Venice the city of waterfront palazzos, churches, gondolas and romance. A sunset gondola ride for two will be very memorable.
The island is a maze of canals, small bridges and lagoons. If you are walking around Venice, wander off into the narrow alleys called calles, you will discover small squares, piazza. Where you will see more of the city life and how the locals live and where you wlll find little shops and boutiques. If you find that special little shop, don’t forget to bargain.
If you are tired of walking jump on a Vaporetto. If your hotel is in Venice it would be wise to buy a time based travel card to use during your stay. The card can be used on the ACTV lines, Vaporettos and buses. But if you want to get away from the crowd and like the wind in your hair, try the Taxi boats. Taxi boats are also a good way to arrive or depart to Venice Marco Polo airport.
This way you don’t have to haul your luggage on public transportation, water taxis are direct and convenient. The taxies can travel into the narrowest side canals and arrive at your hotel or very close.
Here is a link with a showing you the convenience of Taxi boats, by Consorzio Motoscafe, Venezia.
If your are on your own and not on a tour but wish to learn more about this fascinating city, try, Tours by Locals. They have a number of personalized tours, wine tours, lagoon tours, photography tours and so on. More fun then walking in a large group behind a red umbrella…
It is a good idea if you are on your own or with a group to keep your passport and valuables with you in a money belt. We have used them for years and now they come with a passport protection from digital scanners. Visit our Travel Store on page 10 for more information about money belts/ passport holders.
Wine, food and pristine hilltop villages surrounded by panorama landscapes, Tuscany, the land of the Etruscans. They were great builders and engineers and the Etrusan women were allowed to own property and drive chariots. They built villages on hilltops for defense and today the vista's from these hill towns are magnificent. The view helped in making our decision to rent in Montefollonico, Siena.The villa was a good base for us to explore other nearby villages of Tuscany and also to get know the village life in Montefollonico. Every morning I would walk to the little store in the village for fresh rolls and croissants. In the little store you could buy anything from ear buds for your iPad to local cheese, wine, produce, fresh baked panare (bread) and more. While waiting for the rolls ( fresh baked ) I noticed some of the older women of the village would gather at the store, sit on the chairs provided and gossip. However, they always took a moment to share a smile and greet me with a friendly “buongiorno.”
After several visits they seemed to know the croissants I preferred and there never seem to be a shortage. At times it was hard to tell who ran the little store, the proprietor or the ladies. Must be that Etruscan liberated women heritage…
Pots of flowers lined the Calles and never went without attention. The residents take great pride in keeping their villages very attractive and clean, no litter. It is wonderful to know that the past will continue to be perserved in these scenic hill towns.
Food in Tuscany is fantastic. We dined at Ristorante 13 Gobbi one evening when they mixed hot homemade pasta inside of a wheel of pecorino cheese.
The cheese has not aged for long so it is somewhat soft where a basin is cut out to mix the pasta. As the waiter is mixing, he scrapes the sides to add more cheese to the hot pasta, throws it on a plate, adds pepper and wow!
If you are interested in buying cheese, nearby is the hill town of Pienza.
Pienza overlooks the rolling cypress-lined hills of the stunning Orcia Valley. Each village seems to specialize and Pienza is known for their cheese. The best store for the region’s pecorino cheese and fennel sausage is Marusco e Maria. We bought a small roll of cheese and brought it home in our checked bag. Not to worry, it is preserved in a casing and shrink wrapped in plastic so no aroma got through. You can ship but it is very costly.
When dining around Tuscany, we always asked for the local house wine and were never disappointed. If you are at a bar before dinner having a glass of wine, they bring you small plates of food, cheese, meats, chips for no charge.They are very creative with food presentations. We were in a Michelin four starred restaurant and they brought an hors d’oeuvre I could not eat. I apologized, in the worst Italian. They then quickly replaced the hors d’oeuvre with two tiny hot dogs, two tiny hamburger sliders, and two tiny ham & chees sandwiches. It was fun to eat and the chef was all smiles. I’m sure he has run into fussy Americans before and was fully prepared.
If you don’t have the time to explore and live like we did, Tuscany has every type of sightseeing tours.
Try Viator, we met some travelers that were very pleased with them.
We rented a Villa in a small village on Lake Como within easy access to the ferryboats. Ferry hopping is one of the best ways to get around the lake to visit the small villages, stopping for lunch, then catching the next ferry. It is easy as long as you pay attention to the schedule. You can also take a cruise on the ferry and see all parts of the lake were the ferries go.
Another way is to rent a boat and drive it yourself. Stop in the morning and pickup a picnic lunch at your local panetteria ( bakery). Most of them sell sandwiches and have take out. If you prefer the ferry cruise they too serve food and drinks. We did both, the ferry cruise and rented a runabout. The navigation is simple because the water is so deep. The only request was to stay about 100 yards off shore with the runabout. We had some favorite places, Varenna, and Bellagio were at the top of list.
This Rick Steves Video below will provide you with a colorful look at these quaint villages.
I would also recommend Rick Steves gudie book on Italy Travel. The book is excellent, for obtaining inside information while traveling.
When we mention renting a villa on Lake Como it conjures up all kinds of expensive images of large gated estate with expansive gardens. In reality they are apartments in converted villas. We rent though organizations such as FlipKey by Trip Advisors or VRBO, Vacation rentals by owner. For our Tuscany villa we use Parker Villas.
You need to do a little research such as a map search on Google to understand more about the area and the terrain. For instance to reach our Lake Como Villa you had to climb 235 stairs and parking was wherever you could find a space. The trade-off was the views. Our views of the Lake were to die for and believe me after climbing those stairs for the first time with three bags you felt like you were going to die.
But we are both in good shape and we knew ahead of time about the stairs because the rental company will put you in touch with the owners by email so you can ask questions.
Here is a link to FlipKey rental website to give you a better Idea of the rentals on Lake Como.
If you want to go off the beaten path in Italy and mingle more with the locals try the rental scene.
If you need to know more about Rome, Venice or the Amalfi coast visit our video pages under Europe Southern.
If your touring Italy in your 1943 Bentley take a moment and visit our SMTO Blog, Italy Driving, for few drivng tips. If not and you just need a few travel accessories try our Travel Store
It’ s a fun place to shop, no clerks, no haggling but good bargains!
So what are you waiting for...
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