How to enjoy Berlin in the Heart of Winter

Though the German capital might not be your first idea for a winter getaway, it is actually magic under the snow and culturally exciting during the winter months, with film, dance and food festivals, Bauhaus celebrations, and even a fashion week! Here is a list of must-sees and dos in the German capital currently.

Photo: Berlin Partner GmbH/FTB-Werbefotografie

Berlin is today a young and active international city, offering lively nightlife, many cafés, clubs, bars, street art, numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest, and the month of February is particularly sweet for art lovers: from Feb 7th to Feb 11th is held the Berlin Independent Film Festival, which offers plenty of screening and business opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers. The exciting programme of films, workshops and networking events combines the commitment to indie filmmaking ideals with a solid understanding of their potential in the marketplace. All films are screened at the Babylon Cinema in Berlin-Mitte and are in English or with English subtitles. Extra tip: this movie theatre offers midnight movies every Saturday, with a live music orchestra!

Photo: DPA

Held around the same time – Feb 7th to Feb 17th, the Berlinale is the city’s most glamourous event. With more than 400 films shown it attracts the elite of the film industry as well as the largest audience of any film festival in the world. But the festival has much more to offer than just the screening of films. For two weeks, workshops, panel discussions and joint projects encourage collaboration between all the participants. And at the exclusive Berlinale parties, people, art, glamour and business meet.

Dance is also promoted: each year young people aged between 10 and 21 from around the world meet in Berlin to share their love for dancing at the Tanzolymp, a dance event with workshops, seminars and competitions. The main aim of the festival is to support and increase the popularity of dancing, and also provides insight into the variety of dance aesthetics and artistic styles. Another festival, The Days of Dance or Tanztage, is a contemporary dance festival focusing on the discovery and support of up-and-coming choreographers and dancers based in Berlin.

 

Design and architecture are not left out, since 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus design school. For the centenary, many galleries, museums and other institutions in Berlin make the ideas of the Bauhaus visible and tangible, such as “Bauhaus – Modernism around the globe” at Willy Brandt Haus (16 January – 14 March 2019), which exhibits the works of photographer Jean Molitor, who has traced Bauhaus architecture all over the world for over 10 years. He found it not only in Berlin but also in Saint Petersburg, Havana, Casablanca und Guatemala City. The city and its periphery offer a lot of examples of this very recognizable architectural style, especially the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008.

To enjoy all these festivities to the fullest, Commendable Rentals has selected three extremely elegant apartments, perfect for families traveling together but also great for business travel. Located in the same chic building on Winterfeldstrasse in the Schöneberg area, you can choose the 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom apartment, depending on who you travel with!

The rooms are spacious and very tasteful, with lots of light, deliciously comfortable bedding and fully equipped marble and mosaic bathrooms as well as state of the art kitchens in each property. These apartments are perfect for those who crave space and comfort, in an excellent, central location, next to Potsdamer Platz. The building itself dates back to 1900 and has been lovingly restored to its former glory. It is within walking distance to a great variety of bars, restaurants and shopping, where you can experience the best of this dynamic city. Commendable Berlin offers both the comfort and ease of a hotel and the familiar feeling and facilities of the best home away from home.


How and where to plan a multigenerational travel in Tuscany

A family trip to Tuscany is always a good idea. That is the conclusion we came to during our family Christmas dinner last December. As part of a very extended and scattered family, it is always a struggle to be able to see everybody throughout the year. So we all decided that 2019 was going to be the summer when we would all meet halfway, and where better than Italy, where the sun shines from April to late October and activities are as diverse as the landscapes. Besides the obvious -the beach, the country, the food, the people- Tuscany is in our opinion one of the best places to comfortably travel with a crowd, as large villas are plentiful; it involves some mandatory logistics and planning if you want everyone to remember this trip positively as an unforgettable experience. Here are some tips for arranging successful multigenerational Tuscany trips.

Should you want a countryside vacation, protected from the hustle and bustle of touristy cities, Pitigliano is your best option: our ancient, former convent Il Convento makes a perfect holiday seeing and will welcome you and 10 other family members. It is just a 15min drive away from this incredible town. Located in the south of Tuscany, Pitigliano is unquestionably one of the most beautiful, charming and interesting towns in the area. Its rich history goes from prehistory through Etruscan and Roman settlements and Italian Renaissance, all of which you can discover at The Orsini Palace, now the Civic Archaeological Museum of Pitigliano. Within its spectacular old city centre is an area known as a “Little Jerusalem” for its once large and active Jewish community that was active in the 15th century. Don’t miss the recently restored Synagogue! On top of its rich history, the town is also famous for its wine production. The vineyards in this area, aided by volcanic tufa and millennia-old soil, produce one of the most lauded Italian white wines: Bianco di Pitigliano, a DOC appellation and a must-have while on the Strada del Vino! From there you can also visit the nearby towns of Saturnia and Sorano, which have benefited from hot springs for centuries and are now a must-go spa destination.

