Coming Soon: Switzerland!

Our love affair with Italy began in the quiet (and, at the time, virtually unknown) region of Umbria. We had been visiting regularly since 2000, and by 2004 had become specialized in creating unique trips focused on the history, culture, and cuisine in our lovely corner of the Bel Paese. Soon, however, our custom travel itineraries expanded to include all of Italy, as we searched out the best destinations, accommodations, and experiences from Sicily to the Dolomites in order to craft unforgettable trips for our travelers.

switzerland-cr-maria-landers(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

After more than a decade spent perfecting our on-the-ground expertise in Italy, we've decided to widen our scope to include Switzerland! We've had many clients request that we add a visit to Switzerland to their Italian itinerary, so we've been using our Italian, German, and French language skills- Maria is perfecting her Römisch - and working hard on expanding our knowledge of all things Swiss.

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Prosecco: Italy's Beloved Bubbly

With all due respect to the French, the world's favorite bubbly is now officially Italian.

cartizze-prosecco-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

After centuries of living in the shadow of Champagne, Italy's sparkling Prosecco has taken the globe by storm, outselling its French rival by a few million bottles and gaining such popularity in the UK that suppliers almost ran out in 2016. Champagne may have a corner on glamour, but the DOC and DOCG Prosecco has become universally beloved as an “everyday” bubbly, with an affordable price that belies its excellent quality and long history, and a crisp taste that makes it versatile enough to be used as a mixer, paired with savory dishes, or poured for a dessert toast.

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Florence to Explore: A Neighborhood Guide

One of the pleasant surprises upon first exploring Florence is the convenient compactness of the city's historic center. Almost all its most famous museums and monuments are within an easy 10 minute stroll from each other, centered around the stunning Duomo and the stately Piazza della Signoria.

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

But if you walk just a bit further in almost any direction, you can discover Florence's historic neighborhoods where the crowds are thinner, the shops and restaurants are funkier, and the feel is that of an authentic Old World city where locals have lived and worked for centuries. After taking in the David and Ponte Vecchio, dedicate a few hours to striking out beyond these iconic yet overrun sights to discover the Florence of the Florentines.

Here are a few of the most charming neighborhoods to wander:

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The New Old: Roman Sites to See in Rome This Year

The long-awaited restoration of Rome's Mausoleum of Augustus, the largest ever built by the ancient Romans in 28 BC to hold Augustus and his successors, Nero and Tiberius, was announced at the beginning of this year. This monumental circular tomb near the Tiber River has been neglected since World War II, and the $6 million restoration project funded by the telecommunications company Telecom Italia would include cleaning the site and opening it to visitors, who will be able to watch a multimedia show about Augustus and ancient Rome projected onto the towering mausoleum walls.

2006-12-17 12-22 Rom 456 Mausoleo di Augusto(Photo by Allie Caulfield via Flickr)

Before you add this to your Rome bucket list, however, you may want to wait awhile. Experience has taught us that an announced restoration and a completed restoration in Rome are two different things, often separated by years - if not decades - of delays and false starts. Indeed, the mausoleum was slated for a massive restoration to be completed by 2014 to mark the 2000th anniversary of Augustus' death, but work was never started.

While you wait to see when and if the mausoleum will ever get the dusting off it deserves, there are a number of other Roman ruins and sites that have been recently restored or are offering new interactive tours that are worth a visit. So put aside Augustus' final resting place for the time being, and consider visiting these gems instead:

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Five Not-to-be-Missed Foods in Italy

One of the most important elements of any Italy trip is not what you'll see in the piazzas and museums, but what you'll sample from your plate and glass. Italy is about art and culture, of course, but it is also about food and wine, and the traditional cuisine is such an integral part of this country's history and culture that it is often hard to separate the two. Everything from the landscape to the opening hours of businesses has been shaped by Italian's eating habits over the centuries, so it's only fitting that an authentic experience in Italy includes tasting its most authentic dishes.

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

Here are five of our favorites - chosen from a thousand contenders - that are a must for any Italy trip. Be sure you try each in its home region, as Italy is a patchwork of micro-cuisines and eating a northern dish in the south or vice versa simply doesn't pack the same flavor punch.

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