BOOK A ROMANTIC FOUR DAY WEEKEND IN ITALY FOR ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
To celebrate the patron saint of lovers on February 14 who was beheaded for marrying Christians in secret why not spend a long weekend in Verona the celebrated town of lovers Romeo and Juliet or Romeo e Giuletta. If you live in Europe why not take a four day long weekend to celebrate the most romantic day of the year - St. Valentine's day with your beloved.
The Feast of the Epiphany is a Catholic feast day which celebrates the journey of the three wise men to pay homage to baby Jesus in the stable. January 6 is a public holiday in Italy and on the night of January 5 the witch Befana (originating from the word 'Epiphana") flies on her broomstick to give presents to the good children and a lump of coal to the bad.
The day marks the last day of the 12 days of christmas. Work and school usually commence in Italy on the following Monday. Befana also leaves her gifts at grandparents' houses and uncles' and aunties' houses for the children so most Italian children are feeling quite sick by the end of the day!
A wonderful 7 weeks in Italy, organised and orchestrated by the knowledgeable, and ever helpful Gemma!
One of the cornerstones of our trip was to experience the great opera houses of Italy – La Fenice, La Scala, the Verdi Festival and Teatro Regio in Parma, San Carlo – and we saw great performances in them all! All of the tickets were pre-arranged – heaven!
The tours and guides that Gemma and her colleagues arranged were outstanding. I was amazed at the knowledge of the guides and their capacity to communicate and inspire.
We were early at the Vatican (with a surprise visit to a part not normally visited), a small intimate group for the Vasari corridor in Florence, the Doges’ Palace in Venice, the catacombs in Rome, beautiful and surprising Naples, not to mention amazing Pompei….it was all so beautiful and easy. There is nothing like experience, knowledge and a passion for the country!
The places we stayed at were works of art themselves with beautiful views (Montepulciano, pictured) and wonderful staff.
What memories! We will have to go back. We will be in touch, Gemma!
Ifor and Catherine Sept Oct 2012
Happy New Year to all reading this, to our past clients and to all the people that are going to come into our lives in 2013 from the Passion for Italy Team. Our globe or planet earth is opening up more and more each year as more people travel the world to explore different countries and new experiences with people of a different language.
As i live and work, back and forth between two countries, Italy and Australia, I am never ceased to be surprised by the difference between our cultures in all areas of life. People living in english speaking countries such as American, Australia and England that are not exposed to other languages like Europe is, tend to be unaware that a language shapes a country in more ways than one.
ISTIA D’OMBRONE NEAR GROSSETO
I was spent Christmas in Tuscany with the most wonderful people. I really love spending time in the small villages of Italy as this is where all the traditions are preserved in more ways than one.
As the Italian schools only have a break of two weeks holiday over Christmas New Year so the primary school in the small village of Istia just outside Grosseto Tuscany performed a Christmas nativity play with lovely singing on their last night of school.
The whole historical center turned into the town of Bethlahem except they called it “Istialem”! The parents of the children dressed up in costume and made stalls that exhibited goods from the time of Jesus.
There was the carpenter and the grain sellers and the food stalls. People opened their doorways and spread the paths with Turkish style carpets and muslims.
Large drums filled with lit fires warmed us on a cold winter night two days before Christmas accompanied by the music sung by the children, warm sangria and Tuscan sausages, Bolognese sauce and lots more.
It was lovely and the parents worked all day to decorate the village – there is such community spirit and everyone knows everyone. I love this.
If you are thinking about spending Christmas next year in Italy, I highly recommend spending it in one of the little villages where the churches and homes are filled with homemade presepe - the nativity scenes. The midnight mass is very traditional with baby Jesus taking centerpiece on the altar.
I had to laugh though as in the large church nativity scene, the cow had its horns and ears missing and it looked like a hippopotamus which made me start giggling in mass – a bad habit left over from childhood!!
I recommend booking your Italian Christmas now so you are guaranteed places in our beautiful boutique apartments as all the relations return home to Italy for the holiday season so best to book ahead.
See our villas and apartments in Tuscany here
In Tuscany the nativity scenes in their homes are handmade by each family anew every year. It is a creative activity each christmas to make it a little bit special or different. I love the individual touches and the little ones especially enjoy this. Such a beautiful tradition. They use a special moss that grows in the mountains to make the grass for the scene and they are filled with lights that the Italians do so well.
Also in the different regions of Italy the statues are crafted out of different geological material - whatever the local area offered. In this local village in Maremma they were crafted out of chalk in the past and then painted. The antique statues are very beautiful and are collector items now.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE AND MAY 2013 BE A YEAR OF PEACE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
We look forward to organising your holiday in Italy in 2013
Passion for Italy Travel
ODE TO SHARP KNIVES WHILE RENTING AN APARTMENT IN ITALY
In Rome about 10 years ago, I heard this man squawking a funny little horn outside and I put my head out the window and I saw this little truck travelling slowly around the streets on day with a man calling out his wares. It was a knife sharpening man and all the housewives and people came running out with their kitchen knives and chatted to him while he sharpened and cleaned their beloved utensils.
What a great idea – a knife sharpening man travelling around – just like the old fruit truck, milkman and bread man of the old days. I have not seen that man since. He also sharpened scissors, axes and whatever was needed (oh no not the axe!). A great idea – bring him back I say to park outside all those holiday apartment that are sadly lacking!!
This is a little reminder to all travellers to Italy or to those that have a dream to buy a house in Italy - that most Italians do not speak English!!. English tourists tend to have a mindset that the whole world now speaks English!! Guess what -they don’t!! The only people who speak English in Italy, are those involved in tourism and perhaps some of the young people who have studied English at university.
Nothing offends me more than hearing tourists shouting at the Italian people as if raising the volume will make them understand. If someone shouted at you in Italian would you understand it more?
TIME TO GET OFF THE TREADMILL AND SMELL THE ROSES
One of the best things about working in Italy is that one is never lonely. All you have to do is exit from the office and go down to the local bar for an expresso and people will talk to you. Except I go down and talk to Pepe who is often out the front of his fruit shop having a smoke and joking with everyone who walks by. This is the best part of being in a small village. Everyone knows everyone else and one gets introduced.
Pepe is one of those special people who has a generosity of spirit so much so that it makes me emotional because it seems to be so rare these days. In Australia and England and America we are always in a hurry to get who knows where that we seem to have lost the sense of the most important thing – that of time with people. We can’t stop and chat as we have that very important meeting to get to otherwise we might get fired.