Tammy Murphy

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

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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!

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

Savor the Wine & Linger Around Tuscany & Piedmont

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Savor the Lands & Wine in Tuscany & Piedmont

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Enjoy the beauty of Italy in autumn.  Imagine how happy you will be --sipping a glass of Brunello at a foliage-filled vineyard in Tuscany!  Relax in your charming Tuscan hamlet with a beautiful view overlooking medieval buildings perched on a hill conveniently located between Florence and Siena, amidst the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany.
 
A little excerpt of 6 night small group (15 people) departure:
 
The the later afternoon, you will enjoy a welcome apertivo --including prosecco and Tuscan appetizers.  After relaxing at the accommodation, head to dinner at an esteemed Michelin-rated restaurant in the heart of Tuscany.
 
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Montepulciano & San Gimignano

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel then meet you English speaking driver and sommelier.   Enjoy your day of wine tasting and exploring Tuscany's hilltop towns.  You will be surrounded by enchanting views of the valleys dotted with vineyards, cypress trees and rolling green hills.

Enjoy free time  exploring the charming stone streets to this historic Tuscan town.    Savor a light lunch paired with a private tasting of regional wines at a small batch winery.  Enjoy a guided tour of a historic family-run vineyard with a member of the family followed by a tour of their spectacular estate and cellars.  

Montalcino & Brunello Wine
Your English speaking driver/sommelier will pick you up after a leisure breakfast for a full-day excursion through the stunning Val d'Orcia.
 
Val d'Orcia  boasts some of Tuscany's most picturesque towns - medieval stone hamlets that have remained untouched by modern development.  Begin in scenic Montalcino, a beautiful fortified town known for its production of Brunello wine.  Stop at your first winery known for its astounding exploration (and tasting!) of the world famous wines.  Enjoy leisure lunch at an authentic ristorante nearby.

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Piedmont 

After breakfast, meet your private driver and transfer to Italian region of Piedmont.  Along the way, stop at one of the most influential wine-producing family wineries.    Enjoy a private visit through historic vineyards surrounding the estate and go behind-the-scenes accessing the cellars typically closed to the public.  Tour concludes with a wine tasting and light lunch featuring regional food products. Continue on to your hotel and pause for free time in a seaside town along the spectacular Italian Riviera in Liguria.  From your deluxe accommodations, enjoy sweeping views of the vineyard-draped valleys and snow-capped Alps in the distance.  Settle into your rooms and enjoy a welcome apertivo - including local cheeses, salumi and prosciutto.

Le Langhe

 

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After breakfast. Meet your private driver and wind through the enchanting hills and valleys of the Langhe wine country.

Your first stop will be at a winery recognized as producing some of the finest wines in Piedmont.

Your day continues on to the scenic city of Alba, located high on a green hill, overlooking the vineyards below, Alba is famed for its prized white truffles and fine foods.  Stroll the stone streets to enjoy a lunch at world renowned Michelin-starred-restaurant.  Enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the restaurant's kitchen after the meal.  After lunch, enjoy free time in Alba before heading back to the hotel to relax before the evening hands-on cooking class.  Meet local Italians -- learning about their culinary traditions and passion for slow food.  Learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch as well as some other Piedmontese delicacies.  Enjoy your creations for dinner --paired, naturally with local wines... transfer back to accommodation.

Barolo and Barbaresco

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your driver to explore the wine areas of Barolo and Barbaresco.  Start your day in Barolo located in a hollow of hills covered in vineyards and dominated by a majestic castle dating back to the 10th century.

pienza cheese store-1.jpgIn Barolo, you will tour the historic cellars and a tasting of their wines.  Following your personal tasting and visit, you will enjoy an authentic Piedmontese lunch at La Cantinetta in Barolo.

After some free time in Barolo, continue with another wine tasting in the late afternoon at a winery that has been owned by the same family since 1896 specializing in full-bodied red wines with dark plum and cherry undertones (oh, my fav).   Enjoy your tasting and exclusive visit then continue on to your accommodation.  You will have time to relax and freshen up before the closing dinner at a gourmet restaurant to celebrate a wonderful week in Tuscany.


If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email me 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.

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

Grab Your Girlfriends and Get Away!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 16, 2017 at 6:45 AM

Girlfriend Getaways

One of the fastest growing travel specialties is the "Girlfriend Getaway" and it is easy
to understand why. After all the stresses of everyday life, there is nothing quite as
enjoyable and relaxing as getting away from "reality" with those true friends who
allow (and even encourage) you to totally be yourself without fear of judgement. Of
course, the same goes for men, although they may not admit it as freely. A few days
away with the "buddies" on the golf course can be more valuable than hours of
therapy! Here are a few suggestions for creative escapes:
 
A little Retail Therapy?
Most women love to shop, so why not combine a
weekend in the "big city" with great shopping, dining and entertainment
options? New York City and Chicago come to mind first, but there are many
amazing options out there that are centrally located and served by convenient
airports.
 
