Archive for August, 2012

August 29, 2012

Pisa – worth a visit

Pisa is synonomous with ‘The Leaning Tower’ and often is not considered a ‘must see’ by visitors to Tuscany. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a unique landmark located in the Piazza of Miracles, with the Duomo and Baptistery..all well worth a one stop visit. But Pisa can be  especially charismatic at certain times during the year.

Every June the city holds its legendary Luminara Festival, during which more than  10,000 candles are lit and placed along the banks of the Arno River, and locals celebrate with fireworks. Also in June is the Gioco del Ponto, a medieval festival during which two teams compete in a sort of tug-of-war game with a huge cart. As always with Italian festivals, full celebrations are on display, making it an ideal time to experience authentic Italian culture.

Further, every four years the annual Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics is held in Pisa, a boat race between Pisa, Amalfi, Genoa and Venice that includes a costumed parade and revelry. The Regatta was inaugurated in the 1940s to honor and celebrate the ancient Maritime powers and tickets can be purchased online or in person.

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August 24, 2012

Lake Como

Bellagio from the ferry.

Lake Como is in the region of Lombardy and is part of the northern Italian Lakes District. It lies between Milan and the border of Switzerland with its southern tip about 40km north of Milan.  Lake Como, Lago di Como in Italian, is Italy’s most popular lake and also its deepest. The lake is surrounded by mountains and hills and dotted with beautiful villas and resort villages. There are good hiking paths, boat trips and water activities. Popular since Roman times, Lake Como is a top romantic travel destination.  It is also a popular weekend destination for people for the Milanese.  My favorite times to visit are May or  October as it is less crowded and the weather is generally very pleasant.

The walled town of Como has a good historic center and lively squares with nice cafes. There are several walking paths near town and along the lakeshore. A broad range of good dining options exist…to accommodate all tastes and pocketbooks.  Como makes a good base and particularly if you’re traveling by train. Ferries link the major villages and towns of Lake Como, providing both a good form of public transportation and a good way to do some sightseeing from the lake.  Bellagio, known as the pearl of the lake, is in a beautiful setting where the three branches of Lake Como come together.  I love jumping on one of the ferries across the street from my favorite Como hotel in the morning and getting off and on as the I choose…no plan required.

Want a big city fix for the day….jump on the train to Milan and shop til you drop or soak up the atmosphere in the Scala and Galleria and lunch while enjoying fabulous views of the Duomo.

August 22, 2012

Lovely Villa to Rent in Tuscany – Brogino

Brogino is a large country house in Chianti, its already lyrical setting enhanced by the spectacular medieval Abbey – Badia di Passignano – which faces it from a mile away across vine and olive clothed hills. The garden, with flowers and shrubs nestling amongst the rocks and sandy soil of the area, merges imperceptibly into the olive groves beyond.  Brogino is one of my favorites….it has a wonderful kitchen that allows mulitple people to work together comfortably while sipping a little pre-dinner vino.  The covered terrace in back offers a very picturesque al fresco dining area, as an alternate to the large indoor dining table.  The swim pool is landscaped into the olive grove and offers full privacy.  Brogino is a peaceful retreat to relax and enjoy the heady pleasures of Chianti after exploring the unending delights of Tuscany.

Contact me if you wish to reserve a week at Brogino or another one of our fabulous villas in Italy.  Colleen@invitationtotuscany.com     or   call me tollfree at 1.866.297.1058

August 21, 2012

Bon Appetit Cruise

Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festival
Oceania Riviera, October 14th, 2012
Epicureans rejoice! The experts at Bon Appétit magazine assembled culinary stars and wine experts for this palate-pleasing voyage.
The host for the October 14th Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festival onboard Riviera is Chef Stephen Lewandowski, the Executive Chef for Myriad Restaurant Group and Tribeca Grill in New York.
His earthy, contemporary American cuisine is the hallmark of the Grill, Drew Nieporent’s flagship restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Stephen’s passion and energy are indispensable and offer Myriad a competitive edge in the world of hospitality consulting. As Tribeca Grill’s Executive Chef, Stephen’s culinary creativity is disciplined by classical technique, inspiring standout dishes such as Braised Short Rib with Foie Gras Ravioli and Poached Maine Lobster with Crispy Sweetbreads. His innovative menu finds a perfect complement in Tribeca Grill’s superb wine list, winner of Wine Spectator’s coveted Grand Award every year since 2002.
For further details, please click link below.
August 16, 2012

Italian Summer Holiday Season

August 15th, Assumption Day, or Ferragosto,  traditionally marks the start of Italy’s summer vacation period, so if you’re in a city during the second half of August, you may find a number of restaurants and shops closed for family vacation, chiuso per ferie. Many families head to the coast so one can expect the beaches to be crowded while the cities may be fairly empty.  Siena runs their second Palio in the central square today, August 16th.  And Sassari in Sardinia holds the Festa dei Candelieri that dates back to the 16th century also on the 16th of August with team races carrying massive candles.

I have always felt that being left behind in Florence in the later half of August was rather a vacation in itself, as the city feels more relaxed, with half of it’s inhabitants away on holiday!

Photo courtesy of goitaly.about.com

see…’Becoming Italian Word by Word’ Blog post also for more on Ferragosto.

http://becomingitalianwordbyword.typepad.com/becomingitalian/2012/08/ferragosto.html

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