Russ and Elke's European Travel

It's not only what you see, it's how you see it

Russ and Elke's European Travel is a small company run by husband and wife team Russ and Elke Beck, a professional travel agent.

Over the years we have experienced some fantastic places, people, food and wine.  Out of our love for travel developed the idea to create very exclusive, intimate and interesting itineraries and let our clients experience, taste, smell, touch and hear what has given us so much joy in our travels. 

Hotel, Villa, B&B?

Where will you call home?

     We have stayed at some truly amazing places while visiting Italy, from a castle with a real duke, meticulously renovated villas to a working farm and vineyard.

     Choosing the right place can be a daunting and confusing task, even for me, a professional Travel Consultant. There are so many options available that it’s quite common for people to end up stressed, frustrated and still lacking somewhere to stay, after hours and days spent cruising the internet.  It's simply overwhelming to choose the perfect place with hundreds of hotels, bed & breakfasts, agriturismos, farms, villas and apartments at your fingertips; and let's not  forget that everyone has an opinion on TripAdvisor, you may be traveling with children or companions, you want to see everything there is so you need to be central - but what is central in Tuscany - all of which just adds to the cacaphony.  

     Let's see what we can do to try to sort this out for you.  

     Russ and I  usually stay in hotels in larger cities like Rome, Venice and Milan. There is generally an abundance of rooms in big cities, catering to all preferences and wallets.  To avoid that big box feel, but enjoy the comforts of housekeeping and room service, we prefer smaller establishments that are not connected to a major chain.  Smaller hotels sometimes have great locations because the hotel itself is in a repurposed building, often a palazzo or large home from a former century.  These sorts of places, because of the building they used to be, are often within walking distance of most major attractions, and a big bonus is finding one that is also close to public transportation. These, boutique style hotels might lack some amenities, elevators for example, but in our experience are often very charming.  We have often stayed at family run operations - Nonno makes the most amazing cappuccino in the morning - and it’s nice to get to know the family who, more often than not clue us in to great food, or events that we might have otherwise missed.

     A big box hotel chain also has it's uses, on the day before our long transatlantic flight home we always check into a hotel near the airport. This way we can return our rental car early and take the hotel shuttle to the airport to avoid stress.  The advantage of staying at a larger hotel, is that one can usually enjoy a nice massage or spa treatments before cramming into those uncomfortable economy seats for six hours or longer. Most airport hotels have a spa and offer an array of soothing treatments… balm for frayed, rattled travel nerves.


     Our first booking in an agriturismo (working farm or vinyard) created many unforgettable memories for us and our son. We stayed at the very authentic Antico Borgo Di Sugame, owned by Lorenzo & Catrina.  Perched on a hilltop, the stunningly beautiful vineyard overlooks the gorgeous Greve Valley in the Chianti hills of Tuscany, its olive groves, blue skies and awe inspiring sunsets. Borgo di Sugame dates back to about 1200 AD, as an inhabited location.  

     The property offers eight tastefully-furnished self-catering apartments, distributed among two main Tuscan farm buildings and a separate cottage.  Each apartment has its own rustic character and individual charm.  There is even an infinity pool surrounded by blooming lavender. Lorenzo produces a fantastic organic Chianti Classico, olive oil and honey. We learned about the workings of the vineyard and saw the dedication and love of the owner for his land. It is understood when you stay at an agritourismo that there is not usually maid service, meals aren't often included and some agriturismos don’t have laundry facilities. It should also be noted that, in the summer season, they generally rent only on a weekly basis from Saturday to Saturday.


     If you are looking for an authentic Tuscan experience with a bit more service we would recommend staying at an Agriturismo B&B.  You'll have all the benefits of staying in the gorgeous country side, often on a farm or vinyard, but your room and bathroom are cleaned daily and breakfast is served in the kitchen.  We have stayed at a number of these B&B's and we nearly always meet very interesting people who have a streak of independence but want a bit of luxury.  If you are truly independently minded sharing the pools and common areas may challenge you, but we have a solution for that too!


     On our last Bella Toscana Tour we rented a private villa in Tuscany. Villa living is great for traveling with big families or small groups, dividing up the costs makes it nearly as affordable as any other place on the list above. We chose ‘Villa Giardo’, near Figline Valdarno in Chianti for it's remoteness and privacy as well as it's central location in Tuscany.  This absolutely gorgeous estate is owned by Silvia and Stefano and has been meticulously restored by the couple and few of their friends over the past 7 or 8 years.   Situated in a panoramic position, one can see nearly to Firenze from the terraces, the villa is filled with amazing artifacts and is beautifully decorated and furnished.

     In our search for the perfect accommodations we needed to make sure each room had a private bath with plenty of space for everyone to have alone time, not easy to find in rustic Tuscany.

When staying in a villa you must remember that, unless you hire a personal chef or go out to eat, someone has to shop and and prepare every meal.  Now, we love to cook and happily cooked some fabulous dinners ourselves and we also arranged a private chef some nights for our little group. Villa living definitely comes with some level of work, but, as with anything, services can be arranged for cars, laundry, maids and even cooking classes in the villa.

     To take all the guesswork out of where to stay, simply come with us; let us take care of you and show you what living in Tuscany can feel like.

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