Sicily and the Ancient Greeks: Sites to Visit

Most travelers to Italy who want to take a stroll backward in time thousands of years to the Classical period make a bee-line to Rome. Famous for the quality and concentration of its architectural monuments and ruins, both in the city itself and in outlying Tivoli, Herculaneum, and Pompeii, Rome admittedly remains the Caput Mundi of archaeology.

Selinunte(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

It is wise to remember, however, that though Roman civilization once included the entire Italian peninsula—indeed, much of Europe—leaving spectacular remains in the most far-flung and unlikely corners of Italy, from tiny towns in central Italy (Gubbio’s Roman amphitheater comes to mind), to the bustling northern cities (Verona’s Roman sites are a pleasant surprise for many visitors), and southern sea ports (Gnatia in Puglia is the Pompeii of the Adriatic), Rome itself was heir to a vast and complex Mediterranean civilization: Classical Greece. Read More...

So You Want to Hike in Italy...

Italy is a country best explored by foot: in its bustling major cities, where just a few cobblestone streets away from the packed tourist sites pretty neighborhood piazzas await discovery; in its sleepy hilltowns, where the winding alleys are too narrow for most cars to navigate; and, most importantly, in its gorgeous countryside, ranging from the rocky Alpine peaks at its northern border to the rolling hills of central Italy and the rugged coastline at its southern shores.

IMG_2575(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...

Torta di Pasqua

With the arrival of Easter week, outdoor wood-fired ovens across Umbria are stoked to a smoking hot baking temperature as families prepare one of the holiday’s most beloved (and delicious) dishes: torta di Pasqua.

Torta di Pasqua(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr) Read More...

Our Umbrian Easter

One of the things we love best about our business is having the opportunity—the requirement, really—to travel to Italy often and stay for nice long spells. We usually visit the Bel Paese a few times a year for periods ranging from a short couple of weeks to a long, lovely few months, and the timing of our trips vary depending upon what new area we are bent on exploring and sharing with our travelers.

However, there is one annual trip that is a special favorite, and that we very rarely skip: spending the spring holidays (including Easter and--on fortuitous calendar years--the two national holidays falling on April 25th and May 1st) at our home-away-from-home in Umbria, Italy’s serene, hilltown-dotted central region.

Spring in a Vineyard(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...

Coffee Drinks in Italy

There are many epiphanies that first, second, and third—time visitors have upon arrival in Italy, but perhaps one of the most life-changing of these is Italian coffee...espresso and its derivatives. You may find yourself barely able to stomach the insipid, candy-sweet, or tongue-curling bitter joe you have more or less enjoyed your whole life after tasting the coffee perfection that Italians serve up with matter-of-fact nonchalance across the country.

Espresso (Photo by Den latte ku via Flickr) Read More...

Italy's Islands: Ischia

Ischia, the largest of the islands in the Gulf of Naples, is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor, Capri, to the south. But despite being cast as stepsister, Ischia, with its volcanic peaks, sprawling thermal spas, spectacular scenery, and pretty beaches, has a beauty and charm which rivals that of Capri’s Cinderella.

Gull in Ischia with Capri

Though a languid, bucolic calm that pervades modern Ischia, this island has seen its share of cataclysmic disasters, including the eruption of Monte Arso (now extinct) in 1301, an earthquake in 1883 which killed almost 2,000 people and completely razed a number of towns and villages, and almost 1,000 years of invasions, sackings, and conquests by everyone from the Ostrogoths to Ferdinand II, king of Naples. Read More...