Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Where to Stay on the Amalfi Coast: A Town Guide

Italophiles and avid travelers in general should tune into "Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy", a new food-centric series that delves into the local cuisines in six top destinations in Italy. The series begins with a foray into the region of Campania to sample some of the iconic dishes from Naples and the Amalfi Coast, including pizza and pizza fritta (fried pizza), buffalo mozzarella, spaghetti alla Nerano, delizie al limone - a lemon-infused sponge cake. Based on the enthusiastic feedback from our clients, the first episode was a hit and has stoked renewed interest in the Amalfi Coast, a perennial favorite for first-time and seasoned Italy travelers.

amalfi-coast-boat-tour-cr-brian-dore

If this episode has inspired you to add Italy’s most famous coastline to your future travel plans, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is where to book accommodations along the Amalfi Coast. It takes more than an hour to drive from one end of the coastline to the other, so it’s important to choose a base that fits your itinerary and travel pace, group, and budget. Read on for an overview of the most popular towns and villages along the coast to give you an idea of which may be right for your trip. And keep following Stanley Tucci’s jaunt across the Bel Paese over the next few weeks as he takes on the culture, history, and cuisine of Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany, and Sicily.

Read More…

A Look Back: Our Top Blog Posts from 2020

Let’s be honest: no one wants to take a trip down memory lane and look back at 2020. It was a year best forgotten - and, in many ways, could be considered a year that time forgot - spent by many of us at home, in (ahem) leisure wear, dreaming about the day that we could once again travel across the world or even down the block with peace of mind.

That said, upon closer examination we should recognize that 2020 wasn’t a total wash and some positive things did happen, both for us here at CIUTravel and for the world in general. And in the spirit of closing chapters, as well as out of pure curiosity, we thought we would look back and trace our top blog post each month (based on traffic, some of the winners are from the pre-2020 archives) to see what our readers were interested in during the twists and turns of the past year. The results didn’t disappoint!

Aperitivo

“I think there's something here with what people were searching,” mused Brian, once we saw the top posts listed. “Before the pandemic, ‘how to’ traveling guides were popular, then people started cooking at home and taking virtual dream trips once their real trips were postponed. By the summer, we had all turned to cocktail hour, astronomy, and food to get by. Then, a little more travel dreaming with Italy tour guides, the novelty of our Cantina Direct launch, and finally ‘I've got to make fish for Christmas!’ searches.”

Join us now in this virtual stroll back in time through our top monthly posts from 2020:

Read More…

Show Your Love Some Sweetness with Italian Chocolates

Like so many of our modern holidays, Valentine’s Day is rooted in Roman history and named for an early Italian saint (San Valentino), so it seems fitting to mark this celebration of love in all its forms with a sweet treat from Italy. Family, friends, and sweethearts alike will be delighted to unwrap our chocoholic’s dream Collezione San Valentino stuffed with artisanal Tuscan chocolate!

Collezione San Valentino
The Collezione San Valentino Box is available in the USA via CantinaDirect.com

La Molina Tuscan Chocolate


Based in the small Tuscan town of Quarrata just outside Pistoia, La Molina has been producing hand-crafted chocolate for the past two decades - a blink of the eye in Italy’s millennia-long timeline but enough time to establish the brand as one of the premier names in Italian luxury chocolate.

This young yet prestigious company was founded by two brothers, master chocolatiers Massimiliano and Riccardo Lunardi, along with artist and designer Riccardo Fattori and entrepreneur Elisabetta Cafissi. Together, they embody La Molina’s motto “Con gli occhi e la bocca” (“With eyes and mouth”) that expresses the equal importance of flavor and aesthetics in the uniquely sensorial world of chocolate.

Collezione San Valentino

The Lunardi brothers create exquisite limited edition pralines, bars, dragées, spreads, and other delicacies from cocoa imported from Madagascar, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Ghana. They are so choosy about their ingredients that when, for example, the specific farm in Piemonte where they source their hazelnuts has depleted its stores, the brothers halt production on hazelnut bars until the next season.

Riccardo Fattori designs the striking packaging, inspired by the personal chocolatier to Marie-Thérèse of Austria, queen consort of King Louis XIV of France. Little is known of this Spanish servant beyond her nickname of “la Molina”, derived from the whisk-like utensil (“molinillo”) she used to prepare hot chocolate. With the company name and cameo logo, La Molina sought to honor the centuries of humble chocolatiers who have come before.

