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Must-Visit Travel Destinations: Tuscany

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Tuscany

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Tuscany has long ago earned a reputation for its picturesque, Italian atmosphere full of rolling hillsides of vineyards and charming medieval towns. The region’s geography varies dramatically; coastal cities teeter along the Tyrrhenian Sea, while lush mountains, quaint hill towns and river plains stretch far inland. For good reason, the region remains one of the most visited destinations in the world.

Most people recognize Tuscany, Florence specifically, as the birthplace of the Renaissance – a time of learning, beauty and, especially, the artistic movements. It’s the literal birthplace of some of the most famous names in Italian (and world) history. This includes Botticelli, Dante, Michelangelo, da Vinci and Galileo. As part of the Renaissance culture, architects wanted to reflect that in the landscapes and created paths that seemed like they would never end. They created gentle hills that would sooth the soul but make visible an open sky and wide open spaces. After this beauty was created, painters began to immortalize it in their art.

Must-Visit Travel Destinations: Chinchero Market

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Peru

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Spectacularly sited at an elevation of 12,500 feet, with a breath-taking view of snow-capped mountains, lies Chinchero, one of the most typical towns in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. In that town, bright and early each Sunday morning, the authentic, Chinchero Market spreads out before ancient, Inca ruins. Early each Sunday morning, local Indians meet to sell their handicrafts at the market, as they have done for centuries.

As one of the most traditional markets in all of South America, it has far fewer tourists and far more locals than the nearby town of Pisac. Artisans (or artisania) dressed in traditional, colorful clothing come to buy and sell their handmade crafts and produce.

MY TOP 5 FLORENCE RESTAURANTS

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Food and drink, Italy

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The culinary experience in Florence is unlike any other, filled with plenty of spots that any foodie will enjoy. But with so many choices it can get overwhelming. That’s why we’re offering our Top 5 Florence Restaurants that you must visit. For many foodies, eating in Florence is a must experience. We sample some of these restaurants on our Walking tours in Italy.

ABSOLUTE MUSTS

Cestello

For the foodie and food savvy there’s an amazing new restaurant slash club in Florence. Across the river Arno, on the Pitti Palace side, and in an unsuspecting, rather dreary location, is an upscale new destination for fish loving, fun loving locals. A few tourists are finding their way to this trendy spot but only because some upscale connoisseur concierges are referring their clients.

Must-Visit Travel Destinations: Machu Picchu

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Peru

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It’s one of the top ten must-see destinations in the world., and rightfully so. Passionate travellers from all over the world flock to Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site that is full of beautiful, historic structures which provide insight into a culture long gone.

Located high in the Andes mountains in what is known as the the Cusco Region of Peru, Machu Picchu was brought to the attention of the modern world when it was rediscovered by a Peruvian guide and Yale professor Hiram Bingham. The site had ironically never been lost to local mountain people who still grew crop on the terraced hills. The most interesting aspect of the site is it’s precise location. Astronomers spent two years charting the path of the sun so that the summer solstice would shine through the entrance gate of the summer palace. Today, when hikers walk the trails to enter Machu Picchu, they enter via the sun gate after a 4-day trek of amazing vistas and experiences.

Medieval Skyscrapers of San Gimignano

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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Visiting the medieval town of San Gimignano is an unforgettable experience. Not only because of the amazing stonework or the beautiful landscapes, but because of the unforgettable skyline that brings to mind many of today’s more modern cities.

Located on a hilltop in Italy’s Tuscany region, San Gimignano stands out from other villages in the area due to its tall stone towers, easily visible from all over the region. The story of the towers dates back to the 14th century when the town was under the influence of two rival families: the Ardinghelli family and the Salvucci family. A contest began over who could build the taller house, towers being seen as symbolic of power and wealth.

Walking on the Amalfi Coast – Path of the Gods

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just want to appreciate an amazing view, the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast is a must-see. From the grandeur of the mountains to the tranquility of the clear blue water, this series of pathways is the ideal way to move between the beautiful seaside and mountain villages of this idyllic location.

Many local farmers and villagers use these paths every day, a fact that will be even more impressive once you’ve seen the view for yourself. With thousand-foot cliffs at your feet (and no railing) being up there is an experience you’ll never forget. The natural beauty of the location gives a feeling of living in another time.

What Makes Brunello Wine So Special

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Food and drink, Italy

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Like many people, early on in my wine-drinking experience I inquired, “what kind of wine is this” after drinking a particularly lovely Italian red, only to get the response “it’s a Brunello”. From that moment on Brunello became of my favorites. But what makes something a Brunello wine, and why is it so special?

