Custom trip planning... effortless travel ...unforgettable experiences.

Perfect in Puglia: Five Star Masserias

Posted by: Giovanna | May 17th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-05-17 14.10.59

Lonely Planet:

“ Puglia is Italy’s ascendant region, a place where savvy travellers bored or worn down by the crowds of Campania and Tuscany escape for something a bit less frenetic and manicured. Top of the list for prospective newcomers is the food. Puglia’s cucina povera is about as earthy as Italian cuisine gets without eating it straight out of the soil. Then there’s the exuberant architecture, best summarised by the word ‘baroque’ and exhibited in all its finery in the glittering ‘Florence of the South’, Lecce, and its smaller sibling, Gallipoli.

With the longest coastline of any region in mainland Italy, Puglia is larger than many people realise. In the north, the spur of land sticking out into the Adriatic is occupied by the balmy microclimates of the Gargano peninsula, a kind of miniature Amalfi with fewer poseurs. The Italian boot’s ‘stiletto’ hosts the land of Salento, a dry scrubby region famous for its wines, and bloodthirsty Greek and Turkish history. In between lies the Valle d’Itria, a karstic depression populated by vastly contrasting medieval towns that have little in common apart from their haunting beauty.

Screenshot 2016-05-17 14.10.32

Here are some of the more outstanding five star accommodations in Puglia (aka Apulia):

> Borgo Egnazia
Savelletri di Fasano – 72015 Fasano Brindisi Puglia
T: +39 080 225 5000

> Masseria Torre Maizza
72015 Savelletri di Fasano Brindisi Apulia
T: +39 080.482.78.38
F: +39 080.441.40.59

> Masseria San Domenico / Spa-Thalasso & Golf
A: Strada Proviciale 90 – 72015 Savelletri di Fasano Brindisi
T: 39 080 4827769 –
F: +39 080 4827978

Screenshot 2016-05-17 14.07.51

> Don Ferrante Dimore di Charme
A: Via S. Vito, 27 – Monopoly
T: +39 080.742521

> Masseria Torre Coccaro
A: Coccaro Contrada Coccaro 8 72015 Savelletri di Fasano Brindisi Apulia
T: +39 080.482.93.10

> Mantatelurè
A: Via V. dei Prioli, 42, 73100 Lecce
T: +39 0832 24 28 88

Travel Tips From Rome’s Best Guide

Posted by: admin | May 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-05-09 11.29.58

A&B has been escorting travelers across the Italian Peninsula for over a decade. We have been extremely fortunate to have in Rome one of our highest rated guides: Francesco Miglio. His touring company is a family business with mother, father, and sister all licensed experts in the tourism field. In his own words, Francesco has put this terrific list of essential travel tips.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 11.34.33


Rome is considered a very safe city as measured against other capitals. You should take obvious precautions, as in any city, such as keeping any bags and possessions under your control and being alert for bag-snatchers and pickpockets in crowded places (for example, the metro and buses).

Italian is a very easy language because is pronounced in the way is written. Italy is composed of 20 regions and in each of them the dialect change. The Roman dilect from the Italians is considered one of the most picturesque and funny of the country. Latin in this language is very important, so don’t forget a little handbook “English-Latin” to understand the many words on the ruins.

Speaking a little Italian goes a long way with the people. You should be able to greet someone, thank someone, acknowledge someone else’s thanks and maybe even say “How are you?”
Italians like most Europeans tend to be a bit more formal than Americans. Italians are very friendly people, but they start out a little more slowly than we do.
“Buon giorno” means “good morning” and “good day.”
“Buon pomeriggio” is used less often. It means “Good afternoon.”
“Buona sera” means “Good evening” as a greeting. “Buona notte” means “Good night” as a departure.
Do not use “Ciao” until you have become acquaintances. Let them say it first, then you know it’s OK to say it to them!
“Grazie” means “Thank you” and “Prego” means “please”, “you’re welcome” or even “after you” (when for example someone opens a door for you and says, “Prego” they are indicating that you should walk through first.
When you walk into a store or other establishment you should as a matter of course greet them with one of those time-dependent greetings. A quick, “Buon giorno, signore/signora/signorina” is the polite thing to say. It is doubtful that you will have to do the “Italian greeting”, but in case you meet someone who wants to, grasp their hands in yours, kiss each cheek lightly and quickly and say, “Ciao” each time.

Try to become familiar with the currency, and don’t be afraid to check your change. In a restaurant don’t be shy of querying the bill, if necessary. Be prepared for cashiers who are reluctant to accept banknotes of €50 and above for small purchases, and for being hassled for fiddly bits of change. Italy is still adjusting to the euro, and cashiers don’t like giving coins in change.
Cashpoints / ATMs are dotted around the city centre, and labelled Bancomat. They are usually, though not always, in good working order, and have menus in English. Check with your bank if you’re concerned about being able to draw money. A four-digit UK PIN code usually works fine, but US visitors can encounter problems. Note that many businesses, shops and restaurants in Italy do not accept credit cards.

