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Italy

We spoke with Federica Tucci, Managing Director of TFL Tours (Italy) to learn more about travel in Italy.

Q: How would you describe the regions of Italy for visitors who haven't been there?

Italy is one of the most varied and attractive countries in the world. From North to South the landscape changes drastically:

  • From mountains among the most beautiful in Europe (Val D'Aosta, Piedmont and Trentino Alto Adige) to cities of art renowned all over the world (Venice, Florence and Rome).
  • From green hills dotted with cypress trees, vineyards and olive trees (Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria) to a dramatic coastline with cliffs and beautiful villages (Tigullio Gulf and Portofino, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast).
  • From archeological sites second to none (Coliseum and Roman Forum, Pompeii excavations, Sicily's Valley of the Temples) to museums with some of the most important paintings and statues in the world (Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel, Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery with the Statue of David).

Q: Tell us about the people and the culture.

Italians are warm, welcoming people who love to relax, celebrate and socialize with family and friends. Celebration and relaxation usually take place around the table where they can enjoy the traditions of the Italian cuisine. In Italy conversation is a form of art. As you walk in the streets or stop at a café in one of the many squares, you will notice Italians of all ages engaged in passionate and animated discussions.

Q: When is the best time to visit and why?

Italy's best time to visit is certainly spring and fall.

  • April and May and September and October are lovely months (nice temperatures and sunny days) but are also the busiest months of the year.
  • July and August may be very hot in the cities of art but are perfect if you decide to spend time at sea.
  • We tend to suggest all our guests visit our country in the low season (from November to March) as the climate may be mild and we can have nice sunny days. Prices are really very good in these months and you can admire the cities of art and the museums without crowds and long lines, which is quite unique.

Q: What are the top sights and hidden gems?

The top sights are certainly:

  • Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast

These places are on the bucket list of most of the first timers to Italy and we agree that all these places should be seen at least once in a lifetime.

  • Tuscany with its wonderful countryside and excellent wines and extra virgin olive oil is also a must.
  • Sicily for the beauty of its archeological sites, its unbelievable golden beaches, charming towns and villages.

Italy is also full of hidden gems. The ones I like most are Umbria and Piedmont.

  • Umbria for its many parks and hills. The local products are as good as Tuscan ones (wines, extra virgin olive oil, cold cuts) but the prices of the accommodations are much lower than Tuscany.
  • Piedmont is the "door" to the Alps and Turin, the capital city.
  • The Langhe area is famous for the production of excellent wines like Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera (famous all over the world) and of the rare white truffle. Truffle hunting sessions can be organized for visitors.

Q: What are your personal favorite sights that most tourists might miss?

The areas I love are:

  • Southern Tuscany with its charming little towns which are at the border with Umbria: Cortona, Pienza and Montepulciano.
  • Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci area. The village of Bolgheri is one of the most attractive in Tuscany. This area is really magic and wine lovers really shouldn't miss it.
  • The village of Camogli is a small fishing village and famous tourist resort at the base of Monte di Portofino, in the province of Genoa, on the Italian Riviera.
  • From Camogli you can take a boat to San Fruttuoso, a very small fishermen' village surrounded by very high cliffs. Here you can visit the famous San Fruttuoso Abbey one of the most historic and artistically important in Italy.

Q: What foods would you recommend people try?

  • A plate of spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce in summer time (wherever they are in Italy but especially in Southern Italy where we have the best tomatoes of the country).
  • In Tuscany, the hearty Ribollita soup.
  • In Florence, the bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) a delicious T-bone steak usually served rare.
  • In Naples, pizza. Nowhere else in Italy you can have such a delicious pizza as in Naples.
  • In Milano have the famous Saffron Risotto or Risotto allo zafferano which is one of Milan's specialties.
  • In Rome, pasta all'amatriciana, made with tomato and crispy pancetta (bacon)… absolutely delicious!
  • In Sicily try the pasta alla Norma with tomato, ricotta cheese, garlic and eggplants.
  • In Liguria, try the famous focaccia al formaggio from Recco.

Q: Do you have any tips for people planning a culinary tour in Italy?

We are capable of organizing amazing culinary tours in our country. Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and the Amalfi Coast are the best areas for this. We have itineraries that combine visits to special wineries, farmhouses and cooking classes.

Q: Can you describe your most unique culinary tours?

We offer dozens of culinary tours in Italy. Here are some ideas:

In Florence we have a culinary tour which includes stops at the famous San Lorenzo food market, with tasting of local products like ham, cheese and focaccia. Then to a local Enoteca for tasting of extra virgin olive oil and local wines and a tasting of the famous Italian gelato. Of course our guide will explain the food and the traditions mixing them with the local art.

We have several cooking classes that can be offered all over Italy. Some of them take place in proper cooking schools, some others are held in local restaurants with unique flavor or in beautiful country estates.

Both in Tuscany and Piedmont we offer the truffle hunting experience: With the help of their faithful dogs, our truffle hunters will personally guide you through the stunning Tuscan or Piedmont countryside in search of the prestigious truffle.

In Emilia Romagna we organize wonderful food experiences to taste the local products: Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), Balsamic Vinegar from Modena and Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham).

In Tuscany in September we can have guests take part in the grape harvest or, if at the end of October / beginning of November, the olive harvest. Of course all these experiences will be followed by delicious meals prepared with the freshest ingredients of the season.

Vineyard in Provence. | Provence, France
 

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