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A sweet adventure: Italian Tiramisu

By LocalWonders Travel No Comments

Hi everybody,

This is Ismael & Andrea, Tour Leaders at LocalWonders Travel. Today we would like to share a great recipe we learnt in a cooking class with our fellow travelers during one of our Small Group Tours to Italy.

Since then we can’t stop eating Tiramisu. We loving cooking it for ourselves and our friends.

In Italian TIRAMISU means “pick me up”, “cheer me up” or ”lift me up”. Indeed, eggs, coffee and cocoa are great energetic and tasty ingredients.

Ingredients for 4 people approx:

  • 2 cups strong black coffee
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 1 large packet of sponge finger biscuits (savoiardi)
  • cocoa, for dusting


  1. Nota bene: Use room temperature ingredients.
  2. Separate egg white from yolk; whip the egg whites into stiff peaks.
  3. Add sugar to yolks and whip as good as you can (it is not easy whip yolk into stiff peaks).
  4. Add Mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat and whip until combined.
  5. To get the Tiramisu cream, little by little, pour the egg white into the yolk while constantly stirring.
  6. Mix the cold espresso with the coffee liquor and dip the lady fingers into the mixture just long enough to get them wet, do not soak them!
  7. Arrange the finger biscuits in the bottom of a 9 inch square baking dish (or container similarly sized).
  8. Spoon half the Tiramisu cream filling over the finger biscuits.
  9. Repeat process with another layer of finger biscuits.
  10. Add another layer of tiramisu cream and finally sprinkle on top with cocoa.
  11. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.


Now it’s your turn! Then you can share the pictures of your Tiramisu on our Facebook Page.
And if you dream of an authentic and exciting Italian adventure, check our small group tours: Wonders of Norther Italy and Treasures of The Amalfi Coast and Puglia.

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Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets

By LocalWonders Travel No Comments

A thin layer of snow covers the town. Bright lights of various shapes and colors illuminate the scene and wooden stalls decorated with pine branches, holly and multi-colored glass balls fill the town square. You can smell the mulling spices is in the air and you can hear a choir singing traditional songs. Welcome to the Christmas Markets!

This tradition originated in Germany in the Late Middle Age, but it is now very popular in Italy as well, especially in the villages and towns of Northern Italy. Bolzano, Trento, Verona, Bormio and Livigno, just to quote the most famous ones. But also in Southern Italy there is something unique: if you are around Naples at Christmas time, do not miss the chance to visit the workshops of Via San Gregorio Armeno. Skilful artisans make beautiful Nativity scenes. Everything is hand-made, but what makes this place so famous is that statues of politicians, actors and people from the news are part of the Nativity scene. Neapolitan creativity is marvelous!

December weekends are often spent hunting for an original and special present to give to friends and family. Christmas markets are a great occasion for buying very good quality and original items. You can find either decorative presents or useful ones, like great winter attire or clever tools that you can use for cooking. The stalls selling biscuits and cakes are very tempting. You cannot resist a friendly nonna (grandmother) offering you a smiling bear made of gingerbread.  You walk, you explore, you take notes on where you saw the perfect present for your sweetheart. When you’re cold, a glass of Vin Brulé (Glὔwein or mulled wine) will be a bliss warming your soul. Vin Brulé is red wine, served hot with mulling spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise. Simply delicious.

You keep on walking through the stalls and you hear a loud familiar laugh: Santa Claus is in town! Have you ever wondered where the Santa’s myth comes from? There are several myths and legends, but the most likely story is the one of Saint Nicholas of Myra. He lived in the IV century and was the Christian bishop of Myra, a city of the Byzantine Empire, now Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. In particular, he gave the three poor daughters of an honest Christian man the dowry to get married, so that they would not have to become prostitutes. If you try to pronounce SAINT NICHOLAS it sounds quite like SANTA CLAUS.

Italian Christmas Markets are becoming a very popular winter destination, but Italy is a country enjoyable every month of the year. If an Italy authentic experience is on your travel list check our Group Tours to Italy. You’ll travel in a small group (10 people maximum), with a local leader that will be like a friend unveiling the true soul of Italy. You’ll make new friends, see Italy like a local and bring home amazing memories.

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Pesto Genovese – A taste of traditional Italian cuisine

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Imagine a land suspended between the sea and the mountains, where green and blue mingle together and where the landscape is dotted with colorful houses, vertical vineyards, and olive trees. This is Liguria, where today we’ll take your senses for a taste of traditional Italian cuisine: Liguria’s popular Pesto Genovese.

