Where to Next
Keep up to date with our latest information on visiting and living abroad!
TALL SHIP SAILING
Ever wonder what it would be like to sail aboard a tall ship? Do you think it would be lots of hoisting and grunting? Heeling and splashing? Swabbing decks and sleeping in crowded bunks like in the movies? Think again. How about sipping champagne up on the sun deck watching the sails fill as you prepare to set sail. Taking in the sunset from the tropical bar watching the previous port grow distant – anticipating the new anchorage the next day will bring. Then enjoying a fine multi-course dinner in a grand three-deck dining atrium served by professional, friendly staff. Retiring to your stateroom complete with marble bath, fine linens, and all modern amenities. One cruise line has created an experience that merges the romance of yesterday’s tall ship adventures with the comfort, service, efficiency, and travel pleasures of today. More of a glorious voyage back in time in a private sailing yacht and less of a generic floating hotel. No casino or waterslide here - but of course, there is a spa! A few small pools, too! And a marina platform from which to enjoy a variety of...more
PISA: THE TOWER AND MORE
Often clients ask me if they should stop in Pisa for a quick visit so they can see the Leaning Tower and take a few photos. Either they are on the way out of the airport or on a day trip from Florence. I mean, this is quintessential Italy, right? The slanted icon has been planted in our brains as a symbol of Italy for centuries. I remember vividly my first impression of Italy when I was about three was the this exact tower on the cover of our pizza box. The next question is well, is there anything else there to see?
And the answer is a resounding YES! Especially when you have an amazing guide as we did. Dott. Vincenzo Riolo showed us around Pisa from Palaces and bridges to Borgo Stretto, the road where history and current trends continue to co-mingle with much grace and fun. Towards the end of the tour, we visited (you guessed it) the Leaning Tower. Without a doubt, the Piazza dei Miracoli or Field (Square) of Miracles is the proud jewel of this city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. We entered from the back through a quiet piazza away from the crowds and souvenir stands....more
Yes, we willingly dressed like this. It was the call of the cheese.
A group from our Italian classes in Lucca had the chance to go north into the Garfagnana countryside, and one of our stops was this family-run cheese-making site. Naturally, we had to suit up to protect the future drool-worthy cheese — from us.
But what is so striking in this photo is the Italian sense of fare la bella figura, or always presenting yourself at your best, no matter the situation. Here, when given exactly the same godawful blue hair nets, Kleenex-like jackets, and Smurfy slippers, there is only one of us – the lone Italian — who carries it off, radiating la bella figura.
He stands proudly facing the camera with dignity, wry amusement, and with his hairnet deftly fashioned into a jaunty beret. Bravissimo! The rest of us? Giddy amateurs.more
For over 25 years I have been selling travel…. or to be more specific, selling dreams. For most people who travel for leisure, they are fulfilling some sort of dream. It could be for relaxation, cultural immersion, amusement, spirituality, adventure, education, family heritage, enjoying our planet’s natural beauty – and the list goes on. A good travel-seller will always try to learn first what the motivation behind the journey for the traveler is. It is common for travelers to want a combination of experiences on each trip.
Interestingly, the motivation behind planning my own trips has changed dramatically over the years. At first, it was mostly for adventure. Then it was to learn more about other cultures and their history. Nowadays, it is the combination of new experiences coupled with visiting some of the many wonderful people that I have met on previous trips. I could never have predicted years ago that this would be a major factor in deciding where I go to next. But it is. This is why I love to return to Italy time and time again. I feel now like I am visiting family....more
Can’t stop laughing, can you? We couldn’t either.
My sister and I had decided to ride Vespas in the countryside outside Florence. So we met up with the group, distinguishing ourselves by being at least a generation older than everyone else, as well as the only ones who hadn’t ridden anything vaguely like a motorcycle or tractor.
Were we deterred? Not one bit. And then when we got these astronaut helmets that weighed more than a filing cabinet, we couldn’t look at each other without getting hysterical. Besides, it’s hard to give off cool biker-girl vibes when you look like this and your Vespa has a cartoon character on the front.
The laughs lasted until after lunch – with wine, of course — when we were warming up in the parking lot for the afternoon ride. It was hard to go much faster than a crawl in the crowded lot, but I managed to hit the gas inadvertently and do a spectacular sliding crash into a brick wall. The crash, blood and torn clothing reduced my biker cred to zero.
Was the day ruined? Oh, no, no, no. I lost my Vespa privileges but drew the envy...more
Trieste at the golden hour.