There are two very important factors in qualifying a wine as a Brunello: the first is where it is made. Brunello wine comes from the Montalcino part of Tuscany, where it is documented as being made as far back as the 14th century. The geography of it is very important, as Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany, and the grapes can ripen up to a week earlier than other nearby vineyards.

5 Favorite Florence Hotels

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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While planning your trip to Florence, you will doubtlessly come across a plethora of hotel options for your stay. But which ones are worth your time and money? It can be a little overwhelming to sort through all of the websites and travel guides, which is why we’re offering 5 great choices for Florence hotels.

Hotel Brunelleschi – History-lovers take note, this hotel is housed in a reconstructed 6th-century Byzantine tower! Now renovated to include a modern and airy look (without losing the classic history of the building), the building is well located, only one block away from Il Duomo cathedral and six miles from the Florence airport. The hotel has recently renovated for a more modern look.

5 Must-see Galapagos Animals

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Galapagos

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Darwin himself marvelled at the amazing animals found on the Galapagos Islands. Large and small, the islands are filled with unique species that delight the eye and capture the imagination. With that in mind, here are our 5 must-see Galapagos animals.

Blue-footed booby – A beautiful bird with a funny name, the blue-footed boobies are most easily spotted by the signature blue flippers. While the Galapagos Islands aren’t the birds’ exclusive home, it is the breeding ground for about half of the species’ population. Their courtship rituals are a highlight for anyone who sees them. With bowing, wing-spreading and some more clownish behavior, it’s a sight to behold.

5 Breathtaking Coastal Towns in Italy

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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There is nothing quite like spending time in a coastal town. Whether you’re smelling the sea air, feeling a breeze in your face or just enjoying the views, these towns are always a joy to visit. Italy is full of such wonderful places, and that’s why we’ve put together our choices for 5 breathtaking coastal towns in Italy.

Cefalu – With mountains on one side and coastline on the other, it’s no wonder that Cefalu is one of Italy’s more popular destinations. Despite being a small town (with a population of approximately 14,000), it is known for its idyllic views, great Sicilian restaurants and vibrant nightlife.

Why You Should Go Birding in Italy

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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Sometimes known as Europe’s best-kept birdwatching secret, birding in Italy offers a wide range of fascinating species. With over 500 species (and counting) of our feathered friends currently found here, a visit to this beautiful country is sure to engage novice and experienced birdwatching enthusiasts alike.

If you are planning a birding trip to Italy, it is important to keep in mind the time of year you want to visit. While there will be something to see year-round, generally the best periods to visit are considered to be between April and July and again in October. During the summer months several species use Europe as their breeding grounds during this time of year and their vocal birdsongs will make them easier to spot. On the other hand, October sees the birds migrate back to the African continent, which leads to some spectacular spottings.

Best Spots for Selfies in Italy

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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The importance of a truly great “selfie” cannot be overstated. Luckily, for those traveling in Italy, the locations for a great photo, either of just you or with a loved one, are truly endless. Here are some of our location picks for great selfies in Italy.

The Path of the Gods – While exploring the Amalfi Coast, this beautiful hike will give you some of the best views you’re likely to get of this gorgeous area. Crossing over spectacular gorges and passing small villages guarantee that you’ll have some amazing spots for your photo. 

Why You Must Take A Sicily Tour

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Sicily

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Known for its art, architecture and beautiful landscapes, Sicily is a must-visit destination with a rich and engaging history. Having been occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Moores and Romans (to name a few), the island is bursting with cultural importance and amazing views. Here are a few reasons that we think you must take a Sicily tour.

Ruins – With such a long, rich history it’s only natural that Sicily would be a hot spot for beautiful ancient ruins. From the Villa Romana del Casale to the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, history buffs will be able to move from jaw-dropping site to jaw-dropping site.

5 Must-visit Italian Vineyards

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Food and drink, Italy

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For many people one of the most exciting aspects to visiting Italy is the vineyards. It’s no wonder, since Italy has some of the most beautiful vineyards in the world. But with a limited amount of time and countless options at hand, which ones should make your shortlist of must-visit Italian Vineyards? We’re here to help.

Poggio di Sotto – A truly unique vineyard experience, the Poggio di Sotto is known for its unusually high altitute (for a vineyard) as well as its amazing views, with the volcano Monte Amiata on one side and the Orcia river on the other. The wine from this vineyard is part of the “super Tuscans” family, well known for being a superior wine with a complex taste. Come for the views and stay for the tastings.