Pesto sauce, which is a mix of basil, garlic, and pine nuts, originated in the Ligurian city of Genova. The word pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare, which means “to crush”. In fact, according to traditions, the ingredients are crushed in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. It can be hard work, but don’t worry— you can always use a blender if you’re short on time and are having friends for dinner.

Ready? Let’s start!

Ingredients for 500 g of Pasta

  • 50 g of basil leaves [2 oz] (purists would suggest basil from Pra’, that is a basil with small leaves)
  • 2 garlic cloves (the tradition says garlic from Vessalico, that is a quality with a milder taste)
  • 15 g of pine nuts [3/4 oz]
  • 70 g of Parmesan cheese, grated [2 ¾ oz]
  • 30 g of Pecorino cheese, grated [1 oz]
  • 100 ml [3 1/4 fl oz] of extra virgin olive oil (better the one from Liguria, milder than the one from Tuscany or Southern Italy]
  • A pinch of salt


  1. If you use a blender, leave it in the fridge before making Pesto. Otherwise, when the blades warm up, the basil leaves become dark. Someone adds a very small piece of ice to the mix.
  2. Gently rinse the basil leaves and wait until they are dry before starting.
  3. Put in the blender (or in the mortar) in the following order the garlic cloves, the pine nuts, the basil leaves and the pinch of salt. In case you use the blender, it is easy, press on. In case you use the mortar, first crush with the pestle the mix, being careful that the garlic remains under the basil leaves. Then, when you think the garlic and the pine nuts are crushed enough, start squeezing the mix against the mortar walls using the pestle and with a circular movement.
  4. When you’ve reached the desired density for your pesto, add the Parmesan, the Pecorino cheese, the extra virgin olive oil and stir.

Pesto is perfect with pasta, especially trofie, a traditional pasta from Liguria. It is very important that you do not warm up pesto when you add it to the pasta. When the pasta is ready, simply strain it, put it into a big mixing bowl, add Pesto and mix.

Want to learn making pesto from the locals? Join LocalWonders Travel for your once-in-a-lifetime Italy escape. We design small group tours to Italy offering top quality and authentic experiences. The Wonders of Northern Italy tour stops in Liguria, where you can explore Cinque Terre and learn how to make the traditional pesto.

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Cantucci e vinsanto – A delicious Italian recipe

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Cantucci (o cantuccini) and vinsanto are one of the many reasons why you cannot help loving Tuscany. You can follow our easy Italian recipe to make cantucci yourself and enjoy a delicious taste of Italy.

It was a very popular tradition in the 16th century and – lucky us – it is still now the most typical way of ending a meal in Tuscany.  Cantucci are delicious almond biscuits that you can dunk into the vinsanto, a straw wine made from Trebbiano or Malvasia grapes that have been dried on straw mats to concentrate their juice. This process gives the vinsanto an alcohol content of 15%-17%.

Do you know what vinsanto means? The translation in English is “Holy Wine” – so it must be very good!
There are many theories trying to explain why this wine is called Santo (Holy). The most likely one, is that a Tuscan friar, during the 14th century, used the wine from the Mass to cure people affected by the plague. The wine gave them a temporary relief and the very few miraculous healings were associated with the holy power of the wine.

Are you ready? Wear an apron, play a relaxing music and, very important when cooking, put a smile upon your face. Cantucci will be much tastier!

Ingredients for approximately 50 biscuits

  • 500 g of pastry flour [4¼  cups or 18 oz]
  • 200 g of peeled raw almonds [7.5 oz]
  • 300 g of sugar [1½ cup or  10.6 oz]
  • 75 g of butter  [1/3 cup or 2.65 oz]
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon of vanillin (vanilla powder) or 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • a pinch of salt



    1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C [356 °F]
    2. Place the almonds on a baking tray and toast them till they are fragrant and lightly golden [approx. 5 minutes]. Then set the almonds aside to cool down and chop them up.
    3. In a large bowl combine the flour, the sugar, the butter, the eggs, the orange zest, the vanilla, the baking powder and the pinch of salt. Add the almond and mix everything with your hands till you get a soft and homogeneous dough.
    4. Take a baking tray and grease it with butter and flour. Then roll on it the dough into 4-5 logs about 30 cm [12 inch] long and 5 cm [2 inch] wide.
    5. Bake the logs for 15 minutes at 180 °C [356 °F]. Then transfer the logs onto a surface to cool slightly for 5- 10 minutes. When still warm, cut the cantucci diagonally into 1 cm [6 inch] thick pieces.
    6. Lay the cantucci on the baking tray and bake at 150 °C [300 °F] till they become golden and crunchy – approximately 20-25 minutes. Then let the cantucci cool down at room temperature and enjoy them.

