Italy Magazine tells us that at the courts of Italy’s most powerful families of the Renaissance, as well as the
Vatican, hosting sumptuous banquets was a major pastime, used especially as a demonstration of power and wealth. Skilled chefs were in high demand. Two of the most famous from the Renaissance, Bartolomeo Scappi and Cristoforo di Messisbugo, worked respectively for the popes in Rome and for the Este court in Ferrara.
Scappi started his career working for various cardinals, until he was hired to be the chef of the Vatican under Pope Pius IV and V. In 1570, toward the end of his career, he published a monumental cookbook, Opera dell'arte del cucinare, which listed 1,000 recipes of Renaissance cuisine; in it, he also described cooking techniques and tools and how to choose ingredients; he was the first to introduce ingredients coming from newly discovered America. In the book is the first depiction of a fork. Scappi wrote that Parmigiano Reggiano was the best cheese in the world (“il Parmigiano è il migliore di tutti i cacii”). Including numerous recipes of pasta, stuffed pasta, cakes and other pastry-based preparations, his book is a precursor of what would become modern Italian cuisine.
Ferrara-born Cristoforo di Messisbugo was a chef at the court of the Este, but his fame soon went beyond the city; he was often invited to Mantua, at the court of the Gonzaga, for consulting, while emperor Charles V, fascinated by his craftsmanship, nominated him a ‘count’. Cristoforo also wrote a cookbook, Banchetti, composizioni di vivande e apparecchio generale, where he described in great detail how to create the perfect banquet and the menus for his official feast at the Este court. Some of his recipes are still made in Ferrara today. Besides listing recipes, he also discusses logistics, decor, and cooking equipment. In the book, we also learn that the best caviar could be eaten at the court of the Este as it came from the Beluga sturgeon from the Po river, which flows near Ferrara.
In Italy, the rules for making the delicacy, panettone, are strict: in order to be labeled as such, a native panettone must be composed of no less than 20 percent candied fruit, 16 percent butter, and eggs that are at least four percent yolk. Attempts by the Italian agriculture ministry to have these standards applied abroad have not panned out, and the reality is that panettone is a dessert with many homes.
Panettone has actually been a worldly product from the very beginning. From the Middle Ages onward, the pastry was appropriate for a feast day precisely because it involved ingredients that were hard to come by. In the 15th century—a period in which bread flour usually involved cheaper grains like spelt and rye—the first panettone was made entirely from wheat flour, and thus more likely to impress the in-laws. And given the climate of northern Italy, additions like candied citron or orange peel would have had to come from hundreds of miles away, beyond, perhaps, even the borders of modern-day Italy.
“Panettone was not born as a homemade cake, nor has it ever been,” says Stanislao Porzio, a food scholar and author of a 2007 book on the subject. “It was never important that the place of provenance of the ingredients be near the place of preparation.
In other words, nothing is inherently inauthentic about a panettone made in the Western hemisphere. In the 1930s, when Angelo Motta was installing a 100-foot conveyor belt in his bakery on Milan’s Viale Corsica to create what Porzio calls the world’s first “industrial panettone,” an entrepreneur named Antonio D’Onofrio had already established a market for the pastry in Lima, Peru, where thousands of immigrants from Piedmont and Lombardy had arrived since the mid-1800s. Today, the brands of Motta and D’Onofrio (now owned by Nestle) compete in the Peruvian marketplace, where slices of panettone—inflected with bits of dried papaya—is the sweet of choice for both Christmas and Independence Day, celebrated in July. Italy may dominate in global panettone consumption, at a rate of 75 million cakes purchased in 2016, but Peruvian fans are no less sincere. They consumed 42 million panettoni in the same year, sometimes enjoying variations like cocatón, in which about five percent of the flour is made from coca leaves, or by incorporating a fruity edible fungus native to the pine forests around Lambayeque.
In sales, Italian confectioners have been outpaced for a long time by companies like Bauducco, another multi-generational enterprise, founded in the 1950s by an Italian immigrant to Brazil. The company is probably the biggest panettone producer on earth, making more than 200,000 tons each year for more than 50 countries and operating six industrial bakeries, including one in the United States.
