Rolling On To Roma!

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM

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Leaving Florence we boarded a private transfer traveling through the scenic Tuscany region, stopping in the town of Orvieto for a wine & light bite pairing. It was great to get out and stretch our legs and break up the ride into two smaller segments. After lunch we rolled on over to Rome. 

 

Upon arrival into Rome we dropped off our luggage and freshened up a bit before we were met by our local guide to explore this great city through a panoramic walking tour hitting most of the highlights. We started at the Spanish steps, 

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winding through piazzas, to the Roman Pantheon, stopped to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (or trying to, I accidentally hit someone-WHOOPS), and ended the evening in Piazza Navona for some people watching. After our stroll we went to a local trattoria for some aperitivos and some really good red wine. After dinner, we went exploring on our own. I took this time to try quite a few different gelato stands HAHA.

 

Day 2 in Rome, I woke up early to have breakfast (cured meats, bread, and fresh fruit) before embarking on our journey through Ancient Rome. We boarded our private transfer and headed to our first stop-THE COLOSSEUM! It was much Snapseed (3)bigger than I had anticipated. We entered through the lower section to see where the gladiators were held before entering combat. Then proceeded to the upper decks to get a birds eye view of the arena. It was a site to behold and you could also get a panoramic view of the city from atop the Colosseum. We headed out the back to get a glimpse of the Roman Forum and then onto the Circus Maximus where they held in ancient times the hugely popular chariot races. From there we headed down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most strategic roadways of the ancient republic. Getting a little extra insight into Ancient Rome we left the hustle and bustle of the big city to Castelli Romani, green foothills outside of Rome proper. Here we enjoyed lunch at a family run fraschettina (trattoria-style, informal eatery beloved by the locals) where I devoured the best carbonara I 

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have ever tasted in my life along with some delicious Frascati wine. After lunch we had a brief walking tour of the Castel Gandolfo- home to the Pope's summer palace! We made our way back into the city in the late afternoon to have the evening at leisure. I squeezed in a  few new hotel inspections and found the amazing LIVE Restaurant (city center and right next to the hotel). This was my favorite meal of the entire trip. For my first course I had the black truffle sea-bass carpaccio (OHH MY GOSH AH-MAZING). Second course was a caesar salad with fresh anchovies that I picked off of course LOL. My entree I had grilled salmon with some type of creme sauce that I wish I could spell, but it was delicious with fresh grilled vegetables. To end this meal we ALL ordered different flavors of gelato, and left with a shot of limoncello which is apparently the only way to end a meal in Roma. After this extremely busy day we called it an early night and went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

 

The next morning, day 3, we woke up early again for early access into the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and St. Peters Basilica. We started with skip the line tickets IMG_6730to the Sistine Chapel which was actually way smaller than I expected, but never the less a sight to be seen. It was breathtaking to see all of the intricate work that was put into this artistic phenomena. Next we went up to the top of St. Peter's Basilica to see inside from above. Then we were asked if we wanted to climb to the top of the dome. It was a trek with over 551 steps to reach the top for an unbelievably spectacular view of Vatican City. I am deathly afraid of heights so I was hugging the walls, but it was an absolutely incredible experience. After reaching our viewing pleasure we descended the stairs to go in St. Peter's to see the many immaculate sculptures and Michelangelo's Pieta. Exiting St. Peter's basilica we walked around St. Peter's Square stopping to grab a traditional Roman pizza for another amazing meal. IMG_6750That afternoon we did some shopping and tried more gelato-I JUST COULDN'T GET ENOUGH! That evening we toured the Trastevere neighborhood, the Jewish Quarter, coming across a lot of stumbling stones, golden squares on the ground to remember those taken by the Holocaust. Trastevere is a very quaint residential area that has a charm all its own. For dinner, we joined Barbara, a local, in her home to have a one of a kind experience and ate way too much food and drank maybe too much wine-if that's even possible. We toasted to a wonderful time and to have experienced it with such amazing friends. It was the perfect exclamation point to end this wonderful journey. We laughed, we cried, and relived our time in this magical place.

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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  aIMG_6323 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! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, 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: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Venice, Italy and all of its Charms

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 17, 2020 at 8:45 AM

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Last month I was able to experience my mom and business partner's happy place that reignited such a passion for travel in her. The one and only ITALY. Though Italy is such a vast and diverse destination, a piece of my heart will always be left in Venice. This is the first excerpt of a 3 part email series detailing my time in this magical world across the Atlantic.  I spent 4 days getting lost in Venice (which is very easy to do) which is another thing that I believe gives this quaint city a charm about itself. The first day I just explored the main sites- Rialto Bridge, St. Marks Basilica, Doges Palace, and the winding canals ending the day with a cichetti crawl with our very own local friend.  Cinzia is very passionate about her home and she took us to some of her favorite spots to enjoy lite bites and an Aperol Spritz (venetian favorite).   I hope I get to introduce her to you!!

 

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The second day was one of my favorites! We spent the morning wandering the less touristy parts of Venice and were invited into a local's (Lucia) home for an authentic venetian lunch (TONS OF FOOD ). During lunch we were surprised with one of Lucia's friends who is a poet. He asked us each to come up with a wordand he made it into a poem. My word was Love and my poem was "Justin that owns in his eyes, the deep sweetness of a child, a happy & thoughtful child"  Italians like to call it a "light" lunch, but it was at least 4 courses. Seared salmon on bread, buffalo mozzarella, 2 types of pasta, and entree was a grilled sea bass (AMAZING). We had the afternoon/evening on our own to explore a bit more. That night we had a private behind the scenes tour of St. Marks Basilica (amazing after all the tourists leave). We walked in and took a seat in complete darkness when all of a sudden the gold inlayed mosaics started to light up with splendor. It was truly a magical experience. After the light show we toured the basilica and the below with a local guide. 

