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  • Artisan traditions in Tuscany, Umbria & Le Marche

    June 9, 2017

    We also met Patrizia at the monastery, who cooks things like fried elderberry flowers and nettle pasta from the plants in her vicinity and hugs everyone she meets because she is just a happy woman, doing what she loves. One of her neighbors came by in the morning carrying his laptop, set it up on a table in the dining room and started working.  When we started talking to him he informed us that he tells Patrizia he comes for the wifi at the B & B but, he said, “I really just come to be around Patrizia”. The setting was so peaceful and beautiful, with rolling hills and forest nearby that it was difficult to leave after two days. And the Romanesque church on the grounds contained the same beauty as the outdoors.

    Fried elderberry flowers

    We then visited a museum for weaving in Stia, http://www.museodellartedellalana.it where the last weaver (her vocation for 50 years) is the docent/curator. She does workshops in all phases of weaving and the museum is a treasure of the last couple of hundred years of weaving in wool, linen, cotton and hemp. We sat and talked with her for 3 hours and then went next door to a family owned weaving business that had looms from the 1920’s, mechanized, not treadle like the museum had displayed. We spent another 2 hours there seeing the generations of change, the beautiful clothing they made, including a copy of a coat that Audrey Hepburn wore in one of her films. The history in all of these places took my breath away. And I was almost persuaded to purchase the softest cashmere coat but came to my senses. Maybe the next time I go I won’t be so disciplined.

    Citta di Castello held more treasures that were mind-blowing. We met a woman who is cultivating and saving heirloom fruit trees from all over Italy (she’s an author and just received her Ph.d in Archeologea Arboreta) and she lives in a house attached to an 1100 year old church! Her property was overwhelmingly fascinating. Then there was the Museo di Erbe in Citta http://www.abocamuseum.it which holds illuminated books and relics of old Farmacia’s from the 16th century. The care and beauty with which this museum was created makes it a must see when visiting this town.

    The last place we stayed was high up above San Sepolcro where 4 generations have raised pristine cinta senese pigs for salumi cured more than 3 years! The young proprietor and his father http://www.terradimichelangelo.com/were so proud of their small business and shared all about the history, showed us the coolers for prosciutto, cooked us a fabulous meal and housed us in the most beautiful apartment; three ensuite bedrooms complete with antiques. The accommodations were stunning as were the views and the food in their small restaurant. Then we visited the Museo Civico San Sepolcro http://www.museocivicosansepolcro.it/ with the Piero della Francesca fresco that is being restored. Wow! Oh and the palazzo with private Della Robbia’s in the loggia. On our way out of town we visited the Burri exhibit at a palazzo exclusively housing his works.  His oversized canvases are mixed media using some odd and interesting materials.I’ve not mentioned the castle, hosted by a charming, noblewoman, the incredible meals & wines in remote places or the Carbonaio museo in a high mountain village of 130. Every day was filled with new and wonderful things, but it was mostly the people that were so captivating. When they saw our interest they opened up and shared the generations of knowledge and traditions that were such treasures. There was much more but I am still processing it all. Our goal is to solicit and support the existing family members, especially the young ones, in continuing these important artisan traditions. Look for our 10 day tour in 2018 and remember, we limit our small groups to ten guests.  For inquiries: 760.470.8852 or aparnaca@gmail.com


  • Friends in Umbria

    December 6, 2014

    We are starting to plan for our 2015 tours.  It’s always exciting to begin a new project or travel with a new group.  That’s one of the things about travel that is so invigorating.  One never knows, even after creating a plan, how it will actually turn out.  The mystery is so inviting!  There are ... Read more
  • Holiday gifts!

    November 25, 2014

    It’s hard to believe another year is almost over but here we are nearing the Thanksgiving holiday, then Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza with be upon us, not to mention the Solstice.  More and more people are being very thoughtful about gift giving for family and friends. I have a creative idea that may be appealing. How ... Read more
  • The Garfagnana (northern Tuscan mountains)

    November 1, 2014

    I visited this region in September and it is a beautiful, wooded paradise in the province of Lucca.  Because of the dense forests and heavy rainfall it is filled with chestnut trees.  It is also filled with wonderful hidden villages where artisans are still doing what there ancestors did many hundreds of years ago; farming ... Read more
  • Do you use TripAdvisor reviews?

    October 18, 2014

    Below you can see one of the messages I received from trip advisor, #tripadvisor, about the reviews I have posted over the years on that site.  WOW, 6,988 people have read my reviews.  How astonishing! And how encouraging, as well. That just proves that this is a necessary travel service. Many travel websites accept reviews from ... Read more
  • Airfarewatchdog.com helps travelers find best air fares!

    October 18, 2014

    There are a multitude of websites to help travelers find the best prices for air travel, lodging and guided tours.  Here is one of our favorites with a tip for creating a travel route designed by the traveler.  I have also found that on some airlines such as American Airlines, that I can book my ... Read more
  • What happens in October & November?

    October 14, 2014

    October and November are wonderful months to visit Italy.  #smallgrouptoursitaly. True, the grape harvest is past but there may still be some truffles to snuffle out and the olives are ready to pick.  Olives need to be picked in one day, like the grapes and rushed off to the olive press immediately.  Some folks like ... Read more
  • Eco-friendly Travel!

    October 13, 2014

    With so much focus now on environmental impact it’s difficult to ignore the subject of traveling ecologically. For many years I’ve pondered the question about my own “eco footprint” since I cross the Atlantic two or three time a year, leading small group tours in the Italian countryside. It bothers me to think that I ... Read more
  • Your Specially Designed Small Group Tour!

    October 12, 2014

      Designing a tour for your pleasure takes more work behind the scenes than I think anyone imagines. I’m thinking of recent requests that I had from two different sources when travelers have asked me to put together an itinerary with certain specifications, for a group of their friends or colleagues. Keeping in mind there is ... Read more
  • Italy in September, 2014!

    October 6, 2014

    How invigorating to be in Italy when the harvest is happening; when the grapes look like they are ready to burst and the olives are the most amazing shiny green color just begging to be ready for pressing!  There is nothing I can think of that is as flavorful as the first press of olive ... Read more
  • A Week in Northern Lazio (reprinted)

    September 6, 2014

    A Week in Northern Lazio Cheryl Alexander Many people bypass this part of Italy on their way to Tuscany, Umbria, Venizia or Como. But a week in this region will surprise and delight; not to mention steals your heart. If you are a lover of Italy, don’t miss this special area. And I promise you will return, ... Read more