“It’s a tradition that goes back generations,” says Ricardo Bastos, a Brazilian grocer in the Astoria section of Queens, New York. Bastos sells Bauducco’s panettone year-round at his store, Rio Supermarket.
Stanislao, the historian, admits to having tasted the Bauducco brand himself, and gave it a tactful review. (“It had a different, romantic character.”) He remains passionate about preserving the traditions of panettone-making in his home country of Italy and is the sponsor of a petition on Change.org to have the recipe recognized as a valuable cultural artifact by Unesco. In 2008, he launched Re Panettone (“Panettone King”), an annual competition in Milan aimed at promoting panettone variations made by artisanal bakers and pastry-makers. While far-off ingredients like saffron or tonka bean are welcome, entrants eschew the use of preservatives—even those somehow permitted by the Italian Pastry and Pasta Association—and are rewarded for their attention to detail and respect for the original formula.
A more historical perspective . . . The pastry was first mentioned in a manuscript from the 1470s, written by a preceptor in Milan’s House of Sforza. A legend tells of a story when Ludovico il Moro was the Duke of Milan. It begins one evening when the Duke's cook was asked to prepare a delicious banquet for the duke and a number of nobles. The cook successfully prepared the feast, however, he forgot about the dessert in the oven, which had burnt by the time he remembered it. The cook was in despair but thankfully the little kitchen boy, Toni, suggested using the sweet cake he had made for himself in the morning using flour, butter, eggs, lime zest, and raisins. The cook was afraid he had no other solutions, so agreed to offer the cake to the guests. They both nervously stood behind the door to see the reactions of the duke's friends.
To the cook's relief, everybody loved the cake. The duke enjoyed it so much that he asked for its name. The cook responded "L'è 'l pan de Toni", meaning 'the bread of Toni'. The name has since evolved to Panettone.
Hoping you get to enjoy a slice of my bread, L'è 'l pan de Toni, or panettone, this Christmas season . . . Buon Natale!
Want to drink Italian coffee according to etiquette? Italy magazine tells us these are the rules you need to follow on your next espresso break or when serving to family and friends.
How to stir
Even if you don’t put sugar in your coffee, it is always preferable to stir espresso with a teaspoon so that the aromas are well distributed; according to etiquette, you need to stir in delicate movements, from top to bottom, without ever bumping the cup because making noise would be impolite.
Where to place the teaspoon
After stirring, etiquette says you have to place the teaspoon on the right side of the small plate where the cup rests. Do not put the spoon in your mouth: it is considered bad manners to taste the coffee with the spoon that was used to mix it.
How to hold the coffee cup
According to etiquette, you have to lift the cup using only thumb and index finger without ever raising the little finger. The coffee should be drunk in small sips without blowing on it if it’s too hot; just wait a few minutes before drinking it. The cup should be brought to the mouth and not the other way around; once you’ve finished drinking, the cup should be placed back on the small plate.
Water: before or after coffee?
Water should always be drunk first to cleanse the palate in order to better taste the aromas of coffee.
If you’re serving espresso at home, there are rules to follow too:
- Coffee should not be served at the table, but in the living room;
- If the coffee is prepared with the moka machine, the moka should be put on the tray along with cups,
sugar bowl and milk;
- It’s always best to accompany coffee with a good dessert.
In our travels here at Villas of Italy we always take copious notes about restaurants, new or old, hotels, sights and attractions. We use these when crafting our tours in order to give our guests the best possible tour experience. And, we are always on the lookout for the best restaurants no matter where we go.
Silvia Donati at Italy Magazine shares with us The 41st edition of “Ristoranti e Vini d’Italia” (Restaurants and Wines of Italy), the guide published every year by L’Espresso, one of Italy's foremost weekly newsmagazines, was presented last week in Florence (inaugurating the ‘2019 season’ of the culinary guides, which concludes in November with the release of the most prestigious of all, the Michelin guide).
More than 2,000 dining establishments are featured in the L’Espresso 2019 guide, and not just the fanciest ones, but also trattorie, osterie, pizzerie, street food places, vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants, hamburger places, panino (sandwich) places, and more.
Restaurants in the guide are assigned from one to five hats, with one hat indicating good cuisine
and five hats indicating excellence . . . the best overall.
