News

Heading to Italy This Summer? 10 Things You Need To Know

July 19, 2018

1.Italy Weather in July & August?
July and August are the hottest months of the year in Italy. Temperatures reach their maximum while rainfall and clouds are few and far between. The daily average temperature is 77°F, with the average high at 87°F.

2.Currency?
Italy is part of the Euro Zone within the European Community. The official currency is the Euro.

3.Shopping Hours?
Shops are open from 9:00AM to 1:00PM and from 3:30PM to 7:30PM.
Major department stores operate on continuous hours. Shops in main tourist destinations are also open on Sundays. Beach resorts offer evening hours during the summer.

4.Time Zone?
Italy is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time goes into effect during the winter, however there generally is a one week lapse between the US time change and the Italian one. Italy is located in the Central European Time Zone. UTC/GMT+01:00

5.Do I need a Passport or Visa?
You will need a passport. A visa is not required for a U.S. or Canadian citizens holding a valid passport unless they expect to stay in Italy more than 90 days.
 

6.Should I Tip?
Tipping at hotels in Italy is not required but appreciated. You can tip the porter, usually no more than 5 Euros. You can tip the concierge, 1 – 2 Euros if he provides good service. You can tip the housekeeper, in which case 0.75 – 1.50 Euros per day is appreciated. It is recommended you tip around 0.50 Euros for a valet and the same for room service.

You are not expected to tip in Italy. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill, ranging from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% - 15%. This charge must be indicated on the menu. Some may also add an extra charge for the diner ware and extras (tablecloth, silverware, plates, bread, etc.), this is normal. But check your bill! Tipping isn’t expected in Italian Spas, but if the service exceeds your expectations, you can tip up to 10%.

Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of 5 Euros for half a day, or 10 Euros for a full day, per person. In Italy you can tip your cab driver, but it isn’t expected nor is it common. Feel free to tip if they are extra helpful, they will appreciate it. It is good practice to agree a final fare before the journey begins.

7.Do people speak English?
The official language is standard Italian. Descending from the Tuscan Dialect and a direct descendent of Latin (75% of Italian words are of Latin origin).  Each region of Italy has in own dialect with variations at town level. The rich variety of Italy’s dialects are considered a great contribution to the country’s cultural heritage. English and some European languages are spoken in hotels, shops, and restaurants in the major tourist destinations.

8.What to wear to the Vatican?
The Mediterranean climate is hot, but not humid, during the summer and comfortably warm in the spring and fall. Casual cottons and easy care clothing is recommended. For Papal Audiences, inside church visits, women should dress modestly, with arms and head covered, no mini skirts or shorts, and men should wear short sleeves (no tank tops) and pants (no shorts). It is also customary for men and women to dress in a casual elegant fashion for dinner. Formal attire is not required.

9.Health Services?
Every city offers conveniently located drug stores (farmacia) where prescriptions may be filled and other health needs met. Pharmacies take turns to offer overnight services in case of need. Please contact 113 for an emergency, 114 for an infant emergency, 115 for the fire department, 118 for a medical emergency and 112 for the Caaibinieri (State Police).

10.Clothing Sizes?
The shoe sizes and shirt sizes in Italy are much different than America. View ourFAQ PAGE (under "Clothing Size") to see the sizing chart:http://www.donnafranca.com/faq

OUR 2018 BROCHURE HAS ARRIVED!

January 17, 2018

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the release of our 2018 collection of unique travel experiences.  Our new brochure offers  a variety of suggested itineraries, all of which may be customized to create your ideal Italian vacation.  We offer unique cultural experiences throughout Italy and Sicily such as wine tasting, hands-on cooking classes and off the beaten path adventures. In 2018 due to our valued clients' requests for alternative itineraries, Donna Franca is offering trips to Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

Please click on this link to receive your personal copy.

2018 Special: Italian Fever- $1,899

November 29, 2017

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the 2018 prices for the ever popular Italian Fever Vacation.  This innovative 9 days/8 nights hybrid itinerary features the Three Cultural Capitals of Italy: Rome, Florence, and Venice with visits to Pompeii, Naples, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and the Chianti District.

Our  select centrally located hotels in Rome, Florence and Venice offer exceptional accommodations convenient to visiting the city's historic treasures.

Included Features: 
Eight nights' accommodation in  select centrally located hotels
Buffet breakfast daily, hotel tax and service
Airport transfer by private car and driver
VIP luggage assistance at Rome Termini Rail Station and at Florence SM Novella Rail Station
Private arrival and departure motor boat transfers in Venice with assistance and porterage
Round trip rail station transfers by private car and driver
First class rail service from Rome to Florence and from Florence to Venice
Lunch in Pompeii
Typical lunch and wine tasting at a family-run estate in Chianti
Rome collective guided sightseeing including the Colosseum,  the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, and Naples
Florence collective guided sightseeing including the Accademia with Michelangelo's "David," Siena, San Gimignano
Venice collective guided sightseeing includes Basilica San Marco and Doge's Palace

View all of our deals here.

