Posts Tagged ‘Small group tours Italy’

Those of you fortunate enough to be in Italy this coming weekend, 24 and 25 September, can take advantage of extended museum hours and reduced museum entrance fees as part of the annual celebration of European Heritage.

The Florence Tourist Information Office has published a complete list of the museums and sites favorably affected by these special days. See below for a link to the document.

Image result for piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria, Firenze

If you are at all interested in saving and seeing while in Florence, this is the weekend to do so! The link below is the official announcement, in Italian, for the special pricing and hours. The listing is in English and you can find information about hours and pricing.  .


ENJOY bella Firenze on two very important and special days.

If you would like to learn more about our small group explorations of Italy with four unique and distinct itineraries, please visit us at: www.private-italy.com

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L’isola Que Non C’era

Not many months ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch at a new restaurant, L’Isola Che Non C’era. Located in the heart of Lucca, it is just steps off of the most famous street in the city, Via Filungo.

I have returned many times since!

For over fifty-three years, Roberto Isola and his wife Lory owned and operated a very successful delicatessen in Lucca.

Riccardo, their son, now managers this  lovely two level restaurant on the Via degli Angeli.

During a recent visit I went for lunch with a dear friend, Wanda Martinelli – who also happens to be the best guide in Lucca and the surrounding hills!

Roberto and Lory

Roberto greeted us with a great smile and easy manner. He gave us a brief tour of the restaurant. Downstairs offers ten tables inside as well as a few tables, weather permitting, on the front terrace. The deli counter displays tavola calda specialties along with shelves packed full of exceptional products; Olive Oil, Pasta and a selection of local Lucca region wines. Upstairs are a large, brightly lit, dining room and kitchen.

While not fancy, this is a very good trattoria in the city.

Lunch was a selection of cold cut meats and antipasti, the perfect light fare for a warm summer’s day in the city. The food was exceptional and the price for two of us was very reasonable.


Lory and Riccardo

Their full menu offers various pastas(all fatta in casa, home made), lasagna, eggplant parmesan, salt cod with leeks, roast beef, roast potatoes, farro salad and seafood salad, to name but a few of their exceptional dishes. Dinner menu items range from Euro 10.00 up to Euro 22.00.

When you are in Lucca, be sure to stroll down the cool and inviting Via degli Angeli for a flavorful meal at L’isola Che Non C’era!


The “Deli” showcase – Makes you salivate!

Photography Credits: Foto Fiorenzo Sernacchioli, Lucca


L’Isola Che Non C’era

Via degli Angeli, 7LuccaItalia

Tel: +39.0583.49.26.33

Hours: Monday – Saturday 102:00 Noon to 22:00 (10:00PM)

Sunday – Closed


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One of the vendors we have worked with for many years, Emilia Delizia, has recently published the following update on how the recent exit of the UK from the EU will effect travelers from the US and the UK in to Europe.

With their permission I am forwarding this information to you in the hopes that you find it of assistance in these changes times.

How Brexit Will Affect Traveling To Italy (for UK and US visitors)

The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will undoubtedly have uncertain implications for the British people. The only certainty guaranteed by this so called ‘Brexit’ vote is that things will likely never be the same again for Britain in its relations with EU countries such as Italy. As such British tourists are likely to be the first group of Brits who will experience first hand the uncertain and little known consequences that might materialize as the UK negotiates itself out of the EU. Listed below are examples of some of the uncertain repercussions of the Brexit vote to British tourists who wish to travel to Italy.

Brexit tea

1. Costly Visas

Brexit has meant that, for the Brits at least, the days of the freedom of movement of people throughout Europe looks likely to be a thing of the past. Brits might now be treated as non-EU citizens, meaning that it is highly likely that they will be unable to cross a border-less EU without frequent passport checks. If any British national wishes to travel to Italy, it is probable that they will have to apply for and purchase a visa. This will mean that Brits will be subject to visa restrictions upon the amount of time they are permitted to stay within Italy before renewing their visa at an additional cost.

