On or off the beaten path?

This thing called the ‘beaten path’ really isn’t such a bad place.

Everyone wants to avoid it, but you have to consider that it includes many of the beautiful destinations and experiences that create the best travel memories…Michelangelo’s David, the towers of San Gimignano, Positano’s cozy cove, the stunning trails of the Cinque Terre, the thrill of arriving by boat to the isle of Capri…

But Italy also offers the possibility of going ‘off the beaten path’ and making your own unique adventure into the smaller villages and hill towns.

Here you will taste local wines that aren’t sold anywhere else, discover the pride of recipes handed down through generations and marvel at places where indigenous craftsmanship and artistry still thrive.  And you will feel the warmth and friendship of Italy’s sincere hospitality.

Although it makes a convenient metaphor, the beaten path is not a fixed place. You can always find ways to leave it and come back during your Italian sojourn, as your fancy takes you.
Here’s a quick guide, using some of our vacation rentals as examples.
Torre Fantini
We consider the region of Emilia-Romagna one of the best places to visit for a rewarding departure from the beaten path. This is a place to explore hill towns with great vistas and enjoy world class food and wine.
Borgo Casciano
Borgo Casciano
sleeps 2-32
What a great way to explore the Chianti region, drive into Florence or spend the day in Siena!  It’s easy to reach all the best beaten-path spots and then return home to you own private hill town away from it all. Groups from small to large are possible.
San Montano
San Montano
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It’s quite possibly the largest scenic terrace you will find on the Sorrento coast. An expansive view of Capri greets you when you walk out the door–seems close enough to touch. You feel away from it all here, overlooking the sea, but the beaten path is just minutes away if you want it.
Il Pescatore
An affordable lakeside private house directly on Lake Como?  How many of those might there be? This fishing cottage is cozy with modern amenities and it’s just far enough away from the crowded (and exciting) part of the lake. Go see the sights and come home to relax to the peace and quiet of a small village. Unique!
Borgo dei Trulli
We still consider Puglia off the beaten path, even though its popularity is growing. Stay in a genuine ‘trullo’ house and get a taste of an unusual and photogenic medieval town. Great seafood and wine here!
Lunario
Lunario
sleeps 6
We could wander the medieval streets of Spello for days and never tire of its lofty views of the Umbrian valleys, its shops, its restaurants, its churches or its bright and beautiful flowers.  Lunario’s location provides a private countryside feel, but the town center is just a moment’s walk away.
Villa la Pistrice
Positano is a wildly popular beaten-path destination, but it’s still an accessible and fascinating place to explore. Its shops and beaches are world class, and its multitudes of paths and alleyways invite long walks. Perched above it all, Villa la Pistrice offers an invitation to see the town and return to a peaceful and accommodating vacation home.
Madrugada
Madrugada
sleeps 11-13
You wouldn’t expect Sicily to provide some of the most fascinating Baroque palaces, town squares and churches in Europe. That’s what makes the town of Scicli a great off the beaten path experience! It’s surrounded by homages to the Baroque masters who came here and built their treasures.
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From Lucca to the Tuscany Seaside

Our Italian friends tell us that Lucca is a fun place to live and to visit because the people from here do such a good job of getting the most out of life.

The area is known for its thriving artistic community and for a lively culture.  The food and wine are superb and the monthly antiques market is a fascinating venue filled with historic treasures brought in from family attics and basements – things you would never see anywhere else.

We were not surprised to learn that the town sponsors one of the most important festivals in the world dedicated to comic books.  Held every October, this colorful and zany event takes over the town and transforms it into a world of fantasy and adventure.

On our most recent outing to Lucca, we stayed at Villa Buonvisi, and enjoyed the hospitality of its owner, Gianna.

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She gave us a tour of her classic 16th century Lucca style villa with its lovely gardens and an interior that features beautiful furnishings and Renaissance paintings on its walls.

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We often recommend a stay near Lucca because it is so easy to reach the seaside for a day trip and today that is exactly what we will do.

Gianna suggests an outing to Pietrasanta, a beautiful town which is an important center for sculptors.  Michelangelo spent a lot of time in Pietrasanta during the years that he was selecting marble from nearby Carrara and meeting with his benefactors, subjects and fellow artists.

We took a leisurely stroll through the town streets and were struck by the size and the beauty of the pieces that have been placed in the main square.  Although they are massive in scope, the town still manages to do a periodic change, in order to keep all the important works visible.

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We are fortunate to be joined by Serena, who is a wonderful tour guide specialized in this
area.   Her English is perfect and her insights and explanations add so much to the experience.

She takes us down a nearby street and into one of Pietrasanta’s few studio complexes, where we can watch artists at work, creating new pieces from marble and bronze.

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Here we also found artists doing the intricate work of creating mosaics.

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Finally, we ended our day with a walk on the beach at Marina di Pietrasanta.

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And when it was over, we were back in Lucca in less than an hour, just in time to enjoy a glass of local wine and antipasti at Ciclo di Vino, Lucca’s only combination bicycle shop and wine bar!!

 

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Settignano – The luxurious setting of Villa Gamberaia

Settignano is a small and welcoming village with an artistic legacy.  It’s close enough to Florence to enjoy a day of touring and then return home without a long drive.  And it’s still rural enough to offer a view of fields in cultivation and narrow country roads.

