RICHLAND — Normally when a boss asks employees to give up a paycheck, they likely are to start perusing the employment ads. Instead, the team at &yet, a web-based software company in Richland, said "sure" and began packing for a month in Italy.
Giving up two weeks pay helped offset costs of their monthlong working vacation at Palazzo Mannochi, a 14th century castle in the scenic medieval town of Petritoli on Italy's Adriatic coast.
It didn't pay all the costs by any means, but when you can get apartments and the run of a castle for 30 euros (about $43) per adult, with children free, that's a bargain, said Adam Brault, founder of &yet.
Going to Italy was Brault's brainchild. Part of his inspiration came from a book, The 4-Hour WorkWeek by Timothy Ferriss.
"(The author) said to have more flexibility in how you work. What's more flexible than working out of a castle in Italy for a month?" Brault asked.
Being a web based company, the &yet team has "have laptop, can work" capabilities.
The trip also offered marketing possibilities, which is how Brault pitched the idea to &yet President Henrik Joreteg.
"When Adam called and asked me if this was a ridiculous idea or not, it was the marketing possibilities that swayed me," Joreteg said. "Most of our advertising is by networking and word of mouth. A company spending a month in a castle in Italy is something people talk about."
Of all the places they could have stayed, it was the write-up about Palazzo Mannochi that cinched the deal.
Brault said the castle owner, Ferida Mulganovic, told him, "The thing about Americans is if you can enchant them, you've sold them."
Brault told his employees about the trip at the &yet Christmas party.
"When he told us there was absolute silence. No one believed him," said &yet designer Amy Lynn Taylor. "He'd been teasing us for weeks that there would be a surprise at the party. I figured we were going to a conference."
They left March 10. There were nine team members and their families for a total of 19. Six were children, four of them under age 3.
The team members had their laptops, battery chargers, iPhones, everything they needed to work on the projects they brought along. All they needed was reliable internet access.
Brault had questioned Mulganovic closely about that and was assured "it was available throughout the castle."
That wasn't quite the case.
"It was mainly just one room. Remember, castles are made of stone. Wireless signals don't transmit well through thick stone walls," Brault said.
They spent the first week, and several hundred dollars, stringing additional cable so the team could work.
Palazzo Mannochi is a curious mixture of very, very old and relatively modern, they found.
"Inside the rooms you can't really tell you're in a castle. It could be any old, historical building except for some of the stone walls and the ancient frescos on the ceiling," said Angela Thomas, a web developer.
They had bathrooms and running water, but some rooms had issues with heating. Because it's a historical building, Mulganovic is limited to how much upgrading she can do. Some rooms are heated with radiators, the water boiled to steam by a pellet stove.
"It wasn't nearly adequate for those first few days when it was unseasonably cold and rainy," Thomas said.
"I loved the way the castle owners put it when the heat couldn't keep up with some of the cooler March nights -- 'old building, old problems,' " Joreteg said.
Despite those minor glitches, the team loved the time at the castle and touring the surrounding sights and towns.
"We'll miss the friends we made at the castle and in town," Taylor said.
"And the awesome cappuccinos," Joreteg added.
It wasn't all fun. The team completed one project for a client, added features to a second and almost finished a new app set for launch this spring.
Joreteg especially will miss those evenings by the pool, sipping wine, nibbling cheese and writing computer code under the stars.
For more information about Palazzo Mannoci, go to, www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p89677. For information about &yet go to http://andyet.net/