16 March, 2008

Rome Marathon, Sunday March 16th

For all the runners out there, here's a photo of today's Rome Marathon race as it passes near our office ....
The winner at a time of 2:09:36 was Ken Kemboi Chelimo of Kenya. The women's winner with a new record time was Souad Ait Salem from Algeria at a time of 2:25:07.

16 February, 2008

Winter in Meta di Sorrento

The winter months on the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast is known to be very quiet and some say, don't go, it's all closed, so on a very sunny February weekend we decided to take a drive down to Meta di Sorrento to stay in one of our properties Apartment Sunset and take some photos and see for ourselves just how closed it is in February.

We arrived in Meta at lunch time as planned with thoughts of sitting out in the sun eating a bowl of steamed mussels and drinking a glass of chilled Falenghina ..... in the beach side restaurant underneath the apartment building that had been so fondly described by our colleague who had inspected these properties .... to our dismay the restaurant was under winter renovation, although the incredibly friendly owner was there serving free coffee to his friends who were sitting in the sun and he gave us a mouth watering description of his menu that would be offered from the first week of March... we were just a few weeks early .... Although there wasn't much doing in the town at all, there were a few restaurants open and the beach was a total sun trap and there were a few swimmers and sunbathers, but mainly there were a bunch of locals at the beach lounging around, chatting, reading the paper, definitely not a tourist in sight.

The accommodation was fabulous and had every possible amenity we could have dreamed of and we vowed to return in spring to enjoy a weekend of complete relaxation which is what I believe you could achieve in this tiny Sorrento town, breakfast on the balcony, a morning at the beach followed by lunch on the balcony, a afternoon nap followed by a dinner on the beach ....

17 January, 2008

1/2 Million balls roll down the Spanish Steps

TV cameras filmed half a million colored balls cascading down Rome's 18th Century - Spanish Steps, in the most recent stunt by the man who dyed the waters of the Trevi Fountain red, Graziano Cecchini. The balls rolled down the steps into the boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna below in a spectacle that stunned passers-by, who snapped photos and scooped up the balls as souvenirs.

The municiple police briefly cordon off the area whilst street cleaners shoveled the balls into garbage trucks while Mr Cecchini and his three accomplices were arrested once again - the stunt cost Cecchini close to $30,000. The guerilla artist told the Italian press the stunt "represented a lie told by a politician".

Watch the Video of the balls bouncing down the Spanish Steps

18 November, 2007

Da Oio A Casa Mia - A True Roman Experience

Da Oio A Casa Mia is where you go to enjoy true Roman cuisine in a completely unpretentious atmosphere in the Testaccio quarter of Rome, an old working class zone just across the river from Trastevere, you may find it a little rough and ready in the service department - but this just adds to the authenticity of a real Roman location... you'll eat the most wonderful Roman delights here such as Caccia Pepe, Carbonara, Ox Tail and Tripe. Don't Miss it!!

Da Oio A Casa Mia
via Galvani 43/45
Tel 06 578 2680

15 November, 2007

Il Baretto - New Hip Rome Cafe/Cocktail Bar

Now Rome is... as most people know, an incredibly beautiful historic city, but cool, modern and hip?..... it's hard to find, it's just not Rome's thing .... so when you happen upon a fabulous new cool cafe, cocktail bar, it's worth talking about. Il Baretto has just opened on via Garibaldi on the way up to the Gianicolo Hill from Trastevere. It's just a 5-10 minute walk up from John Cabot University and is - SO - worth the walk. The same owners have GOA, one of Rome's well established nightclubs. The garden at Il Baretto is definitely its best asset, in spring and summer this place will be heaven, but even today a freezing but perfectly sunny Rome Autumn day, the modern interior and the abundance of glass make this a heavenly spot to spend some time... I happen to be sitting in here borrowing their wifi while waiting for an appointment. This would be a perfect stop after a visit to the Gianicolo hill or Villa Pamphili, so don't miss it.

Il Baretto - Cocktail Bar €€
via Garibaldi 27F

Very hip bar on via Garibaldi on the way from Trastevere up to the Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill. Il Baretto has a wonderful garden and very cool, hip, modern atmosphere... great place for a drink at night, great music, super friendly staff, highly recommended!

10 December, 2006

Sicily - Siracusa - Da Mariano

When inspecting the beach side properties of Dario in Cefalù, we happened to get onto the topic of our next destination, Siracusa, Dario insisted that we must eat at his favorite Da Mariano, we naturally made out to find it as soon as we arrived, never to give up the chance of eating well... we were welcomed by Mariano himself, who sat us at one of the outdoor tables that line the narrow street. The waiter arrived immediately with a plate of wonderful complimentary antipasto, then we ordered the daily specials, which were pasta with ricotta and almonds followed by grilled swordfish with a salad of orange and red onion that had a hint of chili.... Incredible! .. He doesn't serve coffee, however a wonderful homemade almond liquer is served after the meal with ginger and almond toffee. Mariano has been cooking in his Siracusa restaurant for 12 years cooking his innovative cuisine from the area of Monti Iblei near Ragussa. It was one of those meals that we felt had to be repeated the next day for lunch...
Highly Recommended

05 December, 2006

Umbria - Castello delle Regine - A Labor of Love

I visited a wonderful location in Umbria today, only an hour from my home in the historic centre of Rome - Castello delle Regine, (Castle of the Queens) a 400 hectare wine & olive estate, with restaurant, 17 apartments located in various locations over the estate, 3 swimming pools, tennis court and the tranquility and views you wouldn't imagine were possible only an hour from Rome. (soon to be on our website)

We were given a tour by the very friendly Alessandro, who spoke wonderful English and is responsible for the touristic side of the estate.

