Tammy Murphy

Recent Posts

Venice - The Travel Experience of a Lifetime

Posted by Tammy Murphy

August 20, 2019 at 2:42 PM

tm_4717.jpg

Venezia, a city unlike any other! Not just in Italy, but NO OTHER.  Show me a bucket list of travel destinations and I will be SHOCKED if Venice is not on it.
 

City on Water

I will NEVER forget the MAGICAL moment stepping into the water taxi andIMG_0413-2.jpg watching the city come to life.  Typically you will arrive in the morning and as your water taxi motors you to your hotel, you watch in amazement . . .  supplies arriving from the mainland and just the idea that there are NO CARS.  It is fabulous . . . the Grand Canal, the quiet hidden canals, narrow bridges!! Travel CAN change your life and it sure did that for me!

DON'T

Relax, breathe, slow breathing now, you're in the greatest travel destination I can think of!!  It's Italy and its slow and easy here.  Don't expect FAST service, enjoy the slow eats and slow living.  It's part of the Venice charm!!   Don't attempt to see all the sights I include on your itinerary . . . This is just plan B, C, & D depending on area you are in.  Don't miss the Bellini or Proseco!

No stress way to enjoy your Venice vacation

  • Book early so that we can get you a quaint hotel in a great location with back access (you really don't want to pull your luggage on cobblestone streets).  
  • When is the best time to go to vacation in Venice?  ANYTIME!!   I like  April/May, it's always busy, but LESS busy and the weather is great. 
  • Take a locally guided tour of the HOT SPOTS and see them properly.  Sometimes if you don't know the story behind things, you can't fully appreciate the beauty and significance of it. How many times have you looked at something iconic and wonder "what's so great about that?"
  • Hire assistants to transfer you at the airport, to the train station (and sometimes to your gondola  ha ha-you can and WE DID get lost-we could see it but with the alleys that just end, we just couldn't get there). I do believe in no-stress traveling.
  • Hire drivers that will be waiting for you at the end of the train tracks.
  • Take a walking guided tour with reputable, Italian based company.  Don't you want to hear unique stories of locals that were born and raised in Venice.  Oh the stories, they are amazing!  Skip the ques and get access to the sights, guides have pre-ordered priority access (included in tour) and you will make your way straight up to the mezzanine.  Get a close up view of the17110033096_e18d30173f_z.jpg gold mosaic St. Mark's Basilica with marble inlays (this time I happened upon the Basilica right in time for mass-it was so beautiful).  Soak up all of the history, guides will take you a step back in time to the city's glorious past!!  As you walk along the corridors of Doge's Palace, your guide will share fascinating history of the Republic of Venice. Truly, don't skip the guide for St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace.  Oh and Cross the Bridge of Sighs and imagine for a moment the sadness of the prisoners taking their last look at beautiful Venice.  Ask about the most famous prisoner.
  • Pick a couple of must-see spots, enjoy them, take it ALL IN!!  
  • IMG_0279-2.jpgPrivate, serenade Gondola Ride (most people think they all include serenade, not so).  Definitely a highlight for me, the sweetest and most passionate serenade you can imagine--feels like you are the only people in Italy.
  • Because everything in Italy revolves around food, take a Cicchetti Crawl.  Enjoy appetizers while sipping wine in a typical bacari and wander from the Cannaregio District to Strada Nuova and to the Rialo area.  With private tours, the owners will have your tapas and wines ready and waiting as you arrive.

Throw away the map

  • Then throw the map away and wander, wander the Jewish Ghetto, hidden alleys, campo, piazza, cross the bridges.  Enjoy the fact, that you are walking in a maze.  Allow yourself to be surprised by venice in every turn. Enjoy getting lost in Venice.
  • Use all of your senses, not only see all of the beauty, but take time to hear the beautiful Italian conversations, the chiming church bells, the serenades. Smell the wonderful fragrant, fresh fruit stands, or the earthy scent of truffles or pastries, spices as you pass the restaurants and salt water in the canals.IMG_0410.jpg

When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a traveler, not a tourist.  Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! Justin Murphy shares some cool photo tips in this previous blog article.

