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Preferred Hotels | Tuscany

Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco - a Tuscan dream

If Tuscany is your next destination, let us plan an inspirational experience at one of our preferred luxury hotels. Other hotel choices available, just ask. Tell us your dream – be it wine tasting, cooking, meandering through the vineyards, checking out the architecture, or just relaxing. We’ll make it happen.

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Vatican, Rome

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Guided tour of the Vatican

Private Tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica – 4hrs

Capri Delights

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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:

Alluring Amalfi

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Highlights

  • Soak up stunning views of Amalfi’s alluring coastline.
  • Hike along the Amalfi Coast’s famed paths carved into the rock – once the only access between the isolated villages set among the cliffs.
  • Dine on exquisite local cuisine.
  • Sip the intoxicating limoncello.
  • Go back in time and place on a privately guided tour in legendary Pompeii.
  • Meander the serpentine alleys in the picturesque coastal villages of Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and Capri.
  • Discover why the Amalfi Coast has for centuries lured kings and queens, artists, writers, and others to the sun drenched isles.
  • Visit the superb gardens of Villa Cimbrone.

Florence specialty coffee shop for lunch, or afternoon drink

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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

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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?

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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.

COOKING AND CULTURE – FLORENCE AND TUSCAN HILL TOWNS

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Capture the essence and flavors of Tuscany on our iconic cooking and culture trip. Visit Florence and the Tuscan Hills. Feast your eyes on picturesque rolling hills, charming renaissance gardens, medieval towns, and hill-hugging vineyards. Whether it’s your first time, or if you’ve been there before, let the magic of Tuscany memorize you.

Highlights

  • Florence Cooking and Cooking will awaken your senses.
  • Tuscan wine tour and tasting.
  • Heritage architectureal  walking tour of Florence.
  • Tour of Siena including Piazza del Campo and Palazzo Pubblico.
  • Sleep in the noble house of a Renaissance Villa, surrounded by heritage protected vineyards.
  • Cooking with our Master Chef, making authentic regional foods using updated versions of centuries-old Tuscan family recipes.
  • Go deep into the heart of the Tuscan countryside.
  • Sip wine fat our carefully selected vineyards.
  • Meander the cobbled streets in Medieval Siena a and Renaissance Florence with our expert local guide.
  • Visit authentic food markets and learn about local produce.
  • Eat, drink, walk and be immersed in Tuscan culture. Enjoy!

LET’S TALK

FLORENCE GUIDED TOUR

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Florence Guided Tour – 3 hrs

 Year round upon request

Trip Length 3 hours
Where Florence
Walk Rating Moderate
Included Full time tour guide, licensed
Meeting spot To be arranged.
Price upon request

PLAN A TRIP

Wine tasting etiquette

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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?”