Essence of India Journey

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STORY & PHOTOS BY Laraine Harding

Laraine Harding's Essence of India Tour

Travelling Companion: Margaret Upcroft
Tour Date: 23 Feb 2014

Having been an independent traveller for many years, I felt daunted by the misconceptions I heard about travelling in India. I chose Insight’s “Essence of India” guided holiday and am delighted I did!

I started the tour with the express purpose of seeing the Taj Mahal and capturing that infamous photo for my travel wall. However, I found that there was far more to this incredible country than I ever anticipated.

Laraine Harding's Essence of India Tour

Delhi itself was a worthy introduction. From the cycle rickshaw ride through the bustling lanes of Old Delhi, to the impressive Red Fort, colourful temples and monuments and wide avenues of the new city.

After negotiating the frenetic atmosphere of Delhi Station, the express train journey to Agra didn’t disappoint. Indeed, the arrival at Agra Station was a revelation in itself!

Of course, the first glimpses of the Taj Mahal, with its magnificent architecture glistening in the sun, was always going to be the highlight for me, and I’m not afraid to admit that I shed a tear!

Laraine Harding's Essence of India Tour

Laraine Harding's Essence of India Tour

The beautiful “Pink City” of Jaipur is another piece of the patchwork of this country of contrasts.

At the Amber Fort, we ascended the hill in jeeps to explore the breathtaking architecture, ramparts, terraces and grandeur of the Fort. All of this reflected in the tranquil lake below.

Laraine Harding's Essence of India Tour

Our guided holiday culminated with a memorable farewell dinner held on the rooftop garden of the magnificent Samode Palace, high in the hills. We were adorned with flower garlands and entertained by local dancers, wonderful memories.

Our Tour Director, Devender, was a wealth of local information, very organised and I can say I never felt vulnerable at any t ime. Our every need was catered for, including copious amounts of bottled water every day!

We experienced the sights and sounds, the warmth of the people, the food, the poverty and the opulence of this exciting destination – all rolled into 7 days……and now I want to see more!


Essence of India (2014/15)

Essence of India (2014/15)

INDIA | 8 Day Tour

Collectively known as the Golden Triangle, the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur showcase India’s rich Mughal and Rajput heritage – imposing forts, sumptuous palaces and gleaming marble temples and tombs, such as the exquisite Taj Mahal.
View this tour…


Exotics 2014/15 Insight Vacations Brochure

Exotics 2014/15 Insight Vacations Brochure

ORDER BROCHURE | India Escorted Tours

Featuring escorted journeys to India, Nepal, Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt & Jordan.
View this brochure online…

  


Country Roads of Italy: Epilogue

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

The Palladian Traveler ties a nice bow around his 21-part Country Roads of Italy travel journal with a photographic look back on his amazing eight-day Insight Vacations journey.

Country road

It’s been several months — real-time, not virtual — since I was aboard Insight Vacations’ motorcoach, reclined in my business-class legroom seat, rolling through Umbria and Tuscany wondering what I’d see, smell and taste next.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Part of a group of international media — 23 veteran travel writers and photographers — I was invited along this premium-escorted journey to sample firsthand a portion of one of Insights “Country Roads of Italy” itineraries and was pampered every kilometer of the way with a healthy dose of the three Cs: culture, cuisine and [wine] corks.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Traveling on Insight’s euro, not mine, I was “drafted” to experience what paying guests get for their money, and it’s quite a lot: five-star luxury hotels, fine dining, expert art-history local guides, arrival and departure transfers, all local transportation, baggage handling, surprising “signature moments” when you least expect them, and, most importantly, one sterling tour director-slash-storyteller, named Belinda, who kept our band of merry media on schedule and well-informed with her flawless narrative.

Country Roads: Insight Vacations Italy

A subsidiary of The Travel Corporation USA, Insight lived up to its billing of giving its guests a taste of what it’s like to travel in style around the Bel Paese.

You have to be pretty proud of your brand and bold enough to invite the press along, whose job it is to criticize, good or bad, the services you’re promoting. And from the invited scribes and lens crafters aboard this eight-day journey, it looks like thumbs-up all around for Insight.

country-roads-paparazzi-osteria-06

With over 35 years of experience in the travel industry, Insight seamlessly took care of everything, from first arrival to final departure, with nary a hiccup in between. You really are in good hands with Insight.

So, how much does this “traveling in style” cost, you ask? Well, luxury doesn’t come cheap, but John Boulding, Insights’ Global CEO, who was along for the ride part of the way, explained that when you break the total per-person price down to a per-day cost, the journey’s an excellent bargain at only 220€. Still not convinced? One of the gold-level properties we stayed in charges between 900-1,500€ per night for a standard room, and that’s obscenely higher than Insight’s quoted per-diem rate for an entire 24-hour journey experience.

Country Roads: Touching the Sky in Orvieto

For those of you who tagged along with me virtually, you already know how much fun I had. But, for those of you who didn’t, here’s what you missed.

Country Roads: Touring Rome with Insight Vacations
Mvsei Vatacani Preview

Country Roads: Insight Vacations Italy

Country Roads: Touching the Sky in Orvieto

Country Roads: Touching the Sky in Orvieto

Country Roads: Saintly Assisi

Insight Vacations Italy: Olive Groves

Insight Vacations Italy: Linnertime in Spello

Country Roads: Tuscan Sun

Insight Vacations Italy: Fonterutoli

country-roads-paparazzi-osteria-14

My band of merry media experienced Rome (link to article #2) by night; received the VIP treatment in the Vatican Museums (link to article #3); learned how to make homemade tagliatelle with the Etruscan Chef (link to article #4); touched the colorful sky in Orvieto (link to article #5); went underground in Perugia (link to article #6); toured saintly Assisi (link to article #7); found a real virgin in an olive grove (link to article #8); whiled away an entire afternoon-into-evening around la tavola in Spello (link to article #9); meandered under the Tuscan sun in Cortona (link to article #10); visited a world-renowned Chianti winery (link to article #11); and, lunched (link to article #12) with an Italian nobleman and toured his “humble” abode.

But, wait, there’s more!

