Tag: bella Italia

Want to travel under the Tuscan sun? SimpleItaly’s ‘Celebration of the Senses’ April tour is for you

Ah, memories! Here I am, standing under the Tuscan sun during my living-in-Florence days.

Ah, memories! Here I am, standing under the Tuscan sun during my living-in-Florence days in 2004.

As you UrbanTravelGirl readers know, Italy is near and dear to my heart. It’s the first place I lived abroad, and I’ll always look back fondly on the seven months I spent in romantic Renaissance Florence. I not only got to write incredible freelance Food and Travel stories during this time, but those assignments sometimes took me into the breathtakingly beautiful countryside of Tuscany—the region in which Florence sits. Gorgeous films like “Under the Tuscan Sun” extol the sensual pleasures of Italian life amidst rolling hills and stately cypress trees. No wonder Tuscany is so popular with travelers from around the world … who wouldn’t consider this a trip of a lifetime?

I know it’s Christmas Eve, and whatever gifts you’re planning to give have already been purchased. But what if, just for argument’s sake, you were blessed to be able to give someone (or even better, yourself) the gift of Tuscany this holiday season? And I have one specific gift in mind.

Want to experience the Tuscan sun yourself? From April 5-12, 2014, SimpleItaly's "Celebration of the Senses" tour will call this luxury villa near Siena its home base.

Want to experience the Tuscan sun yourself? From April 5-12, 2014, SimpleItaly’s “Celebration of the Senses” tour will call this luxury villa near Siena its home base.

As I just wrote in a post for my Today’s Chicago Woman Travel blog, my fellow Italophiles and former Florence, Italy, residents Sharon and Walter Sanders are leading a fully escorted eight-day tour of Tuscany through the lifestyle company they call SimpleItaly: Celebrating Your Inner Italian. From April 5-12, 2014, guests who sign up for “SimpleItaly Adventure in Tuscany Tour: A Celebration of the Senses” will call Villa Pipistrelli, a luxurious 17th century villa near Siena that’s a converted farmhouse, their home.

Walter and Sharon Sanders are diehard Italophiles who formerly lived in Florence -- and they'll be your engaging hosts for SimpleItaly's eight-day tour in April 2014.

Walter and Sharon Sanders are diehard Italophiles who formerly lived (and actually got married!) in Florence — and they’ll be your engaging hosts for SimpleItaly’s eight-day tour in April 2014.

The trip’s incredible itinerary comes courtesy of Sharon and Walter, Americans who were fortunate enough to marry in the historic Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. Like me, Sharon MUST have been Italian in a past life. My former editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, she’s a celebrated food writer, editor and author whose Cooking Up an Italian Life: Simple Pleasures of Italy in Recipes and Stories is a must-have for anyone who dreams, thinks and wants to cook Italian. (An aside: a few years back, Sharon invited me to tap into my “inner Italian” and share my thoughts on her SimpleItaly website. Read this, and you’ll see why I—and millions of others—have fallen completely under Italy’s spell.)

Imagine taking advantage of these incredible activities during SimpleItaly’s springtime in Tuscany tour:

  • 7 nights accommodation at Villa Pipistrelli
  • Transfers to and from the Florence Airport
  • Ground transportation to all scheduled activities
  • All breakfasts; seven dinners and fine lunches with wine (certamente … you’ll be in Italy!)
  • Casual learning sessions with English-speaking local artisans, guest experts and authors
  • Olive oil samplings and wine tastings
  • Pecorino cheese-making demo and tasting
  • Foraging in the local woods and tasting edible wild greens
  • Pasta- and pizza-making classes
  • Sessions with Tuscany-based authors Jennifer Criswell of At Least You’re in Tuscany and Dario Castagno of Too Much Tuscan Wine (as if there’s such a thing!)
  • Tour of UNESCO World Heritage city of Siena—including its lively outdoor market
  • Visit to Arezzo Antiques Fair
  • Free time to explore the gorgeous Tuscan countryside
Guests on SimpleItaly's "Celebration of the Senses" tour will learn to cook the Tuscan way in this gorgeous Villa Pippistrelli kitchen during a group cooking lesson.

Guests on SimpleItaly’s “Celebration of the Senses” tour will learn to cook the Tuscan way in this gorgeous Villa Pipistrelli kitchen during a group cooking lesson.

Many gifts we’ll give and receive this holiday season are the kind we’ll gush over and then stash in a closet. But investing in travel—either for those you love or yourself—will pay dividends your whole life long. This SimpleItaly trip is $2,495 per person based on double occupancy (not including airfare). Experiencing bella Italia the way the locals do, along with like-minded tour guides and travelers, is quite simply priceless. Less than a handful of spaces are left, so you’ll need to move fast.