Aching for a kinder and gentler place? Done. The golden hour in Trieste, Italy, at once takes you back to a serene place, and to a golden age. Walking here among grandiose buildings and piazzas that seem oversized for its small-town feel is like wandering on a movie set, and Trieste is far away from the typical Italian tourist route so there’s no souvenir shop or selfie stick clutter. Imagine that. Just locals who love their town, their vibrant cafes, and the elegant beauty of a century ago. It’s fitting that we found our favorite Italian apertif here before it spread across the rest of Italy – the Aperol spritz, a drink that reflects the orange-gold glow of Trieste.more
While Europeans are often taken aback by Americans’ public display of sweats and beachwear as about-the-town clothes, we are shocked by their very public display of affection. I mean, it’s everywhere! You would almost think that it’s okay to kiss someone in public. Harrumph! On the other hand, the open PDA does up the romantic cues overseas, and pretty soon your selfie smiles are looking a whole lot more authentic.more
Orvieto is like your fun uncle who has a surprise adventure ready every time you show up. This time we stayed in a room overlooking the Duomo, and on awakening, we watched a couple old Fiats drift into the empty piazza. Fun! After breakfast in the basement, we returned to our window to see that the Fiats had now multiplied to about 30, and the adventure was on. Soon, at least 100 Fiats had gathered, with horns blaring and people swarming like some Roberto Benigni movie. Finally, of course, the bishop arrived to bless the crowd and their cars. And then they were gone. A flash mob, Italian style.more
“Oh, yes, we’re going to the island of Capri”: One of the snootiest exit lines ever. “And we’ll be wearing capri pants, which we love because it sounds like oh, wheeee!” Had enough? So have the people of Capri. You see, it’s not pronounced ka-PREEEE’, but KA’-pree. Kind of takes the snootiness out of your practiced nonchalance. KA’-pree sounds a bit more like a Soviet bus stop. In any case, there are 2 parts to this island: the lower level where tourist hordes are ka-PREEing around worshipping bling, and then there is the top of the island where you have this most serene view of the faraglioni rock formations below. You choose.more
I was having an aperitivo in one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, Piazza del Campo in the medieval town of Siena. Taking a short break from my travel career, I was attending Italian language school in the summer of 2005 to enjoy some life-enriching activity. Travel during the previous 10 years consisted mostly of 4-day familiarization trips to various places to see all 6 room categories of the 10 most popular hotels in each of the destinations. It was as glamorous as it sounds.
As I was practicing my daily lesson, I happened to notice an interesting juxtaposition come clearly into my view. Entering on the right was a smartly dressed woman carrying a bright yellow umbrella followed by about thirty curious onlookers. They stopped and huddled closely together to hear her narrative about the famous square.
At the same time, entering into the left of my view came a young couple holding a large map and guidebook, reading intently and looking up in awe at the magnificent buildings that surrounded the square.
They were all most undoubtedly learning more about the...more
Meet our Tuscan canine host, Scooby-Doo.
Staying for a week in Tuscany’s countryside sounded idyllic, so we found an agriturismo down the hill from Pienza. The owner lived in a modest house with his mother, young son and dog, while we stayed in a separate building surrounded by fields that offered this as one of our views. Scooby-Doo, named by his son who had seen the American cartoon by that name, quickly became our “come-follow-me” buddy and our dinner companion, sitting with us on the terrace to watch the magic of the sun setting over Pienza’s hillside profile. And really — spending happy hour with Scooby-Doo in Tuscany? No one else can claim that one.more
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
Is there a piece of Italian real estate in your dreams? A villa in Tuscany, a lake property at Lago di Como, an apartment in Rome? Let’s focus: rural or urban, luxurious or rustic, historic or modern … so many choices. With real estate prices worldwide corrected to more reasonable levels, and the stronger dollar to euro exchange rate now might be the perfect time to explore those dreams.
Several obstacles to buying real estate in Italy have been recently removed, or at least the way has been made a little smoother. However, you should not expect a real estate transaction to work the same way as it does in the US. To start with, there are different players involved. In Italy, there are a couple of different kinds of realtors (mediatore or mandatario) and a variety of legal and tax considerations.
It is also helpful to deal with a Realtor who is familiar with international transactions. The National Association of Realtors has a designation CIPS – Certified International Property Specialist. These agents have worldwide connections and are used to dealing with foreign...more
Riding the local bus from Lugano, Switzerland to Lake Como was our first entry into Italy – and that memory is still in the surreal category. All the other bus passengers were small town Italian housewives happily chatting and toting their groceries back home. As we crossed the border, the passport checker hopped on the bus, exchanged pleasantries with the ladies, and rolled his eyes at us. Then at Lake Como, we raced to the departing ferry, making action-hero leaps (with backpacks) onto the moving boat. Exhilarating? You bet. And then we turned to see this enchanting town of Varenna rising into view. It bewitched us then and still calls us back.more
DINNER AT THE CASTLE
A stay at Il Borgo would not be complete without dinner at its sister property – Castello di Santa Maria Novella. This 11th century structure, which was destroyed and rebuilt in 1313, has strategic importance to the area between Florence and Siena. Sitting atop one of the highest points, the castle boasts spectacular views. Upon arrival, we received a warm welcome and a grand tour from Fernando, the director of the estate, who eloquently gave us the condensed history of this stately property and graciously paused often to allow for ample photo opportunities. The castle has been meticulously restored to its original splendor, including a grand courtyard where the local residents would gather. On this particular evening, it is where we enjoyed a nice aperitif – a carafe of white wine with a sprig of rosemary, giving it a wonderful earthy aroma and flavor. Delicious appetizers accompanied the wine: lightly fried zucchini flowers and sage leaves and Tuscan pecorino cheese served with fig marmalade.
Afterwards, our group of fourteen went into one of the many private dining rooms...more
Lucca is a town that is so easy to reach – just off the main highway between Florence and the sea. But once you arrive, you feel worlds away from everything. This perfectly sized walled city is not considered a hill town – the hills are surrounding the town just past the River Serchio. It is primarily flat which is why bicycles are by far the preferred mode of transportation here. One can also easily walk on top of the massive sixteenth century walls around the town for a lovely stroll or taking a bicycle around the outer loop is also very popular.
Inside the walls is everything you would want your favorite medieval city to have; a grand piazza where everyone meets and local musicians play, lots of local markets and fine shops, an antiques market, many fabulous restaurants, great bakeries, fruit markets, wine stores, gelaterias , museums, theaters, incredible churches and lovely hotels. It also happens to be the birthplace of the famous Giacomo Puccini and recently was the 150th anniversary of his birth. There were banners hanging from every lamppost in honor of remembering...more