Scraping the Tuscan Sky

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Country Roads: A Dark and Foodie Night

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

We went back in time to Medieval Manhattan (link to article #13); were humored by a world champion gelato maker (link to article #14); tasted superlative grape and ate just like the locals during a dark and foodie night (link to article #15); fell in love with a bevy of redheads in Maranello (link to article #16); walked underneath the porticos (link to article #17) of La Rossa; were mesmerized by La Serenissima (link to article #18); witnessed glass (link to article #19) turned into works of art (link to article #19); dodged the infamous acqua alta (link to article #20); and, glided through a narrow riello and into the sunset on a gondola (link to article #21).

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy Group Tour shot

This was my very first experience as an imbedded journalist and it could not have gone better, thanks, in large part, to having Insight as my “patron” – similar to Michelangelo and the Medici — for the maiden trip.

Look, someone has to tag along, document the experience, write about it and let the paying public know. And, those duties might as well fall into the lap of this independently minded wordsmith rather than somebody else’s, don’t you think?

Insight Vacations Italy

I look forward to receiving my next invitational travel letter from Insight Vacations, or any one of the other travel brands of The Travel Corporation USA, that, collectively, operate in 60 countries out of 35+ offices with more than 10,000 experienced team members at the disposal of 1.5 million+ guests annually.
Hey, my bags are already packed. I’m ready to go. Just put me back on that motorcoach. PLEASE?


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: Gliding into the Venetian Sunset

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Fancying the wind in his face and hairpin turns, The Palladian Traveler is in hot pursuit of a bevy of redheads as he files his 16th Country Roads dispatch from a sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

As daylight’s descent wanes, heading ever closer and begrudgingly toward the night, not wanting its place in the sky to end, my band of merry media — guest travel writers and photographers on an abbreviated Insight Vacations Country Roads of Italy itinerary — resists the pull of the inevitable as well, as it waits along a three-step landing to begin, sadly, the very last activity of our eight-day journey: a gondola ride through the narrow side canals of Venice.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Too bad this bittersweet moment has to center around the gondola, but the person, or persons, who crafted the itinerary for this media-only familiarization trip, placed it at the very end. Maybe the author of the travel doc is a romantic, or perhaps a sadist. I won’t ask, so we’ll never know.

Gliding along in one of the most iconic symbols of La Serenissima, the gondola, in the right company and under a moonlit sky, is as romantic an excursion as you’ll ever experience, so I’ve been told.

The company I’m with is fine, more like colleagues vice lovers, at least as far as I can tell. We’re most interested in photographing every inch of this centuries-old flat-bottom tradition rather than holding hands, exchanging glances and stealing kisses, although, a few of my “colleagues” are pucker-up worthy (names are being withheld to protect the innocent and/or embarrassed).

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

If you’re looking to find romance pulsating from within the lines of this blog post about the gondola, Casanova’s preferred mode of transport, think again. The best I can offer is to refer you over to another, more famous travel writer: Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, the “father of American literature,” a great humorist and, on several occasions, a travel writer of sorts via a series of letters he wrote while in Europe.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

On the subject of the gondola and its influence on the romantic mood, Twain, in his 1869 book The Innocents Abroad, wrote: “…the fairy boat in which the princely cavaliers of the olden time were wont to cleave the waters of the moonlit canals and look the eloquence of love into the soft eyes of patrician beauties, while the gay gondolier in silken doublet touched his guitar and sang as only gondoliers can sing!”

Like I said, I’m here to document the craft, the ride and the experience, not to provide narrative about on-board romantic interludes by lovers in love. After all, what unfolds on a gondola should remain on said gondola.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

Broken down into groups of six, the maximum amount of passengers permitted on a gondola, our band of merry media, now aboard the little flotilla of shiny, ebony-black craft, sets sail from the landing and glides down the first of several canals we’ll traverse, serenaded along the way by a Venetian accordion player.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

Stefano, our gondoliere (gondolier) — one of only 425 in the profession licensed by the City of Venice and a card-carrying member of the Gondoliers’ Guild — stands above and near the boat’s tail facing forward, balanced like a tightrope walker under the big top, and rows, one gentle stroke at a time. With the aid of his nearly four meters-long heavy demo (oar) that’s attached to the forcala (oar lock), which allows the oar to move in different directions and angles, Stefano maneuvers the stretch limo-on-water around traffic and through the narrowest rii and rielli (medium and small size canals) leaving a shadows-into-sunlight rippled trail behind in the quiet aqua blue water.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

As you look around, you might ask yourself, why are all the gondolas painted black? The answer is simple. In the 16th century, the city fathers, in an effort to standardize the look and size of the banana-shaped water taxi moving to and fro, chose the color black because it was considered the color of elegance and not that of death — red was the color that symbolized mourning around Venice — and it covered over well the black pitch, or resin, used to seal and waterproof the gondola.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

In their heyday, between the 17th and 18th centuries, gondolas navigating Venice’s waterways numbered nearly 10,000. Today, that number has dwindled to about 400; all devoted entirely to tourists looking for a hired ride to carry them around picture-postcard perfect Venezia.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

Gondolas, new ones handmade by expert craftsmen, cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $45,000 USD, and are composed of 280 pieces fabricated from eight different kinds of wood. Sans passengers and gondolier, the boat weighs around 350 kg, is 10.85 m long by 1.40 m wide. And, the left side of the craft, surprisingly, is a bit longer than the right side, to ensure that the gondola doesn’t favor moving to the left with every row stroke by the gondolier.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

The ferro (iron), the distinctive ornamentation at the prow, the most forward part of the boat, serves as the gondola’s front bumper protecting it from everyday nicks and scratches and the occasional collision with other craft occupying the cramped, shared space.

More than just a bumper, the ferro, next to the winged lion of St. Mark, is the most recognized symbol of the Most Serene Republic of Venice and describes in its design the City of Canals.

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

The metal band running down the face of the gondola has an “S” shape, representing the Grand Canal cutting its serpentine route through Venice.

The group of six prongs, or teeth, jutting out of the prow, represent the six sestiere (districts) of La Serenissima: Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo and Santa Croce.

The lone prong, pointing in the opposite direction of the other six, represents the island of Giudecca, just south of Venice’s main islands.

The elegant curve at the top of the design represents the cap of the Doge, the leader of Venice and its most serene republic for almost 1,100 years.

And, the semicircle, between the curve at the top and the prongs below it, represents Ponte Rialto (Rialto Bridge).