If you’re one of those who’s promised to think and live more globally in 2014, what better way to start?

Buon Natale e Buon Anno, my fellow travelers!

Leave a Comment December 24, 2013

Let friends—and friends-of-friends—hook you up with other pals on your next overseas trip

¡Hola, salut et ciao, UrbanTravelGirls!!! Lo siento, je suis desolé, et mi dispiace–in short, my apologies for having gone off the grid for awhile. My freelance consulting and writing has kept me très busy the past several months, but I promise that I’m back, ready to inspire my chicas to experience the world and let it experience THEM!!

Since I last wrote, I’ve had incredible experiences in Panama City, Panama, and am counting on loads more of overseas trips in the near future. (More on that later!) But I’ve also been living vicariously through the adventures some of YOU ladies have been having this summer… which leads me to this post. None of us is an island—and neither should we be, even when we love hitting the road solo (as you know I do). It’s one thing to visit a city or country on your own, but quite refreshing to see it through the eyes of those who live there. And even if you don’t happen to know anyone in Amsterdam or Hong Kong or Cape Town, chances are someone that you know DOES. That’s why it’s a great idea to find out in advance if folks you know have any local connections in the place you’re heading….

Continue 6 Comments October 16, 2011

Planning an international getaway is (more than) half the fun

For some international travelers, NOTHING compares to the moment of arrival, when they touch down in a new place and are ready to check out the scene. Others love arriving back HOME, posting their photos on Facebook and Flickr, sharing their travel memories with family and friends. But for me, a pseudo-obsessive Type A, what I love most about travel is the PLANNING that goes into crafting and shaping a trip.

Take my trip to Europe early next week. A wonderfully thoughtful friend in the south of France owns several beautifully furnished Riviera Experience (www.rivieraexperience.com) vacation rental apartments and had a vacancy in one that overlooks the breathtaking Bay of Villefranche. During an e-mail exchange, she invited me to come for a visit. I thought her offer was far too generous and started to decline, but finally graciously accepted, as I’d LOVE to see her and return to one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And for me, a planner to my heart, that’s where the fun begins!

Continue 14 Comments March 13, 2011

Why don’t films about traveling or moving abroad ever feature black women?

For most folks, spending 10 bucks and a couple hours at the movies is all about passive entertainment. But sometimes, you encounter a cinematic gem that literally becomes life-changing, that totally alters the way you see the world. That one for me was 2003’s “Under the Tuscan Sun,” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0328589/) which inspired me, following a major surgery and reordering of life priorities, to quit my corporate job and pack my bags for fabulous Firenze (Florence), Italy.

Even now, if I’m flipping channels on the TV and “Tuscan Sun” is on, regardless of whether the film’s at the beginning, middle or end, I plop down and watch. And certamente, I own the DVD—and when I’m feeling the need for a bit of inspiration, I’ll view it again. I recently interviewed Under the Tuscan Sun (http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780767900386) author Frances Mayes (http://www.francesmayesbooks.com/) for a national Travel story, and that conversation took me back to those dreamy days of living in bella Italia.

The latest film buzz, of course, is about Julia Roberts’ “Eat Pray Love” (http://www.letyourselfgo.com/), which hit U.S. cinemas earlier this month. As I’m sure you know (or have heard, whether you wanted to or not), it’s based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s monster best-selling memoir (http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylove.htm) about ditching New York City after a traumatic divorce and subsequent love affair and spending a year traveling through Italy, India and Indonesia. (Her gig was WAY easier than mine, as her publisher’s book advance funded her year of self-discovery.) Personally, I never got past the “Eat” portion of the book, but perhaps that’s because I’m too Italy-obsessed to care about the rest.

But here’s what got me thinking: none of the films I’ve seen extolling the joys of traveling and/or relocating abroad has ever starred a black woman—or a woman of color AT ALL….

Continue 22 Comments August 27, 2010

Venus Williams’ new book ‘Come to Win’ gets STRONG assist from travel writer and former black Italy expatriate Kelly E. Carter

I’m TOTALLY proud of my good friend, Delta Sigma Theta sorority sister, and former fellow Italy expatriate Kelly Carter (http://www.kellyecarter.com/), for co-authoring Venus Williams’ FABULOUS new tome, Come To Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession (http://www.amazon.com/Come-Win-Business-Visionaries-Profession/dp/0061718254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278370645&sr=1-1) (Amistad, $25.99). This incredible new hardback features Venus talking to some of the world’s most impressive folks—from former President Bill Clinton to Four Seasons Hotels founder Isadore Sharp, from Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson to global chef extraordinaire Marcus Samuelsson (http://marcussamuelsson.com/)—about how taking part in sports helped drive their success in a host of other fields.

