An airport connection (or two) is often the price you pay for service to far-off destinations. Unfortunately, a connection almost always complicates your travel planning, asking you to decide where to connect and how much time to allow for the connection. There’s no easy answer to those questions, but there are a
few choice airports to avoid. You don’t always have the opportunity to choose where to connect,
but when you do, three factors can determine which airports are riskiest:
Delays: Among the major U.S. airports, New York’s JFK, Newark, Chicago’s O’Hare, and San Francisco generally fare the worst in delay tabulations, which make them bad for an airport connection. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston suffer more delays than you’d expect, given their benign weather locations. Conversely, snowy Salt Lake City and rainy Seattle generally do pretty well.
Connecting abroad? In Europe, Paris’s Charles De Gaulle, Frankfurt, and London’s Heathrow tend to top most delay lists. Most frequent travelers suggest connecting in Munich or Zurich when possible.
Airport Layout: The best hubs for an airport connection consist of large, single terminals, with all gates accessible through a single security point and inside-security (airside) for access between any two gates. Connecting is usually relatively easy this way, in that you need not go out of security and back in through another security checkpoint; your only worry is about getting from one gate to another. Among North American hubs, Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Portland, Salt Lake City, Toronto, and Vancouver are built this way. Overseas single-big-terminal hubs include Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan, Munich and Zurich.
Other big hubs, however, consist of separated terminal buildings you might need to navigate, including Chicago’s O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston’s Bush, Los Angeles, New York’s JFK, Newark, and San Francisco, plus London’s Heathrow and Paris’ De Gaulle overseas. You might be OK if your connecting flights are on the same airline, or otherwise use the same terminal. But if you have to change
terminals—and there’s no airside interterminal transport—you may have to exit security at your
incoming terminal, schlep to your outgoing terminal, and go through security again.
Try to avoid connections that require changing terminals.
Transit Areas: Most big connecting airports outside the U.S. allow you to remain in “transit” status, airside, on any connection. You still have to have your passport stamped, but you don’t have to do the double security thing. The U.S., however, does not offer transit status. Even if you’re connecting on the same airline in the same terminal, you could have to exit the secure zone to get your baggage, go through the immigration and customs rigmarole, and re-enter security.
But connecting at a foreign airport isn’t as easy as it once was, either: At many airports the U.S. now requires secondary screening for travelers heading here, even for in-transit passengers. Still, if you have a choice, it’s generally better to connect at a foreign rather than a U.S. airport.
At Villas of Italy while we don’t include air for our tours, we regularly help our guests in finding the best and most direct flights for the least possible cost when traveling to meet us for one of our tours.
Speaking of tours, we still have a few 'couples' spots (double occupancy) available for our
Tuscan Adventure next August 18-28, 2019.
Once at the villa EVERYTHING is included; lodging in our Tuscan villa in a private double bedroom with a private bath, a beautiful pool overlooking vineyards, olive groves and nearby hill towns, unlimited beverages at the villa, all meals; gourmet meals while at the villa prepared by our villa chef, meals away from the villa at slow food movement restaurants, cooking classes at the villa by Chef Mauro of the Montese Cooking Experience, all tours, all wine, cheese and salumi tastings; EVERYTHING!
And, we will extend our special pricing for up to $1000 off per couple. Email us for a daily itinerary to see all the exciting things we will be doing over the 10-day adventure.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not escape us
The year was 2000, it was a warm summer and I was sitting outside enjoying un bicchiere di vino in Piazza Cisterna in San Gimignano in Tuscany watching the big tour busses unload 40-65 people each.
The peoples faces contained a variety of expressions, from awe to frustration. As the throng of people formed the passing parade, I thought of how important this trip was to them. Each person who vacations
in Italy will leave with their own impression of the cities they visited, and for some,
it may be their one and only time in Italia.
My wish was then, and is now, that travelers have their eyes and hearts opened to the beauty that is Italy, that they appreciate the Italian people and culture, that they experience the real Italy . . . my Italy. This experience led me to envision a different way, a better way, for travelers to experience Italy. This was the beginning of what would become, Villas of Italy.
