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Northern Italy

Bonassola vineyard

Discover Bonassola: Wine, Tradition and the Sea

By Northern Italy No Comments

Spectacular of the sea. Beautiful vineyards. Divine wine. We spent a perfect day as guests at the agriturismo Ca’ du Ferrà in Bonassola— and that’s exactly what we found.

 

As the founders of a travel company, our aim is to offer quality and authentic Italy travel experiences away from the conventional tourist attractions and show the best that Italy can offer. We are always seeking out new places still unspoiled by mass tourism, as well as local producers who respect the rhythm of nature and the environment.

On a recent Sunday research trip, we ended up in Bonassola, a little village just a seven-minute train ride from Cinque Terre, but without the crowds. Bonassola is tucked in between the sea and the mountains, with a wide beach protected by the ruins of the old castle, and colourful caruggi (little alleyways) where life is peaceful and the smell of freshly baked focaccia is everywhere.

When we arrived at the Bonassola train station we were warmly welcomed by Davide Zoppi, who runs Ca’ du Ferrà, a fascinating agricultural business, together with his mom, Aida, and his dad, Antonio. Davide and his family managed to convert four hectares of uncultivated land into panoramic vineyards through sheer passion and hard work. They produce the Bonazolae, a divine dry white wine made with the local grapes (Vermentino, Bosco and Albarola).

Walking up and down these vineyards we realized what “vertical agriculture” means. This land suspended between the mountain and the sea is as as difficult to work as it is spectacular to look at. We were impressed to see how they built terraces and planted vineyards on very steep slopes. Davide proudly explained that their production is fully organic. The family offers an excellent product and their respect for the environment and nature, are key values that direct their daily work.

Ca’ du Ferrà is not only a place beautiful to spend a wonderful holiday, it is also a hotbed of great ideas. Davide and his dad, a history lover, are recovering a very rare local grape variety called Ruzzese. This grape variety disappeared centuries ago. It was very appreciated by Pope Paul III Farnese (1468 – 1549), who used to order several barrels of this wine directly from the small village of Bonassola. After researching and finding this variety, they have now planted 1000 grapes of Ruzzese and soon it will be possible once again to drink a wine whose flavour was lost for centuries.

While we’ll have to wait to taste this lost wine, we reached the heavens when Davide brought a cold bottle of Bonazolae wine and two trays of freshly baked focaccia out into the vineyard garden. We ate and drank with a breathtaking view of the Ligurian sea overlooking the two promontories guarding the bay of Bonassola.  

Sound like a good way to spend the day? You should join us! With our unique tailor-made tour service, we are now ready to offer you a gastronomic experience at the Cinque Terre where, you will meet Davide, taste his wine from the panoramic “vineyards garden”, learn about organic agriculture. There will be several tastings of local products, pesto and cooking classes, and we’ll stay in a top quality, relaxing accommodation that Davide and his family converted from one former rural old building and one antique mill. It’s just a few minutes walk from the sea. Come and discover Bonassola for yourself!

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Encounter the Soul of Venice in Gourmet Street Food

By Northern Italy, Venice No Comments

Venice is like a brilliant and eccentric artist, jealously guarding its secrets and skills from those who don’t know where to look. Its soul is made of a wide variety of virtues and vices; the city itself is full of quality and boasts a lot of beauty. If you want to unlock the soul of Venice, you simply must indulge in the magnificent gourmet street food available around this city of canals.

Street food will give us an authentic glimpse of Venice you say? Yes! Remember that food is like a religion for us in Italy. When you eat like local Italians, you’ll discover that our street food is always gourmet, fresh and of high quality ‒ especially in Venice.

When you’re travelling and want to make the most of your time exploring all that Venice has to offer, ordering from gourmet street vendors is also just an easier and less formal way to enjoy the local cuisine.

When in Venice, do as the Venetians do

If you want to experience Venice, Italy like a local, you need to walk around the city. As you make your way along the paths the locals take to work and home, there are three Italian words you will grow to love, we promise! These three words we want to teach you are: bacaro, cicchetti and ombra.

Bacaro ‒ The archetypal Venetian inn, a bacaro is often hidden in small alleyways (known as calli) or alongside canals. You can expect a bacaro to be very small, but full of history and character. The furnishings might be simple, often just a few stools and tables partly inside and partly in the street. This is where locals meet for a chat, to complain about the government and taxes (you’d think everyone in Italy could be a fine statesman!), to moan about the foibles of their wives or husbands (who they love despite these flaws) or for talking about sports (everyone in Italy believes to know as much if not more than the soccer coaches!). Aside from the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, locals congregate at bacari because they serve sensational food and drinks. You’re not going to get a fancy menu and several courses at bacari, but you’ll have your pick from a showcase of rich and filling aperitifs.

Cicchetti ‒ This term refers to the small bites of delicious local food. (Trust us, don’t call them tapas!) These include delicacies such as special meatballs, fish-balls, sardines marinated with onions, wine and vinegar (sarde in saor), or local cheese and cold cuts. One special Venetian cicchetti you simply must try is called baccalà mantecato. It is creamy, slow-cooked cod fish served on polenta and garnished with oil and garlic.