                     

For a seaside vacation, about an hour away from Pitigliano is the Monte Argentario and its fantastic archipelago! Perched on a cliff on the edge of the Mediterranean sea, the Villa degli Angeli gazes from Ansedonia at Italy’s most spectacular views, and can comfortably sleep up to 14 people. While there, though you may want to do nothing, there are plenty of possible excursions to keep you busy. In Ansedonia, don’t miss the remains of the ancient city of Cosa, an archaeological site of international interest dating back to 273 BC and included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can also walk or bike in the nearby pine forest and beachcomb the long beach, that is if you tire of swimming in the sea from the private beach of your villa…

You can also explore Orbetello or discover traditional festivals such as the Balestro del Girifalco, stroll by boat in unspoilt places accessible only by the sea, dive into the Mediterranean waters and discover marine life, or try hang gliding at the many centres and schools in the region. We happily recommend Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, two fishing ports that have become seaside resorts, surrounded by high rocks and connected to the mainland by the wide sandy beaches of Gianella and Feniglia.

                   

Closer to San Giminiano, Siena and Florence, perched on a hill and overlooking vineyards, is Castello Lorenzo. Located in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, where Niccolò Machiavelli wrote his most famous book, The Prince, Castello Lorenzo was originally a medieval fortress built in the eleventh century, converted in the fifteenth century into a magnificent villa of the Tuscan aristocracy with a unique charm and impeccable taste. With its 10 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms, it will easily welcome up to 20 guests! Don’t miss the Antinori Wine Estate, simply breath-taking: the winery overlooks the countryside from a terrace surrounded by vineyards, and while staying at Castello Lorenzo, you can visit the cellars and participate in tastings, but also have lunch in their restaurant Rinuccio 1180 located on the roof of the building. We will take care of your reservations, tastings and excursions!

Finally, further north in the Tuscan Maremma, we definitely recommend Castagnetto Carducci, home of La Civetta, a 14-people villa with pool and private access to the beach! There is shopping should you want to cook family meals yourself, or you can use our wonderful cook, but there are also plenty of restaurants to enjoy. Local foods are based on Maremma specialties, fresh fruits and vegetables, freshly made mozzarella and of course, the famous Super Tuscan Wines nearby. Not too far away, is the famous city of Pisa (and its leaning tower!) and Lucca is about 1-hour drive north.

At Commendable Rentals, we can help you plan your whole trip, from choosing properties to rent , to booking guides, boats, chef, cooking lessons, and museum tickets in advance; don’t hesitate to ask for our help!


From Rome with Love

Most cities around Christmas vie to be the most festive and spirited, but few European capitals are as dedicated to bringing the Winter Wonderland to life as Rome. Whether you arrive in the Eternal City by day or by night, you will be charmed by the crisp yet mild December weather, and the glory of Rome’s winter blue skies. Last minute Christmas shopping rushes, the nonchalant strolls of locals trying to differentiate themselves from the tourists, and of course the Christmas lights, add energy to the glow, as Nativity scenes and Christmas markets pop up all over the city. If you arrive by night, don’t miss a drive pass the majestic and romantic Colosseum; its recently renovated arches are particularly beautiful when lit by spotlights against the dark sapphire blue sky.

The Christmas holiday season in Rome officially starts on December 8, the holiday of the Immaculate Conception, or Immacolata, and ends on January 6 at the Epiphany – when La Befana, a sort of Christmas witch is the lead character – and it is indeed magical: it is a great time to see the city in a -literally- different light and to discover the great Roman Christmas traditions. If you are by yourself, feel free to prep a special playlist for the occasion: Culture Trip has put together a wonderful list of songs inspired by the beauty of Rome, and there in one for every taste and every moment of the day (waking up to Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day by Morcheeba is the absolute guarantee of a good mood all day long)! Though it is holiday season, most shops of the city are usually open -with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and New Years’ Day- and most of the major sites and monuments that have entry tickets, including the Colosseum, Forum, and Borghese Gallery will all be open on the 26th, despite that day also being a holiday. We recommend planning your visits on the 26th, as the museums and churches will be much less crowded than usual.

Whether it is your first time in Rome or you are a newbie in the city, start your day with a bit of Christmas sightseeing; and whether you are religious or not, you should look for the numerous Nativity scenes scattered around the city: they will surprise you by their artistry, beauty and inventiveness. The major one this year is held of course in Vatican City, but there are beautiful ones in every major and minor church of Rome, which counts more than 900 churches, cathedrals and basilicas. We recommend Santa Maria del Popolo, created and built by famous painter, sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century, Santa Maria in Trastevere in the charming, bohème district which gave it its name, or the Pantheon, to couple historical beacons and Christmas sightseeing.