The brief history of this estate, is that it was purchased 20 years ago by an Italian family who have invested the past 20 years into this project creating a 400 hectare vineyard and olive grove that launched it's first wine to the public only 3 years ago, two of these wines have been ranked in Italy's top 20 most important wines by Gambero Rosso for the past two years, so they certainly know what they are doing.

The tour of the estate was fabulous, this is offered to guests along with the possibility of a half day of grape picking in season and olive picking as well. Alessandro was very knowledgable about the processes and the tour taught us many things about winemaking.

We then went down to check out the Chianina cattle that are bred on the estate, these magnificent creatures and cared for in spacious pens with doorways to the outside area, where they can roam free, the cattle are fed only the best quality feed that is mostly grown on the estate.

After the tour, we settled down in the restaurant, which has a beautiful atmosphere and would be an excellent location for a reception or wedding, they actually have a private room for up to 15 people and we decided on the spot to offer this as another day trip for our guests, as it would be an ideal day out of Rome, being only an hour away from the historic centre of Rome.

We were then joined for lunch by the charming and energetic Maruizio who had previously worked with Italy's oldest vineyard but is now in charge of the complete operations and marketing at Castello delle Regine , and Fabio who was once the head sommelier at Rome's famous wine bar Ferrara in Trastevere who now works for the estate marketing the wines in Italy, we felt quite educated and entertained from these two charming men, and we ate an extraordinary meal of which all ingredients were from the estate, first a beef carpaccio with olive oil that was merely a week old - it almost burned the back of the throat, it was absolutely amazing oil , magnificent warm crusty bread, followed by a ragu with pappadelle, then a very tender chianina steak. This was topped off by a heavenly warm chocolate tart and finally a glass of golden grappa, which was really quite smooth, not the rocket fuel I've tasted in the past.
During the meal, we sampled the wines produced by Castello delle Regine and were suitably impressed. We were given a gift of 6 bottles of wine including their grappa, and have already the need to return to restock, especially for that oil! When I purchased a bottle of my usual medium quality extra virgin olive oil at my supermarket, I felt cheated that it wouldn't be at all comparable to the oil I had tasted at the estate. Fabio explained to me that true, fresh extra virgin olive oil of such we were sampling has strong medicinal qualities and should be eaten daily for good health. I'm in - I have already made an appointment to return for lunch with Angelina from our office, who organizes weddings for our clients as she will just love this location it's really made for events, it's so elegant.

22 November, 2006

A Weekend at Rocca di Castagnoli - by Angelina

It seemed as though winter simply did not want to arrive in Italy this year. On the last weekend in October the beaches near Rome were full of Roman's that were enjoying a beautiful sunny and warm day a the sea. Rome is famous for its Ottobrata Romana - the Roman October which can be described as an Indian Summer but these glorious sunny, warm autumn days rarely ever go all the way through to November. This year they did, however as if with a magic wand on November 1st autumn suddenly hit with a cold, windy and rainy day. This is it, I thought, winter has arrived and I better start thinking of cuddling up by the fireplace.

On Friday, November 4th however we woke up to a glorious, yet crisp morning so my husband and I decided to pack our weekend bags and drive up to Rocca di Castagnoli for the weekend. What better place then the Chianti Wine Region to truly enjoy the beautiful fall colours?

Laura, Rocca di Castagnoli's manager was hospitable as always and is thrilled to have guest all year around. Emanuela met us at 10:30 pm when we finally made it and had turned the heating on in our apartment (the Lungo) a few hours earlier so we arrived to a nice cosy home in the Roccca.

The drive to Rocca di Castagnoli itself is quite magnificent. Almost from the very moment you leave the A1 highway you find yourself winding along the soft Tuscan hillsides and through the colourful and prestigious Chianti vineyards. However if you arrive at night as we did, all is not lost. Waking up in Rocca di Castagnoli, out of season is a delight to be savoured. Only two other apartments were occupied while we were there and obviously everyone came to enjoy the countryside this time of year when it is private and quiet. Even the family with children were extremely discreet so the feeling was that of having the entire place to yourself.

We awoke to a silence that was sublime as much as it was strange coming from a bustling and noisy city such as Rome. The view from any point of the Rocca was quite breathtaking as our eyes explored the soft autumn colours of the Tuscan countryside that unravelled from the height of Rocca di Castagnoli down through the valley.

Rocca comes from the word Roccia meaning Rock and was the stronghold or fortress of a village or town. In this case, Rocca di Castagnoli is the fortress of the hamlet that was built around it, called Castagnoli. Today, this medieval village has been completely restored and belongs to the winery that carries the same name and that is located just below the Rocca. When you stay at the Rocca di Castagnoli, you are in fact living in a medieval hamlet that is also a working winery. Each apartment name carries the name of the last inhabitants that lived in each apartment /home: Giulis, Mazzina, Filomena, Cesira etc. As they are all women’s names I cannot help but wonder what the living expectations of the men were compared to the women’s in this village.

