Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

4-Star Villa le Barone, Chianti, Italy, Features Wine-Tasting & Cooking Lessons

July 31, 2014
The charming 28-room hotel Villa le Barone is set amongst the timeless landscape of Chianti, and has been in the famous Della Robbia family since the 16th century.

The charming 28-room hotel Villa le Barone is set amongst the timeless landscape of Chianti, and has been in the famous Della Robbia family since the 16th century.

Villa le Barone, the four-star luxury hotel in Panzano, Chianti, in the heart of Italy’s scenic region of Tuscany, offers guests the chance to enjoy a day of wine tasting and cooking lessons while vacationing in one of the most glorious and scenic regions of Tuscany.

What better place to enjoy a Chianti wine than in Italy’s own Chianti Region? Villa le Barone offers a memorable “Gastronomia Toscana” (Enjoy Wines and Tuscan Gastronomy) package which includes a welcome bottle of Prosecco and fresh flowers in the guestroom, an itinerary with or without a driver to explore the Chianti region, a large buffet breakfast, Tuscan dinner and a complimentary bottle of Chianti Classico or a free bottle of local grown extra virgin olive oil (agroqualità) as well as an option to take a local cooking class.

“When Villa le Barone was a farm at the beginning of the 20th century, it produced Vin Santo, and the grapes were hung in what is now the Garden House,” explains Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, proprietor and descendent of the generation of family who have owned the historic hotel since the 1600s. “The traditional dessert wine possesses a beautiful amber color and touched with a lovely smell of dried fruit, apricot, honey and acacia flowers.”

“A good meal in Tuscany concludes with Vin Santo (Holy Wine) and Cantucci (sweet almond cookies) and is quite a treat,” adds Corso Aloisi de Larderel, co-proprietor of the 28-room historic villa. “Dinner under the chandeliers of our restaurant or on the terrace of our hotel is the right time to dip the cantucci into the Vin Santo in the Tuscan tradition.”

Set in the heart of Tuscany, between the historic cities of Siena and Florence, Chianti is noted for its wine, food, landscape, culture, and its inspiration for poets and painters, with its rolling hills of vineyards, olive trees, woods, farmhouses, and castles. Individual churches are surrounded by dark cypresses and impressive monuments throughout the quaint villages of the area.

From July 15- August 31, 2014 and October 1 – October 13, 2014, the Villa le Barone’s Gastronomy di Tuscany (Enjoy Wines and Tuscan Gastronomy package) ranges from €960 (approximately $US 1,305/$CA 1,340) for a classic room to €1160 (approximately $US 1,580/$CA 1,680) for a Historic Room or Junior Suite, for two people for three nights.

From September 1-30, 2014, prices range from €1000 (approximately $1,360) for a classic room, to €1210 (approximately $1,645) for a historic room or junior suite for two persons for three nights.

The cooking course is an additional €100 Euros (approximately $136) and includes two hours with a Tuscan cook, a souvenir apron and the meal that you have actually prepared to enjoy. Car and driver for a day trip through Chianti is an additional €380 (approximately $517).

Rich History

Villa Le Barone was built as a tower in the middle ages and was the seat of a Baronetcy, hence the name “Le Barone.” During the Renaissance, the tower was torn down and converted to a Villa, surrounded by its agricultural estate, where the renowned Della Robbia family spent summers.

After the World War I, Marchesa Maria Bianca Viviani Della Robbia managed Villa le Barone as a wine and olive oil estate. Maria Bianca was the granddaughter of François de Larderel, a French 18th century industrialist, who discovered and developed the use of geothermal energy in Tuscany.

Marie Bianca’s daughter, Duchess Franca Visconti, converted the Villa into a charming boutique hotel, keeping the refined and elegant atmosphere of a private house, while offering all the contemporary comforts and amenities.  Villa le Barone is now the property of Duchess Franca Visconti’s heirs, whom you will meet when you stay at Villa le Barone.

The charming 28-room hotel Villa le Barone is set amongst the timeless landscape of Chianti, and has been in the famous Della Robbia family since the 16th century. The swimming pool, tennis court, fitness trail, fitness room and terraces are set amongst large rose gardens, with views over the surrounding countryside, olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti Classico. In the old winery, the restaurant serves traditional Tuscan food and of course, the world-renowned local Chianti wines.

