Postcards from Italy

Palladian Villas: Two Day Trip Itineraries

When you’re in Venice, you never want to leave, be it for home, for another city on your itinerary, or for a day trip. It’s simply hard to tear yourself away from the sumptuous lure of La Serenissima. But unless you’re prepared to settle in for good (lucky you!), sooner or later you will have to head back to the mainland, and fortunately nearby, there is something lovely enough to soothe the pain of your departure.

symmetry(Photo by collectmoments via Flickr)

Just a short distance from Venice, the pretty city of Vicenza is surrounded by dozens of stately villas dotting the countryside, with elegant Classical lines and sweeping manicured gardens. These are known as the Palladian Villas, after the architect Andrea Palladio, who designed this group of patrician residences in the first half of the 16th century for a number of wealthy families from the Venetian Republic.
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Balsamic Vinegar Tour

Emilia Romagna is a region famous for its food, most notably Parma’s prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano and Bologna’s tortelloni. But just a short drive from both of these cities, traveling gourmands can stop in the countryside outside of Modena or Reggio Emilia to sample another of the region’s unique specialties: balsamic vinegar.

balsamic-vinegar-reggio-emilia-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

If you are thinking of that jarringly sweet syrup that has become vogue to dribble on anything from salad to steak, think again. Supermarket shelves are stocked with cheap commercial knock-offs, but real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia is a costly and prized elixir, sporting an EU protected status as rigorous as that of wine.
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Parma Food Tour

There are places in Italy where you also visit for the food. Puglia has its wonderful Baroque and beaches, and also the food. Sicily has its unique history and culture, and also the food. Tuscany is all wine and landscapes...and also the food.

Emilia Romagna, specifically the area surrounding Parma, is pretty much only the food. Yes, there are a few interesting cities to visit, and, as in all of Italy, there are important historical sites and museums. But let’s face it: the main reason for stopping in Parma and environs is to eat, so much so that this area is known in Italy as “Food Valley”.

wall-of-prosciutto-parma-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Parma’s most famous products are prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, its dried and aged ham and iconic cheese. The nearby city of Modena is home to Italy’s most prestigious balsamic vinegar (check back Friday for more details!), and, if you are still hungry, you can head to Bologna for egg pasta, in particular tortellini. The best way to fit in tastings for all the best of these local products in one day is on a food tour, where you visit producers and see the process up close, and then taste directly from the source.
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So, You Want to See the Pope (or just the Vatican)...

Most sights in Rome don't require a lot of advance planning (unless, of course, you'd like to skip the lines at the Colosseum): the sweeping piazzas, imposing churches, characteristic neighborhoods, and even the Trevi Fountain just involve showing up.

Italy-0039 - The Obelisk(Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr)

An exception to that rule is the Vatican, including the museums, Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter's Basilica, and, for the devout or simply curious, Pope (in the form of a public audience). Here, because of the sheer numbers of visitors, massive size of the place, and ticket logistics, a bit of advance planning and insider information can make the difference between an unforgettable visit and a day spent standing in lines or staring at the backs of thousands of heads.

Here are our tips for a simple Vatican visit and participation in a Papal audience.
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Wow-Worthy News

We are beginning 2015 with some wonderful news which we are excited to share with all of our friends and travelers!

Many of you found us through Wendy Perrin, who was for years the Director of Consumer News and Digital Community for Condé Nast Traveler and wrote its popular practical advice column, “The Perrin Report”.

We were honored when Wendy included us in her annual “Perrin’s People” List of Top Travel Specialists several years running.


Wendy has now left Condé Nast Traveler to launch, where she and her savvy team share insider travel information from across the globe.
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Perugia can be daunting at first glance, we admit. Though the lion’s share of Umbria’s hilltowns are perfectly preserved gems perched atop the region’s rolling peaks and largely devoid of modern development spoiling your Instagram shot, the bustling provincial capital is ringed with a rather drab stretch of suburbs which can be off-putting.

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

But don’t be discouraged by the eyesore that greets you along the highway. Once you’ve passed the box stores and apartment blocks, Perugia reveals herself to be just as worth a visit as similarly sized provincial cities between Rome and Florence (we are thinking of Siena and Orvieto, perennial favorites), with an elegant historic center, beautiful views, worthwhile museums, memorable restaurants, and excellent shopping.
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