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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 Island|Italy

A picture is worth a thousand words. This one captures the essence of relaxing in Capri from one of the most charming boutique hotels. Want to know more? Contact our concierge service for your tailor-made dream trip.

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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.”

Guided walks Italy

Guided Walks in Italy

A great way to connect with a place is on a guided walk or day tour with a local expert. In Italy, we have amazing one day and week-long guided walks and tours to suit every fitness level. You may wonder why we choose to use Italian licensed guides with quirky accents. The simple truth is that you can have the best accommodations and food, but without a local guide, you will miss the insider experience. Our local guides know the people in each small town or village, they know the off-the-beaten-path trails, and they are passionate about the history, geography and culture of their land. We engage North American staff to help with bridging the gap between cultures. But it is our local contacts that really make the difference and will leave you with memories to last a life time.

Our guided walks take you on footpaths that have connected towns for centuries, before paved roads became the norm. Turning a good trip into a great one is no easy feat. We do this by choosing leaders for their knowledge and expertise and of course, for their humor. Our feature image is a special walk to the church in Sicily where the Godfather II was filmed. Our expert guides are leading us to the church where Michael Corlioni was married. We end with a glass of limoncello at the local bar, followed by some grappa for those with a strong stomach.

Join us for one of our group departures or let us customize a journey tailor-made to your tastes.

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.

TWO TERRIFIC CHIANTI WINES

Chianti is one of the central regions in Tuscany. Chianti wines, formerly recognized by the squat bottles encased in a straw basket has now joined the rest of the region as one of the major producers of elegant water for the gods.

The Chianti recipe as we know it today, was created by Baron Bettino Ricasole. Taking a run down family property, he began analyzing grapes from various vines and discovered that each type of fruit resulted in a specialized palate. Today, all wines labelled as Chianti comprise 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Malivasia Bianca. However, in 1992 white grapes were prohibited from use in a Chianti Classico. There are tens of thousands of small vineyards producing Chianti and the best way to find a good wine, is by tasting. Of course, Ricasole remains the larges producer but don’t limit yourself with some many other wines on the market. New organic wines are taking space on the shelves. My two faves (at the moment) from Chianti:

AMA 2010.  Priced at about $27 Canadian and $17 Euros in Greve, this wine has flavourful bouquet that opens beautifully from the first sip. Here is a wine that can be enjoyed in its youth without breaking the bank. Founded in 1972, Castello di Ama provides a great product, thanks to dedication and hard work of founders Marco Pallanti and Lorenza Sebasti.

The Isle of Capri Italy. A treat on or off season?

The Isle of Capri Italy has tempted hedonistic visitors from Roman to modern times. Today’s visitors represent the glamorous jet set, fashionistas and nature lovers. Behind that glitter is an isle with breath taking natural beauty. The Isle of Capri is swarmed in July and August, but May and September still boast amazing weather with enough action to keep any traveler happy. By late September the streets and alleys are quiet and you can get to know the locals.

5 things to do in Capri Italy.

The Blue Grotto

You may ask yourself what’s so special about a cave, but the Isle of Capri’s Blue Grotto is one of nature’s finest attractions. The tricky thing about the Blue Grotto is that you can only enter with a calm sea and a low tide. So you may pay your trip, start the ride, stop at the entrance and discover that, unfortunately, you arrived exactly when it will be impossible to enter. Ask about sea and tide conditions before paying for the boat ride.

SICILY SHOW AND TELL

Sicily is an enchanting and most definitely Italian island. Once Greek, once Roman, once Norman, this jewel of the Ionian sea sits half on the European continent and half on the African continent. The culture, architecture and food reflect a bit of its historic past.

Here are 5 of my favorite photos from our Sicily travels.

1. THE TEMPLE OF CONCORDIA

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Built in 440 BCE, this is one of the most intact Greek temples in all the world. For those who like ancient architecture and history, this is a must see on Sicily’s southwestern coast. Even in ancient times, the Greeks understood how to construct a building with a solid and wide base, strong enough to withstand the movement and shifts of the tectonic plates. Visit the temple off season and you can walk between the ancient buildings in the valley of the gods. Without the crowds of tourists you’ll be taken back to another era.

5 Must See Amalfi Coast

5 Must See Amalfi Coast Highlights

The Amalfi Coast stretches for 43 miles around the Bay of Naples. It is on many people’s must-do-list and is renowned for its natural beauty and summertime appeal to jetsetters.

