Walk this way. Talk this way. Just give me an Italian kiss!
I was so so fortunate so spend time last November in the beautiful country of Italy. It was my third visit there but I was no less enamored than my very first. Touring cities I had visited previous times, I felt, afforded me the opportunity to be less of a tourist and just enjoy Italy at a pace that they operate anyhow…SLOW! I was also incredibly lucky to partner with the very best tour company I’ve ever encountered – Walks of Italy. Walks of Italy offers small groups (no more than 12 people) everything from guided walks to full-day excursions that are designed to engage and inspire you. As a repeat traveler to Italy, I can assure you, I learned more in my time on my Walks of Italy tours than all other visits combined. Take a look see…
UNO – My first tour started with a journey to a Tuscan Farmhouse located on the border between Tuscany and Umbria. A 2 hour train ride from Florence, I was going to be spending the day there learning to cook Italian style. SI, you read that correctly, Lola COOK! I wasn’t so sure about the “cooking” part but I’d actually never been to this part of Italy so I was looking forward to the scenery at least. The organic farm is a 40 acre estate with rolling hills, olive groves, vegetable gardens and vineyards. It’s exactly like you picture Tuscany/Umbria to look like. My eyes were completely sated.
From this 6 hour full Tuscan experience you can expect to tour the estate, learn how olive oil and wine are made and turn their fresh home-grown produce into a meal, all guided by the farmhouse chefs and owners. You might recall, this was my favorite day on my 30 day Eurotour! So, in the end, I enjoyed far more than the scenery. I loved learning how to cook Tuscan Italian food and most of all making new friends!
DUE – My next Walks of Italy experiences were to take place in Rome. So, off I went by train 2 hours in a different direction from the farmhouse to Rome. Once in Rome, I was being treated to a “behind the ropes” tour of the Vatican. VIP…SAY. NO. MORE. I’d been to the Vatican twice before this tour and really felt no need to return, yet again, BUT getting into private rooms and seeing secret treasures without the wait or the crowds made me appreciate the Vatican so much more. As always, I’m surprised I made it out alive. I swear, I think a nun was chasing me out of there 😉
TRE – On Walks of Italy tour number 3 I got to partake in a food tour. I’ve never done a food tour before and I gotta say, “what took me so long?” I mean, how else to better get to the bottom of one’s culture than through its food? This FAB tour kicked off in the famous food market of Rome, Campo dei Fiori. Talk about a visual delight and, of course, a culinary one as well! Expect to have olive oil and vinegar tastings at the market stalls while learning about their aging processes and differences in taste. Go to a famous meat market on the square to try local meats and cheeses. MMMM. Make your own Roman pizza from scratch. SO FUN! And finish off with none other than Italian coffee and gelato. This was tour that was both educational and delicious. It was a full meal and an authentic way to experience Rome just like a local.
QUATTRO – During this Walks of Italy tour, I took a 45 minute train ride out to the countryside to the medieval town of Orvieto. Orvieto is full of history that dates back to its Etruscan origins and is breathtakingly beautiful. While this day trip tour offers insight into the 3,000 year old underground city with its hidden cellars and caverns, my tour also included searching out some of the freshest local foods. I was escorted to a fabulous cheese factory as well as an olive oil factory, where I was able to see how these items are made, processed and prepared for sale PLUS sample them! And I cannot forget to mention the incredible lunch I had at a traditional Umbrian restaurant. I’m not sure I’ve ever had better tasting pasta (and I should’ve prefaced this by stating I ate pasta every day in Italy)!
CINQUE & SEI – My Walks of Italy tours numbers 5 & 6 took me to the ancient city of Pompeii and to the Naples Archeological Museum. These two tours are quite necessary with one another as you have to see Pompeii to gain an understanding of how life was but visit the Naples Archeological Museum to actually see what was unearthed in more depth. To be sure, Pompeii was fascinating, eery and beautiful, touring the Temple of Apollo, their Roman Forum, a typical house where their outdoor space was in the center of the home and the thermal baths. BUT all the real treasures found in the excavations are housed at the Naples Archeological Museum and, to me, this really drove home how similar we were even 2000 years ago. Found there are intricate mosaic columns, intact rooms from homes, pottery & jewelry and important works of Pompeian art. All retelling the story of this lost city and its inhabitants.
SETTE & OTTO – Seven found me exploring the Amalfi Coast. Although I’ve been to the gorgeous island of Capri, I desperately wanted to take a drive along that famous coastline. So, I took a Walks of Italy private car tour, because is there really any better way to see the Amalfi Coast?! Even though it was November and most things were closed in the little village towns, it was still pretty and you could just imagine what it’s like in the height of the season. All the towns nestled into the cliffs rolling down to the Mediterranean Sea, it was thrilling to drive the winding roads and walk up and down the small paths in the seaside towns. Stopping for lunch at a spot that had an incredible vista, I felt like I was in a movie.
My eighth and final tour with Walks of Italy found me hiking the upper crater of Mt. Vesuvius. I wouldn’t have thought it was all that important to visit Mt. Vesuvius but, after the fact, it was possibly my favorite part of all the tours. Talk about exhilarating, the VIP access to the crater of Mt. Vesuvius with a volcano expert was quite something. This part of the tour might not be for those with a fear of heights but IT IS for you if you like a bit more action and adventure. I probably loved it because I didn’t know what to expect and OH MY the views of the Bay of Naples from the highest point of the crater are spectacular.
GRAZIE Walks of Italy for treating me to some of the best of Italy I’ve ever experienced. Your guides were passionate, professional and personable and I loved every single thing I was privileged to do with you. My Walks of Italy tours were in the late fall, but I imagine they are outstanding in all seasons. The subject matter is Italy, after all, and the guides are top-notch ECCELLENTE and completely ‘Lola Approved’