Monday March 10, 2014
Tuscany is one of Italy's most popular regions and it's also the biggest. Most of the top places to go in Tuscany are in the central part of the region but if you branch out, especially to the north or south, you'll find a number of good places to visit that are off the usual tourist itinerary. Here are my picks for places in Tuscany to get off the tourist track, from the coast to the hills and mountains. Visit medieval towns and villages, marble quarries and caves, and the city sometimes called Little Florence. While most of these places are best visited by car, a few are easily accessed by train. Keep in mind that when you venture off the tourist track you may find shorter hours for stores and sites, often closing for lunch, and not everyone will speak English. But you're likely to find hidden treasures, have lunch with the locals, or have unique experiences by venturing a little away from the usual tourist spots.
Photo of Barga in the Garfagnana, Tuscany © by James Martin, Europe Travel
Wednesday March 5, 2014
Imagine spending a week in a historic family palazzo, or mansion, right on the main square of the small but lively market town of Mercatello sul Metauro in central Italy's le Marche region. Luisa Donati, whose family owns Palazzo Donati, is offering one week stays in Palazzo Donati with guided excursions to visit places and see sights not easily accessible to tourists traveling on their own. Guests will visit artisan workshops and small medieval towns, taste wine, have a cooking class, and tour the famous Frassasi Caves and the Renaissance city of Urbino. A highlight is a dinner prepared by a local fraternity of men dedicated to wine and food, the Accademia del Padlot, an experience not normally available to tourists. This is a great way to have an authentic Italian experience since the arrangements will be made for you and you won't have to worry if you don't speak Italian since you'll have both a hostess and tour guide who speak English.
Le Marche Trip Details: One-week tour packages available in May and September or other dates by special request. See Authentic Italian Experience with Luisa.
Mercatello sul Metauro photo © by Martha Bakerjian
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Visiting a food market anywhere in Italy can be a great experience but the market in Palermo, Sicily, is one of the best. Vucciria Market is one of the top things to see in Palermo and recently National Geographic included it in its list of the world's top 10 Food Markets. The historic Mercato della Vucciria has been around for about 700 years and makes a great introduction to the food, smells, sights, and people of Palermo. You'll find a wide assortment of stalls selling everything from produce, fish, and meat to clothing and crafts. Even if you don't want to buy anything, the market is a good source of free entertainment where you can spend an hour or two wandering through the stalls watching the sellers and buyers. Mercato della Vucciria is in the heart of the old city center, off Piazza San Domenico and Via Roma, open from Monday through Saturday until 2pm.
More Food Markets in Italy: Rome's Food Markets | Florence Central Market | Central Market in Cagliari, Sardinia
Monday March 3, 2014
It's Carnival (also known as mardi gras, carnaval, carnevale, or karnaval) season, a time of colorful and outrageous festivals and parades in many parts of the western world. In 2014, Shrove or Fat Tuesday is March 4. Although many parades are now held the weekend before the actual carnival date, there are still many parades and unique festivals on Tuesday.
Take a look at how carnival and mardi gras are celebrated in Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States with these pictures and articles from our About.com Travel Experts. Let the good times roll!
Pictures of Carnival Parades and Festivals: