Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Italy's Classic Cocktails: Negroni and Spritz

With the seemingly endless list of holidays celebrating iconic Italian foods—think pasta, pizza,tiramisù, and even Nutella —it's easy to lose track, which is why we were caught a bit off-guard by the news that Negroni Week was celebrated recently! The Negroni is one of Italy's most iconic cocktails, which, after spending decades beloved domestically but relatively unknown outside of Italy, has exploded onto the international cocktail scene along with another Italian favorite, the Spritz.

NEGRONI & SPRITZ Full

We love these two aperitivo classics, so much so that our Instagram handle is @NegroniandSpritz, and will be raising a glass and cooling off this July 4th weekend with a Negroni and Spritz. Cin cin! Read More…

Where to Find the Most Photogenic Views in Italy

As much as we lament the modern obsession with sharing every moment of vacation on social media and the growing importance of a destination's “Instagrammability”, the truth is that travel has been image-driven for centuries. From the time of the Grand Tour—perhaps the first moment in Western history when a voyage was considered a pastime undertaken for pleasure rather than a hardship fraught with risk—travelers have been tucking sketchpads and watercolors in their trunks to capture informal “snapshots” of Roman ruins, Renaissance palazzi, and, of course, pastoral views.

Florence twilight.(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The explosion of leisure travel in the mid-20th century coincided with the advent of the compact camera, and generations of Americans were forced to sit through album page after album page of rather blurry black-and-white—and, later, color—photos (or, worse, slides) of the world's most famous monuments. This was followed by digital photography, giving travelers the ability to curate their hundreds of shots and only print the best. Finally, we have arrived at smartphones, letting us not only curate, but also filter, edit, and instantly share our dreamy images.

rome-panorama-cr-ciutravel(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

All this to say that today's avid Instagrammers and their quest for the perfect shot are part of historic and close rapport between travel and image-making, just the latest phase of a long evolution. So, snap away! Whether you have an old-school reflex or the latest iPhone, here are some prime locations to capture the most iconic views in Italy for yourself and, of course, your loyal “followers”!

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Switzerland by Rail: The Glacier Express and Bernina Express

One of the biggest draws in Switzerland is, of course, its unparalleled scenery. Soaring mountain peaks, lush expanses of Alpine meadow, placid crystalline lakes, rushing streams of icy water, bucolic rural farms and quaint mountain towns straight out of a Currier and Ives Christmas card...no matter where you look, the views are gasp-worthy.

bernina-express-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

There are a number of ways to tour Switzerland's panoramic countryside, each with its pros and cons. The country has an impeccable network of roads, and driving tours are the most popular and straightforward way to get around. The downside is that many of the most spectacular vistas are from rather remote, impervious wilderness that is difficult—if not impossible—to reach by car. Almost more formidable than their highway system are Switzerland's hiking trails, setting out from virtually any town or city in the country and in just minutes heading steeply uphill to the most sweeping overlooks across the Swiss landscape. But even the most approachable mountain trails require a certain level of fitness, and not everyone wants to be (or can be) that physically active on holiday.

There is a third way to explore Switzerland's most remote mountain passes that combines the convenience of the road with the exclusivity of the trail: the train. There are a number of scenic train routes that offer timeless charm, comfortable transport, and memorable views—perfect for combining a transfer from one location to another with a bit of adventure and unique panoramas. Here are our favorites:

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A New Look at the Uffizi Galleries in Florence

For a decades, if not centuries, Italy was home to the both world's best art and its worst museums. Dusty, stodgy, impenetrable, uninviting...the art was magnificent, but often the setting was underwhelming, at best.

Over the past decade, however, the Bel Paese has been working hard to up its museum game, shifting from a somewhat apathetic institutional mentality to a more pro-active, almost entrepreneurial one. Many state-run museums and galleries have been renovated and reorganized to make the collections more approachable, offer incentives like kids' programs to extended hours to attract a larger audience, hold the type of blockbuster temporary exhibitions that have been the bread-and-butter of US museums for half a century, and have brought on younger (often foreign) directors to shake things up a bit.

These welcome changes have meant that despite the crowds and overwhelming scope of many collections, a museum visit in Italy is a much more engaging experience than just a few decades ago, often going beyond the traditional chronological curation to use multimedia, group works by theme, or simply take long-stored works out of the basement. Even if you've already visited Italy's A-list museums, now is a good time to circle back and take another look.

To begin, here is what's new at the Grand Dame of old-school museums, Florence's Uffizi Galleries:

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Wine Tasting in Montalcino

When you picture a Tuscan hilltown, what comes to mind is probably more or less Montalcino. With its fairytale castle above, vineyard-covered hills below, and warren of winding lanes and pretty squares, this village in the scenic Val d'Orcia is sent directly from central casting.

When you picture a Tuscan wine, what probably comes to mind is more or less Montalcino's flagship red, Brunello. With centuries of history, Italy's first DOCG recognition, and a unique microclimate and terroir that gives this 100% Sangiovese wine a more fleshy texture, smoother tannins, and more complex dark-fruit-driven flavors than Chianti (http://www.ciuitaly.com/blog/files/wine-tasting-chianti.php), this iconic red has become so popular and prestigious over the past half century that it has almost single-handedly transformed Montalcino and the surrounding area from one of the poorest in the region to one of the wealthiest.

wine-tasting-montalcino-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

For a quintessentially Tuscan experience, there is nothing like a day touring the wineries surrounding Montalcino and tasting what many consider Italy's greatest wines. We have spent time nosing around the local wineries many times over the years, and always discover something new and memorable. Here are some of our tips:

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