I truly hope you get to go to Venice, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment)

Read more

Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, Italy Photographer, Italy Travel Tips, Anniversary Travel, Honeymoon

Sharing Adventures means enjoying them 100% more

Posted by Tammy Murphy

August 8, 2019 at 2:32 AM

 

The beauty of traveling with someone whose company you enjoy!!

 

IMG_0827-1

 

“Sharing adventures means enjoying them 100% more.”

That includes vacations!! The beauty of sharing travel with someone whose company you enjoy is wonderful because the trip doesn’t end when you get home! On my recent trip to Sicily with my BFF, we purchased wine, pasta, and everything needed to recreate some of the wonderful meals we experienced there. When we prepare and share this food and wine to share with our family and friends, we will recreate the memories of the incredible times we had on our trip. We are also carving out some time to create photo books of our trip together – looking through all our photos, remembering the time we had chocolate bars and hot cocoa on the steps outside the oldest chocolate shop in Modica…the time we climbed to the top of the Mount Etna volcano amid freezing, blustery winds…the time we made pizzas from scratch and baked them in a stone fire oven in Aragona…These and so many more memories will be relived through the process of preparing our photo books – SHARING our adventures, enjoying them AGAIN and AGAIN. Think of the benefit of a “girls’ trip” where you have several friends experiencing the joy of travel together!

IMG_2994

 

The same benefit apply when traveling with couples!  If you and your spouse enjoy traveling together, why not invite other couples to join you on your next adventure?  Again the SHARING of the activities on the trip and the reliving of the memories once you're home multiplies!  Traveling with small groups (for example 2-4 couples together) can actually provide opportunities for private tours that you may not be able to afford as one couple.  Sharing expenses will allow your group to afford more exclusive, bespoke experiences that are available in so many destinations - private cooking classes, privileged tours, and exclusive guides - things that will make your one-of-a-kind trip so much more memorable!

IMG_1270

 

So, when planning a girls' trip for you and your besties or a romantic getaway for you, your hubby, and some close couple friends, VIP Travel Experience can help!  We can design the perfect experience for you, customized to the interests and tastes of all of your travelers.  We want to share in the planning of the perfect vacation for you to enjoy because ...

IMG_2093

Sharing adventures means enjoying them 100% more!

 

If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

Are you looking for the perfect travel destination?  We would love to help you with travel tips and more.

Read more

Topics: #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Travel, experiencesnotthings, Girls Trip

Taste A Little of Stunning Sicily

Posted by Tammy Murphy

May 2, 2019 at 8:00 AM

 

Sicily is Beaches, Sicily is art, Sicily is lemons the color of Sunshine.  

Sicily is amazing!!

 

IMG_7133-1

 

If you're like me, you love discovering #destinations.  It's a big reason why we travel, right?  So, every year, I make a point to explore new locales.  I do this because I love to see the world, meet new people and I LOVE it even more when I am traveling with family or friends--it always brings you closer than you were before.

In addition to all of the benefits of travel, I travel so that I can personally vouch for the experiences I recommend to you and your family.  Not only was this a trip of a lifetime with my bestie, but I experirenced many different experiences in the same village so that I could better match you and your travel preferences to this destination.

IMG_4955

 

 

I am thrilled to share a little of the next few months about gorgeous #Sicily in southern Italy. 

Did you know that Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean?  It's a land of crystal blue coves, hilltop villages, and ancient ruins. Sicily is authentic Italy - filled with local traditions, foods, and on-of-a-kind sights.

IMG_3079

 

Highlights from my time in Sicily include:

  • Hiking Mt. Etna, Europe's largest active volcano
  • Exploring the Ancient Greek temples near Agrigento
  • Wine tastings in the historic cellars of a local vineyard
  • Strolling the charming villages of Sicily's stunning island
IMG_3145

Over the next couple of months, I'll be sharing more and more of Sicily with you.  So, keep your eyes peeled on social medial for Sicily pictures and posts!

 

If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

Are you looking for the perfect travel destination?  We would love to help you with travel tips and more.