Discover the 5 Most Beautiful Beaches of Italy

November 27, 2017

#1: San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

Known for it's clear warm waters, this beach is on Sicily's west coast across from Erice and Trapani. San Vito Lo Capo is a small seaside town in northwestern Sicily, Italy. It's beach is on a sheltered bay overlooked by Mount Monaco.

#2 Mondello, Sicily

 In the summer months, it sometimes seems as if the entire population of Palermo has packed a towel to enjoy to this popular beach resort, 11km north from the center of town. At this beach in Palermo you can find bars, restaurants and small shops. Originally a muddy, malaria-ridden port, Mondello only really became fashionable in the 19th century, when the city's elite flocked here and built beautiful Art Nouveau style summer villas.

#3 Chia, Sardinia

Chia Beach is one of the best places to go in Sardinia. The turquoise sea and peach colored sand is famous. There are sand dunes too, dotted with juniper trees. Chia Beach is also famed for its wildlife spotting opportunities, is perfect for families with children. Behind the beach, you’ll find a picturesque lagoon where pink flamingos come to breed. Sometimes, dolphins head to Chia Beach and can be seen swimming close to shore.

#4 Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany

A paradise for beach bums and VIPs alike, Forte dei Marmi is one of the most famous tourist centers along the Tuscan Riviera. This resort town is rich in history. Forte dei Marmi began to expand at the beginning of 16th century, with land reclamation works that went on across the entire 16th century and ended with the construction of the fort in 1788, from which its name derives. In the 19th century, the village started to develop into the splendid beach resort popular with Italian and European crowds.

#5  Torre Dell’Orso, Puglia

This thin 1.5km stretch of pristine sand is in the Melendugno Region of Puglia. It’s most striking feature is the ‘two sisters’ – twin rocks stand side-by-side close to the beach. It is also surrounded by rock cliffs full of interesting caves and is backed by a lush pine forest.

Donna Franca's Special Recipe

November 10, 2017

Polenta Al Ragu' is a quick and tasty recipe,  perfect for lunch or dinner, and it's gluten-free! Polenta with meat sauce is easy to prepare. You will have to prepare the meat sauce first, for more flavor I suggest using a combination of ground pork and beef.
This is a great dish also for celiacs  because corn flour is gluten-free.

Ingredients: 500 grams of ground beef and pork, 500 grams of minced onions, 1 half carrot finely chopped, one 700 ml can of ground peeled tomatoes, 330 grams of polenta, grated parmesan cheese to taste.

Preparation:  Mix the onions, carrots and meat and saute' in the olive oil.  Once a light golden color, add the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for at least 40 minutes.  Prepare the polenta according to the directions on the packaging, pour water into a pan and add the powdered corn flour to a boil. Mix the corn meal well with a wooden spoon for about 8 minutes, until it easily detaches  from the sides of the pot.  Remove from heat and place the polenta in a serving dish, leaving a cavity in the center. Add the meat sauce in the cavity center, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, garnish with a few basil leaves if you and serve immediately.

                                            Buon Appetito!!!

Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: Torre Di Cala Piccola Hotel Porto Santo Stefano

July 28, 2017
The Torre di Cala Piccola is a boutique seaside clifftop retreat, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once stayed.
 
This property is a 10-minute stroll from the beach. Hotel Torre is set on the cliffs of Monte Argentario, with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Giglio Island. Porto Santo Stefano is a 5-minute drive away.

The Torre Di Cala Piccola Hotel is comprised of several stone houses, surrounded by a peaceful garden. All rooms include  air-conditioned and there is free Wi-Fi in the business centre. 
 
 Special discounted rates are offered at the private beach 2,650 feet from the hotel, fully-equipped with sun lounges, umbrellas and showers. From June to the end of August the hotel offers a free shuttle service to the beach.

The verdant gardens with sea-view terrace and swimming pool are surrounded by an olive tree grove and boast views over the 17th century Spanish tower.

La Torre d'Argento Restaurant offers a wide selection of seafood and meat dishes as well as a wide variety of fine wines. Meals are served in the dining room with panoramic views. There is a free public parking area 1,650 feet away and on-site private parking is available at an extra charge. 
 
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  
 
 Please visit our hotels page for more details.

Donna Franca's Recipe of the Month: Acqua Pazza!