The Italians are keen on the most enthusiastic forms of greeting. Hugs, kisses and handshakes are all bestowed upon meeting a friend, or even a mild acquaintance, regardless of sex. Two light kisses on the cheek, first the right and then the left.

In a small-medium sized shop, it’s standard to greet the staff as you enter, not when you approach the counter to pay. A friendly ‘Buongiorno’ or ‘Buonasera’ warms the atmosphere. When paying, we’ve found that staff usually expect you to put coins down on the surface or dish provided, rather than placing money directly into their hands (fear of germs? money-handling etiquette?), and they will do the same when giving you your change (il resto). The advent of the euro has caused problems for the Italians. Most lira transactions were in banknotes, and people are still adjusting to the fact that coins are now of significant denominations and in general use. Don’t be surprised to find the whole issue of change rather perplexing for cashiers, who may try to insist you give them complex combinations of coins and notes rather than simply changing your notes.

To make friends, it’s a good idea to pay some compliments. Most Italians still live in their town of origin and feel far more strongly about their local area than they do about Italy in general. Tell them how beautiful their town/lake/village/church is – and possibly add how much you prefer it to Rome/Milan/other Italian towns. Residents can be founts of knowledge regarding their local monuments and history, and a few questions will often produce interesting stories.

Whole essays can be written about the Italians’ relationships with clothes (maybe a future addition to this site…). Three of the most important observations:
1. Italians are very conformist about clothing; everyone wears the same fashions, from teenagers to grans (this can take some getting used to… see comment 2 below). Don’t be surprised or insulted if you are looked at askance for your ‘eccentricity’ in not wearing the latest customized jeans or fiendishly-pointed boots.
2. It’s important not to judge people in return by their choice of clothing. Styles do not necessarily carry the same connotations in Italy that they would in Britain or some other countries. A woman in fishnets, stilettos, miniskirt and caked makeup at eight in the morning is probably just going to work in a bank. Almost all youths lounge about in skin-tight t-shirts and casually-knotted knitwear (and are very perplexed by the response they get when they take their sense of style and grooming to a less ’sophisticated’ climate).
3. Sometimes clothing rules are written. To visit a church or religious site you will need to cover yourself up; no bare backs, chests, shoulders and sometimes no knees. Sometimes museums and other attractions can also be strict; no bathing costumes, for example. If you want to visit a church or religious site it’s a good idea to take something to cover yourself up with; for example a jumper or large scarf. Some churches supply cover-ups, e.g. sarongs are loaned to men with shorts so that they can modestly conceal their legs. Even where there are no written rules, it’s worth noting that bare chests and large expanses of sunburnt skin aren’t really acceptable away from beaches or sunbathing areas, whatever the temperature.

Sexual harassment is not regarded in the same way in Italy as in English-speaking countries. The general atmosphere is pretty unreconstructed, and women should be prepared for attention. However, the tone of this ‘attention’ is generally less aggressive than you may be used to. Men will call out compliments such as ‘bella’ (beautiful) instead of muttering crude suggestions. And culturally, these comments are not seen as insults; if you respond angrily or insultingly everyone will be very surprised. Whereas women of other nationalities may be used to telling strangers (in no uncertain terms) to shut up and go away, in Italy the norm is to ignore the attention. In any case, responding in English or in imperfect Italian will only encourage more attention. It’s best to do as the Italian women do, and sail past with your head held high. If you avoid eye contact and don’t respond, you are extremely unlikely to be pursued or hassled further.

Crossing the road is a hazardous occupation for tourists in Rome, and it pays to stay alert. Where there is a green man indicating that you can cross, be aware that cars may still be entitled to turn onto the road and cross where you are blithely walking. Where there are no lights, crossing places are indicated by white stripes. As a pedestrian you have the right of way here, but drivers are quick to spot a nervous foreigner and are just as likely to accelerate as to stop. You will need to set foot on the road before any vehicle will even consider stopping for you. Make sure that the drivers in approaching cars have seen you and that they have a reasonable stopping distance – and walk. Traffic etiquette in Rome is about survival of the fittest. However aggressive they may seem, drivers are aware that they could pick up penalty points (a recent innovation) or fines from running over pedestrians, and will toe the line if given no choice in the matter. However, you should always remain alert, particularly in wet weather when slippery roads make life even more hair-raising.

Italian banks are open on weekdays from 08:30 or 09:00 to 12:30 or 13:00 and from 14:20 or 15:00 to 16:00. Commercial office hours vary from one industry and sector to another but in general, most will operate somewhere between 08:30 and 18:30, Monday to Friday.