Elisabetta Cafissi, instead, spearheaded the renovation of La Molina’s unique praline-inspired headquarters that houses both the offices and open-plan chocolate workshop. Located just up the street from the 14th-century Medici Villa La Magia, this unusual domed building was restored to its original 1970s design and today is open to visitors for tours. Read More…

Parmigiano-Reggiano Pairings and Recipes: 12, 24, 30, and 36 Months

Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, one of the most iconic cheeses in the world!

If you’re not, you should be...and now you can order authentic aged Parmigiano-Reggiano directly from Italy in just a few clicks via the dedicated page on our Cantina Direct site. We’ve sourced top-quality cheese from the Parma2064 cooperative - a group of five historic family farms located in the countryside outside Fidenza, deep in Parmigiano-Reggiano country - and chosen to offer four different agings so you can compare the subtle variations in texture and flavor between wheels aged 12, 24, 30, and 36 months.

Parmigiano-Reggiano
Parma2064 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese is available in the USA via CantinaDirect.com

Now, what to do with this precious Italian staple, invented by Benedictine monks almost a millennium ago and produced roughly the same way with no additives and no preservatives since? All certified authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is made using the same technique and ingredients (take a deep dive into the production, aging, and certification process in our Parma Food Tour blog post), but the final product is markedly different depending upon the age of the individual wheel.

Parmigiano-Reggiano


  • Younger “Primo” cheese (aged a minimum of 12 months) is lighter in color, creamier in texture, and still tastes of fresh, buttery milk and bright grass and herbs from the local forage that must be used to feed the cows.
  • As the cheese ages another year and earns the name “Classico”, it becomes slightly darker and more granular. The flavor deepens and begins to take on floral or fruity notes with hints of spice and nuts.
  • “Lunga Vita” Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged 30 months, has a more intense color and flavor. This crumbly cheese is unique for its stronger herbal notes with traces of toasted nuts and spices.
  • Aged a full 36 months, “Extra Lunga Vita” cheese has the most striking color and grainy texture, with a complex blend of flavors from sweet hay to chestnut. This aging also has the most intense umami effect and you can sometimes pick up notes of rich beef broth and dried mushrooms.
Since Parmigiano-Reggiano evolves in its texture and flavor over time, you should try different pairings and recipes with each aging to highlight its specific characteristics. We suggest ordering a variety of different ages of cheese to compare and contrast their nuances and choose a favorite. If you’re unsure which to order, contact us for some tips and guidance and be sure to click through to the full article for 4 fabulous recipes! Read More…

Buon Natale (e Felice Anno Nuovo)!


This has been quite a year! Like all of you, we were grounded in 2020 and, for the first time in over a decade, were not able to visit our beloved Bel Paese. The freeze on travel affected our business, of course, but it also temporarily robbed us of one of our greatest joys and forced us to look for other ways to channel our passion for Italy and all things Italian. As we settle in for a quiet holiday at home, we are celebrating the many things this year has given us rather than focusing on what it has taken away.

Christmas 2020 - Assisi

We are happy to report that we are in good health, as are our families, and we continue to dream about trips to come. If anything, 2020 has reminded us that the time we have together is precious so we shouldn’t put off that ski holiday, sister getaway, or even gastro blowout with a dear friend. As soon as it’s wheels up, we’ll be spending quality travel time with the people who are important to us.

Christmas 2020 - Assisi

Though we’ve missed catching up with our Italy guides in person this year, their dedication to sharing this country’s unique culture and history hasn’t waned and we were thrilled to be able to travel virtually to cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, and even ancient Pompeii with them this past fall. Many of you wrote us to share your fond memories of tours taken over the years with these same guides, which was such a pleasure to hear!

Christmas 2020 - Assisi

Rapidly depleting Italian pantry staples inspired us to launch Cantina Direct, our online gourmet shop for delicacies like extra-virgin olive oil from Casa Gola, food boxes from Florence, and - coming soon - the best Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Orders poured in over the first few weeks after our launch, and the opportunity to connect traditional local producers with foodies across the Atlantic was deeply rewarding.

Christmas 2020 - Assisi

Though 2020 was a year of uncertainty and the next few months pose new challenges, we feel fortunate that our far-flung network of friends and family, clients, guides, and colleagues made our world seem much less small during these hard COVID times. Though we hope to be able reconnect next year, we’d like to take a moment to send our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and happy 2021!


CIU Travel | Concierge in Umbria | Contact Us

Wendy Perrin WOW List
2020 Wendy Perrin WOW ListTrusted Travel Expert for Italy and Switzerland

Condé Nast Traveler Magazine
Top Travel Specialist for Italy since 2006