The apartments are all quite large and as they were not built to be "a hotel room" but rather come from antique homes, they are quite irregular in shape and size. I loved this fact as there are no two apartments alike and each one has a series of nooks and crannies, internal steps and hidden corners. The castle itself is quite extraordinary and I could not help but think how much fun it would be to be a child and play hide and seek here.

After breakfast we drove through Gaiole in Chianti, the closest village where there is a coffee shop, supermarket etc. (5km from Rocca di Castagnoli) and made our way to Arezzo, one of Tuscany’s ancient and beautiful cities with important works of art from Piero della Francesca and Cimabue. The first weekend of every month, Arezzo becomes particularly lively as one of the best Antique markets sprawls out through the entire historical center of the city. There really could be few better backgrounds to a good antique market then the medieval city of Arezzo. The city in which Roberto Benigni filmed his Oscar winning film La Vita Bella is elegant and lined with great little osterias and trattorias where you can enjoy an exquisite Tuscan meal.

In the late afternoon we drove back to our fortress and turned on the fireplace more for the romantic effect then the actual heating. Rocca di Castagnoli has a very efficient heating system in which there are pipes running under the terracotta tiles making every apartment warm and cuddly throughout the winter.

For dinner we drove down to Gaiole in Chianti again and had dinner at the Osteria al Ponte, the restaurant owned by Rocca di Castagnoli. It was a wonderful culinary experience during which time we tasted all the specialties of the area and season: Tuscan "crostini" (pates) Ravioli with sage, home made Pici pasta with wild boar sauce, Chianti style Tripe (I admit, I skipped that and let my Italian husband Andrea enjoy that) all accompanied by a lovely Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico, DOCG wine. What can I say, Rocca di Castagnoli simply has an excellent mix of quality and friendliness in all its products, whether they are offering you accommodation, wine or dinner.

01 November, 2006

Tuscany - Maremma, Feniglia Nature Reserve

It's the second last day of the October and we find ourselves on a near deserted beach, the sun is shining hot and the water is warm enough to swim, it's as close to perfect as you could ask for, we have found the Feniglia sandbar a Nature Reserve just 3 km from Porto Ercole on the Argentario.

The reserve is open to pedestrian or bicycle traffic only and has a magnificent flat pine forest, perfect for bike riding, it edges onto the beach so you can just ride to a spot of beach and pitch your towels down for the day, you must take your own water and food with your though as this is one piece of beach in Italy that has no bars or beach clubs, you really are on your own, I felt for a moment that I was back in Australia. ..

31 October, 2006

Tuscany - Maremma, Local Produce

If you are driving up to the Maremma region from Rome, you must stop at this roadside shop for a panino, forget stopping at an Autogrill ! Each time we passed this tiny shop we noticed a dozen cars or more lined up, so something in there had to be good. We finally stopped on our way up this weekend to find delicous and inexpensive local produce. The highlight though is the rolls and sandwiches they make which are out of this world, don't miss it! Although you can't miss it, the shop is located just as the road narrows to a two lane highway near the border of Lazio and Tuscany.

30 October, 2006

Tuscany - Maremma a Winter Discovery

The beautiful Maremma region in Tuscany is an area of Italy we - personally - are just discovering. We've had a few weekends in the area, both on the Argentario in Porto Ercole and as a guest of one of our proprietors further inland in Marsiliana to inspect properites, but we didn't really spend enough time here to understand what it has to offer. We have taken a winter rental for the weekends - Casa nel Bosco - a cosy stone cottage with a huge open fireplace surrounded by forest and we are discovering that this part of Tuscany has got a lot more to offer than we had thought. I am going to blog my weekend discoveries over the winter so for anyone planning a visit to this part of the Tuscany or those undecided on their next holiday destination read on…

01 October, 2006

Rome - Ponte Milvio Antique Market - by Jill

If you're fortunate to be in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, this antique market is a wonderful place to stroll for a few hours, of course you'll only have room for the smaller items in your suitcase, but there's plenty of interesting small objects there - like small picture frames, jewlery, nick nacks, books etc... Today I found a brand new guide book for Italy from 1955 which was a freebie on TWA flights, what a wonderful find - at a quick glance I can't say that recommendations have change much, including restaurants, I also found two small Limoges butter dishes that are quite magnificent, these I could have easily slipped in with my luggage if I was traveling.We were at the market in search of an odd sized antique dining table for our kitchen, which had eluded us until today...

we ve been searching this table for around a year, but today was our day and we in fact found many different versions of the table we were after and finally did the deal to be delivered next week. You will come across the Lemonade and chou chou stand as well, locals line up for a freshly squeezed lemon juice with sugar and either mint, fresh ginger or natural flavor, the couple that run this stand take their product very seriously and use old fashioned methods to create their juice as they say it tastes better this way, and it does. In winter they replace the cold lemonade with a spicy hot apple cider drink.

They also make chou chou with both peanuts and almonds on the spot, so they're always fresh and hot.
Some of the other great finds are these bolts of heavy furnishing fabrics, handmade fabric lamp shades, handmade elaborate velvet cushions and some interesting deco pieces.

