Donna Franca Shares Summer Recipe

July 7, 2016

Donna Franca's Special Summer Recipe:  Pappa al Pomodoro 

Surprise your friends and family with this simple yet delicious Tuscan Treat!

Ingredients (for 6 to 8 people):

⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 baby carrots, finely chopped

4 stalks of celery, finely chopped      

salt and black pepper to taste

⅓ cup of white wine

1½ cans of crushed tomatoes, plus two cups of cold water

3 bay leaves

5 large slices of Italian bread (one week old)

⅓ cup of chopped basil 

How to prepare:

In a large pot, pour in the olive oil and add the chopped herbs (except the basil, which has to be put in the soup at the very end).  When the mixture is a light golden color, add the wine; then the tomatoes, water, and spices. Gently boil over medium heat for about 1 hour.  Cut the slices of bread into small cubes and add them to the soup. The soup is done when all of the bread has been blended into the soup.  Put in the basil, and cook for another 15 minutes.  Serve the hot soup in bowls, and drizzle a little olive oil on each.  

Buon appettito!

5 Reasons to Visit Venice

July 7, 2016

Why travel to Venice?  As one of the most unique and romantic destinations, Donna Franca Tours shares five of the best attractions of the Serene Republic.  

1. Grand Canal

The 2-mile-long Grand Canal is the city's most popular and highly photographed attraction. Hiring a gondolier for a romantic cruise along the canal is a must! 

2.  Saint Mark's Basilica

Located in the center of Venice, The church was built in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist, whose remains were stolen from their home in Alexandria, Egypt, and hidden in barrels of pork by a couple of crafty Venetians, intent on bringing him to rest in Venice. If you look closely at the church's center gable, you can see a statue of St. Mark along with Venice's emblem: a lion with wings. 

 3.   Rialto Bridge

The bridge's current incarnation is the handiwork of Antonio da Ponte, whose name translates to "Anthony of the Bridge," is built entirely of marble after collapsing multiple times from previous wooden designs. Predicted to fail by critics, the bridge still stands and is considered an engineering marvel. 

4.   Campanile di San Marco

The bell tower was constructed in the early 20th century, as a replica of the 15th-century original. The former one provided a stage for Galileo Galilei's presentation of the telescope; it also served as a stage for tight rope walkers who would humor the doge with their feats during the flight of the Angel celebration. Today's campanile is used for sightseers desiring a Venetian panorama - though one without canals; oddly, the canals are obscured from so high up. 

5. Doge Palace & Bridge of Sighs

The Doge's Palace has witnessed an intriguing history in its role as the residence of the doge (leader), the seat of government and the palace of justice. Everything from execution orders to the affairs of Venetian leaders was carried out here; and a web of secret passageways and hidden doors reveals a decidedly mysterious past.

Centuries ago, the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Doge's Palace to the dungeons, was used to transport prisoners from the courtroom to the prisons.  Legend has it that the Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian, was named for the sighs prisoners like Giacomo Casanova would utter as they took one last look at the outside world through the bridge's windows as they made their way to prison. On a much lighter note, Venetian lore says if two lovers kiss on a gondola under the bridge, they'll be granted eternal bliss. 

Italia's Hot Spots: 5 Best Beaches in Italy

July 7, 2016

Come chill this summer in Italy!  The country isn't just known for its museums and cathedrals, but it is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here are the top 5 beaches that this peninsula has to offer.

1. SAN VITO LO CAPO in Sicily: Known for it's clear warm waters, this beach is on the island's west coast across from Trapani. 

2. ISOLA DEL GIGLIO in Tuscany-This beach is famous for its thriving underwater life and is a perfect snorkeling spot. 

3. MONDELLO in Palermo- Here you can find bars, restaurants and small shops.

4. CHIA in Sardinia- a spot for those who love outdoor living.  This beach offers camping facilities along with blue waters.

5. SALINA in the Aeolian Islands-  is an island  formed by six volcanoes offering a variety of scenic delights for the visitors who crave adventure sports ranging from scuba diving to water skiing.

Sagra Summer Celebrations in Italy!

June 6, 2016

The term "sagra" denotes a local food festival where you will indulge in local delicacies side by side with the town or village inhabitants in a festive outdoor setting. 

Try to include one of these community gatherings during your next trip to Italy.  It is a great opportunity  to sample and  taste local Italian food culture. You order food prepared by locals who are quite  passionate for their culinary specialties, then sit at communal tables in a rustic setting.  Dining at a sagra is inexpensive and fun!

