Tag: Under the Tuscan Sun

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!

1 Comment December 24, 2013

ENFIN (FINALLY)!! France, HERE I COME!!

Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love Europe—and that there’s a super-special place in my heart for France, where I’ve spent many incredible times over the past several years, from the north to the scenic south. FINALLY, I’m getting the chance to actually LIVE there … and I’ll be a mere 40-minute train ride from Paris, my favorite city anywhere in the world!!! The plan is to leave the States soon after Christmas and launch my “new life” in France—JUST in time to ring in the New Year ….

Continue 43 Comments December 4, 2011

Turning a trip abroad into a ‘permanent vacation’

We’ve all read books and watched films about folks (often single women, it seems) who travel to some exotic locale in search of self-discovery, fall in love with this new place, and decide to trade in their not-quite-right lives at home for a new one overseas. You UrbanTravelGirls know the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” motivated me to move to storybook-perfect Florence, Italy. The Frances Mayes book that inspired the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, has been translated into dozens of languages and prompted countless reader pilgrimages to Mayes’ adopted Tuscan hometown of Cortona.

Author Peter Mayle jump-started the modern expat-exchanges-hectic-urban-life-for-adventure-abroad trend with A Year in Provence, a book that when became an international best-seller when first published in 1989. In it, Mayle chronicled his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, a town in this gorgeous part of southern France. This former London ad executive and his wife traveled to Provence on vacation but eventually took the plunge, relocating completely from the UK to France. And once his books caught fire and made him rich—no doubt inspiring legions of folks with visions of living abroad—Mayle became the patron saint of reinventing oneself in a foreign land.

But when does an UrbanTravelGirl decide that a mere vacation doesn’t do it, that she’d rather pull up stakes and actually MOVE to another country and build a life for herself there instead of here (wherever that happens to be)? ….

Continue 14 Comments December 21, 2010

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


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