Since January 2005, smoking has been banned in all enclosed public places that do not offer sealed off rooms equipped with smoke extractors. The controversial new law covers bars, restaurants, offices, public buildings, public transport and cinemas. Smokers face fines of up to €275, whilst businesses could be hit for €2,000

Rome is not the most disabled-friendly city largely due to the number of hills, raised pavements and cobbled streets. Buses are wheelchair-friendly whilst remaining public transport in Rome is partially accessible. Leading visitor attractions are a mixed bag: a lift is provided to the top of the Colosseum, whilst the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is only accessible via the long route through the Vatican museums. General information and assistance is available from A.N.T.H.A.I. (Associazione Nazionale Tutela Handicappati ed Invalidi) at downtown Rome’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele 154, 00186 Roma, tel. 011-39-06-6821-9168; Accessible Italy offers guided tours for disabled travelers. More accessibility information on different types of accommodation, transport and attractions.

Public telephones accept euro coins, tokens and phone cards, sold in tobacconists, newstands and post offices. Many public phones now accept international credit cards.

The military police (carabinieri) and civil police (polizia) are contactable by telephoning 113. For medical help, call the 24-hour, English-speaking Medline on 06 808-0995 or the Rome American Hospital on 06 2885062/4. The fire service can be reached on 115; road assistance on 116. Embassies can assist in the last resort: the American Embassy is located at Via Veneto, 119/a, 00187 Rome, the British Embassy at via XX Settembre 80, 00187 Rome.

Tipping is not mandatory although it is customary, depending on whether or not you feel it is deserved. If so, an amount between 5% and 10% of the bill should be tipped. Some restaurants in Rome include gratuities in the bill, as well as the cover charge.

Eateries in Italy have operating hours that Americans might consider a little… weird. They aren’t open all day, in fact they usually aren’t even open all afternoon. Usually they open for lunch, 11:30 or so to 3 pm. Then they reopen for dinner at 7 or 7:30 pm and close again at midnight.
There are various types of restaurants in Italy; restaurants, pizzerias, osterias, trattorias and tavola caldas, plus bars and cafes. They all serve food but the sorts of food they serve depends on the type of place they are. Restaurants are the fanciest and have the highest prices generally. You get the normal Roman fare in the standard Italian way. Trattorias are restaurants that are generally owned by family members. You can get a good meal with a decent menu choice at a trattoria. An osteria is like a pub or a small restaurant; owned by a family with only 1 or 2 employees. You get really good food at an osteria. A pizzeria is obvious. A tavola calda (which means “hot table”) is a cafeteria style place where you get a filling meal for a very good price. You might have a choice of 2 or 3 main dishes, vegetables, pasta, something to drink.

If you visit Rome and go straight to the Colosseum as many tourist do, you will end up waiting in a really long queue before actually getting to see the interior.
Since the tickets to the Palatine are also valid for the Colosseum, make sure to go there first. The queue is much shorter and when you return to the Colosseum, you will not have to wait to buy a ticket as there is a separate entrance for those already having a ticket.

For what concerns the Vatican, every guide book tells you to go early in the morning….But you are on holiday and you probably don’t want to wake up at 6:30 to be sure to be the first of the 15,000 daily visitors of the Vatican Museums, for this reason we always suggest to visit them at 2 pm, less crowds outside and less inside. Doing a lunch tour of the Vatican you will be in a cool area during the warmest time of the day.

Unfortunately this is the bad part of being one of the most beautiful cities in the world and also one with the most tourist attractions…. Colosseo, Pantheon, Venice Square, Spanish Steps are full of these people that take advantage of families with kids or innocent tourist to charge them 5 to 15 Euros for a picture.

Source: Francesco Miglio, Miles & Miles,

Fendi Suites in Rome

Posted by: Giovanna | May 6th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-05-06 17.33.10

Fendi Private Suites
A: Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 48, 00186 Roma, Italy
T:+39 06 9779 8080

Another Fendi landmark has been unveiled in Rome. The newly refurbished Palazzo Fendi will reopen as an international destination, as it will comprise the company’s first boutique hotel, the Fendi Private Suites, and Palazzo Privé, an apartment designed by Dimore Studio, as well as a Zuma restaurant.

“The venue reflects Fendi’s aesthetic interpretation of its lifestyle in terms of design and is a symbol of the brand,” chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari told WWD. “There is no other place where you can so easily understand our very precise, very personal vision of luxury. Once people come and see this for themselves, their entire idea of Fendi will change.” Beccari said that this is “a vehicle that is not only commercial but is meant to transmit the sense of our creativity. Customers will be able to go beyond the product.”

The five-story, 17th-century building houses the brand’s largest store in the world, covering almost 10,800 square feet, and is an evolution of Fendi’s Paris and Milan flagships by architect Gwenael Nicolas, with a new area dedicated to Fendi’s in-house fur atelier, for special made-to-order, precious pieces, with eight artisans at work.

