So You Want to Visit Vineyards in Italy?

Getting out into the Italian countryside, driving through the perfectly-aligned rows of grape vines capped with rose bushes at each end, and sampling little-known wines with the families who have been making them for generations – what could be a better way to spend an afternoon in Italy?

Young travelers at a vineyard, Tuscany(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

We have had unforgettable experiences and made life-long friendships while visiting small vineyards in Italy, while also discovering wines that we can’t wait to share. (You can see our favorite spots from 2013 and 2014.)

The Christmas Story, Artfully Told

Italy is home to so much art (over half the world’s artistic treasures can be found in this relatively small country, according to UNESCO estimates) that it is easy to become inured to this exceptional patrimony, displayed everywhere from world-class museums to tiny country chapels.

Many of these works take on a particularly moving significance when viewed in a specific context, be it a poignant location or a relevant time of year. This is why we love to revisit some of the best Nativity-related paintings in Italy during the Christmas season, when they become more than just another masterpiece and instead a reminder of the message of joy and peace that this holiday represents to millions of Italians (and visitors to Italy).

Here are a few of our favorites, depicting the most important moments in the Christmas story:

What's New in Rome

Rome is known as the Eternal City for its long history and, one hopes, equally long future. One of the most visited European capitals, and one of the most beloved cities in the world, Rome's iconic monuments and neighborhoods have become so familiar from generations of vacation photos and Hollywood films that it can seem that there is nothing new left to discover in this modern teeming metropolis resting on the remains of millennia of ancient teeming metropolises.

pantheon-rome-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

But, like the city itself, the archaeological and cultural sites that are unearthed and reopened each year in Rome seem to have no end. There is always something new to visit and explore in the historic center and environs, so if you are planning a return trip in the upcoming months, consider adding one of these stops to your itinerary:

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy

We've had a year that has made us particularly thankful, with the celebration of 10 years of CIU Travel, good health, and the support of family, friends, and clients in our personal and professional adventures. All this gratitude led us to revisit this post from the archives about our first Thanksgiving celebration in Italy in 2011.

We'll be stateside this year, but hope to roast another Italian turkey to celebrate internationally not too far in the future. In the meantime, we give thanks (in English) and wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Spending Thanksgiving away from the US has become a tradition for us. We started 8 years ago with a quick weekend visit to Italy from Germany where I had just landed a full-time singing job. We followed that up with three German turkeys from the farmers market in Dortmund and a gaggle of singers and other friends crowded into our IKEA-filled apartments while the slate gray skies over the Ruhr Valley spat rain on our holiday preparations.

Thanksgiving Turkey(Photo by Aldo Messina for Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

When I stopped singing in Germany, we finally concentrated our belongings under one roof in central Italy. We had always promised our Italian friends that one year we’d introduce them to a“real” American Thanksgiving dinner, so when we returned to Italy in mid-November of 2011, we began preparations for the great feast.

Matera: Italy's Cinderella Story

You know there must be something particularly special about a place when, despite the distance from transport hubs and tricky arrival logistics, it suddenly starts popping up on dream itineraries and bucket lists from glossy travel magazines to backpacking blogs.

matera-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The ancient city of Matera is one of those difficult yet rewarding special places, located in the extreme southern province of Basilicata just a few kilometers from the border with Puglia, and tumbling down a canyon ridge overlooking the neighboring Murgia Materana Park. Not particularly near any principal airports, and set a bit off by itself at the point where the Salento peninsula “heel” attaches to Italy’s “boot”, this hauntingly beautiful place is unique and memorable enough to have been named both a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and, just this year, the European Capital of Culture for 2019.