Make Travel Easier with TSA Global Entry

October 3, 2016

Traveling to Italy this year? Skip the majority of the airport security line and breeze right through.  Register today for TSA Pre Check, and you are automatically eligible when you pay $100 for Global Entry.   Doing this will save you hours and is much less stressful than waiting in a crowded airport.

How Do I Apply?

First, you'll need a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card, and second, you cannot have previously violated any customs or immigration laws. (Here's a full list of eligibility requirements.) The application process itself is easy: you answer a series of straightforward questions online, including employment history-but have your passport ready, because it does ask for a list of every country you've visited in the last five years. There's a $100 application fee (which you have to pay every five years when you renew)-you won't get the money back if you're denied Global Entry.

I've Submitted. Now What?

The response time is pretty quick. You will have to wait a few days, via email, and then schedule an interview at the location of your choice. Most international airports have a Global Entry office, and there are a few non-airport locations as well. Also, there are usually 15-minute appointment slots within the next week or so, if stopping by the airport isn't a major hassle.  Another option is to go to the airport early before you have a flight, but note that most offices keep regular hours, so this might not work for a morning flight.

What Happens in the Interview?

Make sure to bring your passport or resident card, one other form of ID, and a printout of your approval email. Most of the questions asked  will be to confirm the information you had submitted on the online form, and they also check your driving record to make sure there are not any outstanding violations. They'll take your fingerprints (this allows you to use the kiosks in the future), and a photo.  You should received a physical card in the mail two weeks later.

What Do I Do With the Card?

Nothing, actually, unless you're entering the country by land (via car or train) or sea. It's not required while you're flying, and won't work at the Global Entry kiosks. Instead, it's the Known Traveler number, on the upper-left hand corner of the back of the card, that's important. To take advantage of TSA Pre Check, you'll want to input this into your traveler profile whenever you fly on participating airlines: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Etihad, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, Southwest, Sun Country, United, Virgin America, and WestJet. Without this number on your boarding pass, you'll have to line up as usual, which really defeats the purpose (no, you cannot wave your card at a TSA Agent). There are plans to get international airlines on board as well, but it's currently a work in progress. There is one other bonus of the physical card: it works as another form of government-issued ID.

How Do I Use Global Entry?

When you land at a major airport after an international flight, head directly toward signs for Global Entry kiosks. At the kiosk, scan your passport or type in your Known Number, which typically brings up your flight details to confirm. You'll answer the customs form electronically. The kiosk will then take your photo-stand way back or they will only get your forehead-and scan your fingerprints.  The kiosk will print out a tiny receipt that you hand to the customs agent on your way out using the dedicated Global Entry exit.

Listen to and read more about this process here: Travel & Leisure.

Donna Franca Shares Seafood Recipe

September 5, 2016

Donna Franca's Summer Seafood Recipe:  Pesce all'acqua pazza

Surprise your friends and family with this simple yet delicious Sicilian Seafood  Specialty.

Pesce all'acqua pazza means Fish Poached in "Crazy Water" and this dish offers terrific flavors.

Ingredients (for 6 to 8 people):

2 large fresh haddock or cod fillets, gently rolled in white flour

3 large garlic cloves

5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh basil, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh mint, finely chopped

1 pinch of crushed red pepper

salt to taste

¼ cup of dry white wine

3 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped

⅓ cup of clam juice

6 small slices of toasted Italian bread

How to prepare:

In a large skillet, pour the olive oil and add the garlic, fresh herbs, salt, and crushed pepper.  Over medium heat, sauté the ingredients. When they are light golden, pour in the wine and let the wine evaporate.  Add the chopped fresh tomatoes and the clam juice. After 5-10 minutes, add the fish fillets and with a wooden spoon pour the sauce over them.  Gently turn them around.  Cover them for 10 minutes.  The fish will start to produce its own water ("acqua pazza").  Cook the fillets for an additional 10 minutes, basting them with the watery tomato sauce.  Serve them hot, with the toasted Italian bread slices drizzled with olive oil.  Buon appettito!

3 Reasons to Visit Sardinia

September 5, 2016

Sardinia, a large island off the coast of Italy surrounded by the azure Mediterranean Sea is famous for its beautiful beaches, great seafood, and a large centenarian population thanks to their healthy lifestyle.  Here are the top three reasons why you should add this island do your bucket list.  

1. Stintino: This small seaside town, appearing as a painting with its white houses and the contrast between the crystal-clear sea and light blue sky, offers endless leisure possibilities, from golf to excursions and scuba diving, from cycling to horseback riding. 

2.   Basilica of Saccargia: Known for its stone architecture, the church was finished in 1116 over the ruins of a pre-existing monastery and is one of the most beautiful sights on the island.

3.   Archipelago della Maddalena: Located on the north-western coast of Sardinia, off the Costa Smeralda, it consists of 7 major islands, surrounded by beautiful crystal clear and transparent water.

Our expert team of Vacation Specialists are ready to assist in creating your very own personalized holiday!  We currently offer Sublime Sardinia Island Adventure from October 3-15.

Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: Baia di Nora Hotel

September 5, 2016

The Baia di Nora Hotel in Southern Sardinia is situated on the one of the most captivating and lesser known coasts,  and close to the ancient Phoenician City of Nora.

It's elegant rooms and suites are surrounded by nature, with a private white sandy beach and pristine turquoise colored waters. Here you will enjoy a vacation away from the buzz of the city, in a peaceful setting surrounded by Mediterranean nature.

From diving to kite surfing, from snorkeling to sailing, from hikes to the mountains of Pula to kayak and canoe tours of the coves and beaches: the Baia di Nora Hotel offers its guests a variety of activities for a unique experience.

This resort is offered in our Sublime Sardinia Island Adventure package.

To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  Please visit our hotels page for more details.

Our expert team of  Italian Vacation Specialists will be happy to assist you in designing the perfect getaway!

3 Reasons to Visit Italy in the Fall

August 23, 2016

Autumn is the opportune time to travel to Italy. Mild temperatures, the grape harvest and authentic food festivals are just a few examples of what Italy has to offer. Here are 3 reasons why you should visit in the Fall.

 1. Wine Country in Tuscany: 

September is the month of the grape harvest in Tuscany, the vendemmia. Both small and large producers will be working full time to produce their wine, so this is the perfect time to go on a wine tour.  While your in Tuscany, you can't miss the very popular Chianti Classico Wine Festival in Greve. The regions also offer delicious truffles, chestnuts and olive oil so there will be many souvenirs to take home.

 2.  Fall Festivals and Culture in Rome:

Italy has many festivals in the Fall including All Saints Day on Nov. 1, Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, and plenty of music  and food festivals including truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, grapes (wine), chocolate, and even torrone.  Rome is an ideal location to base yourself to experience these cultural events.

3.  Gorgeous fall colors in Umbria:  

Like New England, regions of Italy get some of the brightest-colored leaves in the world, during the autumn season. The best places to see the fall colors are in Italy's wooded national parks and through the countryside of Lazio, Umbria or Le Marche is a feast for the eyes.  

Come join the celebration! Book our customized vacation HERE. For assistance with reservations on any of our amazing vacations,  please contact us today at  617-375-9400 or click here to send us an e mail!

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 



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