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GOLDEN DAY TEN: VATICAN CITY

img_4210If you can split it into two days (Saint Peter’s one day, the Vatican Museums another), even better. You could spend a year here, everyday discovering something amazing. One guide told me that as far as the Vatican Museums, if you spent one minute looking at every piece that was there, you’d be in there for TWELVE years!

So you are there for a day–to see the masterpieces that have filled your art history books: Saint Peter’s Square, The Pieta, The Sistine Chapel. Take a deep breath, relax, enjoy.

The key: AFTERNOON!!! The tour groups flood V.C. in the mornings. If you get to the Vatican Museums at 2, there may not even be a line. It happened to me in October.

Though you may want to go to Saint Peter’s on a Wednesday at 10:30 to see Papa if he’s in town.IMG_4185

It’s a rock concert! With free tickets! You can get them in advance, but if you’re last minute, go on Tuesday afternoon, to the right of the main entrance to Saint Peter’s, and up those great steps stand the Swiss Guards.

IMG_4149 For some crazy reason, the Guards act totally surprised when you ask them for a ticket. Why else would I be here? Then, with cordial ceremony, they hand you one.

So…the Basilica! The Pieta is to your right. Take your time…
And there you are, in this holiest of places that’s as big as two football fields. It’s worth it to take the steps to the top, at least once in your life.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk from there  to the Vatican Museums.
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Which is why it’s so great that one of Rome’s best gelato shops is enroute: The Old Bridge…can’t miss it!

Best to make a plan for the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel visit for the AFTERNOON. Or there are those private after-hours visits, which cost much, but if you’re so inclined, you must do to enjoy this splendidly. Otherwise, choose your group. The standard audio tour is okay, but hardly anything is marked, the place is humongous, so it’s best, especially if it’s your first time, to get guidance.

For a group tour, I once again say, Context Travel is my favorite–they never take more than 6 in a group, and their docents are amazing.IMG_4234 For a tour that’s less expensive but with a bigger group, I went recently with Viator,  lead by Jeanette, who as one of the others in the group put it, is “a bit cheeky!”  She absolutely knows her art history and was totally entertaining.

Vatican Museum tips: 1. Be prepared: it is a very long walk to the Sistine Chapel–the last stop on any tour, group or private. 2. Read up on Michelangelo and the chapel before your visit, 3. There are 2 exits from the Sistine Chapel–the one to the right leads into Saint Peter’s–so it’s great to take that one and get into the Basilica without having to wait in line. The Left exit takes you back through the museum, a labyrinth (through a gift shop) to the museum entrance–perfect if you want to stay on the Vatican Museum side of Vatican City. 4. SEE THE PINACOTECA (Picture Gallery) in the Vatican Museums–it’s awesome! With paintings by Giotto and Caravaggio, and tapestries designed by Raphael which originally hung in the Sistine Chapel!

Also: The Vatican Museum gift shops are quite fine, but if you want a good choice of medals and mosaics, check out: Mondo Cattolico, which is to the left of Saint Peter’s as you approach the square.

My friend, the quintessential MOST EXCELLENT Roman Tour Guide, Iris Carulli, recommended this place to relax for lunch or a cocktail after your Vatican City visitimg_4300: La Veranda dell’ Hotel Columbus, Via della Conciliazone 33, 06 686 5435. It’s a gorgeous frescoed loggia, facing a garden…

IMG_4302PERFETTO!

Golden Day Fifty-Nine: Torino with Charming Chelsea Christensen

I was absolutely charmed when I discovered Chelsea Christensen’s blog, All Roads Lead to Pecetto. Chelsea is an American who moved to Italy for love, and she writes about her life in Torino with passion, humor, and gorgeous photos. She also has a online vintage clothing and decor shop on Etsy, Italian Postcards, where you can find such treasures as these beautiful Italian shoes for very reasonable prices!

I’m so grateful Chelsea has joined in to share a Golden Day in her beloved city of Torino. Here goes:

I love living in Torino. I often find myself walking around the city and wondering, why don’t more Americans know about this place? Here are a few of my favorite Torino secrets:  Torino has the second largest Egyptian Museum in the world. There are more master chocolatiers working here than in France and Belgium combined. Plus this city was not only the home to the kings and queens of Italy but also the first capital city. You can see that a Golden Day in Torino is easy to be had…

Wake up and have a cappuccino breakfast in the hotel NH Santo Stefano (Via Porta Palatina, 19). This modern hotel is so perfectly located it’s ridiculous. Just out the front door and to the left are the remains of the Roman Gate to the city, straight ahead is the Royal Palace and the church that houses the Shroud of Turin, and to the right is the oldest and most picturesque neighborhood, the Roman Quarter. Any way you walk, you win.

Full of caffeine and a nice breakfast, I’m off to the vintage flea market at Porta Palazzo (Piazza della Repubblica and Via Borga Dora).   Porto Palazzo is the largest outdoor market in Europe. It’s held every day accept Sundays. On Saturdays it gets even bigger spilling into the Borgo Dora neighborhood holding a vintage and antique flea bazaar–more info: http://www.balon.it. Not only do I hunt for new pieces to add to my online shop but this is also a perfect place to find unique items for my home. I recommend stopping by this market if you would like to bring home a real one of a kind Italian souvenir from your trip. Remember when shopping that all prices are negotiable.

Starving after all that shopping, I head to Obikà for lunch, also affectionately known as The Mozzarella Bar (Via Corte d’Appello 2, Open noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm, closed Monday evenings). The concept is brilliant. Everything is served buffet style. Take a tray and pick and choose your favorite delicacies from a beautiful array of salads, meats, breads, pastas, and of course many different kinds of mozzarella from different regions of Italy. It’s fresh, casual, and delicious.

My next stop is the Sassi Tram Station (Piazzale Modena 6, Corso Casale),  because I’m headed up the mountain to the Basilica di Superga. Getting to Surperga is really half the fun! Original 1934 train cars take you on rickety tracks up the 3,100 metres to the top. You can hike, but really the train is the fun and more unconventional way to get there. The ride is a bit like going back in time and can be bumpy and noisy but it’s totally worth it. It’s also a cheap ride costing only 4 euros for a round trip.

Superga is appropriately named because it has the word super in it, it’s cheesy but true. Torino’s most famous architect, Filippo Juvarra, built this enormous baroque cathedral on the request of King Vittorio Amedeo II who vowed to build a church here when Torino was liberated from the French in 1706. Its ornate facade, luminous dome, and inside opulence make you whisper upon entering. I love viewing the Savoy tombs in the crypt where 58 kings and queens and their various family members obviously tried to out-do each other in gaudiness even after death. From Superga you catch the most spectacular views of the city and even beyond to the Alps. I might even stay to watch the sunset to take some romantic pictures. Check out the Basilica website for hours and ticket info.

For dinner I head to Spaccanapoli Pizzeria (Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 19).  For this dining experience it’s better to bring friends because here you order pizza by the meter. One meter of pizza is equivalent to 4 individual pizzas. They have a variety of toppings but if you ask me, keep it simple for the best Italian pizza. The Margherita is traditional and consists of tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. To drink I’ll always take a red wine with pizza, Dolcetto is the local wine I love.
I’ll finish off this golden day with gelato from Vanilla (Via Palazzo di Citta 7/B, open 12:30-11:30 pm, closed Mon in winter). This artisan gelateria has the most unique flavors in the city. Flavors like red wine and cinnamon pear or my favorite sweet ricotta and caramelized figs. Buono!