Read more

Topics: #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Travel, experiencesnotthings, sicily

Tammy, Today was so perfect, it was ridiculous!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 20, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
tm_4720
 
Do you like slipping in the back door of a restaurant sometimes?  For many, avoiding the crowds is an essential part of ENJOYING our travels. Of course, there’s some irony in being a traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape, (ha ha) because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd!
 
In reality, the best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good reason.  So how can we see the sights without feeling like we’re stuck in a herd of camera-toting sheep? I take great pride in carefully scheduling a great travel plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize your enjoyment. Here are our top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
 
  • Hire a local guide
    • My very first suggestion is to hire a private guide, if your budget will allow. A guide knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds, and exactly where to go to soak in a city’s ambiance without being joined by thousands of others with the same idea. I have several well-vetted private guides all over Europe that I use frequently for my clients. You will get so much more out of sights when you see them with a local guide who can make the history come to life. Your tour guide really DOES know it all!
  • Skip the line!
    • Did you know you could do this? A major benefit of using a travel adviser who specializes in Europe (like yours truly) is that they often have the ability to help you skip right past a 2-hour long line and whisk you inside the attraction you’d rather not wait to see. Some of the most important spots with “skip the line” privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo’s amazing David) in Florence, St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace in Venice, etc..
florence-2.jpg
  • Take advantage of jet lag
    • What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8pm after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it’s 5am the next day and you’re wide awake. Get out of bed and  wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs (I adore this time). Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe
    • image1-7
  • Travel off-peak
    • Have you ever been to Italy in April or May? The locals have fled the city for their summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm. A lot of stores, cafes and restaurants are closed. Consider traveling in your destination’s shoulder season (April, May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it (Ssh, my husband is on the school board,  you didn't hear that from me)! A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a “Perfect Attendance” award in 6th grade.
  • Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
    • Many museums have “free” days once a month; these are always going to be busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during these extended hours tends to offer a quieter experience.
denmark.jpg
  • Investigate “alternative” destinations
    • Everyone talks about the big ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague – but there’s much magic to be found in Europe’s smaller cities. For instance, if you’re looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (we can find some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting).  Haven't you been dying to visit SICILY??
  • Benefit from local insight
    • TALK TO THE LOCALS  to learn about what’s popular with people who live in the city, rather than what’s popular with people who visit. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Most of the suppliers we partner with to obtain inside access for your  vacation actually live in the destination you are visiting and can give us some great “insider” tips.
  • Choose attractions off the beaten path
    • Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to visit it; you won’t get a failing grade for skipping the supposed “must-sees”.  Don't miss the London sights beyond Buckingham Palace; You can experience Italy without snapping a photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s way more to a city than its icons, so let the icons draw the crowds, while you ferret out more unique ways to spend your time.
london-1.jpg

  • Stay in locally owned smaller hotels that are centrally located
    • Choosing a smaller hotel in a more residential neighborhood with easy access to the places you want to visit is a nice way to escape the crowds at the end of the day. You didn’t travel all the way to Europe to stay in a Holiday Inn or Best Western, did you? Plus, the owners and employees are super helpful in suggesting some little-known jewels for restaurants and sightseeing.  
  • Be a Good Neighbor:  
    • Please patronize European hotels, it is only fair and just to support the communities through hotel taxes that we are so happy to visit.   (it's only fair right?)
  • Be aware of cruise ship docking days
    • If you’re staying in a port-city, find out when the cruise ships dock – then hightail it out of there! And if you’re one of the people debarking from the ship, see Tip #1...then hightail it out of there with your private guide! Today’s mega ships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights.
You don't have to miss the "must see" sights to avoid the crowds.  
Plan carefully and seek guidance of travel professional.  We want you to have the BEST vacation EXPERIENCE possible!!!  Travelers thank us every day for showing them the quiet and secret sights, authentic experiences more so than the icons that drew them to the destination in the first place.    It's OK with us, either way, but do you want your photo in front of XXX like everyone else OR do you want to EXPERIENCE  something AUTHENTIC!!!