Insight Vacations Italy: Gondola ride in Venice

Close enough to touch the twilight-toned, weathered brick walls of the adjacent buildings that encase the route, we close our eyes as the accordion’s melody fills the air and imagine what it must have been like centuries ago to be in this very same spot, in a gondola on a scenic little riello (small canal) in majestic La Serenissima.

We wish this ride, and the watercolor-like visual and mental impressions it painted, would last forever, but it, as well as our eight-day, Insight journey, comes to a melancholic end as we quietly round the bend and glide into the Venetian sunset.

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Arrivederci!


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: Venice splashed by Aqua Alta

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Staring down the Adriatic Sea, The Palladian Traveler gets “man up” courage and joins the masses atop a passarella for an elbow-to-elbow walk on water around Venice’s Centro Storico district.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

The late Robert Benchley, a 20th century American humorist, newspaper columnist and Hollywood actor, was sent packing to Europe one summer by good friends and fellow film stars David Niven and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Niven and Fairbanks put their heads together and, like a reputable travel agency, mapped out Benchley’s sojourn, which included a stop in Venice.

Immediately upon arriving in La Serenissima, Benchley sent a five-worded cable to Niven. It read: Streets full of water. Advise.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

His short, to-the-point funnygram was obviously sent tongue-in-cheek, but if dearly departed Benchley had come to Venice in wintertime, that note to Niven would’ve been alarmingly true. I know, because I’m here right now, in St. Mark’s Square, watching Europe’s “drawing room” tread water.

Either shocking or somewhat entertaining to tourists, Venetians just take the extra splashes in stride, with feet tucked inside colorful rubber boots, whenever the level of the Adriatic Sea crests above and beyond and starts flowing into the calle (streets) of the City of Canals.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

So common is this phenomena, and so routine the reaction to it by residents of the former Most Serene Republic of Venice, that it has its own name that’s become imbedded in the Italian lexicon: ACQUA ALTA (high waters).

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Earlier today, my band of merry media, guests of Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Italy itinerary, went on an informative walk around parts of the Centro Storico (historic center) with “Granny Annie,” Insight’s resident Venice expert.

When questioned about the high waters by a member of our group, Anna replied, “We’re quite an innovative people, we Venetians, and take whatever Mother Nature throws at us with a smile.” She added, “Don’t worry, the aqua alta will be gone in just a couple of hours.

Like a finely tuned Swiss timepiece, the water begins to ebb back out to sea. With centuries of experience under their belts, Venetians, to a person, pretty much know when the acqua alta will arrive and when it’ll recede. It’s as if the onslaught of high waters is an accepted routine, just part of everyday life for the anonimo veneziano.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

According to the city’s Centro Maree Comunale (City Tide Center), if there’s a sea level forecast of +110 cm or higher on the mareographic zero — the conventional reference point, or Punta della Salute, measured in front of the ornate Basilica Santa Maria della Salute on the Grand Canal — the population is alerted by high-pitched, acoustic sirens that sound around the areas predicted to be affected, along with text messages sent directly to their handhelds, much like a gondolier dropping off his fare.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

While folks are being forewarned of the imminent arrival of saltwater delivered to their front doors and shops courtesy of Mare Adriatico, city workers fly into action erecting passerelle — elevated wooden platforms that serve as temporary walkways for pedestrians to get around the affected areas and remain dry.

Acqua alta is not a dangerous phenomenon,” so reads the city administration’s online bulletin. “It’s important to understand that, most of the time, high tides cause very limited inconvenience to residents and tourists.” The bulletin goes on to remind everyone to just be patient and wait a few hours for the next ebb tide to carry the excess water back out into the Adriatic.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

No longer fearing a deluge of Biblical proportions, I hop atop the nearest passerella and join the masses for a walk on water, knowing that, like Allstate Insurance, I’m in good hands with these maritime-minded veneziani.

After the “boardwalk” stroll, I find a neighborhood within the Centro Storico that’s relatively dry and pop into a bar for a quick, late lunch.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

In between bites and sips, I chat it up with the cute barista, born and raised right here, and ask her to enlighten me on the aqua alta phenomenon.

She pauses for a moment, gives the question some serious thought, then smiles and says, “It’s a part of who we Venetians are. We accept aqua alta almost as if it’s our duty, because if weren’t for water, calm or otherwise, there simply wouldn’t be La Serenissima.”

I pay my tab, leave the change on the counter and walk out the door thinking, Good answer.

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice’s Centro Storico district

If you’re up for it, I’ll see you down at the gondola landing in about an hour. There’s an accordion player who wants to serenade us around some canals. Right now, I’ve gotta head back to the hotel and blow-dry my shoes.

Ciao for now.


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: Escape to Giudecca

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

With the Adriatic Sea gurgling underfoot, The Palladian Traveler races against a growing high tide to get out to a Venetian glass-blowing factory. He documents it all, while puddle jumping around the Lagoon, in his 19th Country Roads dispatch.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

I’ve just been punched, a real roundhouse to the old breadbasket, by that “time flies when you’re having so much fun” realization that your temporary taste of la dolce vita (the sweet life) is about to come to an end.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

You see, today’s the final activity day for our now tightly knit band of merry media — 23 travel writers and photographers along for the ride on Insight Vacations’ (Insight) abbreviated Country Roads of Italy journey through Umbria and Tuscany, bookended by Rome, and where we are right now, Venezia (Venice).

All together now. Repeat after me: veh-NET-zee-ah. Bravissimo!

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

It’s a jam-packed “signature” day, too, filled with plenty of “Kodak moments,” as we take to the calle (streets) for an informative, non-touristy look at Venice, watch an artisan demonstration at a traditional glass-blowing factory, get serenaded during a gondola ride, and, perhaps, a few other surprises will be thrown in for good measure, just because Insight can.