And Kelly should know. A former sportswriter for some of America’s top newspapers, she covered national and international sports for USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, the Orange County Register, and many others. And she’s no stranger to the famous folks’ beat, either, having covered celebrities for People Magazine, USA Today, and other global publications.

A travel writer who’s literally circled the globe (I’ve lost count of how many countries she’s visited), Kelly and I met during our days as fellow sistergirl expats in bella Italia….

Continue 8 Comments July 5, 2010

Black women “getting their swirl on” when traveling abroad—are you one of them?

Just last week, I picked up a provocative new book: Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women from Dating Out (http://www.karynlanghorne.com/)(Gallery Books, $24.99) by Karyn Langhorne Folan. A sister who’s a Harvard Law School grad, former law professor and novelist, Folan plays off the unspoken admonition many of black women have received for generations. The author herself is married to a white American man, and in her book includes real-life anecdotes with black and white men and women as she explores the “notions” that keep interracial dating off the table for many sisters.

But what interested me most is her last chapter: “It’s the Same Story Around the World.” Here, she writes how “Traveling the world—and meeting men from other countries and cultures—can offer American black women a new view of themselves as desirable.” She shares the stories of sisters who’ve lived in Europe, who talk about the very different dynamics of interracial relationships on that continent and in the States.

Many mention feeling attractive, desired, and appreciated FOR their blackness, rather than in spite of it. Some talk about feeling “freer” to be themselves, both personally and in relationships, when they are abroad. And, as Black Women in Europe blog and social network founder Adrianne George reports: “I want black women to know that, in the wider world, we are perceived as smart, hardworking and talented. In short, the world thinks you’re awesome.”

Continue 72 Comments April 5, 2010

Who is your ‘Inner Italian?’ Former Italy dweller and expatriate Kelly Carter celebrates hers

I wrote recently that my friend and former newspaper colleague and friend Sharon Sanders invited me to dish about my “Inner Italian” on her “Simple Italy: Italian Food, Culture, Lifestyle and Travel” blog. Through this blog, Sharon helps her readers understand that ““Even if we don’t live in Italy, Italy lives inside of us.” Reading Sharon’s Q&A interview with me inspired my good friend and fellow Italophile Kelly Carter to take a cobblestoned stroll down her own personal Italian memory lane. She shares it in this Kelly’s Korner post.

Kelly and I met during our days in bella Italia, and obviously the lessons she learned during her amazing two years continue to shape her life on this side of the pond. So for those of you who’ve been pondering a move abroad—or even spending an extended period of time in another country—you’ll probably be ready to quit your job and buy a one-way airplane ticket after reading this piece.

Continue 5 Comments November 8, 2009

UrbanTravelGirl dishes about her ‘Inner Italian’ on 'Simple Italy' blog, a love letter to bella Italia

My former newspaper colleague and friend Sharon Sanders writes a gorgeous, award-winning blog called “Simple Italy: Italian Food, Culture, Lifestyle and Travel.” Years ago, she and I developed a tight bond over our fascination with all things Italian. Today, Sharon—who spent several years living and working in beautiful Florence—was kind enough to feature me and my “Inner Italian” persona in a recent post.

She writes a periodic question-and-answer feature with “wannabe Italians or expatriate Italians –who try to ‘live Italian’ wherever they are.” I would certainly qualify, as I remain obsessed with the place, its food and wine, its beautiful people — the list goes on. So read all about my “Inner Italian” (http://www.simpleitaly.com/the-inner-italian-q-a-maureen-jenkins) and you’ll understand why, as Sharon says, “Even if we don’t live in Italy, Italy lives inside of us.”

Continue 6 Comments October 29, 2009

The kindness of (Italian) strangers

My French speaking skills pretty much suck, so rather than feeling like the village idiot, I decided to take the 40-minute train from charming Villefranche to Ventimiglia, the first town over the border in Italy. While I won’t be winning any prizes for my knowledge of Italian, I sound like a genius in italiano compared to the moron I sound like in français (multiple classes notwithstanding). So off I went to the train station, armed with my Berlitz Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary just in case all my “questi” and “quelli” got stuck in translation.

Ahhh… what a delight to stroll into a city where things felt familiar! Granted, I’d never been to Ventimiglia, but how thrilling to see signs for a salumeria and a gelateria – and actually be able to intelligently ask for my purchase! And, of course, my Italian brothers never let me down… they’re always good for an admiring glance or two and a couple whistles for a single “signorina!” (I made sure to change into my “cute shoes” before I boarded the train for Italy – I know those so-called little things make a big difference in bella Italia.)

Continue 21 Comments January 3, 2009


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