The ‘Big Tour” things I wanted to guarantee wouldn’t happen:
1. FOLLOW AN UMBRELLA — If your entire vacation is spent frantically trying to follow the person with the umbrella, you will miss the beauty of Italy. Trying to glimpse a view of a famous painting, or being herded through a church with a throng of other people, won’t allow any time to savor it. The narrow, winding streets and local ristoranti can’t unfold their charms when you travel en masse.
At Villas of Italy we travel with groups of 12. And, we travel in custom, air conditioned vans with the ability to go places and see things those big tour busses can’t. When with our tour guides, you are provided with your own 'whispers' for your ear so no matter where the tour guide may turn their head you hear them as if they were 'whispering' in your ear so you won't miss any detail.
2. AMERICANIZE YOUR EATING — Italians will tell you they have the best cuisine in the world, and
that’s hard to argue. The big tours work with hotels and restaurants to create dishes that cater to Americans, but aren’t ‘real’ Italian dishes. We ensure you're ‘eating adventure’ is 'really' Italian, Italian recipes of authentic, and often decades old, recipes prepared by chefs who are proud to share
their cuisine and culture . . . their 'authentic' Italy. Meals are expected to take time,
savoring not only the food, but the wine and conversation.
At Villas of Italy whether at the villa, or out on tour our meals our relaxed affairs
allowing us to experience and enjoy our meals as Italians.
3. ARRIVE WITHOUT A CLUE — You needn’t be a scholar to appreciate the art, architecture and culture in Italy, but a little studying before you arrive is going to enhance what you see. At Villas of Italy we have written blogs of some of the cities, sights and cuisine we’ll encounter. Our tours away from the villa are balanced itineraries and our local, private, professional tour guides know the history of their towns and are extremely proud to share it with us.
4. CRAM TOO MUCH IN A DAY — Realize the fact that, generally, if you are spending limited time in the major cities, and often with the bigger tour companies you spend limited time and typically won’t get to see all the major sites. At Villas of Italy we prioritize and add a variety of experiences to each day. Working with our private, professional guides we have maximized the number of sights we see, but still in a relaxed fashion and even stopping for a gelato or espresso every so often to soak in the local culture. And, we have 2 days of leisure at the villa so you can either relax by the pool, take a cooking class from our villa chef Mauro, or take the train to a local town to spend more time, on your own, exploring.
5. BE UNPREPARED TO WALK — Nothing zaps the fun out of a vacation faster than aching feet. Big tours keep you moving fast, like cattle, to cram in as much as they can before they load you onto the big bus to move on to the next city. They don’t even warn you that breaking in new shoes on tour isn’t a good idea,
or 'preparing' to walk for 4-5 miles a day is a good thing. Many cities, such as Florence, are mostly
pedestrian only, and that means it’s your two feet that are going to get you around. We plan our daily itineraries with our private, professional guides to move in a logical progression from one sight to
another so while we do walk for several miles we’re not retracing our walks back to sights we missed
like tourists on unguided tours do, or some of the bigger tours often do. We believe your eyes and mind will only absorb and appreciate what your feet allow!?
6. NOT BOOKING IN ADVANCE — During the high season, all major attractions require long waits if you haven’t purchased tickets in advance. Our guides and tours are planned for and we make reservations,
so there’s never a wait.
7. CRITICIZE WHAT’S DIFFERENT — Italy is not the United States. As obvious as that sounds, it’s important to remember that you are visiting a foreign country, and a foreign culture. While those bigger tours move you fast through towns, museum’s and historical sights to cram in as much as they can, you often don’t get a chance to experience, or feel the culture, or the people. At Villas of Italy we plan our
days so you can embrace the experience, the people, the food, art, architecture and ‘tempo’ of life.
Things will be done differently, which is, why Villas of Italy was created and hopefully one of
the reasons you wanted to visit!
