How do I choose between the different locations?
|Title:||How do I choose between the different locations?|
|Author:||Luca Centofanti||Updated:||Jan 30, 2019||Views:||5,915|
People ask us almost every day how to choose between our locations. This is one of the most difficult questions for us to answer, because we truly put so much heart and soul into each one of them, that we we think of them almost like our children. How does one ask a parent to choose between their children? But we can help you choose by giving you a series of questions to ask yourself. Click on each question below to expand with more information on each location as it relates to the questions:
Do you dream of Tuscany?
If so, you may have narrowed down to two of our trips, but there are two others to consider.
Chianti : Wine & Cooking in the Heart of Tuscany (100% in Tuscany)
This trip is based entirely in Tuscany, and is all about Tuscany. We visit many bucket list Tuscan locations, such as Siena, Chianti Hill Towns, Volterra, and the famed Orcia Valley, where practically every picture of Tuscany you have ever seen is taken. Our cooking is 100% Tuscan regional recipes. This trip is Tuscany, Tuscany, and nothing but Tuscany. We balance the week with destinations many dream of with some Tuscan destinations and experiences that are hidden gems.
Soriano: Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan & Umbrian Sun (Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio)
Our home base this week is Soriano, which is very close to the borders between Tuscany, Umbra and Lazio. as such, we balance our excursions between these regions. We spend two days actually in Tuscany this week, and the rest divided between Umbria and Lazio. These other two regions are very much like Tuscany, but don't get all of the marketing money, so they are not as heavily travelled and are not as well-known. In fact, many movies we see that claim to be based in Tuscany are actually filmed in these neighboring regions. Our cooking this week is a mixture of Tuscan cuisine with Umbrian and Roman cuisine as well.
Also Consider: Norcia : Wine, Cooking, Truffles & Chocolate (100% in Umbria)
This is just an hour east of Tuscany. What makes this place so special is that many consider this the Tuscany of 30 years ago, because it has not attracted all of the tourists. In other words, it looks and feels like Tuscany, but without all of the tourists, it has retained most of its original culture. Many also consider this "The New Tuscany" for that reason. Norcia is one of those places that the Italians themselves dream of. Ask any Italian if they would rather spend a week in just about any town in Tuscany or Norcia, and the vast majority will instantly say NORCIA! The cooking on this trip is 100% Umbrian.
Are You looking for a vacation on the water?
If so, you have narrowed yourself down to two of our trips, as four of our other vacations are mostly land based.
Amalfi : Cooking in Paradise on the Amalfi Coast (100% on the Amalfi Coast)
This week is based right on the water on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. Our accommodations are a luxurious private villa surrounding a medieval castle. It has a swimming pool, but just a few steps away is our private dock. All of the rooms have panoramic ocean views. Additionally, several of our excursions are sea based, including a day of boating around the island of Capri, and our excursion to Positano (and back) is by boat. Cooking this week is entirely local Amalfi Coast and Neapolitan cuisine.
Sicily : Cooking & Adventure on the Islands of Sicily
It is all in the name here: Adventure and Islands. This week we spend more time on and in the water than on any other week. We get just about everywhere by boat, we go fishing with local fishermen in the middle of the night, we go into local grottoes, we spend a day of boating and swimming around the island, etc. One of the things we tell guests coming on this trip is that if they suffer sea sickness, take lots of Dramamine! Cooking on this trip is 100% Sicilian recipes.
The one thing guests that are looking for water need to know is that there is a huge difference between the Amalfi and Sicily trips. The trip on the Amalfi Coast is more luxurious, while the Sicily trip is much more raw, down to earth and adventurous.
Do You Want something more Upscale or Down to Earth?
This is a difficult issue to address, partially because it is difficult to define upscale, and partially because our trips differ in their "upscale factor" in different ways, so it is difficult to say which is more upscale in the way you may be considering, so we will try to break it down:
Our Norcia trips have us in a very upscale hotel. We stay at the beautiful Relais & Chateaux Palazzo Seneca, which is a restored 16th century palazzo. This is a full-service hotel with spa and highly personal service.
In Bologna we stay at a beautiful Hotel. It is one of the best hotels in the area.
On our Amalfi weeks, we stay in an iconic Villa above the coast. This is not really a "full service hotel", but rather a large villa overlooking the water, with private apartments and rooms. The property is jaw-dropping beautiful. The rooms are well-appointed, but like nearly all rooms along the coast the decor would not be considered "lush". This is, however, one of the most iconic and desirable properties on the Amalfi Coast, so it is considered to be very upscale.
We stay in the beautiful Palazzo Leopoldo on our Chianti weeks. We would consider this a solid four star property boutique hotel. The rooms are beautiful, but we would not elevate the property in upscale factor to that of those in Norcia and Barolo.
