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Traveling to Italy: The Essential Guide
May 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm 0

It's Spring, and the travel bug is spreading like crazy! This year Italy is a very hot vacation destination. With loads of airlines having big sales, hotels offering deals, and a huge desire to get away the time is now to plan your summer vacation. Check out these posts with great tips on what to see, where to go, and what it's like. Florence Tuscany Rome Amalfi Coast Siena 7 Things You Need To Know Before Going To Italy Shopping In Italy
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Life, Travel
Winter Survival Tip: Dream Under the Tuscan Sun
February 2, 2010 at 11:12 am 2
Dreaming of la dolce vita in Tuscany

Dreaming of la dolce vita in Tuscany

It's Winter, it's cold, and every year around this time everyone starts to get a bit blue. Looking for a winter escape? Why not pull out a copy of the novel Under the Tuscan Sun and dream of living la dolce vita in Tuscany? The book is amazing, and helps take you away to dream land...where love, natural beauty, good food and great wine are a part of everyday life. So if it's a cold night and you're looking for something to do that will warm your heart and soul, open Under the Tuscan Sun, or dream about living your own dolce vita dream life in Tuscany. Don't you feel warmer already?
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Travel
Seven Italian Lessons
August 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm 0
1. With the right travel partner touring in unkown lands is a delight. I went with my boyfriend, and we spent every minute together for 11 days. Even in stressful situations we laughed about it later. With the wrong travel partner you could spend a painful two weeks stressed out of your mind. 2. Tuscan wines are to be enjoyed in excess. Wine with lunch, afternoon wines, wine with dinner, after dinner drinks, nightcaps…….. it was all so amazing that I couldn’t resist. 3. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It happened on day six, when my pants didn’t fit…..I realized that a steady diet of cheese, wine and salami are not slimming. 4. Shopping in Italy is a serious activity. Everybody dresses up and looks their very best to go to the shops and be waited on. And, there is a definite etiquette to be followed….I don’t know what it is, but I know that I don’t know it. 5. There are no Italians…..in tourist areas anyways. I was amazed that after travelling through Florence, Rome, Amalfi and Siena that there were almost no Italians……I found them on the last day in the outskirts of Florence. I can’t blame them, I’d go crazy too if I had millions of tourists in my town every year. 6. Italians are not that friendly. French people have a bad reputation from tourists because they let you know they don’t like you, whereas Italians just ignore you. I was expecting them to be warmer and more inviting. 7. Sometimes you just need to sit back. Let the driver wiz you around - even if you are two inches from all the other cars, flying around sharp corners and going through dark tunnels at 140km/hour, just go with it! Otherwise you’ll be stressed your ENTIRE vacation, and that’s just not fun.
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Style
Shopping in Italy
August 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm 1
When in Rome, do as the Romans…and based on how well put together all Romans looked that meant that I also had to put myself together. Of course this meant I had to do some serious shopping! So, on the last day in Rome I set aside a few hours to do some power shopping…and as it turns out power spending! After running around visiting tourist sites all morning I went as fast as I could through the shopping area near the Spanish Steps in search of the perfect purse. I went into all the designer stores, like Hermes, Chanel, Prada and Gucci, but since I was in Italy it seemed only fitting that I buy an Italian purse! I actually wasn’t looking for an extremely expensive designer purse, I was looking for a Furla purse, but given the frusturating shopping experience in Furla I couldn’t bear to have my statement “Italian” purse from that store. So…I splurged…and in a BIG WAY! It was nearing 7pm and all the stores were preparing to close. I was starting to get stressed and I could feel my window of opportunity closing in on me. Was I going to miss out on my dream of buying a fancy Italian purse in Italy? Not me! So with 20 minutes of shopping time left I ran into Prada, all sweaty and dirty and very uncivilized. I was touching everything, moving all the merchandise and not acting very Prada at all. One of the sales people was very patient with me, showing me all the goodies I requested, and then my Prada dream purse appeared in front of my very eyes! I knew it was destiny as soon as I saw the detailing and the perfect mixture of hardware and fine leather.

For the full story on the Italian Dream travel entries read the stories on Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and Siena.
