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Travel to Italy Tip #5 | Support smaller family run businesses

Le marche italy

Now that’s what I call a Bed and Breakfast!

I talked in previous posts about finding a home base and staying there for an extended period of time and also the benefits of traveling to a lesser known area.  Tip #5 brings both of those pieces of advice together to help save you money yet keep your experience amazing.

5. Stay in smaller, family run accommodations

This is something I live by.  I support these places 100%.  Smaller doesn’t mean less, in fact it is usually the opposite.  There is a ton of love put into accommodations run by families and that is reflected in the way guests are treated.  Plus, Italian families are struggling to make ends meet just like us.  I like to know that my money is helping to support them in their passion, not just being funnelled into some big corporation.

Dinner at our agriturismo

So how do you find these places?  I start by looking for Bed & Breakfast’s (B&B’s) and agriturismos.  A B&B normally doesn’t have many rooms and these rooms can occasionally be a part of the owners’ home.  The hosts are more readily available and looking forward to answering your questions, helping with your plans plus giving great advice for the area.  An agriturismo is a working farm that also accommodates guests.  Many of these places have an option for meals in addition to breakfast.  Being on a farm doesn’t mean you are surrounded by barnyards.  Most have beautiful grounds complete with olive groves and vineyards.

I have put together all of my favorite resources here to help you get started.  TripAdvisor is a great site.  Real reviews from real travelers along with average prices to help you with your budget.  Just remember to take everything said with a grain of salt.  Sometimes the happy travelers aren’t always the ones writing the reviews.  I also use SlowTrav as a place to get ideas as their travel philosophy is much like mine.

Find a smaller accommodation and you won’t be sorry.  You may even find you have become a part of their family.

Italy Le Marche

Instant Italian family

I love feedback, leave me comments!

copyright 2014  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #4 | Travel to lesser known areas

Le marche

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche

Another way to help save money and make your dream of travel to Italy come true this year is to think outside of the box.  The majority of tourists all travel to the same areas in Italy.  In major cities, the tourists can be found in the same concentrated places.  Of course there are the blockbusters to see, but aside from that you really don’t need to get caught up in the masses.  To increase your enjoyment, see more of the real Italy all while saving money, follow tip #4.

4. Travel to a Lesser Known Area

Most guidebooks lead people to the same places over and over.  When I travel I make sure not to miss the important sites and places that are a priority to me, but when I am done I make a beeline for the opposite direction of the other tourists.

An alternative to Tuscany is Umbria.  You are still within easy driving range if you want to still explore Tuscany.  Umbria is like Tuscany’s shy little sister and once you get to know her you find she has just as good of a personality.  I love Umbria.  It is full of hill towns, churches, parks, lakes and experiences.  This area is a marvelous home base.

Travel

Quaint and out of the way

Feeling even braver?  Then I encourage you to try Le Marche.  You will be lucky to find much more than a few token pages about this in mainstream guidebooks.  Le Marche feels like my personal secret, one that I can’t keep.  You can have it all here, from beaches to quaint villages.  The best part is that you won’t get run over by a herd of tourists snapping pictures.  The area is still close to places like Gubbio and Assisi making them an easy day trip.  Another area under the radar is Abruzzo, a mountainous region that is my next project.  Drop dead gorgeous country at a better price with less commotion.

You don’t have to skip the well known areas if you don’t want to.  Just try finding a city or town that is a little less popular and you will save money.  For example:  When traveling to the Amalfi Coast (where nothing is cheap) stay in one of the smaller but just as amazing towns further down.  Instead of Positano, try Ravello or Furore.  An alternative to this coast line is the Italian Riviera and my favorite the Cinque Terre.  Here prices are better and they would love a visit as they recover from the flooding.  Staying in Venice?  Try the Accademia District.  It’s just one bridge away from the action.  Florence on the ‘other side’ of the river is a completely different place.

Looking for places in lesser known or visited areas is just another tip to saving money and making that dream trip come true this year.  Stay tuned, I’ve got more tips on the way.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2014  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #3 | Find a home base

Candle light dinner in Tuscany

Now that you have Committed to Travel (if you missed that post, read about it here) and have looked into the benefits of Off-Season Travel (read post here) its time to start talking about the logistics of your itinerary.  About 90% of people who hire me to help plan their trips to Italy have a To Do List a mile long.  Very rarely do people plan to stay more than 2 or 3 nights in one location.  I understand.  On my first trip to Italy I bounced around the country like a little kid set loose in a candy store.  I wasn’t sure when I would ever get back and I wanted to see everything.  Most travelers have that same urgency.  I spend much of my time helping people to slow down and prioritize their itinerary.  This is my next huge and most important travel tip.