Our accommodations in Sicily are true to the nature of the week. This is a week of adventure far off the beaten path, and as such they do not have luxury hotels in the area. That said, our rooms at Nido del Pellegrino are very nice, and offer key amenities, such as air conditioning, satellite TV, Internet that works on and off, and well-appointed clean rooms. This is not really a hotel, but rather vacation apartments. Our final night we stay in what would be considered a 3 star hotel in our opinion in the town of Erice. Again, the area is not as developed as the north, so there are not many choices here.
We left Soriano for last in this list not because the accommodations are less than the others, but because it is so different. Unlike the other locations where we stay in staffed hotels or properties, each of our guests in Soriano is given a private village somewhere in the village. We have a collection of 14 village homes scattered around the town. Each is well-appointed (Internet, air conditioning, etc.), and each is decorated differently. Your neighbors are are the locals. Additionally, we treat the homes in Soriano like vacation rentals, so you will not have daily maid service. We do, however, do a linen and towel change once mid week here. If you are looking for well-serviced accommodations, this is not the choice for you. However, on the other hand, this is the most immersive experience of all our locations.
Norcia is probably the most upscale of our locations in terms of cooking. Three of our classes are taught by a Michelin Starred chef, and the recipes in these classes are more upscale by nature. Other than those classes, one class is taught at the Perugina chocolate factory by their master chef, and the pizza class is taught by a master pizzaiolo.
Our classes here are taught by the master chef at the palazzo, and focus more on home-style cooking of local Tuscan recipes.
The classes in Soriano focus on homestyle country cooking of Tuscany and Umbria. They are taught by local women, rather than chefs. The recipes are family recipes passed down through generations to the women teaching the classes. Consider that being our home base, even the master chefs in other areas must come here to learn from the instructors in Soriano before they can work with us.
Our classes here focus on home style Amalfi and Neapolitan cooking, and are recipes passed down through the generations. They are very down to earth, and are taught by local women and a local chef right on the terrace of our villa.
Our classes here focus on home style Sicilian cooking, and are recipes passed down through the generations. They are very down to earth, and are taught by local women.
One of our classes in Bologna is taught by a Michelin Starred chef, while the rest are true to our roots with home-style cooking in a family setting.
Restaurants & Dining
Our Bologna week features the largest concentration of upscale dining of any of our weeks, simply by the fact that this area has the highest concentration of upscale cuisine in Italy. But we also spread it out so your experience street food, trattorias and much more.
Two evenings will be in the elegant Vespasia ristorante, which is headed by a Michelin starred chef . On another evening we will be dining al fresco at the Enoteca, however we also dine in some local trattorias, and even do a very down to earth BBQ during the Norcia week so that we have a balanced experience.
On our Chianti weeks, we dine mostly in local Tuscan trattorias. As Tuscan cuisine is all about its simplicity and history, we focus on more casual "mom and pop" trattorias in the small hill-top villages.
One of the issues we faced on our Amalfi Coast weeks was that the more upscale restaurants here also happen to be tourist traps with awful food. Because of this, we tend to dine a little more off the beaten path, away from the tourists, where the locals go. While always very nice, these are for the locals, so we will not experience the appointments considered upscale internationally. In other words, we chose to sacrifice some of the decor for quality of food on our Amalfi Coast weeks.
Soriano is a small town very far off the beaten path. The closest Michelin starred restaurant is a hundred miles away. This is an area where you find the little mom and pop trattoria owned by a couple, with the husband serving you, and the wife back in the kitchen hand-rolling the pasta. Everywhere we go here is very casual and down to earth. Additionally, on our Soriano weeks, we dine in local homes as guests on several nights.
If you wanted to go to a Michelin starred restaurant from here, you would be looking at a 3 hour trip including three taxis, a ferry, and an hour flight in between. Sicily is very raw and down to earth. Everything is very much "family style" and extremely casual. We will likely never be out of beachwear this week.
Soriano finally made it to the top of the list in upscale factor for something. Yes, Soriano is one of our most immersive weeks, so it is very down to earth. But when it comes to transportation, Soriano knocks it out of the park! That is because this is the one location where we use our own bus, which just happens to be one-of-a-kind. before we bought it, our bus was transportation for European Diplomats in Brussels. Essentially, a tour bus converted into a limo. The bus is of a size than normally has 36 seats, but ours is configured for 20. Big leather armchairs, to be exact. In the back, we have club seating, and we even have a wine & espresso bar inside & four flat screen monitors aboard. It is like a private jet on wheels. (Can you tell we are proud of it?)
The #2 in luxurious transportation award goes to Norcia! That is because when the folks that run our Norcia operation saw our bus from Soriano, they began to drool. Then they set out to search for one like ours. Well, ours really is one-of-a-kind, so they failed in their attempt, but they got as close as they could. This bus still has larger than normal seats, and does have club seating in the back as well. So people that never see our Soriano bus see this and think this is one fine bus!