Welcome to a new kind of tour – Villas of Italy - The kind that gets you closer to the authentic and unforgettable Italian experience you travel to find in the first place. Tours carefully crafted to local organic, biodynamic wineries and farms, visits to the major Tuscan cities and hilltop towns led by professional tour guides who actually live in the towns, all to deepen and enhance your tour experience with a local perspective. And, no unpacking and repacking every few days to move to another location . . .
yet another hotel.
At Villas of Italy you live at your country villa for 10 days in your private double bedroom with private bathroom with a beautiful pool overlooking the vineyards and olive groves. Everything is arranged for you; all meals, wines, tours, cooking classes . . . everything!
You arrive as guests, but leave as famiglia. Join us at the villa on our next
Villas of Italy:Tuscan Adventure tour, August 18-28, 2019. If you’re picturing yourself in the Italian countryside, now’s the time to get a trip on the calendar. Contact us for a detailed daily itinerary.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us
For many centuries Tuscany was the best kept secret in the Mediterranean Sea, and still today we think it’s the best location to live and enjoy life every day of the year but what really makes Tuscany so special?
Tuscany is located in the very center of the Mediterranean, in the heart of Italy. It’s strikingly hilly landscape never ceases to impress, with backdrops littered with olive trees, vineyards, cypresses, and umbrella pine trees (or Stone pines) used by the Romans to provide shade. Tuscany continuously torments painters and photographers with its ever-changing colors.
But does Tuscany live up to the hype? Under the Tuscan Sun, Seinfeld (no villas in Tuscany) and an endless stream of iconic photos of the countryside can suggest that it has in fact been ‘done-to-death’. How can a region that is the size of New Hampshire be THAT great???
Well, Tuscany IS that great. Why you should never turn your nose up at the possibility of a trip to Tuscany!
1. The coolest towns you’ve never heard of – of course we go to Florence and Siena but what about Pienza, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Volterra, Castellina, Greve. These idyllic towns are quintessentially Tuscan and will have you longing to return to the region over and over again.
2. Wine – Some of Italy’s best wines come from Tuscany and the wine culture is an integral part of the region. If you are at all into wine, Tuscany is the place for you; from Tuscan white wines; Trebbiano, Malvasia, Vermentino and Vernaccia, to the Tuscan reds; Super Tuscans, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Bolgheri, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tignanello, Sassicaia and the sweet Vin Santo. There is something for everyone and no shortage of wine at the villa. These, paired with the delicious local cuisine make for a divine culinary experience.
3. Cheese – I would return to Tuscany just to taste the Pecorino – in ravioli, on an arugula (rocket) salad or melted with pear on crostini. Pecorino from Specific Zones, Pecorino Toscano DOP Fresco, Pecorino Toscano DOP Stagionati, DOP products meaning that production is government protected and regulated, and if you have never tried fresh pecorino (as opposed to the more commonly found aged pecorino) you are missing out. But, this is not the only delicious Tuscan cheese; Abbucciato, Pecorino a latte crudo, Caciotta, Il Grande Vecchio di Montefollonico, and Marzolino. And, the flavors differ significantly from sheep to goat varieties.
4. You can ride on top of city walls – we make our way to Lucca, one of my favorite cities in the world. This city in the northwestern part of the region has a charming historic center, wonderful people, a piazza that retains the form of the amphitheater that stood there in the Roman age and a walking/bike path that was created on top of the medieval walls. Great to walk on, bike ride on, or as my good friend Joe was able to do while participating in the Mille Miglia this year – drive on it (you won’t be able to do this!?).
5. Tuscan Hospitality – Some of my most exceptional experiences from a hospitality standpoint have been in Tuscany. Especially when you get out of the larger cities of the region, the people are genuine, simple, generous and interesting. The Tuscan attitude is contagious, there is a warmth and relaxed attitude toward life in the Tuscan countryside that makes it a place that one immediately wants to call home.
6. Traditional meets Modern – a number of my favorite vineyards have incorporated magnificent modern architecture among centuries old vines. The contrast is striking and impressive and I think it shows that these winemakers are in touch with the modern world while preserving the ancient winemaking traditions.