Excited about what we’ll see, hear, smell and savor, we’re also a bit preoccupied. Sometime late this morning — 11:07 to be exact — the phenomena known as ACQUA ALTA (high water), which raises its ugly head at this time of the year, will crest and parts of La Serenissima will be under a lot of saltwater; so, getting around the Lagoon and staying on schedule will be challenging. Umbrellas open, we better get moving.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Meet Anna, Insight’s resident Venetian art-history expert. Under an overcast sky and a light drizzle, this grand lady in a floppy hat leads us through two of the six sestiere (neighborhoods) that define Venice’s Centro Storico (historic center), San Marco and San Polo, stopping here and there to point out landmarks, discuss everyday life of the anonymous Venetian, and keep us out of harm’s way as the Adriatic begins to gurgle underfoot. Looks like we’ll be puddle jumping the rest of the way.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Living in Venice, our sweet grandmotherly guide notes, is a real struggle. Mainlanders have it easy compared to us. Our buildings are quite old, the majority without elevators, she says with a sad look. We travel mostly on foot, sometimes on the ferries, and have to carry everything we purchase back to where we live then lug it all up many flights of stairs. Anna wraps up this little nugget of insider info by admitting, We shop often, but as light as possible.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Despite the daily struggles to keep one’s head above water — Venice IS slowly sinking, you know — locals wouldn’t have it any other way. We love our city, Anna notes, It’s like no other place in the world. So rich in art, culture and history. We’re quite an innovative people, we Venetians, and take whatever Mother Nature throws at us with a smile.

From the Teatro La Fenice, where world-class tenors and mezzo-sopranos perform, to the Ponte Rialto, filled with fine shops open for business underneath its ornate porticos, we pause often for cultural and historical footnotes that only “Nonna” Anna can describe, then quickly move on as she announces softly through the radio ear buds: Yoo-hoo! We all giggle; she’s a hoot.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

The walking tour now over, cut short by the rising aqua alta, we regroup at a watercraft landing in the Quartiere Rialto.

Bidding an ARRIVEDERCI! to “Granny Annie,” we hop aboard the fleet of awaiting motoscafi (water taxis) and immediately shove off and into the traffic along the Grand Canal, zigzagging towards Giudecca Island and our scheduled visit to a glass factory.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

With 150 canals, Venice, just like cities on terra firma, has its fair share of traffic, only instead of cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters, it’s simply boats, LOTS of boats. Some 30,000 watercraft traverse the Lagoon daily, and of those, between 4,000-5,000 maneuver up and down the Grand Canal.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Our skipper’s cruising as fast as legally permitted — 7 kph (4.2 mph) max along Grandlasso — staying close to the rest of the Insight flotilla.

We bob and weave around larger craft, slowing down as we enter the mouths of the smaller rio and riello (canals), then almost drop to the floor as we glide under bridges where clearance continues to get tighter and tighter as the aqua alta rises and rises. It won’t be long before passage will be impossible.

Not to worry, Insight’s little armata (armada) is past the threat and in the clear, and gunning it, at a reduced speed of 5 kph (3 mph), to Giudecca.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Just south of the center of La Serenissima, Giudecca is an island in the Venetian Lagoon. It’s separated from the rest of the nearby islands by its namesake canal that eventually merges with the Grand Canal in the latter’s basin. Giudecca was historically an area of large palaces, but became an industrial base at the beginning of the last century. Once bustling with shipyards, a gigantic flour mill and a full-time film studio, Giudecca fell into decline, but is now getting its second wind and making a comeback.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

We’re ready for an all-stop as our pilot throws out a line and the water taxi snuggles up to a small dock that fronts the Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca (AVG) — Venetian Arts on the Giudecca — a fairly new glassmaking factory. Our band of merry media disembarks and is immediately greeted by Franco, the head of AVG’s public relations department, and our host for the next hour.

Not simply centered on glass, AVG also showcases other Venetian artisan traditions: Carnevale masks, fine lace and pearls, and gondolas. Outside the entryway to AVG sits one of the sleek, flat-bottom boats from the mid 1800s. According to Franco, a new, handmade gondola fashioned by expert craftsmen will run about $45,000 USD.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Inside, we take our seats in a small industrial theatre where two artisan glass-blowers, fronting a more than 2,000°F solar-orange furnace, begin a demonstration showing how they skillfully turn liquid silica into works of art, just like it was done back in 800 A.D. Today’s demonstration highlights two pieces of glass: a horse and a snail. Unlike the slow moving terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk, this little show clips along at a pretty brisk pace.

Demonstrations are nice, but I’d prefer to see the big-ticket items coming out of these high-priced, glassmaking furnaces. Franco obliges, and we head into the showroom.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Once behind the counter, he jumps right in with a Venetian Glass 101 primer, warning us that there are lots of imitations out there, but only one original. In the end, it’s more a sales pitch than a class on the basics of the fine art of glassmaking. But, hey, they have to pay their bills, too, right?

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

It’s nice to browse around and see gorgeous handmade Venetian glassware up close, but I don’t want to go into debt for the rest of my life. Some of these items on the shelves are leaving me with sticker shock.

No, I’ll just keep my hands glued inside my pockets and continue window-shopping. Care to join me?

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Did we just hear something shatter over there?

O…M…G. There’s a BULL in the glass shop!

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy: Tour of Venice

Meet me in St. Mark’s Square next and we’ll join the masses and go for a walk…ON WATER.


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: La Serenissima

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Bidding arrivederci to terra firma, The Palladian Traveler quickly falls under the hypnotic spell of Venice as he deliriously files his 18th Country Roads dispatch from a motoscafo gliding along the serpentine Grand Canal.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

For the past six days I’ve been living the sweet life, and doing so on someone else’s euro.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Totally content with my business-class legroom seat and onboard WIFI connection, I’ve been riding inside a comfortable motorcoach with the rest of my band of merry media — guests of Insight Vacations (Insight) on one of its Country Roads of Italy itineraries — as it rolled through Umbria and Tuscany. Together, we’ve seen, experienced and tasted so much, but a bit more sweetener is about to be added to this la dolce vita recipe.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

As Insights’ German-built chariot, a quickly fading footnote in our rubber-meets-road antics, resets its odometer for a new adventure somewhere else in the Bel Paese, we’re already safely and happily aboard private water taxis, gliding along in single-file formation under the cover of darkness, passing by ornate palazzi where rich merchants once lived, as we make our way to our digs for the next two nights: the Hotel Bauer, a five-star luxury property fit for ol’ Casanova and modern-day jet setters alike.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

So, where are we? Why, in Venice, on the Grand Canal, beginning the final leg of this wonderful, eight-day, Insight journey.