2. Poor Exchange Rate

As the full economic repercussions of the Brexit vote will not be known for many years to come, global markets have naturally reacted negatively at the level of uncertainty created by such a vote. This has resulted in a general weakening of pound sterling against all other major currencies such as the euro, meaning that British tourists traveling to a country like Italy could potentially have reduced spending power. The knock-on effect of this being that they might have less expendable money to spend over the course of their vacation on things like food and drink, excursions and souvenirs.

3. Expensive Air Travel

The Brexit vote has also created uncertainty about UK access to EU airspace, which could mean that the UK will have no other option than to renegotiate its air space treaties with all 27 EU member states. This could potentially mean that all UK-based air travel companies might have to pay increased fees in exchange for access to EU airspace, which perhaps will inevitably have to be passed onto the customer. This could spell the end of British access to cheap EU air travel, by forcing British tourists (and indeed non-EU tourists who fly from the UK specifically to access cheap EU flights) to pay more money for their flight to Italy from any UK airport.

Having said that we should also consider the possibility of less popular routes being abandoned by cheap no frills airlines due to higher costs, casting a shadow on smaller but crucial airports. Travelers from the U.S. too who often use Ryanair flights to Italy might have fewer choices in the future when it comes to air travel.

4. Increased Roaming Charges

The Brexit vote has also cast serious doubt over the UK’s continued access to cheap EU roaming charges, with many fearing that British telecom companies might have no other option than to charge British tourists higher roaming charges while they holiday in countries like Italy. Such a prospect could also negatively affect many non-EU tourists, such as those from the USA, who often purchase a UK sim card in order to take advantage of cheap EU call charges.

5. High-Cost Healthcare

Although not confirmed by either country, the UK’s decision to leave the EU has technically terminated the right of British citizens to be treated by the Italian Health Service while on holiday. This is still far from being a certainty, but if this is to be the case, then in future British tourists might have to procure and manage their own healthcare while on vacation in Italy. If both the UK and Italian governments are able to sort out a bilateral deal over the provision of healthcare to British tourists, it is likely that such an arrangement will charge British tourists for access to the Italian Health Service. However this is speculative and far from certain.

US travelers emergency treatment in Italy is still based upon US Healthcare coverage as well as International Travelers Insurance voluntarily acquired.

Overall the effects of Brexit on British tourists who wish to travel to Italy will in all likelihood be largely negative in nature. For a start Brits might find that the price of a holiday to Italy will be much higher than when the UK was a member of the EU, largely because of a poor sterling exchange rate with the euro and the fact that many benefits of being a member of the EU, such as visa free travel and access to healthcare, might now come with a costly price tag. In short, Brexit has potentially cost British tourists more money in order to travel to Italy and given them fresh uncertainty over simple things like roaming charges and more substantial issues such as access to the Italian Health Service when injured or ill.

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Some friends recently invited me to join them on a visit to the Villa Medici in Poggio a Caiano, about fifteen miles west of Florence. What an incredible surprise.

This makes for an easy day excursion from Florence city center, by train, to an historic palazzo and beautiful small village in Tuscany.

Why visit?

Read on. This gorgeous Renaissance palazzo contains some of the finest art commissioned by the Medici family; from the time of Cosimo the Elder to Lorenzo de Medici (Il Magnifico) to the Grand Dukes. An additional ‘treat’ is that admission is FREE.

Facade Poggio a Caiano

Facade Poggio a Caiano


It was in 1420 that Palla Strozzi began acquiring land and buildings from the Cancellieri, the office of the administration, in Florence. It is at this time we find the name Poggio a Caiano mentioned for the first time in a few historical documents next to the names of Bonistallo and Caiano.

In 1488 another famous Florentine family began to show an interest in the area when Giovanni Rucellai purchased the possessions, buildings and houses of Poggio a Caiano.

The history of the city, however, has remained tied to another, even more illustrious and celebrated family, that of the Medici.

