Celebrate Easter in Italy

March 17, 2016

Home to the most beautiful cathedrals in the world,  Italy is abuzz with processions and unique traditions during the Easter Holiday.


From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, this is an opportune period to witness the Catholic Church in action and, in particular,  the charismatic Pope Francis, who follows quite an active schedule.

If you're fortunate  enough to be in Italy during this colorful time, Donna Franca Tours suggests that you experience these five memorable celebratory  traditions.

1. A Visit to St. Peter's Basilica 

On Holy Thursday, visit the  Saint Peter's Basilica where the blessing of the holy oils in Saint takes place in the morning during a special Mass presided over by the Pope.    The next day, on Good Friday, a service is held in Saint Peter's in the afternoon, during which Saint John's account of Christ's suffering and death is sung, and the cross is kissed by all present before they receive communion. 

2. Follow the Stations of the Cross 

On Good Friday, tourists visit the Colosseum to watch the Pope lead the stations of the cross, a procession that commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ's passion. A meditation is read at each of the stations. 

3. Partake in Easter Sunday Mass at  St. Peter's Basilica & Square

 On Easter Sunday, Mass  is celebrated in the morning in Saint Peter's Square with tens of thousands of people. Tickets for seats at these services are free, but need to be reserved in advance.

4. Savor Italy's Finest Easter Culinary Traditions

 Traditional Easter foods in Italy include eggs, artichokes, roasted lamb, a special sweet bread called "La Colomba" and chocolate eggs, which are hollow and house a special prize inside.  

5. Watch the historic Scoppio del Carro

The Scoppio del Carro is a folk tradition which brings hundreds of people to the streets of Florence on Easter Sunday to  watch  a cart, packed full of fireworks and other pyrotechnics, explode.  The 30 foot tall antique cart  is escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians, and people in 15th century dress.  Shortly thereafter, at the singing of the Gloria in excelcis Deo during Easter Mass, the Cardinal of Florence lights a fuse on the colombina, a rocket shaped as a dove, with the Easter fire., which then zips over the heads of parishioners to ignite the cart outside. The complex array of fireworks  lasts about 20 minutes. According to tradition, a  successful display of the "Explosion of the Cart" guarantees a good harvest, stable civic life, and good fortune to all.

Best Pizzerias in Italy

March 16, 2016

There are not many nations that can lay claim to the fact that their national dish has become an international favorite!  

The word "pizza" is thought to have come from the Latin word pinsa, meaning flatbread (although there is much debate about the origin of the word).

A legend suggests that Roman soldiers gained a taste for Jewish Matzoth while stationed in Roman occupied Palestine and developed a similar food after returning home. However a recent archaeological discovery has found a pizza fossil dating from the Bronze Age in the Veneto Region! By the Middle Ages, these early pizzas started to take on a more modern look and taste. The peasantry of the time used what few ingredients they could get their hands on to produce the modern pizza dough and topped it with olive oil and herbs. The propagation of the tomato imported from the New World as well as the introduction of the Indian Water Buffalo to create  mozzarella cheese gave pizza a totally tasty dimension . Even today, the use of fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italian pizza cannot be substituted. While other cheeses have made their way onto pizza (usually in conjunction with fresh mozzarella), no genuine Italian Pizzeria would ever use the processed dried shredded type used by so many American pizza chains.

Here are the 6 best pizzerias in Italy:

1. Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples

2. Pizzeria Brandi in Naples - created the Margherita Pizza in 1889!

3  La Bussola in Florence

4.  Antico Forno in Venice

5. Pizzeria Spontini in  Milan 

6. Pizzeria Da Remo in Rome



Discover Underground Rome

March 16, 2016

Underneath modern Rome is a hidden city. Explorers will find theaters, baths, stadiums, imperial villas, apartment buildings, fire stations, and pagan temples -- even an enormous sundial that used an Egyptian obelisk as a pointer!  Throngs of people come to Rome each year to admire her beauty and ancient treasures, unsuspectingly walking above these buried treasures during their visit.  Here are a few hidden gems worth visiting.