“This is the first time that a company gives up so many precious square meters to an atelier, which is not purely decorative or demonstrative — it’s a real customer experience and the artisans will be creating the more sophisticated and difficult furs. It’s a real production atelier,” explained Beccari.
The store will have a soft opening on Dec. 5. A bigger event is planned for next year. The flagship, with a staircase in red marble at the entrance, will be enriched with art pieces and sculptures.

Screenshot 2016-05-06 17.32.33

The Fendi Private Suites will feature dedicated Fendi Casa designs. “Fendi Casa is about the love for design and it will be evident in this location,” noted the executive, adding that guest will be offered “a Roman stay à la Fendi.” The concept is by architect Marco Costanzi, who also conceived Fendi’s new headquarters in Rome’s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana and the company’s Milan showroom. At the Suites, guests will be offered iPads with maps and soundtracks and a diary with Fendi stamps. As a souvenir and a gift, Fendi will also offer the rooms’ key holders in Selleria in different colors. The Suites will cost between 700 and 1,600 euros, or $754 and $1,722 at current exchange, a night. The hotel will open on Dec. 12. Beccari said the hotel is not part of a global strategy for the time being. “For the moment, it is limited to Rome, but we’ll see how it goes,” he said. Beccari said the Palazzo Privé, which covers 1,080 square feet, includes a kitchenette and allows users to “have some friends over for a meal or for drinks in the heart of the city. It’s an experience money can’t buy.”

Fendi has been raising the bar in terms of quality and luxury, but Beccari said this is a direction set in motion years ago. “We’ve steered a straight course. The price is not an issue for our customers, exotics for example are increasingly more important, but at the same time there is a fun side, with our bag bugs, for example.”

The Japanese award-winning restaurant Zuma, cofounded by Rainer Becker, will be placed on the top floor and roof bar, and is due to open in February. The company has occupied Palazzo Fendi, which is on Largo Carlo Goldoni, strategically located in front of luxury shopping street via Condotti and the Spanish Steps, since 2004 for retail and office purposes. The building was originally one of the residences of the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family, one of Rome’s most ancient aristocratic lines that boasts Pope Gregory XIII among its ancestors.

Source: Women’s Wear Daily

Classic Italian Cocktails: Campari, Negroni & Bellini

Posted by: Claudia | April 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

The Bellini

The Bellini

> Campari Cocktail
The Campari Cocktail is one of the best drinks featuring the distinct Italian aperitif. It is perfect for serving at dinner parties as a nice introduction before the meal. While Campari and bitters define this popular drink, it is important to choose your vodka wisely. Stick with the top-shelf vodkas that are nice and clean and you will have a great Campari Cocktail. Campari does have a very distinct, bitter taste and it often catches people by surprise at first. However, with a little time and dedication you can develop a palate for it and it may just become a new favorite. If a Campari-forward drink like this is too much, you may try easing into the taste with drinks like the Campari Cosmo, Fresh Squeeze, or Pink Campari.

1 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce vodka
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon twist for garnish

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Yield: 1 Cocktail

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.
Shake well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Negroni

The Negroni

> The Negroni
It’s the original 1:1:1 cocktail (equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari), but Chiltern Firehouse in London tweaked the ratio on this bittersweet Italian classic. This is part of BA’s Best, a collection of our essential recipes.

1½ ounces gin
1 ounce Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
¾ ounce Campari
1 orange

Stir gin, vermouth, and Campari in an ice-filled mixing glass until very cold, about 30 seconds. Strain cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer or a slotted spoon into an ice-filled rocks glass. 

Using a small serrated knife, remove a 1″ strip of peel from the orange (some white pith is okay); it should be stiff enough to provide some resistance when bent. Twist over drink to express oils; discard. Garnish with 3 very thin orange slices. Source: (from Bon Appetit)

Campari Cocktail

Campari Cocktail

> The Bellini
The Bellini is a popular sparkling wine cocktail and a perfect way to make your favorite wine a little peachy. The recipe is easy and the drink is a lot of fun.
The story behind the Bellini is that is was created in the 1930’s or 40’s at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani. It was named after the Italian renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini.
Originally, the Bellini used sparkling Italian wine, particularly prosecco, and it is still made that way in Italy. Elsewhere, it is often made with Champagne, though most any sparkling wine will do.
The Bellini is a popular drink for brunch and if you want something a little more innocent, try the Baby Bellini.

2 ounces peach juice, puree, or nectar
4 ounces prosecco or Champagne
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Yield: 1 Cocktail
Pour the peach juice into a Champagne flute.
Slowly top with sparkling wine.
More Tips on Making the Bellini
When it comes to the peach ingredient, you have a few options. Peach juice would be the first choice, though if you cannot find that, I would recommend a peach nectar. If you use a puree, make it as smooth as possible.
Of course, a fresh peach juice from your juicer will make the freshest Bellini, just be sure to remove the pit first.

