An Unforgettable Family Reunion at Villa Vesta, Magnificent Estate near Rome

Last week we received a  lovely review about one of our favorite properties, Villa Vesta, that we would like to share. Because it can sleep 20 and has plenty of space, both  inside and out, to entertain a crowd, to relax, and especially to celebrate a major life time event, we often host small weddings and family reunions, there.

Villa Vesta Event

But this past summer, we hosted a two week event which took months of planning, as we helped with planning of events for every day, gala feasts, with beautiful multi-course meals loaded with favorite local specialities, from plentiful seafood to porchetta, and of course local fruits, vegetables, and cheeses.

Villa Vesta China
Villa Vesta’s cabinets of fine dishes

We organised tours for the  family that ranged from the very young to the elderly and frail in wheel chairs,  including the Vatican and the Colosseum by wheel-chair; vineyards by car and bike, special restaurants, a trip to Sora, and so much more.  Though it kept us busy, the response that we received made it all worth while.

Villa Vesta Entrance
Entrance to Villa Vesta

Villa Vesta Sitting Area
A Comfortable Seating Area Open to the Vast Garden

Villa Vesta Stairs
Entrance Hall

Villa Vesta Estate
Looking Out Over the Garden Estate

Rocco, who planned the event for his multi-generational group moved us beyond words, with the heartfelt narration of his family history. Read on;

“We will never forget the beauty, the staff, the food, the location and support provided by Adriana and the Commendable Rentals team which provided the backdrop for our Italian family reunion. My grandfather, Ernesto, was born in Sora, Italy in 1890. He left for America in 1906 to find a “better life”. Actually, he was leaving his abusive step-father whom he would watch abuse his mother. He left his mother and sister behind, vowing to return one day to bring them to America and to get away from the abuse at home. He did create a beautiful life in Rhode Island and he did return to collect his mother 4 years later. However, his sister married and stayed in Italy. In the over 100 years, Ernesto’s family grew to over 90 Italo-Americans. While in Italy, his sister, Christina’s family grew to almost the same size. As many of the “elders” in my family were in their 80’s, Athena, my beautiful partner and I decided to create a once-in–a-lifetime reunion. We needed lots of coordination, facilities that would accommodate 2 large receptions and a responsive staff. Right from the start, it was clear that Adriana and her team would be able to help. They were amazing. The house was better than the photos, the staff quickly became part of our family, the food was wonderful and beautiful memories were created as part of this very special trip. We brought over 20 family members from Rhode Island and about 30+ of our Italian cousins showed up for 2 separate catered events, with live music, tents, sit down meal service, bar, flowers, and translators it was beautiful. We sat outside around the pool in the beautiful private grounds of the villa. The elders, met their cousins for the first time. There were hugs, tears, laughter, dancing and true connection. Adriana, thank you…what a wonderful magical place! It was truly a once in a lifetime event. About 8 weeks after the reunion, Zia Anna, the matriarch of our Italian family passed away. She was honored at both family festas and was a beautiful woman. The last time I saw her, she was smiling, with tears in her eyes and she gave me a big hug thanking us for creating this special moment bringing the family of Christina and Ernesto together for the first time”

For families who want to reunite, there is no better place!

More about Villa Vesta


Commendable Activities around Provence (Part 2)

We continue our list of Commendable Activities around Provence, that was initially prepared as personal suggestions for close friends visiting us at Chez Vous in Uzès. We happily share our recommendations for all who will one day visit Provence or will travel to Provence again. There are so many things to see and do in Provence, that one trip certainly cannot capture it all. We continue to find new places, events, and changes in this fascinating region, and will continue to share these discoveries with you.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in case you missed it!

Avignon Piazza
Avignon Piazza from top of the Papal Palace

AVIGNON

Less than an hour from Uzès is the prominent city, Avignon, home of the Popes for 68 years in the 14th century. No visit to Provence is possible without a visit to Avignon, a special provençal town steeped in history. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once home to the Popes, which left the impressive Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace). Another iconic site is the Pont Saint-Bénézet, or Pont d’Avignon, a seemingly unfinished (rather, destroyed) bridge across the Rhône river.