For more information about the “Gastronomia Toscana” (Enjoy Wines and Tuscan Gastronomy package) or to simply learn more about the local wines in the area, to book a reservation, or to learn more about the variety of recreational activities one can enjoy at Villa le Barone, visit www.villalebarone.com.

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TourCrafters’ Has 10-Night $2,085 Italy by Train Package for Fall

August 14, 2013

Autumn–when air fares are  lower and the weather is idyllic—is the perfect time to travel to Italy. So TourCrafters, the Italian specialists, have designed an Italy by Train package that covers the highlights… and packs in a lot of extras.

The 10-night, land-only package, which has daily departures from September 1 to October 31, costs $2085 and includes: an arrival transfer; daily buffet breakfast; four nights’ accommodation in Rome; 48-hour Hop On Hop Off bus tour of Rome; a walking tour of Rome; 2nd-class train ticket to Florence; four nights’ accommodation in Florence; cooking class with dinner; full-day tour to the Cinque Terre; full-day tour to Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti; 2nd-class train ticket to Venice; two nights’ accommodation in Venice; and a walking tour of Venice.

The hotels chosen for this package are all 4-star deluxe and are conveniently located. Rome’s Quirinale is an historic hotel with classic décor and a passageway to the Rome Opera House in its leafy garden.  The recently-renovated Hotel Kraft in Florence is a modern hotel with a rooftop garden and swimming pool.  And Venice’s Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal is an elegant hostelry near the train station, with roof terrace and an internal courtyard.

But it’s the extras that make this package so special.  The included tour to the Cinque Terre, for example, visits five picturesque fishing villages on a beautiful stretch of the Italian Riviera that is a World Heritage Site.  Another day there’s a tour of the Tuscan countryside, to see the splendid rose-colored city of Siena, the photogenic village of Monteriggioni, and the medieval town of San Gimignano, as well as the luscious landscape of churches and castles, olive groves and the vineyards that produce the celebrated Chianti wine.  There are also several optional tours available.

All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, do not include air fare and are subject to availability.  For more information about the Italy by Train package, visit http://sales.tourcrafters.com/itinerary.lasso?ID=203.  For reservations, call 800-482-5995.

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Handpicked Adventures Tour Company Offers Artisan Cuisine and Culture Trip to Piedmont, Italy

July 19, 2013

Handpicked Adventures, a San Francisco, California-based, artisan food-focused travel company, is offering a one-of-a-kind trip to Piedmont, Italy, September 18 – 25, 2013. Anchored by the popular Bra Slow Food Cheese Festival, the Piemonte and the Bra Slow Food Cheese Festival trip promises an intimate immersion into the region’s unique culture via the food, drink and artisans that define it.

The agricultural tour offers travelers the rare opportunity to sample and taste the area’s wealth of foods while interacting with the farmers and artisans who lovingly produced them. Trip highlights include:

  • Visiting with chocolatiers in their Torino-based salons – yes, there will be ample tastings;
  • Tasting vast arrays of handcrafted cheeses at the festival, which brings together hundreds of Italian and foreign cheese producers;
  • Lodging and dining on a working farm and vineyard in Sinio;
  • Participating in a hands-on cooking class with a classically trained chef – in his own restaurant; and
  • Sipping and savoring at exclusive meetings with winemakers.

Handpicked Adventures’ trip also includes a farm dinner at a local truffle ground, a visit to a snail farm in Cherasco, an Italian brewpub tasting – yes, there’s beer in those hills, too – and a daytrip to the base of the Italian Alps to visit a working dairy farm where the famous Castelmagno cheese is made (FYI: Castelmagno dates back to the 12th century).

For Handpicked Adventures co-founder Heather England, a food-centric tour is the perfect way to learn about a new place. “So often people head to a new destination with an itinerary packed with landmarks and historic sites,” she says. “We approach travel a bit differently at Handpicked Adventures. We believe that the best way to experience a culture is to slow down, savor local foods and engage in worthy conversations.”

Her business partner, Terry Cosola-August agrees. “The history of a place really comes alive when you start talking with the people who have worked on or drawn from the land for generations. Getting up close and personal with regional foods and local cuisine is truly the best way to experience another culture.”

Cost is $2,500 U.S., double occupancy (excluding airfare), if deposit is received by July 31, 2013. After July 31, the cost is $2,750 U.S. (excluding airfare). Package includes all lodging, private motor coach transport, activities translated in English by a multilingual guide, seven breakfasts, festival entry, all group events listed above, plus one additional group dinner. All group dinners include wine and gratuity. The trip is limited to 12 participants. For more information, visit www.handpickedadventures.com.