Ravello

Even though Ravello is a small town along the Amalfi Coast, I’ve decided to highlight two great things to see.

Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

Ravello is a tiny town perched more than a kilometer above the Amalfi Coast. Ravello’s Villa Cimbrone is one the Amalfi coast’s top must-see places. The views are spectacular. If you are a music lover and lucky enough to be there during one of the summer concert series, then don’t miss this opportunity. The Villa Cimbrone dates back to the 11th century and is now a hotel with well tended gardens that are open to the public.

Ravello for music lovers

Music lovers must at least once in their lifetime go to Ravello during between the months of April and October for the music concerts. Most concerts a tribute to the classical musicians. http://www.ravelloarts.org/9-uncategorised/92-2014-concerts-booking.html

Things to do in Florence Italy

THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE ITALY

Half Day Florence Itinerary
When in Florence, the Duomo  is a must-visit things to do on any list. Centrally located, you can easily walk around its pDSC00918erimeter on the way to or from any other. If time is limited, walk around the duomo’s exterior and skip the long line to get inside. Take the time to admire intricate façade and appreciate Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto’s Bell Tower from various angles. Look closely at the incredible marble work, a masterpiece for any era. The marble has been cleaned recently exposing the incredible greens, browns, blacks, and terracotta colors. Pictured below is some of the outstanding detail.

Conveniently adjacent is the Baptistery. In a half day you won’t have time to check out its interior but do take the time to  stop in front of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors. The biblical stories told in the worked bronze of these extraordinary doors are awesome.

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.)

Florence Statues worth visiting

Florence: Statues in Piazza della Signoria

Florence’s Piazza della Signoria is a must stop for any renaissance aficionado. Most of the statues are of male nudes, and very well proportioned ones at that.

In the 15th century Renaissance sculptors studying the classical ideal found that freestanding nudes had been missing in Europe since the Roman Empire. Even though our own modern times seems to have an absence of free standing nudes, I haven’t seen a mass movement to erect new ones!

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.

Must-Visit Travel Destinations: The Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast stretches along the southern coastline of the Sorrento Peninsula and is known for its picturesque landscape. The expanse of vivid blue salt water, vertical climbing mountains, and a soft scent of lemon blossoms surround your senses. The region’s beauty has made this area a highly popular tourist destination and was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape.

Some say the real Amalfi thrill is the scenic drive, and whether by bus or by car, the roads will leave you breathless. Just beyond the hairpin curves of the narrow, Italian road lies a sheer 500-foot drop into the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Hotels and villas are cantilevered amongst the vertical terrain. Beautiful sandy coves peek out here and there far below.

Must-Visit Travel Destinations: Tuscany

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.

SAN LORENZO MARKET

In mid April of this year, 2014, the San Lorenzo market opened its newly renovated space. Better than “Eataly,” this is Eat IN Italy. Wine tasting, pasta tasting, cheese tasting, pizza tasting, and mama mia! This experience will make both “foodies” and “give me the food” people very happy.

After filling your belly with some local specialties, walk outside around on the streets that form a perimeter. Change your gears from food to clothing and souvenirs. Wander through the leather stalls. Besides being the largest market in Florence, you will also find some of the best bargains for shoes and purses. If interested, you’ll also find cheap and tacky souvenirs at good prices – from T-shirts to key chains, from wine bottle openers to bookmarks. Though this market is not known for bartering, the prices and variety still make it a treat. Avoid buying the knock offs sold on the streets.DSC_0895

The San Lorenzo Market is open daily and caters to locals as well as tourists. Mornings are the best time to visit while casalingue A.K.A. housewives are doing their regular food shopping. It is still common practice to buy food daily and eat it fresh.

 

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.

Medieval Skyscrapers of San Gimignano

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

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

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

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 Breathtaking Coastal Towns in Italy

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

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

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

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

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.

Safety Rules for Biking in Italy

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

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 Breathtaking Tuscan Villages

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 Italian Cheeses You Must Try

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

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

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

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

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.

Sicily Hiking Mount Etna

Sicily Hiking Mount Etna

Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast rises gracefully from a sapphire sea. The peaceful scene contradicts the power of the most active volcano in Europe.

Wine tasting etiquette

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?”