By 1431 Cosimo dè Medici had bought six farms in the region. His grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent purchased more property in the area including all of the surrounding estates, began to build the Villa, initiated a complex project to contain flood waters by means of canals and stabilization of the banks of the Ombrone River and upgrading farming techniques on the estates north of the river.

In 1477, work began in earnest on what was to become the farm of  Poggio a Caiano – Tavola. Many highly skilled craftsmen moved to Poggio a Caiano, including masons, carpenters, furniture makers and artists. This colony of skilled labor constituted the nucleus of the town that was born as a “factory” for the Villa.

Franciabigio, Return of Cicerone from Exile 1519-21_ca._with additions by Alori, 1578-82_ca.)_01

Franciabigio, Return of Cicerone from Exile (1519-1521) with later additions by Alori (1578 – 1582).

Over time, Lorenzo and one of his sons who became Pope Leo X, commissioned artists as famous as Alori and Pontromo to create frescoes for the great rooms, especially the ballroom, of the villa.

pontormo Vertumnus and Pomona Poggio

Jacopo Pontormo, Vertumnus and Pomona (1520-1521)

The main ballroom, also referred to as the Room of Leo X, is a startling and unforgettable surprise.

Room of Pope Leo X Poggio a Caiano

Ballroom or Room of Leo X Frescoes by Alori, Pontormo, Franciabigio and others (15th, 16th and 17th Centuries)

Poggio’s location, between Florence and Pistoia, and the presence of the Villa Medici (which remained after the end of the Medici dynasty the summer home of first the Hapsburg-Lorraine and then of the House of Savoia-Italy’s first King used this palace as a country home after the unification of Italy) helped to maintain the prosperity of the small town.

Menerous rooms in many Medicean villas were filled with Still Life paintings; in Italian, Natura Morta. The Medici family was very passionate about cataloging the numerous varieties of vegetables and fruits grown in Tuscany.

Bartolomeo Bimbi Limoni Poggio a Caiano

Bartolomeo Bimbi, Limone (1715) Catalog of the many different types of lemons available on the estate and in Tuscany (Note the ‘shield’with the reference numbers below the painting.)

These innumerable paintings have been collected in to one museum at the Villa Poggio a Caiano. You should absolutely be sure to reserve in advance your entrance time for this unique collection of art.

A dear friend, Carla Geri Camporesi and her co writer Barbara Golini, who used to live near Florence in Impruneta, wrote a cookbook featuring many of these paintings along with recipes of the time. Even though written in Italian, the quality of the photographs alone are worth adding this volume to your collection.

From The Art of the Medicis to the Tables of Today

There is no charge to visit the collection of still life paintings, yet you must reserve with the villa directly to enter. Please see details below.


Scacciati (1642) Flowers - Poggio

Andrea Scacciati, Flowers (1642) Poggio a Caiano

At the End of World War II:

During the retreat of the German army in August of 1944, the city of Poggio a Caiano was heavily damaged by artillery fire. Many lives were lost in the town. The villa became a refuge to villagers who hoped for protection inside the estate’s walls.

Manetti’s famous iron bridge, one of the best examples of an early 19th Century suspension bridge with cables made of iron, was destroyed by the German Army. Only the two large stone entrance towers for the bridge remain.

After the war, Poggio became one of the principal centers for the art of straw weaving (braids, hats, etc.), or paglia: many of you may remember the straw braided Chianti bottles of years ago.

Post-war development was culminated by the separation of Poggio a Caiano from the nearby city of Carmignano. The comune of Poggio a Caiano became its own separate city on July 14, 1962.

Camignano, a mostly agricultural community challenged by a textile economy, suffered from the general crisis felt throughout agriculture in Italy in the last part of the 20th century.

Poggio a Caiano, however, with its fortunate location between Prato, Pistoia and Florence increased its development in industry and handcrafts, eventually becoming part of the wool and textile industry centered in Prato.