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Travel
Siena: Italian Dream Part Five
August 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm 0
Siena After driving for five hours it was a relief to arrive in Siena. It’s a charming small city that has a rich history and amazing views of the Tuscan countryside from all sides. The city itself is perched atop a hill, and considering it’s known around the world and has many tourists, it still manages to maintain its small town feel. Walking around the city is a must, and given its size there is no need for a car, especially since most streets seem to be pedestrian only. There are lovely buildings to see, a great core to the city where they have famous bareback horse races each year, and a very relaxed feeling to the city. We went out for lunch with another couple and I had another outstanding meal. I wanted to try something very adventurous, and not the standard pasta or salad and antipasto, so I had pheasant roasted with pinenuts and raisins, and it was delicious. It was juicy and sweet and had a powerful combination of flavours that blended extremely well. As we drove out of Siena after our two days in the city it was time to face the sunset of our trip and prepare to come back to Canada. With so much moving around I didn’t realize all the places we’d visited and how alternating cities and countryside every two days had been the perfect combination. We got to enjoy a lot of exciting historical and cultural offerings in the city, but we also got to relax and recoup in the countryside. Not only did we see a ton, but we felt relaxed about our trip instead of frazzled from all the moving around. It’s the first time I’ve tried this format for a trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone, including my boyfriend for our next trip…….hmmmm….where to go?
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Travel
Amalfi Coast: Italian Dream Part Four
July 24, 2009 at 9:20 am 0
Amalfi Coast I had huge expectations for the Amalfi Coast. I thought it was the playground of the rich and famous, a place where the elite go to relax and enjoy beautiful views and a warm culture. As it turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t so fancy (neither am I since I don’t even know where the fancy people go!), there were no Italians, and it seemed like a beautiful landscape that earned a great reputation many years ago and has held onto the reputation that is now no longer warranted. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is outstanding, but if you want to go out and about and discover the towns be prepared to pay a fortune for anything and be englulfed in the crowds of middle aged Brits and Americans – not the charming old Italian grandmothers and friendly locals that I was expecting. To find something less touristy we drove into the hills one night for dinner. There were still many tourists in Ravello, but I was distracted by my delicious meal. I had the best fish I’ve ever eaten – it was grilled and came with a fresh mint, olive oil and lemon sauce on top that was heavenly. I still daydream about it. After spending two days in Priano, Positano and Amalfi I was happy to get back on the beautiful and twisty rounds and move to our next destination. Stay Tuned: My favourite city is next! For more on Italian travel journals see the post on Florence, Tuscany and Rome.
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Travel
Rome: Italian Dream Part Three
July 23, 2009 at 9:43 am 3
Rome We left Tuscany very early in the morning and drove to Rome hoping to arrive prior to rush hour traffic. You’ve probably heard that the drivers in Italy are crazy, and that’s 100% correct. Luckily for me my boyfriend drives like an Italian very comfortably – he’s an expert at driving inches away from other cars at one hundred miles an hour, changing lanes like a madman, and passing people on roads that only fit one car. For most tourists driving in Italy is stressful, but for my boyfriend it was the ultimate driving test, and he passed with a gold sticker! As we were driving into Rome I thought my boyfriend was going to explode with enthusiasm over the architecture and historical buildings. After stepping out of the car many times to see the buildings we were passing we finally arrived at our hotel, only to leave within seconds and see the sights – and they are sights to behold. We went to the standard tourist spots like the Coliseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and Trevi fountains, and then we just walked around the city getting lost, taking little alleyways, and stopping for coffee and wine often. I really wanted to go shopping in Rome and shop we did! We were all messy and sweaty from walking around all day but that didn’t stop us (even though I’m sure many shopkeepers wish it did). Shopping in Italy is a serious activity, it’s very expensive, and not something to be taken casually. Everybody dresses up and looks their very best to go to the shops and be waited on. And, there is a definite etiquette to be followed….I don’t know what it is, but I know that I don’t know it. The funny thing is, the salespeople in the luxury stores were much friendlier than at the mid price stores. We went into Prada and although we seemed like misfits (messy, dirty, looking like tourists and touching everything) they were very nice to us. But at Furla the girls were so obnoxious and rude. It made me crazy that this girl was two steps behind me re-organizing everything that I touched and huffing and puffing the whole time, like I was causing her major undue stress. Ummmmm – you work in sales right? Customer service? Oh well, I was on vacation so I wasn’t going to let that bring me down! After two full days, and plenty of sight seeing and shopping, it was time to move on. I really enjoyed Rome – it felt like an actual Italian city and not just a tourist spot. There are locals around, going to and fro work and they tend to co-exist much better with the flocks of tourists than in Florence. I could have spent a few more days in the city, but it was time to move south. Up Next: the beautiful Amalfi Coast For more Italian travel journals see my posts on Florence and Tuscany