Grazie Chelsea! I look forward to reading more of your adventures on All Roads Lead to Pecetto…

GOLDEN DAYS IN SIRMIONE

Oh, how glorious it was to spend October days in Sirmione…a magical destination on the tip of Lake Garda, Lombardy…

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So many pleasures are contained in the historic center of this tiny treasure-of-a-peninsula, surrounded by the lake. It’s pedestrian only, and you can actually leisurely stroll from top to bottom in about 20 minutes…

The best way to arrive is by ferry from Desenzano del Garda…another charming lakeside town that has a lot of major train connections–that is, you can train from there to Venice in 1.5 hours. Then you cab to the port, catch the Sirmione ferry...CLICK FOR SCHEDULE…

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Dominating the whole pretty scene is the 13th century Scaliger Castle, that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle at Disneyworld…
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I loved my stay at Hotel Sirmione, with this view from my room at sunrise…
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And to make me feel like a true principessa, there are thermal springs in this part of the lake, pumped into the hotel’s lakeside pool…
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OR for the complete Sirmione spa experience, a short walk away is AQUARIA, with indoor/outdoor pools, treatment rooms, saunas, relaxing rooms, where you bliss out with views of the lake…
Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours Italy, For Women Only Tours, Small Group Tours Italy, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Sirmione gets filled with tourists during the day, mostly European. It’s a great place for family fun…You can stroll in the center amidst antique shops and caffes…
20171003_093822463_iOSFurther on is a lovely park, where you’re serenaded by birdsongs…
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Of course, I always have my antenna up for the HERSTORY angle...Maria Callas had a villa here, and is fondly remembered…
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AND  there’s a church of Santa Maria della Neve where one evening there was a Free Concert: a soprano singing Puccini arias…totally magical. It’s fun to take a 25-minute circle ride around the peninsula for 12 euros, that takes you under the Castle drawbridge…
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And then stop at one of the many gelaterias, for special Sirmione-style giant cones…
Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours Italy, Small Group Tours for Women, Women's Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

AND to take you back to Roman Imperial days (1st century AD), you can discover the ruins of the Grotte of Catullo at the tip of the peninsula. It’s strangely named, as this isn’t a grotto, and the pleasure-loving Roman poet Catullus did not live here–though he was from Verona, and his family had a villa in Sirmione. Now you’ll find the most extensive site of northern Italian Roman ruins here…When I visited, there were few tourists, and what a joy to wander amidst those ancient walls and olive trees one morning…
20171004_072800743_iOSAs for dining, we loved the half-board option at Hotel Sirmione, where every night there was fresh fish, delicious pasta, Veneto wines.
And for a splurge, we had an extraordinary dinner at  La Rucola, beloved for sophisticated twists on the classics…such as this seafood-spinach risotto…

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Wishing you Happy Travels in Italy, and I do hope you get to SIrmione…

CLICK HERE for more SIRMIONE Info

 

 

 

 

Golden Week in Venice

 

FOR WOMEN ONLY
MONDAY, OCTOBER 1 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018

VENICE - GRAND CANAL 3

Join author Susan Van Allen, (100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go), for this luxurious adventure in Venice, custom-designed with female friendly highlights. From your base in a Grand Canal Palazzo, you’ll experience the awe-inspiring beauty and boundless pleasures this destination has given travelers for centuries. You’ll be guided through masterpieces of architecture in Piazza San Marco, dazzling La Fenice Opera house, fascinating Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and have a day to explore Burano, the island of lacemakers. You’ll immerse yourself in the world of Venetian flavors at the bustling Rialto market, cook with a local signora, and blend with Venetian tradition as you paint a mask in an artisan workshop. All along the way, with a group of wonderful women, you’ll enjoy breathtaking sights, delicious tastes, and discover hidden treasures.

The week is a gift of La Dolce Vita=The Sweet Life, in one of the world’s most magical destinations, giving you an inspiring experience that will become a golden memory for a lifetime.

More info about Host Susan Van Allen and Rave Reviews for Golden Weeks: http://www.susanvanallen.com

What’s Included:
  • Entertaining hosting by author Susan Van Allen, focusing on Italy’s celebration of all things female
  • 6 nights at luxurious boutique hotel, Palazzo Sant’ Angelo, with side canal or courtyard views
  • Transportation by private water taxi for group activities, including arrival and departure transfers from Venice airport or train station
  • Daily buffet breakfast at the hotel
  • 2 multi-course dinners, with wine
  • 1 cooking class including Rialto Market tour, followed by lunch
  • Mask painting workshop with Venetian artisans
  • Guided tour of Piazza San Marco, with entertaining local guide, whisper headsets included
  • Guided tour of Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and Dorsoduro area with whisper headsets
  • Entrances to Basilica San Marco, Campanille, Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari, and Burano Lace Museum
  • Gratuities for group activities: guides, drivers, and servers at group meals
  • Travel journal and optional writing workshops
  • $25 Donation to Save Venice
What’s Not Included
  • Airfare
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary
  • Optional Travel Insurance
  • Everything not mentioned under “What’s Included”
The Golden Week is expertly designed with a mix of wonderful group activities and free time on your own, to enjoy Venice according to your desires.
CLICK HERE for Rave reviews of Golden Weeks in Italy, now celebrating Six Successful Years of Bringing Joy to Women Travelers!

“My thanks to Susan Van Allen for making her book come to life!!! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this Golden Week. Susan’s heartfelt desire for everyone to enjoy their time was evident each and every day.” — Jolene, California

PRICE: $4990/per person, double occupancy /
$5990/per person, single occupancy
(Deposit Payment: $350, Final Payment Due: 6/8/2018)
Created in collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy for over 70 years
For more information, and to sign up for this adventure, Contact Christine at Perillo Tours TODAY: support@italyvacations.com, 800-482-5925, (10am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time)

Brief Itinerary:

DAY ONE: Depart USA for Venice
DAY TWO: Welcome to Venice, with cocktails and dinner
DAY THREE: Fun hands-on cooking class, beginning with visit to Rialto Market
DAY FOUR: Discover Piazza San Marco / Backstage tour of La Fenice Opera House
DAY FIVE: Discover Dorsoduro area and Peggy Guggenheim Museum / Mask Painting Workshop
DAY SIX: Beautiful Day in Burano, Island of Lacemakers
DAY SEVEN: La Dolce Vita day in Venice / Farewell Dinner
DAY EIGHT: Arrivederci…Depart Venice with Golden Memories…

Detailed Itinerary:

GOLDEN DAY ONE, Sunday, September 30 – Depart USA for Venice

Susan Van Allen, Golden Weeks in Italy, Italy Tours for Women Only, Women's Travel Italy, Small Group Tour

GOLDEN DAY TWO, Monday, October 1 – Welcome to your Golden Week

Benvenuta! You’ll be met by your private water taxi driver at the airport or train station for your first glorious ride on the Grand Canal, then land at your home for the week: Palazzo Sant’ Angelo. This luxurious boutique hotel is a classic Venetian-styled jewel box, set perfectly between the Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco. You’ll have time to relax and explore its dreamy surroundings.

VENICE - PALAZZO SANT'ANGELO

In the evening, we’ll gather at the Palazzo’s Grand Canal view bar to toast the Golden Week ahead. I’ll give you tips for your travel journal, so you can create a treasured souvenir of the week ahead. We’ll dine nearby, enjoying the first of many memorable meals, with wonderful Venetian flavors.

Meals: D

GOLDEN DAY THREE, Tuesday, October 2 – Taste Venice

Wake up and smell the caffe.  Enjoy an abundant breakfast buffet in the palazzo’s cozy dining room…get used to this delightful beginning to all your Golden Days.

VENICE - BREAKFAST ROOM 2 - PALAZZO SANT'ANGELO

Today we’ll have a sensational experience of indulging in the culinary delights of Venice. We’ll begin at the Rialto Market—a bustling spot near the famous bridge that’s been The Venetian Shopping Center since 1097.

VENICE - RIALTO BRIDGE

Guided by a local chef, we’ll stroll fish stalls glistening with the lagoon’s catch-of the day, vibrant offerings of fruits and vegetables. Class will take place in a nearby palazzo, where we’ll learn Venetian specialties, including the delicious dessert, Tiramisu. Lunch, enjoying the fruits of our labors will follow.

With Susan’s guidance, you’ll have the afternoon on your own to wander the canals, shop, and sight-see according to your desires, and have dinner on your own. Perhaps tonight, after that big delicious lunch, you’d like to discover the Venetian wine bar scene, where fabulous snacks=cicchetti are served along with wines from Veneto’s vineyards.

Meals: B, L
GOLDEN DAY FOUR – Wednesday, October 3 – Discover Piazza San Marco / La Fenice Opera House

We’ll begin the day with a visit to the heart of Venice: Piazza San Marco, aka The Drawing Room of Europe—a spectacular expanse that will wow you with its architectural mix of Byzantine and Renaissance design.