Fodor’s Restaurant Picks:Taormina

Posted by: Claudia | April 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-04-10 18.47.57

Here are a sampling of restaurants around the classic Sicilian town of Taormina. According to Fodor’s food critics, these 5 eating establishments represent some of the best in Sicilian cuisine.

Table with a View- Bella Blu

Table with a View- Bella Blu

> Bella Blu
A: Via Pirandello 28, Taormina,; Tel#: 0942-24239; W:; Hours: Closed Jan.–Mar.
Fodor’s Review: If you fancy a meal with a view but don’t want to spend a lot, it would be hard to do much better than to come here for the decent €20 three-course prix-fixe meal. Seafood and pizza are the specialties; try the spaghetti with fresh clams and mussels or the pizza alla Norma (with ricotta, eggplant, and tomatoes). You can also opt for the €9 pizza and drink menu. Through giant picture windows you can watch the gondola fly up and down from the beach, with the coastline in the distance. Families will especially enjoy the casual, convivial atmosphere and friendly service.

> L’ Arco dei Cappuccini
A: Via Cappuccini 5A, off Via Costantino Patricio, Taormina; Tel#: 0942-24893; Hours: Closed Wed. and Feb.
Fodor’s Review: Just off Via Costantino Patricio, by the far side of the Cappuccini arch of the name, lies this diminutive restaurant. Outdoor seating and an upstairs kitchen help make room for a few extra tables—a necessity, as locals are well aware that neither the price nor the quality is equaled elsewhere in town. Indulge in the veal cutlet with Etna mushrooms, pasta con le sarde, or a simple slice of grilled pesce spada (swordfish). Reservations are usually essential for more than two people.

> La Giara
A: Vico La Floresta 1, Taormina; Tel#: 0942-23360; W:; Hours: Closed mid-Nov.–mid-Mar. No lunch.
Fodor’s Review: This restaurant, named after a giant vase unearthed under the bar, is famous for being one of Taormina’s oldest restaurants. The food’s not bad, either. The kitchen blends upscale modern techniques with the simple flavors of traditional specialties. It specializes in everything fish: one spectacular dish is the fish cartoccio (wrapped in paper and baked). You can also extend your evening at the popular, if touristy, piano bar, or at the dance club that operates here on Saturday night (and every night in August). There’s a terrace with stunning views, too.

> La Piazetta
A: Vico Francesco Paladini, off Corso Umberto, Taormina; Tel#: 0942-626317; W:; Hours: Closed Nov. and 2 wks in Feb. No lunch Mon.–Thurs., June –Sept.
Fodor’s Review: Sheltered from the city’s hustle and bustle, this elegant little eatery exudes a mood of relaxed sophistication. Classic dishes such as risotto ai frutti di mare (with seafood) are competently prepared, the grilled fish is extremely fresh, and the service is informal and friendly. The modest room has simple white walls—you’re not paying for a view.

> Vecchia Taormina
A: Vico Ebrei 3, Taormina; Tel#: 0942-625589; Hours: Closed Wed. and Jan. and Feb.
Fodor’s Review: Warm, inviting, and unassuming, Taormina’s best pizzeria produces deliciously seared crusts topped with fresh, well-balanced ingredients. Try the pizza alla Norma, featuring the classic Sicilian combination of eggplant and ricotta—here, in the province of Messina, it’s made with ricotta al forno (cooked ricotta), while in the province of Catania, it’s made with ricotta salata (uncooked, salted ricotta). The restaurant also offers fresh fish in summer, and there’s a good list of Sicilian wines. Choose between small tables on two levels or on a terrace.

Bologna’s Ristoranti: Fodor’s Best…

Posted by: Giovanna | April 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-04-09 18.04.47

Here are four of Bologna’s better ristoranti…according to Fodor’s:

> Da Cesari
A: Via dei Carbonesi, 8 (South of Piazza Maggiore) W: Hours: Closed Sun., Aug., and 1 wk in Jan. Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Review: “Just off Piazza Maggiore, this one-room restaurant has white tablecloths, dark-wood paneling, and wine bottle–lined walls. Host Paolino Cesari has been presiding over his eatery since 1955, and he and his staff go out of their way to make you feel at home. The food’s terrific—if you love pork products, try anything on the menu with mora romagnola. Paolino has direct contact with the people who raise this breed that nearly became extinct (he calls it “my pig”). The highly flavorful meat makes divine salame, among other things. All the usual Bolognesi classics are here, as well as—in fall and winter—an inspired scaloppa all Petroniano (veal cutlet with prosciutto and fontina) that comes smothered in white truffles.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 17.58.22

> Da Giannini a La Vecia Bulagna
A: Via Clavature 18, Piazza Maggiore; Tel#: 051-229434; Hours: No dinner Sun. Closed Mon; Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Review: “Locals simply call it “da Gianni,” and they fill these two unadorned rooms at lunch and dinner. Though the interior is plain and unremarkable, it doesn’t much matter—this place is all about food. The usual starters such as a tasty tortellini in brodo are on hand, as are daily specials such as gnocchi made with pumpkin, then sauced with melted cheese. Bollito misto (mixed meats boiled in a rich broth) is a fine option here, and the cotechino con purè di patate (a deliciously oily sausage with mashed potatoes) is elevated to sublimity by the accompanying salsa verde.