3. Find a Home Base

Most travelers spend two weeks in Italy.   I recommend no more than three stops, staying one week in one place.  Gasp!  I said it.  Now like me explain why this works so well.

  • You will find better rates for week long stays.
  • If you book somewhere with a kitchen, you will save money by cooking and eating in several times during your stay.
  • Unique places often only accept week long reservations.  Dreaming of a stay in a villa or farmhouse?  You won’t be able to for just a night or two.
  • Being in one location, you become a temporary resident and truly begin to get the feel of Italy.  You get to experience a place, not just see it.
  • You save time and money by not constantly travelling to a new location.
  • You save time by skipping the checking in-checking out process.

Time is also as valuable on a vacation as money.  The process of changing locations is very time consuming and depending on the distance can take an entire day.  Italy may be small on the map, but nothing here happens quickly or easily.  If taking public transportation you are at the mercy of the train/bus schedules (or lack there of).

Also, the value of an experience is priceless and should be taken into great consideration during planning.  I would rather miss a few items on my to do list in order to have a higher quality trip with more touching memories.

My favorite little grandma

The two biggest arguments I hear about this style of travel are the following:  1.  There will not be enough to see or do in one area for a week and 2.  I need to see everything because I will not ever be back to Italy.  I assure you, one week will never be enough time to see and experience one place in Italy.  Never.  I have stayed many days in places that have absolutely no blockbuster attractions yet found myself wishing for more time.  The beauty in Italy is found in the nooks and crannys.  The tourist destinations are breathtaking and I am not saying you should forgo these places, but your memories that will be the most significant and lasting will be the unexpected ones.  These are best found and made when traveling slowly.  And the best way to travel slowly is by sticking to a home base.  Now I can’t promise that everyone will be able to return to Italy, life gets complicated.  You may never have the chance again, but that should not be your reason for rushing your trip.  Make your to do list as long as you like, then look it over and pick only your absolute favorites.  Put the rest on the back burner and tell yourself you will be back.  Try and remember that quality is far better than quantity in this situation.  Now close your eyes and imagine your ideal day.  Is it savoring a meal or experiencing mass?  Maybe actually sitting down next to those little old ladies on the bench instead of just furtively snapping pictures.  Put whatever you dream about next to the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s David.  Now that’s a list worth following!

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

Apartment with kitchen and fireplace

It’s a long story and a favorite memory

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Daily Italian Doses | La Finestra sul Fiume

Today is my birthday.  If I had a choice, I would be spending it here.  La Finestra sul Fiume.

Please go LIKE their facebook page here then run over and drool over their amazing website here.

You’re Welcome.

la finestra sul fiume

 

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2013   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #5 | Support smaller family run businesses

Le marche italy

Now that’s what I call a Bed and Breakfast!

A series posted last year, but the information is priceless!

I talked in previous posts about finding a home base and staying there for an extended period of time and also the benefits of traveling to a lesser known area.  Tip #5 brings both of those pieces of advice together to help save you money yet keep your experience amazing.

5. Stay in smaller, family run accommodations

This is something I live by.  I support these places 100%.  Smaller doesn’t mean less, in fact it is usually the opposite.  There is a ton of love put into accommodations run by families and that is reflected in the way guests are treated.  Plus, Italian families are struggling to make ends meet just like us.  I like to know that my money is helping to support them in their passion, not just being funnelled into some big corporation.

Dinner at our agriturismo

So how do you find these places?  I start by looking for Bed & Breakfast’s (B&B’s) and agriturismos.  A B&B normally doesn’t have many rooms and these rooms can occasionally be a part of the owners’ home.  The hosts are more readily available and looking forward to answering your questions, helping with your plans plus giving great advice for the area.  An agriturismo is a working farm that also accommodates guests.  Many of these places have an option for meals in addition to breakfast.  Being on a farm doesn’t mean you are surrounded by barnyards.  Most have beautiful grounds complete with olive groves and vineyards.

I have put together all of my favorite resources here to help you get started.  TripAdvisor is a great site.  Real reviews from real travelers along with average prices to help you with your budget.  Just remember to take everything said with a grain of salt.  Sometimes the happy travelers aren’t always the ones writing the reviews.  I also use SlowTrav as a place to get ideas as their travel philosophy is much like mine.

Find a smaller accommodation and you won’t be sorry.  You may even find you have become a part of their family.

Italy Le Marche

Instant Italian family

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip #4 | Travel to lesser known areas

Le marche

Ascoli Piceno in Le Marche

A series posted last year, but the information is priceless!

Another way to help save money and make your dream of travel to Italy come true this year is to think outside of the box.  The majority of tourists all travel to the same areas in Italy.  In major cities, the tourists can be found in the same concentrated places.  Of course there are the blockbusters to see, but aside from that you really don’t need to get caught up in the masses.  To increase your enjoyment, see more of the real Italy all while saving money, follow tip #4.