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Travel
Tuscany: Italian Dream Part Two
July 17, 2009 at 9:15 am 2
The Tuscan Countryside After two exhausting days in Florence it was so nice to escape to the countryside. By chance we made a hotel reservation to a modest looking hotel, the Borgo di Fontebussi, which turned out to be a luxury retreat. The pictures on Expedia do not do justice, and the price was amazing for what you got. As we drove up to the gated retreat I just wanted to sit inside and take a nap…until I saw the place we were staying….and then I felt like a princess who just landed in heaven. There were many different buildings, a lovely pool, two restaurants and many seating/park areas. The views from the hotel were outstanding and it was filled entirely with Europeans that wanted a little getaway. Everyone was just relaxing and having lovely slow meals, drinking wine together, sitting on the grass and enjoying life. It was bliss! After spending our first day in the retreat it was time to check out and go to Cinque Terre, but I just couldn’t leave. My very accommodating boyfriend had no problem with losing money on our other hotel reservation and staying on one more night….he’s so lovely about these things. Since we had an extra day we decided to peel ourselves away from the heaven retreat and visit the Chianti route. We drove around all day and visited many different towns, cafes, restaurants and vineyards. It was nice to just chit chat away driving down the country roads, getting lost and seeing amazing views at every turn. Throughout the entire day I was concocting plans in my head figuring out how I would take a six month sabbatical in Tuscany, living in a farm house, eating glorious food at every meal, and drinking the best wines I could imagine. Tuscany is a place to lose yourself in fantasy….and indeed I did. I felt so relaxed, blissful and in love with everything, and I’d go back tomorrow if I could. Stay Tuned: The crazy city of Rome is next! For more Italian travel journals see posts on Florence and Rome
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Travel
Florence: Italian Dream Part One
July 16, 2009 at 9:15 am 5
Recently I went on an eleven day whirlwind trip through central Italy with my boyfriend. We had tossed the idea of going to Italy around, but like so many things you chat about them, and then you get lost in daily life….until I found an amazing seat sale. I was able to book the flights from Toronto to Florence return for $577 per person ($500 US)….amazing! So with tickets in hand we constructed a brief travel plan and then adapted it as we went along. To make my trip diary a bit more digestible I'm going to post from each city for the next few days. First, let's start with... Florence We landed in Florence in the morning, and spent the entire first day walking around the inner city. I was jet lagged and running on fumes so I kept on drinking double espressos thinking it would perk me up….it didn’t work that well, but luckily I didn’t get too jittery. Florence as a city didn’t wow me, it was totally over-run with tourists (7 tourists for ever resident!!) and I didn’t really feel like I was in Italy since I couldn’t find any Italians outside of people that worked the tourist industry. We spent two days in the city, and I felt exhausted from walking all day and dodging the throbs of people. The best place to visit was the Uffizi museum. It is a very cool building and the art is outstanding. It’s a place that you could go into every day for a week straight and still be wowed. We were able to reserve our tickets through the receptionist at the hotel, so we avoided the mile long line-up outside. Thank heavens! There’s nothing like going on vacation only to wait outside in the burning sun to see fun stuff – no thanks! The most memorable thing about Florence was the restaurant we went to on the last night, Castello di Sabbia(they don't have a website, but here's a map with reviews ) . The restaurant specializes in fish and truffles and you won’t be disappointed. It’s owned by two guys, one of them a former police officer who speaks English and is very friendly. To get to the restaurant you need to take a taxi, which the owner will reimburse you for – a very nice perk indeed! The drive up is great, because you get to see where the actual Italians are, and it really sets the tone for the evening. After you’ve traveled for twenty minutes via taxi you find yourself in this beautiful cabana style building perched atop a hill with a view of the nearby area, and once you eat the food you will FALL IN LOVE. We had an antipasto appetizer, a pasta course and then a steak with truffles that was absolutely perfect. I still dream about it. We actually went back on the final night of our trip, and the host greeted us like we were returning friends. It was the perfect send off. Stay tuned: I'll blog about Tuscany next...and that truly was a dream... For more Italian travel journals read posts on Tuscany and Rome
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