Here are five sample sagra events taking place this summer in Italy:

1. La Fiera dell'Aglio (Ferrara)

A festival which celebrates all things garlic! This sagra takes place  in Voghiera, a town outside of Ferrara  situated in the Emilia-Romagna  Region (northeast of Bologna) and takes place in August.  What makes the garlic of Voghiera so special?  It's a combination of whiteness, large cloves and that it keeps for a long time without preservatives.

2.  Cortona Giostra dell'Archidado (Arezzo)

Every year, a procession of 300 or more people wearing wonderful medieval costumes as well as many riders on their horses parade through Cortona's historic center. The competition known as the Giostra dell'Archidado commemorates the wedding of Francesco Casali, Lord of Cortona, and his noblewoman bride Antonia Salimbeni of Siena, which took place in 1397. The crossbowmen from Cortona's five quarters, "quintieri", compete for a golden arrow. The contest is held in Piazza Signorelli. This feast is held in Cortona, a town in the province of Arezzo (southeast of Florence) and takes place in June.

3. The Festa del Barbarossa (Siena)

On the last weekend of June, the people of San Quirico D'Orcia (in the Province of Siena) travel back to the Middle Ages to commemorate the meeting here in 1155 between Emperor Frederick the First, Barbarossa, and Pope Adrian IV's Papal Emissaries. The Festa del Barbarossa features medieval costume parades, flag throwing and archery competitions.

4. Sagra te lu Ranu (Puglia)

Sagra te lu Ranu is celebrated in July in the town of Merine in Puglia.  Here the people celebrate the harvest to come and the elements of nature that give the land its incredible fertility, by featuring traditional delicacies such as fresh and aged cheeses, cured meats, wines, grappa,  breads and pastas made from locally grown durum wheat. Homemade orecchiette, the pasta that the Puglia region is known for, is served with traditional toppings such as breadcrumbs, fresh ricotta, and tomato sauce. A bowl of pasta costs four Euro. Many other dishes are also available. Pasticiotti, the pastry that Lecce is known for, are also offered piping hot from the oven. Beer and wine stands are prevalent with wine costing 50 cents a cup. Live bands play all night.

5. Sagra pesce e patate  (Lucca)

This fish and potatoes (fish and chips) festival takes place in Barga, a medieval town of the Province of Lucca, from July 22nd to August 16th at the Barga Football Stadium "Moscardini." People can taste fried fish and chips. However, other dishes are served such as grilled meat, cold dishes, and home-made cakes and desserts. This sagra is accompanied by music entertainment and dancing. Moreover, there is a special area for children where they can play.



Where to Find the Most Delicious Cannoli in Italy

June 6, 2016

The cannoli, meaning "little tube"is an Italian pastry dessert which originated from the Island of Sicily. In Italy, they are commonly known as "cannoli siciliani", Sicilian cannoli.

Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta based filling. They range in size from "cannulicchi", no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions typically found south of Palermo, Sicily, in Piana degli Albanesi!

Here are 5 of the best venues for cannoli tasting in Italy:

1. Eurobar Di Michele Mazzara in Sicily.

2. La Cannoleria Siciliana in Rome

3  I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza in Rome

4. Fabbrica Cannoli F.lli Rosciglione in Palermo

5. Antica Pasticceria Cuori di Sfogliatella in Naples 

Experience Tuscany with Wine & Gourmet

May 15, 2016
Savor delectable culinary delights, sample extraordinary wines from historic vineyards, experience local cheeses and olive oils, partake in a cooking class at a historic Abbey, and immerse yourself in the healthy Tuscan way of life on our Essence of Tuscany Vacation.   

Included Features  

  • Deluxe air conditioned mini coach transportation with English speaking driver throughout 
  • Six (6) accommodation in superior double rooms at the 1st Class Palazzo Leopoldo Hotel in Radda in Chianti 
  • Two (2) nights accommodation is executive double rooms at the 1st Class Degli Orafi Hotel in Florence
  • Buffet breakfast daily
  • Olive oil tasting at an olive oil press in Radda in Chianti
  • Visit the Castello di Brolio Wine Estate for a winery visit, wine tasting followed by lunch at the estate's locanda with wine
  • Hands on cooking class with English instruction at the Badia a Coltibuono Cooking School in Gaiole in Chianti followed by lunch with wine
  • Guided excursion to the hills towns of Siena and San Gimignano
  • Visit  the Fattoria Poggio Alloro, an organic farm for a winery visit, wine tasting and lunch 
  • Visit the Prada and Gucci outlets for world class shopping
  • Tasting tour of Florence visiting gourmet food shops, sampling typical Tuscan specialties
  • Walking tour of Florence with English speaking guide including skip the line reservations & entrance fee to the Accademia Gallery to view Michelangelo's famous "David" Statue

View the full itinerary


Where to Find the Best Gelato in Italy

May 15, 2016

Gelato in Italian literally means "frozen."  This rich, creamy and flavorful ice cream is coveted around the world.