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‘Southern Italy Through Jewish Eyes’ Tour to be Led by Italy’s First Female Rabbi in October

May 3, 2013

Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a first-generation Italian-American who became Italy’s first female rabbi and the founder of the first active synagogue in Calabria in over 500 years, is organizing a Jewish Heritage Tour focusing on Italy’s deep south.

The tour, ‘Southern Italy Through Jewish Eyes,’ is scheduled for October. Participants can choose either Part I — Calabria (Oct. 1-6), or Part II — Sicily (Oct. 5-10), or the full tour of both regions – 9 nights – Oct. 1 – 10.

One true ‘first’ promised on this tour: a Ferramonti Symposium where survivors of that WW II Italian concentration camp will share their emotional stories of conditions and events of the period under Mussolini’s rule. Participants will learn first-hand the incredible story of how nearly 4,000 Jewish inmates were saved by Italian soldiers and villagers.

A second ‘first’ will be the tour of the renovated and expanded synagogue, Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria since Inquisition times, renovated by locals including Rabbi Barbara’s family.

Rabbi Barbara, as she likes to be known, describes herself as ‘a rabbi in two worlds.’ She divides her time between her congregation and a senior adult community in Sarasota, Florida, and officiating at Jewish life cycle events in Calabria. She has also worked in Milan and travels across Italy as a spokesperson for modern, pluralistic Judaism. She has officiated at more than 50 Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for families from the US, Great Britain, Australia and Asia at Calabria’s newly restored synagogue. Rabbi Barbara’s father grew up in Calabria, her mother’s family hails from Sicily and the former Yugoslavia. She traces her roots to when her ancestors were expelled from Sicily during the 16th century Inquisition.

Asked who might want to take part in this historic tour, Rabbi Barbara says, “Jewish participants will learn about lost and isolated Jewish communities, which can strengthen Jewish identity. It’s eye-opening to learn about the tenacity and perseverance of southern Italian Jews who, even though forced into Christian conversion, kept their traditions alive by practicing in secret for centuries.”

Others who will be attracted to the trip are Italian-Americans, many of whom have ancestors who emigrated from Sicily and Calabria, regions that once boasted a 50% Jewish population.

“Few Italian-Americans know that even though Mussolini aligned with Hitler, Italian soldiers and villagers risked their lives to save Jewish neighbors,” The rabbi adds. “The Ferramonti story is a source of pride for Italians who are often embarrassed by the Italian government’s participation as a WW II Axis ally. We need to tell that story, that despite the political climate of the time, local Italians thumbed their noses at the government and refused to allow Jews to be sent to their death. Ours will be the first international group to tour the camp.”

The journey focuses on some of the oldest places of Jewish presence in Italy and the rebirth of modern Jewish life in Calabria – the’ toe’ of the Italian ’boot,’

While the Jewish community of Italy dates back at least to Roman times over 2,100 years ago, their fate changed based on the whims of emperors, popes, kings and dictators.

Highlights of the trip include:
Part 1 (Oct. 1-6)
• Walking tour of ‘Il Timpone’ – medieval Jewish Quarter in Nicastro; Tiriolo villages
• Symposium at Mussolini’s Ferramonti Concentration Camp with optional ‘March to Survival,’ museum tour, meeting with camp survivors
• Visit to Synagogue of Serrastretta; Traditional Calabrese Jewish dishes
• Excursion to Reggio Calabria and Bova Marina archaeological sites; view Jewish artifacts and statues from the ancient Greek period; Reggio’s Old Jewish Quarter

Part 2 (Oct. 6-10)
• Siracusa and Ortigia; walking tour of Jewish Quarter, 6th century mikveh, Greco-Roman Archaeological Zone; harbor cruise
• Mt. Etna by cable car; winery visit; Catania Jewish Quarter; Taormina and amphitheatre tour

Rabbi Aiello says, “Whatever your background, here’s a rare opportunity to see parts of Italy that few tourists visit, and to meet local residents and guest scholars who will share little-known stories and secrets of southern Italy. It truly is a chance of a lifetime – ancient venues that makes for wonderful memories.”

Guest scholars will include Professor Enrico Tromba, first archaeologist for the Bova Marina excavation project, and Professor Vincenzo Villella, historian who wrote the account of the Jews of Calabria. The trip is recommended for people who can keep up with a busy schedule and a good deal of walking. It is open to anyone of college age and older.

