Why You Need To Attend This Historic Tuscan Sporting Event
If you have ever traveled to Siena before, you will remember it's beautiful Black and White Marble faced Duomo, St. Catherine's Convent, the narrow streets and cute local shops that sell everything from fresh mozzarella to delicious cappuccinos. This medieval Tuscan city is known for its traditions and festivals. The most popular is "Il Palio di Siena" a traditional horse race that is held in Siena's Piazza del Campo twice each year, on July 2 and August 16., the shortest race in the world (it lasts three minutes)!
The Palio Horse Race plays a significant part in the life of the city today as it did centuries ago. Visitors to the city can watch the race for free from the center of Piazza del Campo (no chairs, the first who arrives gets a place) or pay a ticket to get a more comfortable position from the balconies of the buildings overlooking the show.
Ten horses and riders (see logos below), bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards.
The Palio which is held on July 2 is named "Palio di Provenzano", in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon.
During the week of the horse race, the city is abuzz with cultural and historic activities such as historical parades, outdoor dining in the medieval streets and the winner’s flag exhibition at the City Hall, Palazzo Pubblico.
Visiting Siena is easier than ever with Donna Franca Tours. This Tuscan medieval gem is one of the featured stops included in Donna Franca's iconic premier, first class and deluxe Italian Fever hybrid vacation.
Hotel of the Month:Villa del Sogno Gardone Riviera
Villa del Sogno is a romantic Villa surrounded by a large centuries-old park, planted with tall trees and flowering gardens.
The superb Terrace overlooking the beautiful blue water of Lake Garda has always enchanted travellers from all over the world. The panoramic restaurant offers local gastronomic specialties paired with fine wines.
Built in 1904 by the German silk industrialist Maximilian Heydweiller in a neoclassical style, it is an exclusive and welcoming location in which the rooms and the suites are all furnished in different ways and offer the most modern comforts.
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.
Please visit our hotels page for more details.
Recipe of the Month: Florentine Savory Crepes
- o 200g very fresh part skim ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
- o 2 Eggs
- o 200 grams of fresh spinach
- o A handful of grated Parmesan Cheese
- o Pinch of Nutmeg
- o 60 grams of superfine white flour
- o 2 Eggs
- o 1 Glass of Milk
- o 20 grams of Butter
Catch the Sicilian Fever!
Our new 9 days/8 nights Sicilian Fever itinerary will feature the cities of Palermo, Agrigento, Syracuse and Taormina, with visits to Mondello, Monreale, Erice, Alcamo, Piazza Armerina, Noto, Ragusa, Catania and Mount Etna.
Featuring the Four Pillars of Siciy. Palermo (2 nights)with visits to Mondello, Monreale Agrigento (1 night) with visits to Castellamare del Golfo, Alcamo and Erice Syracuse (2 nights) with visits to Piazza Armerina, Noto and Ragusa, Taormina (3 nights) with visits to Catania, Mount Etna
- Eight nights’ accommodation in select centrally located hotels
- Buffet breakfast daily, hotel tax and service
- Arrival and departure transfers by private car and driver
- Intercity transfers as indicated by private car and driver
- Organic winery and farm visit with wine tasting of the Bianco d’Alcamo followed by lunch in Alcamo
- Winery & olive oil mill visit, wine tasting of the Nero D’Avola with Sicilian specialties outside of Noto
- Winery visit, wine tasting, followed by a rustic lunch with wine on the slopes of Mt. Etna
- Private half-day guided tours in Palermo, Agrigento, Syracuse, Ragusa, and Taormina, including applicable entrance fees
DAY 1 PALERMO
Transfer by private car and driver from the Palermo Falcone & Borsellino Airport to your centrally-located hotel. After check-in, you will have time to freshen up before jump starting your visit with a leisurely stroll through the historic center of this lively metropolis.
DAY 2 PALERMO – MONDELLO – MONREALE – PALERMO
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a morning private guided tour of Palermo, the synthesis of “planet Sicily,” a rich hybrid of Baroque, Saracen, Norman and Spanish cultures. See the St. John of the Hermits Cathedral, the Norman Palace, the La Martorana Church, the Quattro Canti, Fontana della Vergogna and colorful Capo Market. Continue on to Monreale to visit the magnificent Norman Cathedral and adjoining Benedictine Abbey. Then, journey to Mondello, a quintessential fishing village on the outskirts of Palermo, for free time to enjoy your surroundings and lunch on your own. Late afternoon return to Palermo.
