It may seem that the team here at J5Travel tends to manage some pretty quick travel turnarounds…and that is completely accurate, especially in the last 4 months of the year, when usually our business hits a seasonal trough (although that is not the case this year).
Just a short three days after our return from Hawaii, Kendall is back to living the laptop lifestyle as she spends two weeks in Italy. She is currently traveling to Bologna, Tuscany, and Rome with Waterstone Collection, a marketing and representation company that represents many hotels throughout Europe. She will then continue on next week to Florence. While next week’s article will be more property focused, this week she wants to share her Top 5 Highlights of the trip so far.
Top 5 - Bologna and Northern Tuscany
1. Gluten Free in Italy (above and below)
This may not be relevant to the majority of people, but it's extremely important to many, and I couldn’t lay out my top 5 highlights without mentioning the superb availability of gluten free options throughout Italy. As someone who loves food but can rarely enjoy traditional Italian dishes, I have been thoroughly amazed by how unrestricted I’ve been. It seems that every restaurant has gluten free pasta and bread options and each request is taken seriously. I was informed that pediatricians in Italy recommend every child be tested for Celiac Disease at age 6, so the accessibility of gluten-friendly foods is much higher than in the US. It’s truly a game changer for those with gluten sensitivities who just want to enjoy amazing, delicious food!
2. Wine and Olive Oil Tasting (below)
My first stop on this trip was Palazzo di Varignana located just outside of Bologna (more on the property next week). This is an expansive resort, but it’s also a working estate with 1,000 acres of farmland and vineyards. We learned how they produce their 4 signature wines along with their olive oil, and I have to say it was the best tasting experience I have ever had. The most impressive was their "Metodo Classico" sparkling wine. This method requires each bottle to be turned by hand every single day and produces natural, delicate bubbles as opposed to its close relative, Prosecco, which is infused with CO2 to create larger bubbles. We can arrange private tastings for our clients, so it’s truly an intimate, unforgettable experience.
3. Bologna City and Market Tour (above and below)
Bologna is arguably the most famous city in Italy for food, and I was fortunate enough to experience a tour that really highlighted this, and also very similar to one we could arrange for our clients. It was the perfect mix of history and food, complete with a visit to the Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro, a famous balsamic vinegar store, and a tour through the market. Italy has incredible biodiversity due to it being surrounded by sea on three sides, which mixed with cold wind from the north meeting warm wind from the south results in the most colorful and rich produce. This was definitely a highlight for this foodie!
4. Organic Farming (above and below)
It’s no secret that Italy is known for their delicious food. As I mentioned above, Italy has incredible biodiversity which allows for very rich soil and ideal climate for growing all kinds of produce. Something that many hotels and resorts, including the two I have been to so far, have adopted is a completely organic farming concept. This means no chemicals are used in the growing process whatsoever. While this poses certain challenges for the farmers (insects getting into vegetables, unusually warm temperatures interfering with the typical process, etc), it’s absolutely worth it to bring back the traditional Italian farming roots and avoid harsh pesticides. They then use all of their produce in their restaurants on property and offer tours and guest experiences in the gardens to learn more about true organic farming.
trave5. Volterra (above and below)
Located just 20 minutes from the beautiful Virtuoso property, Borgo Pignano, is the medieval town of Volterra. I was truly not prepared for just how fascinating this town would be, and if I went in to detail I’d be typing until next week. So, I’ll just say that it is a must see for anyone visiting the area. It is most widely known for being the only active source of Alabaster in Europe. A visit to an Alabaster carving workshop is a highlight of any trip here as all sculptures are made by local artisans from Alabaster sourced in Volterra. Sculptures made here can also be found in the Vatican!
PS. the bowl in the photo below took this master craftsman 5 minutes to create in front of our eyes.
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I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.
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