Lardo di Colonnata: Fatback at its Best

While the rest of the western world may be moving towards low-fat foods, Italy clings steadfastly to its fatty treats. Creamy cappuccino is made with luscious whole milk, cheeses leave a perfect patina in your mouth to cut the tannins of robust wines, and charcuterie from prosciutto to 'nduja are not shy about their pork fat content. But perhaps the gourmet specialty most in-your-face about its lard is, well, lardo...or, better, that divinely herbed and aged fatback known as Lardo di Colonnata.

lardo-di-colonnata-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
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La Maremma

Though many tend to think of Tuscany as a single entity, this region in central Italy is both vast and varied. From the rugged Apennine mountains to the romantic rolling hills of the Val D'Orcia, from the stark moonscape of the Crete Senesi to the lush vineyards of Chianti, just an hour or two drive in any direction opens up a completely new landscape, often with a unique culture and history behind it.

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

One of the most interesting areas of Tuscany is also one of its least well-known: La Maremma. Stretching along the Tyrrhenian coastline in southwestern Tuscany and over the border into Lazio, La Maremma includes long beaches (some of which are in protected natural areas), a picturesque plain which had been uninhabitable marshland but was settled after being drained during the beginning of the century, and hills topped with charming Medieval villages.
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Gelato: Secrets and Discoveries

Any repeat traveler to Italy knows to make two stops as soon as their plane touches down on Italian soil. One is to the nearest bar for a decent caffè. And the second is to the gelateria for a decent gelato.

Gelato(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
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Our Favorite Hotels: Monastero Santa Rosa

With the onset of summer weather, we were off to the Amalfi Coast to visit a relative newcomer. The Monastero Santa Rosa excels with an excellent location, spectacular views, and luxury accommodations that combine a storied history with every modern convenience.

monastero-santa-rosa-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
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Florence for Lovers: Romantic Hightlights

With its dreamlike scenery, Old World historic centers, and generally languid pace of life, Italy has to be one of the most romantic countries in the world. Travelers on first (or second) honeymoons flock to the Amalfi Coast and Venice, but all of the Bel Paese lends itself to leisurely strolls hand-in-hand, candle-lit dinners in tiny village squares, and stolen kisses from the nearest scenic overlook.

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

Though Florence can be decidedly unromantic during the peak season, when the city is packed with tourists and so hot and humid that the locals - who know better - have all fled to the nearest seaside resort, during the shoulder seasons in spring and fall when the weather is more forgiving and the crowds less thick, this Tuscan destination seems made for love. Here are few of the most romantic spots and experiences in Florence, for lovers old and new.
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Wine Tasting in Chianti

There are few products in the world which came as close to being a victim of their own success as Chianti Classico, the iconic red wine produced in a small vineyard-covered area of Tuscany dotted with tiny hilltop villages, quiet country churches, and lone rustic castles, and criss-crossed by the kind of winding country roads that just beg to be explored.

IMG_2685(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
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Il Primo Maggio: Italy's Labor Day

Mayday! Mayday! This isn't a distress signal in Italy, but instead a call to picnic, party, and generally kick back and celebrate what for Italians (and many other countries around the world) is Labor Day, when the history and victories of the workers' rights movement is commemorated.

Pisolino(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
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