News

Why You Need To Attend This Historic Tuscan Sporting Event

June 15, 2017

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

May 28, 2017

 

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

May 23, 2017

 

Donna Franca, the inspiration and name sake of Donna Franca Tours, is happy to share with you her favorite culinary delights!  Her  recipe for the month is Florentine Savory Crepes.
Ingredients:
 
The filling:
  • 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
The Crepes:
  • o    60 grams of superfine white flour
  • o    2 Eggs
  • o    1 Glass of Milk
  • o    20 grams of Butter
The Bèchamel Sauce:
 
      *    3 tbsp. butter
      *    4 tbsp. sifted flour
      *   2 cups hot milk
      *    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation Time: 1 1/2 Ho
First cook the spinach in a saute' pan in the butter. Squeeze out all the liquid and place in a bowl together with the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and a grating of nutmeg.  Stir well to combine all the ingredients uniformly into a homogeneous mixture.
Then prepare the batter for the crespelle, first incorporating the eggs and salt into the flour, then adding the melted butter and the milk. Leave the mixture to stand for at least half-an-hour.
 
For the Bèchamel Sauce, melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk for 1½ minutes (do not allow to brown).
Gradually add hot milk, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce is the consistency of thick cream, about 15 minutes.
When the crepes are cooked (in practice they are thin omelettes, fried in a little butter in a small frying pan until set on both sides), spread a little of the cheese and spinach stuffing over each one and roll them up like mini Swiss Rolls.
 
Grease an oven dish, cover the crespelle with bèchamel sauce and dredge with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
If you like, you can even dot with a few splatters of home-made tomato sauce. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes and Buon Appetito!

 

Catch the Sicilian Fever!

May 15, 2017

 

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 

Included Features

  • 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

 

BREAKFAST

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

BREAKFAST/WINE TASTING/LUNCH

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

 

BREAKFAST

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

 

BREAKFAST

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 
Or Similar

      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

April 21, 2017
Temperatures are rising, our days are getting longer, why not treat yourself to a relaxing summer holiday to Italy! Here are the top 5 "must visit" Italian destinations for spring & summer travel.
 
1.  AMALFI COAST and SORRENTO   Spend your days exploring the shops and galleries of Positano, savoring the famous "Limoncello," a cordial made from locally grown, mouthwatering lemons, and make sure to take in the spectacular panoramic view of Naples from the ultimate Caruso rooftop bar and Garden.
Starting Vacation Package Price for Amalfi Coast: $2,549
Starting Vacation Package Price for Sorrento: 
$549
 
Starting Vacation Package Price:  $599
 
3. CINQUE TERRE:  The Cinque Terre are five coastal villages in the Province of Le Spezia on the Ligurian Coast of Italy. Their names are Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola & Riomaggiore. 
 Starting Vacation Package Price: $899
 
4. SICILY:Sicily is the largest Island of  Italy, separated from the continent by the Straits of Messina and surrounded by the Ionian, Tyrrhenian and  Mediterranean Seas.  Nature has blessed the island with a myriad of wonders; mountains, hills and crystal-clear waters and mouth watering culinary specialties.  
Starting Vacation Package Price: $1,699
 
5.  ROME:The church bells awaken you as the city comes to life.  You are surrounded by an urban symphony of animated Italians, shop openings, scooting Vespas,  Roman ruins, cascading fountains and lovely piazzas.
Starting Vacation Package Price:  $1,599
 
Come join the celebration! For assistance with reservations on any of our amazing vacations,  please contact our Italian Vacation Planners  today at  617-375-9400 or click here to send us an e mail!

Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: Grand Hotel Royal e Golf

April 13, 2017
The Grand Hotel Royal e Golf is situated at the foot of Mt. Blanc in the Italian Alps where you can indulge in a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday.  The hotel features an outdoor heated swimming pool, wood-fired sauna, a fitness area and Wellness Center.
This historic resort built in 1854 has  hosted prominent guests such as  Queen Margherita and Giosuè Carducci.
 
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.   Please visit our hotels page for more details.

 

3 Reasons Why Easter is Awesome in Italy

April 4, 2017
From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, this is an opportune period to witness the Catholic Church in action and, in particular,  the charismatic Pope Francis, who follows quite an active schedule. If you're fortunate  enough to be in Italy during this colorful time, Donna Franca Tours suggests that you experience these five memorable celebratory  traditions.
 

1. Dancing with the Devils

On Easter Sunday in Prizzi, in the province of Palermo, Sicily the Dance of the Devils  is celebrated, between the profane and the sacred. The Devils and the "Death" in the city streets wander. The Death, dressed with a yellow custom, a mask and a crossbow in his hand, walk through the city searching for souls to take to hell. When they are captured, the victims of the Death are locked up in a house and they can be free only by paying a obolo, which consists in a few sum of money. The Devils wear red overalls and a big mask. With the Death they spend all day playing around with the people and locking up someone. The peak of the event occurs when the Death and the Devils try to prevent the gathering of the Virgin Mary and the Resurrected Christ stautes in the main square of Prizzi. At the third attempt the Angels arrive who hit and kill the forces of evil, while the bells ring to mark the beginning of the celebration.
 

2. A Holy Experience in the Colosseum

On Good Friday, tourists visit the Colosseum to watch the Pope lead the stations of the cross, a procession that commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ's passion. A meditation is read at each of the stations.
 

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

March 23, 2017

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!

March 7, 2017

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

March 1, 2017
Come spend a week of pampering on the Island of Ischia ! 
Situated in the Bay of Naples,  this beautiful spa resort offers thermal spring waters, an outstanding restaurant, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool,  fitness center, bar lounge and poolside bar.  
 
Only a  three minute walk from the beach, this 19th century villa restored to a luxury hotel is an oasis of tranquility only minutes to the town's center with its shops and boutiques.
 
All 78 rooms offer creature comforts such as Egyptian cotton sheets, a pillow menu,  free WiFi and flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, private balconies, minibars, and room service.
 
 To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.
                 
Please visit our hotels page for more details.

 

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