> Divinis
A: Via Battiebecco, 4/C; Piazza Maggiore; Tel#: 051-2961502; W:; Hours: Closed Sun. Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Review: “Bottles lining the walls on both floors of this spot are a testimony to its commitment to serving fine wines, whether by the glass or by the bottle. The wine list runs to 102 pages—and terrific food accompanies the wines. Cheese and cured meat plates are on offer, as are superlative soups, salads, and secondi on a menu that changes frequently. Special events, such as wine tastings and tango dancing, happen throughout the week. Divinis’s continuous opening hours, a rarity in Italy, are an added plus. You could have a coffee at 11 am or a glass of wine well after midnight.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 18.03.22

> Marco Fadiga Bistrot
A: Via Rialto, 23/C; Tel#: 051-220118; W:; Hours: No lunch; closed Sun. and Mon. Reservations essential.
Fodor’s Review: “If you’re looking for terrific food and something out of the ordinary—an Italian restaurant that also serves non-Italian food—dine at this French-styled bistrot: a warren of brilliantly colored rooms lit by chandelier. Chef Marco Fadiga has spent much time in England and France, and their culinary influences show. What’s on offer each night is written on a blackboard, which is brought to the table. You can have marvelous raw oysters, as well as the plateau (a very un-Italian assortment of raw things from the sea). Traditionalists will thrill to his tortellini in brodo, and adventurous sorts might like the tartare di orata (sea bream tartare) served with fresh and candied fruit.

Source: Fodor’s.

Venice’s Best Souvenir Shops

Posted by: Laurena | April 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-04-09 17.28.31

“The minute you set foot in Venice, you’ll be pestered by people offering you “authentic souvenirs” to take home. Keep walking. Give yourself time to choose typical items made by Venetians and available only in Venice.

Here are five souvenirs worth taking home: a straw hat, a pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses, a balsa wood ship model, a ground blown-glass vase, a necklace in Murano glass. according to The Huffington Post, five shops worth checking out:

San Marco A: 4813 Calle del Lovo; Tel#: +39 041 5226454; Hours: (9:30am – 7:30 pm) closed Sunday.
Giuliana, the owner, can be credited with a number of things, such as reviving the traditional gondolier’s winter hat (in black wool and with pompoms) and making the best straw hat. At the workshop of her centrally located shop, she makes women’s hats—also to measure—in straw, fabric and felt (you can have them customized), the original zoggia worn by the doges, and three-cornered hats with prints for costume parties. If you’re lucky enough to own a vintage plane or car, you’ll love her ideas for the fashions of yore: Lindberg’s jacket, Fangio’s pants, and aviator jackets from the Fifties with headsets and goggles. Lastly, there’s the best national selection of excellent panama hats, a favorite among the jet set. Giuliana personally follows their production in Ecuador.



San Marco A: 1280 Frezzeria; Tel#: +39 041 5224140; Hours: 9:30am – 12:30pm and 3.30 – 7:30pm, closed Sunday.
If you want a truly unique pair of glasses, head to Lorenzo and Barbara Fosca, close to St. Mark’s Square. The siblings, who inherited the family business, are experts for frames made of plastic resin, water-buffalo horn, wood, steel, and cellulose acetate (in this case, the type of workmanship makes it possible to insert various materials such as fabric and Venetian murine), made to their designs in the town of Cadore. They are famous for the classic Le Corbusier model (for nearsighted but ever- hopeful architecture students), but their shop window shows all types: optical, folding and even gondola-shaped.

San Polo 2681 Calle seconda dei Saoneri; Tel#: +39 041 719372; Hours: 9:30am – 12:30pm and 2–6pm Closed Sunday
If the shop door is closed, walk a few steps past it: on the left you’ll find Gilberto Penzo in his studio designing some sort of boat. If you have always been fascinated by models of ships and sailing vessels, or even small rowboats built with the same meticulous approach, this will be a little paradise for you. Enveloped in the wonderful scent of wood and glue, you’ll find everything you need and a little more: ship models, construction plans, assembly kits, surveys of historic constructions, rowlocks and votive offerings for sailors.

