From a Rooftop Dinner with Private Chef, to Découpage Classes – some special extras available at these superb Rome Apartments

The two very special apartments we have to rent in Via Palermo, in the trendy, character-filled area of Monti, are right in the heart of historic Rome, less than 10 minutes walk from the Colosseum.  Monti, with its picturesque cobbled streets, has no shortage of great restaurants, cafes and boutiques to explore, and is one of our favourite ‘quartieri’ to stay in Rome. 

Guests here can experience the atmosphere of a grand 17th century Roman Palazzo, complete with magnificent hand-painted 15th century ceilings and original terracotta floors as well as important works of art hanging in each room.  A private terrace extends over the entire rooftop of the building, and has three different sitting areas, an outdoor kitchen, and two large dining areas with enormous palm trees and exotic plants dividing the different areas. There are also views from here over some of Rome’s most famous sights.  Each apartment has three bedrooms, with the possibility of a fourth bedroom being included with Via Palermo 2, which has direct roof terrace access.

The generous welcome at these apartments includes a basket of fine wine, Prosecco, and other special Italian treats. Moreover, some tempting extra indulgences can be arranged on request.  These include the talents of a Roman chef to organize a delicious dinner ‘al fresco’ on the roof for guests (both small and large groups), and/or an expert in Roman architecture who offers specialized tours of the lesser known areas of RomeThe tours can be anything from a half day to every day during your stay.

Those with culinary interests, will surely be tempted by a morning with a chef at the Campo di Fiori food market, shopping for produce, and then back to the apartment to prepare the food, and then enjoy together with the chef.  The apartment manager is also a découpage expert, and runs classes in Rome. Her 3 – 5 day courses takes students through the history of découpage, to the practical hands-on process of creating your own work of art.  Classes can be tailored  to a particular group or theme.

Via Palermo 2 is currently available until the end of September, and Via Palermo 1 has a few shorter dates left – check with us for details!

The Musée de Montmartre

On a recent trip to Paris, we rediscovered Montmartre, which I hadn’t visited for many years, and we were also lucky enough to stumble upon an exhibition called ‘Picasso in Montmartre. The Comic Book “Pablo” by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie’, which is on at the Musée de Montmartre until the end of August.  Shown mainly as cartoon boards, the exhibition is spread right throughout the museum and interspersed with the permanent works on show.  By the use of cartoon drawings, the stories depict not only Picasso and Fernando Olivier, with whom he was having a relationship at this time, but also other famous artists living and working in Montmartre in the early 1900s.

The museum itself is charming, and very much has the feel of wandering through someone’s home and seeing an eclectic collection of various works of art and memorabilia .  The paintings, photographs, posters, models, shadow paintings and manuscripts depict the fascinating history of Montmartre and, among the works are Steinlen’s ‘Le Cabaret du Chat Noir’,  Toulouse-Lautrec’s ‘Bruant au Mirliton’  and ‘Le Moulin Rouge’, Maurice Utrillo’s ‘La Place Pigalle’ and Suzanne Valadon’s  ‘L’Autoportrait’.  There are also silhouettes from the  Shadow Theatre, a scale model of the village of Montmartre, and an entire room featuring French Cancan including a video showing excerpts from Jean Renoir’s famous film.

 The museum is surrounded by three gardens dedicated to Auguste Renoir, where he painted such masterpieces as ‘La Balançoire’ and ‘Torse, Effet de Soleil’. There are views over the Clos Montmartre vineyard, the only vineyard in Paris still producing wine, which has existed since the Middle Ages.  A woodland area was gated off while we were there, with a sign saying ‘Cats only allowed’ – we did see a black cat  in the garden, with more than a passing resemblance to Steinlen’s Le Chat Noir!  Moreover, he is called  Salis after Rudolphe Salis, the eccentric creator and host of the original cabaret, Le Chat Noir in  1881, at 84, boulevard de Rochechouart, just below Montmartre.

Don’t leave the area without visiting the famous Bateau Lavoir, close by at 13 Place Emile-Goudeau, which housed Picasso’s studio, as well as being a meeting place for other artists and writers, including Matisse, Braque, Derain, Dufy, Modigliani, Utrillo and Gertrude Stein. Biographies of these artists will undoubtedly reveal stories of the bohemian lifestyle at Bateau Lavoir, including an occasion when Amedeo Modigliani destroyed a number of his friends’ paintings while in an alcoholic rage!   While living here, Picasso painted one of his most famous works, ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’.