Join us for our Tuscan Adventure where we do all this and MORE! We still have a few couples spots (double occupancy) available for our Tuscan Adventure next August 18-28, 2019. We are extending our special pricing for up to $1000 off per couple. Email us for the details. Once at the villa EVERYTHING is included; lodging in our Tuscan villa in a private double bedroom with a private bath, a beautiful pool overlooking vineyards, olive groves and nearby hill towns, unlimited beverages at the villa, all meals; gourmet meals while at the villa prepared by our villa chef, meals away from the villa at slow food movement restaurants, cooking classes at the villa by Chef Mauro of the Montese Cooking Experience, all tours, all wine, cheese and salumi tastings. EVERYTHING!
Tuscany – “Believe the Hype”
I just returned from a trip to Italy in the Venetian lagoon on the island of Torcello to meet the owners of the villa that will be our home for our Venezia – La Serenissima, June 3-13, 2019 tour (an intriguing history and fascinating family – more on that in a bit).
Torcello, was founded in the year 452 and has been referred to as the parent island from which Venice was populated, meaning Torcello is even older than Venice and was a very important island in ancient times, a town with a cathedral and bishops even before Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica was built. After the downfall of the Western Roman Empire, Torcello was one of the first lagoon islands to be populated. First settled by the inhabitants of Altino (Altinum), a once-important Roman town. Led by their bishop, they fled successive invasions, which laid waste their mainland homes, and built their new town on this island.
Torcello benefited from and maintained close cultural and trading ties with Constantinople; however, being a rather distant outpost of the Eastern Roman Empire, it could establish de facto autonomy from the eastern capital. The tiny island rapidly grew in importance as a political and trading center; in the 10th century it had a population often estimated at 10,000-35,000 people, with 20,000 the most commonly cited estimate. In pre-Medieval times, Torcello was a more powerful trading center than Venice. Torcello’s economic backbone and its harbor developed quickly into an important re-export market in the profitable east-west-trade, which was largely controlled by Byzantium during that period.
In a dusty piazza stands one of the most impressive and interesting churches in the Venice area, the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta founded in the 7th century. A section of the earlier mosaic floor can be viewed through a glass panel. On the walls and apse are some fantastic mosaics which would make the trip worthwhile on their own: a lovely Madonna and Child on a gold background, and a scary depiction of the Last Judgement with details such as serpents crawling through skulls. The Church of Santa Fosca, next door, is very different but also lovely. The small church, which dates to the 11th century, is built to a Greek-cross plan and fronted by a later portico. The campanile (belltower) of the basilica is a steep climb up sloping ramps, but the view over the island and lagoon is worth the effort. The museum in the square is also worth visiting; it has a small collection of archaeological finds and historical items from the cathedral, the lagoon and the surrounding area.
Today, the main reason for visiting Torcello is to see the spectacular Byzantine mosaics
in the 7th century Cathedral.
Over the years, however, Venice grew more important while Torcello found its waterways silting up and its swamps malarial. Eventually the residents of Torcello, who had survived, packed their bags and took them south over the lagoon to sites nearer the hub of trade and politics. Buildings were plundered for building material so that little remains of its once splendid palaces, churches, and monasteries. Nowadays just a handful of residents remain; the town's piazza is overgrown with grass and weeds, and the two churches of Torcello stand in magnificent isolation.
Somewhat incongruously, the island is also home to a world-famous Inn and restaurant, called Locanda Cipriani. Yes, that Cipriani, of various "Cipriani's" and Harry's Bar's around the world—not to mention Harry's Bar in downtown Venice (the original Cipriani's first name was Arrigo, which is Italian for "Harry.").
Locanda Cipriani on Torcello was consecrated as a literary myth due to Ernest Hemingway living there in the fall of 1948. Joined in Venice by his wife Mary, Hemingway, already a legend, decided to spend the whole month of November at Locanda Cipriani, dividing his time between duck hunting, and writing his novel “Across the River and Into the Trees”. The impressions and memories of that November in Torcello are forever imprinted on the pages of his novel. Hemingway returned to Locanda Cipriani on Torcello with his wife Mary in the spring of 1954 during their stay in Venice and following their unfortunate experience in Africa.
