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

Great apartment in Florence – testimontial

Perfect vacation in our apartment in Florence:

What a wonderful time we all had in Florence. We could not have asked for a more perfectly situated apartment, literally a minute from the Duomo and the views from the rooftop terrace were fantastic. The apartment itself far exceeded our expectations and the booking and checking in/out processes were so easily done.
We managed to fit in visits to all the major city center sights in Florence and spend time in the Uffizi too. The conference was also a resounding success and between the culture and the science we all benefited from our time in Florence. We will certainly return to explore more of the Italian countryside and probably Rome too!
Thanks again

This client stayed in our wonderful apartment Mirage –


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

Stollen, a German Christmas Cake – Recipe from Bon Appetit – Enjoy German Christmas traditions anywhere, even in Tuscany

ClassicVacationRental loves this recipe – a lovely German tradition that translates into any palate, no matter your nationality or location.

Stollen, a German Christmas Bread Recipe From Hot Bread Kitchen

German Christmas bread known as stollen, a spirited, spiced, sugar-topped ‘cake’ packed with nuts (almonds, predominantly), dried fruit (raisins are a given), and candied citrus peel. Some are laden with almond paste or marzipan, which results in a softer crumb, while others keep it dry and scone-y. Hershberger, who is German himself, has, for years, been baking stollen for pals and neighbors. This year, for HBK, he’s made a few adjustments to that recipe, and the resulting confection is moister, with even more fruit and nuts than before.



1. Check your schedule. Your fruit needs to soak in its bath of rum, brandy, and hot water for a full three days before you bake the bread. After that, it should take about three hours from the time you start the dough to the moment your loaf is fully cooked. Here’s how that breaks down, according to Hershberger: Preparing and mixing ingredients: 35 minutes. Dough fermentation: 1 hour, minimum. Shaping and resting the dough: 15 minutes. Shaping (again) the dough and letting it rise: 1 hour. Baking: about 25 minutes.

Once it’s out of the oven, the bread is topped with butter and sugar. Then, you should wait at least one day to let the stollen set before you dig in. 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

Heat wave in Italy – Rome, Florence, Verona suffer from intense heat wave

Heatwave alert in seven popular tourist destinations in Italy – Rome, Florence, Verona, Sicily

Apartments in Rome - air conditioning

Trevi Fountain Rome – may be a good place to cool off during the heat wave

In seven of Italy’s popular tourist destinations including Florence, Rome, and Verona an alarming heat wave alert has been generated during this weekend. The possibility of this heat wave has also been termed as a ‘red alert’ due to the ferocity of its magnitude. This could be compared with the ‘infamous’ summer of 2003.

Continue reading