Which ever your style, we hope you will TRAVEL far and wide and explore this beautiful WORLD!!

road sign.jpg
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy

Today was so perfect, it was ridiculous!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 21, 2018 at 12:33 PM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
tm_4720
 
Do you like slipping in the back door of a restaurant sometimes?  For many,avoiding the crowds is an essential part of ENJOYING our travels. Of course, there’s some irony in being a traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape, (ha ha) because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd!
 
In reality, the best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good reason.  So how can we see the sights without feeling like we’re stuck in a herd of camera-toting sheep? I take great pride in carefully scheduling a great travel plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize your enjoyment. Here are our top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
  • Hire a local guide
    • My very first suggestion is to hire a private guide, if your budget will allow. A guide knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds, and exactly where to go to soak in a city’s ambiance without being joined by thousands of others with the same idea. I have several well-vetted private guides all over Europe that I use frequently for my clients. You will get so much more out of sights when you see them with a local guide who can make the history come to life. Your tour guide really DOES know it all!
  • Skip the line!
    • Did you know you could do this? A major benefit of using a travel adviser who specializes in Europe (like yours truly) is that they often have the ability to help you skip right past a 2-hour long line and whisk you inside the attraction you’d rather not wait to see. Some of the most important spots with “skip the line” privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo’s amazing David) in Florence, St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace in Venice, etc..
florence-2.jpg
  • Take advantage of jet lag
    • What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8pm after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it’s 5am the next day and you’re wide awake. Get out of bed and  wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs (I adore this time). Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe
    • image1-7
  • Travel off-peak
    • Have you ever been to Paris in August? The locals have fled the city for their summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm. A lot of stores, cafes and restaurants are closed. Consider traveling in your destination’s shoulder season (April, May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it (Ssh, my husband is on the school board,  you didn't hear that from me)! A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a “Perfect Attendance” award in 6th grade.
  • Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
    • Many museums have “free” days once a month; these are always going to be busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during these extended hourstends to offer a quieter experience.
denmark.jpg
  • Investigate “alternative” destinations
    • Everyone talks about the big ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague – but there’s much magic to be found in Europe’s smaller cities. For instance, if you’re looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (we can find some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting).  Haven't you been dying to visit SICILY??
  • Benefit from local insight
    • TALK TO THE LOCALS  to learn about what’s popular with people who live in the city, rather than what’s popular with people who visit. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Most of the suppliers we partner with to obtain inside access for your  vacation actually live in the destination you are visiting and can give us some great “insider” tips.
  • Choose attractions off the beaten path
    • Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to visit it; you won’t get a failing grade for skipping the supposed “must-sees”.  Don't miss the London sights beyond Buckingham Palace; You can experience Italy without snapping a photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s way more to a city than its icons, so let the icons draw the crowds, while you ferret out more unique ways to spend your time.
london-1.jpg

  • Stay in locally owned smaller hotels that are centrally located
    • Choosing a smaller hotel in a more residential neighborhood with easy access to the places you want to visit is a nice way to escape the crowds at the end of the day. You didn’t travel all the way to Europe to stay in a Holiday Inn or Best Western, did you? Plus, the owners and employees are super helpful in suggesting some little-known jewels for restaurants and sightseeing.  
  • Be a Good Neighbor:  
    • Please patronize European hotels, it is only fair and just to support the communities through hotel taxes that we are so happy to visit.   (it's only fair right?)
  • Be aware of cruise ship docking days
    • If you’re staying in a port-city, find out when the cruise ships dock – then hightail it out of there! And if you’re one of the people debarking from the ship, see Tip #1...then hightail it out of there with your private guide! Today’s mega ships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights.
You don't have to miss the "must see" sights to avoid the crowds.  
Plan carefully and seek guidance of travel professional.  We want you to have the BEST vacation EXPERIENCE possible!!!  Travelers thank us every day for showing them the quiet and secret sights, authentic experiences more so than the icons that drew them to the destination in the first place.    It's OK with us, either way, but do you want your photo in front of XXX like everyone else OR do you want to EXPERIENCE  something AUTHENTIC!!!