The perfect match for cantucci is vinsanto, but they are excellent also with coffee or tea. Cantucci are dry biscuits, so you can actually store them for several weeks. We’ve noticed though that they are too delicious to last more than a couple of days!

Did you enjoy this recipe? More authentic Italian recipes will come in the next weeks on the LocalWonders Travel blog.

Once you’ve tried your own cantucci, you might want to taste the cantucci of a local Italian pastry shop. Travel to Italy! Join our Wonders of Northern Italy tour for tasting the Tuscan cuisine or taking part in a great cooking class with the locals. We’ve got great Small Group Trips to Italy for you!

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Italy History and Fun Facts - LocalWonders Travel

Discover Italy! Cool Facts About Our Bel Paese

By LocalWonders Travel No Comments

Who doesn’t love the thrill of discovery when traveling? Italy is full of incredible destinations, hidden gems, wonderful stories, and opportunities to immerse yourself in history, art, and culture.

Our favorite part of our LocalWonders Travel group trips to Italy is getting to watch our guests experience a most authentic Italy as they visit the each of the exciting cities on our itineraries. Every single stop has something new and unexpected to offer, even if you’re returning for an encore visit.

Studying history, art and culture in books is great, but there’s nothing like diving in to the real thing! Here are some fun facts about Italy – our Bel Paese – that you might not yet know!


Ah, the Eternal City! A day or a week in Rome is like dipping your toe into the fountain of knowledge. Arguably one could spend a lifetime visiting the famous sites and museums and still learn something new each day. One popular destination (photo op!) for guests enjoying our Classic Italy Escapes is the Spanish Steps. But did you know that they’re not actually Spanish? They were built by Italian architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi and funded by a French diplomat – but at the time Spain had an embassy situated at the base of the stairs.


The ruins of Pompeii have captivated people around the world long after the fateful day Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Seeing the famed “Two Maidens” locked in their dying embrace as the molten rock and ash decimated Pompeii is always a poignant moment for visitors on our Treasures of the Amalfi Coast and Puglia Small Group Italy Tour. Advances in scientific and archaeological techniques sometimes uncover new truths, however!

In the spring of 2017 experts announced that the two maidens were actually young men. Scientists used CAT scans and DNA tests to confirm the victims locked in an embrace were unrelated males probably aged about 20 and 18.

The Grand Pompeii Project opened six newly restored villas in 2015 and this past year the European Commission allocated almost €50 million from the European Regional Development Fund to fund continuing renovation and preservation work.

LocalWonders Travel Group Tours to Italy - Fun Facts Pompeii


Speaking of all-season travel destinations, Capri gets top marks for anyone looking to enjoy mild weather year round on our Classic Italy Escapes. Did you know that summer temperatures from June to September average about 27 – 31°C and winter temperatures drop to only 10 – 15°C? Small wonder it’s been a popular holiday destination since Ancient Roman times. (You can still see the remains of villas built by Roman emperors like Augustus and Tiberius!)


The famous cave houses and churches carved from stone were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 – the first in southern Italy. Did you know that inhabitants of the unforgettably beautiful Sassi of Matera had no electricity until the 1930s? But they innovated by carving angled windows into the roofs to augment candle and lantern light with slivers of daylight.

LocalWonders Travel Group Tours to Italy - Fun Facts Matera


You can come explore this charming small town – another World Heritage Site – with our Treasures of the Amalfi Coast and Puglia Tour. Visitors always marvel at the many trulli, which are small turret-shaped dwellings with white-washed walls and cone-shaped roofs.

You may be surprised to learn that each charming little trullo was actually part of a feudal lord’s tax evasion strategy! Since permanent inhabited settlements were taxed, he had his peasants live in trulli, which were cleverly constructed without the use of cement and were therefore considered temporary. Sneaky!


Down at the heel of Italy’s boot you’ll find Lecce, in the region of Puglia. It’s known as the Baroque masterpiece, with extravagant architecture and swarms of cherubs (putto in Italian) decorating facades and artwork. But know what we find heavenly? This southern city boasts a southern pace of life where the locals rest during midday. The streets are bustling and busy from eight to midnight, taking advantage of the cooler evening air.