There are seven restaurants in the guide with five hats;
restaurants that make the best classics of Italian cuisine;
Lunch of the year: Osteria Francescana (which this year won first place in the 50 Best World’s
Restaurants guide), Modena. Owner / Chef Massimo Bottura tells us, “our kitchen is not a list of
ingredients or a demonstration of technical abilities. It is a narration of the Italian landscape and our passions.
Cooking is a collision of ideas, techniques and cultures. It is not mathematical. It is emotional.”
Best host service: Palagio at Four Seasons in Florence.
Best new restaurant of the year: there are two in the 2019 guide;
Patisserie of the year: the three Michelin-starred St. Hubertus in San Cassiano (Bolzano, South Tyrol), with pastry chef Andrea Tortora.
Female chef of the year: Chiara Pavan, from one Michelin-starred restaurant Venissa in Mazzorbo (Venice). Mazzorbo is an island connected to the island of Burano by a foot bridge. This restaurant and chef are a 5-minute boat ride from our villa on the nearby island of Torcello where our guests stay during our Venezia – La Serenissima tour.
Chef Chiara Pavan, from one Michelin-starred restaurant Venissa in Mazzorbo
So, whether or not you travel with us, use this guide to try the best restaurants in Italy, and let us know what you think . . . we'll add it to our notes.
Francine Segan with Italian Magazine shares with us how ancient Romans approached staying healthy. Many of these same 'health tips' exist in Italy to this day. So, what did the ancient Romans do to stay healthy.
The ancient Romans thought that wine was essential to good health because they considered it an aid to digestion. They also thought that drinking wine sparked conversation during dinner. Wine was so important to them that the ancients called a meal without wine a “dog’s dinner.” So do as the ancient Romans—sip, chat, nibble, sip.
Food not pharmacy
The ancient Romans followed the teachings of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who famously wrote, “Let food be thy medicine.” When patients were sick the first thing Hippocrates prescribed was a change in diet. There weren’t drug stores back then so ancient Romans tried to cure their illness by either eating-- or not eating-- certain foods.
Marcus Cato, the second-century BC Roman statesman, devotes several pages in his book, On Agriculture, to the “so-called Seven Good Things” about cabbage. According to him cabbage can treat wounds, reduce swellings, set dislocated bones, and even prevent drunkenness. The ancients believed the cabbage was sacred, “the prophet among vegetables.” A common exclamation at the time was, “So help me Cabbage!”
Sigmund Freud wasn’t the only one into dreams. Hippocrates analyzed dreams to help diagnose what ailed his patients. He believed that while we sleep our body tries to communicate to our brain. For Hippocrates, if someone is healthy he dreams, more or less, about normal daily activities. But if a patient is ill, they might have odd dreams, which is the body’s attempt to explain what’s wrong. Hippocrates and ancient Romans thought, for example, that dreams about floods might mean kidney problems, dreams of trees falling might mean a man had reproductive problems and needed the equivalent of ancient blue pill. Interestingly, Hippocrates observed that patients often have frightening nightmares after a too-heavy meal. The ancient Romans thought figs kept away nightmares. Don’t take any chances; try the Fig Focaccia recipe below.
Eat your veggies….raw
There are many modern health authorities and chefs who advocate a raw-foods-only diet, a notion with its roots in antiquity. Galen, physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, recounts a story of a medical student who “resolved never to light a fire.” Eating only raw foods, the student “stayed healthy during all these years.” Galen wrote extensively on healthful eating and recommended raw salads dressed with oil, honey, and vinegar for good digestion. For an enticing accompaniment for raw veggies try an Olive Puree.
Don’t dine solo
Dinner in antiquity was almost always a social affair shared with a few close friends at someone’s home. The ancient Romans actually believed that eating alone could give you indigestion because without fun conversation you might eat too much and too fast.
Exercising in the town gymnasium or public baths was part of everyday Roman life. Hippocrates wrote, “Walking is a natural exercise, much more so than other exercises.” Galen, a first century Roman physician, was such a prolific writer that his complete works have yet to be fully translated. In one of his books, On Exercise with the Small Ball, he recommended sports as an excellent and economical way to stay fit.