Which ever your style, we hope you will TRAVEL far and wide and explore this beautiful WORLD!!

road sign.jpg
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy

10 Foods You Won't Find In Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 26, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Which Italian Foods are in your Dreams?
Supreme_pizza
 
We associate food with Italy, am I right?  Do you long to taste the delicious fresh farm to table foods, sink your teeth into a glorious piece of authentic pizza?  Or roll your fork into a beautiful plate of authentic Italian spaghetti and meatballs?  

While I know you will fall in love with many, many authentic Italian foods, I need to let you know that unless you visit a very touristy restaurant (never by my recommendations!), you will not taste some of your favorite "Italian" dishes in Italy.  In fact, my Italian friends almost cry at the thought of some of the Italian-American dishes.  Something you should know right up front . . . Italians take their food very seriously and it saddens them to see what others may do to their great, great, great grandmother's recipes.

TIP:  Don't eat at the restaurants on the front row near the 
iconic sights, walk a few blocks back where the menu is only in one language-ITALIAN.    

I hope it's almost lunch time because you will surely be hungry before reaching the end of this email.
 
GARLIC BREAD
Bread in Italy is usually plain and served with olive oil instead of butter.  
bruschetti-2152340_960_720TIP:  Bruschetta (brusketta) is about the closest relative to garlic bread since its drizzled with garlic and olive oil before baking.
 
PEPPERONI PIZZA
Pizza in Italy is completely different (in a wonderful way) than it is in the USA. It has a very thin crust and may be topped with a variety of toppings like fresh tomatoes, broccoli and mozzarella, prosciutto, anchovies, mushrooms, but NOT pepperoni.  

TIP:  Taste the pizza in each city in Italy, they each have their own charms.  Sshh, don't repeat that in Naples.

ITALIAN DRESSING
Salads are sometimes topped with olive oil, vinegar, balsamic, salt, maybe pepper, but if you request Italian dressing in Italy, you may be stared at like a martian.  In restaurants, your salad is served to you plain and you are expected to add the oil and vinegar on table.
 
FETTUCCINI ALFREDO
Fettuccini al burro is slightly similar, but much lighter than the heavy cream sauce Americans serve.  Pasta is topped with butter and cheese (no cream) for a lighter dish that's healthy, not harmful.

TIP:  I always suggest CLOSE THE MENU and ask the chef to share his specialities, I promise he will not disappoint.

MARINARA SAUCE
Most dishes in Italy are not covered in red sauce.  In some cases, fresh marinara sauce may be used, but mostly your dish is prepared with shellfish and or olives.  

SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
We realize this may come as a bit of a shock, but I assure you it is true.  What could be more Italian than spaghetti and meatballs?  NEWSFLASH . . . Italians do eat meatballs, but they are never served over pasta.  They're a different course altogether and are enjoyed on their own.

This was hilarious the first time I registered for a cooking class and I was asked to choose the menu.  

spaghetti
CHICKEN PARMESAN
Only eggplant gets the parmigiana treatment and not veal, chicken or meatballs.  HA HA, another discovery at a cooking class.


CHICKEN PASTA
No, another myth.  Please don't give your chef a heart attack. Chicken does not belong ON pasta.  These are two very different dishes.  YOU may find small pieces of fish on pasta.  

CHEESECAKE
Another shocker!!  Italians believe a decadent dessert like cheesecake is a bit much for every day eating.  Italians will serve something lighter like cannoli, fruit tarts or fresh fruit in season.
tiramisu
 
 
Don't  be disheartened, it may be different than you are expecting, but I encourage you to try dishes that you may not LOVE in USA, something about the FRESH produce, I LOVED dishes that I had always thought that I didn't like.  I can promise you, the foods you taste will be MUCH better than you are expecting!!!
 
You see, when Italian immigrants arrived in other lands in the 19th and 20th centuries, they did as they did in Italy ... used local ingredients.  This absolutely changed the way they cooked and created a new cuisine.   While the new cuisine is simply wonderful, you will not find it in ITALY.  ENJOY your ITALIAN favorites at home, but prepare your taste buds for a beautiful, authentic ITALIAN EXPERIENCE you will not soon forget.   i.e., FRIED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS--YUMMY!!!!!!
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy

Authentic and Amazing Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 6, 2018 at 10:46 AM

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 11.26.18 AM.png"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life" - Anna Akhmatova.
 
