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Ballroom dance cruises and dancing at sea

CRUISING IN STYLE

Dancers at sea find each other

Following our inaugural ballroom dance cruise on the luxurious Crystal Serenity our award-winning professional dance team has continued to wow our guests with their style, technique, and incredible personalities. Dance lessons every day, dancing every night: cha-cha, salsa, samba, quick step, bolero, waltz, tango, rumba…magical! One guest has been on fifteen dance cruises, and said this was the best. We credit our ballroom dance team and their energetic and enigmatic personalities. Ballroom dance cruises provide a great opportunity to keep up your dance skills or learn new ones with experts by your side. Best of all, dancing at sea really improves balance as you learn to work the core muscles with the gentle sway of ocean waves. Our upcoming cruises for those who want to continue dancing at sea include: two adventure in December. One  will be on Princess cruises starting in Fort Lauderdale with our Shall We Dance team, and the other one on Crystal Cruises with our International Montreal-based dance Team starting from  New Orleans to the Yucatan Peninsula. If these don’t fit your schedule, join us for springtime in the Mediterranean from Monte Carlo to Venice

Tango, Argentina’s Passion Dance

Experience real tango in Buenos Aires

By Eva Stelzer

Five things you need to know about Argentinean Tango. It is a must to round out any Buenos Aires experience. Tango is passion, the music is haunting, there is tango for show and then there is the real tango, and lastly, tango is pure entertainment.

Tango is an essential part of any Buenos Aires experience
It is commonly held that tango was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s more likely tango started elsewhere, but the brothels of the port area of La Boca is where people of the upper and middle classes first encountered it. Brothels were major places of entertainment for the working classes. Due to a shortage of women in the early days of Buenos Aires, prostitution became a thriving industry, with long queues forming as men waited for the women to become available. Visit the ever-colourful houses of La Boca for a glimpse back into history, where tango dancers perform on the streets outside the buildings, maintained as a memory to this port city’s past.

Iconic Tuscany

Tuscany is a necessary part of any cultural education, as it has been for centuries.

By Eva Stelzer

tuscan landscapeTuscany long ago earned its reputation for capturing the very essence of Italy – picturesque rolling hillsides with vineyards and charming medieval towns. The geography varies dramatically: coastal cities teeter along the Tyrrhenian Sea, while lush mountains, quaint hill towns and river plains stretch far inland. Add to this beauty seeing some of the world’s famous art in person. One of many reasons we are drawn to Italy and other European destinations is that touring “the Continent” always has been part of the ultimate educational experience.

Capri Delights

Capri Delights

Italy’s Isle of Capri, a treasure in the Tyrrhenian Sea, a delight on or off  season

By Eva Stelzer

The Isle of Capri has drawn hedonistic visitors since Roman times. Today’s visitors represent the glamorous jet set, fashionistas and nature lovers alike.

Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Campania region of Italy, Capri is the name of both the island and the main town. Breathtakingly beautiful Capri is swarmed in July and August, but May and September still boast amazing weather and thinner crowds, with enough action to keep any traveller happy. By late September the streets and alleys are quiet and you can get to know the locals.

Bring your most comfortable walking shoes! Most of Capri is closed to traffic and there are few parking places; mid-March to November there is no traffic allowed except for residents and those with motorbikes. If you get tired of walking take public buses or taxis.

Exploring on your own is exciting, but it’s always good to have a to-do list to fall back on. As Charles Dickens once wrote, “In no place on earth are there so many opportunities for delicious peace and quiet as on this small island.”

Here are five great picks for visiting Capri:

When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

When in Italy, Eat Like the Italians!

Posted by guest blogger: Krista Haynes

Eating in Italy is like entering a culinary landscape far removed from what Americans have become accustomed to, where time remains still, and recipes have been passed down for generations. I have visions of a rustic kitchen with a ray of sunlight beaming though the window, a puff of cloud from freshly kneaded pasta dough primed to be hand rolled and cut into various shapes and sizes, or wrapped around humanely raised meats or unprocessed cheese. The noodles would soon be graced with a naturally sweet tomato sauce so delicious it may be mistaken for candy.

Food of this caliber makes a girl following a “restricted-vegan-diet” question whether it’s necessary to stick to her “rules”. How does one experience the finest of Italian cuisine when traditional fare is centered on Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, salami, crema, and white flour? I think to myself, “When in Rome”…well, in my case, “When in Firenze”. I decide to let loose and allow a few slight modifications. What I left with was a truly scrumptious experience worth writing home about.

Cooking class in Florence

Cooking class in Florence

Each year I spend some time at Costanza’s renaissance villa in Florence. Sometimes I bring group of people to gather together for a cooking class, and walk in the olive orchards or enjoy an outdoor feast of pizza freshly baked in the stone pizza oven. In one of her cooking classes in Florence, Costanza had a group of chefs from Norway who were being taught to make an authentic Tuscan meal. I personally loved the Faraona del Paradisino – roasted Guinea fowl. Back in my native Canada I replaced the Guinea fowl with grain fed, antibiotic free chicken. My guests were so delighted with this dish that I was embarrassed to tell them it’s a one pot meal. Try this out on your family or friends and let me know what they think.

Cook this amazing dish. Faraona del Paradisino – Roasted Guinea Fowl

Cook under the Tuscan Sun

Cooking Class in Tuscany

Cooking with Costanza: a culinary adventure to awaken and inspire all your senses and allow you to experience the very essence of Italy!