In antiquity, Roman citizens considered it a virtue to take care of their bodies, believing it demonstrated their self-control and discipline. Look at Hippocratic’s advice for those with sore, over worked muscles, “get drunk once or twice” and have “sexual intercourse after a moderate indulgence in wine.”
If it’s from the water, eat it
Ancient Romans, like modern Italians, love fish, not surprising for a country with so much coastline.
The ancient Romans enjoyed a fermented fish sauce called “garum” or “liquamen” which they manufactured and distributed throughout the Mediterranean and northern regions of Europe. This all-purpose salty condiment topped everything from vegetables to meats, and was used as we might Worcestershire or soy sauce.
Archeologists recently excavated an amphora, or large clay vessel, at the site of one Roman ruin in England. The outside of the vessel reads, "Seasoned tuna garum, for the pantry, excellent and of high quality.”
Sweets in moderation
Ancient philosophers wrote often about healthful eating. Plato, for example, noted that sugar should be avoided by all athletes saying, “something which all men in training understand—that if one is to keep his body in good condition he must abstain from such things all together.” However, even Plato would have approved of these Bay Leaf Cookies adapted from On Agriculture, a book by the Roman Statesman Cato the Elder. The original recipe is for “Must Cakes” -reduced grape syrup- like Italy’s modern-day saba, plus spices and cheese baked on bay leaves.
10 1/2 ounces, about 2 cups, all-purpose flour
1 packet, 1/4 ounce, fast acting yeast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
18 very small figs
3 tablespoons honey, plus more as needed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sift the flour onto a clean work surface or into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and fill with 1/2 cup of warm water (keep another 1/4 cup of water handy to add later). Sprinkle the yeast on the water, and let the yeast bubble, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, sugar and salt, and slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the center hollow, combining with each addition, until dough forms. Knead the dough until smooth and rest it in a lightly oiled bowl until it doubles, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and oil a flat cookie sheet or baking pan, at least 12 inches wide.
Roll out the dough into a circle about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Place on the prepared pan. Pierce the dough throughout with a fork. Carefully cut a cross on top of one of the figs, halfway down, so the figs opens like a flower. Press it into the center of the dough.
Remove the stems from the 17 remaining figs, slice them in half, and arrange them around the focaccia, cut side up, pressing them into the dough as far as possible.
Put the honey into a small bowl and heat for a few seconds in the microwave or over boiling water. Stir in the lemon juice. Drizzle the mixture over the top of the figs and foccaccia dough. Sprinkle with rosemary. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and drizzle with more honey.
Olive Puree with Raw Veggies
From: The Philosopher’s Kitchen, by Francine Segan (Random House)
1/2 cup pitted whole oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup pitted whole brine-cured green olives
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, mint, and basil
Zest of 1 lemon
Assorted raw veggies
Combine the olives, onion, olive oil, garlic and fennel seed in a food processor and puree until smooth. Place in a serving bowl, top with the minced herbs and the lemon zest. Serve with raw vegetables.
Bay Leaf Cookies
Yield: 2-1/2 dozen cookies
From: The Philosopher’s Kitchen, by Francine Segan (Random House)
1/2 cup lard or butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup saba, grape must reduction
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/2 cups all purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ricotta
3 bay leaves, finely crumbled and coated with olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the lard or butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, salt, baking soda, grape juice concentrate, anise seeds, and cumin and continue beating. Slowly add in the flour until combined.
In a small bowl mix the ricotta and remaining tablespoon of sugar until smooth.
Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased non-stick cookie sheet and make an indent in the center with a teaspoon. Place half a teaspoonful of the sweet ricotta mixture into the center. Top with a sprinkle of crumbled bay leaves.
Bake in the center rack until the bottoms are golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
Ciao from Tuscany! It is now autumn here and thoughts turn to the vineyards as the region prepares for one of its favorite traditions, the vendemmia (wine harvest). Those of you who have been here with us at the villa on tour (and some of you were here during the harvest of the vineyards next to the villa), remember it was a difficult harvest last year as the years rainfall was much less than normal, so the harvest produced anywhere from 25-50% less grape. But as many of you experienced Italians do not complain, they spoke about looking forward to learning (and tasting) how that years vintage would turn out.