The Musée de Montmartre is located at 8-14 rue Cortot in the 18th arr., and is housed in two buildings, the Hotel Demarne and the Maison du Bel Air. The Hotel Demarne is currently being renovated,  and will be open to the public in October 2014. The exhibition “The Spirit of Montmartre and the Modern Art (1875 – 1910)” will inaugurate the new space. Suzanne Valadon’s studio, where she lived with her son, Maurice Utrillo, and her partner André Utter, is also being restored and will open in October this year.

A Treat for Italian Wine Lovers this Autumn

For those who fancy a wine tour in Umbria and Southern Tuscany this autumn, with visits to wineries in full swing making the new 2014 vintage, we are recommending you try Chateau Wine Tours.  With an established programme of tours to the Bordeaux and Champagne regions in France, the company is also repeating its popular Umbrian and Southern Tuscan wine tour from 6th to 10th October and, if you hurry, there are still places available!

The accommodation will be in a a 5 star Luxury Boutique Hotel in Torgiano, Umbria, one of the first in the world to boast a ‘Wine Spa’, offering a range of relaxing treatments and therapies involving wine and vine products.  So you will not only be able to enjoy drinking the local wine, but also have a ‘grape’ massage. Sounds interesting?

Included in the price is breakfast each morning, a 4-course gourmet dinner with wine (of course!), lunches on days 2, 3 and 4, all wine tastings, and tuition on the wines and wine making, and the service of a wine expert throughout the tour.  Although with a serious learning element, the tour is very much aimed at the ‘social wine enthusiast’, those who enjoy wine and want to learn more, and in a fun and relaxed environment.

And, if the wine spa treatments aren’t enough, you can also relax in the hotel’s  large outdoor swimming pool and enjoy the spectacular views.

5 Things To Do This Summer In Barcelona

If you are plotting a little getaway to lovely Barcelona then you may be interested to know that the summer agenda in this vibrant city is jam-packed full of exciting things to do. Hold your plans for a trip to the beach and take a look at what’s on offer in the Catalan capital over July and August this 2014.

Barcelona Night Bus Tour

The Barcelona Night Bus (Barcelona Bus Turistic de Nit) takes fortunate passengers on a magical tour of some of the city’s most iconic monuments, lit up in all their night time glory, during the warm summer evenings in Barcelona. Featuring on the itinerary is the beautiful Magic Fountain of Montjuic, the Sagrada Familia Basilica, Casa Batlló and Agbar Tower, amongst others. Tours are available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The bus departs at 9:30 p.m. from Plaça Catalunya and the journey lasts approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. Tickets cost €19 for adults, €10 for children from 4 to 12 years and all tour staff speak English, Spanish and Catalan. The service will be available up until the 14th of September 2014.

Barcelona Grec Festival

Barcelona’s Grec Festival comprises an annual summer music, dance, circus and theatre festival. It features a huge programme of performances from internationally renowned artists in some of the most popular venues across the city. Its name is lent from the main festival venue, the Teatre Grec (Greek Theatre), which comprises an open-air theatre located on Montjuic Hill. Tickets are available for purchase now up until the 31st of July and further information on the many performances is available on the official website.

Música In the Parks 2014

Now in its 19th year, Music in the Parks (Música als Parcs) comprises an annual free summer event featuring a series of outdoor music concerts held in some of the most beautiful parks and gardens in Barcelona. This year, visitors and locals alike can enjoy a combination of classical and jazz music from a variety of performers, including the local Banda Municipal de Barcelona (Barcelona Municipal Band), right up until the 28th of August. Aside from the Banda Municipal who kick off their performances at 8pm, all the concerts start at 9pm in the evening (please check the timetable for further details). It’s free and no booking is required so we recommend that you get there early to grab a nice spot on the grass!

Open Air Cinema At Montjuic Castle

Open Air Cinema At Montjuic Castle (Sala Montjuic Barcelona) comprises an outdoor cinema festival held in the lovely moat gardens surrounding Montjuic Castle. Three films, ranging from popular to classic, are screened every week on varying dates (you’ll have to check the programme). Prior to each film there is live music and sometimes a short film. The bus 150, leaving from Plaça Espanya at 8:30pm, will take you to Montjuic Castle and return when the film has finished. Alternatively, viewers can opt for the more scenic route with the funicular train from Parallel or the Barcelona cable car from the Barceloneta. Please note that the cable car service is not available for the return journey. Of course, you can take your car but may have to get there early to make sure you get a spot. Finally, tickets cost €6 euros and you can rent a deck chair for €3 (highly advised!).