There are also a few Asian antique stalls, Tibetan and Chinese that are very well priced in comparison to the stores. Ponte Milvio Antique Market is on the first Sunday of each month only and runs along the Tiber River at Ponte Milvio which is a couple of klm north of the Vatican and about a 7 Euro cab ride or about a 40 minute walk from the centre.

Rome - Lovers Bridge - Jill

If you're in Rome with your husband, lover, or even your best friend - go to the lovers bridge, Ponte Milvio - one of Romes older bridges that spans the Tiber River near the football stadium. Roman lovers and bosom buddies buy a simple lock, write on their names, eg: Dario and Marzia then lock it up to the chain and throw the key into the river to symbolize their friendship for life. The chain seems to be just about full and another has begun on the other side of the bridge.

21 September, 2006

Sicily - Getting to Lipari - By Jill

Ask a Sicilian concierge or tourist office for information on getting to the Eolian islands, the main response I received was, "don’t worry the ferrys run - all the time, just turn up at the port", as we are all so used to buying tickets for just about everything on line, it felt a little uncertain leaving it till we got there, but as it turned out it’s true, no need to book in advance. When you arrive into Milazzo (near to Messina) drive along the port, where amongst the shops on the sea front are the ticket offices, go directly to the third ticket office to buy a ticket for the "veloce" (fast) "traghetto" (ferry) that takes passengers, motorbikes and cars, the cost for each person was euro 8,80 and the small car was euro 31,40, you then turn your car around and drive back the way you came, you’ll see the signs to the "Traghetto" and port. The fast boat was rather disappointingly closed up...we could have saved that last dash to buy suntan lotion from the pharmacy. The boat is a lot nicer than I expected though, with it’s comfortable lounge chairs in the bar, which sells coffee and a small range of basic prepackaged snacks, or you can sit in the rows of airplane style seating for a better view. There are faster hydrofoils that take passengers only and these also go between the other islands all throughout the day as well. There are services between Cefalu and Palermo as well, the Palermo trip takes around 4 hours. If you don’t take a car with you and you’re traveling light, you can rent a small motor bike 50cc as soon as you disembark from the ferry.

24 August, 2006

Paris - Inspection Trip - by Jill

Well, the summer is almost over and I’ve been working on the new Paris site between trips down to Positano and up to Umbria. I’ve been very fortunate to have had help from my daughter Ava who is a confirmed Francophile at 18 years and thank goodness she speaks pretty good French, so she is accompanying me on this trip to help out and do all the talking, we even managed a trip up to Montmartre which was gorgeous and some very kind Australian tourists too this rather fab photo of us in this wonderful local cafe

Our project for this trip was to photograph all of the apartments for the site and eat well .... We were very lucky to be staying in the apartment Francs Bourgeois in the Marais, I mentioned in my last blog, you know the one with the famous blue walls and the incredible location - right opposite Muji - and a few steps from Chez Marianne. I forced Ava into sitting for a shot against those fabulous walls too, irresistable backdrop.

Not only is the interior of this property sensational, but also the common areas are incredible, each time I opened the heavy door from the street to enter the apartment, all passers by stopped to look in as even for Paris the courtyard is looked upon as something special. The courtyard is so wonderfully manicured and as we entered the entrance hall there was the strong perfume of beeswax from the wooden staircase and banisters, all quite magnificent!

We photographed all of the apartments in a few days, there are going to 12 apartments to begin with and we will add to this slowly just a we did with Italy-Accom, handpicking the apartments as we go, this is a great start though as the quality of the properties we saw was really superb, we have some cute little inexpensive studios, like St. Sauveur in the Montorguiel area and a specious 3 bedroom apartment just off the Champs Elysees called Bassano that I am sure would not disappoint even our most fussy clients in search of Luxury accom in Paris. All in all, I think we have a great cross section of sizes, there should be something to suit the needs for all of our clients, couples, families and groups traveling, so I look forward to getting back to Rome and launching the site at the end of September.

17 August, 2006

Positano - August Surprisingly Tranquil! - by Jill

This August as mentioned in my blog on Casa Sara, our family ended up in Positano for our summer break, this was not our fist choice as we normally try to find the most tranquil of places, however having teenage daughters the choice is no longer soley ours and if we are to actually get our girls to come with us, then we have to swing their way. So we reluctantly agreed to spend time in Positano to at least get us all together in one place. We were very surprised to find that half of the beach (back rows) were all empty, we could hire chairs in the front row each day, tables were easily organized in any restaurant we desired and apart from that tight squeeze in the town around the bottom of this hill (easily avoided) then it was truly a tranquil holiday,and could be about the only part of the coastline in Italy that could be described that way in August...