So, this year after a plentiful rainy season, careful tending, trimming and tasting, Tuscan grapes are ready to be transformed into what is music to every Tuscan’s ear, vino nuovo (new wine). Of course, you don’t have to own a vineyard to partake in the season’s festivities. There are plenty of fantastic wine festivals in the coming months that celebrate the harvest and the traditional dishes that are prepared alongside it, giving you the perfect excuse to raise a glass with the locals. Just don’t forget to say “Salute” or ‘Cin Cin’.
Tuscany has some great wine festivals. As old as the act of making wine itself , this is your chance to taste the region’s reds and whites as the locals intended (and very different from our tasting experiences in the US; away from fussy cellars, tasting rooms and stark wine shops), rather in Italy accompanied by plenty of great food and by locals in period costume, and music.
Those of you who have been with us on tour remember the town Greve in Chiani where one of these festivals, Expo del Chianti Classico just occurred. Expo del Chianti Classico is the event for the serious Tuscan wine buff. Hundreds of stands were set up in the gorgeous main piazza, representing the best of local Florentine and Sienese producers. Throughout the festival, there was ample time to taste and buy from the winemakers as well as plenty of free lectures on the history and cultural significance of Chianti, guided tours through the town, live and DJ music and … the annual highlight, super bingo!
The last Sunday in September is the Festa dell’Uva in Impruneta, a small town just outside of Florence. The grand dame of Tuscan wine festivals, Impruneta’s Festa dell’Uva is a celebration of ‘vino’ in Italy. It’s a celebration of the grape growers and wine makers that define their cultura Contadina (farming heritage). Sure, there’s plenty of wine to taste – here the locals are partial to the Toscano I.G.T - but there’s also an action-packed cart race between the four town districts, which battle it out for a hand-painted cup and a year’s worth of bragging rights.
Tuscany’s wine festivals aren’t just about enjoying a glass or two with some great food, they’re also a chance to taste the best established and up-and-coming vintages.
Sangiovese is Italy’s numero uno grape. The name means ‘Blood of Jove’, aka Jupiter, the Father of the Roman Gods. Sangiovese is at the core of Chianti, which was once considered as simply a red table wine.
Chianti is now the feature wine at all of Northern Tuscany’s wine festivals. Chianti has sour cherry notes with hints of tomato and tea leaves, violets, herbs, earth, licorice and leather.
Southern Tuscany’s quickly becoming favorite wine is also packed with plenty of Sangiovese. The Morellino di Scansano is Tuscany’s youngest DOCG wine. Its name stems from the word ‘morello’, either the dark red morello cherry found in the area or a local nickname for the brown color of its horses. The Morellino di Scansano is rough around the edges, full-bodied, fresh and fruity with ripe notes of plum and other dark fruits.
Tuscany isn’t really famous for its whites, but is known for the Tuscan wine Vernaccia most notably Vernacci di San Gimignano. Those of you who have joined us at the villa, had much of this wine. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the most well known variety of Vernaccia and produces crisp wine with good acidity and citrus fruit, and is sometimes blended with the local Trebbiano grape. But, if you’re partial to something lighter, you can try the wine from nearby Elba, Elba Ansonica, named after the region’s favorite white wine grape, the Ansonica has an intense aroma and a flavor that drifts from dry to sweet.
Consider joining us on our all-inclusive Tuscan Adventure, August 18-28, 2019 to experience all that is Tuscany. We only have 3 couples spots (6 people double occupancy) remaining for this tour (6 couples max.). If you have family or friends who you would like to share what will be ‘lifetime memories’ please contact us for further tour details. Early booking discounts of up to $1000 per couple are still available.
A small $500 deposit per person will hold your spot. And, please read our informative blogs at Villas of Italy. We are looking forward to sharing the real Italy with you in 2019.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
Ciao . . . a presto!
The magazine, L’Italo-Americano the #1 source of all things Italian since 1908, shares with us about eating and living with Italian gusto . . . which is what we at Villas of Italy create for our guests while on tour. Not only during our meals at the villa with Chef Mauro, but also while on tour with Giacomo and our city guides . . . we share the life, culture, cuisine, and art of the Italian people who always - no matter what they do – live life with gusto.
