V et V is a "Best Villa Rental Agency" in Condé Nast Traveler!
It's an honor to be included in Condé Nast Traveler's list of BEST VILLA AGENCIES .
We're one of only 6 agencies listed for France.
This is not the first time we've been so recognized. It is always an honor. Visit our "In The Press".
Each year I send hundreds of clients overseas to spend their vacation in one of my personally selected vacation rentals. Since I started in 1992, I've sent evaluations to all clients and I'm proud to say 95% rate their stays as excellent or very good.
And now, after 25 years, I am even booking the children and grandchildren(!) of some of my original clients.
Since I work with my clients exclusively by email and phone, here's a picture of me on my most recent hike in Italy.
Earthquake in Italy
The 6.2 earthquake in Italy feels very personal to me. The epicenter was Norcia, and that is a charming small village that I visited in the past and fell in love with
I want to share my memories with you so you, too, can feel close to the tiny hilltop villages that were devastated.
Norcia is a tiny village 70k west of Spoleto tucked into a wide plane that is surrounded by mountains. It's a beautiful setting. My family visited Norcia the summer we attended the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. We took a day trip west because Norcia is famous for its cured meats. Located in the mountains there has been lots of hunting there and thus, the emphasis on cured meats as a local product. In fact, Norceria, in Italy is a story selling cured meats! So with such a meaning to its name, you can imagine that I never forgot this village.
The day we went, it was hot and we entered the village walking through the Roman gate and looked for a place to have lunch. There were tables and benches set up in gardens and we joined the many young Italian campers for a delicious local al fresco lunch. Then we headed to the stores and bought some of the local produce.
We even drove further west and further up to Castelluccio, a very tiny village at the end of the lovely Piano Grande, a big open high altitude meadow which was filled with wildflowers. I remember seeing only one man in the meadow, bending over, looking for mushrooms. The village was so very remote and isolated that there were myths about mystical events there in winter.
Amatrice, one of the hilltop villages which was devastated is just 20 minutes south of Norcia and I can imagine how beautiful it must have been. My heart goes out to its inhabitants and I am filled with sorrow.
The Promenade des Anglais in Nice and Me
Last I wrote, I was on my way to Italy to hike the Via Francigena. It was yet another memorable trek which I will talk about in a future blog post. But first, I want to write about Nice, the Promenade des Anglais and me.
Nice holds a special place in my heart. It was my first introduction to France. As a young 18 year old who had never been outside the US, I attended a summer program in Nice in 1966. My girlfriend Phyllis and I lived in one room just a block from the Promenade. Every day we walked to a bakery and discovered the joys of a butter croissant, a pastry that was not yet known back in Brooklyn. Every day our lunch was a baguette with butter and gruyère cheese, a classic French combination I had never previously tasted. And every afternoon, once our classes were over, Phyllis and I walked to the Promenade des Anglais and laid our straw mats down on the pebbled beach soaking up the French culture and the Riviera sun. We fell in love with Nice and I have adored it ever since.
On so many of my annual fall trips, I've flown into Nice and learned to appreciate it when it's grey and windy, when the retired folks stroll the promenade and when the population has been more diverse and more numerous. I know now it is more than just the Promenade des Anglais, There is a huge population of diverse people living and working in what is a large metropolitan area. But for me, it will always be the beautiful seaside promenade I loved as a girl.
It broke my heart to read of the carnage there. Fifty years ago, I stood under the very same fireworks set off to celebrate Bastille Day as did the students from the University of California, Berkeley who there in July and were among those injured and killed.
We are all French and we are all the victims. But we shouldn't give in to fear, and we should all continue to live our lives and enjoy our pleasures together with others in our beautiful world. I will.
Piedmont: A Wine-Producing Region to Explore
Tomorrow I leave for Italy to hike the Via Francigena, the medieval trail that goes from Canterbury to Rome. My husband, friends and I will hike a portion of it as we typically do, over a 2-week period. This year we'll hike from Lucca to Siena a shorter distance which will only take us 6 days. My husband has a professional meeting in Pavia in the north before we start our hike, so we've used this opportunity to explore a region that is new for us: Piedmont, or Piemonte.