La Serenissima (the most serene), centuries ago a powerful, majestic and innovative maritime republic that was a leader in trade between Europe and the Orient, and bridged the social, political and cultural divide between the two geographies, is still world renowned for its canals and, more importantly, her ability to take your breath away no matter how many times you visit.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

If you’ve only seen Venice from afar, as the backdrop in a Hollywood movie or as part of the storyline in a fast-paced, edge-of-your seat thriller novel (think Inferno by Dan Brown), she’s more hypnotic than you could ever imagine..

Hiding behind a Carnevale mask, she’s alluring, captivating and mysterious.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Built entirely over water, Venezia sits atop an archipelago of 118 small islands in a shallow lagoon that empties into the Adriatic Sea in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

She’s separated by an assortment of canals, like the Grand Canal (called Canalasso in the Venetian dialect) — the doge of La Serenissima’s waterways that slithers through the city like a giant S-shaped serpent — smaller ones called a rio that merge into the bona fide ones, and the narrowest and shortest of canals called a riello.

And, there are more than 400 bridges, some architectural masterpieces, and all negotiated free-of-charge on foot, that link Venice all together. Of course, you can float around town, too: economically, via traghetti and vaporetti (public ferry boat-buses), or expensively, via gondola (with or without a musical serenade) and private motoscafi (motor boat taxis), like ours.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Under the watchful eye of Belinda, Insight’s wonderfully talented tour director-slash-storyteller, we plan to cross over and squeeze under as many bridges and push through as many canals around La Serenissima as we possibly can over the next 36 hours.

But first, I’ve gotta check in at the hotel, clean up, then head right back out as I’ve got a dinner date with a princess and I don’t want to keep her waiting.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Established in 1928, the Hotel Bauer (the “B”) is an Insight gold-level property and a Leading Hotels of the World that stands along the Grand Canal with an unfettered view of the impressive La Salute — the Basilica of St. Mary of Good Health — is right next door to the Church of San Moisè and its incredibly ornate Baroque facade, surrounded by high-end fashion boutiques, only a short stroll to St. Mark’s Square, and is just down the calle (street) from Harry’s Bar — Hemingway’s favorite Venetian watering hole. One more thing, there’s a gondola landing right outside the entrance, adjacent to the B’s private dock where we arrived.

A restored 18th century palazzo (palace), the B has an urban vibe to it with its art deco-inspired public interiors showcasing original works of art by local artists.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Upon arrival, guests are greeted with a complimentary box of fruit-flavored candy sitting on the nightstand just waiting to be opened.

Many of the rooms and suites, 109 in all, have views of the Grand Canal or the bell tower of St. Mark’s Square, but all are elegantly appointed and complimented by the nightly turndown service.

The staff is discreet and the service at the B is simply impeccable.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

The price for a night in this palace ranges from 900 to 1,500€ for a standard room, but, if you travel with Insight, that rate dramatically drops as the daily cost throughout the entire Country Roads journey averages out to about 220€ per person. Your per diem price includes transportation, transfers, baggage handling, most of your meals, art-history guides and surprising “signature moments” when you least expect them.

Now that the “product placements” are out of the way, let’s go eat. I’m starved!

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

That dinner date with a princess that I mentioned earlier? I wasn’t lying. Our band of merry media, temporarily split into two groups because we’re so many, will dine at different Venetian restaurants tonight. I’m assigned to Team Princess and that’s where we’re headed: Ristorante La Principessa (La P), just a short walk from the Bauer, through St. Mark’s square over to Riva degli Schiavoni that front’s the Grand Canal Basin and a camera-ready view of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

The wait staff at La P is courteous, friendly and super fast as stocky, dark green bottles of chilled Lugano, a dry white from the Cà dei Frati winery around Lake Garda, are delivered almost before we get situated around la tavola. The first glass poured, this dinner party is now officially underway. Cin cin!

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

Most of Team Princess orders first and second course dishes of fish. Makes sense since we’re looking straight at the Adriatic, so we might as well cast a virtual line out there for the catch-of-the-day, right?

Our group has bonded really well over the past few days, so there’s lots of food sharing involving fork stabs at tablemates’ plates. Care for a nibble?

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

We cap our evening of fine dining at La P with the quintessential Venetian dessert-slash-digestive: Sgropin, as the locals call it, or Sorbetto as it’s known around the rest of La Penisula. It’s the semi-frozen smoothie that aristocratic fats cats of old inhaled during and/or after a large feast.

The Sgropin is a mixture of lemon sorbet, Prosecco sparkling wine and vodka. It goes down real easy and makes you feel like you haven’t eaten at all.

Turns out the Most Serene Republic of Venice thought of everything way back when, including this alcoholic version of Slim Fast!

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

With a light drizzle falling and strong winds kicking up, we blow through St. Mark’s Square back to the hotel where we retire to the bar for a rowdy nightcap.

Somebody on Team Princess mentions to no one in particular: I’ve had enough. I’m going to bed.

Without missing a beat, someone else on the squad responds: Goodnight, principessa!

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy: Venice and the Grand Canal

See you tomorrow as we walk the plank to experience Venice’s seasonal pastime: ACQUA ALTA (high water).

BUONANOTTE!


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: Bologna, Gone in 60 Minutes

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

The Palladian Traveler is on the clock and under the gun as he races through triple-headed Bologna, biting, gulping and shooting along the way in this, his 17th Country Roads dispatch. Tick…tick…tick…

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

The late Italian film director Sergio Leone, best remembered for his “spaghetti westerns,” brought together three unique characters in his U.S. Civil War period feature centered on the search for buried Confederate gold: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The 1966 flick runs 161 min. and stars Clint Eastwood (the Good), Lee Van Cleef (the Bad), and Eli Wallach (the Ugly).

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy, has three unique sides to its personality. It’s known as La Dotta (The Learned) because the oldest university (1088) in the western world is there; La Rossa (The Red) because of the terra cotta color of the roofs; and, La Grassa (The Fat) because of all of the great cuisine found within its postal code.

Unlike Leone’s classic, Bologna has no runtime, but my presence here does.

Insight Vacations Italy

You see, my band of merry media — guests of Insight Vacations on one of its Country Roads of Italy journeys — has just hopped off the motorcoach at the edge of Bologna’s Centro Storico (historic center).