VENICE - PIAZZA SAN MARCO

Our entertaining guide will bring Venetian history to life, as we admire the facades of such masterpieces as the Doges Palace, Clock Tower, and Basilica San Marco. We’ll take a break to settle in to the glamorous Florian caffe, (Italy’s oldest), be treated to an elevator ride to the top of the Campanille for amazing views, and skip-the-line to enter the Basilica, just when its stunning gilded mosaics are all lit up.

There will be time on your own for lunch and afternoon fun, followed by an exclusive backstage tour of La Fenice, one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

VENICE - LA FENICE - INTERIOR

We’ll hear the fascinating history of this venue, as we walk through dazzling halls, the Royal Box, an exhibition dedicated to Maria Callas, and end with an aperitivo in the Apollonian banquet room.

This evening, you can join Susan in the hotel lobby for an optional Travel Journal Writing Workshop. Dinner is on your own, with Susan’s recommendations.
Meals: B

GOLDEN DAY FIVE – Thursday, October 4 – The Dorsoduro & Peggy Guggenheim Collection / Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari / Mask Painting Workshop

Today we’ll cross the Grand Canal to explore a quieter side of Venice: the Dorsoduro. It’s an area that’s long been beloved by writers and artists, with impressive churches such as the Madonna della Salute, masterpiece-filled palazzos, and galleries.

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours to Italy, Women Only Tours, Small Group Tours, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

We’ll be guided through the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a unique modern art museum that was once the home of amazing Peggy–one of the 20th century’s greatest bon vivants. There will be time for artisan boutique shopping and a chance to see the oldest gondola yard in Venice, to watch a master builder at work.

Lunch is on your own, with many delicious choices nearby the famous Accademia Bridge.

In the afternoon we’ll visit one of the most famous churches in Venice, the Gothic Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari, with its stunning altarpiece of the Assumption, painted by Titian.
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Then we’ll slip into a nearby mask making workshop to learn first-hand about this beautiful Venetian tradition. Artisans will guide us as we paint our own masks, to bring home as souvenirs.

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The evening is on your own to enjoy the pleasures of Venice. We are lucky to be here for La Fenice’s Opera Season, so you may choose to see The Barber of Seville tonight, or La Traviata tomorrow. For advance ticket purchase info: http://www.teatrolafenice.it There are also many wonderful Vivaldi chamber concerts in the churches of Venice, which can be arranged during your stay.

Meals: B
GOLDEN DAY SIX – Friday, October 5 – Beautiful Island of Burano

A private water taxi will arrive at our hotel to take us on a ride through the Venetian lagoon to beautiful Burano, aka The Island of Lacemakers.

VENICE - BURANO

Women have been making lace here since the Renaissance, and the island is full of pretty shops to pick up unique souvenirs. At the Lace Museum, we’ll meet lovely signoras at work, following the craft tradition that’s been passed down to them through generations.

BURANO - 2013 - AUTHOR AND EMMA VIDAL - MUSEO MERLETTO

Burano is also beloved by photographers and painters for its distinctive brightly painted houses. We’ll have time to shop, wander this paradise, and have lunch on our own, perhaps enjoying fresh caught seafood from the local fishermen.

Back in Venice, the evening is on your own to enjoy, with Susan’s guidance.

Meals: B

GOLDEN DAY SEVEN – Saturday, October 6 – La Dolce Vita / Farewell Dinner

This is your day to immerse yourself in La Dolce Vita, and enjoy Venice according to your desires. There are many more masterpiece-filled palazzos, museums, churches, and artisan shops to enjoy. Or you may wish to visit the islands of Murano (famous for glassmaking) or Torcello, a quiet tiny treasure with amazing Byzantine mosaics in its Basilica. Susan will assist you, to custom plan your day.

VENICE - GRAND CANAL - SUSAN INTERESTING AND GIRL

Free Options:
–Visit an impressaria, to see Venetian glass beads transformed in to beautiful jewelry and floral creations
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–Journal Writing Workshop

OPTIONS, for Additional Cost:
Row Venice – Take a 1.5 hour lesson on the side canals of Venice to learn to row in the style of the gondoliers.
Doges Palace Secret Itinerary Tour: A fascinating 1.15 hour tour that takes you through the secret passageways of this amazing palace

In the evening a private water taxi will arrive at our hotel to take us to a glamorous Grand Canal restaurant for our Farewell Dinner of this Golden Week.

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Meals: B, D

GOLDEN DAY EIGHT – Sunday, October 7 – Arrivederci

A private water taxi driver will transport you to the Venice airport or train station, where you’ll depart with Golden Memories of our week together…

VENICE - DORSODURO WITH GONDOLA

Meals: B

Activity Level: The only way to experience Venice is by foot or boat—it’s a destination that happily slows us down. The itinerary includes private water taxi transportation for our group excursions, when there are returns to the hotel on foot, the walk is no longer than 20 minutes. There will be walking on calles=canal sidewalks, up and down on bridges, and through museums and churches—so bring comfortable walking shoes. If you would like to take a public vaporetto=ferry, during your free time, the cost is 7euros per ride.  Our hotel is set conveniently at a vaporetto stop.

CLICK HERE for Raves for Susan Van Allen’s Golden Weeks in Italy

PRICE: $4990/per person, double occupancy /
$5990/per person, single occupancy
Created in collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy for over 70 years
For more information, and to sign up for this adventure, Contact Christine at Perillo Tours TODAY: support@italyvacations.com, 800-482-5925, (10am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time)

Would you like to arrive early or extend your Golden Week? Christine can arrange for discounted hotel rates and packages. Just ask!

 

 

 

 

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Golden Week in Tuscany

 

FOR WOMEN ONLY
SATURDAY, JULY 7 – SATURDAY, JULY 14, 2018

Women Tours Italy, Small Group Tour, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Womn Should Go, Golden Week in Tuscany, For Women Only

Join author Susan Van Allen, (100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go), for a splendid, femme-friendly adventure in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia. This paradise, south of Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been beloved since the Renaissance for its enchanting medieval hilltop villages rising in the mist, thermal springs, gorgeous valleys of vineyards, olive groves, and farmlands, accented by stately cypress trees.

We’ll be based in the spa town of Bagno Vignoni, at a charming hotel with private thermal pools. Every Golden Day we’ll have an immersive experience meeting Susan’s friends: award winning chefs, winemakers, and artisans. We’ll visit the famed La Foce Gardens, awe-inspiring city of Siena, wander through a 12th century abbey, cobblestoned vias of Pienza, Montepulciano, and Montefollonico. The week is a gift of La Dolce Vita=The Sweet Life, in its summer-sunflower-blossoming glory—to bring you inspiration and pleasure, with breathtaking landscapes, masterpieces of architecture, world-renowned wines, and fresh-from-farmlands delicious tastes.

CLICK HERE for Rave Reviews for Golden Weeks in Italy, now celebrating Six Successful Years of Bringing Joy to Women Travelers!

“This trip was clearly designed by an artist…everything flowed along beautifully, a delicious, transformational experience of La Dolce Vita!” — Helen, California

What’s Included:

  • Entertaining hosting by author Susan Van Allen, focusing on Italy’s celebration of all things female
  • 6 nights at Hotel Posta Marcucci in Bagno Vignoni, including entrance to hotel’s thermal pools, spa with saunas and relaxing rooms
  • Transportation by private minibus, including arrival and departure transfers from Florence airport or train station. (Transfers from Rome can be arranged with a supplement of $100/per person, based on 2 people traveling together).
  • Daily buffet breakfast at the hotel
  • 5 Dinners: 2 multi-course dinners, with wine, 3 multi-course dinners at Hotel Posta Marcucci, beverages excluded
  • 4 Lunches: 1 following cooking class in Montefollonico, 1 following garden tour at La Foce, 1 with wine tasting in Montalcino, Ala Carte Lunch at Hotel Bagno Vignoni (30-euro credit)
  • Cooking class with award-winning chef in Montefollonico
  • Vin Santo tasting in 750-year old cantina, Montefollonico
  • Entrance and private tour of La Foce Gardens
  • Visit and Tasting at Women-Owned & Operated Winery, Montalcino
  • Visits to the hill towns of Pienza and Montepulciano
  • Guided tour of Siena, by entertaining expert, including entrance to Duomo, with whisper headsets included
  • Visit to Abbey of Sant’Antimo, with self-guided audio tour
  • Gratuities for group activities: guides, drivers, and servers at group meals
  • Travel journal and optional writing workshops
  • $25 Donation to UNESCO’s World Heritage Center