Beneath Palazzo Valentini 

The archaeological remains of ancient Roman houses uncovered beneath Palazzo Valentini are now on permanent display, adding to Rome's already rich historical and artistic heritage. A team of art historians, archaeologists and architects, all working for the Provincial Administration, worked on a project to research, restore and put these excavations on public display. The results are of exceptional significance, revealing an area that was of great importance during Roman times and help piece together the ancient, medieval and modern topography of Rome.

Beneath the Basilica of San Clemente

One of the most fascinating adventures I've taken recently was to descend into the underground levels below the 12th century Basilica of San Clemente.  Here there are two excavated levels, one revealing a 4th century Paleo Christian Basilica, and the other with 1st century AD Roman buildings. In one of these is a perfect example of the Temple of Mithras, a Persian God who probably migrated back to Italy with soldiers and slaves.


The Catacombs of Rome are underground burial places underneath the city which visitors can tour today. They are most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together.  People of all the Roman religions are buried in them, beginning in the 2nd century AD mainly as a response to overcrowding and shortage of land. The Etruscans, like many other European peoples, used to bury their dead in underground chambers. The original Roman custom was cremation, after which the burnt remains were kept in a pot, ash-chest or urn, often in a columbarium. From about the 2nd century AD, inhumation (burial of unburnt remains) became more fashionable, in graves or sarcophagi, often elaborately carved, for those who could afford them. Christians also preferred burial to cremation because of their belief in bodily resurrection at the Second Coming.

Hotel Spotlight:Caesar Augustus Hotel Capri

March 16, 2016

Located in Capri, this luxury 5 star Relais et Chateaux resort is designed to look and feel just like your own beautiful island home. Privacy is guaranteed by the secluded location, on a cliff's edge, 300 meters above the sea.

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

Please visit our hotels page for more details.

Romance in Italy on San Valentino!

January 24, 2016

Valentine's Days is a holiday that dates to the Roman Empire to celebrate the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, Juno.  This ancient Roman tradition lives on in the 21st century! To celebrate the lover's holiday, Italians gift elaborate floral arrangements, plan intimate dinners and present each other with exquisite chocolates, much like we do in the United States. Italy is home to a myriad of Romantic destination getaways!  We are proposing three of the top spots to celebrate Valentine's Day this year with your significant other!

  1. Venice

The Serene Republic of  Venice is the perfect place to celebrate a week of  romance. Couples can renew their love vows in Verona, the City of Romeo and Juliet, dance in St. Mark's Square and hold hands while walking over the Bridge of Sighs. Perhaps enjoy a private gondola ride down the beautiful canals. For a different perspective, a lagoon island cruise  makes for a super-romantic day trip.  There's Murano, home of Murano Glass artisans, Burano, with its lace making shops, and Torcello adorned with colorful patrician homes.

2.   Rome

Secure your eternal love, the Roman way!  Set over the Tiber in northern Rome, Ponte Milvio Bridge is an institution among Roman lovers. The ritual involves couples locking a padlock, token of love, to a lamppost set on the bridge, then throwing the key behind them into the Tiber River.  

3.     Florence

Florence is an ideal romantic getaway  for all  sweethearts. A candlelit dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, or a stroll along  Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the  breathtaking view of the city will transform your night into the perfect Valentine's memory!

Donna Franca's New Exotic Vacations

January 10, 2016

Donna Franca Tours is constantly creating exciting new programs for 2016!

Here are three innovative vacation packages. 


Starting at $459

Sorrento is a small resort town located in Southern Italy and offers fantastic views overlooking the Bay of Naples and the beautfiul Mediterranean Sea. For over 2,000 years, visitors from across the globe have been attracted to Sorrento by its breathtaking sunsets and fragrances of the famous lemon trees.


Starting at $409

Lake Como is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It has absolutely stunning views of the majestic mountains with their deep valleys running through them. The clear lake water is mesmerizing and varies in color from light green to dark green/blue. On the rare occasion when the lake is still, it mirrors the magnificent scenery that surrounds it. The towns and villages along the lakes shores are very picturesque and each one of them feels like it could be home to any number of celebrities. In summer you will find villages inundated with tourists from all around the world.