Before we’re unleashed, Belinda, Insight’s tour director-slash-storyteller, puts everyone on the clock. We have exactly 60 min., or just a bit more than a third of the way through Leone’s capolavoro (masterpiece), to wolf down lunch, on our own euro, and see what we can see of this triple-headed city before the sand in the hourglass runs down.

Tick…tick…tick…

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Feeling like a contestant on one of the legs of The Amazing Race, I do what anyone would do when time is of the essence: ask a local.

I pop into a nearby tabaccheria (tobacco shop) for a quick lunch recommendation, and the friendly attendant behind the register, without blinking an eye, responds: Il Calice. It’s a bar, straight ahead on Via Clavature. Walk through the portico and it’ll be on your right.

Got it. And I dash out like the White Rabbit sans the oversized pocket watch.

Tick…tick…tick…

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Il Calice — the Chalice — is right where it’s supposed to be, and pretty much empty when I enter.

Massimo, the barista, tells me there’s a small restaurant upstairs, but I’m on the clock, watch, hourglass, whatever, and stay put at street level and order what I see eyeing me back: a tray of tartine, delicious bite-sized open sandwiches topped with shrimp, avocado and fresh veggies.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

I grab two, along with a glass of sparkling white wine followed by a caffè macchiato (an espresso with foamy milk).

In between bites and gulps, Massimo gives me a quick lay of the land. As it turns out, I’m standing right in the middle of where Bologna clicks, the Quadrilatero neighborhood of the Centro Storico.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

It’s the city’s old market area, with narrow streets and shops filled with all kinds of food products, fresh produce, along with catches-of-the-day from the nearby Adriatic Sea.

And I’m just an alley or two over from the very expansive Piazza Maggiore where the Fountain of Neptune, Palazzo D’Accursio, and the Basilica of San Petronio, home to the world’s largest sundial, are located.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

Speaking of sundials, I’m late! I pay the bill, thank Massimo, and, under the cover of some of Bologna’s 40-kilometers of porticos, pass quickly by the aforementioned landmarks toward the prearranged meet-up point.

Tick…tick…tick…

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

All present and accounted for, we head back to the motorcoach, hop on board and let The Learned, The Red and The Fat fade away. Bologna, gone in 60 minutes.

While we’re reclining our business-class legroom seats, Belinda announces, excitedly, our new GPS coordinates.

We’ve got a two-hour drive ahead of us to reach the last chapter of our “Country Roads” journey. We’re headed to Venice! The city of canals, gondolas, Casanova, Carnivale, decorative glass and sparkling Prosecco wine!

Someone in the peanut gallery raises their hand and asks, Did you just say, “the LAST chapter of our Country Roads journey”?
Yes, Belinda replies.

All together now: TURN THE BUS AROUND! LET’S START OVER!

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy: Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy

See you soon on the private water taxi as we float down the Grand Canal to a five-star, luxury “bunkhouse,” our digs while we’re guests in La Serenissima.

Ciao for now.


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: The Redheads of Maranello

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Fancying the wind in his face and hairpin turns, The Palladian Traveler is in hot pursuit of a bevy of redheads as he files his 16th Country Roads dispatch from a sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna.

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Climbing on board the motorcoach with the rest of my groggy-eyed group of merry media — journalists and photographers invited by Insight Vacations to sample an abbreviated version of its fabulous Country Roads of Italy itinerary that races you through Umbria and Tuscany — I’m trying desperately to clear my head after yesterday’s “dark and foodie night” of eating way too much and over imbibing, and this morning’s early wake-up call. YAWN.

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Carlo, our experienced charioteer, puts the big fella in gear as we bid Arrivederci! to Borgo San Luigi, the sprawling Tuscan villa where we spent two memorable nights, mostly at the bar.

As Tuscany, with all of its lovely rolling hills filled with vineyards and olive groves, fades away in the rearview mirror, I can think of only one thing: REDHEADS. Not the Super Tuscan wines we just left behind, the flowing locks of Nicole Kidman, Rita Hayworth and Lucille Ball, nor the curly pate of Carrot Top.

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

No, I’m thinking about the sleek, fast-to-the-finish line redheads designed, engineered and built by the late Persol sunglasses-wearing Enzo Ferrari: the Testa Rossa (redhead). And, we’ll get a good look at a bevy of Il Commendatore’s redheads shortly when Insight’s motorcoach pulls into the parking lot fronting the Museo Ferrari in Maranello.

You know the drill, roll the “R” and repeat after me: mah-rah-NEL-oh. Outstanding!

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

Insight Vacations Italy: Sports car-crazed town in the Emilia-Romagna

To get to the museum, we have to motor up the A1 autostrada (toll way), leaving the rays of the Tuscan sun for the flatter, more industrialized region of the Emilia-Romagna, the manufacturing hub of fast cars — Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lamborghini and, of course, Ferrari — and home to regional foodie favorites like mortadella, tortellini, lasagne and ragu’ alla bolognese (meat sauce). A pretty fair geographical exchange, wouldn’t you say?

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Rounding the corner, we eye the large black stallion. We’ve arrived.

Like a well-tuned pit crew, we’re off the motorcoach and inside the museum in a flash, and pick up headsets for English language narration while we wait on our Ferrari girl, a guide assigned to us for the VIP tour.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Sorry. I can’t wait for the guide, curvaceous as she might be. I’ve got to get ahead of this media pack, like Lauda in ’75 when he flew across the finish line at Monte Carlo in a 312/T. So, off I go in search of Enzo’s curvaceous redheads.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

With over 3,500 square meters of surface space — including a Formula 1 simulator that lets you strap yourself in and give it a go — more than 250,000 visitors pass through the turnstiles of the Museo Ferrari annually to walk among the legendary stable of cars with the prancing horse logo that has won 31 Formula 1 World Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles and counting.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

The industrial gray floors and white walls and ceilings, coupled with excellent lighting, make the museum the perfect photo-shoot studio. Living up to what Cavaliere Ferrari once said, Sono uno che ha sognato (I am one who has dreamed), this place is a true auto racing aficionado’s dream come true.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Buffed to the nines, Enzo’s redheads, along with a few of his white and blue creations, just lie in wait to pose for the camera. Every buxom speedster is so willing and able.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Close up, low, wide and overhead, I’m going orgasmic, like Selleck in Magnum, P.I., crawling, kneeling and lying on my back to frame these red-hot beauties with my lens the best I can. Both batteries now spent on the DSLR, I switch over to the iPhone 5 for a few extreme wide shots.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

With everything to see, seen, I pack up my gear and take the proverbial checkered flag as I walk out of Enzo’s historic gasoline alley. I gotta tell you, it’s a real pity to have to leave all of those gorgeous redheads behind.