What’s Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary (1 dinner, 1 lunch are NOT included)
  • Spa treatments at Hotel Posta Marcucci
  • Optional Excursion to Cortona
  • Optional Travel Insurance
  • Everything not mentioned under “What’s Included”
This week is expertly designed, with a blend of wonderful group activities, and time for you to enjoy this paradise on your own, according to your desires.
Brief Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Welcome to Bagno Vignoni, with Cocktails and Dinner
Day 3: Fun Cooking Class in Charming Village of Montefollonico
Day 4: Visit the World Famous La Foce Gardens / Pienza at Sunset
Day 5: Discover Siena, One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Cities
Day 6: Experience Amazing Abbey of Sant ‘Antimo /
Wine Tasting at Award-Winning Montalcino Winery
Day 7: Delight in La Dolce Vita / Marvelous Montepulciano / Farewell Dinner
Day 8: Transfer to Florence or Rome for your Flight Home

PRICE: $3990/per person, double occupancy / $4190 per person/single occupancy
(Deposit Payment: $350, Final Payment Due: 5/9/2018)
In Collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy for over 70 years.

For more information, and to sign up for this adventure, Contact Christine at Perillo Tours: support@italyvacations.com, 800-482-5925, (10am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time)


DETAILED ITINERARY:

GOLDEN DAY ONE, Saturday, July 7Depart USA for Florence or Rome

AIRPLANE

GOLDEN DAY TWO, Sunday, July 8 – Welcome to your Golden Week

20170507_070000000_iOS Benvenuta! You’ll be met by our driver at the Florence airport or train station*, then transported through the beautiful countryside to your home for the week: Hotel Posta Marcucci in Bagno Vignoni, a village famous for its curative thermal springs since the days of the Roman Empire.

You’ll feel yourself slow down as you settle into this Old World boutique hotel, surrounded by awesome views of the flowing valley and Mount Rocca. Soak your travel aches away in the Posta Marcucci’s warm pool, fed by a mineral-rich spring.

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Wander to the nearby heart of the village, to discover the stunning “square of sources” –a 16th century giant bubbling water-filled tub, and shrine to Saint Catherine who soaked here!!
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In the evening, we’ll gather to toast the week ahead. I’ll give you tips for your travel journal, so you can create a treasured souvenir of this adventure.

APM Restaurant2

We’ll dine in Posta Marcucci’s restaurant, enjoying the first of many memorable meals, featuring Tuscany’s traditional delicious flavors, backdropped by the sunset, bathing the valley in golden light.

Meals: D

*Transfers from Rome can be arranged with a supplement of $100/per person, based on 2 people traveling together

Driving time from Florence airport to Bagno Vignoni is 2 hours, from Rome 2.5 hours.

GOLDEN DAY THREE, Monday, July 9 – Taste Tuscany

Wake up and smell the caffe.  Enjoy an abundant breakfast buffet, featuring homemade jams, fresh baked bread and pastries, along with eggs made to your liking…get used to this delightful beginning to all your golden days.

Then we’ll set off for the hamlet of Montefollonico, for a cooking class at an enchanting restaurant, converted from a 300-year old olive mill, that’s been a gourmet destination for decades. We’ll join its glamorous, award-winning signora chef, for a stroll around her herb garden to gather ingredients, then tie on aprons for hands-on pasta making. Lunch will follow, enjoying the fruits of our labors.

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Next, we’ll wander through the Montefollonico medieval gate, feeling as though we’ve stepped back in time, as we visit a local ceramic artisan and a philosopher/winemaker’s 750-year old cantina, for a taste of vin santo, Tuscany’s signature desert wine.

Relax back in Bagno Vignoni, where you are welcome to enjoy a Travel Journal Writing Workshop in the early evening. Dinner is at the hotel, or on your own, at one of the village’s lovely, welcoming restaurants.

Meals: B, L, D*
*4-course dinner at the hotel is complementary, (excluding beverages), or you may wish to dine at one of Bagno Vignoni’s restaurants, at your own expense.

GOLDEN DAY FOUR – Tuesday, July 10 – Extraordinary La Foce Gardens / Elegant Pienza

We’ll take a drive through a classic landscape of winding roads and cypress trees to arrive at a world-famous garden: La Foce.

Susan Van Allen, Golden Week in Tuscany, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel, Smll Group Tours Italy

It’s the dream-come-true of Iris Origo, an acclaimed writer, who, with her husband Antonio, bought the property in 1924, turning it into a jewel-of-an-estate. The garden features formal Italian and English styles to spectacular effect—sculpted hedges, terraces of colorful blooms, and lemon trees. We’ll be treated to a private tour, where we’ll hear the story of courageous Signora Origo–an idealist, who sheltered orphans here during turbulent World War II days, and became a local heroine by transforming the territory into prosperous farmlands.
TUSCANY - LA FOCE ARBOR

Lunch in this dreamy spot will follow, giving us a chance to savor the experience.

Following an afternoon break in Bagno Vignoni, we’ll head out for a magical evening. Sunset is the best time to enjoy Pienza, a hilltop town that will wow you with its elegant Renaissance architecture.

Pienza

You can stroll along a panoramic promenade, shop in town for artisan treasures, and taste Pienza’s prized Pecorino cheeses. Dinner is on your own, with Susan’s recommendations. Choices range from cozy wine bars to sophisticated ristoranti.

Meals: B, L

GOLDEN DAY FIVE – Wednesday, July 11 – Discover Siena / Soak under the Stars

Today we’ll discover one of the most beautiful cities in Italy: Siena. It’s a masterpiece of Medieval times, with fabulous Italian Gothic architecture, charming alleyways, and a thriving university town vibe.

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Lucky us, we’ll be there for Market Day, and have a chance to elbow in with the locals for bargain goodies. Our expert guide will lead us on an entertaining walk to see Siena’s stunning landmarks, including the Duomo and scallop-shaped piazza = Il Campo, where the traditional Palio=horse race, is held biannually. Then we’ll have time to wander as we wish, enjoying lunch, sightseeing, and shopping on our own.

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Back in Bagno Vignoni by early evening, a unique night awaits. The hotel offers special Wednesday pool hours, so you can soak under the stars, until midnight! An optional Travel Journal Writing Workshop will also be available.

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Meals: B, D*
*4-course dinner at the hotel is complementary, (excluding beverages), or you may wish to dine at one of Bagno Vignoni’s restaurants, at your own expense.
GOLDEN DAY SIX – Thursday, July 12 – Awesome Abbey of Sant’Antimo / Award-Winning Women-Owned Winery

This morning we’ll experience Tuscany’s powerful spiritual history, at the Abbey of Sant’Antimo–a 12th century Romanesque wonder, majestically rising in a valley of wheat fields and olive groves.

TUSCANY - ABBEYThe tranquil setting was once crowded with pilgrims, resting from their walk on the Via Francigena footpath, that runs through this area, connecting Canterbury to Rome. The Abbey is a spellbinding sight, adorned with Gothic sculpted columns and arched windows that filter magical shafts of light through its chapels. Nearby is a pharmacy, selling cosmetics, teas, and liqueurs, made with locally gathered herbs, in the tradition of Benedictine monks who once lived here.

Next, we’ll immerse ourselves in the world of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most prestigious wines, produced in this province. We’ll visit an exceptional winery—the only in Italy that has an all-female staff, and produces award-winning Brunello designed by an all-female panel of experts. We’ll enjoy lunch with a wine tasting, overlooking the vineyards.

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We’ll return to Bagno Vignoni for a relaxing evening, and dinner on your own. You also have the option to take a 10-minute taxi ride to the neighboring village of San Quirico, where you can explore its Horti Leoni (16th century terraced gardens), quaint shops, and have dinner in one of their delightful restaurants.

