Late Booking Offers in Bellagio!


For all bookings confirmed 30 days or less prior to travel at two of our Lake Como properties, we are offering a complimentary wine tasting.

Guests will be invited to an atmospheric local Enoteca in central Bellagio to sample some of the best Italian wines. The 18th century wine bar is full of character with beautiful arched doorways and original stone walls.  Wine tastings are all accompanied by a selection of cold cuts, salami, olives and cheese.

This promotion is valid only for 2013 bookings, and only for the following properties:

Villa dei Sogni, a four bedroom villa on a hillside, just outside Bellagio, with wonderful lake views.

Villa San Giovanni, a beautiful property situated in the charming small hamlet of San Giovanni, with local boat service to Bellagio.

There’s still time to catch the Easter markets in Prague!

The Prague Easter markets taking place at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, run from 16th March – 7th April, so there is still time to visit Prague for a few days to experience this lively and colourful annual Czech festivity.

For shoppers, the two squares are filled with authentic wooden stalls selling local handcrafted goods, such as glassware, jewellery, candles, wooden toys and beautifully made puppets and dolls. You can also watch traditional food being made, and sample local delicacies such as ‘Trdelnik’ (hot pastries), or tasty barbecued sausages or ham roasted on a spit – all to be washed down with Czech beer, or a hot drink, such as mulled wine. Stages have been erected so guests can also be treated to folk music and dancers in traditional costume.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the markets are the brightly coloured, hand-painted Easter eggs, which can be personalized for visitors with a name or special message. For children, there is a special cabin with children’s workshops with Easter themed activities, including painting eggs and flower pots.

We have a charming 3 bedroom apartment still available for the dates 1st – 5 April, which we are offering at a special price of €340 per night (3 nights’ minimum stay). It is on the top floor of a Rococo palace, dating back to 1786, and recently renovated throughout. It is in a superb location, just steps from the Church of St. Nicholas on the Little Quarter Square in the heart of historic Prague and a few minutes from Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and other prominent historic sights.

Lo Scoppio del Carro, Easter Sunday, Florence

We were lucky enough to stay in an apartment in Florence a few years ago, overlooking the Piazza del Duomo, little realizing at the time that we would have one of the best views of the most important festivity taking place there on Easter Sunday. Lo Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart) is a religious tradition dating back over 500 years. It consists of a tall antique cart, laden with fireworks being pulled from the Porta al Prato, through the streets by  two white oxen, decorated with garlands of flowers, into the small square between the Baptistry and the Duomo.  They are accompanied by a colourful procession of musicians, flag throwers and people in historical costumes, as well as various city dignitaries.

The tradition has roots dating back to the First Crusade in 1099, when a young Florentine, Pazzini, was the first to scale the wall of Jerusalem and raise the Christian flag.  He received a gift of three flints from the Holy Sepulchre, which he brought back to Florence, and which are kept in the Church of Santi Apostoli.

Inside the Duomo, during Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence, lights (with the historic flints) a rocket shaped like a dove, symbolising the Holy Spirit.  The rocket/dove travels along a wire through the church to ignite the cart outside. The impressive fireworks display generally lasts about 20 minutes and a successful “Explosion of the Cart” is supposed to guarantee a good harvest for the year, as well as good luck to the city and its citizens.

Where to Stay (with Duomo Views):

Via Martelli Penthouse

Recommended Restaurants

Enoteca Coquinarius (close to Piazza del Duomo)

Character-filled trattoria, serving delicious crostini and hearty salads. Great for lunches.

Trattoria Baldovino, Piazza Santa Croce

Reliable Tuscan menu, including delicious pasta, pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven and perennial Tuscan favourites such as bistecca all Fiorentina.

Trattoria 4 Leoni

One of our all time favourites, situated in the Oltrarno, close to the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.  A welcoming, friendly service and delicious food – equally good for a group of friends or a romantic dinner for two.  Recommended to book for evenings as always popular.

Cooking Courses in Venice at your Rental Apartment

Venetian cuisine is based on very different delicate flavors which find their roots in the history and geography of this beautiful region. There are 4 main ingredients in Venetian cuisine: rice, polenta, fish and beans.

Rice is cooked in Veneto in forty different ways, risotto is the main one: rice comes from the Arab region, with which the Republic of Venice was in close commercial contacts and it started to being grown from 1500 onwards in the plains of Verona, where it is still produced today, with the Vialone nano variety, a particular delicate type of risotto rice. Beans began to spread simultaneously with maize. Polenta, which is one of the four cornerstones of Venetian cuisine is prepared by starting from maize flour, a plant that has come in the Republic of Venice in 1500s.

The cod or stock-fish, has its origin from the northern seas and today is a main ingredient in Venetian cuisine, as an aperitif, first dish, second course, accompanied by sauces, creams or even polenta.

The only pasta really typical of this region, is represented by bigoli, which are a kind of thick spaghetti prepared with the use of a special press, operated by hand. The surface of bigoli is particularly rough and suitable to retain sauces

The fact that Venice was a major maritime republic, explains the spread of spices, widely used in cooking and in the past also instrumental in the preservation of food: pepper and cinnamon, but also cloves and raisins are an integral part of many dishes, in all the provinces of the region.

So immerse yourself in the traditional food culture of Venice, and discover the age-old ways of preparing real home Venetian cooking with a private lesson in your own apartment. Intimate in-home cooking classes allow you and your friends to learn to cook the foods you love in a relaxing environment. Hands-on cooking classes in your rental apartments are fun and interactive, ideal for celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Add to your knowledge and enjoyment by visiting the local Rialto market purchasing the products that we will use in our lesson.

You will learn age-old ways of preparing simple family meals. After the lesson, you will sit down to enjoy the labour of your work and have a meal with Arianna and Monica. Arianna and Monica are two Italian cooks, passionate about their local dishes and both learned to cook from their mother and grandmother. Their home-cooking approach and tips on how to use fresh and healthy produce will have you cooking these recipes again and again when you get home. We will help you choose your traditional seasonal Venetian menu. The cooking lesson begins at 9am, Classes run about 3 hours and are centered around the preparation of a complete meal which you will be able to eat at the end of the lesson.

Typically Arianna and Monica will meet you in Rialto at 9am, they will help you pick the ingredients needed for the lesson. Cook In Venice will bring all the tools and equipment needed for the chosen menu. You simply supply the kitchen and dining area, plates, glasses and cutlery. Classes can be held in any rental apartment in Venice. As long as there’s room for a cutting board for each person in attendance (in the kitchen or on the dining room table), you can comfortably learn to cook in your home kitchen.

Menus are designed according to seasonal ingredients. All menus are customized to suit the tastes and skill level of your group. All our prices include all the food and drinks, hands-on cooking, service and recipe booklets.

Monica Cesarato