15 August, 2006

Positano - A Stay at Casa Sara

This August we had the great fortune to stay for our second time in Casa Sara in Positano. Our family has fond memories of our first stay back in June 05 and I think most of you will agree, when you repeat a holiday it doesn't always quite cut it the second time around - I am pleased to say that I now know for certain that I can repeat this experience as often as I can make it down to Positano - another perfect holiday in one of the world's most unique locations. Day one, I I actually didn't leave the apartment for the first 24 hours, I just stayed out on the terrace which overlooks the Spiaggia Grande, I could just make out my family who had somehow managed to snaffle front row seats at the beach, so I lay out on the sun lounger all day only getting up to use the convenient outdoor shower on the terrace when I got hot... and do a bit unfinished business using the adsl connection they have in Casa Sara. We ate in for a few nights and made use of the barbecue on the terrace and bought fresh fish at the bottom of the steps going down to the beach, those nights were sooo relaxing and our girls were satisfied to stay at home as there was the luxury of cable tv so we were all happy! Casa Sara is by far one of our family’s favorite holiday destinations in Italy and I highly recommend it to all…

03 June, 2006

PARIS-ACCOM - Coming in October - by Jill

After years of refining our product Italy-Accom, we're making the leap beyond the borders and beginning Paris-Accom, the first of many French accom sites ---- in our sights?

Many of our clients have been in touch over the years asking if we can arrange an apartment for them in other European cities, so its a natural progression for us to move ahead with this project, the first of many European projects.

We will be inspecting each property in Paris for quality, location and facilities, just as we do in Italy , including the famous bounce on the bed, to be sure you sleep well. This will just mean more traveling, which is job I am always willing to take on. Of course during these -- grueling -- inspection trips, there's always time for a wander along the Seine, bit of poster shopping and try out some of the local cuisine.

We have a wonderful, like minded collaborator in Paris and we've been viewing a bunch of apartments for the website this weekend, joy o joy, they are wonderful, and the buildings so magnificently maintained, this is going to be cinch to find quality accom.

We are staying in a super bright apartment called "Halles" which is just next to the Novatel on the edge of the Halles district, there are huge windows in all rooms and although only a one bedroom apartment, it has two modern bathrooms and is so spacious, we almost feel guilty for not having brought our Francophile teenage daughters with us to sleep on the large sofa bed in the living room, next time!

We fell in love with another apartment during the inspection tour, especially the color of the walls, Here's a pic of Leon testing out the Starck chairs to see if they were as comfortable as they are sylish...

Well, it's June now, so I guess we will be launching this site just after the summer, I will update the blog as I go..

20 April, 2006

Apartment vs Hotel - Why Choose an Apartment

When our family planned our last Easter holiday, there was the usual family debate deciding where we to go. Finally everybody voted on Nice; so, I commenced the process of pouring over many websites looking for an apartment, that might suit our family of four.

We were looking for a short-term apartment but after many hours of internet surfing, I just couldn't seem to find a website that could offer us the kind of apartment that we had in mind. After becoming frustrated with the lack of choice I decided to dump the whole apartment idea and book a hotel instead,confirming two rooms in a pretty cool looking hotel.
At the time of booking I had no doubts that this was the way to go.
Our two daughters aged 18 and 14 would enjoy the independence of their own room and we figured it could be a more relaxing way for us too, no food shopping or cooking or even tidying up..

We arrived in Nice and the hotel was as expected, modern, hip, with an impressive foyer; the location too seemed perfect, right between the old town of Nice and the modern shopping area, just one block from the beach.
We were all pleased until we were shown to our rooms - which although modern and nicely renovated, we were a little shocked to see the space we were to spend the next eight nights; although accurately described in square meters on the website - the rooms looked and "felt" very small and cramped.

The next morning we took off to explore Nice and immediately came across the daily fresh food market in the old town, when we saw the wonderful produce - strawberries, white asparagus, every kind of olive you can imagine, trestle table after trestle table offering the most delicious variety of fresh food and local specialities. we were both excited by this great variety and abundance of offerings and disappointed that we were going to miss out on sampling the wonderful local produce that Nice had to offer.

We also missed hanging out together as a family - as these short holidays are really the only time we spend long stretches of time together especially now that we have teenagers who are old enough to be independent. We walked on the beach in the mornings and would bump into our daughters mid morning - having to make a date with them late afternoon if we wanted to see them. Great for the first few days, but at the end of eight days we all missed the usual laughs and interaction in the kitchen or living room - the room to room telephoning was wearing thin and when we were all in one of the rooms together it was so tiny we could only bear 10 mins before taking off to our own space again.

The cost of hotel room service was another hitch, even for a cup of coffee in the morning, the price was totally over the top. Lunch and dinner out at restaurants every day, can become both tedious; clocking up around Euro 120 each evening for dinner wasn't much fun either. We were tired of "having to" go out every night, restaurants are wonderful when you're in the mood, but not much fun when you are forced to eat out for 24 meals on a row.

So looking back at our "hotel experience", a small room, a mini bar and not the kind of privacy or freedom that we are used to, made me think that I should have tried a little harder to find that "right apartment" - which would have been more of a home, even if only for eight nights.
We could have enjoyed more space, more amenities, sampled and cooked the local produce, which is a lot more fun and paid a lot less. The experience reminded us of why we chose to be in the business we are in and prompted us to begin exploring the idea of expanding into the south of France ... NICE-ACCOM coming soon !!

