News

Italian Hotel of the Month: Castello di Casole in Tuscany

January 30, 2017

The Castello di Casole has been selected as the "Number 1 Resort in Europe" and "Number 2 Hotel in the World" in the Travel + Leisure's 2013 World's Best Awards.

This sprawling 4,200-acre estate resort is located in the heart of Tuscany, just 45 minutes from Florence and is surrounded by gentle rolling hills, lush vineyards and fragrant olive groves. 

A cypress-lined road leads to the main building of this pristine Tuscan estate, a restored castle that dates back to the 10th century. Now owned by Timber Resorts, the Castello di Casole was once the home of film director Luchino Visconti and hosted countless Hollywood luminaries. The 41 rustic-luxe suites range in size and style but retain an Old World feel throughout, with oil paintings, local antiques, wood-beamed ceilings, and reclaimed terracotta. The Essere Spa, set in what was once the estate's wine cellar, offers an array of treatments including the hotel's signature massages with orange and basil essential oils. Be sure to leave plenty of time for lounging on the pool terrace to take in the expansive views of the surrounding Tuscan hillside (and perhaps a glass or two of the estate's private label wine).

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

 

Getting Married? Celebrate your Dream Wedding in Rome!

January 28, 2017

Italy offers the best things in life: Romance, eno-gastronomic excellence, magnificent landscapes, quality accommodations and more than two thousand years of history.
 

Why not celebrate your wedding in Rome?   Blessed year round with a mild climate, great food, world class wines and La Dolce Vita lifestyle, the Eternal City offers a great venue at a surprisingly affordable price.

You may have considered Italy for your wedding, renewal of vows ceremony, family reunions celebrating special events, but hesitated thinking that the costs were out of sight.  We would like to prove to you otherwise!
 

Donna Franca Tours has designed a special Wedding Package in 2017 to Rome.  Enjoy four glorious days and three amazing nights in the Capital of the World, with impeccable service, delicious food, Italian Culture and over a millennium of tradition.

Included Features:  

  • Round trip private limousine transfer from Rome Fiumicino Airport to your centrally located hotel
     
  • Three (3) night accommodations at the superior first class Hotel Quirinale, a magnificent historic property in the historic center of the city, walk to the Colosseum and Via Veneto , in a superior double room
     
  • An amazingly rich Buffet breakfast daily
     
  • Bride & Groom enjoy complimentary accommodations and upgrade to a junior suite for three (3) nights
     
  • One (1) half day city tour of Ancient & Imperial Rome including prepaid admission to the Colosseum with skip the line access
     
  • Gala Wedding Lunch or Dinner Party including the Bridal Wedding Cake and drinks

View all of our deals here.

Donna Franca's Winter Soup Recipe: MINESTRA DI FARRO ALLA GARFINIANA

January 25, 2017
Warm up with this tasty hot Italian soup!
 
Ingredients
 
* 200 g rams of beans "written" or dried beans (500 g rams if fresh) 
* 200 grams of spelt
* 50 grams cold pressed virgin olive oil 
* 150 grams of  Cardoso lard 
* 2 ripe tomatoes 
* 1 celery stalk 
* 1 small onion 
* 1 carrot 
* 1 garlic clove
* 1 sprig of sage (OK dried)
* 1 sprig of rosemary (OK dried)
* salt & pepper to taste
Boil the fresh beans in hot water for about an hour, and if using dry ones, after letting them soak 12 hours, boil them for about three hours, drain and set aside the broth. In a pan heat the oil and saute' for 30 minutes the bacon, tomatoes (peeled and with the seeds removed), the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, sage, rosemary all well chopped to a fine consistency, salt and pepper. Then add the cooked beans, stir and blend. Rinse the spelt under running water very well. Pour the broth of the beans in a saucepan and cook the spelt under moderate heat for at least an hour. Transfer the soup into a bowl and serve with plenty of freshly ground pepper and one or two rounds of  cold pressed virgin olive oil.    Buon appetito!

 

2017 Special: Italian Fever- $1,599

January 18, 2017

Happy New Year! One of our most popular vacation packages for 2017 is our Italian Fever vacation.  This innovative 9 days/8 nights Italian Fever itinerary will feature 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.

OUR 2017 BROCHURE HAS ARRIVED!

December 23, 2016

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the release of our 2017 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. Please click on this link to receive your personal copy.   

An Italian Christmas Tradition: Nativity Displays

December 22, 2016

Italy is home to some of the most beautiful and intricate Nativity displays. Mangers can be found in churches, squares, shops, and other public areas. Displays often go beyond the manger scene and may even include a representation of the entire village.The mangers are usually put on display on December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, through January 6, Epiphany, and some are unveiled on Christmas Eve.Most Italians set up a Christmas crib in their house and figurines for nativity scenes are made in many parts of Italy, with some of the best coming from Naples and Sicily.The Baby Jesus figurine is added on Christmas Eve.

Here are some of the best places to see Navity Displays:

Naples is the best city to visit for their Christmas mangers. Hundreds of nativity scenes are erected throughout the city. Some creches are very elaborate and may be handmade or use antique figures. 

In Vatican City a huge manger is constructed in Saint Peter's Square for Christmas that is usually unveiled on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Eve mass is held in Saint Peter's Square at 10PM.

In Rome some of the biggest and most elaborate mangers are found in Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Euclide, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, on the Capitoline Hill.   A life-size nativity scene is also set up in Piazza Navona where a Christmas market is also held. The Church of Saints Cosma e Damiano, by the main entrance to the Roman Forum, has a large nativity scene on display all year.