4. Travel to a Lesser Known Area

Most guidebooks lead people to the same places over and over.  When I travel I make sure not to miss the important sites and places that are a priority to me, but when I am done I make a beeline for the opposite direction of the other tourists.

An alternative to Tuscany is Umbria.  You are still within easy driving range if you want to still explore Tuscany.  Umbria is like Tuscany’s shy little sister and once you get to know her you find she has just as good of a personality.  I love Umbria.  It is full of hill towns, churches, parks, lakes and experiences.  This area is a marvelous home base.

Travel

Quaint and out of the way

Feeling even braver?  Then I encourage you to try Le Marche.  You will be lucky to find much more than a few token pages about this in mainstream guidebooks.  Le Marche feels like my personal secret, one that I can’t keep.  You can have it all here, from beaches to quaint villages.  The best part is that you won’t get run over by a herd of tourists snapping pictures.  The area is still close to places like Gubbio and Assisi making them an easy day trip.  Another area under the radar is Abruzzo, a mountainous region that is my next project.  Drop dead gorgeous country at a better price with less commotion.

You don’t have to skip the well known areas if you don’t want to.  Just try finding a city or town that is a little less popular and you will save money.  For example:  When traveling to the Amalfi Coast (where nothing is cheap) stay in one of the smaller but just as amazing towns further down.  Instead of Positano, try Ravello or Furore.  An alternative to this coast line is the Italian Riviera and my favorite the Cinque Terre.  Here prices are better and they would love a visit as they recover from the flooding.  Staying in Venice?  Try the Accademia District.  It’s just one bridge away from the action.  Florence on the ‘other side’ of the river is a completely different place.

Looking for places in lesser known or visited areas is just another tip to saving money and making that dream trip come true this year.  Stay tuned, I’ve got more tips on the way.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Travel to Italy Tip | Find a home base

Candle light dinner in Tuscany

A series I posted last year, but the information is priceless!Now that you have Committed to Travel (if you missed that post, read about it here) and have looked into the benefits of Off-Season Travel (read post here) its time to start talking about the logistics of your itinerary.  About 90% of people who hire me to help plan their trips to Italy have a To Do List a mile long.  Very rarely do people plan to stay more than 2 or 3 nights in one location.  I understand.  On my first trip to Italy I bounced around the country like a little kid set loose in a candy store.  I wasn’t sure when I would ever get back and I wanted to see everything.  Most travelers have that same urgency.  I spend much of my time helping people to slow down and prioritize their itinerary.  This is my next huge and most important travel tip.

3. Find a Home Base

Most travelers spend two weeks in Italy.   I recommend no more than three stops, staying one week in one place.  Gasp!  I said it.  Now like me explain why this works so well.

  • You will find better rates for week long stays.
  • If you book somewhere with a kitchen, you will save money by cooking and eating in several times during your stay.
  • Unique places often only accept week long reservations.  Dreaming of a stay in a villa or farmhouse?  You won’t be able to for just a night or two.
  • Being in one location, you become a temporary resident and truly begin to get the feel of Italy.  You get to experience a place, not just see it.
  • You save time and money by not constantly travelling to a new location.
  • You save time by skipping the checking in-checking out process.

Time is also as valuable on a vacation as money.  The process of changing locations is very time consuming and depending on the distance can take an entire day.  Italy may be small on the map, but nothing here happens quickly or easily.  If taking public transportation you are at the mercy of the train/bus schedules (or lack there of).

Also, the value of an experience is priceless and should be taken into great consideration during planning.  I would rather miss a few items on my to do list in order to have a higher quality trip with more touching memories.

My favorite little grandma

The two biggest arguments I hear about this style of travel are the following:  1.  There will not be enough to see or do in one area for a week and 2.  I need to see everything because I will not ever be back to Italy.  I assure you, one week will never be enough time to see and experience one place in Italy.  Never.  I have stayed many days in places that have absolutely no blockbuster attractions yet found myself wishing for more time.  The beauty in Italy is found in the nooks and crannys.  The tourist destinations are breathtaking and I am not saying you should forgo these places, but your memories that will be the most significant and lasting will be the unexpected ones.  These are best found and made when traveling slowly.  And the best way to travel slowly is by sticking to a home base.  Now I can’t promise that everyone will be able to return to Italy, life gets complicated.  You may never have the chance again, but that should not be your reason for rushing your trip.  Make your to do list as long as you like, then look it over and pick only your absolute favorites.  Put the rest on the back burner and tell yourself you will be back.  Try and remember that quality is far better than quantity in this situation.  Now close your eyes and imagine your ideal day.  Is it savoring a meal or experiencing mass?  Maybe actually sitting down next to those little old ladies on the bench instead of just furtively snapping pictures.  Put whatever you dream about next to the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s David.  Now that’s a list worth following!