Italy is by far, the European country requested the most by my clients....in fact, over 46 million tourists visit this amazing country every year. They come from all over the world, for many different reasons, and many will return again and again for that magic that only Italy can deliver. Italians are very kind, outgoing, family-centric and extremely patient (unless they are driving!). The Italians realize how blessed they are to be the safe keepers of some of history’s most magnificent relics and art treasures and they are happy to share them. However, there are a few things that most Italians want Americans to know before we arrive in their country. Here is our list of the Top 10 ways to blend right in to Italian Culture:
 
1. Slow Down: You will NOT see it all!
Trust me, the reason that the 46 million tourists attack Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience: culture, art, vineyards, food, museums and the amazing people! A lifetime isn’t even enough time! So, slow down, take it all in, appreciate what you DO see....and then plan to return!
 
2. Dress more conservatively than you do at home.
Mini skirts, short-shorts (they are for the beach!); halter tops and saggy jeans will not live up to the classic fashion taste of Italians. You don’t have to be formal and uncomfortable...just neat, put-together and a little more modest.  Some Cathedrals (including the Vatican) will not let you enter if your shoulders and knees are not covered. Cover up, unless you really are spending the day on a beautiful Italian beach. And leave the stilettos at home...Cobblestone streets and high heels don’t get along very well!
 
3. Cappuccino and Café Lattes are morning-only drinks!
A true Italian would never dream of ordering one after late morning, or especially after a meal! If you need a caffeine pick-me-up later in the day, stop in a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso.  Did you know that Italy is one of the only countries that doesn’t have a Starbucks? They are illegal there because the Italians are so proud of their coffee culture.  Italian coffee is superior and should be enjoyed as the real Italians do...Give it a “shot”! (Pun intended!)  Caffe Correcto.
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy

Italy's Endless Experiences

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 6, 2018 at 11:34 AM

ITALY 
What to see AFTER your first visit
puglia2.jpg
 
 
The key to visiting a city, no matter where it's located, is to visit with a local and not JUST a tour guide.  You MUST have a tour guide who is passionate about sharing their unique stories and activities and who is in contact with local realities and artisans. You will be AMAZED at how much more personal your experience will feel when guided by a person who is thoroughly connected to a city - 360 degrees from every angle.
 
Italy is a lot more than Rome and Tuscany.  From the Hills of Langhe to the trulli of Puglia, going through the culinary haven of Romagna, you will find fewer tourists and wonderful land to discover.
 
Puglia (above)
Summer dreaming . . . 
walking along the seafront in Otranto, breathing the salty breeze, watching a sailboat bobble in the bright blue bay, you may catch yourself thinking "NOW this is the real Italy!" 
 
This little travel secret is being discovered more, but you still won't find hordes of tourists here.  This is Southern Italy, minus the masses.  Puglia brims with pristine cove, sandy beaches and charming villages Wait, did we mention the FOOD of SOUTHERN Italy . . . wide variety of seafood, fresh tasty vegetables, rich olive oil, and of course, basil and oregano.  The best Italian olives come from this region and are often marinated in garlic oil with crushed chili.
What do you think of NO LINES, NO HASSLE, NO CROWDS.
Just sun and sea and genuine Italian hospitality. 
 
Basilicata_Matera2_tango7174.jpg
Basilicata
With over 11,000 years of history, Basilicata spans a total of 3,860 square miles, located at the "insole" of Italy's boot between Puglia to the east Campania to the west, and Calabria to the south. 
 
The region's history of poverty contributed to its unique cuisine which is gaining significant recognition in the last several years.  Artisan Luganega sausages, fresh pasta made from water, salt and flour (omitting the usual eggs present in the rest of Italy's pasta), and abundant use of seasonal vegetables and legumes are prominent in the cuisine allowing it to highlight local flavors.
 
