How to get the airline seats you want or that special extra something

So you want to get to Italy on points ( or somewhere else for that matter) – the best advice that I have found personally is to hang up and call back, so what a delight to find this informative article with just that advice…read on, book your ticket, then come visit us in Italy…

Hang Up, Call Back (The Four Most Important Words in Travel, and Maybe Even Life) from the Boarding Area


I don’t think there can possibly be any better advice in travel than ‘hang up, call back’. Any time you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, try another agent. Most airlines are big companies, agents have varying levels of competence, and also varying levels of helpfulness.

Just because an agent tells you that an award ticket isn’t available doesn’t mean that it isn’t available. I’ve frequently had agents tell me that nothing was available when they clearly hadn’t had time to even search yet. I would ask about multiple dates and they’d just reply that nothing was available the whole month when I know they couldn’t possibly have searched for that.

If you aren’t going to search for award space yourself using tools like partner websites (Qantas and British Airways for oneworld awards, Aeroplan/All Nippon/ for Star Alliance, for most of Skyteam), FlightStats, Expertflyer, the KVS Tool, then the advice I give is to just hang up, call back. For novices who aren’t going to invest the time, my rule of thumb is to make three calls — get told no three times — before believing the answer that you get is truly ‘no’. Continue reading

Is a Rome sightseeing pass worthwhile? or Private tour of Rome, Rome with kids and more

Is a Rome sightseeing pass worthwhile? for some it might be just the right solution for others – you may prefer our special private tours, whether you want to do Rome with children, see the hidden corners of Rome, food and market tours and more…read on

Ask the experts: Lee Marshall, Rome expert, offers some advice on the city’s sightseeing passes

Lee Marshall, Rome expert, for the UK Telegraph replies
If you have the stamina to visit all the main museums and sights – and in three days, that’s a tall order – then a cumulative ticket may be worth it.

But which one? Best value in my view is the three-day Roma Pass (, which costs €34/£29 and gives you free travel on public transport, plus free access to two sights, plus discounts of around €2 on others. To give you a price comparison, separately purchased tickets for the Forum/Colosseum and Borghese Gallery, plus a three-day bus pass, would set you back €39.50. Another advantage of the pass is that it allows you to avoid long queues at ticket offices. Continue reading

Social Media – check us out – a chance to win an ipad mini

Just a note to let you know we have started a new Facebook page - -

We would love it if you would ‘like’ us and/or follow us…there is a chance to win an ipad mini ( draw March 31, 2013). Also check our new boards on Pinterest.

We also have some great new Instagram photos…

If you have stayed at one of the villas or apartments we would love to hear from you – please send us your photos, stories, great finds, family adventures to be considered for our ‘guest’ blog spots.


Gluhwein ( mulled wine) recipe a Christmas favorite… from Jamie Oliver

To continue the Christmas traditions -  add to previous post – Stollen and Gluhwein – a nice afternoon combination to warm you up and make you think of Christmas. How about after finding the perfect tree? or a cold slopeside outing with friends? Apres Ski? In a chalet at #Whistler? A special Gluhwein experience I remember one  New Year’s Eve – the lake was frozen solid, temperature well below zero, a clear starry sky – fireworks, children oohing and awing, and then a falling star! Nonna brought out the hot mulled wine to warm us up – ( hot mulled apple cider for the kids!)

Recipe for Gluhwein ( mulled wine) from Jamie Oliver

Mulled wine to warm you up…in your villa in Italy or your slope side Chalet


  • 2 clementines
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 fresh bay leaves ( personally don’t use this)
  • 1 whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
  • 2 star anise ( for me this is optional please!)
  • 2 bottles Chianti or other Italian red wine

    This is dead simple to make and tastes like Christmas in a glass. It’s a lovely celebration of those traditional festive spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you’ve got your own favourite spices, then feel free to add those to the pot too. Let everything cook away and warm up gently so the flavours have time to mingle with the wine. I like to leave my mulled wine ticking over on a really low heat and just ladle some into glasses as and when guests pop in.

    Peel large sections of peel from your clementines, lemon and lime using a speed peeler. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in your halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.
    Continue reading

Christmas Markets in Tuscany

Christmas Markets in Tuscany – inspired by the Trip 

We just returned from a wonderful visit to Italy to find new #Villas in Tuscany, as well as apartments in Rome and Florence, already the Christmas decorations were popping up in the shops of Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra, Arezzo to name a few we saw. We have put together a list for you of wonderful Christmas markets in Tuscany

Christmas window in Arezzo, Tuscany.