In the mood for some Christmas shopping? There are a lot of beautiful, eccentric and charming Christmas markets all over town! All neighbourhoods offer something. Vintage pieces and hipster vibes are what the district of Monti is about, and Mercato Monti is the perfect embodiment of its way of life. You may find there the ideal Christmas gifts: clothes, accessories and other artisanal pieces await! Good to know: in December the market doubles in size, promoting more than 50 local talents.

Monti is really a charming neighbourhood, and we happen to have a great apartment there for you to live like Romans do: our  Bella Vita is located near the Colosseum and is the ideal place to rent for a family of 4 or 2 couples. Previous guests describe it best: “The perfect Roman Holiday! Both modern and historic- this was the perfect home base from which to explore Rome”.

Other Christmas markets punctuates the city, find an exhaustive list right here.

After all this wandering, you stomach might start to rumble; fear not! Rome is filled with charming and delicious trattorias and pizzerias, including two of our most favourites: Da Francesco and Fiammetta. Both are located just steps away from the Piazza Navona in the heart of the Historic Centre, and are dear to our hearts. Da Francesco, where the truffle pizza is close to heaven, is located on Piazza del Fico, right in front of Bar del Fico, one of the most popular bars in Rome. There you can sip your spritz or martini while peeping at fashionable locals and waiting for a table. Don’t hesitate to visit their website, as they even provide true Italian recipes should you want to test your cooking abilities back home!

Fiammetta is another true hidden gem: it is in a great location, just around the corner from Piazza Navona, but without the fuss of tourists. The menu is as varied as it is appetizing, with sitting options both inside and out. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fire oven, as any good pizza should be. Go Italian all the way and try the white pizza with mozzarella covered in salty, peppery endive.

Should you want to celebrate Christmas both at home and in Rome, just stay on Piazza Fiammetta and book our lovely 3-bedroom apartment! Fiammetta is so much better than a hotel: this spacious apartment sleeps up to 6 guests and is beautifully proportioned and elegantly furnished, in a modern yet timeless idiom, blending art and antiques with modern design. Original beamed ceilings and polished terracotta floors underline its historic origins and add warmth to the coolness of the white walls. Cherry on the cake: The kitchen is designed for chefs, so you will be able to try all these wonderful recipes by yourself!

Commendable Rentals has a lovely, extensive collections of palazzi, houses and apartments to rent in Rome, find the perfect place for you and start enjoying your Roman Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

The Commendable Rentals team


Amazing Provence

Last week we sketched an attractive yet very short portrait of Provence (to read what a family reunion can be in Provence, click here). It is one of our favorite regions of France and holiday destinations, and as we are currently in the area (Chez Vous Uzès) we would love to talk to you a little more about it! Provence is a diverse region that extends from Bouches-du-Rhône to Hautes-Alpes, passing through various territories such as the Vaucluse, the Drôme, the Var, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Alpes-Maritimes. In Provence you can lie in the sun on a fine sandy beach, ride white horses in the surf, go hiking, climb hills and mountains, feast on the sun-filled cuisine based on olives and olive oil, superbly fresh vegetables, fish from the sea accompanied by lovely rosé wine. You can visit amazing towns and monuments from early Roman, Medieval and Renaissance through incredible contemporary structures signed by Frank Gehry (Château La Coste), Norman Foster (L’Ombrière), and more. Then mark your calendar to enjoy the many art, music, design, and local culture festivals: all is possible. The only drawback is to first admit you won’t be able to see it all at once!

Today we explore the massif of the Alpilles, an authentic nature reserve just an hour away from Uzès and the well-known cities of Avignon or Aix-en-Provence. There, nestled in the golden triangle between Les-Baux-de-Provence, Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Eygaliéres, you will be able to enjoy most of the region’s authenticity and traditions in style and refinement, without having to drive far.

Les-Baux-de-Provence offers you incomparable panoramic views over the Alpilles mountain range, and the 400 souls who live within its walls jealously protect a patiently restored and unparalleled heritage from more than one million visitors coming here each year. We strongly recommend a visit to the ruins and vestiges of the Castle of Les Baux, a 11th century fortress that you can visit in open air, discovering with every step what the castle looked like originally with the secular and religious remains, siege engines -that are sometimes operated in front of you! -, the military remains and of course the Baux outcrop & the valley. Many events bring the fortress back to life: the “Médiévales des Baux” from late March to the end of August, “Secrets d’Artisans” every weekend in September and the “Automnales” in October (Les Automnales). The narrow, history-filled cobblestone streets of the old village will lead you to architectural masterpieces, art galleries, crafts workshops, boutiques and museums, and gourmet restaurants. Take you time to really let the peace and calm of this marvellous environment sink in: why not enjoy a lavender ice-cream while you stroll through the village! For a lovely and unusual stay in this exceptional setting, we recommend Le Dernier Château: Le Dernier Château, an extraordinary troglodyte villa set into the stunning rock hillside of the village.