Now, about where we will be staying during our Venezia – La Serenissma June 3-13, 2019 tour, Villa San Giovanni, or what the Venetian's call, Villa Baslini. I spent the morning with Angelica Baslini and her mother (86 yrs. old) at the villa. The villa is actually on a smaller separate island of San Giovanni Evangelista, connected to Torcello by a small bridge, Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge). Another long, historical story I'll have to tell you another time.
As we talked I was told that Villa San Giovanni / Baslini is the only villa left on Torcello. The property began as The Monastery of St. John the Evangelist built in 640, an ancient ecclesiastical complex inhabited by Benedictine nuns, in which a basilica (there are ruins in the garden) where the preserved remains of Santa Barbara were brought and dedicated to the convent of nuns. The much larger complex stood on the property on an islet to the south-west of the square, accessible only over the famous Devil's Bridge, or by water. The villa is the lone remaining structure.
The first written document concerning the monastery is in the chronicle of Giovanni Diacono (Giovanni from Venice), who asserts that in 1009 the relics of St. Barbara of Nicomedia were transferred to St. John’s, donated a few years earlier by Maria Argyropolis, niece of the Byzantine emperor and sister-in-law of the then Abbess Felicita, daughter of Venetian doge Pietro Orseolo II.
Ancient map of the island showing The Monastery of St. John the Evangelist in the lower right hand corner. Also notice the name of the island as it use to be called "Torzelo".
Ancient drawing of the monastery as it looked in the 11th century
In 1168, under the Abbess Amabile Keulo, began a lively period of acquisitions that saw an exponential increase in its properties; there were acquisitions in Torcello; houses, plots of arable land and mud flats and two salt pans (Natural salt flats are flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, shining white under the sun) were added, one donated in 1178 by the Bobiçum brothers, the other set up in 1180 by the same nuns on one of their waterways.
The economic increase was continued by Abbess Adoalda Marcello, who lived in the first half of the 13th century. During this time two powerful noble families emerged, related to each other, the Barozzi and the Gradenigo families, who in the following centuries contributed to the life of the monastery by giving it Abbesses and Procurators.
Angelica told me that history records that in 1810 the Napoleonic edicts affected the Monastery of San Giovanni. The buildings became State Property, were abandoned and demolished. But she said, her family history says Napoleon ordered the nun’s quarters destroyed but spared the ‘guest house’ of the monastery, which her family later purchased as their summer home. Today few traces survive from the monastery with the exception of Villa Baslini.
The Baslini Family is a noble family. Angelica’s grandfather, Dr. Ernesto Baslini, founded an industrial chemical company in 1922, which grew substantially over the years and still exists today. Her father Antonio was an Italian politician spending over 20 years in the Italian Parliament.
An amazing, historic villa, sitting on ancient, historic land on an historic island in the Venetian lagoon with a beautiful swimming pool (the only swimming pool in the Veneto region) overlooking not only the surrounding area of Torcello and its salt pans, but also the nearby island town of Burano with its brightly colored buildings.
Looking forward to our Venezia – La Serenissima June 3 -13, 2019 tour at historic Villa Baslini, an historic property on a now quiet island that in its day was the power that became Venice!
We still have a few couples spots (double occupancy) for our Tuscan Adventure tour from August 18-28, 2019 at our villa in Tuscany near Certaldo and Gambassi Terme. Savings of up to $1000 per couple still available. Email us from our website to find out more.
Ciao . . . a presto,
Villas of Italy specializes in all-inclusive superior villa vacations. We've designed our adventures so Italy can be experienced in intimate tour groups, Tourneo Custom air-conditioned vans, and one-of-a-kind Villa estates. Immerse yourself in Italy's picturesque towns and villages while enjoying exquisite cuisine, vibrant culture, and the spirit of Italy.
Explore our vacation options! HERE.
Tony Moglia's grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1900's. He's a dual citizen who has traveled extensively throughout Italy for 40 years. He's happily married to a vibrant dancer who together have two children and three grandchildren. Tony has dreamed of Villas of Italy since his first trip to Italy, and now he shares his dream with you.