Poggio a Caiano


Located about 20 minutes outside of Florence by train.

Trains to Signa depart regularly (generally at :16 and :53 past the hour) from the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. The trip takes about eighteen minutes. Train fare, each way, is Euro 2.60 per person.

Taxi fare from the Signa train station to Poggio a Caiano averages Euro 18 per taxi. This is the easiest way to enjoy a day excursion from Florence without the hassle of driving, parking and possible fines!

If you are in the area for lunch, I highly recommend:

Il Falcone, Piazza XX Settembre, 35,Poggio a Caiano, Italy

Tel: +39.055.877.065

Hours: (Closed Wednesdays)

Lunch 12.00 – 14.00
Dinner  19.30 – 21.30

Fabulous food, great service, warm atmosphere, fair prices and a very good wine list!

Villa Visiting Hours

Admission: FREE

Opening hours:
8.15 – 16,30 (November – February)
8.15 – 17,30 (March and October)
8.15 – 18,30 (April, May and September)
8.15 – 19,30 (June – August)
Closed on the 2nd and 3rd Monday of each month, New Year’s Day, May 1st and Christmas Day.

PLEASE NOTE: To vist the Museum of Still Life (Naatura Morta) it is necessary to book an entrance time by calling the Museum office at +

CONTACT US! If you are interested in any of our small group explorations of Italy, please send an email to private_italy@hotmail.com. One of our staff will reply to your inquiry as quickly as possible. We hope to share “our” bella Italia with you! Thank you for reading and following our travel blog.


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eurosThe fees began in 2011 in Venice and within one year city hotels in Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples had followed La Serenissima’s example. Now, nearly every city, town and village hotel, B&B and self catered accommodation in Italy charges these fees to guests. As of the date of this blog post, AirBNB property owners in Italy are fighting the requirement to collect these duties.

Over the course of many years of travel in Italy, there has never been anyone at any hotel who has been able to clearly tell me (1) why it has to be paid, (2) for what purposes are the taxes collected (3) who distributes the taxes and (4) where, physically, are they paid in each city or province.

Keep in mind, also, that most of these payments are collected in cash from guests at the time of check out.

Below is a table of the amount of taxes collected for most major cities by region in Italy, including Sardinia.

You would be wise to double check the web site for the places you will be visiting to confirm that these rates, current as of June 2016, are still correct.

Remember to keep these numbers in mind when you calculate the cost of a hotel stay in Italia!