Travel Tip: Two minutes from the Palais des Papes is the notable Michelin guide restaurant of Hôtel Mirande, with a beautiful courtyard area and marvelous dining.

Travel Tip 2: Just across the river from Avignon, is the fascinating town Villeneuve-les-Avignon. A medieval castle, which can be seen from Avignon, the Saint-André Fort occupies a strategic position at the top of Mount Andaon, above Villeneuve-les-Avignon, with its own panoramic view of Avignon. The castle is open to visitors.

Side Trip: ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE

About 30km east of Avignon, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for its many antique shops and hosts antique markets most Sundays. It has many waterside cafés and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Its many attractive water wheels throughout the town are still in working order.

Isle sur la Sorgue

Chateau de Beaucastel
Photo Credit: Chateau de Beaucastel

Side Trip:
CHATEAUNEUF-du-PAPE

18km north of Avignon, Chãteauneuf-du-Pape is a village and one of the most renowned AOC’s (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in the Rhône wine region. Mentioned in our recent recommendations of Provence Wineries, Chateau de Beaucastel at Châteauneuf-du-Pape is well worth a visit, with intriguing history tied closely to the papal presence in Avignon. Visits to Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only.


St. Remy Glanum mausoleum
Glanum mausoleum

ST. RÉMY-DE-PROVENCE

South of Avignon is a charming village with countless fine restaurants from casual to elegant, great boutiques, cafes, and markets, St. Rémy-de-Provence is a historic town steeped in local Provençal traditions. With narrow, cobbled streets, cooling fountains and shady squares, surrounded by magnificent landscapes, St. Remy is an artist’s haven, with one of the most notable painters, Vincent van Gogh, creating many of his famous paintings while institutionalized in St. Remy.

Travel Tip: This historic village is also built on one of the oldest archaeological sites in Europe. Amongst other treasures, you will find the remains of the “Comptoir de Glanum” just outside the center of Saint-Rèmy, an ancient city founded in the 3rd century BC and then passed into Roman hands under Julius Caesar. It fell along with the downfall of the Roman Empire, and was eventually abandoned for centuries. Excavations began in the 1920’s, preserving the ancient monuments that lay below.


Les Baux Castle
Les Baux Castle

LES BAUX-DE-PROVENCE

Just 10km south from St. Rémy is the Medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence, the legendary home of the Lords of Baux, who constructed their medieval castle on a site that dominates the area. Walking through the town’s narrow cobblestone streets will lead you up to the Chateau-Fortress, a large rocky space with ruins of the former castle, reproductions of ancient weapons of war, and a magnificent view of the countryside.

Travel Tip: Find yourself floating in art at the #1 ranked thing to do in Les Baux, at the Carrières de Lumières, a high technology multimedia performance in the ancient and giant caves that were quarried to build the town. The current exhibit features Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo, with past shows sometimes recurring as special events: Klimt and Vienna, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Chagall.. We highly recommend a visit! Note: The quarry remains very cool even in warmer outdoor weather, so bring a sweater.

Immerse yourself at the Carrières de Lumières – view this clip from our summer visit. Until next time..


Commendable Activities around Provence (Part 1)

As part-time residents in one of the most beautiful towns in the South of France, and with many years’ experience in leading friends and visitors on international adventures, we love to share with others all the things we have experienced and appreciate about our travels. There are so many choices of things to see and do when planning a trip to Provence! We recently compiled a list of recommended activities for close friends that were coming to visit, and thought it was a great list to share with those who may one day visit the region.Please enjoy these commendable activities around Provence from the base of our home, Chez Vous in Uzès.

*We’ve decided to split this post into multiple posts, starting from Uzès and moving outwards. Enjoy!

Uzès Markets 

The Uzès outdoor market is famed all over France. The larger and more diverse Provencal market is every Saturday morning, and sprawls throughout the town from the Place aux Herbes (Uzès’ main square), through alleys and neighboring streets. Don’t miss it for the best of French local produce, homemade jams, charcuterie, local tapenades, spices, cheeses, as well as a variety of goods, clothing, soaps, housewares, and much more. On Wednesdays, the market is more focused on produce and regional foods, with an array of colorful and fragrant fresh flowers. There is also a Sunday antique market which is exceptional.

