LA PASSEGGIATA (STROLLING) A favourite Italian pastime is the passeggiata (literally, the promenade), and in Venice, the favourite place for the ritual is the Zattere, the southern walkway of the city, facing the Giudecca. In the late afternoon and early evening, especially on sunny weekends, couples, families, and groups of friends stroll the Zattere. This ritual involves people watching, exchanging news and gossip, flirting, and is the ideal time to indulge in a little gelato tasting. You may feel more like an observer than a participant, until you realise that observing is what la passegiata is all about.
Travel At Your Leisure is delighted to announce our new website is up and running. We have planned two small group tours to Italy for 2015. The first is to the Veneto at the end of April - Spring, and the second to Amalfi in September. The planning has taken us months and we are still fine tuning, so please have a look at the website and the tours, we would love your feedback - with small group travel everyone's opinion counts.
Travelling with Travel At Your Leisure means exploring Europe in small groups of no more than 10 people.
Unlike conventional group holidays, where you’ll see large groups and flag waving guides, our small group tours are flexible and informal, allowing you plenty of time to do your own thing. On our tours there’s a balance between group activities and personal time for you to explore independently and relax as you like.
This means you can be less conspicuous, travel and eat with the locals, stay in small, unique hotels and visit places inaccessible to larger groups. In a small group it's easier to get off the beaten track, meet different people and experience local life. Small group travel provides a more personal travel experience, allowing you to discover places at your own pace, while still having access to specialist guides.
Couples, solo travellers or groups of friends travelling together - all are welcome and the mix is what makes the groups work so well. Don’t be surprised if lifelong friendships are formed on our tours.
We arrive in Venice on the 25th April 2015 for Festa di San Marco.
This festival honouring San Marco, the evangelist who for 1,000 years protected the city of Venice has always been celebrated with gondola races, street processions and dancing and of course plenty of food and wine. Nowadays it is bigger than ever as April 25 is also Italian Liberation Day, a national holiday and visitors come from near and far to join the celebrations.
On St. Mark's Day men traditionally buy boccoli (red roses) for the ladies in their lives - the longer the stem the deeper the token of love. Legend tells of a soldier enamoured of the Doge's daughter who was mortally wounded in a far-off battle. As he died his blood transformed into red roses, which he entrusted his companion to bring to the girl. We don't know if the flowers arrived on the saint's day, but by tradition Venetians celebrate the miracle on this date.
APERITIVO. In Northern Italy an early evening ritual is to meet friends at a caffè for aperitivo - a drink and a snack. In Venice you might drink a spritz, a light cocktail made with white wine, aperol (a bright orange herb liquor) or bitters, and soda water, or a simple glass of prosecco, the Veneto’s famous sparkling white wine. The drinks may be supplemented with ciccheti, traditional Venetian snacks. Venetians are a very social folk, and it is not uncommon for them to get together with friends for aperitivo three or four times a week. Living space is at a premium and many people live in rather cramped quarters, so invitations to visit their homes are reserved for very special occasions. All this makes aperitivo the ideal solution for everyday socialising.
Remember: This is pre-dinner, so save some room for the real thing, no matter how good the ciccheti are.
Venice is a city unlike any other.
No matter how often you've seen it in photos and films, the real thing is more dreamlike than you could imagine.
Each time I visit Venice, I discover and see another aspect of its beauty.
With canals where streets should be, water shimmers everywhere. The fabulous palaces and churches reflect centuries of history in what was a wealthy trading center between Europe and the Orient.
Getting lost in the narrow alleyways is a quintessential part of exploring Venice, but at some point you'll almost surely end up in Piazza San Marco, where tourists and locals congregate for a coffee or an aperitif.
If you have been to Venice before, please share your best memories of your visit. We want to hear about them.
IL CAFFÈ (COFFEE)
In the Italian version of "Survivor" contestants were deprived of all the usual comforts of home but given an espresso machine so they could have their coffee as usual - anything else would be barbaric. Accordingly, the Venetian day begins and ends with coffee. So drink your coffee like the Venetians do - stand at the counter or sit at an outdoor table of the corner bar and watch the world go by. (In Italy a "bar" and a "caffè" are the same and serve hot and cold drinks as well as alcohol.)
A primer: caffè means coffee, and Italian standard issue is what we call espresso - short and strong. Cappuccino is a foamy half-and-half of espresso and steamed milk; cocoa powder (cacao) on top is acceptable, cinnamon is not. If you're thinking of having a cappuccino in the evening think again - Venetians drink only caffè or caffè macchiato (with a spot of steamed milk) after lunch.
Enjoy learning how to be a Venetian.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Positano is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This small town on the Amalfi Coast awes visitors with its pastel-colored houses perched on mountains seemingly rising right out of the sea. Positano has lived many lives - as part of Amalfi’s maritime republic during the Middle Ages, a major trade route during the Renaissance, a forgotten fishing village, and finally, an idyllic beach town experiencing a modern-day renaissance. John Steinbeck, who lived here in 1953, wrote, “It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Then again, you might never want to leave.
Insider Tip: Bring comfortable shoes. Towns in Amalfi don't have many streets, but they do have plenty of narrow paths and steep stairways.
Lucy and I have 2 tours planned for 2015. We are so looking forward to meeting you and sharing our experiences with you. Our first port of call is Venice. Between us Lucy and I have so many wonderful memories of past trips to Venice and we would love you to share some of your own stories about this beautiful city with us.
But hey, wait a minute, what if you’ve never been to Venice? You must know that Venice holds the most artistic pieces per square kilometre in the world, so why don’t you let us know which of them you are dreaming seeing?
No, not our trip to Italy, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's "The Trip to Italy". I loved this movie, but maybe that's because I am already hooked on the three main characters - Coogan, Brydon and Italy. In their first outing in 2010 the pair visited Cumbria and the Lake District in "The Trip", but this time their route takes them from Piemonte to Amalfi and Capri, following the path of the 18th century Romantic poets Byron and Shelley, sleeping and eating at some amazing places along the way. Their continual competitive banter and spot on imitations of other actors, some scripted, some improvised, is highly entertaining, and the background scenery, history, culture and cuisine will have you checking your passport "pronto".
We will be going to a couple of places they visit, so feel free to try and guess where ...
To Travel is To Live.