 Region/City 5-star 4-star 3-star

B&B and

Self Catered

Lucca € 3 € 3 € 2.50 For a maximum of 3 nights
Florence € 5.50 € 4.50 € 3.50 € 2.50 For a maximum of 7 nights
Cortona € 3 € 2 € 2 For a maximum of 4 nights
Siena € 5 € 2.50 € 2.50 € 1.50 For a maximum of 6 nights
Montepulciano € 5 € 2.50 € 2.50 € 1.50 For a maximum of 6 nights
San Gimignano € 3 € 2.50 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 5 nights
Chianti €4 € 2.50 €1.50 €1.50 For a maximum of 5 nights
Bardolino €2 €1.50 €1 For a maximum of 20 nights between 01/04 and 30/09
Sirmione € 2.50 € 1.80 € 1 Per night
Desenzano del Garda € 2 € 1 € 0.80 Per night
Peschiera del Garda € 2 € 1 € 0.80 For a maximum of 5 nights between 01/05 and 31/10
Venice € 5 € 4.50 € 3.50 For a maximum of 5 nights
Verona € 3 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 5 nights
Valeggio sul Mincio € 1.50 € 1.50 € 0.80 Per night betwen 01/04 and 31/12
Padova € 3 € 3 € 2 For a maximum of 5 nights
Vicenza € 3 € 2.50 € 2.50 Per night
Positano €5 € 3 € 1.50 € 1.50 50% discount from the 4th night
Sorrento € 2 € 1.50 € 1 € 1 For a maximum of 7 nights
Ravello € 4 € 3 € 2 € 2 For a maximum of 6 nights
Praiano € 2.50 € 2 € 1.50 € 1.50 For a maximum of 7 nights
Amalfi € 5 € 3 € 1.50 € 1.50 50% discount from the 4th night
Massa Lubrense € 2 € 1.50 € 1 € 1.50 For a maximum of 7 nights
Naples € 5 € 3 € 2 For a maximum of 10 nights
Ischia € 2 € 1.50 € 1 For a maximum of 7 nights
Rome € 7 € 6 € 4 For a maximum of 10 nights
Numana €1.50 €1 €0.50 Per night
Ascoli Piceno €1 €1 € 0.50 For a maximum of 6 nights
Matera € 2 € 2 €1 €1 For a maximum of 3 nights
Maratea €4 €2.50 €2 For a maximum of 5 nights
Ostuni € 2 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 5 nights
Lecce € 3 € 2 € 2 For a maximum of 5 nights
Fasano € 2.50 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 3 nights between 01/05 to 30/06 and 01/09 to 31/10
Fasano €4 €2.50 €2 For a maximum of 5 nights between 01/07 and 31/08
Monopoli €2 €2 €1 For a maximum of 14 nights
Alberobello €1 €1 €1 For a maximum of 3 nights
Vieste €1 €1 €0.80 For maximum one night between 15/05 and 15/09
Otranto €2 €2 €1.50 For a maximum of 7 nights between 01/04 and 30/09
Milan € 5 € 4 € 3 Per night
Varenna € 1 € 1 Per night
Como €2.50 €2 Per night
Bellagio €2 €1.50 For a maximum of 7 nights
Emilia Romagna
Ravenna € 4 € 3 € 2 Per night
Bologna € 4 € 4 € 3 For a maximum of 5 nights
Perugia € 2.50 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 10 nights
Orvieto € 2.50 € 2.30 For a maximum of 10 nights
Syracuse € 2.50 € 2 € 2 For a maximum of 4 nights
Catania € 2.50 € 1.50 € 1.50 € 1 For a maximum of 3 nights
Cefalu € 1 € 1 € 1 € 1 For a maximum of 10 nights
Aeolian islands € 1.50 One off charge
Modica € 2 € 1.50 € 1.50 For a maximum of 7 nights
Palermo € 3 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 4 nights
Taormina € 2.50 € 2 € 1.50 For a maximum of 10 nights
Alghero € 2 € 2 € 1 For a maximum of 7 nights
Villasimius € 2 € 2 € 1 Per night
Cannobio € 1.20 € 1.20 € 0.80 For a maximum of 7 nights
Arona € 3 € 2 € 1.50 Per night
Baveno and Stresa € 2.50 € 1.50 € 1 For a maximum of 7 nights
Verbania € 2.50 € 1.50 € 1 For a maximum of 15 nights
Turin € 5 € 3.70 € 2.80 For a maximum of 4 nights


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In one word: GO!


Piazza Santissima Annunziata

On June 24, 2016, the day of the annual Florentine celebration of the city’s patron saint John the Baptist, the ‘new’ Museum of the Innocents (Museo degli Innocenti) reopens after an extensive, nearly three year, restoration. The museum is located on the southeast side of the Piazza Santissima Annunziata at the end of the Via dei Servi, steps from the Piazza Duomo.

This restoration shares an intriguing variety of information, from the structure’s architectural history, its involvement with the guilds of Florence, the designs instituted by Filippo Brunelleschi (he of the famous Dome of the Duomo of Florence), to digitized video or audio interviews with seventy (70) people who were cared for at the Ospedale.

It was during the 15th Century that the Institute of the Orphans, Istituto degli Innocenti, was founded to support children and their families.

The children, born out of wedlock or unwanted, were brought without judgement or question to the Innocenti and were left in the exceptional hands of the Sisters who cared for these sventurati, the ‘unfortunates’.


