Buon Natale from Concierge in Umbria!

We are celebrating the holidays in Italy this year, and are reminded again what a joy it is to be able to spend time in a country we love so deeply...and how happy we are to be able to share this passion with so many of our traveling clients!

christmas-tree-italy-cr-brian-dore
(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Here's to a year of peace, happiness, health, and wonderful travels to - Italy and beyond - from all of us to all of you. We'll be taking the holidays off, so will see you all again in 2016!

christmas-gubbio-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Tanti auguri, buon natale, and felice anno nuovo, Brian, Maria Gabriella, Cristina, and the rest of our team.

christmas-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Italy's Winter Citrus

In the US, where pretty much all produce is available in grocery stores all year round, it's easy to forget that most fruits and vegetables are seasonal. Not so in Italy, where seasonality continues to dictate markets and menus, a constant reminder of the 12 month cycle of everything from artichokes to chestnuts.

lemon-tree-winter-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

With winter comes citrus season in Italy, when oranges from the south are shipped across the peninsula and piled high in shops, given by the crate for Christmas gifts, used in holiday dishes or simply presented in towering bowls after meals as the fruit course.

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Acqua Alta in Venice: A Survival Guide

There are a number of advantages to visiting Venice during the winter, most importantly the significantly smaller number of of tourists swarming the streets. In addition, low season prices make the cost of accommodation a bit less steep, the winding canals and tiny back alleys are often shrouded in a romantic mist, and, of course, La Serenissima's opulent Carnevale celebrations bring the city out of its winter slumber for a few weeks each January and February.

San Marco(Photo by Kyle Van Horn via Flickr)

There is one downside to a stay in Venice in late autumn and winter, however: acqua alta. Acqua alta, or “high water” is caused by a combination of tides and winds which force sea water into the Venetian Lagoon, which in turn rises above the level of the city streets, flooding the low-lying areas of this island city. Though locals are used to acqua alta, and the city is quick to set up walkways and alternative routes, this sudden flood of icy, sludgy sea water can cause consternation and inconvenience to visitors. Here's a quick survival guide for a low season/high water visit:
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Italy's Top Ten Masterpieces

Italy is so rich in artistic masterpieces that it is no exaggeration to say that it would be almost impossible to see the country's vast trove of paintings and sculpture over the course of a lifetime, let alone a single vacation. UNESCO estimates that around 60% of the world's great art is in Italy, and virtually every town of any import - and at least a few otherwise unremarkable hamlets - is home to at least one fresco or artifact that would, in any country with a lower density of treasures, be the crown jewel of an important museum collection.

Though we love to explore the lesser-known and private museums in Italy, there is no denying that Italy's most famous and iconic works are a must-see, especially on a first trip. It's no secret as to which masterpieces shouldn't be missed, but we've listed them here as an easy reference, including their location and importance.
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Rome's “The Power of Ruins” Exhibit

We recently visited the excellent “La Forza delle Rovine” exhibition at Rome's Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Altemps (running through the end of January, 2016), which includes photographs taken by our lead guide in Rome, Alessandro Celani.

power of ruins-rome-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

This group of over 100 works - including sculptures, paintings, engravings, watercolors, antique books, photographs, music, and films - from private and public collections in Italy and across the globe are united around the topic of “ruins”. Visitors are invited to reflect on the meaning relics of the past have had over time, from ancient civilizations to contemporary tourists, including intellectuals, writers, musicians, and film makers through the centuries. Read More...

Christmas Traditions in Italy

Though the consumerism that plagues the Christmas holidays in the US is slowly creeping across the Atlantic, an Italian Christmas continues to focus on the same values of faith, family, and food that lie at the foundation of Italy's culture in general. Each year, holiday decorations expand, Santa nudges out the historic holiday symbols a bit more, and the shopping season begins a few weeks earlier (this year there were even Black Friday sales), but Christmas in Italy continues to have a simple, traditional feel despite encroachments from the New World.

christmas-gubbio-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

If you are planning a get-away over the winter holidays in Italy, here are a few unique Christmas traditions for an unforgettable Natale! Read More...