Tip: The town tends to be crowded on market days, so allow extra time if you are driving out of the town on those days. For those staying at Chez Vous, it is a few minutes walk, which is great for buying fresh groceries or dropping off the treasures you’ll find.

Duchy of Uzes

Duchy of Uzès 

In the center of Uzès is one of the best preserved buildings in the town center, with much history attached spanning from the Feudal days. With traces left of various periods in which the castle was built, the Middle-Ages, Renaissance, 17th century, and modern times can be seen in the architecture. The family of the current Duke of Uzès has owned this impressive property for a thousand years, and parts of it can be visited with a guide, including the Tower, where you will have magnificent views over Uzès and the countryside.

Tip: Estimate half an hour to an hour for the whole tour, with time to take photos. Every year in July, there is a music festival in Uzès, with some of the concerts held at night in the courtyard of the Duchy.

Hiking in the Valley of the Eure

A cool respite for warmer days, head down into the valley from Uzès town center, for a splendid hike among shaded trails and along the river. The river takes you to the source of drinking water in Uzès, as well as the spring once used by ancient Romans to deliver water to Nîmes via the Pont du Gard aqueduct. An incredible hike, you will come across the remnants of the Roman aqueduct, abandoned buildings, and enjoy the pleasant natural surroundings with many wildlife throughout.

Tip: Estimate an hour for the circuit. There are many trails you can hike through the park and valley

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

An obvious follow-up to the Valley of the Eure, and one of the most visited monuments in France, is the Pont du Gard, 15 minutes from Uzès by car. A must-see, the Pont du Gard is the famed intact portion of a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct that once brought water from Uzès to the city of Nîmes, a distance of over 50 kilometers and over the River Gard. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and displays great genius by the ancient Romans.

Tip: Enhance your visit to this grand site by cycling through the countryside or renting a kayak or canoe for an exciting trip down the river!

St. Siffret

St. Siffret is a tiny and charming hill-side hamlet a few kilometres from Uzès. Many of the homes have been beautifully preserved, and carefully restored. There are a few small shops, a cafe, a bar, and a restaurant. It is a pleasure to stroll its historic streets and walk to its neighbouring villages. 10-15 minutes from Uzès by car.

St. Quentin La Poterie

As can be derived from its name, St. Quentin La Poterie has a heritage of pottery and craftsmen. With narrow streets and colorful Provencal homes and medieval doors, the village also has several workshops and stores catered to its crafts. 10-15 minutes northeast from Uzès by car.

To be continued..

Uzès, one of the most beautiful towns in Provence

 


Reacquainting with Rome

We just returned from 10 days in Rome. Although we lived there for many years, this city will never lose its appeal. Where else is it necessary to stop every 50 yards to admire an ancient building, a provocative statue, a scene from “La Dolce Vita”, a painting glimpsed through a window, a dramatically modern restaurant or any other of the myriad views that the city nonchalantly offers, as if observing 2500 years of civilisation is “normale”?

What other place on this globe has given so much culture, art and engineering to the world, not just once, with Ancient Rome, but twice, with Renaissance Rome too? Nothing can match the greatness that Rome has given to the world. Add a glorious climate, great food, wonderful wines, stupendous music, the warmth of the people, and Rome’s charms far exceed its drawbacks.

Of course there is a price to pay for all of this. There is so much history and architecture to preserve, that no city or even a country could possibly afford to maintain it all in pristine condition, let alone one managed like Rome and Italy are managed. So dilapidated monuments are everywhere, laughable “lawns” abound in the parks, and the traffic strives mightily to reach the heights attained by Naples’ inhabitants, but happily never quite attains that level of insanity. The governmental administration at various levels is questionable, and not averse to corruption.

The people, being naturally resistant to rules and regulation, are not averse to surviving in chaos. Within limits, this too becomes a perverse attraction as one thanks God that this unique gem is not run like Singapore or Zurich, but remains a vibrant and living museum to our shared human civilisation.