July 15, 2017
Ingredients
 
2 large filets of cod breaded in white flour
3 cloves of garlic
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of freshly minced basil leaves
1 tablespoon of freshly minced mint leaves
1 pinch of crushed red pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup of dry white wine
3 fresh roma style tomatoes finely chopped
1/3 cup clam juice
6 small slices of toasted Italian Bread
 
Preparation:
 
In a large skillet, pour the olive oil and add the garlic, the herbs, salt and crushedred pepper, Saute' on a medium heat. When the ingredients are a light goldencolor add the white wine and evaporate. Add the fresh roma tomatoes and clam juice.
Let this simmer for 5 to 8 minutes add the cod filets and with a wooden spoon cover with the pan's ingredients. Gently turn the filets over in the sauce pan. Cook covered for an additional ten (10) minutes. The fish will start producing it's own liquid (acquapazza). Cook for another ten (10) minutes. Serve piping hot with the sauce adding the toasted Italian Bread slices or crumble on top of the fish as a garnish. 
                                            Buon Appetito!!!
 

 

Why You Need To Attend This Historic Tuscan Sporting Event

June 15, 2017

If you have ever traveled to Siena before, you will remember it's beautiful Black and White Marble faced Duomo, St. Catherine's Convent, the narrow streets and cute local shops that sell everything from fresh mozzarella to delicious cappuccinos. This medieval Tuscan city is known for its traditions and festivals. The most popular is     "Il Palio di Siena"  a traditional  horse race that is held in Siena's Piazza del Campo  twice each year, on July 2 and August 16., the shortest race in the world (it lasts three minutes)!

The Palio Horse Race plays a significant part in the life of the city today as it did centuries ago. Visitors to the city can watch the race for free from the center of Piazza del Campo (no chairs, the first who arrives gets a place) or pay a ticket to get a more comfortable position from the balconies of the buildings overlooking the show.

Ten horses and riders (see logos below), bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards.

The Palio which is held on July 2 is named "Palio di Provenzano", in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon.

During the week of the horse race, the city is abuzz with cultural and historic activities such as historical parades, outdoor dining in the medieval streets and the winner’s flag exhibition at the City Hall, Palazzo Pubblico.

Visiting Siena is easier than ever with Donna Franca Tours.  This Tuscan medieval gem is one of the featured stops included in Donna Franca's iconic premier, first class and deluxe Italian Fever hybrid vacation.

Hotel of the Month:Villa del Sogno Gardone Riviera

May 28, 2017

 

Villa del Sogno is a romantic  Villa surrounded by a large centuries-old park, planted with tall trees and flowering gardens. 

The superb Terrace overlooking the beautiful blue water of Lake Garda has always enchanted travellers from all over the world. The panoramic restaurant offers local gastronomic specialties paired with fine wines.

Built in 1904 by the German silk industrialist Maximilian Heydweiller in a neoclassical style,  it is an exclusive and welcoming location in which the rooms and the suites are all furnished in different ways and offer the most modern comforts.

 To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  

 Please visit our hotels page for more details.

 

Recipe of the Month: Florentine Savory Crepes

May 23, 2017

 

Donna Franca, the inspiration and name sake of Donna Franca Tours, is happy to share with you her favorite culinary delights!  Her  recipe for the month is Florentine Savory Crepes.
Ingredients:
 
The filling:
  • o    200g very fresh part skim ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
  • o    2 Eggs
  • o    200 grams of  fresh spinach
  • o    A handful of grated Parmesan Cheese
  • o    Pinch of Nutmeg
The Crepes:
  • o    60 grams of superfine white flour
  • o    2 Eggs
  • o    1 Glass of Milk
  • o    20 grams of Butter
The Bèchamel Sauce:
 
      *    3 tbsp. butter
      *    4 tbsp. sifted flour
      *   2 cups hot milk
      *    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation Time: 1 1/2 Ho
First cook the spinach in a saute' pan in the butter. Squeeze out all the liquid and place in a bowl together with the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and a grating of nutmeg.  Stir well to combine all the ingredients uniformly into a homogeneous mixture.
Then prepare the batter for the crespelle, first incorporating the eggs and salt into the flour, then adding the melted butter and the milk. Leave the mixture to stand for at least half-an-hour.
 
For the Bèchamel Sauce, melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk for 1½ minutes (do not allow to brown).
Gradually add hot milk, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce is the consistency of thick cream, about 15 minutes.
When the crepes are cooked (in practice they are thin omelettes, fried in a little butter in a small frying pan until set on both sides), spread a little of the cheese and spinach stuffing over each one and roll them up like mini Swiss Rolls.
 
Grease an oven dish, cover the crespelle with bèchamel sauce and dredge with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
If you like, you can even dot with a few splatters of home-made tomato sauce. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes and Buon Appetito!

 

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