Insight Vacations Italy: Ferrari Museum

Back aboard the motorcoach, now just a “slow boat to China” ride compared to what’s inside Museo Ferrari, Belinda, Insight’s tour guide-slash-storyteller, gives out our new GPS coordinates.

We’ll double back a bit and stop in Bologna for a short stroll and then a quick lunch on your own euro. She adds, By the way, Bologna is affectionately known as “La Grassa,” or “Fatso,” because of all of her great cuisine. What do think of that?

All together now: FATSO! FATSO! FATSO!

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

country-roads-redheads-of-maranello-27

I’ll see you in a little bit when we gather in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore to chew the fat.

Ciao for now.


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Batten down the hatches as The Palladian Traveler eats and drinks his way through a proverbial dark-and-stormy night, stopping long enough to file his 15th Country Roads dispatch from Val d’Elsa in Tuscany.

Country Roads: A Dark and Foodie Night

It was a dark and stormy night...

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

These seven words, joined at the hip, form an often mocked and parodied phrase quilled by English novelist Edward Buwler-Lytton in the opening sentence of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

Literary criticism aside, Buwler-Lytton’s narrative just happens to set the stage perfectly for what I’m about to transcribe.

With my umbrella at the ready, the skies above a foreboding preamble of what’s to come, I join my band of merry media — special guests of Insight Vacations on its abbreviated Country Roads of Italy journey — for a dark and stormy night of wine tasting and regional food in the piccolo borgo (little hamlet) of Scorgiano overlooking the Val d’Elsa in the Bel Paese‘s Tuscany region.

Tenuta Bichi Borghesi

It is here, in the heart of Chianti wine country, that our Insight motorcoach comes to a full stop.

We dismount and head inside the renovated scuderie (stables) of a 17th century villa on the grounds of the Tenuta Bichi Borghesi (link to: http://www.bichiborghesi.it/inglese/) (TBB) estate.

Our host Niccolo Simonelli

Welcomed by our gracious host, Niccolò Simonelli, we get down to serious business straight away underneath the barreled, brick stable ceilings, where horses and farm equipment once stood.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Around crunchy bruschetta drizzled with delicious extra virgin olive oil, and locally made salami and cheeses, the vintner-owner-general manager describes in detail the estate’s trio of superb wines, all grown in the family’s vineyards and blended and aged on site.

The Estate's Trio of Superb Wines

As each label is announced, eager attendants appear and pour generous portions of the grape into each of our glasses.

Coppiole Riserva DOCG. Swirl. Smell. Sip.

Bonico IGT. Swirl. Smell. Sip.

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG. Swirl. Smell. Sip.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Two hours later and way too much wine consumed, but thoroughly enjoyed, we thank Niccolò and staff for their hospitality, exit the scuderie of TBBpassing well-lit glass cases along the way spotlighting bottles of long-ago vintages, and step out into the rain.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Our dark and stormy night of epicurean delight continues as we make our way on foot through the hamlet, clutching at umbrellas struggling to stay open against the windy downpour, and make our way to the launching pad.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

It’s Ristorante L’Astronave, or Spaceship Restaurant, a former disco turned eatery, where the locals come for authentic, regional dishes. Nothing more, nothing less.

Nary the look of either the Kennedy Space Center or NASA’s mission control, L’Astronave is a simple, straightforward, family-run trattoria. Mamma Flavia’s the chef, son Marco’s the headwaiter, and younger brother Franco and English fiancé Sarah bring up the rear. To be frank, the ambience is bare bones, but the kitchen’s why we’re here.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Already about half tossed from the wine tasting over at TBB, our band of merry media takes their places at one very long tavola, covered in lily-white tablecloths and accented by candlelight, that runs the length of the restaurant.

We’ve been promised authentic down-home Tuscan cooking by Belinda, Insight’s tour director-slash-storyteller, and, by golly, we’re going to have it!

Bottles of local red and white jump-start our dinner party, as Marco, brother and fiancé begin the parade of our five, count ‘em, FIVE-course meal.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Gigantic trays of antipasti arrive filled with cold cuts, cheeses and olive Ascolani – minced meat-stuffed olives Ascoli Piceno style, battered and quickly deep-fried.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Our primo (first course) is a bis (two) of pasta: risotto and the Tuscan classic, pici (thick, hand-rolled strands) in a white pork ragù.

Country Roads: A Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Next, a mixed-grill main course of pork chops, sausages, chicken and Tagliata Toscana (thin cuts of Tuscan beef cooked rare over an open fire), complimented with roasted new potatoes and market-fresh baby greens.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

At this stage of our version of La Grande Abbuffata (The Big Feast) — the Franco-Italiano flick about four BFBs who gather at a country villa and gorge themselves into oblivion — a short pausa (break) is needed to allow the wait staff time to clear the table of spent dishes and prep for i dolci  (desserts). Why don’t we take five, too, and see how some of the band of merry media are holding up.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

country_roads_dark_foodie_night_25

The best part of la cena (dinner) arrives, desserts in the form of the classic Torta della Nona (Grandmother’s cake) and cantucci (or biscotti, twice-baked cookies) served with cordials of vin santo (sweet “holy” wine). And we close the book on this rather long feedbag with cups of strong espresso — Macchiato, per favore — all around.

Bellies full and heads slightly a buzz — no surprise there — we pub crawl our way out of Ristorante L’Astronave, through the still “dark and stormy night,” clamor aboard the motorcoach, and head for our temporary abode, Borgo San Luigi (link to: http://www.borgosanluigi.it/en/), the sprawling Tuscan villa-estate, just over the hill and around the bend.

On the way, Belinda gives out tomorrow’s marching orders: Luggage packed and standing outside your doors no later than 7:00 a.m. as we MUST depart for the Ferrari Museum in Maranello by 8 o’clock sharp.