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Meals: B, L, D*
*4-course dinner at the hotel is complementary, (excluding beverages), or you may wish to dine in Bagno Vignoni, or take a taxi for dinner in San Quirico, at your own expense. Taxi rates each way: 25euros total for 1-3 persons, 30euros total for 4-7 persons.

GOLDEN DAY SEVEN – Friday, July 13 – La Dolce Vita / Marvelous Montepulciano / Farewell Dinner

This is your day to immerse yourself in La Dolce Vita, and experience the Val d’Orcia according to your desires, with my suggestions…

OPTIONS:
–At Posta Marcucci: Indulge in a spa treatment, thermal pools, play Bocce in the hotel garden court
–Walk the Via Francigena from Bagno Vignoni to San Quirico (1 hour, 3 miles)
–Explore the Parco dei Mulini (Old Roman baths) below the village of Bagno Vignoni
–Travel Journal Writing Workshop
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FOR ADDITIONAL COST:
Cortona Excursion:
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An English speaking private driver will transport you to this hill town in the neighboring Valdichiana, where you’ll be met by a local guide and discover a beautiful mix of pre-Roman Etruscan walls, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. You’ll have time on your own to enjoy Cortona’s caffes, artisan shops, and restaurants amidst medieval vias. The town is the setting for Frances Mayes’ wonderful book, Under the Tuscan Sun.
9:30AM-3:30PM, Includes Driver and Guide in Cortona for 2 hours. Ride from Bagno Vignoni to Cortona takes 1.15 hours, along a scenic route
COSTS: 4 persons = $230 per person, 5 to 9 persons = $185 per person,
10 to 14 persons = $115 per person
*Please let Christine know when you sign-up if you are interested in this option. You will be charged for it at final payment, according to the number of sign-ups.

In the late afternoon, we’ll take a lovely drive to Montepulciano.
3011Montepulciano

Set on a narrow ridge, this town was beloved by the noble Medici family and features marvelous Renaissance palazzos and churches, fine leather shops, gorgeous viewpoints, and enotecas to taste the town’s famous wine, Vino di Nobile.

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From Montepulciano, it’s a short drive to Montichiello, where we’ll gather on the panoramic terrace of one of Italy’s most adored restaurants, for our final celebratory dinner of this Golden Week.

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Meals: B, L*, D
*You’ll receive a 30-euro lunch credit at the hotel, to enjoy its ala carte menu.

GOLDEN DAY EIGHT – Saturday, July 14 – Arrivederci

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Our driver will transport you to the Florence airport or train station*, where you’ll depart with Golden Memories of our week together…

*Transfers from Rome can be arranged with a supplement of $100/per person, based on 2 people traveling together.
Driving time from Bagno Vignoni to Florence is 2 hours, to Rome 2.5 hours. Keep this in mind, when making airline reservations. Return flights should depart after 11am.

Meals: B

CLICK HERE for Rave Reviews for Golden Weeks in Italy, now celebrating Six Successful Years of Bringing Joy to Women Travelers!
My Golden Week experience was wonderful…more than I had anticipated. Everything was so well planned, including all of my transportation arrangements. Susan helped to make our experience pleasurable as well as memorable. I would recommend this tour to anyone looking for a cultural experience while the enjoying the full flavor of Italy.  — Maureen, New Jersey

Activity Level: Siena and the villages we visit are pedestrian only, so be prepared for walks on cobble stoned streets—bring comfortable walking shoes! Our day in Siena will require the most walking, at a relaxed pace, with stops along the way to rest, as needed.

Hotel Posta Marcucci is a 3-star, boutique/historic property, beloved for its valley views, antique-filled lobby rooms, vintage bar, extraordinary staff, restaurant, thermal pools, and spa with saunas and relaxing rooms, that are free to hotel guests. Guest rooms are comfortably and simply styled, smaller than luxury hotels, with shower-only bathrooms. Bathrobes and slippers are provided, as well as TV and WiFi.
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For more information, and to sign up for this adventure, Contact Christine at Perillo Tours Today:

support@italyvacations.com, 800-482-5925, (10am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time)

Would you like to arrive early or extend your Golden Week, in Florence or Rome? Christine can arrange for discounted hotel rates and packages. Just ask!

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TEN REASONS WHY…

10 REASONS WHY WOMEN LOVE
GOLDEN WEEKS IN ITALY: For Women Only

1. Small group tours (14 max). You get personal, caring attention every step of the way.
2. Custom-designed and led by author Susan Van Allen. You’ll have a fun-loving savvy traveler girlfriend with you all week to lead you to hidden treasures.
3. Full immersions into a destination, with Femme Friendly Focus. Staying in one spot for a while gives you the chance to deeply know it, and focusing on the HERstory of its culture and art deepens our personal connection to Italy.
4. Entertaining local guides share their expertise and insider’s perspective. My local girlfriends/guides love showing us their hometowns, and guests love getting to really know these lovely natives.
5. Fun activities with the locals: cooking classes, wine tastings, visits to artisan workshops. When you roll out pasta with a local nonna, or pick up a paintbrush in a ceramics workshop, you become a part of Italian tradition.
6. Blissful Spa Time — Following a tradition from the days of the Roman Empire! You’ll discover a fabulous, relaxing indulgence that many tourists miss.
7. Luxury accommodations for the week, where we’re welcomed like family. Each hotel inspires oohs and ahhs upon arrival, and reluctant departures…
8. A relaxing balance of group activities and time for independent explorations. We explore together at a relaxed pace (there’s time to stop and taste the prosecco), and each day there’s also time for guests to shop and experience the sights according to their desires.
9. Susan does all the planning and gives expert guidance so you can fully enjoy every Golden Day! I know you lead busy lives, and often do so much planning–leave this week to me and experience the true meaning of La Dolce Vita=The Sweet Life.
10. Perfect for Solo Travelers, Girlfriend Getaways, Mothers & Daughters. Friendships are formed amidst wonderful guests that last way beyond our week together…

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Raves for Golden Weeks…
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Susan Van Allen tour Golden Week in Italy for Women Only

TESTIMONIAL - JOLENE - FLORENCE

Jolene B. – California

My thanks to Susan Van Allen for making her book come to life!!! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this Golden Week. Susan’s heartfelt desire for everyone to enjoy their time was evident each and every day. (Florence, 2015)

Women's Travel, Golden Week in Italy, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Joyce, Virginia

What a wonderful trip. Susan made it all so enjoyable and fun – and always with the exclamation point to finish each day.  Our group managed to mesh very well. It is always nice to let people go at their own pace.” — Joyce Riley, Virginia (Florence, 2016)

LAURA S, ALABAMA - TESTIMONIAL

Laura, Alabama

Susan made me feel like every detail of this week was planned for me personally. I did have reservations about going on a scheduled tour, but was delighted to see the activities were not rigidly dictated by time constraints. I was not rushed through to keep to a strict schedule, but allowed enough time to enjoy each activity. I also appreciated the amount of free time that was built into the schedule. It allowed me to personalize my experience in this beautiful city. Perfect. (Florence, 2015)

TESTIMONIAL - DEB - SORRENTO 2016

Deb, New Jersey

My week far surpassed my expectations. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to visit and will definitely go back. The group was wonderful. Susan was terrific and I had tears in my eyes saying goodbye to Fiorella. A truly wonderful experience for me. (Southern Italy, 2016)

The Golden Week in Santa Margherita Ligure was terrific. Susan put an excellent trip together, filled with many interesting tours seasoned with a variety that everyone would enjoy. Her shopping, dining, and other recommendations were always to perfection. It was like we all become a family during our stay. — Liz, New Jersey (Italian Riviera 2016)

Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Tours, Italy Travel, Women's Tours to Italy

Debra, Massachusetts

Susan Van Allen did a phenomenal job as our leader. The group of women was delightful. (Florence, 2016)

Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Italy Tours, Italy Travel, Women's Tour

Helen, Maryland

Dear Susan, I can never thank you enough for that wonderful adventure we got to share with you. It is right at the top of my favorites….it was just so beautiful there you simply have to see it to believe it. This is the only time in my traveling life that I really wanted to stay. I think I should quit traveling now because I have seen the best with the best. (Southern Italy, 2016)

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tour Italy, Italy Travel, Golden Week in Italy, Women Small Group Tour Italy