Sassi di Matera is one of most highly visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited in the region.  It is a city of caves  and was used as the backdrop location for Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of Christ".  Moving along to the area of Vulture Melfese... is drawing wine enthusiasts showcasing its high-quality red, Aglianico, while the small town of Bernaida, the former home of Francis Ford Coppola's grandfather and current location of his newly-opened Villa offers another great experience.  And natural Beauty lovers are enamored with the miles of coastline and national parks in Maratea watched over by the2nd largest statue of Christ in the world.   Last but not least, Pollino offers travelers a bit of everything, a national park, prehistoric cave drawings and burial sites and unique vacation spots such as the thermal springs in Latronico.

veneto.jpgVENETO 
Venice will tug at your heartstrings, but stay awhile, there is more to Veneto than Venice.

I had the pleasure of taking an authentic journey to the Veneto Region - beyond Venice last year hosted by my Italy partners that I love so much.  I can barely remember the names of all of the towns visited, but I was WOWED by it's rich artistic, historic and culinary heritage, not to mention the beautiful Italians that greeted us at each town.  We stayed in a variety of places ... hotels at city-center hotels, a Castle, a Relais, Villas.  And the regional cuisine in each town was more than a meal but a true EXPERIENCE.  We also were invited inside residences for a private viewing of amazing art, surprised by an opera singer in our villa, toured olive oil farms, wineries and watched the cheese-making process. 
Stay tuned for a more in depth view of our times visiting Padua, Volpolicella, Verona, Lake Garda, Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa, Asolo and Treviso.

sicily.jpg
Savoring Sicily
 
Enjoy an intimate voyage through Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.  Sicily boats stunning seascapes, historic towns and charming countryside.  Fed by rich volcanic soil, Sicily also produces some of Italy's finest wines.  A journey through Sicily includes authentic food, private guides and behind-the-scenes access to Sicily local traditions and people.

sardinia-940560_960_720.jpg
Sardinia
When you opt for a private tour, we can give you a real cultural immersion.  We  hand pick local  guides are born and raised in the destination.  You will discover some amazing, but virtually unknown, places that would be hard to find on your own.  It is something you will remember when you buy tortellini from a local shop, but it's another thing altogether when you discover the best tortellini you've ever tasted and buy it from a little shop, which the locals go, just around the corner from the one where all the tourist stop.  THIS is something you will not only remember but will share with your friends and family for years to come because it is a personal connection you've made with ITALY!

Which ever your style, we hope you will TRAVEL far and wide and explore this beautiful WORLD!!

Regions-of-Italy2.jpg
 
Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life.
 
Read more

Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

Keep on Smiling through International Flights

Posted by Tammy Murphy

January 11, 2018 at 6:47 AM

                                                     sleeping people on planejpg.jpg                                                                                             
 
TRAVEL PLANNING in is full swing--it's January!  Chances are you have already booked or will be booking a long haul flight for 2018.  Here are few creative ways we've read about  the years from creative travelers that  make their overnight flights more comfortable, some of them will make you giggle.  Which one will you try?

1)  Cabeau Fold 'n Go Travel Blanket & Case Plush and can be used as pillow and lumbar support. Fold-n-Go-Blanket-blue-folded-595x613.png

2) Emergen-C Packets Take one while flying, and a couple more over the course of the flight.

3) IPad if all all attempts fail to make you sleepy, take along your favorite TV shows, novels, movies.

4)  Lululemon Scarf   is wide and soft cotton with snaps, it can be a blanket, pillow, wrap or blocks the light if you are trying to nap.

beachball.jpe5) 
Inflatable beach ball  serves as a great oversized pillow.  If you have one of the cheap blow up beach balls cover with a hand towel to lay on in your lap. 

6) Tennis ball   Great for rolling your feet over on long flights.  Roll your foot over the ball while sitting in seat to stretch the muscles and increase blood flow to your feet and heels. 

7)  White Noise App  Pop in your earbuds, turn on your favorite sound.  I'm told it works better than noise-cancelling headphones. 

8) Rosemary Oil  Great for sinuses and fights  the dryness caused by cabin pressure which may lead to headaches.
 
Don't forget to stretch your legs and neck  every few hours.

What's your favorite remedy? We would love to add your creative ideas to our list!

 
Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life.
 
Read more

Topics: First Time Tips to Italy, Flight Tips

Tips To Know Before You Go- Expedition Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

January 2, 2018 at 8:38 AM

tm_4668.jpg 

Tip 1:  Plan your Trip to Italy well in advance and know the best times to go before you book.