YES, DRILL SERGEANT! someone anonymously yells out from the back of the motorcoach.

Country Roads: Touching the Sky in Orvieto

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Country Roads: Dark and Foodie Night

See you tomorrow inside the Ferrari Museum where we’ll kick the tires on a few redheads.

BUONANOTTE!


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

Country Roads: The Good Humour Man of San Gim

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STORY & PHOTOS BY TOM WEBER

Standing in the middle of Medieval Manhattan, The Palladian Traveler has the scoop on why everyone screams for ice-a-cream as he files his 14th Country Roads dispatch from the cobble of San Gimignano.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, standing next to an ancient landmark in the middle of San Gimignano’s Piazza della Cisterna with my band of merry media.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

All 23 of us are guests of Insight Vacations on its Country Roads of Italy journey through Umbria and Tuscany, and we’re gathered around Belinda, our tour director-slash-storyteller, as she’s about to address the peanut gallery.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Time for an Insight SIGNATURE moment!

Care to meet the World Champion of gelato makers? His ice cream parlor’s right over there. And, I’ve got vouchers for each of you for a complimentary tasting.

What do you say to that?

All together now: GELATO! GELATO! GELATO!

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

And off we go, like a bunch of school kids running out of class as the final bell sounds, straight across the square and directly outside the arched door with the number four above it: Gelateria di Piazza, home of Maestro (master) Sergio Dondoli, the World Champion gelataio (ice cream maker).

One of San Gimignano’s treasures, along with the Manhattan-like skyline and impressive medieval art and architecture, Sergio is quite the character.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

When not inside the shop, sequestered way in the back behind closed doors creating new and exciting zero-fat flavors, you’ll find him and his effervescent personality outside on the cobblestone explaining to the masses, in a stand-up comedy routine kinda way, his award-winning artisan treats.

And, he loves to ham it up in front of the camera, too.

CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

A member of Team Italia that took home the World Gelato Championship trophy in 2006 and 2008, Sergio is the Vice President of L’Associazione Italiana Gelatieri (Association of Italian Gelato Makers).

His rank in the gelato hierarchy alone guarantees your visit inside the ice cream parlor will be special, but the real challenge is eyeing, with tongue hanging out, then selecting from all of Maestro Dondoli’s great tasting, unique flavors.

Just about every guidebook on the planet, including Lonely Planet, highlights Sergio’s gelateria as “must see” while in San Gim.

Of the 36,970 gelaterie that scoop out this frozen goodness around Italy, it’s Sergio’s little shop of heaven that rises above all the rest, and for good reason: those tantalizing, one-of-a-kind, frozen recipes.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

There’s Crema di Santa Fina® (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo® (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro® (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia Sorbet® (the wine make’s it happen).

But, the sinful goodness doesn’t stop there. How about his fantastic herbal sorbets Raspberry and Rosemary and Blackberry and Lavender, along with temptations like Gorgonzola Cheese and Walnuts (Say what?), Curva Fiesole (ricotta and bilberries) and Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries).

And, at the top of the list is Sergio’s capolavoro (masterpiece): Amedei, winner of the coveted Gelato Oscar as the best-tasting scoop of chocolate for five years running.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

I can’t wait any longer. Time to go inside this landmark locale.

I hand over my voucher and let the Maestro work his magic.

What a treat, five different flavors, each one more incredible than the next — I’m leaning toward Sangue di Bue and Champelmo®, but it’s a coin toss — laid into a nice sized takeaway cup topped by a brightly colored plastic spoon and handed to me with outstretched hands and a trademark expression that only a World Champion can make.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

While enjoying my quintet of Sergio’s finest, I take a look around at all of the framed accolades and grip-’n-grin photos hanging on the walls, each autographed by some well-known face captured forever alongside the equally talented Mr. Dondoli. There are shots of stars from theatre, opera, the big screen and TV; athletes; iconic chefs; bestseller novelists — including the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — and, a bevy of politicos who stopped by for a taste, but went away with much, much more.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

Our day in the medieval town that scrapes the sky now over, we make our way down the winding cobble and climb aboard the awaiting motorcoach knowing full well that we had the time of our lives meeting Sergio Dondoli, San Gimignano’s quintessential Good Humor Man.

What’s next bella Belinda, someone asks from inside our Mercedes-built chariot.

Oh, not much, she replies then pauses for a beat…just another fantastic wine tasting followed by some real, down-home Tuscan cooking inside a spaceship! Can I get a LIFT OFF?

The peanut gallery, in unison, starts the countdown: TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX, FIVE…

Insight Vacations Italy Brochure

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Insight Vacations Italy: San Gimignano Gelato

See you in a couple of hours when we’ll swirl, smell and sip three superb Chianti wines inside a renovated horse stable overlooking the Val d’Elsa.

Ciao for now.


Tom WeberTom traded in his hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and now hangs his cappello in the City of Palladio — Vicenza — in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

From his creative hideaway, Tom authors ThePalladianTraveler.com, an eclectic, visually stimulating, travel-food and wine-photography blog devoted to the pursuit of happiness within the Bel Paese and occasionally beyond.

A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have gotten him in and out of 42 countries and counting, Tom has a great eye behind the lens, a magical touch in post-production, and is a graphic storyteller.

Tom is also a regular contributor to online publications including TravelingBoy.com in Los Angeles and ItalianNotebook.com in Rome.

Read more travel blogs by Tom Weber


Country Roads of Italy (2014)

Country Roads of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 17 Day Tour

Between the major cities, you’ll find little-known gems like Orvieto, Assisi and Perugia, Tuscan hill towns, fantasy gardens, a formidable abbey and Italy’s finest stretch of coastline. View this tour…


Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

Country Roads and the Vineyards of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 16 Day Tour

Combine your love of travel with your passion for wine! Italy’s cultural cities of Rome, Florence, Venice are perfectly complemented by rustic villas in the wine-growing areas. View this tour…


Best of Italy (2014)

Best of Italy (2014)

ITALY | 11 Day Tour

Roman antiquities, pious Assisi, Venetian canals, Renaissance Florence and Capri sunshine are fused with a touch of ‘la dolce vita’ for the perfect tour of Italy. View this tour…

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