Julie, Canada

I loved our Golden Week! Susan goes above and beyond to make sure everyone is having a good time and does her best to accommodate every need however necessary. The group size is ideal and having Fiorella as our guide was excellent. I hope to do another tour with Susan and would not hesitate to recommend these tours to friends. (Southern Italy, 2016)

A marvelous trip from start to finish.”– Carole V, New York (Southern Italy, 2014)

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tour to Italy, Italy travel

Diana V, Oregon

Perfection! You gave us what you promised and then some. I think the biggest compliment was that I didn’t want to leave” (Southern Italy, 2015)

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Lisa – Illinois

Fantastic! A great combination of busy and relaxing. (Tuscany, 2012)

The trip renewed my spirit on so many levels…Susan was a wonderful tour host.” — Renee, New York (Florence, 2016)

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours to Italy, Italy Travel, Women Only Tours

Gale O, Vermont

After spending several days with Susan I came to realize her love for Italy is as deep as the Mediterranean, she is as warm as the sun that sets in Capri… (Southern Italy, 2014)

Susan Van Allen, Italy Tours, Small Group Tours Italy, Italy Travel, Women's Tours to Italy

Chris, Massachusetts

Susan is an inspirational guide who creates an aura of beauty and joy in some of the most beautiful places in Italy! Truly fell in love with Florence—so much so that began to plan a return trip with Susan almost as soon as we returned. Highest of recommendations only! (Florence 2016)

I wish I could have stayed longer. I’d love to know about the next trip! — Dee, New York (Italian Riviera 2016)

TESTIMONIAL - HELEN ALTERNATIVE

Helen S. – San Francisco, California

This trip was clearly designed by an artist–everything flowed along beautifully, a delicious transformational experience of La Dolce Vita! (Tuscany, 2012)

Susan was terrific throughout. Thanks to everyone for a wonderful, memorable experience.”– Jo, Alabama (Florence, 2015)

Italy Travel, Women Only Tours to Italy, Women's Travel

Lynda, Massachusetts

Susan’s humor, knowledge and surprises really made this vacation one of my very favorites! (Tuscany 2013)

Everything was fantastic! Susan was a great tour leader and we all loved her enthusiasm. I would go back in a minute…” Gloria L, New York, New York (Southern Italy, 2014)

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Cynthia- Madison, Mississippi

Italians really know how to enjoy life. I would love to do this once a year! (Tuscany, 2013)

Women's Tours to Italy, Italy Travel, Small Group Tours to Italy

Rita, Florida

Amazing…All my passions were enlightened at each breathtaking step…I recommend it highly. (Tuscany 2012)

TESTIMONIAL - GAYLE ARIZONA - TUSCANY 2013 VILLAGE

Gayle, Arizona

I absolutely adored every enthralling, enlightening aspect of my Golden Week experience in Tuscany–a glorious time of female bonding and fun, as well as a feast of our senses absorbing it all! (Tuscany, 2013)

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ANDIAMO!
GOLDEN WEEK IN SOUTHERN ITALY: OCTOBER 2018 –
Click HERE for Details

In Collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s Leading Tour Operator to Italy for 70 years.
To reserve your space, or for more information, contact Irene today at: Irene@perillotours.com or 855-784-7687.

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GOLDEN DAYS ON THE ISLAND OF PONZA

These beautiful summer days have me dreaming back to days on the island of Ponza, aka The Roman Capri…The 7km squiggle off the coast of Lazio may look minor on the map,…

Susan Van Allen, Ponza, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Solo Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

but Ponza has long been a major summertime paradise for pleasure-seeking Romans. Its port is one of the most enchanting in the Mediterranean, where travelers can hop on boats for rides around a dramatic rocky coastline, stopping to sun and swim at dreamy beach coves and indulge in fresh seafood at rustic eateries.

Ponza, Italy Travel, Solo Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Unlike Capri and so many other popular Italian summertime destinations, Ponza remains truly Italian, folksy, and budget-friendly. Spicy history adds to its allure: Homer wrote that Circe lived here and seduced Odysseus to stay for a year, Pontius Pilot bred moray eels in the island’s caves, and it was a place of exile for naughty empresses and Fascists, including Mussolini.

We reached it by ferry boat from the Lazio port town of Formia, (www.laziomar.it — Slow boat takes 2-1/2 hours, fast boat = 1 hour 20 minutes), arrived, and checked into the nearby Piccolo Hotel Luisa…

Ponza, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Women's Travel

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

Where Luisa, her mamma and bambina were a delight…

Ponza, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Italy, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

And breakfasts delizioso…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

The best way to explore is by boat…We hopped one for the closest beach, Frontone…

Susan Van Allen, Ponza, Italy Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Where Enzo served us the most fantastic grilled tuna…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

An easy bus ride along a winding road took us to Piscine Naturali…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

where it was glorious to swim in natural pools formed by the rocks…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

The most amazing/blissful experience was boating around the island, thanks to Barcaioli Ponza, gasping at the rock formations…Pilates Grottos…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

The ever-changing colors of the sea…

Ponza, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

with a stop on the beach of nearby Palmarola island…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

While we were swimming, the boat’s captain made pasta, to eat on board in the shade of a cove, a natural cathedral…

Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Ponza, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

There were perfect evenings at the harbor for sunset cocktails…

Ponza, ITaly Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

AND the most extraordinary dinner by starlight at Ristorante Eea…

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, Women's Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Ponza, Italy Travel, Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel

I hope you get to this Paradise soon…

Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Ponza, Women's Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO: PRO LOCO PONZA 

AND more extraordinary places to visit in 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go…

 

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GOLDEN E-MAIL FROM VENICE

Each of us have special things in our lives that rock our worlds. For me, it’s when I meet my readers in person or get an email like this one, telling me how my advice brought joy to their trip to Italy.
Katy and Mark are travelers I met at the New York Times Travel Show in January. They bought 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, followed my Golden Day advice on their recent trip to Venice…and had an extraordinary, personal experience–even at the height of tourist season!
Here’s what they wrote…
We took your suggestions and visited Santa Maria Della Salute, taking us to the Dorsoduro section, an area we hadn’t explored but loved because it was so less crowded.
Santa Maria Salute, VeniceSalute Altar
And we also went on the hunt for the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, again taking us to a neighborhood we hadn’t been to. As you described, it was an absolute treasure and a bit of a miracle that we found it!
Santa Maria Miracoli, Venice
We admired it from the outside and then soaked up every inch inside as we shared the church with just one other couple.
Santa Maria Miracoli, Venice
Ceiling Detail

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Santa Maria Miracoli, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go
By the time we left the church we were ready for lunch. Following your Golden Day suggestion we set out to find Fiaschetteria Toscana. If this was Marcella Hazan’s favorite Venice restaurant we knew we would be in for a real treat. And it did not disappoint! We ate outside in the little square across from the restaurant, enjoying a delicious lunch.
VENICE - FIASCHETTERIA TOSCANA
At the end of our meal I went inside the restaurant to use the restroom and mentioned to the waiter how we happened upon the restaurant and showed them the paragraph in your book. The waiter suggested that I repeat the story to the owner, which I did. The owner thanked me and told me that his wife was friends with Marcella and with that she appeared at his side. Her husband then repeated the story to her and she confirmed that Marcella was her friend and she thanked me profusely for coming to the restaurant. 
I returned to my table and shared the story with my husband as we finished up our wine. A few minutes later, the owners wife appeared at our table with an envelope of photos with her & Marcella. She then proceeded to tell me that she and Marcella had been friends since they were little girls. She told me that she was a treasured friend and that she missed her dearly. She then showed me a copy of Marcella’s first cookbook, which Marcella had autographed for her. She thanked me again for coming to the restaurant and sharing the piece in your book with her. She said that I had brought back her friend, in doing so. At that point I had to hold back my tears. It was such a wonderful, heart-warming experience, that all happened because of your Golden Day tip. This happened, a week ago Friday, and was the highlight of our time back in Venice. 
I just had to share this with you!!!
Many thanks,
Katy & Mark  Petrochko
***************************
Grazie Mille to you, Katy and Mark, and to all you readers out there who’ve shared with me your Golden Day experiences!  You are an inspiration as I return and discover more and more of Italy’s boundless treasures and wonderful natives.
CLICK HERE for the latest edition of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go…
Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel
Buon Viaggio!