Ombra ‒ This Italian word means shade, but when you’re dining in Venice, it refers to a local red or white wine served right from the barrel. In ancient times, the wine sellers took their wine barrels by push-cart to sell the wine in the shade of St. Mark’s bell tower. They would follow the shade as the sun moved through the sky, so people used to look for the shade to buy wine. This is why even today you ask for an ombra rather than vino when you stop for food and drinks at a bacaro.

Summer sips and stops in Venice

If you visit Venice in the warmer months, you’ll spy many people drinking an orange cocktail with a slice of orange or an olive for garnish. This refreshing drink is called a Spritz and it’s the most trendy and popular Italian cocktail served in Venice during summer. The secret to a cool and restorative Spritz is just the right mix of dry white wine, seltzer, and a splash of a slightly bitter alcoholic liqueur made from infused herbs and fruit like Select, Aperol or Campari.

Trust us, once you’ve tasted a freshly made Spritz on a hot Venetian day your mouth will water at the thought of it even months later.

While in Venice, you must visit several of the countless bacari around the city to determine who serves the best cicchetti, pours the finest ombra or makes the most refreshing Spritz ‒ all while having a good time chatting with friends and mingling with the locals.

Book the 10-day Wonders of Northern Italy Tour with LocalWonders Travel and you’ll walk, eat and drink in Venice like the locals do before heading off to explore the wonders of Cinque Terre, Pisa and Florence, the Chianti Region of Tuscany and Rome.

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Portovenere – Experience the Magical Sunset by Boat

By Northern Italy No Comments

People come to Italy from around the world to see the famous Cinque Terre, five fishing villages suspended between the mountain and the sea. These charming villages boast colorful houses, vertical vineyards and olive tree plantations. But how many know about Portovenere, a gem just a 20-minute boat ride away from the Cinque Terre, that shines every bit as brightly as the more famous quintet of villages?

Our 10-day Wonders of Northern Italy Tour will take you to discover this wonder and get familiar with Portovenere on land and from the water. The name means Port of Venus, hearkening back to ancient times when the Romans built a temple to their goddess of love, beauty, and fertility here.

The breathtaking village of Portovenere stretches along the Golfo dei Poeti (Poets’ Gulf).  The gulf got it’s name because many famous poets and artists, like Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Eugenio Montale, loved to stay in this stunning amphitheatre made of water, rocks and colorful houses. It’s easy to see how this magical space offered creative minds rest and inspiration in equal measure.

When you visit Portovenere, walking along the caruggio (the little alleyways) is a veritable symphony for the senses. You can follow the smell of freshly baked focaccia sold from the little shop where a curtain of dry pasta hangs at the window, taste the delicious pesto made from fresh basil and offered by a kindly lady to passers-by, see wonderful architecture all around you, touch the quality clogs made by a skilled artisan out of wood and leather, hear the rich romance of Italian spoken everywhere and taste some of the many delectable flavors of gelato.

At the end of the caruggio, the church of St. Peter welcomes travelers from its commanding perch atop the breath-taking promontory of Arpaia. The church was built in the thirteenth century on the site of a fifth century church and seems to rise up in bands of white and black stones from the rocks of the cliff. Inside you can rest, enjoy the cool and quiet sacred space, and outside enjoy the incomparable view of the Golfo dei Poeti.

After you’ve walked the streets and enjoyed the scenic viewpoints, the best way to embrace the full beauty of Portovenere is by boat. We recommend you make the most of the hours that precede sunset and enjoy a memorable small boat tour with an expert local leader.

Mario, a distinguished young man who grew up surrounded by the water and the colorful houses of this Gulf, welcomes travelers to his little motor boat with a kind smile and a glass of wine for the kind of personalized tour that only a local can offer.

With Mario’s expert guidance, you’ll explore Portovenere from the sea while he regales you with stories about this incredible region of Italy. The itinerary includes seeing the secret caves of Palmaria Island and exploring little inlets that are accessible by boat only. Here, where the water is warm, clean and of an intense blue, you can enjoy a relaxing dive and swim surrounded by solitude and the beauty of nature.

As the sun starts to change color, Mario ends your leisurely lingering in the water by clapping his hands and announcing, “E’ Pronto!” (“It’s ready!”). He welcomes you back on board his boat to a feast of focaccia, cheese, anchovies and the fresh, seasonal goodies that he carefully sources from the best local producers. If you’re really lucky, and Mario’s granny is in a good mood, you’ll get to try her homemade pesto on a tasty focaccia bread.

Before long the sun will dip below the horizon and the ruddy sky will fade to black. Don’t forget to fill your glass and raise a toast to the wonderful treasures you’ve uncovered in Portovenere. Salute! (Cheers!)

To enjoy the wonders of Portovenere and Cinque Terre, Venice, Pisa and Florence, the Chianti Region of Tuscany and Rome, book the 10-day Wonders of Northern Italy Tour with LocalWonders Travel. Our friendly, knowledgeable Italy tour specialists are ready to help you discover the best of Italy.

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