The tour is being coordinated by Ellen Paderson of Smiles and Miles Travel, who has worked with the rabbi on many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in Italy and Laurie Weiss Howell of AmalfiLife tours who has organized several southern Italian tours with Rabbi Barbara. For more information, costs and or reservations, contact: Ellen Paderson, Travel Consultant, at ellen@smilesandmiles.comcastbiz.net / 508-238-4088 www.smilesandmilestravel.com or Laurie Weiss Howell, 347-240-1244 / www.AmalfiLife.com.

Rabbi Aiello’s ‘The Radio Rabbi’ can be heard on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. on WLSS 930 AM in Sarasota. Click on Rabbi Barbara’s website, www.rabbibarbara.com to listen to a podcast of the radio program and to find out more about the tour.

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Italiaoutdoors Offers ‘Chefs on Bikes’ Cycling Tour in Northern Italy, June 24-30

March 16, 2012

Italiaoutdoors, a provider of small-group, personalized recreational vacations in Northeastern Italy, announces their 2012 “Chefs on Bikes” tour, a guided cultural and cycling exploration of the culture, foods and wines of Northeastern Italy.

Scheduled for June 24-30, the 7-day/6-night tour invites cyclists to learn from the culinary expertise of Chef Kathy Bechtel and is priced at $3895 per person, based on double occupancy. With a route covering 20-35 miles per day, the tour travels through the Veneto at the foot of the Dolomite mountains and along the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Recognizing the different riding levels of participants, the small-group size (maximum 8) allows for daily customization, including longer rides, and an immersive culinary and cultural experience.

“Chefs on Bikes” follows one of the former trade routes that distributed spices and goods from the East throughout Western Europe, meandering through flat farmland, by 16th and 17th-century villas, around volcanic hills, and into the foothills of the Pre-Alps. Days begin with gentle, scenic bike rides, followed by a culinary exploration with cooking lessons and wine tastings led by Chef Bechtel. Accommodations are in elegant four-star villa hotels in Mira, Vicenza and Asolo. The program includes all transfers, all breakfasts and snacks, five dinners with wine, plus entry fees to museums and other venues. The program can also be scheduled as a private group trip of 4-12 cyclists.

Highlights of the trip are:

  • · A ride along the Brenta River, touring Palladian estates and the summer villas of the Venetian aristocracy
  • · A visit to Vicenza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city most closely associated with Andrea Palladio, noted Venetian architect of the 16th century
  • · Rides through the picturesque Berici Hills (Colli Berici) Wine Zone
  • · A visit to the medieval walled cities of Treviso, Castelfranco, and Cittadella
  • · Two nights in Asolo, a striking hilltop village with winding streets and a graceful piazza overlooking the valley
  • · A visit to Villa Cipriani, with a Bellini reception in the garden
  • · Six nights at opulent villas and hotels
  • · Two hands-on cooking classes, one with local chefs, and one with Chef and Italiaoutdoors Culinary Director Kathy Bechtel
  • · Daily wine tastings of Prosecco and the best of regional Veneto wines
  • · Tastings of regional culinary specialties at local trattorias featuring olive oils, risotto, polenta, Venetian frutti di mare, and spicy pasta dishes

Italiaoutdoors is an owner-operated specialty guide service, offering individualized programs for small groups seeking to explore the beauty and diverse culture of Northern Italy. Hiking, biking and skiing programs are offered in combination with a culinary and culture immersion in the area. Participants share a passion for a healthy lifestyle and an appreciation for the region’s history, beauty, culture, wines and culinary delights. Because of their small size, tours are adaptable to the fitness levels and interests of individual guests. Daily recreation is balanced with cooking lessons, wine tastings, fine meals and cultural explorations. www.italiaoutdoorsfoodandwine.com.

Programs Focus on Biking, Skiing and Hiking

Italiaoutdoors offers bike routes for the more relaxed cyclist or more challenging rides for the stronger rider wanting aggressive hill climbs and longer days in the saddle. Ski itineraries include lessons for all levels of skier or snowboarder, guided resort skiing or backcountry explorations, and alternate activities for the non-skier. Hikers can enjoy hut-to-hut treks across the spectacular Dolomites, or more leisurely day hikes with four-star accommodations. All tours include daily free time to discover and enjoy the culture and foods and wines that have made Italy a favorite destination.

For more information and reservations, visit www.italiaoutdoorsfoodandwine.com.

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