I am currently stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps and read through the April issue of T+L, which was sent to one of my men.

The article by John Burnham Schwartz ["On the Road"], in which a routine publicity tour for his book turns into a life-saving event, inspired thoughts of how an ordinary place can become extraordinary—a phenomenon I'm seeing more and more. Another article, "A Capital Offense?" by Michael Z. Wise—about safety measures changing the face of Washington, D.C.—made me realize the war effort is being waged at home as well. I only hope we can do our part here to reduce such precautions and help preserve the things we cherish.

Arizona Heat
Has the desert sun gone to Mitchell Owens's head?As a resident of Scottsdale for 24 years, I was curious to see what all the hype was about at the James Hotel ["Hot Property," July]. If a coat of bright paint and some rickety furnishings now define the word hip, then Stephen Hanson has pulled the wool over your readers' eyes.

MITCHELL OWENS REPLIES The James Hotel is a budget-conscious renovation of a 1970's building—not a property built from scratch. I found no reason to comment when a door's trim was slightly off, because no hotel is ever perfect, and the James is certainly not charging perfection rates.

Suite Savings
Thanks to June's expanded Best Deals section ["Get a Room: 50 Reader Specials"], I saved $1,135 on a suite at the Peninsula New York! I had just booked two nights to attend the Belmont Stakes in June when I saw the hotel's 15th Anniversary offer—the second night cost just $15. If only Travel + Leisure could have helped Smarty Jones win the Triple Crown!

Puglia Picks
Now that Christopher Petkanas has revealed one of Italy's best-kept secrets—the region of Puglia ["Puglia Rustica," July]—allow me to share my wonderful experience near Lecce. Two years ago, a friend and I dined alfresco at the 16th-century Villa Giovanni Camillo Della Monica while a guitar player sang Neapolitan love songs. Our outstanding eight-course meal (with wine) came to a grand total of $22! The beaches at Torre dell'Orso and Otranto were delightful, and we found great deals on shoes in Cutrofiano. I'm hoping Puglia doesn't turn into the next Tuscany, as Petkanas suggests. Perish the thought of this gem becoming overpriced and overcrowded!

Last spring, my son and I discovered Country House Podere Pescia [LocalitÀ Pescia, Castiglione del Lago; 39-075/951-824; www.poderepescia.it; doubles from $111], a restored 19th-century farmhouse in northern Umbria, overlooking one of Italy's largest lakes. The five spacious rooms and two-story apartment have wood-beamed ceilings, antique furniture, and panoramic views; two have fireplaces. On one warm afternoon, we relaxed by the pool, which is surrounded by manicured gardens. Nearby hilltop villages were great for exploring and—should you be inspired to stay longer—the house's friendly, English-speaking owner also restores and sells houses in the area.

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Country House Podere Pescia