Italy is one of the most visited countries and it tops almost everyone's bucket list.  It's a busy tourism place all year long.  The hot spots are Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. 

Positano is a precious little town with a finite number of hotels that sell out years in advance, particularly for groups of 6 or more.  The same is true for other towns along the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre.   If you are planning to travel to these towns in the summer or fall, it's not uncommon to plan and book a year in advance.  Not only is space limited, but pricing is usually tricky.  The further in advance that you book, the more accommodation options you will have at better values.

Italy is typically a destination you would not want to wait until the last minute to book.

Tip 2:  Hotel star ratings and descriptions can be deceiving

Enlist the help of a professional when booking your hotel in Italy.  A 5 star rating in Italy is not the same as a 5 star hotel in the United States, star rating in Italy may not be the best measure to go by when booking your hotel.    Also, don't assume there will be air conditioning or elevators.  Sometimes you may think you are getting a truly "luxury" experience, please pay close attention to the location of the accommodation.  "Steps away from Trevi Fountain" does not mean there won't be a busy intersection between accommodation and Trevi Fountain.  Hotels can be complicated ... wouldn't you prefer to work with professionals that have personally visited the hotels and know the staff.  

Tip 3. Italy is larger than it appears on a map 

Surely, you have heard that Rome was not built in a day and it can't be seen in a lifetime.  Most travelers that I work with want to see 6 or more Italian cities in  8 days or several countries in 10 days.  While you can sometimes  fit it all in, I hope you will reconsider.  Changing hotels every day or 2 days will leave you exhausted and you may well miss the most special things that make ITALY the best travel destination.  Relax and enjoy the authentic parts of each city.  Never underestimate how much time it takes to pack, transfer, unpack from one destination to the next--that usually takes about 1/2 day.

st peters basilica.jpg

Tip 4:  Allow enough time to book tickets well in advance to major sites of interest

Skip the line tickets to places like Vatican City in Rome, the Uffizi and Accademmia galleries in Florence and Cennacolo where Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper resides requires reservations approximately 6 months in advance, maybe longer if you are traveling with more than 4 people.

Tip 5:  Private drivers and private tours

For groups of 3+ travelers, we recommend a private driver and private tours for the best experience.    Many of our clients return to tell us all the tips and tricks their drivers gave them and how much it enhanced their stay.

Tip 6:  Avoid the Tourist Menu

Part of the fun is finding cool little spots for dinner, but please beware.  Big photos of pasta or multiple choices on a menu is a sure sign that it is a tourist trap.  I would venture a couple block to the back and look for a restaurant with one main meal written on chalkboard in Italian.  Where you dine, who you dine with and the neighborhood you dine in makes a big difference in your experience.

Plan on an hour or two for dinner.  Scheduling in advance wine tastings and cellar tours with a "lite lunch" is a golden opportunity.  You will not only dine, but have a truly cultural experience. 

cinque-terre.jpg

Tip 7:  Know where to avoid driving

Some of the most popular cities are the most difficult to and dangerous to drive.  I honestly can't think of any town on a first visit that I would recommend driving.   Parking is very expensive (sometimes 100 Euros a day) and leaving your car unattended is not a great idea.  It is very confusing getting around, even for the locals, and many areas prohibit driving, even locals.  And never drink and drive, there is zero tolerance. 

Tip 8:  Know before you go

Cruises can be great fun, but consider what you want to see and do.  After much discussion, most travelers realize they would like to have a more immersive, authentic experience while visiting one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.   Consider that you may only have 5 hours in a particular town along with hundreds of other cruise passengers all trying to see the same iconic sites at the same time.

For more relevant information about your next vacation, we would love to help you. 

florence.jpg

Why not let VIP Travel Experience help you plan that all-important trip soon...One of my favorite quotes:
 
"The Trouble is...you think you have time"

Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it! Email tammy@viptravelexperience.com or justin@viptravelexperience.com today! Or call now!

Read more

Topics: Italy, #passportpassion #viptravelexperience, #group travel, travel, #familytravel, luxurytravel

Subscribe to Email Updates

VIP-ebook-cta 

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all