DAY 3 PALERMO – CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO - ALCAMO- ERICE - AGRIGENTO
Enjoy buffet breakfast at the hotel before private transfer with English-speaking driver to Agrigento, located on the southwestern part of the island. Your first stop will be in Castellamare del Golfo for a panoramic overview of the Castle and quaint fishing harbor. Continue to Alcamo. Stop to visit an organic farm with wine tasting of the Bianco d’Alcamo, followed by lunch with wine. We proceed to Erice, a triangular shaped walled city perched atop Mount Venere. View the Statue of Venus and Gardens. Perhaps sample the famous marzipan sweets at a local shop. Late afternoon arrival at your hotel in Agrigento.
DAY 4 AGRIGENTO – PIAZZA ARMERINA – SYRACUSEBREAKFAST
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, depart by private car to the Valley of the Temples. Enjoy a private guided walking tour of this amazing archaeological site. Marvel at the majestic Temple of Juno, the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Concordia, all symbols of this once-thriving Greek enclave. From there continue to Piazza Armerina for a visit to the famous Villa Casale, where you will find the world’s most interesting collection of Roman mosaics, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take some time to stroll along the centuries-old narrow streets that lead to the majestic cathedral. After lunch on your own, proceed to Syracuse, located on the southeastern tip of the island. Check-in and room assignment at your hotel.
DAY 5 SYRACUSE – RAGUSA – NOTO - SYRACUSE
BREAKFAST, WINE, OLIVE OIL TASTING IN NOTO
Enjoy buffet breakfast at your hotel before a private guided tour of Syracuse; highlights include the Archaeological Park with Greek Amphitheater, the Ear of Dionysius and the Latomie. Continue on to the tiny Baroque Island of Ortigia to see the Fountain of Arethusa, the Cordari Grotto and one of Italy’s most beautiful squares. After lunch on your own, drive to nearby Ragusa for a private guided tour of this important Baroque city, now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your last stop will be in Noto, another Baroque gem, where you will enjoy a winery visit, wine tasting of Nero D’Avola and an olive oil tasting . Late afternoon return to Syracuse.
DAY 6 SYRACUSE – CATANIA – MT. ETNA – TAORMINA
BREAKFAST & WINE TASTING & LUNCH AT A PRIVATE ESTATE ON MT. ETNA
Enjoy your buffet breakfast at the hotel before departing by private car for the eastern coast of Sicily. First stop is a visit to Catania with its colorful fish market, main piazza and stunning cathedral where famous opera composer Bellini is buried. Continue on to the northeastern slopes of Mt. Etna to enjoy a specially arranged wine tasting followed by a rustic lunch with wine at one of the area’s most prestigious wine estates.
Journey onward to Taormina, a resort town perched high on the cliffs of Mount Tauro and renowned for its unspoiled natural beauty, history and friendly atmosphere. Check-in to your hotel in Taormina and enjoy the evening on your own.
DAY 7 TAORMINA
Enjoy buffet breakfast at your hotel prior to a private guided walking tour of Taormina. This charming seaside resort’s highlights include the Duomo, the Church of San Nicola, Corso Umberto, Palazzo Corvaja and the Botanical Gardens. The tour culminates with a visit to the stunning Greco-Roman Amphitheater overlooking the shimmering blue Ionian Sea. Spend the balance of your day leisurely shopping and exploring the many tiny boutiques along the trendy Corso Umberto.
DAY 8 TAORMINA
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, the day is yours to enjoy your beautiful surroundings. Bask in the sun at the pool or take time for some last-minute shopping—those forgotten postcards, that special gift for a loved one...
DAY 9 DEPARTURE
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, transfer by private car and driver to Catania Vincenzo Bellini Airport to board your return flight back to the U.S. or extend your stay in Italy and Malta.
Accommodation, Departure Dates and PricesPREMIUM PACKAGE
Hotel Tonic in Palermo
Hotel Blu Kaos, Colleverde Park in Agrigento
Hotel Alla Giudecca in Syracuse
Hotel Isabella in Taormina
PRICING PER PERSON, DOUBLE OCCUPANCY
VALID FOR TRAVEL MARCH 16 – OCTOBER 31, 2017
PARTY SIZE PREMIUM PACKAGE
2 Participants $3,299.00
4 Participants $2,249.00
6 Participants $1,899.00
8 Participants $1,699.00
Single Supplement $2,500.00
Larger parties welcome, contact us any time for a price quote.