On our Treasures of the Amalfi Coast and Puglia Tour, visitors love the chance to visit Bari. It’s the capital city of Puglia and celebrated worldwide for its exquisite architecture, like the 12th Century Castello Svevo and the Romanesque Cathedral of San Sabino. But did you know that locals and travelers also fall in love with Bari for its exceptional local cuisine? You can stroll the Bari Vecchia and watch as local women make pasta by hand, just as in generations past. We recommend you try some fresh pasta in local eateries, but also watch for tiella (baked rice, potatoes and mussels) or mouthwatering burrata (essentially a ball of mozzarella stuffed with soft stracciatella and cream). Delizioso needs no translation!


It goes without saying that enchanting Venice is often requested for our Tailor-Made Italy Group Tours. Small wonder with its 118 islands, countless bridges, nearly 200 canals, and fascinating inner city to explore. But did you know that locals here host a celebration before Lent that predates and rivals that of Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Revellers at Venice Carnival celebrate in fancy dress. The long beak-like Medico della Peste masks date back to the time of the Plague, when physicians thought the perfumes and pungent oils in the beaks could protect the wearers from contracting the black death.

Group Tours to Italy - Fun Facts about Venice - LocalWonders Travel


Another stop on the Wonders of Northern Italy Group Tour is the picturesque coastal town of Portovenere. The strip of tall, narrow, colorful homes all crammed along the shoreline are definitely a favorite photo op for visitors. But that’s not all! Way up, perched overlooking the rocky coast, are the ruins of Doria Castle. An important fixture in the politics of the 12th to 16th Century, the ruins provide a simply stunning panoramic view of the area.

Cinque Terre

Protected as a World Heritage Site with a history that dates back to the 11th century, the five incredible seaside villages of the Cinque Terre are an otherworldly experience for travelers enjoying our Wonders of Northern Italy Tour. (It’s also a national park.) The area is known for rich marine life, hillside vineyards and groves of lemons or olives (cars are banned here!).

Cinque Terre History - LocalWonders Travel Group Tours to Italy

Certainly Cinque Terre is most famous for its breathtakingly beautiful colorful hillside villages, but it has an important winemaking culture too. Imagine, though, how hard vineyard work is on such hilly terrain!

In the 1980s, local winemakers imported a Swiss monorail system in an effort to make the work more bearable. It carried a single person and some crates with tools and grapes up the hillside.

And “today, while most of the work is still done by hand, wine cooperatives have installed some miniature cog-wheel monorails that wind through the vineyards to facilitate the collection process. Because of the backbreaking labor and [maintenance] involved in cultivating and harvesting grapes here, Italians call it heroic winemaking” (

This great shot (below) care of L’Italo-Americano shows one of the monorails in use. A beautiful view to be sure, but a part of winemaking not for the faint of heart!

LocalWonders Travel Group Tours to Italy - Fun Facts Cinque Terre Winemaking


According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, Florence is home to a third of the world’s art treasures (including Michelangelo’s famous David)! The best thing is that with our Small Group Trips to Italy, you can determine which highlights mean most to your group. Did you know that Florence is also a trendsetter for fashion? It’s even home to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, which boasts more than 10,000 designer shoes on display in a gothic castle. (Can you ever have too many Italian shoes?! We think not!)


This world-renowned wine-growing area in the Tuscany region of Italy is a featured stop on our Wonders of Northern Italy Tour. Do you know what symbol appears on a bottle of Chianti Classico or Chianti Classico Riserva? A black rooster!

This feathery fellow hearkens back to a time about 800 years ago when Florence and Siena were fighting over the Chianti region. The cities decided to settle the boundary dispute by each sending a rider on horseback into the wine territory; wherever they met would be the new boundary. The canny Florentines decided to wake their rider with a black rooster, ensuring he’d crow good and early by not feeding him. Sure enough their rider left much earlier than the one from Siena, whose bird was a well-fed and late-rising white rooster.

This breathtaking shot of Chianti is care of Weddings and Weddings,  a Tuscany-based wedding planning company:

Weddings and Weddings Tuscany Photography

Inspired to come discover more about Italy?

Autumn is beautiful in the countryside and in the cities of Italy!
Contact us today to learn more or to book your own small group Italy tour now!

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