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Why not check in to a Spa or Yoga retreat for a wellness weekend?
A little
pampering never hurt anyone,
and you might even come home with some
new healthy habits, and feel a couple of pounds lighter...both good things!
 
"What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"...you know the old tagline! In addition
to gambling, Las Vegas offers amazing dining, shopping and live
entertainment...and most resorts have ridiculously gorgeous pools and spas!
This destination works well for both genders...great for male-bonding
getaways too!
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A few days spent wine tasting, or possibly signing up for a culinary boot-camp
can be fantastic options for girlfriend getaways! Because wine and good food
are ALWAYS a good idea!
 
A sports-related trip works well for both girls and guys too!
What about a
fitness retreat for those who love to exercise? Or a golf weekend at an amazing
resort with tee times daily? Or a scuba diving trip in the Caribbean? All it takes
is a shared interest and some planning!
 
All-Inclusive Resorts and Cruises are natural fits for this type of travel, where
your biggest decision for the day might be whether to order champagne or a
martini...or whether to sit by the pool or on the beach. Who wouldn't welcome
some mental "down time"
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So, think about YOUR ideal getaway....who do you need to spend some time with?
Most of us have those folks in our lives who we are long-overdue for a meaningful
visit.
 
Why not let VIP Travel Experience help you plan that all-important trip
soon...One of my favorite quotes is from Buddha:
 
"The Trouble is...you think you have time"
 
 
Are you looking for the perfect travel destination?  We would love to help you with travel tips and more.

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

Tantalizing Tuscany

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 9, 2017 at 6:30 AM

TANTALIZING TUSCANY
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When you hear "TUSCANY", beautiful scenes of Under the Tuscan Sun are likely dancing in your head ... Chianti countryside of rolling vineyards, amazing sunsets setting over Florence and the Ponte Vecchio, a hot air balloon floating over the hilltops of rolling olive farms.  Tuscany is not exactly a secret among travelers as millions flock to Tuscany each year.
 
The rolling hills of Tuscany are home to sprawling vineyards, charming medieval hill towns and enchanting villages overflowing with history, culture and legend.
 
Tuscany pretty much sells itself, but like many other Italian hot spots, it can be a blessing and a curse.  Hotels book up many months in advance, popular, authentic tours sell out.  Please don't risk missing the authentic Italy.  Enjoy these beautifully charming towns after the day crowds  leave... this is when the villages come alive.   If Tuscany is on your radar for 2018, now is the perfect time to plan.

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Chianti

Sip Chianti and break bread in family-run wineries' private cellars, or vineyards. Taste pecorino cheeses at the farms they are made.  Stroll ancient paths while mesmerizing these medieval towns.  Or partake in a cooking class with a local nonna.

Monteriggioni (Siena)
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There are so many the little hilltop hamlets tucked into the countryside near Siena.  The beautiful little jewel, Monteriggioni is immaculately preserved and is actually a walled castle surrounded by towers.  Travelers may arrive via a 700 year old pilgrimage path to gaze at the beautiful vineyard draped valley below of farms and olive groves  below.
This is Tuscany as you always imagined it.
 

Radda in Chianti (Siena)

Relax and enjoy the sun setting in the comfort of the veranda of your private Tuscan villa while a real-live nonna prepares, cooks and serves a delicious lolieveta.jpgTuscan meal.  Explore the countryside on bikes or have a driver pick you up to explore this charming town encircled in medieval walls and winding stone streets with panoramic views of the Tuscan Wine Country.  Radda is easily reached from Florence or Siena and is a perfect scenic stop on wine tour or an idyllic base to explore the surrounding countryside.

Barga (Lucca)

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Picture-perfect Barga in the mountains of North Tuscany is perched between snow-capped Apennienes (Tuscan Alps) woods and rushing rivers.  Active travelers enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing.   History lovers will enjoy its perfectly-preserved Romanesque church, while others will cherish this sweet escape surrounded by natural beauty. Barga is a day trip from Lucca, but worthy of a stopover.

Pienza (Montepulciano)

Renaissance fans will appreciate Pienza located in the rustic Val D'Orciapienza cheese store-1.jpgregion.  Framed by green valleys, sunflower fields and lush vineyards, food-loving travelers may enjoy wine tasting tours to Montalcino and Montepulciano.  And did I mention cheese lovers . . .  

Florence

Enjoy free time to explore the cultural treasures of Florence, including Michelangelo's "David." Day trip and discover some of  Italy's best-kept secrets. Enjoy fabulous local wines and the region's famous cuisine.  Venture beyond the same old sights, beautiful as they are.  VIP Travel Experience helps you access the Italy that most tourists never experience--immersing yourself in the people and places beyond the postcard.  No matter how many times I travel to Italy, I always leave longing for MORE. 


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

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

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