Architecturally, the building is  a stunner of early Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi’s gorgeous loggia is bejeweled by works of babies in swaddling clothes created in the workshop of Andrea della Robbia. One of the the roundels, in blue and white ceramic, was selected to be the symbol of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Della Robbia - Innocenti

The museum contains records from the 15th Century onward, lists containing details of every child welcomed in to the Ospedale. The library also contains information regarding the children’s training and release into various programs during the Renaissance and beyond. From convents to monasteries, workshops of artists and sculptors as well as numerous other apprenticeships, the children raised in the Ospedale moved within, and beyond, the confines of Florence to become contributing members of society.

Today the Florentine phone book lists numerous families with the last name of Innocenti, a shadow of the institution’s significant impact on the life of the city.

The Istituto degli Innocenti is managed through a Board of Directors, all of whom are appointed by the Province of Florence. Their charter is to provide support for children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The museum contains a library and resource center for the study of children’s care from the time of the Ospedale’s founding to today, even as seven ‘innocenti’ currently remain resident in the structure.

On the heels of the reopening of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in October 2015, this is yet another MUST VISIT when you are in bella Firenze.

Museo degli Innocenti/Istituto degli Innocenti

Open 10:00AM – 7:00PM Daily

Entrance Ticket: Euro 5.00

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 12
+39 055 20371


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It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular surprise on the outskirts of Naples, amidst the “architettura fascista” of the cities notoriously ugly preferia (suburbs), than the Reggia (Royal Palace) of Caserta.

Facade Reggia di Caserta

Reggia di Caserta

Though Charles VII initiated construction on the palace, he was never to spend one night in the structure. In 1759 he abdicated to become the King of Spain. It was left to Charles’s third son, Ferdinand IV of Naples, to bring the palace to its near completion. Vanvitelli’s original plan included two large colonnades, never realized, comparable in size to Bernini’s monumental installation surrounding St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Following Luigi Vanvitelli’s death in 1773, his son Carlo assumed responsibility for the project. It was during the sons’ oversight that a garden of over 300 acres was designed and installed. The water garden extends nearly one half mile where, in 1780, an English Garden was designed and installed by Johann Graefer, a German born, English trained landscape architect. The garden design is also complimented by a floral garden on the east side of the palace.

The design and scale of the beautiful and complex water features and garden have been compared to those of Peter the Great’s palace, Peterhof, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 Visits to the palace offer a number of tour itineraries and options. Visit the web site (see IF YOU GO below) for further details. The most important rooms in the palace are the King’s Theater, modeled after the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Throne Room, Staircase of Honor and Palatine Chapel. The most impressive exterior view of the Palace and estate is from a high point in the gardens.

View Gardens Reggia di Caserta

Gardens Reggia di Caserta

Visitors can easily reach the main entrance at the Palace using the regional train system from Napoli Centrale to Caserta. The grand approach to the palace is directly across the Sottovia Carlo Vanvitelli from Caserta’s station.

 Stunning. Breathtaking. Unbelievable. These are words that somehow inadequately describe this palace of unforgettable beauty. If you are planning a trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend at least a half-day visit to the Reggia di Caserta and gardens.


Train service from Napoli Centrale begins very early during the week (5:09AM) and trains run approximately every forty minutes. The trip takes approximately fifty minutes each way. For further schedule details refer to: www.virail.com or www.trenitalia.it.

Reggia di Caserta

Web: Reggia di Caserta

Entrance to both Palace and Gardens: Euro 10.80 per person

Palace Open:

8:30 to 7:30PM daily

(Closed Tuesdays, January 1, Easter Monday, May 1 and 25 December)

 Garden Park:

 Open daily 8:30AM

Closings: January, February, November and December at 3:30PM, March at 4:00PM, April at 5:00PM, May at 5:30PM, June – August at 6:00PM, September at 6:30PM, October at 5:30PM


Map  Reggia di Caserta

Reggia di Caserta






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