There is limited prospect that Italy will be “Great” again. These people were “Great” longer than any other civilisation. They’ve learned that being “Great” is not all it’s cut out to be, that there are more useful, pleasant and productive things to do than being “Great”. Just being in Rome is one of them.


Local Tips: 5 Recommended Provence Wineries

PROVENCE

Welcome to the largest wine-making area of France! Established 2,600 years ago by the Phoenicians, the vines of the area are an added  bonus to travel enjoyment. They incentivise a drive on the shores of Cassis, in the foothills of the Alpilles, on the slopes of the Sainte-Baume, and in the sands of the Camargue…. Get ready to enjoy: Côtes-de-Provence, Côtes-de-Provence Sainte-Victoire, Coteaux d’Aix En Provence, Palette, Baux-de-Provence, Cassis, IGP Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpilles

In rosé, it goes without saying that Provence is a star, but for its reds and whites excellence has been achieved and is on the rise. At the heart of these “terroirs” ( meaning literally from the soil of the land), independent winegrowers and cooperatives encourage epicureans to taste their wines, discover their trails and their charming chateaux and cellars and their local products. They also propose for your pleasure, jazz concerts, or a film in the heart of the vines, and often even an exhibition of contemporary art.  In short, do take advantage of an abundant offer of cultural pleasures, beyond the wine… while journeying the territory and inhaling the air of Provence the sea and the “garrigue”. A true experience, unique and exclusive to repeat again and again.

What follows is a very personal list of vineyards as the variety of wines in this region is simply overwhelming. These are producers whose wines we like and whose properties we like. We have not gone into detail about all of their wines, as that is the joy of your wine tourism.


Photo credit: Château de Beaucastel

CHATEAUNEUF-du-PAPE

* Château de Beaucastel
This is arguably one of the two best Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (the other being “Le Vieux Telegraphe”). It lies between Orange and Avignon.

  • In 1321, under the reign of Pope Jean XXII, four barrels were brought from the papal cellar to be filled with wine in Châteauneuf. Then, the Popes planted new vines and the legend of the papal wine began. We find the first evidence of Château de Beaucastel as it exists today in the sixteenth century. In 1549, Pierre de Beaucastel bought a « barn with a plot of land extending to “52 saumées at Coudoulet”. The manor house will be built then with the arms of Beaucastel sculpted on a stone wall of the drawing room.
  • In 1687, Pierre de Beaucastel was appointed « Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon » by Louis XIV, in recognition of his conversion to Catholicism. Louis XIV’s letter, also said by Colbert, is still visible at the Château.
  • The property is now owned by the Perrin Family who also own many vineyards through the Rhone Valley and are recognised as highly successful producers down to their their “la Vieille Ferme” wines, red, white and rosé, as daily drinking wines in the €5-€8 price range.
  • Château de Beaucastel is in the €55-€65 range.  

VISIT
Visits of Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only. Contact by e-mail to make an appointment.

CONTACT
Famille Perrin | Château de Beaucastel | Chemin de Beaucastel
84350 Courthezon
Tél. : +33 (0) 4 90 70 41 00
Fax : +33 (0) 4 90 70 41 19
E-mail:
contact@beaucastel.com
Site: http://www.beaucastel.com/en/

There are “Famille Perrin” shops in both Avignon and Aix.


BEAUME de VENISE

* Domaine de Durban
Some 20/25 minutes east of Châteauneuf du Pape is the small appellation, “Beaume de Venise”, that produces re Côtes de Rhone wines, and the lovely sweet white wines, “Muscat de Beaumes de Venise”.

  • Nearly two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History:
    “The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable”
  • In 1248, St. Louis took supplies of it with him on his 7th Crusade, and during the early 14th century, at the time of the reign of Pope Clement V, production was increased by 70 hectares to cater for the demand from the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. So there is considerable experience behind these wines that are priced at a fraction of Bordeaux’ famous Sauternes.
  • The Domaine de Durban is a small producer located on a hillside plateau overlooking the village of Beaumes-of-Venice, and was founded in 1159. The Domaine dominates the vineyard and offers an impressive panorama.
  • Since the Sixties, the Leydier family has nurtured and developed the production of the now internationally-renowned wines.

