin to stick to the pot, add a little warm water. When nearly cooked, add salt to taste along with a generous quantity of fresh basil, chopped tomatoes and a pinch of red pepper. Finish cooking over low heat and serve hot.

Dear Travelers,

As the kids get back to school, thoughts can now focus on upcoming Christmas, Easter and Summer 2005 vacations.  It's wise to start planning now so you have a better chance of securing your first choice in properties.

Please check our site.  You'll notice we have added a newsletter archives page as well as a links page which will help you plan future trips.  We're also excited to add some fine new properties we chose on our trip in June, and expect to have even more from Kathy's upcoming trip this month.

2005 promises to be a fabulous traveling year and we are thrilled to be able to help you get ready for another experience in one of our villas.

Emmanuel de Ricard, President

At his 103rd birthday party, my grandfather was asked if he thought that he’d be around for his 104th. “I certainly do”, he replied. “Statistics show that very few people die between the ages of 103 and 104.”

- Reader’s Digest

Tuscany (Part I)

Why does Tuscany continue to be the most popular region visited in Italy? I've learned from so many of our clients and from my few trips there that if you go once it woos you back again and again. It has an addicting charm. Here you have the dominant city of Florence, where the Renaissance began. At this time in history an optimism and confidence was born that is reflected in great works of art and sculpture that still inspire us today. The Renaissance lasted 2 centuries, with capitalism making it possible to bless the world with incredible architecture and art. Architectural feats of towers, courtyards and piazzas, interspersed with Italian gardens such as the famous Boboli are everywhere. The Duomo in Florence is one of the largest in the world, a blend of art and science that still boggles the engineering mind.

Tuscany is relatively small in area, giving the traveler a chance to drive easily from one end to the other on day trips. The landscape varies from fishing villages and beaches along the Tuscan Coast, to the many hill towns including Siena and San Gimignano, to the peaceful Chianti which is a land of rolling hills and delicate lanes of Cypress running through the clefts of the hills. Pisa and Lucca display well preserved high protective city walls, and Lucca is famous for its ramparts along these walls. During the rule of Duchess Marie Louise they were planted with a double row of trees to create a splendid elevated garden boulevard that extends around the city for nearly 4 kms, offering a continuous birdseye view over the old center of Lucca (a must see!). Don’t miss the opportunity to see the nearby Apuan Alps where you find the marble cutters that inspired Michelangelo.

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Public Transportation

The modern traveler to Europe has many options for public transportation. Getting there by plane or ship is only the beginning. Train service is very good. Between major cities in France for instance, you can take the TGV, a very fast and reasonably priced train. The Chunnel train takes you under the English Channel, connecting Paris and London. Most of the cities and towns in France and Italy are connected by local trains. We recommend you get a European rail pass if you intend to do a lot of sightseeing using the train system. When you rent a villa it's wise to rent a car or van at the airport so that you can be independent and flexible. Having a home base for a week or more gives you opportunity to take day trips to explore specific sites of interest to you. However, if you are renting an apartment in a large city such as Florence, Rome, or Paris, you definitely don't want to have to drive your own car. Here you can take subways, buses, taxis, and hire chauffers or tour bus drivers to get you where you want to go. To help you plan your transportation, here are some websites to check out. (car and van rental) (European rail passes)

Kathy Hayes, Editor

Christian Dior Chateau"Our experience was delightful. The Christian Dior Chateau is extraordinary and the owner was available and helpful and lovely. The location is convenient and the overall experience was outstanding - one we will long remember with fondness."

- S.B., Barrington, Illinois

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