Dorsoduro A: 1071 Ponte de le Maravegie; Tel#: 041 5282190; Hours: 10:30am – 12:45pm and 3–6:30pm Closed Sunday and Monday
For his Murano vases Massimo Micheluzzi favors red, black and blue, which become intensely saturated through grinding. His designs are graphics that verge on the organic in some cases, and the surfaces resemble enlargements of marine forms.

San Polo A: 70, Sotoportego dei Oresi Tel#: +39 041 5210016.
Marina and Susanna Sent, who grew up in Murano (where their Vasi Micheluzzi. company is located), are respected—and widely copied—designers of necklaces and knickknacks. They create veritable sculptures (they have held numerous exhibitions, from London to Stockholm and around the world), made with handcrafting techniques ranging from murrino glass to filigree. In addition to necklaces, you’ll also find plates in fused glass and glass-fiber lamps. All the items are contemporary and utterly memorable.


Perfect Piedmont: A 5-Day Gourmet Wine Tour

Posted by: Laurena | April 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-04-09 16.38.47

This A&B escorted private tour is designed for gourmands and wine aficionados alike, highlighting the outstanding Piedmont wine estates of Barolo, Barbaresco & Barbera.

This designed as a springtime Piedmont wine tour! Barolo is dubbed “the king of wines and wine of kings,” and today showcases the best of the best. After a pick-up in Tortona, A&B shuttles you to the Langhe (an hour’s drive). We begin at the historical birthplace of Barolo, the Marchesi di Barolo winery. It was here that the Marchesa Giulietta Colbert Tancredi produced the very first Barolo. And it’s here that we’ll have our first tasting over lunch in the winery’s private dining room.

In the afternoon, the focus shifts from 19th century pioneers to 1970s winemaking radicals. Because of Elio Altare’s game-changing innovations, such as green harvest and French barrique, the winemaker was disowned by his father. But his methods have since taken hold, and Altare has been an influential mentor to the next generation.

Then we go back to the 19th century at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour. Now a museum, this was the home of Italy’s first Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. Like an Italian Thomas Jefferson, this politician was equally adept at wine and became a seminal figure in the creation of Barolo wine in the 1800s. At the museum, a film will provide an excellent historic overview.

A welcome dinner follows in the medieval city of Alba, which introduces the elegant cuisine of Piedmont. Here menus are loaded with plin (tiny meat-filled ravioli), countless renditions of risotto, meats braised in Barolo, and delectable hazelnut-and-chocolate desserts. 

Brunate, Cannubi, Bricco Lucciani…. These are among the historic vineyard names that resonate with Barolo connoisseurs. Today A&B clients taste cru Barolos from these and other star vineyards. We start at Paolo Scavino, a leader in the 1970s renaissance of Barolo wine and considered a modernist winemaker. You’ll see his impeccable cellar, which makes impeccable wine. Be prepared to be amazed…

After lunch in the village of Barolo, we have to opportunity to taste several Barolo cru side-by-side at Damilano. This winery controls over half of the historic Cannubi vineyard and has parcels in other prized sites, such as Liste. Yet while aiming for quality, Paolo Damilano and enologist Beppe Caviola have also prioritized value. As a result, theirs are among the best price-value Barolos around.

Next, we head to the small family-run estate of G.D. Vajra. Founded in 1972,Vajra hews to tradition in its Barolo, but also isn’t afraid to experiment with unorthodox varietals, such as Riesling. We finish up the day with dinner at a Slow Food restaurant in Alba. 

Screenshot 2016-04-09 16.45.23

Founded in 1870, Aldo Conterno was the first to export Barolo to the U.S. Today, the fifth generation runs the show, adhering to a traditionalist approach to Barolo while prizing fruit and freshness. Our eloquent host Giacomo Conterno will entertain and enlighten as he walks us through the family’s Monforte estate and pours both classics (Barolo) and novelties (Super Piedmont blends).

Aldo Conterno Montforte winery

Aldo Conterno Montforte winery

Then we head south into the Alte Langhe, the higher elevation zone of the Langhe, where hazelnut groves and pastures replace vineyards. Our destination is a cheese farm in Murazzano, a DOP area known for rounds of fresh cows’, sheep’s, and goat’s milk cheese. We’ll tour the family-run farm, where mama makes the salumi and daughter the cheese, then enjoy a buffet lunch.

Elvio Cogno Winery

Elvio Cogno Winery

Afternoon takes us to another Barolo tasting: Elvio Cogno. Located near la Morra, this estate was run by a lawyer from Turin before being bought by the Cogno family and completely renovated. Here they resurrected the nearly extinct nascetta grape, which you’ll taste, as well as their stellar Barolos. We then return to Alba for dinner on your own. 