 

The third day we embarked on a traditional venetian boat to explore the Venetians lagoons. We wound through Murano made famous by the glass blowing. Circled around Burano, known for its lace making, which is a photographers dream with its brightly colored building and picturesque canals. 

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We stopped on the island of Torcello, which was the first of the islands to be inhabited in 452 AD, for lunch. It was another delicious 4 course meal. After lunch we made our way back into the city. On our way back to the hotel we enjoyed a private chocolate tasting with a local chef that makes her own special tiramisu (DELICIOUS). After our calorie intake was met we continued on to a traditional Carnival mask workshop. The master artisan demonstrated 3 different techniques and explained what certain types of masks meant and how it all came to be. It was extremely interesting. After we toured his shop, a few of us left with our very own masks.

 

On our last day we left the hotel early for a photography tour, stopping at a traditional oar maker's shop, and exploring the Jewish ghetto. Enjoying the wonder of strolling Venice's scenic streets and back canals. Soaking in all that this magical city has to offer and getting one last look before continuing south to Florence to continue our Italian Adventure.  

 

IMG_6958
 

 

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  aIMG_6323 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! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, 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: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Forward To Florence

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 16, 2020 at 11:38 AM

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Italy Trip:  Part 2
I boarded a morning train ride in First Class Venice to Florence. It was only about 2 and a half hours where they served beverages and snacks. Upon arrival we were picked up by private transfer and checked into our hotel in a perfect city center location.

 

After dropping off our luggage and freshening up a bit we were brought to 

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a private cellar lunch with local tuscan delicacies. I had a delicious glass of Tuscan red to start off with the duck confit crostini. The next course was short ribs that was marinated in red wine for 24 hrs- DELICIOUS!

We finished with a pistachio truffle gelato with chocolate. After lunch we joined our local guide 

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Francesca (AMAZING) for a Private Florentine Artisans tour. We were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour observing local artisans of the leather school, met a goldsmith in a Florentine mosaic workshop, and ended the tour in a jeweler's workshop. We wrapped up the night at a trattoria near our hotel for MORE WINE and lite bites.

 

My second day in Florence I woke up before dawn for a 15 minute trek to

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the Piazzale Michelangelo crossing the famed Ponte Vecchio Bridge to see the AMAZING sunrise over the city. A magical view-DEFINITELY recommended for early risers.   After breakfast, we met Francesca again in the hotel lobby and went to visit the Accademia Gallery to see the Statue of David. WOW, he was much bigger than I expected. We were amazed at St. Johns Baptistry  doors and went inside to get a closer look of the bible stories on the ceiling mosaics. After visiting the Baptistry we visited the Duomo to see the inside of this magnificent structure, and had the opportunity to climb to the top of the dome for a panoramic view of the city. 

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I lunched at this amazing little pizza joint right near the hotel, the margherita pizza was so good that I ate the whole thing by myself . I spent the rest of the afternoon just walking around this beautiful renaissance city exploring on my own. Later that evening we attended a cooking class in a locals house where we learned how to prepare gnocchi and were introduced to their typical ingredients & spices used on a daily basis. AMAZING EXPERIENCE- but I am a very picky eater and I don't like potatoes so I didn't eat much. 

Waking up my last morning in Florence I had breakfast in the hotel before checking out and meeting our private driver in the lobby. We stopped in the small town of Orvieto at a beautiful vineyard and bed & breakfast, Locanda Palazzone, for a tour of the vineyard and wine tasting paired with lite bites. We sampled 2 whites and 3 reds along with a bean stew, fish, and duck confit crostini. All of the wines were delicious and I brought back 6 bottles (2 whites & 4 reds).   We walked  around the vineyard enjoying the views and we were on the road again rolling on to Rome! 

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Topics: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Today Was So Perfect, It Was Ridiculous!!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

September 16, 2019 at 8:05 AM

 
 
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It has been a FUN, crazy busy summer, we have clients and friends traveling to France, Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, New England, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Canada, Turks & Caicos, Alaska, Cabo, Bora Bora , Costa Rica and I'm probably forgetting a few.  Yes, it has been busy, but so rewarding!!!  Busy as it is, it is one of the most fun times of the year... the trips Justin & I have been working on for months, sometimes a year are finally happening and I wake up to see beautiful photos,  texts and facebook posts.  I feel like it's Christmas every morning.

I came across the photo above and I remembered this awesome text:  
"So today was so perfect, it was ridiculous !"   I had to giggle because I knew the next few days would be even MORE 
perfect.

Fast forward next day, I get this text:
"WOW-Dinner tonight- Holy Cow-- Insert- HUGE SMILE - my heart is so happy!"

I figure a picture is worth a thousand words.  How happy do these folks look?  Would you believe they are in Rome?  Would you believe they are dining in the home of a local chef that invites her family over to socialize as she creates a beautiful meal which is amazing in every way, but what you walk away with is ... The AUTHENTIC experience, breaking bread with some Italians that are now your friends!!

Period, enough said.  Do you want to JUST check off a box or take selfies to say "Been there, done that"? OR would you like  to EXPERIENCE the places, the food, the people?  I can help you travel either way, but I don't miss an opportunity to turn a big vacation into a once-in-lifetime experience. If you or someone you know wants to REALLY experience your next destination, I hope you will share my email or my contact information.

I hope tomorrow is so perfect for you, that it's ridiculous!!!

  •  
Read more

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

Slipping in the back door of Europe

Posted by Tammy Murphy

September 11, 2019 at 11:17 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 their 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 and 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
    • image1-7Travel 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 or someone that vacationed their once. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Our partners  have local connections to obtain inside access and 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

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!!

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

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

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