Michelangelo Buonarroti himself was a major landholder here in the latter part of his career, after he had attained enough fame and fortune to begin buying land.  His family roots were here, and it was important to him to keep this beautiful land in his family’s possession. The modern day Villa Michelangelo stands today on the original part of his property.

About a half-century after Michelangelo’s death, the magnificent Villa Gamberaia was completed by Zanobi Lapi near Villa Michelangelo.  During its storied lifetime it was the home of a series of well-known noble families.

Today, Villa Gamberaia is available for vacation rentals and is often the location for exquisite weddings, reunions and photo shoots.

Its garden is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe and is featured in many photographic books about gardens.

The interior of Villa Gamberaia includes carefully restored antiques, tapestries and art works.

For the discriminating client looking for the very best that Italy has to offer, Villa Gamberaia is an excellent choice.

Contact us to learn more.

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A luxury villa inside Rome is hard to find

Rome is a busy and exciting city, filled with timeless treasures that can be found with a brisk walk and a handy guidebook.  Its convenient underground Metro can whisk you from one side of town to the other.  Take some time to shop on Via Condotti, see the Caravaggios near Piazza Navona, experience St. Peter’s magnificent basilica and allow some time for a stroll in the park surrounding the Villa Borghese.

And at the end of the day, have the luxury of returning to Roma Elegante, a luscious villa in the quiet and beautiful neighborhood of Rome called Monteverde.


Roma Elegante offers a wide variety of premium amenities including a small office, WiFi, satellite TV, workout room, billiard table, daily Continental breakfast and a private pool in the villa’s garden.


It only takes a few minutes to return to the center of Rome via the private shuttle service. But you might want to extend your restful time here and experience what this interesting area has to offer.  Just across the street is the historic Villa Doria Pamphili, a 17th century villa located in Rome’s largest landscaped park.

Roma Elegante can be rented for a minimum of three days, so whatever the duration of your sojourn in the Eternal City, this villa can accommodate you.  Contact us for a complete proposal.

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The Kingdom of Tavolara – You can see it from Villa Bianca

You might already know a lot about Italy, but have you ever heard of the Kingdom of Tavolara?  Located on the beautiful island of Tavolara off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, it is an “imaginary state” that was set up by the Bertoleoni family in the 1800s, who proclaimed it as an independent state.

This fascinating micronation was ruled by Kings Giuseppe through Paolo II, who “reigned” between 1836 and 1962.

Nowadays, the island is the setting of the Tavolara Film Festival, one of Sardinia’s most popular summer events.

From luxurious Villa Bianca, you can gaze at Tavolara from the privacy of your own swimming pool and terrace.

Located in the resort of Porto San Paolo, Villa Bianca sleeps up to 10 guests, with five beautifully appointed bedrooms and five baths.

If you would like to stay at Villa Bianca, please contact us for more information.  We would love to talk with you about this villa or other luxury accommodations throughout Italy.

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Cast an Eye on the Borromean Islands from Villa Camilla

One of the pleasures of staying on Lake Maggiore is a leisurely trip to the Borromean Islands that sit peacefully off the coast of Stresa.  Boats leave throughout the day from Stresa’s docks and travel frequently between the three islands.  You can make a day of it, enjoying a meal on one island and strolling through castles and gardens on another.

Each island has its own personality and character.  Isola Bella has an elegant 17th century castle, beautiful gardens and numerous terraces overlooking the water.  Isola Pescatore in the only inhabited island, with a quaint village featuring charming shops, cafes and restaurants.  Isola Madre offers 19th century English style gardens and a palace filled with Italian masterpieces and paintings.

IMG_3331A quiet stroll on Isola Pescatore

Villa Camilla, perched above Stresa, is a perfect villa for enjoying a lake holiday.  It enjoys a splendid panorama in a peaceful position on the first slopes above the town.  The villa has been recently renovated in an elegant modern style that features a beautiful infinity pool and a comfortable interior with every modern convenience.


Contact us for further information about Villa Camilla or for an expanded search to locate the perfect villa for your lakes vacation.

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Villa Cetinale – One of Edith Wharton’s favorites

In 1904, Edith Wharton published “Italian Villas and Their Gardens“, on assignment from Century magazine.

During her four month visit, she documented her observations of Italy’s most beautiful gardens.  Her book is considered one of the earliest and most important works on this subject.  The original edition included illustrations by Maxfield Parrish.

In 1998, Vivian Russell paid homage to Edith’s pioneering work by publishing the lavishly photographed “Edith Wharton’s Italian Gardens“.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that the lush lemon garden at the entrance to Villa Cetinale is featured on the cover.

Villa Cetinale was built in 1680 under the auspices of Cardinal Flavio Chigi for his uncle, Fabio Chigi, who became Pope Alexander VII.  The gardens were a favorite of Edith Wharton’s and she considered them one of the most beautiful in Italy.  She particularly loved the long green park, which extends peacefully from the back of the villa to the Cardinal’s spiritual retreat at the peak of the hill beyond.

The grounds are rich with distinctive statuary by Guiseppe Mazuoli, who was a close associate of Bernini.

Its recent owner has been an English earl, whose family has devoted its energy and resources to continuing its delicate preservation.  Photos of Villa Cetinale are featured in Vanity Fair’s story “The Decadent Italian Interiors of Villa Cetinale in Tuscany“.

There is much to say about Villa Cetinale, and much yet to learn.  Contact us about experiencing it for yourself.

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