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Deal of the Week: Hidden Tuscany (5/31/2002)

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Diana: I'm Diana Nyad, and you're listening to The Savvy Traveler. Rudy Maxa is our Travel Expert in Residence, and every week we check in with him for a Deal of the Week. Rudy, how are you?

Rudy: Very well, Diana. Thank you.

Diana: What have you got for us this week?

Rudy: This one is exclusive to listeners of The Savvy Traveler. It's a jewel of a hotel perched on a hill in a tiny, medieval village in Tuscany.

Diana: You got me with the word "Tuscany."

Rudy: And this is what you think of when you imagine Tuscany: hills dotted with vineyards, forests and narrow roads. It's about 70 kilometers south of Florence --an hour's drive at most -- on the edge of the famous Chianti region. The village is called Montebenichi, and in the center is a hotel whose front looks like a castle, with a crenellated roof and coats of arms on its stone façade. In fact, it was a castle, and some of its walls date to the 13th century.

Diana: This sounds very romantic.

Rudy: That's one reason to consider it if you're thinking about visiting Italy this summer. The Castelleto di Montebenichi has only 9 rooms, but they're lovely, air-conditioned rooms. There's also a great pool, so when you tire of tasting wine and olive oil in the region, you can rest poolside as the sun sets over the valley below.

Diana: How much does this splendor cost?

Rudy: Even at full rate it's not bad. Prices begin at $200 a night for a double, including breakfast. But if you tell the folks at the Castelleto di Montebenichi that The Savvy Traveler sent you, they'll lop 10 percent off your bill.

Diana: Very nice. Now, with only 9 rooms, this is a hotel you ought to book immediately if Tuscany is in your sights, right?

Rudy: Absolutely.

Diana: Any small print?

Rudy: The hotel closes for the winter in October. Pets and kids under 14 are not allowed, as this really is a quiet, luxurious retreat. A Colorado native, Amy Wadman, runs the front desk, so you don't need to speak Italian to make reservations.

Diana: How the heck did a Colorado resident wind up in a small town in the hills of Chianti?

Rudy: I asked her the same question. Her father fell in love with a woman from Montebenichi and moved there when Amy was a teenager.

Diana: Why don't things like that happen to me?

Rudy: I second that emotion.

Diana: Thanks, Rudy. Talk to you next week.

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