Our prayers are with those affected by a second series of large earthquakes that struck late this evening Central European Time, October 26, 2016, once again in central Italy.

The epicenter appears to be in the same general area of central Italy, not too far from Amatrice, one of the most heavily damaged villages in the August quake. Recent reports indicate that the quake’s center was about 36 miles from Perugia and shocks were felt as far away as Rome.

Here is a link to the latest update, as of 5:05PM EST October 26 2016:

Earthquake Central Italy October 26 2016

Per coloro che possono leggere l’Italiano, ecco un recente aggiornamento di nottizie italiana, la RAI:
Here is a map showing the general location of this most recent quake’s epicenter.
Image result for RAI Italia terremoto 26 ottobre 2016

Here is some great news about the Uffizi in Florence.

For those who have visited the gallery, you may recall the Sandro Botticelli rooms located off of the Eastern/First Corridor in numbers 10 – 14. (See map below) They were rather dark, crowded (always) and not easy to navigate.

Thanks to a complete renovation of those rooms, the Botticelli’s glow as never before. In addition to the rooms dedicated to Sandro, Rooms 9 and 15 have been upgraded as well.

The rooms reopened on October 18, 2016 (yesterday).  For those of you headed to Florence anytime in the future will enjoy the spectacular way his unforgettable work is now showcased.


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Primavera in the newly renovated rooms of Botticelli at the Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery


Tuesday – Sunday, 08:15AM – 06:50PM

Tickets: Uffizi Web Site





Are you looking for a ten-day, four star hotel based, exploration of the art and history of Tuscany? Would you enjoy a small group of like-minded travelers who share a passion for the intriguing history of the world’s art center?

Room of Pope Leo X Poggio a Caiano

Poggio a Caiano: Medici Villa Ballroom (Room of Leo X) Frescoes by Alori, Pontormo, Franciabigio and others (15th, 16th and 17th Centuries)

Do you have a passion, a curiosity or an interest in learning more about the Florentine Renaissance, its famous artists, writers, sculptors and musicians?

JOIN US on our annual exploration of what once was the creative center of western European culture.

Our special, annual, exploration includes:

  • Round trip airfare from Charlotte, NC to Florence/Return (credit applied for those travelers who join us from other cities)
  • Transfer from Asheville, NC to Charlotte Airport outbound and return
  • Four Star Hotel in Florence city center
  • Overall group size limited to twenty-four guests
  • Private guides most days with group size is limited to no more than ten guests per group, all equipped with Whisper Phones for hearing our guides in the clearest way possible
  • Two separate full day excursions with private guides to Siena and Lucca
  • A vast and incredible array of excursions which can be added to your time on the tour
  • Open afternoons for explorations on your own, with support and guidance from your 24/7 tour leader, Mark Gordon Smith of Private Italy Tours LTD (www.private-italy.com)
  • All museum entrance tickets included
  • All ground transportation in Italy is included
  • Breakfast, daily, included
  • Two dinners – Welcome and Farewell at wonderful restaurants in the city center
  • Bound itinerary books for you to refer to in the course of your tour and to keep as a memory of your time in Italy

Tariff is $4150.00 per person, inclusive

No Single Supplement

View our Introductory Video about this incredible tour

Click on the photo below to download and view our narrated PowerPoint introduction for this tour.


PowerPoint Introduction Art Tour Tuscany

The Mayor of Florence has just announced that the Medici collection of 100 tapestries, divided for over one hundred years between Rome and Florence, will return to the Palazzo Vecchio’s Sala dei Dugento, also know as the Sala dei Cosiglio Communale, in its entirety.


Tapestries of the Medici Collection

The collection, which depicts various scenes based on the parables of Joseph, will be rotated for display in the Dugento.

Created between 1545 and 1553 these gorgeous works of art were based upon designs by such leaders of the Mannerist movement as Pontormo, Salviati and Bronzino.

When you are in Florence, please be sure to visit the Palazzo Vecchio. It houses an invaluable treasure of art. This returning collection further ensures the Palazzo’s historic stature within the history of Renaissance Italy.

Palazzo Vecchio     Piazza della Signoria, Firenze, Italy  Phone:+39 055 276 8325

Hours: Monday – Wednesday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9AM – 11PM

Thursday 9AM – 2PM


Example from the collection



Very few visitors to Florence have ever heard of Villa La Quiete. Even if this is a place you do not know, make plans to visit this incredible exhibit.

NOTE: Before you go, please double check the hours that the exhibit is open, as listed below.

Now home to a university of cultural studies for foreigners, and not far from Sesto Fiorentino, the villa’s restoration is being previewed, in anticipation of its April 2017 reopening, in an exhibit of works by  Renaissance artists.

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Villa La Quiete and Gardens

The area of the current villa’s location was called, during Roman occupation, Palagio di Quarto after a hill not far from the ancient city center of present day Florence. The Orlandini family owned the villa from the 12th Century and substantially expanded it during their ownership. It changed hands several times during the 15th century: 1438, given to a military leader, Nicholas di Tolentino, as a gift from the Republic of Florence; 1453 bought by Pierfranceso de Medici.

In 1637, Christine of Lorraine, wife of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici, acquired the villa and was responsible for expanding and improving the building to its current beauty. The property’s furnishings were given to the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio in Florence as part of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici’s Patto di Famiglia. She was the last remaining direct descendant of the Medici family tree, leading back to Cosimo, Pater Patriae. The Family Pact (Patto di Familia) of 1743 stipulated that all Medici property was to be given to the city of Florence.

The building is now the home of a work by Domenico Ghirlandaio’s son, Ridolfo, Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine. The other works in the exhibit were loaned by other museums and churches.