VISIT
As they are a small producer, it’s a good idea to call ahead to check if a visit is convenient. As they are tucked away on a hill, GPS may not be accurate.

There is a map on how to reach the vineyard on their website 

CONTACT
Leydier et Fils
Domaine de Durban,
84190 Beaumes-de-Venise
Tél. : 04 90 62 94 26
Fax : 04 90 65 01 85
Mail : contact@domainedurban.com

For further information, please fill out their contact form by clicking here.


CASSIS

* Domaine de Bagnol

Cassis, on the coast east of Marseille, deserves a visit in any circumstance. With a picturesque little port, it is within the famous “Les Calanques”, the glorious white cliffs and coves that stretch to Marseille.

Of equal interest are the lovely white wines of Cassis. The town can be very crowded in summer and cars are not permitted into the centre, so visitors are required to park and be bussed in.

However, access by car is still possible to the Domaine de Bagnol, which is just outside the centre of town.

  • The wine in Cassis is really a very long story! Archaeological excavations have dated its presence since Roman times and the texts of March 16, 1199 mentions vines that prove that wines was being produced in the Middle Ages.
  • The Domaine du Bagnol, which takes its name from the district where it is located, is one of the oldest in the country.
  • The modern history of the Domaine begins in 1997, when Jean-louis Genovesi bought it.
  • Since 2003, Sebastien his son, after specialized studies, has taken it over.
  • Today, the “Marquis de Fesques” cuvée is the spearhead. The motto of the Estate is to work in the most natural and organic way possible.

CONTACT
Domaine du Bagnol
12, avenue de Provence – 13260 Cassis
lebagnol@orange.fr
Tèl. : 04 42 01 78 05
Site : www.domainedubagnol.fr

 

Other excellent Cassis producers:

* Domaine du Paternel

* Clos Sainte Magdeleine


Photo credit: Château du Seuil

COTEAUX d’AIX-en-PROVENCE

* Château de Seuil
On the route of the Luberon, north of Aix-enProvence, the Château du Seuil is one of the most original architectural projects of the 13th-17th centuries in Aix-en-Provence.

  • Its French garden is classified on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List. It consists of a 55 hectare vineyard on the sunny slopes of the Trévaresse mountain chain, in the centre of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence designation. The estate has 280 hectares of woods which provide a natural setting for you to discover. A full range of red, white and rosé available.

VISIT
The wine-tasting cellar, open 7 days a week; from Monday to Friday – 9:00-12:30 and 2:00-6:00, and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays – 10:00-1:00 and 2:30-7:00.

CONTACT
4690 Route du Seuil, Puyricard, 13540 Aix-en-Provence
Tel: 04 42 92 15 99
www.chateauduseuil.fr/en/


ST.REMY

* Château Estoublon
This property, in the heart of Provence, up against the southern slopes of the Alpilles, carries with it the heritage and even some vestiges of a Roman patrimony. Halfway between Arles and Avignon, the estate of Estoublon and its 18th century castle is nestled in the sumptuous landscape that has often inspired painters and writers. The land of the Alpilles has offered Vincent Van Gogh its most beautiful models.

  • In this privileged environment, Château d’Estoublon has been passionately perpetuating since 1731 the tradition of olive oils and exquisite wines.
  • Château d’Estoublon was bought in 1999 by the Schneider family from Switzerland who have renovated everything with exquisite taste. The estate is managed by Valérie, daughter of Ernest Schneider, and her husband Rémy Reboul.
  • There is a restaurant on site, the Bistro Mogador, and a shop that sells the estate’s wines and olive oils.

VISIT
The bistro is open in June every day for lunch 7/7 and on Saturday evening. In July & August it is open every day for lunch, and from Monday to Saturday in the evenings. Closed on Sunday evening. There is a Grand Brunch every Sunday lunch and public holidays.

CONTACT
Château d’Estoublon
Route de Maussane – 13990 Fontvieille
Tél. : +33 (0)4 90 54 64 00
http://www.estoublon.com/

Cheers!

 

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