Eating in Italy mirrors life: it speaks of family, friends and love, of history and local heritage, of a past that shapes the future, something of which we are still profoundly and undeniably proud. This is what we share with our guests on every tour.
Just like the arts, food is one of the most important aspects of Italian life and Italian culture. As I experienced growing up in the kitchens of my grandparents, my great aunts and uncles they always used simple recipes, simple ingredients, respect for the past and a lot of love. In Italy, food is an expression of love (sounds a bit corny, but if you’ve met our villa Chef Mauro you know what I mean) where eating becomes a joyous gathering and food is a sign of welcoming, of affection.
We recreate this ‘tradition’, this ‘feeling’, with each meal while on tour at the villa, a philosophy where simplicity is key, using ingredients that are local, fresh and organic, because the most beautiful surprises come from the humblest of things - in the kitchen, just as in life.
In Italy, “every meal counts:” it counts because it becomes, day in day out, the central moment for family and friends to take time to gather. A meal in Italy is a moment of profound community, of sharing and discussion. You eat, and enjoy the warmth of those you love the most. Our Italian ancestors all understood the importance of sharing food and gathering around a table. In a world of social media and smartphone relationships, learning from this Italian tradition could make many rediscover the pleasure of true human contact.
The soul of Italy has been, for centuries, agricultural and it’s here we find the origin of much of our time-honored dishes: and so, out comes our Italian cuisine’s tradition of using simple ingredients and seasonal recipes, for things that fill you up from morning to evening, that comfort the stomach just as much as they soothe the soul.
Very rarely does Italian food ask for ‘special’ ingredients, very rarely does it involve complex, overly fancy preparations. Those who have been at the villa with us and have experienced the phenomena that is Chef Mauro, know it is understanding the beauty of what we have and discovering the treasures of what’s around us. And if this is not a lesson to learn for life as well . . .
Italians are pleasure lovers! And food is one of the pleasures we love the most. What does Italy’s affair with fresh, organic ingredients in the creation of unbelievably delicious food tell us about life?
Well, I think it’s simple: it is an invitation to enjoy the earthy pleasures of everyday living with an open heart because life is too short to be perennially on a diet or to postpone that trip we’ve always wanted to take.
At Villas of Italy we strive to share with our guests that eating the Italian way also teaches us a thing or two about how to live a better life, how to live life filled with friendship, with love, with serenity.
We hope we will see you at the villa soon to experience the life, culture, cuisine, and art of the Italian people who always - no matter what they do – live life with gusto.
Our Tuscan Adventure, August 18-28, 2019 (6 couples Max.) has 3 couples spots (double occupancy) remaining. Contact us for special early booking pricing saving up to $1000 per couple. A small $500pp deposit will hold your space.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
Yesterday we had the great pleasure of having lunch with a good buddy from college and his wife (he was in my wedding and I was in his) who are joining us on our Tuscan Adventure next year August 18-28, 2019. We had a wonderful time catching up but our conversation eventually turned to the trip. One of the questions was how far in advance to purchase airfare? Those of you who will be joining us in Venice for our Venezia - La Serenissima tour in June (sold out) or our Tuscan Adventure (3 couples spots left) you will be receiving many emails with all kinds of great travel tips and what to consider when traveling. You can also read our blogs and FAQ's here on our website that will give you a ton of information. And, if you still have questions you can always email us and we'll get back to you with answers to your questions, and probably answers to questions you haven't thought of yet!?
The question of how far in advance to purchase your airfare . . . we usually recommend the best time to purchase airfare to Europe is 3-5 months out from your trip. If you purchase farther out than 5 months out you could be paying too much, and if you wait to purchase closer than 3 months to your trip you'll likely pay more as well.
We always recommend using fare trackers to watch for preferential pricing like Kayak, airfarewatchdog, skyscanner, tripsavvy, orbitz, etc. that will alert you when the fares drop or into the pricing range you've set.
This coming year however we are suggesting waiting closer to the 3 month mark as 2019 is the year airfares may drop for a few of reasons. With the US economy growing stronger and showing signs of not slowing down anytime soon, the currency exchange rate is moving into more favorable territory for the dollar which will increase your buying power, and there are BIG changes coming in the airline industry which may generate fare wars.