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Domenico Ghirlandaio – Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine

The exhibit features several little known works including Botticelli’s Coronation of the Virgin with Saints, one of but a few crucifix’s by Baccio di Montelupo and the Ridolfo di  Ghirlandaio Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine.


Coronation of the Virgin with Saints, 1490-1492 Botticelli

Exhibition Room, Villa La Quiete

Courses at the University vary by term and further information can be found by clicking here:

Universita degli studi di Firenzecentro Cultura per Stranieri

Exhibit Hours:
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 5:00PM to 8:00PM
CLOSED: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Florence’s Central University of Cultural Studies for Foreigners

Via di Boldrone, 2

50141 Firenze



Many of our guests and clients have asked about the type of luggage and clothing to bring with them to Italy or to other European countries, either on their own, or on one of our small group tours.

(A special note: I am certain that any number of readers will disagree with some part of this blog post. Based on over forty years of travel experience across Europe, this has worked well for me, our clients and our family)

Image result for people packing luggage

Well packed luggage – Photo credit ABC News

In almost every case, for less than three weeks of travel, here are my suggestions:

-21″ Roller bag. Soft side luggage is always better as it can expand and/or contract easily. Hard side luggage is always heavier and less manageable for packing.

-One piece of hand luggage. The hand luggage could be a small back pack, a smaller bag or duffle bag as long as it  meets your airline’s size requirements for carry on. You should consult your carrier’s luggage information before checking in.

-Prescriptions: Be SURE to pack a sufficient supply of whatever prescriptions you have with you in your carry on luggage – usually the smaller of the two pieces you have with you. It is also recommended that you bring prescriptions for your most important drugs  from your attending physician with the name of your drug using the LATIN name(s). Finding, in many cases, something as simple as Tylenol (by trade name) can be very confusing in an Italian pharmacy. The Latin name of the drug solves those challenges.

In a few cases we have had clients arrive in Europe without their luggage (see below regarding delayed or lost luggage) and without their needed medications. It can be a long and arduous process to replace those medications. It is always better to carry them with you.

-If you follow the weather for Maryland, NC and SC before you go, you will find that the weather in Italy parallels that weather very well. Check the weather for those states and you will find, in most cases, you have packed appropriately.

-Packing your luggage:

  • any shoes you pack should go at the bottom of your bag, closest to the wheels on your roller bag-this keeps the bag’s “center of gravity” low and helps to prevent tipping over when you take your hand off of the luggage:
  • don’t pack blue jeans – they are very heavy and take up a lot of room in luggage – cotton/khaki type of slacks for men (or shorts) and linen/cotton slacks for ladies are best May to October: for travel between November and April, heavier slacks along with a light weight cashmere sweater, layered with a light jacket and scarf are nearly all you will need: wrap your belts around the frame inside the bag-they take up no room at all
  • LAYER-light items first, then heavier items and a final layer of light items-again, this helps with center of gravity and makes moving the bag all the easier.

-Hair dryers, shampoo, personal products:

  • Travel light. Most hotels in Italy provide shampoo and conditioner. If your hotel room does not have a hairdryer in the bathroom, ask at the front desk. Most have one you can borrow for your stay.

-Remember that if you are traveling by train, you must lift your bag up in to the rail car, perhaps place it overhead and then take it off the train at your destination. Heavier bags become, believe me, much heavier the longer you are traveling.


WAY too much luggage for the train

-Laundromats: Nearly every town in Italy has a public laundromat. Hotel laundering can be, as in America, expensive. Most of the public facilities are 24/7. I recommend during the day, particularly in the larger cities. sdx

-Remember, also, that very, VERY, few people will be able to recall what you wear day to day during your travels.

-Lastly: We have had clients wait more than one year for reimbursement from airlines after their luggage was delayed or lost in transit. While this is unacceptable, it is always  – ALWAYS – best to keep your luggage with you when you travel by air. Period. Do all you can to do give yourself the peace of mind that comes with having your luggage with you.

(Do NOT fly Vueling-a discount carrier within Europe that is majority owned by Iberia, American Airlines and British Airlines. The problems we have encountered with this airline are indescribable.)

-Go comfortably. Take comfortable walking shoes with you. Travel light.

-Enjoy your trip!



Libreria Aqua Alta Entrance

Down one of the more typical walkways of Venice, in the heart of the Castello Sestieri (neighborhood), and in the shadow of the gorgeous Cathedral of San Giovanni e Paolo, is an unexpected treasure of Venice, the Bookstore of High Water (Libreria Aqua Alta). Please refer to the map link below for detailed location information.

Any self-respecting lover of books MUST visit, if only for the memorable curiosities contained within: a gondola (yes, a real gondola) full of books, room after room of volumes stacked, in most cases, to the ceiling, another small boat filled with hard and soft covers and, as a final treat, an outdoor set of stairs built from tomes that afford you a view of the canal behind the shop.


The Infamous 3-D Artwork

As you enter the store, be prepared for the friendly and outgoing owner, Luigi Frizzo, to greet you. Along with his pointing out a certain three dimensional painting of Venetian palazzi, showcased near the check out counter (right), one of any number of well fed cats may stare you down, might stretch and resettle or could even meow a hello.

I have visited this libreria numerous times over the years. Each visit, I wonder how Luigi keeps the bookstore, literally and figuratively, afloat.

When you are next in Venice, make sure you add a short easy break at the “High Water”. You will not be disappointed.

Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome)

5176/B – Castello, 30122 Venice

Tel: +39 041 296 08 41

Daily Hours: 9:00AM – 8:00PM


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