In Florence, the Weihnachtsmarkt, a German word that means Christmas market, has come to Santa Croce Square from the #ChristkindlMarkt of  Heidelberg .

This Christmas market in Florence has stands selling decorations for Christmas trees and homes, Christmas cakes such as Stollen accompanied by the the wonderful warm Glühwein (mulled wine); (recipe #stollen, #gluhwein next post) visitors will enjoy not only Christmas food but also German specialties (especially wurst and sauerkraut) at Santa Croce Square from the 27th of November to the 19th of December. Continue reading

Heat Wave Italy – Tips on how to beat the heat in Verona, visit the Opera in Verona


Verona – stay cool sitting on a shaded bench above the city

Verona , like Florence sits in a basin near a river , so it too gets very hot in summer, during this heat wave, consider some tips from my daughter who was on exchange during the summer with temperatures of 40 deg C ( +100F), there are some lovely shaded areas along the river, where you can sit to write your post cards, read a bit , and simply enjoy the silhouette of beautiful Verona -  the two ancient bridges each offer some cool river breezes and a few shaded corners,  gelato shops throughout Verona offer great choices – not just hazlenut but bacci, tiramisu, blackberry, lemon, raspberry, and so much…

Gelato so delicious – great way to stay cool and of course calories don’t count on holiday

there is also a great gelato shop near the Ponte Pietra stay cool nearby in the shaded portico Gelateria Ponte Pietra  Continue reading

Heat Wave in Italy – some tips for handling the heat – Rome, Florence…

A new heat wave struck the Italian peninsula on Thursday according to the weather service in Italy. In some areas, the temperature has risen above 40 degree.

campo di fiori market

Campo di Fiori – visit early to beat the heat and get the best photos of Market in Rome

Rome – can be unbearably hot even without a heat wave – some ideas to stay cool ( or shall we say try to stay cooler) – start your sightseeing very early, there are some great early morning Vatican Tours, and walking tours*, visit the fountains and stand down wind where the spray gently cools you off, ( don’t make the faux pas of wading in the fountain – just NOT done), stop at one of the many wonderful gelato shops ( several times a day) to try the many flavors, the fruit flavors are especially refreshing, when you go to eat…. Continue reading

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre -what to see and do…Cinque Terre charming small villages, simple accomodation

as there are many questions about Cinque Terre – this great overview from Conde Nast is a useful overview

There are five Cinque Terre villages—Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—are backed by hills so steep that a coast road was never built. The villages are connected by train, with five tiny stations wedged into the space where the tracks emerge from the tunnels. East of the Cinque Terre, where the coast is flatter, are a series of family resort towns and working ports: Sestri Levante, Chiavari, Rapallo, and Santa Margherita Ligure. The promontory that juts out into the clean sweep of the coastline here is host to one of Italy’s most beautiful (and exclusive) seaside villages, Portofino. It lies around three miles south of Santa Margherita, with its train and bus connections (see Getting Around). Continue reading

Lost wine – Vandals waste 80,000 litres of top Brunello di Montalcino wine

Just thought this might be of interest to some of you… what a shame, some great vintage wasted… from the UK Guardian.

Vandals waste 80,000 litres of top Brunello di Montalcino wine

Six years’ worth of Gianfranco Soldera’s Tuscan red wine, worth up to €500 a bottle, emptied on to cellar floor during break-in

A vineyard near the Tuscan town of Montalcino in Italy

A vineyard near the Tuscan town of Montalcino in Italy. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

One of Tuscany’s finest and priciest red wines is now a lot harder to find after vandals broke into the producer’s cellar and emptied 80,000 litres’ worth on to the floor. Continue reading

Christmas in Italy

Christmas time in Italy can be wonderful, and while they don’t really decorate the cypress trees on this famous winding road, it was great fun to imagine what they would look like.  Florence in winter is lovely , far fewer tourists, some great cosy restaurants to find, the food markets full of hearty fare; the museums easy to access. Rome too is lovely in winter, warmer than Florence, well worth visiting when the tourist count is down, wander through the streets off the Piazza Farnese and discover new artisans and interesting window displays. We can tell you more when we talk.  Meanwhile – I wish all of you a lovely holiday season with family and friends.