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Posts Tagged ‘Small group tours Italy’

View from Room 220 La Perla

As I write this article, I am sitting in a small hotel in the village of Vocogno di Craveggia (VB) in the Valle Vigezzo of northern Italy. Located a mere two hours by train from the intensive noise and traffic of Milano, you will find peace, quite, tranquility and rest in this lovely area of Italia. Frequented by Italian and Swiss travelers, this particular valley has been overlooked by all but knowledgeable international visitors for centuries.

The Vigezzo river valley meanders through the Lapontine Alps in Italy, bordering the Swiss Canton of Ticino on its northern perimiter.   It is known, among other things,  for its annual celebration of the chimney-sweepers, “spazzacamini” in Italian. Each September, the village fills with those who come to honor this special and much honored traditional work.

Spazzacamini Santa Maria Maggiore

A Time Honored Tradition – Chimney Sweeps – A Spazzacamino during the Annual Celebrations

The buildings here are mostly stone and stucco. Granite and slate roofs top barns and homes and the sense of this place is as much Switzerland as it is Italy.

Santa Maria Maggiore Val Vigezza

Town Square, Santa Maria Maggiore

The Hotel La Perla occupies a marvelous site above the village. Mattei, the owner, or his son Francesco, offer to pick you up (and return you at the conclusion of your visit) in Santa Maria Maggiore. The hotel is located some distance, uphill, from the station so this is a much appreciated service. Without a car, you should plan to walk; special requests for pick-up and drop off can be made with the owners.

The three-star hotel La Perla offers very simple, clean, uncluttered rooms. If you ask for a mountain/valley view you will not be disappointed. Some rooms on the second and third floors offer terraces and stunning vistas of the valley and villages below. Don’t expect fancy; expect clean, friendly and well-managed accommodation.

Sunday Morning sunrise Vocogno di Craveggia

The View from Room 220, Hotel La Perla

The restaurant in the hotel offers memorable meals. Dinner last evening was a Caprese salad, followed by some baked potato gnocchi prepared with a special regional cheese. The sliced local beef was beautifully prepared with some patate fritte to accompany the secondo. Francesco, the son of the owners, is the chef. His capabilities are more than evident in a flavorful and well-prepared “cena” (dinner). The restaurant also offers a good selection of local and regional wines. The views from the dining room are spectacular, as well.

Your days here can be filled with rented electric bicycles, hikes in the foothills of the alps, easy strolls through the valley villages. Not unlike the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast of Italy, the chain of small towns are linked by the “Centovalli Vigezzina“, known locally as the Centovalli train. You can purchase tickets to/from various villages and walk back or just enjoy time in each one, returning to Santa Maria Maggiore at the end of an easy day. (Click on the map for easier reading).

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Be sure to plan a few days in this region of Italy. Hotels are not plentiful, so reservations are strongly recommended. Most accommodations are three-star with a few four-star available.

If your time in Italy is limited, you might enjoy the full day excursion  known as the Lago Maggiore Express. Our blog article provides details and information.

IF YOU GO:

Trenitalia offers regular service from all over Italy to Milano Centrale and from there on to Domodossola, the last large city before entering Switzerland. Those coming from Brig, in Switzerland, will find trains available on either the Italiarail or Swiss Bundesbahn web sites.

From Domodossola, you can purchase tickets for the Centovalli train (though online purchases in advance are recommend, as this will guarantee you seats especially during the busiest months of August, September, Christmas Holiday, January and February).

Valle Vigezzo Tourist Information

Train Information, Valle Vigezzo

Hotel La Perla

28852 Vocogno di Craveggia (VB)

Via Belitrandi, 2/A

Tel: 0324 98 071

Fax: 0324 98 88 98

 

 

 

 

 

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Isola San Giulio View. Church bell tower on the left.

 

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Graffiti at Isola San Giulio, Lago Orta

Admittedly, unashamedly, Lago Orta in the lake region of Italy is one of my  favorite haunts. Isola San Giulio, located in the shadow of Madonna del Sasso high above the lake and just off shore of the village of Orto San Giulio, is a treasure.

It is not only the Way of Silence and the Way of Meditation which wend their way through the narrow lanes of the island that make this such a unique and memorable place; it is also the secrets of monks inside the Basilica di San Giulio which add intrigue and even some humor to the quiet meditative interior of the church.

Study the graffiti etched in to the frescoes on columns in the church and surprises await. Amidst the clutter of too many modern scars are Latin notes made by monks in centuries past.

“The weather is cold today.”
“Brother Paul is asleep.”
“I am bored.”
“The weather is cold today.”

It is as if the monks, bored, cold, jealous or otherwise distracted took advantage of early morning or evening services in the dark, shadowed corners of the basilica to add a note of discontent or criticism; no worries that the surface used were 15th or early 16th Century frescoes by artists of their day.

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Graffiti scarred frescoes – Basilica di San Giulio

When you next visit the lake region, please take some time to visit this intriguing island in one of the least known lakes in Italy.

IF YOU GO:

Isola San Giulio: Information about the lake area, hours for various visits and other helpful details.

Navigazione Lago d’Orta: Timetables and information about ferry schedules on Lake Orta.

 

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Easter in Rome is one of the busiest times of the year.

