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Posts tagged ‘Tuscany’

Wanderlust Wednesday |Siena streets

Siena.  Anyone that has ever had the chance to visit always seems to sigh wistfully when asked.

Alessio Grazi

Photo courtesy of Alessio Grazi


Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

Wanderlust Wednesday | Simple lunch


italy travel

Copyright 2014, Once in a Lifetime Travel

Dreaming of Italy?  Follow me.

Living Locally | Relax and Enjoy

I have talked about four of the five steps to my Living Locally philosophy so far:   putting yourself in their shoes , making the first attempt at communication , blending in and keeping an open mind.  Now for the final and most important!

STEP FIVE:  Relax and enjoy

You will have already created the time to experience encounters that you have been dreaming of because of good preparation and smart traveling choices.  This will not be the perfect trip because traveling (especially in Italy) is never completely predictable, but this will be the absolutely most amazing adventure.  Remember to roll with the punches and always be on the look out for an opportunity to get to know Italy personally.  A rainy day may mean a missed bike ride but instead a glorious little cafe otherwise overlooked.  Travel, like life, is full of ups and downs.  The trick is to be prepared for the worst while enjoying whatever is thrown your way.  Traveling is fun, but Living Locally is pure joy.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Keep an open mind

I am continuing on with step four of my Living Locally philosophy.   I have covered three of my five steps to more meaningful travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  This is Living Locally.   The first three steps were about putting yourself in their shoes , making the first attempt at communication and blending in.

STEP FOUR:  Forget what you’ve known to be true and keep an open mind

It’s a big world out there, and nobody does it exactly like we do.  While I’m not asking you to pretend you aren’t American and aren’t a tourist, I’m simply suggesting that you leave your expectations behind and don’t compare things to how we would have done it back home.  I have learned that there is always more than one way to get something done.   You never know, you might actually discover something you like better.  I have learned that pasta anyway other than al dente is a crime and the last time I used Ranch dressing on my salad is a very distant memory.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Try To Blend In

For those of you who missed my previous posts, I am taking some time to explain each of my five steps to more meaningful travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  I call this Living Locally.   The first two steps were about putting yourself in their shoes and making the first attempt at communication.

STEP THREE:  Try to Blend In

Osteria dell'AquachetteWatch the locals and by all means copy them!  See a crowd hanging out somewhere?  Go check it out.  Sometimes I feel like a private investigator as I try to figure out where they hang out, where and what they eat or why they do what they do.  Forget trying to explain “double-tall-non-fat-sugar-free-half-caf-vanilla-latte” and belly up to the bar for whatever they are having.  I learned how to appreciate my caffe by studying those around me.  Never go to a restaurant full of tourists with billboards in English screaming ‘we take credit cards.’  Instead, walk around and explore the narrow streets until you find a place packed with locals.  Handwritten menus tacked to the door are the best but be prepared to pay in cash.  Ask your host or the lady at the market where they ate last NOT where they think you should go.  When all else fails, follow your nose.

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Copyright 2012   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel

Living Locally | Make the first attempt at communication

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to watch other travelers as they interacted with locals and responded to their new environment.  I have witnessed some wonderful encounters but I have also had the unfortunate chance to see some horrific examples of “ugly Americanism.”

For those of you who missed my first post, I am taking some time to explain each of my five steps to more meaning travel so that you can have more than just a great trip this year.  I call this Living Locally.

STEP TWO:  Make the first attempt at communication.


No translation needed.

I do not speak any other languages fluently, but I learn to say a few simple and polite phrases in the language of any country I visit.  Always ask the person if they speak English…in their language.  Nothing screams “I don’t care about you” like a tourist rattling on in English on the assumption that the listener understands.  While most foreigners do have at least some understanding of English, everyone appreciates even a simple effort on your part.  You will also find that people are more likely to go out of their way to help if you have tried to communicate on their terms first.  I have witnessed someone pretending they didn’t understand what was being said, only to later speak effortlessly with me.

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Copyright 2012   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!

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

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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.


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

Get lost in the right direction

Travel Italy inspirational quotes memeI’m obsessed with feedback, let me know what you think.

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Copyright 2014   Andi Brown,  Once in a Lifetime Travel


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