Return to Glow: A Heartfelt Pilgrimage Through Italy

Our friend Chandi Wyant has written a wonderful chronicle of her solo pilgrimage along one of Italy’s most historic and spiritual paths. Her account is inspiring both for its personal insights and its deep love of Italy.


In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.


Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrims’ route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.


Here is an in-depth interview with Chandi on Italy Magazine’s web site

Purchase your copy of Return to Glow here

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Torre Fantini – great summer weeks still open!

For something really nice–and off the beaten path–check out Torre Fantini in Emilia Romagna. Walk into a charming village and enjoy Italy’s best kept culinary and wine-loving secrets. And for fans of Italian culture and history, this region is superb!

Prime weeks in June and July are still open.

Contact us for more details!



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Tuscan cooking lesson!

Do you like Tuscan cooking?  We thought so!

We are able to arrange a cooking lesson at a vineyard estate that produces wine and olive oil. Stefania is the owner along with her daughter, Irene.  They are delightful and have a small boutique where you can purchase wine and olive oil too.

Stefania and Susanna are the chefs who will conduct the lesson. Susanna speaks perfect English and, as a duo, they are fun and very instructive.  The lesson starts at 10:30am and lasts almost 2 hours. Then the lunch that you prepared is served with the estate wine and you are in 7th heaven.

You will learn how to prepare a couple of sauces, oven roasted vegetables, tagliatelle, ravioli and gnocchi nudi.  Gnocchi nudi does not have flour for our gluten free friends.

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Canonica – A Tuscan fantasy


Canonica is situated in a little village that dates back to the Middle Ages, 40 Km from Siena and 3 Km from Gaiole in Chianti, in an area filled with castles and magnificent vineyards: the birthplace of Chianti Classico wine. The village of Vertine still preserves its original buildings which are arranged around an internal ring of alleys and open spaces.  The consecrated church stands out as well as the donjon at the entry gate, next to which there is a pleasant and characteristic wine bar where it is also possible to enjoy a light launch or buy drinks.

Canonica, located next to the church, has been completely renovated whilst preserving its original features including the beamed ceilings and stunning frescoes on the walls. Distributed over two floors, it is filled with period furnishings.  The functional and elegant bathrooms are realized in Tuscan travertine. The first floor bedrooms have air conditioning, but there is no need for AC on the ground floor due to the very thick old walls.  The kitchen has a dishwasher, two refrigerators and many other accessories.  There is WI-FI internet connection throughout the house and a flat screen satellite TV. Outside there is a beautiful private garden with areas for relaxing, a terrace with table and chairs seating eight people for eating “al fresco” surrounded by views of the Chianti hills, and a convenient barbecue.

The garden also features a panoramic whirlpool swimming pool (5 x 3 m), with the possibility of heating the water. On request, guests can enjoy free use of the services at the Castello di Spaltenna, 3 Km away, such as the use of the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis court and wellness center.  They can also receive a discount at the restaurants located in the castle. Gaiole, 3 Km away, offers all the necessary services.  Canonica is also an excellent point of departure for food and wine itineraries.


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Last minute cancellation on Lake Como!

Contact us now about August 19-26 at Como Bianco on Lake Como!  This high season week is open now due to a last minute cancellation.



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Villa Curiano in the Crete Senese

Villa Curiano is located in the middle of a 400 hectare organic farm, delimited by a small, very ancient village. It is situated within the Crete Senesi, a very atmospheric landscape dominated by harsh, bare hills worn away over the centuries but which still have an indisputable charm, 18 Km from Siena and 5 from Monteroni d`Arbia. The villa is reached along a brief stretch of unpaved road; it is accessed inside the village which features a large car park and the secondary entrance.  The main entrance overlooks the large, fully fenced park. Following the recent renovation, the owners have managed to sensitively maximize the ancient architectural features, ensuring comfort and finishings that are suitable for modern requirements. The villa has air conditioning in all the bedrooms a except for the bedroom on the mezzanine floor, digital terrestrial television with Sky and DVD player, Wi-Fi connection all over the house and in the garden as far as the swimming pool. The kitchen is also very well equipped: 5 burner cooker, 2 refrigerators, juicer, microwave, toaster. The park contains a 6×13 m swimming pool with changing room and bathroom with shower, provided with a beach umbrella, deckchair and a 5 m sofa with cushions. Near the villa is an outdoor dining table seating 12 people and an aperitif area with beach umbrella. The daily cleaning service only covers the communal areas – kitchen, dining room and living rooms.  It is possible to book the preparation of supper with typical Tuscan cuisine to be paid for on site. From Villa Curiano it is possible to organize beautiful excursions around the towns of the Val d`Orcia, Montalcino 20 Km, Penza 35 Km, Buonconvento 9 Km.  There are many excellent restaurants throughout the area.

Check it out here!


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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
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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!
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.
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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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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


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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