18 October, 2005

Venice - Luxury Apartments with Hotel Services - by Jill

Undoubtedly the most luxurious serviced apartment complex in Venice (and probably the only one!) We had the pleasure of staying there for the weekend in the apartment "Bucintoro", a two bedroom, 1 & half bath apartment on the fifth floor of this restored grain mill on the island of Giudecca. This apartment towers over Venice with the most beautiful views over Dorsoduro and the Giudecca canal. There are 8 apartments available of different sizes available for rental, but it's the daily services that I found unique for an Italian apartment complex, such as daily linen and towel change, daily cleaning and a fully stocked fridge of juice and water and breakfast items that is restocked daily is truly unique for Italy. The kitchens have quality appliances such as as espresso machines that allow you to make a capuccino for breakfast whilst watching boats on the canal in the morning, croissants can be heated up in the oven and sliced bread is left each day to toast. The view is out of this world, with luxury passenger liners, vaporettos and other small boats passing all throughout the day.

Venice - Gondoler ride for 50 cents - by Jill

A new discovery for me is Traghetto in Venice, I had always used the bridges when going from one side to the other of the Grand Canal - these - as anyone who has stayed in Venice will know can sometimes be quite out of the way, but a recent trip with a friend in tow for company taught me something so useful and fun. There are seven points on the grand canal - in between the bridges - with a Gondola service that takes you from one side to the other, they are mainly situated near Gondola service points, the cost is just 50 cents which you just hand to the charming Gondoliero who will hold his arm out to steady you as you get on and off, I found the whole experience absolutely gorgeous. If you catch the traghetto near to the Rialto market in the morning you will see the local women get on with their shopping bags who all stand up for the ride accross...

For more information on water buses, gondola rides and water taxis
>>click here

Venice - A Guide to the Eateries of Venice - by Jill

Finding a good restaurant in Venice for those not "in the know" can be a little tricky, however on a recent trip I discovered a small book - A Guide to the Eateries of Venice by Michela Scibilia, when I realised that my own few favorites were included I bought it in view of my next Venice trip, I am writing this on the train on my way home from that trip and have to say it was a wonderful guide which I kept with me at all times, Michela is a local Venetian who has placed all of her own favorite restaurants on a map on the front and back of the guide which allows you to find the closest hidden treasure whenever hunger strikes, I highly recommend finding a copy as soon as you hit Venice. She also has another book called - Venice Botteghe which is a guide to shopping in Venice including music, books, fabrics, carpets, masks... you name it, in addition, she maps out basics such as internet points, coin laundries, supermarkets and atm machines, equally as informative and a definite must have for anyone visiting Venice

13 October, 2005

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

This is possibly one of the laziest blogs to date. I sent out an email to my friends asking them to name 2 things they love about Rome. This is a run down of what I got back:

Via del Corso on Saturday afternoons

Superfluous use of sunglasses and the superfluous use of mindless over flirting
The dolci and the knitwear that, I can never afford.

The Pantheon and the Forum. Oh...can I add ice cream?

Love the colours of the buildings and the architecture and the cobbledy
streets and surprises round ever corner. Couples passionately throwing
their arms in the air when they are talking. Ice cream and pizza...all
the food is great. The men are fit too!! And the women! Motorinono's
bussing around, cell phones and good quality everything. And the
general warm feeling and no stress, not like London at all, it's just
generally beautiful, like you :)

The architecture, the weather, the position of the city, very close to the sea.

1) gelati!! gotta love it!
2) I love Rome by night esp on a Vespa!!
3) I love the fresh spring water that comes out of the taps opposite the Coliseum (really gets me in a city that there is totally clean and drinkable water from water pipes/ways built in roman times!)
4)the sound of the vespa!
5)shopping around the Spanish Steps
6) Trevi Fountain on a hot afternoon sitting in the shade with an ice cold beer!

Roman Men
The way that it seems there's a secret life of the town, hiding behind everyone's shutters...
A Saturday aperitivo
The style
History in its veins

Ummmm....that's hard
Walking in the old cobblestone streets at night listening to the echo of
voices, laughter and the italian language
The food!! mmmmm
The old romantic BW pics of Rome in the Hollywood era


The warmth that the colour of Rome exudes. I always think of the terracotta colours of the Piazza Navona. That always comes to my mind first for some reason when I think of Rome.The History and the architure. The fact that there is a statue of Caesar outside the Forum which is 800 years old....older than Australia's establishment.
The general Feel....it makes me think of summer. (probably because I was there in summer)
I could go on and on.....gelato after lunch, after dinner, after shopping, (such a treat)
The arrogance of the people (they know they can be arrogant because we will always keep going back, we love it no matter how annoying it was at the time.)

Love the food, love the people, love the shops, love the Vespa's,
love the buildings, the ruins, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the trees, the
views, even the beach. Mate so much. It's the hot summer in a t-shirt and
shorts and being in such an ancient city. Old and new mixed together.

Gucci and FENDI

The gay village and scooter traffic

I love Roma because it is so unique. I love the history that Roma has. No where else in the world can you
find the Colosseo, the Pope, Michelangelo art work etc, etc.
Everything exists in Roma.

No matter how bad the weather ,once you are in the centrale and on your way somewhere in Rome you are surrounded by history and beauty that you will never ever find in Greensborough or
Adelaide..... Ever!