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

Apartment with kitchen and fireplace

It’s a long story and a favorite memory

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Featured Photo Friday | Why I Love B&Bs

Vento di Rose

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

My Special Places in Italy | Civita B&B

Following my article about the magical hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio, I had requests for more information about the B&B I stayed the night in.

My room in Civita.

I would like to introduce Civita B&B, run by the talented Franco.

Trattoria Antico Forno

Trattoria Antico FornoThis amazing little place is has three rooms on the top floor of a building overlooking the main piazza.  Franco runs this B&B as well as the restaurant Trattoria Antico Forno.  We had the pleasure of dining with him each night and enjoying his simple yet delicious traditional meals.  I say dined with him because he spent as much time sitting at our table entertaining us with stories as he did preparing our meal.  Not many chefs are able or willing to do that!

To contact Franco about availabilities, following the link here.

If you plan on arriving in Civita on a Sunday, be aware that the tractor he usually uses to haul luggage up the hill is not allowed.  I suggest taking your necessities and valuables in a day pack instead of dragging all of your things up the steep  bridge.

And, yes, I learned this the hard way!

antico forno civita B&B

I’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

Love it??  Pass it on!

Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

My Special Places in Italy | Civita di Bagnoregio

View of Civita from across the valley

Regally perched high atop a hill of tufa is the magical but dying town of Civita di Bagnoregio.  This tiny village near Orvieto in Umbria has everything one could hope for when exploring the Italian countryside.  Civita is quaint, so perfect you might wonder if you have stumbled upon a movie set and not a real village.  Civita has views, breath-taking panoramic views from all sides that any photographer would drop dead for.  Civita has history, a story with every step and in every stone.

History is evident in the layers here.  Its origins are Etruscan and date back over 2500 years.  Civita had a prime location because it was situated along a major trade route to Rome and the town remained an important stop even as the Etruscan power gave way to the growing Roman Empire.  The town continued to build upon itself over the centuries.  Many of the existing structures were built during the Renaissance time period upon existing Roman walls whose foundations were Etruscan.  A classic example is the cathedral on the square.  It is located on the site of a Roman temple which was built over the original Etruscan temple.  From pagan to Christian over the course of thousands of years.  Looking at the buildings circling the piazza, you can see where the stones of one age end and another begin.

Civita’s main square

Maria, courtesy of Miriam

Currently there are less than two dozen people living in Civita, none of them original residents of the village.  Little Maria was the last of the living inhabitants that was born and raised within the walls, but she has sadly moved elsewhere because of her ailing health.  Many of you might remember her as the old woman who would wave passersby into her garden for sweeping views of the valley.  Now her gates are locked and her smile just a memory.  But while people and places seem to be in constant flux, Civita itself is timeless.

Climb up the deceiving steep cement bridge put in place after earthquakes and bombings destroyed the natural land connection.  Pass through the impressive stone gate carved by the Etruscans 2500 years ago.  Wander down the main street, ducking in to see the 2000 year old press along with all the little nooks and crannies.  Continue to follow the path as it takes you outside the back of the village and further down to the ancient caves that have been used for everything from storage of food and animals to shelter from the bombings during the war.  Creep up the dirt trail and peer into the dark Chapel of the Incarcerated, thought to originally be an Etruscan tomb turned jail and currently now a chapel.  When you make your way back to the village be sure to step into the cathedral on the main square.  There is a fresco on the left called the Madonna of the Earthquake, named after the shaking that broke loose a layer of white wash that had kept it hidden for years.  There is a wooden crucifix over the altar from the School of Donatello that has been a source of pride for the little community.

Civita is in the details

When visiting tiny Civita, a person could sprint across its entirety without so much as breaking a sweat.  In fact, many do.  Most come during the day spending less than an hour wandering around, missing much of the subtle hidden beauty and altogether ignoring the trail that takes you out the back of the village to the treasures below.  Some tourists do feel the pull of Civita and find themselves lingering over bruschetta or even a meal.  Rarely, a few choose to spend the night.

I was fortunate to be one of those visitors.  There is a stillness that settles over Civita as the evening turns to night.  A quiet calm feeling, like taking off your shoes and digging your toes into the sands of history.  I could imagine what this place must have been like in her peak before earthquakes and time had reduced the population from thousands to a handful.   As the time got late, the tourists disappeared and the few residents slowly left the main square for their own beds.  I had a hard time sleeping that night, the silence roaring in my ears and thoughts of all those here before me dancing in my mind.

Peaking out the window of my room in Civita.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!  Did you love it?  Pass it on!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

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