For the last many, many years us Americans rarely flew on an unfamiliar air carrier; it’s been decades since U.S. travelers saw a new airline emerge. The Big Three (American, Delta, and United) have had little competition since Southwest and JetBlue came onto the scene in the 60s and 90s, respectively. But that may finally change. With a new low-cost American carrier taking off and European start-up airlines expanding to the States, so many more cheap flights across the globe could be on the horizon. Here are the new airlines to keep tabs on.
Faithful JetBlue flyers will be happy to know that the buzz about a new airline by the low-cost carrier’s founder, David Neeleman, looks to be coming to fruition. Neeleman recently annouced the tentative purchase of 60 Airbus A220-300 jets for the venture, which he’s referred to as “Moxy.” The new airline’s name is likely to change, but what’s clear is that Neeleman wants to stay true to JetBlue’s low-cost, high-comfort ethos, this time for secondary airports located outside of urban air hubs. “The A220 will enable us to serve thinner routes in comfort without compromising cost, especially on longer-range missions,” Neeleman told investors. But not so fast: Moxy isn’t likely to fly until 2021.
Backed by Qatar Airways and born of a small Italian carrier formerly called Meridiana, Air Italy is looking to capitalize on the shortcomings of financially troubled Alitalia, Italy’s national carrier. Air Italy’s flights to Italy and beyond (including Brazil, Spain, and Israel) began from New York’s JFK airport, Miami, and the airline’s Milan hub in early 2018. Those routes seem to be just the beginning: The new airline is expected to more than double its fleet by 2022.
A new airline concept out of France, French bee is billing itself as the first low-cost, long-haul-only airline. The focus is connecting France to far-off cities like San Francisco, which is the only American route for now. You'll start seeing French bee’s blue planes at more airports, and you should check out some low-cost long-haul options that’ll take you further for less.
Owned by IAG (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus) and based in Barcelona, budget carrier LEVEL began operations in 2017. It’s so far succeeding with its routes to Martinique, Punta Cana, Buenos Aires, Montreal, and Paris through Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Oakland. However, its recent airport meltdown, which stranded travelers in Montreal, indicates that management still needs to work out some details. LEVEL’s newest mission is to expand offerings from its Vienna hub, beginning with short-haul European flights that could eventually extend to the States.
Yet another new airline that’s low-cost and based in Europe, Primera Air began its transatlantic routes to the U.S. in 2017. Patterned on Norwegian Air (our latest personal favorite nonstop Oakland-Rome), Primera’s U.S. options include flights from New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to London and Paris.
A rare U.S. startup aiming to launch a big new airline, a tentative venture called World Airways resurfaced in 2017 when new investors bought out the “intellectual property” of a small carrier of the same name that went under in 2014. World Airways has been somewhat vague about its plans. Some statements seem to indicate a focus on long-haul routes with 787s, while others seem to say the line will copy Norwegian with transatlantic flights from New York’s Stewart International Airport.
So, a lot of reasons to watch and wait to purchase your airfare to Europe for 2019 but resist the temptation to wait to see if airfares will continue to drop within the 3 month window prior to the trip.
If you see a great price I would recommend buying it.
In a coming blog we'll give you more tips on 'how' to look for airfare - what to consider - perhaps not just flying from Point A to Point B, i.e., not just searching for airfare and typing in San Francisco to Florence, or Oakland to Venice.
And, if you are considering joining us for our next Tuscan Adventure, August 18-28, 2019, we have 3 couples spots left and we're still giving 'early booking' discounts off our listed tour price as an incentive to book now. Email us for details and our Tuscan Adventure daily itinerary.
Ciao . . . a presto!
Ever wonder which word is the most universally used word? We have, and L’Italo-Americano, the #1 source for all things Italian since 1908 has as well. L’Italo-Americano tells us, the single handedly most popular word of the bella lingua, the ultimate passport to Italian living, a word so famous it has been adopted by other nations, so perfect and clear it can’t be bettered is: Ciao.