The great tradition of Italian gelato started during the Italian Renaissance.  The Medici Family who ruled over Florence sponsored a contest, searching for the greatest frozen dessert.  A man named Ruggeri, a chicken farmer by day who dabbled in cooking during his spare time, took part in the competition.  Ruggeri's tasty frozen dessert of sweet fruit juice and ice (similar to today's sorbet) won the coveted award, which immediately placed Ruggeri in the spotlight.

Thanks to today's modern production methods, gelato is now available to all.

Artisans create unique flavors and textures, using only the freshest ingredients.

When traveling to Italy, go sample this magnificent wonder!

Here are 5 of the best venues for gelato in Italy:

1. Gelateria dei Neri in Florence

2. Gelateria I Caruso in Rome

3  Il Massimo del Gelato in Milan

4. Otranto Gelateria in Naples

5. Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè in Rome 


Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month L'Hotel In Pietra

April 21, 2016
L'Hotel in Pietra is a unique boutique hotel, hewn out of a cliffside in the historic city of Matera.  The "I Sassi"
Quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Formerly  a church, the structure dates back to the 1300s. 

There are seven rooms and two suites that evoke a historical past, which have remained unaltered by the passing of time. "
The structure underwent  an extensive renovation and under the direction of architects Giuseppe e Michele Andrisani e interior designer Cristina Bergamini, offering a warm ambiance .
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  
Please visit our hotels page for more details.


The Magical Island of Sardinia

April 19, 2016
Join us on a unique escorted 12 day, 11 night vacation to the enchanting Island of Sardinia. Explore the extensive cultural heritage, complete with Punic archaeological remains, Nuraghe, Bourbon fortress towns, and pristine beaches. Savor typical Sardinian specialties and visit two wineries. 
Included Features :
Deluxe mini coach transportation throughout 
Eleven (11) nights accommodation in first class, centrally located hotels in Cagliari, Pula, Oristano, Porto Torres, and Porto Cervo
Daily buffet breakfast
Nine (9) dinners at local restaurants and hotels 
One (1) lunch in Alghero at a local restaurant including wine 
One (1) lunch in La Maddalena on board a scenic coastal cruise
Professional English speaking tour manager from arrival in Cagliari to departure from Porto Cervo
Daily guided excursions to San Sperate, Nora, Porto Pino, Grotte Is Zuddas, Village of Tratalias, Barumini, Giara di Gesturi, Tharros, San Salvadore, Santu Antine, Asinara Island, Berchidda, Porto Rotondo, and the Archipelago della Maddalena
Visit to Serdiana for a wine estate visit, wine tasting with rustic snacks
Excursion to Berchidda to visit the wine museum with wine tasting 
Boat cruise to the Archipelago della Maddalena 
Overnight ferry transfer from Olbia to Civitavecchia Port in outside cabins with private facilities 
Transfer from Civitavecchia Port to Rome Fiumicino Airport 

Ways to Spoil Your Mom in Italy

April 19, 2016
The "Festa della Mamma" is around the corner, why not  show your appreciation by spoiling  her!  Here are five suggestions.
Shopping in Milan is an amazing experience.  The city offers shopping options for any price point.  As one of the leading capitals of global fashion, Milan is home to top-notch designer stores, boutiques and outlets ranging from the ultra chic to very affordable, while still maintaining high quality and elegance.  Some ateliers may be reserved for private showings.
 2. Enjoy a Cooking Class in Tuscany                            
Have fun preparing fine Italian dishes with a hands-on two hour cooking class. 
Enjoy a full day private guided excursion exploring the hiking and biking trails in the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.,
Go sea kayaking around the Aeolian Islands or off the coast of Taormina, and take in breath-taking views.
Enjoy an intimate private yacht cruise along the Divina Cositera on board you private yacht with English speaking captain sipping on pro secco. 




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