Top 5 Summer Italian Destinations
Starting Vacation Package Price: $899
Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: Grand Hotel Royal e Golf
3 Reasons Why Easter is Awesome in Italy
1. Dancing with the Devils
2. A Holy Experience in the Colosseum
3. Watch the historic Scoppio del Carro
The Scoppio del Carro is a folk tradition in Florence which brings hundreds of people to the streets of Florence on Easter Sunday to watch a cart, packed full of fireworks and other pyrotechnics, explode. The 30 foot tall antique cart is escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians, and people in 15th century dress. Shortly thereafter, at the singing of the Gloria in excelcis Deo during Easter Mass, the Cardinal of Florence lights a fuse on the colombina, a rocket shaped as a dove, with the Easter fire., which then zips over the heads of parishioners to ignite the cart outside. The complex array of fireworks lasts about 20 minutes. According to tradition, a successful display of the "Explosion of the Cart" guarantees a good harvest, stable civic life, and good fortune to all.
5 Reasons to Visit Venice
Why travel to Venice? As one of Italy's most unique and romantic destinations, Donna Franca Tours shares five of the best attractions of the Serene Republic.
1. The Grand Canal
The two mile-long Grand Canal is the city's most popular and highly photographed attraction. Hiring a gondolier for a romantic cruise along the canal is a must!
2. Saint Mark's Basilica
Located in the center of Venice, The church was built in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist, whose remains were stolen from their home in Alexandria, Egypt, and hidden in barrels of pork by a couple of crafty Venetians, intent on bringing him to rest in Venice. If you look closely at the church's center gable, you can see a statue of St. Mark along with Venice's emblem: a lion with wings.
3. The Rialto Bridge
The bridge's current incarnation is the handiwork of Antonio da Ponte, whose name translates to "Anthony of the Bridge," is built entirely of marble after collapsing multiple times from previous wooden designs. Predicted to fail by critics, the bridge still stands and is considered an engineering marvel.
4. Campanile di San Marco
The bell tower was constructed in the early 20th century, as a replica of the 15th-century original. The former one provided a stage for Galileo Galilei's presentation of the telescope; it also served as a stage for tight rope walkers who would humor the doge with their feats during the Flight of the Angel celebration. Today's campanile is used for sightseers desiring a Venetian panorama - though one without canals; oddly, the canals are obscured from so high up.
5. Doge's Palace & the Bridge of Sighs
The Doge's Palace has witnessed an intriguing history in its role as the residence of the doge (leader), the seat of government and the palace of justice. Everything from execution orders to the affairs of Venetian leaders were carried out here; a web of secret passageways and hidden doors reveals a decidedly mysterious past.
Centuries ago, the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge's Palace to the dungeons, was used to transport prisoners from the courtroom to the prisons. Legend has it that the Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian, was named for the sighs prisoners like Giacomo Casanova would utter as they took one last look at the outside world through the bridge's windows as they were brought to prison. On a much lighter note, Venetian lore says if two lovers kiss on a gondola under the bridge, they'll be granted with eternal bliss.
Let's Celebrate International Women's Day!
On Wednesday, March 8th, Italy celebrates La Festa della Donna (International Women's Day) to honor women's political, economic and social achievements.
The Mimosa is an emblem of Women's Day, their bright yellow blossoms symbolize the vitality and joy which women bestow upon us in our daily lives.
During the festival, it has become a tradition to gift small sprigs of Mimosa Flowers to women of all ages.
An interesting twist is that part of the proceedings support projects related to women's causes, such as breast cancer research, housing for victims of domestic violence, and women's rights movements.
On this day, many Italian restaurants offer a special Festa della Donna menu, and there are many performances and concerts. Some museums and archaeological sites even offer free or reduced admission for women.
Women's Day has its roots in two events that took place outside of Italy. On March 8, 1857 a strike by garment workers in New York, leading to the formation of the first women's union of the United States! Sixty years later Russian women led a strike calling for "bread and peace" during the twin horrors of World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1945 the Italian Women's Union declared that March 8, should be set aside to celebrate womanhood across the country.
Some Italians joke that the holiday was created so that men would pay special attention to their spouse once a year, others claim that it was created for commercial purposes. Some women have "ladies only" parties and leave the men at home!
So, why not surprise the women in your life with a sprig of Mimosa on the 8th? They will certainly appreciate this small gesture and its greater significance.
Italian Hotel of the Month: Grand Hotel Excelsior Terme