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Golden Day 136: Bernalda, Basilicata with Dream of Italy’s Kathy McCabe

On a hilltop in the southeast corner of Basilicata, sits the medieval village of Bernalda…

BERNALDA -= OVERVIEWI became intrigued by this spot in 2012. That’s when Francis Ford Coppola opened his newly-renovated 5-star Palazzo Margherita here. Coppola’s grandfather Agostino was born in Bernalda, and left in 1904, never to return.

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I’m grateful to have a friend who visited– Kathy McCabe, Editor of Dream of Italy newsletter, and Producer/Host of the fabulous PBS Dream of Italy TV series. She’s here to share her experience of this extraordinary place…

BERNALDA - KATHY McCABE“The town itself is like being in Italy in the 1950s,” she says. Coppola calls it “the real Italy.”

Bernalda, Basilicata, Kathy McCabe, Susan Van Allen, Italy Tours, Women's Tour Italy

The unassuming Palazzo Margherita entrance opens to “a surprising oasis”…lush, blooming gardens, fountains…

Bernalda, Basilicata, Palazzo Margherita, Susan Van Allen, Italy Tours, Italy Travel, Women's Travel

The 9-room hotel feels more like a home, stunningly designed by Coppola and daughter Sofia, in partnership with French interior designer Jacques Grange. Local artisans and restorers worked to incorporate original elements (floor tiles and chandeliers) of the 1892 palazzo, and every guest room is unique. Here’s Sofia’s room:
Bernalda, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Italy Tours, Women's Travel, Kathy McCabe

A highlight of Kathy’s stay, offered free to every guest, was a cooking class in the Palazzo kitchen, where it’s delightful to learn the local pasta specialty: ear-shaped orechiette
Bernalda, Basilicata, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Italy Tours, Women's TravelAnd for after dinner entertainment, there’s a screening salon, with a selection of 300 classic Italian films and documentaries…
BERNALDA - SCREENING ROOM

If you’re not staying at Palazzo Margherita, you can still go to the Cinecitta Caffe, next door, that’s open to the public. When Coppola is around, you’re very likely to find him sitting there.

Bernalda, Basilicata, Francis Ford Coppola, Italy Tours, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Susan Van Allen

Kathy’s interview with the award-winning director at the Palazzo will be featured in Season 2 of PBS’s Dream of Italy series…

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Exploring Bernalda, you can also enjoy a visit to the 15th century Castello….

Bernalda, Castello, Basilicata, Palazzo Margherita, Kathy McCabe, Susan Van Allen, Italy tours, Italy Travel, Women's Travel

Refresh yourself deliciously at Gelateria Novecento, Corso Umberto Primo 246…
BERNALDA - GELATERIA NOVECENTO
And go to Barbacoa, Via Carioli 7, 338 739 830, that serves high quality grilled meats and has an extensive collection of wines…

BERNALDA - BARBACOA

Grazie Kathy!

We’re looking forward to seeing more of this in the upcoming PBS Dream of Italy show…To read Kathy’s full story of her stay at Palazzo Margherita, and for great insider’s advice about Italian travel, subscribe to the Dream of Italy newsletter, http://www.dreamofitaly.com

 

 

Golden Week:
Italian Riviera and Florence

PREMIUM Golden Week: For Women Only –
Italian Riviera and Florence
September 22–October 1, 2017
SOLD OUT!
STAY TUNED FOR 2018 GOLDEN WEEKS…

A NEW 8-night adventure, in 2 extraordinary locations, custom-designed and hosted by author Susan Van Allen, for women to enjoy Italian pleasures to the max!

Susan Van Allen, Women Tour Italy, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

What’s Included
    • Entertaining hosting and guiding by author Susan Van Allen, focusing on Italy’s celebration of all things female
    • 8 nights at First-Class Hotels,
      4 nights Hotel Continental in Santa Margherita Ligure
      4 nights Plaza Hotel Lucchesi in Florence
    • Transportation by private minibus, including arrival transfers
      from Genoa airport or train station and departure transfers to Florence airport or train station
    • Daily buffet breakfast at the hotel
    • 4 multi-course dinners, with wine
    • 1 cooking class in Portofino, followed by lunch
    • 1 ceramics painting class
    • Guided tours of the Cinque Terre, San Fruttuoso Abbey, Florence Historic Center, Santa Maria Novella Basilica and Cloisters, and Uffizi Gallery, by charming local experts, with whisper headsets included
    • Entrance fees to museum and monuments
    • Gratuities for group activities: guides, drivers, and servers at group meals
    • Travel journal and optional writing workshops
    • $25 Donation to Friends of Florence, for art restoration projects
What’s Not Included
    • Airfare
    • Meals not specified in the itinerary
    • Optional Travel Insurance
    • Everything not mentioned under “What’s Included”
Rates: $4890/per person, double occupancy
$5590/per person, single occupancy
Small Group Tour: 14 guests maximum
To reserve your space, or for more information, contact Irene today at: Irene@perillotours.com or 855-784-7687.
The week is expertly designed with a balance of planned group and free-time independent experiences
CLICK HERE for Golden Week Testimonials
Brief Itinerary

Day 1: Friday – Depart USA to Genoa, Italy
Day 2: Saturday – Welcome to Your Golden Week
Day 3: Sunday – Taste the Italian Riviera, in Portofino
Day 4: Monday – Discover Extraordinary Cinque Terre
Day 5: Tuesday – Experience Magical San Fruttuoso / Sunset in Camogli
Day 6: Wednesday – Welcome to Florence, via Lucca
Day 7: Thursday – Discover Florence and Its Treasures
Day 8: Friday – Be a Florentine Artisan / Marvel at Masterpieces
Day 9: Saturday – La Dolce Vita Day
Day 10:Sunday – Arrivederci Florence

In Collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s Leading Tour Operator to Italy for 70 years.
To reserve your space, or for more information, contact Irene today at: Irene@perillotours.com or 855-784-7687
Detailed Itinerary
Golden Day 1: Friday, September 22 – Departure from USA 

You’ll be packed (with my tips), and full of joyful anticipation…

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Golden Day 2: Saturday, September 23 – Welcome to Your Golden Week

Benvenuta! You’ll be met by our private driver at the Genoa airport or train station and transported to our paradise-of-a-base: the Hotel Continentale in Santa Margherita Ligure.

SANTA MARGHERITA - HOTEL CONTINENTALE - DAY TWOThe views from your room’s balcony will take your breath away: sparkling harbor, elegant palm trees, and wonderful town.

Susan Van Allen, Women Tour Italy, Liguria, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoYou’ll have time to relax, and perhaps enjoy the hotel’s private beach, pool, or spa. In the evening we’ll gather on the hotel terrace to toast the Golden Week ahead.

day-1-welcome-dinner-hotel-continentalSusan will give you tips for your travel journal, so you can create a treasured souvenir of the adventure.  We’ll dine in the hotel’s restaurant, enjoying the first of many memorable meals, featuring the traditional flavors of Liguria with a backdrop of the sparkling, starlit sea.

Meals Included: D

Golden Day 3: Sunday, September 24 – Taste the Italian Riviera, in Portofino…

Buongiorno! Wake up and smell the caffe. Enjoy an abundant buffet breakfast in the hotel’s dining room with mesmerizing sea views…get used to such extraordinary mornings for the rest of your week.

day-4-breakfast-at-hotel-continental-santa-margherita-ligureWe’ll begin the day with a stroll down the hill for an orientation to Santa Margherita Ligure. The town’s historic center is a beautiful mix of colorfully painted neoclassical buildings, a stunning Baroque church, and delightful shops, caffes, and restaurants.

Susan Van Allen, Women Tour Italy, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoThen we’ll hop a ferry boat for a short ride to Portofino—a tiny, gorgeous seaside village that’s a choice yacht-stop for jet setters.