Gracia Festival

Finally, taking place from Friday the 15th to Thursday the 21st of August 2014, is the anxiously-awaited Gracia Festival (Festa Major de Gracia). It comprises the biggest street festival in Barcelona and features hundreds of activities including music concerts, parades, fire runs, the famous castellers (human towers), street markets and much more. Every neighbourhood hosts their own summer festival however, the Gracia Festival is by far the best for the huge and varied programme on offer. Finally, every year around 17 streets in the Gracia district are beautifully decorated by the residents which are well worth a visit in themselves. The festivities will take place up until 2 a.m. on weekdays and approximately 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

These are just some of the many exciting activities on offer in the charming and vibrant city of Barcelona. For further ideas, take a look at Barcelona Yellow featuring some great ideas on how to spend your time in the Catalan Catalan this summer. Enjoy!

Blog by Maria Allen

August City Apartment Availability!

If you haven’t yet planned your summer holiday break, we still have an enticing selection of apartments available for dates in August. Here are some examples:

 PALAIS ROYAL GARDENS, Paris – Sleeps 6

This truly stunning, newly renovated, 3 bedroom apartment is situated in the heart of central Paris, directly overlooking the beautiful gardens of historic Palais Royal, and a short walk across the gardens from the Louvre Museum. The Seine, Blvd. St. Germain, place de la Concorde, Tuilerie Gardens and Place Vendome are all within easy walking distance.
Available 15th – 28th August

SIGNORIA PALAZZO, Florence – Sleeps 10-11

A recently restored, luxury five bedroom apartment within a historical family-owned Palazzo, right in the heart of Florence, just a few steps from Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio. From this location, all of Florence’s beautiful sights are just a short walk away.
Available 5th – 27th August

DRAYTON GARDENS, London – Sleeps 4

This impressive apartment is located on the second floor (with lift) of a grand building situated between South Kensington and Chelsea. The flat is peacefully set at the back of the building, overlooking quiet Harley Gardens and a pretty mews. Many of the famous city sights, including the Natural History museum, the Albert Hall, Hyde Park and the Saatchi Gallery are all within an easy walk.
Available 16th August – 2nd September


RUE DU ROI DE SICILE, Paris – Sleeps 4

An elegant and stylish apartment situated in the most central and charming part of the historic Marais district, just off a restaurant filled pedestrian square. The neighbourhood has a delightful village-like atmosphere, with a rich and lively street life, with: café terraces, a local open street market, shops, monuments and galleries, and the elegant Place des Vosges, just a short stroll away.
Available 27th July – 3rd September

APARTMENT ZITELLE – Venice – sleeps 4 – 6

This contemporary and luxurious apartment is situated on the delightful Gudecca Island, a tranquil haven to be based during the hottest months of the year, yet convenient for exploring all that Venice has to offer.  Piazza San Marco is just 10 minutes away from Vaporetto. This island is home to two of the most famous churches in Venice, and offers plenty of charming restaurants and cafés. At a short walking distance you will find everything you will require, including a well stocked supermarket and a superb fishmonger.  A delightful furnished terrace has stunning views over Canale della Giudecca and  dome of Santa Maria della Salute Church, and there is also a landing dock for arrivals by water taxi.

Available 25thJuly – 11th August and 16th – 31st August

CARRER DE VALENCIA 3 – Barcelona – sleeps  5

This contemporary 3 bedroom apartment is located in the traditional residential area of the Eixample district. It is just a stone´s throw from Passieg de Gracia, the most emblematic street of Barcelona, just a short walk from the famous Las Ramblas, and other areas of central Barcelona.  The white painted interiors are very light, with a wonderful feeling of space. The large living room opens to a delightful private furnished terrace.

Available 29th July until 31st August

RUE DU CHERCHE MIDI 3 – Paris – sleeps 4 – 6

A modern and spacious 2 bedroom apartment in the desirable Rue du Cherche Midi, with its rich diversity of shops, restaurants, bakeries and cafes.  It is also temptingly close to the Bon Marché department store with its gourmet grocery store (La Grande Epicerie).   The apartment is situated on the first floor of a completely refurbished building, dating from the 1820′s, and accessed by a modern lift. The view out over a very pretty garden (with church and dome just behind the garden) makes this a very peaceful setting in the heart of the city.

Available 3rd – 15th August