Feel free to send me your favorite things: michael.nicolaci@italy-accom.com

06 July, 2005

Tuscany - Chianti,best food and wine - by Jill

Last weekend we had the good fortune of traveling to Tuscany to inspect one of our latest properties in the heart of Chianti - Rocca di Castagnoli. Possibly due to the fact that the Palio was on in Siena (only 30 minutes away) Chianti was a true paradise, hardly a soul to be found anywhere, and after a two week heatwave in Rome the signifcant drop in temperature in the countryside was a great relief. The point to this blog is that in a restaurant in Radda in Chianti, we found absolute perfection, its name - Chiasso dei Portici, Telephone 0577 739270, not only was the food ecceptional, the wine, the service and the ambiance in the beautiful garden terrace probably the best we've experienced in 5 years in Italy. Don't miss this restaurant if you're in the area. We also truly enjoyed the stay at Rocca di Castagnoli, a working vineyard that produces award winning wines (of which we sampled and purchased their chardonay and cab sav that were irresistable). The owners have recently renovated a medieval tower into rooms with ensuite bathrooms and the borgo (tiny town) into self catering apartments, they've done a great job, added a beautiful swimming pool and the prices are very very reasonable. This property has a level of privacy and tranquility not always found in this type of accommodation - highly recommended.

05 July, 2005

Tuscany - Still full of surprises, Castiglione della Pescaia - by Angelina

After 10 years of being a tour director throughout Italy and Sicily - I really thought I knew every nook and cranny of this country, so just imagine my surprise when I "stumbled" on an absolute jewel of a town last weekend!

We all know Tuscany is beautiful, no secret there. Its wine country is magnificent, its art cities (Lucca, Firenze, Siena, San Gimignano, to mention but a few) are amongst the most fascinating in the world and the richness of the food is only matched by the hospitality of the people. Most Europeans (namely Germans and the Dutch) will also tell you that the Tuscan coastline (Tirrenian Sea) is also very much worth visiting offering long white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. The most famous coastal destinations are the Island of Elba, Argentario (Porto S. Stefano & Porto Ercole) and Capalbio.

So where is the surprise?

Province of Grosseto, 220 km North of Rome and, 168km Southwest of Florence

This area of Tuscany is specifically known as the Maremma Area and is characterized by flat open spaces (at least compared to other areas of Tuscany know for "endless rolling hills") long horned cattle, and cowboys - lets just say the Wild West meets Italian beaches!

This medieval fortified town is perched on the side of a hill that casually stumbles into the sea. At the foot of the town soft, sandy beaches framed by magnificent Umbrella Pinetree groves lead you into each direction making the vision truly beautiful.

When strolling through the ancient streets, sooner or later you are bound to tackle the steep climb to the top from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Islands of Elba, Giglio and Montecristo. No need to worry though, there are plenty of Enoteche (Wine bars) and Trattorie to help you make the 15 minute walk very, very comfortable!

The town is at its best at sunset when everyone strolls in off the beach in search for a much needed 'Aperitivo' - an elegant Italian version of Happy Hour where drinks are served (at full price!!) accompanied by a buffet of cold and warm finger foods.

Overall I would say that it is a town for families and the 20-30 somethings crowd alike, as it offers a relaxing atmosphere by day and plenty of places to "see and be seen" at night!!

12 June, 2005

Little Things Mean A Lot - by Leon

Being fortunate enough to live in the absolute heart of Rome; any more central and our bed would be on the Spanish Steps; our office is located just five minutes on foot from our apartment - so sometimes when I indulge myself in the pleasure of taking that short walk as though it were the first time, I can momentarily forget that I had to wait ten minutes before the water in the shower turned hot this morning or that I lined up for an hour and a half in the post office yesterday to pay an electricity bill - because the girl behind the counter was answering her cell phone to argue with her boyfriend every five minutes.

Romans seem to have infinite patience - I guess it has to be from being around for so long.

Every one of these small hassles are worth it just to live in this magical disorganized and extraverted city; If New York is "the city that doesn't sleep" then Rome is the city that doesn't wake up until around 10:00am.

I make my way down the elegant cobblestoned Via Vittoria where no one is ever seen inside the upscale boutiques, as everything seems to be home delivered.

Via Vittorio is also the home of the Rome conservatorium, a magnificent and imposing building that could only be located in Rome; the heavy stoned facade is a colored mix of red and terracotta, perfectly faded over many years; something which could not possibly be imitated today; one of the many ancient buildings in Rome that are so surreal it is like being on a movie set.

I'm treated to the sounds of the early conservatorium students rehearsing a classical violin piece or the high vocal pitch of a Puccini opera that I vaguely recognize but can't name.

As I turn the corner into the famous Via Del Corso, where in just a few hours the street will be packed with old and young alike taking their lunchtime "passagiatta; attractive overtanned girls in six inch heels and large black sunglasses, some strolling slowly licking their a gelato as though it were the weekend even though it's only Wednesday.

Italians don't let a minute go by without their daily pleasures - no matter what the day of the week is.

Via Del Corso is definitely the best street in Rome for people watching - in fact it is more like "people on display" you can watch or participate.

Buy the outfit, make sure it's short and tight, get a tan that's three shades too dark, find a partner that also has a tight outfit and is overtanned and you've made it; you can now strut your stuff down Del Corso.

I close my eyes and smell the fresh coffee wafting out from the bars, almost knocking over the hurrying delivery boy whipping into a bar balancing a fresh batch of "cornettos" on a tray.

