Discover the real Italy in its smaller towns
Italy’s picturesque scenery, fabulous food and wines, along with its rich history make it an excellent country to visit. However, to really experience all that Italy has to offer, consider going beyond the major tourist hubs. Adelman’s Janie Leis took a small group on an independent journey to Italy where they went beyond Rome, Pisa and Florence for a truly immersive experience.
Janie started by renting a villa in the countryside near Montespertoli (about 25 miles outside of Florence) to serve as their base. Besides providing a taste of life in wine country, the villa proved to be an idyllic and serene place for Janie and her travelers to rest and recuperate after busy days of sightseeing. Janie also hired a private chef to prepare a very special traditional Italian dinner. According to Janie, “Chef Carla and her helper set up dinner outside under the trees and lights and it was very special! Her rate was 35euro per person for a 5-course meal, including wines. You can’t beat that!”
Sightseeing around their villa included a day trip to Siena where they toured the stunning Duomo di Siena. This Cathedral is characterized by its striking black and white marble stripes. Janie recommends that visitors consider one of the various tours of the Cathedral that includes the baptistery and crypt. For those who are fine with heights, there is also a fascinating tour of the dome and tower tops, which offers a closeup view of the beautiful murals in the dome and a bird’s-eye perspective of the surrounding area. No trip to Siena would be complete without a visit to the Piazza del Campo, the cobblestone center of the city. Twice a year the Palio, a famous horse race dating back to the 13th century, is held in this medieval square. Siena also offers many wonderful shops and places to eat.
Janie and her group also visited the ruggedly beautiful Cinque Terre, which is made up of five colorful villages perched on the steep slopes overlooking the turquoise waters of the Ligurian Sea. Jamie was in awe of the amazing views found in Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza. “While there is a lot of steep walking in all the villages, it isn’t too bad. It’s worth it because the views are fantastic,” said Janie. Each of these charming and historic villages offered an interesting glimpse of seaside life.
After doing some research on culinary experiences in Italy, Janie and her group headed to a nearby town called Panzano, which is well known for its local butcher, Dario Cechini. “He is commonly referred to as the Mad Butcher,” Janie said. “He is kind of like Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen.” Finding his shop is not too difficult. “You actually hear it before you get to it. He had the doors open, blasting rock and roll music and there were waiters outside handing out free wine samples.”
There was a great spread of samples inside Dario’s shop as well. “Although they were full in the indoor restaurant, they were able to fit us in at the rooftop restaurant and it was an amazing lunch!” Janie said.
Before their trip came to end, Janie and her group visited San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This small walled town is famous for its fascinating medieval architecture and towers that offer an impressive view of the city from the surrounding valley. According to Janie, “They’ve done a wonderful job of preserving the old buildings, filling them with restaurants and shops where visitors can enjoy local products including saffron and white wine.”
For help planning your unique Italian adventure give Janie or one of our other experienced vacations advisors a call at 800-749-7116, or visit our website at www.adelmanvacations.com.