PORTOFINO - PIAZZETTA SHOPPING - DAY THREEWe’ll be welcomed here into a local kitchen for a fun, hands-on cooking class, to immerse ourselves in the Italian Riviera’s extraordinary flavors, including making Genovese pesto. 

day-2-portofino-cooking-class-pesto-makingLunch will follow, enjoying the fruits of our labors. Then we’ll have time to relax in this jewel of a spot, perhaps wandering up to Castello Brown, (setting for the film Enchanted April),  and shopping in Portofino’s legendary designer boutiques.

We’ll ferry back to Santa Margherita where the evening is yours to dine on your own, with my recommendations. Choices range from lively pizzerias to chic upscale restaurants.

Meals included: B, L

Golden Day 4: Monday, September 25 – Full day in Extraordinary Cinque Terre

The extraordinary stretch of coastline called the Cinque Terre (meaning Five Lands), is comprised of five colorful fishing villages that cling to the rugged coastline, surrounded by vineyards and terraced gardens.

Susan Van Allen, Cinque Terre, Women Tour Italy, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoWith our guide Simona, we’ll have an insider’s experience of these unique villages, traveling by train and/or ferries to see such wonders as the Riomaggiore castle, Gothic Church of Santa Margherita in Vernazza, and the Capuchin Monastery in Monterosso, stopping along the way to take in breathtaking views. There will be free time to wander the enchanting pathways of the villages with our guidance, for shopping, a caffe break, and lunch on your own.

_fab4804After this exhilirating day, we’ll transfer back to Santa Margherita Ligure, where you can enjoy the sunset and a relaxing dinner at the hotel or harbor.

Meals included: B

Golden Day 5: Tuesday, September 26 – Experience Magical San Fruttuoso / Sunset in Camogli

This morning is free for you to experience Santa Margherita Ligure at your leisure. You may opt for a swim at the hotel’s private beach and lunch on the terrace, a spa treatment, journal writing workshop, shopping in town, or visiting the elegantly decorated Villa Durazzo and its surrounding gardens.

20160930_115238776_iosIn the afternoon, we’ll take a short ferry ride to one of the most magical spots on the Ligurian coastline: San Fruttuoso. This secluded bay can only be reached by boat or hiking. The setting is dreamlike: sparkling turquoise waters and a stunning 10th century Abbey which we’ll tour with our guide Simona.

day-4-windows-of-san-fruttuoso-abbeyday-4-boatingWe’ll continue by boat to the village of Camogli, that got its name from case delle mogli=house of wives”, as it was a fishing village named for the women who managed things here while their husbands were away at sea. The soul of Camogli from days gone by remains—the harbor is full of fishing boats, there are little shops where Liguria’s best focaccia is fresh-baked, and artisan workshops. Camogli is ideal to visit at sunset, so we’ll settle in at a traditional seaside restaurant, to enjoy dinner with a marvelous view.

day-4-camogli-at-sunsetAfter dinner, we’ll be transported by private driver back to Santa Margherita Ligure.

*In case of bad sea/weather, the visit to San Fruttuoso bay will be replaced with a visit to the villas and gardens of Santa Margherita Ligure village.

Meals included: B, D

Golden Day 6: Wednesday, September 27 – Welcome to Florence, via Lucca

In the morning, we’ll depart Santa Margherita Ligure and head through the stunning countryside to Florence. Along the way, we’ll stop to visit one of Tuscany’s most beloved towns: Lucca.

02_lucca_seen_from_torre_guinigiThere we’ll be guided through its pedestrian-only historic center to admire splendid Gothic and Romanesque churches and have a relaxing caffe break in a pretty piazza. There will be time for shopping Lucca’s artisan boutiques and lunch on your own.

Florence, Italy Tour, Women Tour Italy, Susan Van Allen, Small Group TourWe’ll arrive in Florence in the late afternoon and check into the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi–a luxurious, historical property from 1860, set right on the River Arno. You’ll have time to get settled and explore as you wish, before we take an evening walk to a nearby cozy trattoria for a dinner of Florentine specialties. 

Meals included: B, D

Golden Day 7: Thursday, September 28 – Discover Florence and Its Treasures

After a lovely breakfast, we’ll go deeper into exploring the range of treasures that abound in Florence. In the morning,  we’ll follow our entertaining local guide on a walk through the historic center, stopping at the Piazza Signoria and Piazza Duomo to admire the amazing architecture, enjoying a caffe in the Piazza Repubblica, and then we’ll land at the first Florentine Basilica, that glorifies its feminine  inspiration: Santa Maria Novella.

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Highlights  inside include gorgeous Renaissance fresco cycles in the Tornabuoni and Spanish Chapels. We’ll end our tour at the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, a wonderland of beauty products, that was founded by the basilica’s Dominican monks over 400 years ago.

There will be free time for lunch and shopping on your own, before we meet in the late afternoon for a visit to the Accademia Gallery to stand awestruck before one of the world’s greatest sculptures: Michelangelo’s David.

Statue of David

Michelangelo’s David

The evening is on your own, to enjoy an optional journal writing workshop, perhaps a sunset aperitivo on the hotel’s divine rooftop, and dinner with my recommendations.

Meals included: B

Golden Day 8: Friday, September 29– Be a Florentine Artisan / Marvel at Masterpieces

Ceramic making has been a tradition in Florence since Renaissance days. We’ll begin the day with a hands-on experience of  this craft at Sbigoli Terrecotte, a family run shop that’s been turning out masterpieces since  1857. An artisan will lead us in learning the basics of ceramic painting, and each of us will create a piece to take home for a precious souvenir.

Golden Week in Florence, Italy for Women Only Tour, Susan Van AllenThere will be a break for shopping, sight-seeing, and lunch at your leisure.

In the afternoon we’ll meet at one of the world’s most famous museums: the Uffizi Gallery. We’ll be guided through splendid rooms, focusing on masterpieces that glorify females—by such greats as Giotto, Botticelli, and da Vinci, and take a leisurely break at the terrace caffe, with its magnificent view.

Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"

Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”

Tonight, a fortifying Florentine meal may fit the bill. Those who wish to join me for a Dutch treat dinner may come along to one of my favorite trattorias, where the specialty is bistecca=beefsteak, exquisitely done in lively surroundings.

Meals included: B

Golden Day 9: Saturday, September 30 – La Dolce Vita Day

This is your day to immerse yourself in La Dolce Vita, and experience Florence according to your desires, with Susan’s guidance to assist you. There are still more museums and churches with masterpieces to enjoy, shopping opportunities ranging from high fashion to outdoor markets, or you may want to take a ride out to the Chianti countryside (for additional cost).

Susan Van Allen, Women's Travel, Italy Tours, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoIn the evening, we’ll gather for our final celebration of this inspiring week: a Farewell Dinner at a restaurant set next to the starlit Arno River.

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Meals included: B, D

Golden Day 10: Sunday, October 1 – Arrivederci!

Our driver will transport you to the airport or train station, where you’ll depart with Golden Memories of our time together…

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Meals Included: B

“My thanks to Susan Van Allen for making her book come to life!!! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this Golden Week. Susan’s heartfelt desire for everyone to enjoy their time was evident each and every day. “– Jolene B, Florence, 2015
CLICK HERE for More Testimonials

*Itinerary subject to change. If because of weather or unforeseen circumstances changes need to be made, replacement events will be equally as awesome as above.

*Activity Level: Bring comfortable walking shoes! Though we explore at a relaxed pace, with breaks to savor the atmosphere, please consider the following to be sure this trip is right for you:
–Our hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure sits on a promontory, about a 5-minute leisurely curvy walk to the Santa Margherita Ligure historic center and harbor.
–Most of our excursions are in pedestrian-only towns,  along cobblestoned streets, there are marble-floored museum visits, and the Cinque Terre day includes walking up and down stone steps.
–In Florence, the itinerary does include mini-van transportation for walks longer than 20 minutes from our hotel. You also have the option to take a taxi (at your own expense) for the shorter city walks, which we can arrange for you.
–For those with motion sickness, precautions should be taken for the longer drives and ferry rides in the Italian Riviera.

For more information, and to Sign Up for this Adventure, Contact Irene at Perillo Tours:
Irene@perillotours.com, 855-784-7687 (10am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time)

Would you like to arrive early or extend your Golden Week? Irene can arrange for discounted hotel rates. Just ask!

 

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Italian Riviera and Florence

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