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Interior, St. Peter’s Basilica

Keep in mind that if you are planning to be in Italy, in general, around Easter, that this is a very important holiday. Almost every museum, event venue and archaeological site is closed Good Friday through Easter Monday. The holiday weeks preceding and following the Easter weekend also are a challenge for tourism due to changing hours at those locations as well.

Here, for your use and reference, is a list of events currently planned in the city

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy (Holy) Thursday Mass 09:30AM St. Peter’s Basilica (Smaller crowd with better chance of closer proximity to the Pope) (Tickets Required)

Second Papal Mass of the day:  5:30pm, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Basilica of Saint John Lateran

Friday, April 14, 2017:

Good Friday procession from Colosseum to Palatine Hill

Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica 5:00PM (Tickets Required)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (Tickets Required)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square with the Pope – 10:15AM (Tickets Required)

“Urbi et Orbi” Blessing at 12:00PM Noon in St. Peter’s Square (No Tickets Required)

Vatican Web Site Calendar and other information.

Audience or Mass with the Pope: Information

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Crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Easter Celebration

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There are very few small travel organizations in Italy who are part of the KM “Zero” movement. KM Zero Tours, owned and operated by Alessio and Arianna, established their company upon this philosophy: “…we would love to invite you to discover Tuscany from a different perspective, following its slow rhythms, meeting local, passionate producers and being inspired by their sustainable, authentic lifestyle.”

Alessio and Arianna of Km Zero Tours

Alessio and Arianna of KM Zero Tours

Private Italy Tours LTD does not partner with a large number of other such passionate owners in Italy. Our philosophy of travel melds seamlessly with KM Zero Tours and we very pleased to share true Italian cultural experiences with them.

It was thanks to their generous partnership that we visited the Villa del Cigliano, a private family owned and operated estate in the Chianti Area of Tuscany. The owners and managers of the estate, Anna Macaferri Montecchi and her husband inherited the estate from her mother. The estate was established in the 16th Century by the Antinori family and it has been in the care of that extended family ever since. Anna’s son, Niccolo’, cares for the grape and the production of wine. The long list of honors bestowed upon the wines created there speak to his loving and careful care of the production.

The video link below, though in Italian, shares both Anna and Niccolo’s passion for their work. Their spirit and enthusiasm come through, regardless of the language, though Italian is such a sensuous and beautiful language you can, if you don’t speak Italian, understand what they are saying.

 

While private tours and tastings can be arranged directly with the estate, my strong recommendation is to contact Arianna and Alessio at KM Zero tours so that they can share with you “their” Tuscany. The relationship that they have with Anna and Niccolo’ are unique and only through the partnership of the two passions will you truly experience all the Villa del Cigliano offers.

Km Zero Tours

Villa del Cigliano Via Cigliano 17 – 50026
San Casciano Val di Pesa
Firenze – Italy   tel +39.055.820033

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Exhausted? Looking for the best possible way to relax in bella Italia? Come experience the professional services of Private Italy Tours LTD.

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Imagine your own Italian villa with garden

Contact us about our 2017 tours in Italy. We offer completely care free weeks in villas, cooks for your meals, daily easy guide-lead explorations to known, and many less known, corners of the country. Four select itineraries are offered to provide you with exceptional opportunities to experience the Italian culture.

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A villa pool and view

Over 725 guests have traveled with us since our company began offering unforgettable travel experiences. Their testimonials add an additional perspective to the quality of our services.

Traveling on your own and wish to have the itinerary planning services of a professional and knowledgeable team of experts based in Italy? Our Itinerary Planning Services offer inclusive services so that you can travel with no worries as you explore the country on your own.

Experience a world of stress free travel, where the worries of the day fade in to the beauty of golden veiled skies, rustling olive leaves and luxurious accommodation.

Experience Private Italy Tours LTD.

 

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Your breakfast table in Italy

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A fascinating staging – The Medici Dynasty Show

It is always a great pleasure to encounter an experience in Florence that is new, fresh, educational and intellectually interesting. Such is the case with “The Medici Dynasty Show”, now in its second year of performance at a historic ‘new’ venue.

It is, additionally, rare to encounter a performance which educates the audience about the final days of the Medici in a little over an hour. This is a performance that can easily precede an aperitivo and a late dinner.
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Don’t speak or understand Italian? No problem; the play is presented in English!
The heart of the story is the last meeting between the Medici ruler, Gian Gastone and his sister, Anna Maria Luisa. At the center of the action is a discussion about what needs to be done with the Medici estates, art, jewelry and other possessions of the family. The two are brother and sister and the last surviving members of the family traced back to Cosimo Pater Patriae.
Gian Gastone, ridden with disease, is confronted by a strong and vital sister who insists that a decision be made. I shall leave the rest of the story to your enjoyment.
Ticket Office The Medici Dynasty Show
Il Fuligno, the location for the performances, is located in the former Convent of Sant’Onofrio dell Monache di Foligno. Dating back to the 15th Century, the building was decorated by such local renaissance artists as Neri di Bicci.
Please note that the performance venue can accommodate only a maximum of ninety (90) seats per show.

ALL YEAR ROUND AT 7:00 PM – Duration 1 hour

The Medici Dynasty Show, at 7pm inside the Church of il Fuligno.

No performances on Monday and Friday. In August the show runs only on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

All shows are live and in English language.

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The Convent performance venue

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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.

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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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