Safety Rules for Biking in Italy

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Cycling Holidays, Italy

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Biking in Italy is a fantastic way to see the sights, but it’s important to keep safety in mind. After all, with hilly roads and new surroundings can lead to confusion and it’s important to keep aware of local customs. With that in mind, we’ve collected some tips that will help you keep safe (and on the right side of the law) while biking in Italy.

Cycle paths are mandatory – Italy has some fantastic bicycle paths and not only should you make use of them, you have to. If a bicycle lane or path is available and a cyclist opts for the roadway instead then they are breaking Italian law and can be subject to a fine. While our cycling trips are for road bikers, this is still important information to keep in mind.

Five Breathtaking Umbrian Villages

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Umbria

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We got a very positive response to our Five Breathtaking Tuscan Villages article and thought we would follow it up with a similar piece about Umbria. One of the few landlocked regions of Italy, Umbria is well known for its beautiful landscapes and historic towns. With that in mind, here are 5 breathtaking villages in Umbria that you must see.

Spoleto – One of the largest towns in southern Umbria, Spoleto is a sight to behold. With both Etruscan and Roman roots, this walled hill town offers beautiful views, including the Ponte delle Torri (the Bridge of Towers). Music lovers will especially want to visit in late June/early July to catch the famous Festival dei due Mondi, a world-famous music festival.

FIVE GREAT GELATO FLAVORS

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Food and drink

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After you’ve had gelato there is no going back to ice cream. Better yet, after you’ve had authentic Italian gelato there’s no going back to anything else. With that in mind, here are our choices for five great gelato flavors that you must try when you visit Italy.

Stracciatella – Translated from Italian, “stracciatella” means “a little shred”. Appropriate for this milk-based gelato that includes fine, shredded bits of chocolate. This is the gourmet version of chocolate chip ice cream, with a smooth, delicate flavor. A modern classic!

Five Breathtaking Tuscan Villages

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Tuscany

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Ask anyone who has visited Tuscany, and they will tell you all about the many breathtaking villages that can be found there. From beautiful views to gorgeous houses, there is a feast for the senses around every corner. That is why I wanted to share with you 5 breathtaking Tuscan villages that you must see the next time you’re in Tuscany.

Montalcino
With a population of less than 6,000 people, Montalcino is a small but beautiful walled village located west of Pienza. Sitting upon a hill, the town grew out of a church that was built my monks in the 9th century. These days the town is known for its stunning views, old-world charm and the procution of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s best-known wines.

5 Must-Try Tuscan Meals

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Food and drink

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Visiting Tuscany is a palate-pleasing experience, which is understandable because food seeps into every aspect of life in Tuscany and vice-versa. When you eat a meal here, you’re eating its history and culture.

Tuscan food is known for hearty meals with simple flavors. Plenty of fresh breads, cheeses, fruits and vegetables are used to create a luscious, regional meal that leaves you feeling connected to the community. With all that in mind, here are our choices for 5 must-try Tuscan meals.

Why a Human Travel Guide is Better Than Any App

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog

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Technology has come a long way, and we have every reason to be excited about it. After all, the sheer volume of information available at our fingertips is staggering. Where we get into trouble, though, is when we start to assume that this technology has made the human experience irrelevant. After all, no number of online reviews writing about clothes can replace an experienced style expert telling you the best shirt to fit your frame. Along the same lines, there is no travel app that can replace an experienced tour guide.

Now it should be noted that we’re not here to trash travel apps. There are plenty of great ones out there, some of which we even use personally. We don’t want to imply for a second that they shouldn’t be used, only that they shouldn’t be used as an alternative to a real-life guide.

How to Freshly Press Olive Oil

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog

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For many foodies olive oil isn’t just an ingredient, it’s a ritual. Which makes a lot of sense, as the notion of ritual is visible in every facet of a fresh Italian olive oil’s creation. All over Italy it is produced in largely the same way now that it was thousands of years ago with a process called first cold-pressing.

Before we get to the first cold-pressing process, it’s important to discuss what makes extra virgin olive so special: purity. In fact, less than 10% produced each year qualifies. Extra virgin means that the oil is extracted from the olives without using heat or chemicals. Usually this means that it is extracted when the olives are crushed or pressed at room temperature. Any taste or odor defects that happen in the process will lead to the oil being labeled as virgin, rather than extra virgin. That’s why first cold-pressing is such a valued process, it takes longer and requires more work, but you get purer oil out of it.