Today the A&B escort will take you to the village of Barbaresco, on the alluvial banks of the Tanaro River. Here Nebbiolo makes a more silky, elegant, perfumed wine, representing the “queen” to Barolo’s “king.” We’ll start with Marchesi di Gresy. Barbaresco’s oldest and largest winery in private hands, this modernist winery owns Martinenga, the only cru belonging to just one owner. Here Barbaresco sees some time in barrique. That stands in contrast to our second winery, the Produttori del Barbaresco, one of Italy’s most highly respected cooperatives, which makes benchmark Barbaresco in a traditionalist style. We’ll hear how its 55 growers decide when to pick, how to pay, and what to bottle as a cru.

Our third visit is Albino Rocca. Now run by the founder’s granddaughters, it represents a typical Barbaresco winery: small production (around 50K bottles) and family-run, with the winery and household sharing one property. Dinner is at an osteria is one of the tiny Barolo villages.

Our last full day in Piedmont will on Barbera, Piedmont’s most widely grown grape. Until the 1980s, it was little more than a rustic table wine. But thanks to key innovators, it’s been transformed from a farmhouse quaffer to a wine of great character and finesse—another prized plum of Piedmont.

The story starts at Braida, the estate of Giacomo Bologna. Now deceased, this man single-handedly revolutionized Barbera d’Asti. We’ll hear this Cinderella story and taste through the estate’s bottlings, which range from a dry frizzante Barbera to barrique-aged powerhouses.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 16.57.50

Then we head to Castagnolo Lanze, headquarters of La Spinetta. The Rivetti brothers have made succulent Barberas since 1985, but have also pioneered single-vineyard Moscato and added Barolo and Barbaresco to their portfolio, which achieved instant cult status. (In 2001, they also expanded to the Tuscan coast, founding Casanova della Spinetta.)

Brezza Winery

Brezza Winery

We return to Alba for some time on your own. You can search for older Barolo vintages in well-stocked wine shops, pick up white truffles and yummy chocolate-hazelnut candies in the gourmet shops, or visit the baroque and medieval churches. Our farewell dinner is in Barolo at the Brezza winery, where we’ll sample their wines in the restaurant of their B&B.

Private A&B car & driver to the airport of your departure.

A&B Concierge-Managed Travel

Posted by: Giovanna | April 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-04-09 16.22.52

Imagine during your trip having on a private car and driver on call 24/7 or a professional guide. With A&B’s concierge-managed travel service our team follows you across the Italian Peninsula to ensure your every want and every need is attended to. Forget about lost luggage, or arranging a walking tour or cooking class or making a spa appointment or private transfer between cities …A&B handles it all.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 15.13.12

For the most demanding travellers A&B can also arrange exclusive services such as personal shoppers, private yachts, jets or helicopters, cooking lessons, private touring with your own personal guides and drivers. At A&B we are not only committed to providing you with an unforgettable trip to Italy, we are also committed to ensuring your happiness and comfort from the minute you begin planning your trip, to the day you return home.

Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines – 2015

Posted by: Claudia | February 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

Screenshot 2016-02-22 20.59.34

Wine Spectator’s recently published list of Top 100 wines of the world includes 18 great offerings from Italy.

Among those in the Top 10 were il Poggione (#4) a Brunello di Montalcino of 2010 vintage and and Amarone from Masi(#8) a 2008 vintage. Other wines for making the top 20 highest rated wines was another Brunello from Altesino and another a Brunello from La Serena (#13). Interesting the Altesino Brunello had the highest score of all of the 100 wines on the list with a rating of WS 98 points.

The complete list of Italian offerings that made the Wine Spectator list were:

#4 / Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino / 2010/ WS 94 pts
#8 / Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Serègo Alighieri Vaio Armarone / 2010/ WS 95 pts
#13 /La Serena Brunelli di Montalcino / 2010/ WS 96 pts
#18 / Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli/ 2010/ WS 98 pts
#27 / Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino / 2010/ WS 95 pts
#41/ Podere Sapaio Bolgheri Volpolo/ 2012/ WS 93 pts
#43 / Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino / 2010/ WS 94 pts
#46 / Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico / 2011/ WS 90 pts
#50 / Bartolo Mascarello Barolo/ 2010/ WS 97 pts
#52 / Brancaia Toscana Italiana / 2012/ WS 94 pts
#55 / ArcanumToscana Il Fauno / 2010/ WS 92 pts
#62 / Odero Barolo / 2011/ WS 93 pts
#67 / Feudo di Santa Croce Primitivo di Manduria LXXIV / 2013/ WS 91 pts
#71 / Antinori Bolgheri Suoeriore Guado al Tasso / 2012/ WS 95 pts
#74 / d’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture / 2012/ WS 90 pts
#87/ Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna/ 2013/ WS 90 pts
#89/ Zisola Sicilia/ 2013/ WS 90 pts
#93/ Schola Sarmenti Nardo Nera Riserva/ 2012/ WS 90 pts