Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals
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By: Bianca M. Cano, Ville et Village office manager

(So many of you have worked with Bianca over the past 12 years, that we thought you’d want to read all about her special wedding in Florence.  Also, we have many clients who ask us about holding their weddings in France and Italy, so you can see how Bianca did it.)

You don’t have to be rich and famous like Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes or Rachel Ray to have a wedding in Italy. In May I experienced the most festive and magical event of my life -- I married my fiancé Shizen in Florence.  After working at Ville et Village for so long, a wedding overseas had long been a dream of mine.  As a French-speaker, I initially considered a wedding in France, but ended up selecting Italy because France requires a 40-day residency  whereas Italy requires only 3-days.  And I love Florence – I lived and attended school there for 6 months as a child.  My love affair with Florence grew after 4 more visits on my annual trips to Europe staying in our properties.  I organized the entire wedding myself thanks to my experience at Ville et Village and much guidance from friends, family, the internet, and my invaluable Italian colleagues.   For many of my guests it was their first time to Italy and as their friend and a travel professional, it gave me pleasure to have my wedding be their reason to travel there for the first time.
Our wedding was a civil ceremony at town hall, the spectacular Palazzo Vecchio (former home of the Medici family) situated in Florence’s most famous square -- Piazza della Signoria.  Not only is the square breathtaking (home of the replica of David, Neptune’s fountain, and the renowned Uffizi Gallery), the official chambers are gorgeous.   Naturally I arranged the rental accommodations for our guests myself.  Sixty of us, myself included, stayed at Ville et Village properties in Florence, the Borgo and Collona apartments, just a 15 minute walk away from the Palazzo Vecchio.  Because of my elegant wedding gown with train and heels, I arranged a horse-drawn carriage to transport my 2 bridesmaids and me to the Piazza.  En route from the apartment to the wedding, tourists and locals alike applauded and encouraged us along shouting “Auguri!” I thought I’d be uncomfortable about making a spectacle of myself, but the sincerity of the well-wishers eased my nerves and allowed me to savor the fairy-tale moment. 

In Florence, civil ceremonies are held in the opulent Sala Rossa (Cosimo de Medici’s former bedroom) which features red velvet walls, ornate tapestries, 30 ft. tall ceilings, a massive chandelier, gilded mirrors, and antique chairs.  The bilingual ceremony featured the mayor’s officiants, our translator (required by the municipality), and a violinist I arranged playing Vivaldi.  After the ceremony ended and we were officially pronounced husband and wife, our guests lined up outside the Palazzo to shower us with rose petals as we made our exit into the Piazza.  We then walked to the Ponte Vecchio to take pictures with our bridal party and were congratulated by the crowds and serenaded by street performers.  It was a great little unexpected treat and Shizen twirled me around for the onlookers who were snapping pictures right and left.  

The owner of our Florence apartments also owns a 14th century country villa whose gardens and patio she hires for special events.  That’s where we had the reception.  We hired a private bus to transport our guests from Florence to the villa in the Tuscan countryside.  The villa features frescoes, coffered ceilings, lush gardens, an olive grove, and panoramic vistas of Florence in the distance.  We all enjoyed cocktails on the terrace, glasses of prosecco, a six-course dinner and dancing under the stars.

After a week long stay enjoying the delights of Florence, 20 of my guests crashed the first part of our honeymoon in Rome.  It was great fun to have them accompany Shizen and me there to continue the festivities. We rented several Ville et Village Rome apartments that were within walking distance of each other and met regularly for communal meals, sightseeing and people watching.  But after all, we deserved some alone time, so Shizen and I continued our honeymoon just the two of us with a romantic stay in Barcelona at BA011, an apartment we offer near Las Ramblas, and capped it off in a lovely Paris studio PA048, on rue des Lombards in the heart of  the Marais.  

Everyone is still talking about what a memorable event it was.  For me and Shizen it was nothing less than perfetto and really the quintessential beginning of our “Dolce Vita” together.

(Bianca’s wedding wasn’t the only Ville et Village nuptial this year.  See the photo to the left of Marc and Hallie Chouanière, one of our clients who got married in France this spring and stayed in PA070, one of our Paris apartments for part of their honeymoon.)