The Renaissance Villa, on a hill with all of Florence spread out below, focuses on regional cuisine that is more regal and elaborate in preparation than in the villages. Set in a heritage-protected five-hectare property with colourful gardens, this is an opportunity to experience the lifestyle of the Tuscan city folk and immerse yourself in Italy as you imagine it in films. Your experience begins al fresco with a tour of the organic herb gardens. You are encouraged to smell, feel and taste the various greens. Learn how to choose the most perfect natural flavour enhancers of Tuscan cuisine. The discussions will cover food traditions, history, and what makes food such an integral part of everyday life in Italy. Of course you choose the freshest herbs for your cooking lesson.

tuscan cuisineFood choices are seasonal and take advantage of the freshest produce. The first dish to prepare is an authentic antipasto. Too many restaurants ignore antipasti and focus on pasta, but this is a traditional meal to be enjoyed all evening long, and enjoyment of each course is paramount to your culinary experience. The antipasti selection is based on seasonal and local produce. Each course is paired with an Italian wine.

Appetizers are based on both wild and cultivated foods. In spring you might make frittata di carciofi – fried artichoke. Jewish Romans made this dish famous in the ghetto, and it is still a staple of spring cooking. Chef Costanza may thinly slice an artichoke and treat it like a carpaccio – which is usually thinly sliced raw beef or fish – and serve with a deep grassy flavoured olive oil. In summer tomatoes ripening on the vine make delicious bruschetta al pomodoro (tomato bruschetta), insalata caprese (tomato salad with garden fresh basil, oregano and local buffalo mozzarella). Autumn is the season for melt-in-the mouth crostini con i funghi procini (porcini mushrooms in a flaky crust).

Breakfast in Tuscany

Breakfast in Tuscany

Some mouth-watering delights from Italy

By Eva Stelzer

Starting breakfast with dessert is a slightly wicked Tuscan tradition that I thoroughly enjoy. At Florence’s Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco, the chef’s freshly baked crostata is a sensory delight. The sweet jam oozed in my mouth as the buttery crust crumbled onto my tongue. Manager Antonella Rocchini says the cheerful chef can be heard humming and whistling while baking. “Of all the treats on our menu, crostata is the most popular,” she adds. After devouring too many pieces of the lattice masterpiece, I understand the attraction.

The tiny, unadorned breakfast room hardly seems like the setting for such delicious food, but the morning buffet is filled with goodies from melt-in-the-mouth burratta cheese to warm apple tarts topped with smooth, creamy ricotta. As in most small Italian-owned hotels, a barista makes guests the perfect morning coffee. A barista is a professional coffeemaker who understands the important harmony between milk frothed into white airy peaks and the bitter dark espresso base. The combination of taste and texture creates the perfect balance.

“A barista is a professional coffeemaker who understands the important harmony between milk frothed into white airy peaks and the bitter dark espresso base.”

Florence specialty coffee shop for lunch, or afternoon drink

Amongst Florence restaurants, this newish coffee-lover spot is in with the young adult crowd. Located on Via dei Neri, it’s a great spot for lunch, light snacks, coffee, or drinks. Owner and master coffee barista Francesco Sanapo is the genius behind this new place.

What is so special about a barista and what is a barista anyway? Like a sommelier who knows wines, or a chef who expertly mixes ingredients knows, a barista understands how to select and blend coffee beans to create a diversity of flavour.

Food Markets Italy’s Cities

Food markets in Italy can be found in every city, town and village. In the larger cities the food markets are generally in permanent locations and even within permanent structures. In the smaller towns these markets may appear once or twice a week, pack up, and move on to the next town. When visiting smaller towns it’s best to check ahead and find out what day of the week the market will be there. Here are a few permanent food markets in the larger cities.

Bolognia

Bolognia has been called Italy’s heart of food. My pick in this city is Mercato Centrale, Bologna. The main produce market overflows from via Francesco Rizzoli to il Quadrilatero. The surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna is home to some of Italy’s greatest gastronomic gifts (prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and more), and you can find them all here, along with fish vendors, meat stalls, fruits and vegetables, and a great housewares store, Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, which carries every kind of pasta cutter imaginable. For me, the highlight of the market is A.F. Tamburini, a 78-year old pasta and provisions store where you can buy excellent ravioli, tagliatelle, and tortelli, either fresh or, in the adjoining cafe, cooked and served with a rich ragù bolognese. (9 via Francesco Rizzoli, Bologna.)

A History of Italian Chocolate

Thousands of years and numerous cultures have affected the coveted confectionary of chocolate. Italy’s major contribution came around the 1800s out of necessity more than anything; that was the delicious mix of hazelnuts and cocoa.

Before Italy discovered the secret of chocolate, the sweet journey began with the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs and Mayan cultures. The first trace of cocoa arrived in Europe only in 1492. Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans to the Spanish King and Queen but the beans were passed over for other treasures. Thirty years later, Spanish explorer Hernan Cortès brought the beans, equipment and recipes from Mexico. This time cocoa was accepted with excitement. Monks in Spanish monasteries were appointed as the cocoa bean processors and made to keep chocolate a secret. This secret remained until the 1600s when Italian traveller Antonio Carletti discovered chocolate while visiting Spain. Once chocolate reached Italy, it spread quickly. Cioccolatieris opened in all major Italian cities. From Italy, the new delicacy reached Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The Catholic Church’s approval helped spread the chocolaty drink’s popularity, as did the royal courts.

MY TOP 5 FLORENCE RESTAURANTS

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.

What Makes Brunello Wine So Special

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 Must-visit Italian Vineyards

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.

Announcing our Florence Cooking Holiday

Attention foodies: Eviactive is proud to announce its newest trip, one that will excite the senses and help you experience an authentic Tuscany experience. Our new Florence Cooking Holiday will offer guided tours, heritage accommodations and tantalizing meals.

FIVE GREAT GELATO FLAVORS

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!

5 Must-Try Tuscan Meals

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.