Obviously when I return I'll have more to tell you about this, but for now I can say that we are basing ourselves in one of the little villages outside of Alba. This region has more DOC wines that any other in Italy! When most Americans think of Italian wine, the first one that comes to mind is typically Chianti and then perhaps Brunello, both wines that come from Tuscany. Or perhaps they even think of Prosecco, the sparking wine from the Veneto. But in Piemont, the Barolo and Barbaresco both made from the Nebbiolo grape are known as the King and Queen of wines.
So we are excited to learn more about the wines and to taste the food of the region.
As for the hike, here's hopeing I am in shape! Our longest day will be 15 miles and our shortest 6. We have our luggage transported daily and so only need to get ourselves up and down those charming Tuscan hills. Arriving in San Gimignano and Siena on foot will be very inspiring as both are places I have visited by car. Such an experience allows me to feel a kinship with generations before me.
I'm Leaving for Italy Soon
In two weeks I will be flying to Italy. Although I travel internationally regularly, the recent explosions in Brussels have made me more aware of the dangers that stalk us in these newly brutal times.
Somehow the fact that it occurred in or near the security check line at the airport, has brought this risk closer to mind. But it won't stop me. I have looked up the tips on State Dept. website and have incorporated them into my plans. Best to be prepared.
I now have a list of important phone numbers to call in Italy in case of a disaster: the US embassy and how to call the police. And, as I always do, I have sent an itinerary to my family who will be in the US. Seems some family members of those who were injured or killed didn't know where their loved ones were supposed to be that day.
And in two weeks, I'll be off. This year we are continuing our hike on the Via Francigena. We will hike from Lucca to Siena. This is an area I know well, by car. So it will be fun to hike it on a medieval trail and to enter those famous villages on foot as thousands did starting in the 10th century.
We will walk through San Gimignano, Monteriggioni,Gambassi Terme and San Miniato among others. And we'll stay in one monastery, in several small agriturismos, and even in a beautiful small hotel. We will hike from 8 to 15 miles a day and as before have our bags transported daily.
Why I'm Hiking the Via Francigena in Italy
The Via Francigena is a medieval trail that originally went from Canterbury in England through France into Italy ending in Rome. Have you heard of it? I hadn't until recently.
Readers may remember that I hiked the Chemin de Compostelle (the French portion of the "Camino")a total of 763 km in two-week increments over 4 years! We were a group of 4: my husband, two great friends and I. We walked from Le Puy-en-Velay(famous for its lentils) to St. Jean Pied de Port(at the foot of the Pyrenées) and then into Spain at Roncevaux(with its beautiful monastery). Of course, the Camino, the famous Spanish portion, then called to us. So in 2014, we hiked the end portion only of the Camino from Pontferrada to Santiago, a total of 200km.
After completing that, we wondered where to go next. Going back and doing the beginning of the Camino, seemed anticlimactic. So we remembered that over the years, especially in France, we had met so many people who had hiked a variety of medieval trails. Like them, we had fallen in love with the concept: explore Europe on foot, meet local people, become a part of history. So we thought of Italy and learned that the Italians were promoting their pilgrimage trail.
Last year we hiked from Fidenza (south of Milan), over the Apennines, briefly into Liguria, then through northern Tuscany ending in Lucca. We are now in love with the Via Francigena. The route is well marked, although we hardly passed any other pilgrims during our 12 days last year. Just one hardy Frenchman with whom we hiked for 2 wonderful days! That said, we didn't mind the quiet after the many many pilgrims we hiked with in Spain. But that won't last; interest is clearly growing. Even if you drive near the VF in northern Tuscany, you will see signs marking the route. This did not exist 10 years ago!
So come April, our group of 4 California pilgrims is all set to hike from Lucca to Siena. It is exciting to think of hiking through such famous villages as San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. I'll tell more in subsequent blog posts.
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