I smile to myself as the blonde traffic cop in full make up who looks more like a model in uniform with her long hair, blows her whistle at a Vespa driver zipping down a one way street, then shrugs as she is ignored.

As I take a left turn off Del Corso and reach the front door of the office in Via dei Greci I think to myself; with this constantly going in a spectacular backdrop almost 3000 years old, why would anyone even care if the little things don't always work.

I open the front door and the corridor is dark - I'm informed the electricity in the whole street just blew and won't be fixed until morning.

Oh well, back to Via Del Corso - tuff life.

10 June, 2005

Italy - Buying an Italian Sim Card - by Jill

Yesterday in the vodafone shop in Rome, my daughter and I came accross 3 lovely Australian girls, all first time travelers who were nervously checking their phrase books for the right words -- needless to say, they couldn't find the phrase "I'd like to buy an Italian sim card please". Lucky them -- they were in earshot of our conversation and detected our Aussie accents and asked for help. For all travelers in Italy, buying a sim card is a piece of cake, inexpensive and only takes a few minutes. You only need to show your passport and pay Euro 15, this will allow you to receive unlimited incoming calls on your new Italian number -- even when you're out of credit -- the sim card is already loaded with Euro 5 credit and you can recharge it in any tabacchi store or by walking into any vodafone shop. International SMS/text messages are 30 cents per message. On the way out of the shop - another couple asked me, are you Australian? Do you know how to get your messages from Telstra? -- for that I was no use at all ;)

Florence - A Very Small City - by Jill

On my monthly journey to Florence, I found myself right on the edge of the historic centre for my first apartment inspection -- I go to Florence each month and think I know it pretty well - however - on checking my map for the location of the second apartment I had to inspect I figured on a 20 minute walk, I was surprised after 5 mins to be half way there standing in front of the magnificent medieval Palazzo (see photo) in Piazza Santa Croce that houses some of our most luxurious apartments - on the map this appears to be a long walk, 5 minutes later I was at my appointment to see our latest (unbelievably beautiful) apartment [ apartment Lucrezia Donata ] that also appeared (on the map) to be slightly out of the way, however - in reality it's located in the heart of the historic centre -- and, as the owner proudly boasted, it even has a view of the Duomo from the "throne". So often in the office I hear the sales team trying to explain to clients that even though an apartment is not in Piazza Signoria, as long you are located in the historic centre you are perfectly located -- Florence really is a very small city.

01 June, 2005

Florence - Taxis from Santa Maria Novella Station - by Jill

I was in Florence today to inspect some new properties and am now definitely convinced that there are no signs directing you to the taxi stand. On my previous visits I have only ever discovered it by walking around the outskirts of the station until I found it, always arriving at the end of the very long queue -- so for anybody arriving by train in Florence in need of a taxi -- don't go to the exit to the left of the right, but go directly ahead through the ticket selling area and make a left at the road -- it appears that everybody getting off the train takes a taxi, so don't waste time!

27 May, 2005

Peace Be With You - by Michael

April 2005- St Peters- Announcement of the new Pope.

An impromptu stroll down to St Peters resulted in being caught up in what is possibly the world’s biggest news event of the year. At least for the holy folk that is.

It isn’t often that one gets to be a spectator at a historical religious moment.
I must admit I did feel like I was part of the studio audience at a strange religious game show. Journalists were quizzing the crowd on various topics, emotions were riding high and suspense was slashed across the faces of even the most serene nuns. The big question on everyone's lips was WHAT COLOR IS THE SMOKE AND WHO IS BEHIND THE RED CURTAIN?

Where else does one get to see all the worlds Cardinals in one place? The crowd was a sea of priests in their best black suits and nuns in their low key (dare I say drab) outfits.

The atmosphere was electric, similar to that of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was a media frenzy. I imagine that most countries had their own correspondent. Being Australian it was good to see Australia’s own Stan Grant up amongst them for CNN.

Of course in this country everyone has to have their input. A flock of nuns were engaged in harmonious group prayer, when an Italian women, fiercely protested “Oh why don’t you sing instead of pray? Sing for us sisters.. SING!” (Obviously this woman was a fan of the Whoopi Goldberg movie ,Sister Act)

Catholic Mike found all of this inspiring. He could feel the energy of the crowd congregated in one space to show their faith and love.
Catholic Mike admired these people for being so devoted to their beliefs. He was pleased to see so many young devotees scatted across the crowd

Everyday Mike tried to suppress his many thoughts. He discussed these thoughts with Catholic Mike:
“I know they are devoted and reject superficious things such as vanity but surely it wouldn’t be a sin to pluck those few stray hairs on the upper lip and eyebrow, and surely there is something basic they can wear that doesn’t have to make them look so......poor. Other thoughts included; “why do some of them have the glow of someone who is on anti depressants?” and
“That priest is absolutely handsome, are you sure he is a Priest? I mean I have never seen a Priest to be so buff”

Catholic Mike enjoyed the Swiss Sisters harmony of Gesu with the Mariah Carey- esque soloist (GeeeEEEESSsoooo GeeeEEESSssooo) So did Everyday Mike except he would have preferred the standard version instead of extended remix. He was also hoping to hear “Oh Happy Day” from the Sister Act soundtrack.

NB: Catholic Mike feels guilt for Everyday Mike’s thoughts, including this blog