Postcards from Italy

Staff Inspiration: Maria Gabriella’s Dream Trip

Over the past few weeks, we have shared our dream trips through Italy and Switzerland to inform and inspire future jaunts to Europe. This week, we continue our series with Maria Gabriella, owner of CIU Travel together with her partner and husband, Brian.

For years I’ve thought about taking a trip with my sister, just the two of us—no husbands, kids (she has one), or cats (I have two). For a couple of big reasons, this year seems like a great time to finally make a plan, even if we can’t go just yet.

Maria and Renee(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

First, as you may have noted a couple of weeks ago, Brian dumped me for Mike Tucker for his own Dream Trip. That’s fine (and understandable, as Mike is much more fun than I am!), so now I can plan my own itinerary guilt-free. Veering sharply to a more serious note, the second reason is that my mother died in March, just as the Corona Crisis was hitting the U.S. At the time, we believed that she passed away in her sleep from a heart attack and that her death wasn’t Corona related. She lived out her final years in a nursing home, which, at the time of her death, had no recorded Covid-19 cases, but a few weeks later had a couple of dozen. Mom was a smoker for decades and had other comorbidities which would have made her an easy mark for the Coronavirus, so, just as she was in life, she may have been a trailblazer in death, and been the first one to succumb at her nursing home. We’ll never know. We’re just grateful that she passed quickly and peacefully and we had all been in touch with her the very day that was her last. Commenting on the Covid restrictions that banned my sister to the nursing home window in the parking lot and me to the telephone, my mother said on that last day, “I’ll be glad when this is all over.” We are now attributing deeper meaning to her comment.

Out of the depths of despair comes…a trip to Rome and Sicily! Read More…

Avoiding the Crowds in Switzerland

After a few weeks of admiring the view from your living room window, many of you are probably dreaming of when you can get back to exploring the world. Switzerland has begun a phased reopening - a bit ahead of the original schedule as the Swiss Covid-19 response seems to have slowed the spread and impact of the virus on the country. All businesses and institutions must put in place a set of precautionary measures and everyone is encouraged to continue observing hygiene and social distancing rules. International access at this point is with some countries in the European Union and Schengen area, with other countries added over time. Switzerland may be an ideal vacation destination as early as this summer. There are plenty of outdoor and open air activities to experience a safer vacation in a beautiful landscape.

switzerland-cr-maria-landers (Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Though Switzerland does have a number of world-class museums and other cultural attractions, the country’s sweeping Alpine landscapes are the true headliners. By spending much of your visit exploring the great outdoors, you can sidestep most situations that require close confinement and enjoy greater peace of mind during your trip. Here are a few crowd-free ideas for exploring the peaks and lakes of Switzerland.

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Staff Inspiration: Brian’s Dream Trip

Join us over the next few weeks as we share our dream trips through Italy and Switzerland, aimed at informing and inspiring future jaunts to Europe. This week we set off with Brian Dore, owner of CIU Travel together with his partner and wife Maria Gabriella.

Brian and Pasta
(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Maria Gabriella and I met at the Westside YMCA on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in late November or 1995. I was asked to sing a small part in collection of opera scenes that Maria was singing in and helping to organize. By New Year’s Eve we were dating, in 1998 we married, and in 2004 we started CIU Travel. We really haven’t spent much time apart since and for the last 16 years we’ve been traveling up and down Italy searching for the best experiences for our clients. So, when given the opportunity to think about a “dream trip” we both decided to create an itinerary that leaves the other one at home.

Michael Tucker and I met drinking wine. He had just published his book “Living in a Foreign Language” about buying a farmhouse in Umbria. He had also been interviewed by Wine Spectator about Umbrian wines, and gave high marks to winemakers that I know very well, so I got in touch and invited him and his wife, Jill Eikenberry, to an event at the vineyard. They graciously accepted and we’ve been close friends ever since, finding our love of food, wine, cooking, the performing arts, and laughter to be an unbreakable bond. I reached out to Mike and asked him if he’d be interested in planning a culinary adventure with me.

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Staff Inspiration: Sarah’s Dream Trip

Join us over the next few weeks as we share our dream trips through Italy and Switzerland, aimed at informing and inspiring future jaunts to Europe. After last week’s trip with Matthew Greenbaum, this week we take you on a dream trip with Sarah Blaze, Operations Associate for CIUTravel.

Sarah in Florence(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Several years ago, Brian was singing with Opera Theater of St. Louis with a tenor named John Bellemer. John and Brian became friends so it was only natural that their wives would meet and join in the fun. John’s wife, Sarah Blaze, is a mezzo soprano, so with Brian (baritone) and Maria (soprano), we not only became friends, but formed a quartet. Through various connections, we were invited to sing on a few cruises in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as High C’s on the High Seas - bello, no? Over the years we stayed in touch, meeting in New York or Europe when singing schedules converged. When CIU needed to add to our team, Sarah was a natural first choice. Her effervescent personality and can-do attitude, together with her love of travel, are perfect for working with our travelers on custom itineraries. We hope you enjoy her trip to the Amalfi Coast.

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Staff Inspiration: Matthew’s Dream Trip

Join us over the next few weeks as we share our dream trips through Italy and Switzerland, aimed at informing and inspiring future jaunts to Europe. After last week’s trip with Cristina Tili, Operations Manager for CIUTravel, this week we take you on Matthew Greenbaum, Operations Associate for CIU Travel's dream trip.

Matt in the mountains
(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We met Matt in 2018, shopping for a ski jacket for Brian at Patagonia in New Haven, CT. It was a weekday afternoon in February, and we were hosting chef Luisa Scolastra from Villa Roncalli in Umbria. She doesn’t speak English, so we were walking around the store, speaking Italian with her and English to the sales associates. Matt was assisting Brian and he asked what we did that we were in the store in the middle of the day, and with an Italian woman who was experiencing a first visit to the U.S. I told him a bit about CIU, and he asked if we were hiring. We replied that, actually, we were looking to add a part time position, but starting in the office - basically warning him that we wouldn’t be sending him to Italy tomorrow! We received an email from him a few days later, and after a couple of interviews and email exchanges, he came on board. We thought that his love for the outdoors and adventure activity would be a great addition to our team, especially with the then recent addition of Switzerland to our offerings. Although his dream itinerary here is in Italy, after Maria Gabriella, Matt was the first person on our team to become a certified Swiss Travel Expert. We hope you enjoy his dream trip through two of Italy's wine regions!

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