Yes, Ciao. Can you think of anything more Italian than that? Where did it come from and when did we start using it? Was it always a salutation, or did it have a different meaning initially? So, here’s what we know about Italy’s “hello.”
Apparently, the origin of the word is found in the dialect of Venice, where people had the habit to say hello to each other using the word “s’ciavo,” or “slave.” No, Venetians were not crazy, quite simply they used the expression instead of the longer and more cumbersome “servo vostro,” which we’d translate in English as
“I am your servant,” or even “ at your service.” To find examples of such use, we don’t need to look any further than the work of Venice’s own playwright extraordinaire, Carlo Goldoni, who employed it often in his comedies about Venetian society.
“S’ciavo,” however, is not quite the same as ciao and it took some time and a good deal of linguistic evolution to go from the first to the latter. “S’ciavo” most likely came from the Latin servus, which meant servant or slave. During Imperial times, many slaves came from the area of what was then called Slavonia or Sclavonia, which roughly corresponds to modern Eastern Croatia. Because of languages’ transitive property, the adjective indicating people from those regions, sclavus or slavus, became synonym with the word servus: and that’s how we went from the Latin servus to the vulgar Italian schiavo.
Fast forward a few centuries and the rise in popularity of Dante and Guido Cavalcanti’s Dolce Stil Novo,
a type of poetry in vulgar Italian inspired by idealized love and the iconic figure of the donna angelo, gives to the word schiavo a new meaning: a schiavo is no longer a mere servant, but also someone subjugated by love and passion, someone ready to do anything for the object of his desire. And so, being a schiavo no longer means only and exclusively being a slave to a master, but also being ready to do anything for someone, just like an infatuated man would do for his lover. It’s in this sense that the use of “s’ciavo”in Venetian dialect should be interpreted: people would salute each other in the street saying “I am at your service,” a polite and reverent manner to show appreciation and respect.
The first, written attestation of the word ciao is 200 years old, although we can imagine its use in the oral language must have been already common for a while: it appeared in a letter written in 1818 by Francesco Benedetti, a playwright from Cortona who in it described the niceties received by a group of Milanese with whom he had gone to La Scala: “Questi buoni Milanesi cominciano a dirmi: Ciau Benedettin.” In 1819, British writer Lady Sidney Morgan mentioned people, always at La Scala in Milan, exchanging cordial ciavo, from a box to another. From the very same period is yet another written confirmation of the word, found in a letter sent by countess Giovanna Maffei, from Verona, to her husband, where she mentions that their young son “mi disse di dir ciao a Moti.”
Today, “ciao” is an international word, always associated with Italy, but whose meaning is clear in every corner of the world. Well, you know what? It has been the case for more than one hundred years, as its presence in a French novel dating 1893 proves: written by Paul Bourget, it has a character speaking in Italian and saying “Ciaò, simpaticone!” Just a few years later, at the beginning of the 1900s, a popular waltz entitled “Ciao” had people dancing around Europe. After the end of the Second World War, the popularity of Italian cinema helped the internationalization of “ciao” even further, making of it a linguistic symbol of Italy.
And because language is continuously evolving - as the origin itself of ciao demonstrates - there are new variations of our favorite salute, which have become particularly popular in recent years and decades: “ciao raga” (hey guys), “ciao neh” (hey! Hi!) and even the horrible “ciaone” (literally, a huge ciao), recent neologism already part of the Vocabolario Treccani della Lingua Italiana.
Today, “ciao” is the most used Italian word on earth, second only to another icon of Italy’s life and heritage: “pizza.” Short, simple to remember and with an interesting story: no wonder we all love it. And so it goes, the illustrious tale of “ciao,” of its birth and how it became the most common and colorful way to say hello to friends, family and people in the street: mostly used only among those who know each other, it’s not that uncommon, when the atmosphere allows it or the occasion calls for it, to say “ciao” to people we’ve just met, especially when we’ve enjoyed their company or shared a special experience: a little word that makes us all feel closer.
Why not join us in Tuscany to practice using ‘Ciao’. 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, 45 mins. south of Florence and 45mins. north of Siena. Savings of up to $1000 per couple still available. Email us for a detailed daily itinerary.
Ciao . . . a presto,
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
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.