Verona has an international display of nativities in the huge Roman Arena through January.

Jesolo, which is close to Venice, offers sand sculpture nativity scenes made by top international artists. It takes place daily in Piazza Marconi through mid-January. Donations are used to fund charitable projects.

Manarola in Cinque Terre has a unique ecological nativity powered by solar energy.

Custonaci, a small town near Trapani in Sicily, has a beautiful nativity scene re-enacted inside a cave. A tiny town was buried in the cave by a landslide in the 1800's. The cave has been excavated and now serves as a setting for the interesting live nativity events December 25-26 and early January.

5 things to see in Italy this Christmas

December 10, 2016

Rome is enchanting any time of year, but at Christmas the city sparkles with a unique fairytale-like magic all its own.  Lights twinkle in the city squares; the smell of roasted chestnuts drifts through the streets, and street vendors sell toys, sweets and unique hand-made decorations. 

The festivities center in Piazza Navona, a 15th century square that's home to three fountains and many luxurious cafes and Baroque buildings. Here, Babbo Natale, Italy's Father Christmas mingles with roving musicians and artists selling souvenirs. 

The Christmas holiday begins in Italy on December 6 and extends to January 6.  To fully experience Natale Old World style, here are some recommendations for you and your family from Donna Franca Tours.

Here are 5 things to see in Italy this Christmas

Precepi

Precepi are ornately hand carved Italian nativity scenes that are believed to date back to the13 century when St. Francis of Assisi created the first one by placing an ox and a donkey near a manger he built himself. During the 18th century precepi became popular Christmas decorations, commissioned by King Charles and built by famous artists. Today, the tradition continues with many of the country's finest precepi created out of terracotta and wood in workshops in Naples.  Elaborate nativity scenes are set up in churches throughout the country, and in some towns people create a living nativity by walking the streets dressed in costume.

Some of the country's biggest and most elaborate precepi are displayed at Christmas in Rome. Over one hundred precepi are displayed at the Sala del Bramante in Piazza del Popolo from late November till January 6, daily from 9:30AM to 8:00PM. 

Santa Maria Maggiore Christmas Crib

Said to be the oldest known nativity scene in Italy, this unique structure is carved of marble and dates to the late 13th century.  It now sits in the Museum of Santa Maria Maggiore, the church where the first Christmas Mass was held.  Stick around on December 31st to hear bells chime at midnight to ring in the New Year.

Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano Nativity Scene

Commissioned by Charles III of Naples, this is one of the city's largest nativity scenes displayed above the forum. Six master wood carvers spent forty years creating this work of art that includes people from everyday life mixed in with ornately-dressed royalty and traditional religious figures. 

Vatican City

Vatican City displays a large precepi in St. Peter's Square that is unveiled on Christmas Eve.  The Pope holds Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and on Christmas Day greets the crowds from his apartment window with a special Christmas Blessing. 

Enjoy the winter wonderland-like atmosphere by going ice skating on a rink that's set up near Castel Sant'Angelo daily from 10:00AM to midnight.

Christmas Trees

Though Christmas trees are a fairly new tradition in Italy (adopted from the U.S.), they are becoming more popular with several beautiful trees displayed in Rome.  Visit St. Peter's Square, Piazza Venezia and the area in front of the Museums on Capitoline Hill to enjoy the comforting glow of the Christmas lights.

Featured Hotel: Villa d'Este in Lake Como

December 8, 2016

 Named one of the best hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure, Conde' Nast Traveler and Forbes Traveler, the Villa d' Este Hotel of Cernobbio will dazzle you with its charm, impeccable decor, and extraordinary service. 

Set on the banks of one of the most romantic lakes in the world, Lake Como, Villa d'Este was built in 1568 as the summer residence of Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio. The property consists of 25 acres of gardens, whose statues and landscape have been photographed for centuries.  Amenities include a floating pool on the lake,  boat rental, elegant cuisine at their lake view restaurant, a fitness center, a beauty center and wifi throughout.

Accommodations at Villa d' Este are divided between two historic mansions, one dating from the 16th century, and the other built for the queen of England. Within, each room is uniquely decorated with silk-brocade drapes, linen sheets and oil paintings.   Guests are able to use all of the facilities and amenities of the Villa d'Este while offering the tranquillity and exclusivity that a private villa can offer. 

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

 Please visit our hotels page for more details.

It's Christmas Time in Sorrento!

November 25, 2016

In Sorrento, come experience some of the most vibrant Christmas celebrations Europe has to offer! Italy's colorful south hosts some of the best Nativity Displays. For example, Sorrento's churches house elaborate scenes, many with hand carved miniatures depicting Christmas Stories and everyday old town traditions. 

Glance up a mountainside or descend into a grotto to view intricate manager scenes with the Three Wise Men adoring the Christ Child.  Attend one of the many free events and concerts during the Holidays.  On December 23rd and again on the 31st an outdoor stage in Piazza Tasso offers free entertainment.  

The Christmas Day services at St. Philip and James Cathedral are joyful and welcoming where carols are sung by the youth choir.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the old town center streets are closed to road traffic and becomes a huge pedestrian walkway so locals can stroll up and down the Corso Italia. Sorrento hosts a Christmas Market with food vendors, local boutique and artisan shops.  The area  is known for its ceramics, inlaid wood and intricate coral carvings which make unique Christmas gifts.  Check out the ice skating rink for revelers of all ages!

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