There are at least 5 things that people don’t know about our small-group tours in Italy. Well, most people don’t, that is. Those who have traveled with us are in the loop, naturally. But those who haven’t probably don’t know that ….
1. We always combine the popular and the peaceful. We love visiting cities (like Venice, Rome and Florence) and popular areas (like Cinque Terre and Lago Como), but places like these drain your energy reserves. That’s just the truth of it. So we spend 4-5 days in must-see, popular areas (that tend to be busy) and then we head to the border of Tuscany and Umbria for a week-long, slower-paced stay in a countryside villa. From here we take side trips to hill towns, historic sites and vineyards. Idyllic.
2. We tend to stay in our own backyard. Well, close to it, anyway. Our tours are only in Italy, and only in certain areas of Italy that we know really well. I live in Umbria (just on the border with Tuscany) where there are countless, spectacular places to explore – from castles to medieval hill towns to Etruscan necropoli. Plus, I’ve personally spent years getting to know local Italians who treat our guests like family when we stop by. It’s like one big, beautiful, welcoming backyard.
3. We’ve already been there. All trips have glitches. That’s just the nature of travel. But I’m personally diligent about getting to know places before we head there on our tours. It’s one thing to read about a place – or see pictures online – but it’s another thing entirely to experience it in person. (This is particularly true of hotels and restaurants.) So we eat, sleep and walk our way through every tour – before it ever becomes a tour.
4. We don’t like touristy stuff. Phony demonstrations or cheesy, touristy shops are not on our itineraries. We’re passionate about supporting local artisans and frequenting authentic shops with Italian products. Not only is the quality infinitely better, but we think contributing to the local economy is important too. So you can expect to meet real people who make wine, press olive oil, paint ceramics, hammer copper and much, much more.
5. We contribute to restoration and preservation efforts. “Italy is art.” My high school art teacher, Mr. Orlandi, said that, and of course he was right. Preserving Italy’s immense volume of art – and architecture – is nothing short of monumental. In return for the privilege of experiencing Italy’s vast beauty, we contribute to a restoration or preservation project each year. It’s our small way of saying grazie mille.
Pamela Haack creates and hosts boutique-style, small group tours that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps visitors experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way – off the beaten strada.
She is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites, as well as her popular blog, Off the Beaten Strada in Italy.
Pamela lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.