If you’re inspired by Le Dernier Château’s setting, you should not miss the Carrières de Lumières: the former quarries dug out by the hands of man since the Roman and used to build Les Baux and its citadel offer today to the visitor a magical world of images and music. The program currently includes a never-seen-before multimedia event devoted to Picasso and the Spanish masters.

A mere 20min drive will take you from Les-Baux to Saint-Remy, another remarkably preserved village of the Alpilles which was and is a great source of inspiration for many artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, who stayed as a patient at the Saint Paul de Mausolé monastery where he painted no less than 150 of his most well-known works, including the famous Self Portrait and The Starry Night.

Coming from Les-Baux, just before entering the city, you will find the archaeological site of Glanum: over a century of excavation on the site has revealed an outstanding collection of architectural antic relics. But Saint-Rémy is also in the heart of a land of gastronomy: renowned olive oils and AOC (PDO) Baux de Provence wines, as well as the famous Herbes de Provence, lavender and honey can be found in abundance every Wednesday morning at the colorful and busy weekly market in the centre. The town has indeed preserved its traditions and its personality. Festive events add flavor to the town life throughout the year: the Route des Artistes, a contemporary art fair (the next event will occur on October 7th), the bullfights and the Transhumance festival in the summer, concerts, plays and exhibitions. And where to rest from all this if not in our Bastide de la Lavande, where you can enjoy its glorious garden full of lavender and roses, olive trees, and vine-coved corners.


From there, you can reach Eygalières in less than 20min and discover the most beautiful village of the Alpilles. A visit on Friday mornings will show you how lively the village can become with its great Provençal market.


Read on about Provence:
Commendable activities in Provence Part 1 & 2
Magnificence in Provence
Local Tips
Family reunions!


A Visit to the Berlin Collection

Berlin, the thriving, active, young, trendy, business and art centre, has become  one of Europe’s new favourite cities. I have just returned from a fast visit and was lucky enough to stay in one of our Berlin Collection apartments. If you long for both the spacious and the gracious, and you like your Old World Charm adapted into a modern idiom, then an apartment from the Berlin collection is for you!

Berlin-1-Bedroom-Apartment
The Berlin Collection – 1 Bedroom Apartment. Luxuriously at home in Berlin.

There is a selection of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments, sleeping from 1 to 5 people. They offer the best of Hotel and of Home living combined into one. There is not only a spacious bedroom, and I mean spacious, with sky high ceilings (over 4 meters) and sky high windows to let in lots of light, but also a full kitchen with all major appliances, including an American-sized fridge, a dishwasher, and a washer/dryer. There is even a Nespresso machine for first-class coffee making. Then there is a dining area, suitable to the number of bedrooms, and a comfortable and refined living room.

These apartments are perfect for families traveling together but also great for business travel. They even offer large enough tables for a working meeting. The bathrooms offer large soaking tubs as well as large walk-in showers. Again there is sense of immense space, comparable to the best suites in a 5 star hotel.

Berlin Collection - 3 Bedroom Dining Berlin Collection - 3 Bedroom Bath

The three bedroom apartment has an entire separate dining room with a table that seats at least 8. This makes it perfect for a festive event, and if you are a large group, you can still take two apartments and dine together.

What I also liked:

  • My bed was king-sized and the mattress was perfect. German-style duvets; in a double bed, each has his/her individual duvet
  • Bathroom Spa Amenities so no need to bring your soaps, shampoos, or body lotion
  • A Safe big enough for my computer
  • Large silver mirrors everywhere
  • Stylish Chandeliers
  • Glass elevators
  • There is a Roof-top terrace with a beautiful view, and a little garden in the entry court
  • Plenty of Parking if you drive

And best of all, these wonderful apartments are managed and hosted by Nisha and Raphael, who are onsite during the day, and on call at night, to answer your questions or solve any problems.

Berlin Collection courtyard

I wasn’t there long, but had dinner at an excellent fish restaurant, called Munch’s. It was a Norwegian restaurant a few minutes’ walk away, and so named for the artist of “The Scream” of course (though everyone there was quiet and no one screamed). The fish was fresh and delicately cooked and the salads plentiful and creative.

The Berlin Collection is on Winterfeldstrasse in the Schöneberg area with good public transportation. You can’t do better in Berlin for comfort and quality at a reasonable price ! You can book directly on our Commendable Rentals site.

 

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