5 Italian Cheeses You Must Try

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy

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Anyone visiting Italy knows that they’re in for some fantastic meals, and for many food-lovers cheese is foremost in their mind. Naturally Italy is brimming with delicious cheeses that will tantalize any palate, so here are our suggestions of Italian cheeses that can’t be missed.

Buffalo Mozzarella – Starting off with the basics here, everyone knows Mozzarella, but until you’ve tried the fresh Italian variety you have not truly experienced this cheese. Italy’s soft, fresh cheese offers a rich, creamy texture that must be tasted fresh to be appreciated. The most popular variety is the Buffalo Mozzarella, which is made from, yes, water buffalo’s milk. Ever wonder where the name comes from? It’s from the Italian word mozzatura meaning to cut by hand, which is how the curd is separated into small balls. 

Top 10 Attractions in Florence

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Tuscany, Walking Holidays

1. Galleria degli Uffizi. Filled with paintings by the most noted Italian artists visitors marvel at the mastery of Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael to mention a few. Purchase advance tickets.photo

2. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Brunelleshi’s dome and Giotto’s Tower dominate the Fiorentine skyline. Visitor’s never tire of these two most visited highlights of Italian architecture

3. The National Museum of the Bargello. Located near the Piazza della Signoria is a museum that houses sculptures of leading artists of the Renaissance era.

My first time in Italy

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Tuscany, Walking Holidays

My first day.

My first day.

MY FIRST TIME IN ITALY AND I WENT WITH EVIA
BY: TONI PERL
May 12, 2014.

I am not a savvy traveller when it comes to European destinations so I look for direction and help to achieve my most desired results. I have heard stories of difficult trips with many details required and thought, I just cannot do this on my own.

Walking Tuscany’s White Roads

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Italy, Montalcino, Tuscany, Walking Holidays, Wine

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At the top of my list of fabulous things is walking through Tuscany’s network of white roads. These winding routes were originally carved out centuries ago by the enigmatic Etruscans, and later expanded by the Romans so that their war horses and soldiers could reach all parts of Europe from France to England. As a matter of fact, the sentence “all roads lead to Rome,” actually refers to this network of interconnecting trails. As cities grew they became neglected, left to be used by farmers and locals as they strolled from town to town.

To spit or not to spit part II

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Cycling Holidays, Italy, Montalcino, Sicily, Tuscany, Walking Holidays, Wine

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While French wine tasters roll the wine around in their mouth and spit before tasting the next, this is definitely not the custom in Argentina. I spent a week cycling through Mendoza where lunch often included 5 or 6 wines, following which we’d cycle to another winery a mere 10 kilometers away, and begin the tasting process again. I managed one sip from each glass while watching others drain their liquid happily and with ease. I did learn how to check the colour or a red and the clarity of a white, inhale the bouquet, and differentiate between citrus, chocolate and tobacco flavours of a good Malbec.

Testimonial: Peru

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Blog, Peru, Walking Holidays

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“Eviactive planned a wonderful holiday for my husband and I in Peru. All the hotels and tours were recommended from personal experience so I knew I could trust each place and operator. Eva made a lot of personal recommendations as far as hotels, restaurants, and things to try. The private guided Lares Trek was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will never forget. Eviactive worked hard to accommodate our dates, and planned a logical, packed but not too-packed, fascinating itinerary. I would recommend her services to everyone and definitely use her for my next holiday planning.”

-Naomi Wohl, Toronto, Ontario

Wine tasting etiquette

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Argentina, Blog, Italy, Sicily, Tuscany, Wine

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Wine tasting etiquette. To spit or not to spit?

On a recent walking holiday in Sicily I took a group to the Etna vineyards for a wine tasting adventure. Lava rich soil nourishes the grapes yielding a distinctive – and strong – flavour. Our group of mixed neophyte tasters and experienced oenophiles wanted to know, “Do we spit the wine after tasting or swallow it?”

Wine, Wheels, and Words

Written by Eva Stelzer on . Posted in Argentina, Blog, Cycling Holidays, Wine

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You can usually find me writing or leading some walking holiday in Italy. I took a detour so that my husband, a self-proclaimed oenophile, could discover the wines of Mendoza. I searched for a holiday that combined his love of wine with my passion for bike riding in the countryside. Trying to find one to merge our two and very unrelated loves could have been a challenge. Thanks to Duvine, it was as easy as signing the application form and writing a check.