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I want to rent a house in Provence with my children, but is there “enough” for them to do?   Parents often pose this question to me.  I always respond that renting a house in the French countryside is the adventure for children. It is precisely the day-to-day events that children love the most.  Each day provides a new discovery:  going to the boulangerie and asking for a croissant (in French!);  bringing a straw basket to the weekly outdoor marché and filling it with purchases of fresh vegetables;  visiting the farmer and taste-testing lavender and thyme honey to chose a favorite;  sitting at the local café and enjoying an ice cream sundae ordered in French. 

I have the good fortune to introduce you to a 10-year child, who can explain exactly what she likes about renting a villa in France. Kathryn Bohlmann has spent 7 summer vacations in Provence at a house she and her mom rent through us.  This year, Kathryn wrote an article about her summer vacations that was published in Family Group Magazine.  She describes all the things she loves about their trips:  shopping like the French do, sitting at the café drinking lemonade, going to the flea markets.  When she remembers the clear blue skies and beautiful mountains behind the farmhouse,  she imagines Monet and Cezanne painting these lovely landscapes.  Click on this link to read Kathryn’s article, and you will see what a wonderful gift you can give your children by renting a house in Provence and experiencing French country living.  (Kathryn and her mom, Victoria King, rent PR025 at Caromb. And they’re renting again in 2008!)

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Each year we help many folks plan their special trip by reserving a large villa in the Italian or French countryside.  It might be a group of 5 couples celebrating someone’s 50th birthday…. 8 women taking a special trip with their high school classmates….3 generations of a family celebrating Grandma’s birthday.  

It’s always an exciting but challenging situation for the person who’s responsible for organizing the trip for the others.  The staff at Ville et Village is here to help.  Need a recommendation for a location that provides fun experiences for folks of different ages?  Biking for the athletic?  Vineyards to visit?  Villages to explore?  Restaurants close by?  Lovely countryside to explore?  We’ve got the answers.

Once the region has been identified, we can identify those villas that can accommodate your party size and configuration.  Do you need 4 bedrooms all with ensuite baths?  Is a bedroom and bath on the ground floor a requirement? Does one couple require a shower stall?  Are there young children who need to be near their parents?  Our property descriptions are detailed and clear.  We can select the villas that offer the basic requirements you need and then help you evaluate the pros and cons of each one. 

It is very important to plan early for such events.  Now is the time to start evaluating the different selections so that you can be assured of getting the property that is best for your large group. 

Here are some comments from clients this year who booked vacations for their large group:

La Sorgente, Lucca, Italy (left photo):  L.Wilson, “It was wonderful.  Everyone is still talking about it. We each had privacy and could come together when we wished.  The vistas and spacious setting were wonderful.  The outdoor living area was special.”

PR380 St. Remy, France.  K. Agnew, “We loved the property.  All the space was great for our large group.  We loved the outdoor area with table under the plane tree.  We ate all our meals there.  The grounds, lawn and flowers are beautiful.  The kitchen is large and well equipped.  Lots of bathrooms.  The décor of the house was well-done.”

PR339 Fontvielle, France.  L. Wagner “The pool was magnificent.  Members of our group were able to have their privacy as they wanted or we could all be together. The weather was so great we spent all our time either outdoors, in the kitchen or in the bedrooms.”

Casa Rosa, Lucca, Italy. (top photo) J. Earle, “Superb!  Gorgeous views.  Pool.  Everyone had their own space and there were enough bathrooms.  Great outside eating area.  Playroom with toys was loved by my granddaughter!” 

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“What?” you may ask, “Aren’t we just entering the fall?”  Indeed, but nowadays renting in Paris is so popular that advance planning is important if you wish to find the apartment rental that’s perfect for you.  So start thinking now of springtime in Paris and visit our listings.  Here are a few to tantalize you:

PA070 a beautiful new apartment in the 7th arrondissement.  Bright and airy, air conditioning included, an easy walk both to the Seine and to the elegant shopping of the 6th.  On the beautiful Boulevard St. Germain.

PA101 with its beautiful kitchen, large open living room and even a small garden in the up and coming 10th.  The Canal St. Martin, is the new “in” neighborhood in Paris.  Walk the canal, enjoy the greenery, the bistros, and the local ambiance. 

PA163 a classic apartment in the residential 16th arrondissement.  Ever imagine living in Paris?  Then stay here.  Beautiful décor, easy walk to all services, great for a family.  And all of Paris is accessible with easy access to the Métro and RER. 

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