Starting at $599

Most people have heard of the Italian Lakes. Como, Maggiore and Garda are world famous for their beauty, culture and charm. For centuries the rich and famous have come to their shores to rest, relax and recuperate. Yet arguably the most spectacular lake has been left in relative obscurity. Lake Iseo is the quintessential 'undiscovered gem'. It is a place for travellers and tourists who are looking to get off the beaten track and delight in discovering their own special places.


January 5, 2016

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the release of our 2016 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.   



Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: CASTA DIVA RESORT & SPA

January 5, 2016

Casta Diva Resort & Spa, located in Blevio, Lake Como is our hotel of the month. This exclusive hotel and private villas resort with spa, is surrounded by the greenery. 

Casta Diva has a unique environment that enhances the Italian excellence, a perfect blend of past and present, of art and culture, the ideal location for prestigious events surrounded by the silence of the most romantic Italian lake, Lake Como. Guests will experience a truly luxurious style and an out of the ordinary service in a magic place where it all comes together. 
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  Please visit our hotels page for more details.


Donna Franca Shares Family Recipe

January 3, 2016

For the New Year, we hope you try some of  Donna Franca's family recipes this Holiday Season with your friends and family! Handed down over the generations, these Tuscan specialties are sure to please!

Stracotto fiorentino (Serves 10 people)
5 pounds of beef eye roast
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Three stalks of celery finely chopped
3 medium carrots finely chopped
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon of oregano
2 cups of red wine
3 cups of vegetable stock
½ cup of crushed red tomato
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
How to prepare it:
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and the meat rolled first in flour. When the meat is light brown add the additional ingredients. Stir and make sure the remaining ingredients do not burn. When they are light golden, add the wine, the crushed red tomato and the three cups of vegetable stock. Cook over medium heat for 4 hours. Stir often. If you see that the sauce is getting too thick, add one more cup of vegetable stock.
How to serve it:
Remove meat from the saucepan
Slice the meat in a quarter of inch slices then pour the sauce over the meat. Delicious with steamed rice or egg noodles.


Check Out These 3 Mouth-Watering Italian Recipes

December 24, 2015
#1: Roasted Pork or Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary 


  • 3 pounds pork tenderloin or shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees ºF. 
Rub the roast with olive oil, minced garlic and dried crushed rosemary. Sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt. Place it in a deep roasting pan. 
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees ºF .

SERVE WITH Oven-Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Sea Salt

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil - the best you can find several sprigs of fresh rosemary or a tablespoon of dried rosemary (crushed)
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 large Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into bulky French fry shapes (not too small)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees ºF (245 degrees ºC).
In a large bowl, combine oil, rosemary and salt. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

Optional - add a few sweet potatoes to the mix for variety.
Serve with a salad; don't forget the arugula - Buon Appetito!

#2: Insalatina Autumn  

Serves 6:

  • 5 ounces (140 g)of  baby spinach, washed and patted dry
  • 5 ounces (135 g) Tuscan pecorino (pecorino Toscano) cheese, diced
  • 4 tablespoons (80 g) pomegranate seeds
  • A half cup (75 g) raw pine nuts
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil ,Salt to taste

Divide the baby spinach leaves among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the diced cheese and pine nuts into 6 equal portions and arrange a portion on top of each salad serving. Add the pomegranate seeds to the top of each portion. Drizzle each salad with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Buon Appetito!

#3: Fossa cheese carpaccio

Ingredients for 4 people: 

  • 300g of very thin slices of beef sirloin
  • 100 g of Formaggio di Fossa di Sogliano DOP
  • 1 lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

A stylish entree with a strong flavor based on a very peculiar cheese from Central Italy (Marche and Emilia Romagna).

Preparation steps: 

  • Place the meat slices on a plate in one layer.
  • Squeeze the lemon in a bowl.
  • Add oil, salt and pepper.
  • Emulsify the ingredients by stirring quickly.
  • Pour the liquid mix onto the meat.
  • Let it rest in the refridgerator for 1 hour.
  • Cut the cheese into thin slices.
  • Place the meat in the serving plates.

Sprinkle with the cheese slices and serve




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