On our Chianti trips, are distances are much shorter than Soriano and Norcia, and the roads are far more winding. Because of this, we chose to use a 20 seat Mercedes mini-bus. It is very, very nice... possibly the best mini-bus we have ever seen. However, it does lack the big wrap-around leather armchairs we have in Soriano.
On our Barolo trips we use a mid-sized tour bus. It is a modern bus with all the amenities, but again, no wrap-around armchairs.
On our amalfi weeks, our transportation logistics get a little more complicated. Because of the nature of the coast, at times we are on a mini-bus, and at times we are traveling by boat.
And the award for least luxurious transportation goes to Sicily! Most of our time we are on a small island with roads that could not handle a bus, and most of our travel is between islands. So during our week we have a couple minivans that we shuttle here and there with. The rest of the time, we are moving around by boats and hydrofoil
General Group Dynamic
This is hard to nail down, because it is so relative. No matter how upscale a location is in terms of accommodations, destinations, dining, etc., it is very important that all of our guests completely embrace the nature of our company culture. Allow the following to really sink in:
We interact with our guests as though they are visiting friends and family, not like clients.
Please know this is at our core above all else. It is who we are, and nothing... absolutely nothing, will ever dissuade us from that. This has and upside to it, but it may have a downside if it isn't what a guest is really looking for. Some things to consider are:
Some people that looking for an upscale experience are looking to be served. Turn-down service, daily maid service, spa treatments, fine dining, etc. While all of this is available on some of our trips, we.. that is, the CDV hosts, are not part of that service dynamic. Don't get us wrong, we are there for you, and we want to do everything we can to make this the vacation of your life, but there is a very difficult to define nuance about what we do. In order for us to maintain that "friends and family" feel, we need to conduct ourselves the way friends and family do. So we are not a concierge... we are not "the staff", for lack of a better term. Instead, we conduct ourselves as part of the group.
This is extremely important to embrace, because occasionally some guests aren't looking for this type of interaction, and it can create problems. Most of our guests come on our vacations specifically because of this nuance, and if we are put in the role of "the staff" by a few guests, the feel of the trip can completely change.
It is important above all else that any guests coming on any of our trips, regardless of "upscale factor", are able to let go, let loose, get a little crazy, and have a good time with us, rather than served by us.
That said, some of our trips let loose more than others. For example, in Soriano, Bologna and Sicily, many of our guests help set the table, help clean the kitchen, etc. at cooking classes. While in Norcia, Chianti and Amalfi, the setting is not as conducive to things like that.
How much do want wine to be part of the vacation?
Most of our trips offer winery visits and tastings, but on some of them wine is a significant part of the trip, while on others it is somewhat minor. Here is a basic breakdown, starting with the most wine-focused
We are in the heart of Tuscan Wine Country here, and throughout the week, we will visit seven wineries. For those that are not big on wine, they will still have a fantastic time, as the wineries we have chosen all have a parallel purpose. For example, we will visit a medieval castle one day, which is also a winery. We will have a pizza cook out in the countryside one day, which is also a winery. This is Tuscany, after all! The wines this week will be Chianti, of course, as well as Brunello, Vino Nobile, Verdicchio, and Greghetto.
On our Soriano weeks, we will visit three wineries during the week. In Tuscany we will visit a Brunello Winery and a Vino Nobile winery. We'll also visit a little-known winery in Castglione that produces Umbria and Lazio wines. The wines of the week are Brunello, Vino Nobile, Orvieto, Forcone, and others. While at the villa for cooking classes, we also do some wine tastings from some of our other locations. For example, we often do a tasting from some of our Barolo wines while in Soriano.
During our Norcia week, we visit one winery in Montefalco that produces Montefalco Sagrantino (known to be one of the best wines in Italy), as well as a Greghetto, a Brut, Passito, and several other wines. We also do several wine tastings at dinners while in Norcia.
Our Amalfi Coast trips are not focused much on wine, except that we do visit one winery up in the hills above the coast that produces a very unique wine with centuries vineyards.
The only wine-growing region we are close to in Sicily is Marsala. We visit one winery in Marsala briefly during the trip for a tasting. They produce Marsala wine, of course, but also Nero d'Avola and several Sicilian sweet wines.
Believe it or not, not ALL of Italy is famous for wine. The area around Bologna is VERY famous for food, but their best-known wine is Lambrusco. We do, however, visit a winery that has some very interesting and unique wines that are phenominal.
How much free time will you desire?
Before we get into this subject, there is a philosophy that we live by. Our vacations are all-inclusive. To us, that means we have to be including something all the time. "Free time" in this business is really just a nice way of saying "we're not spending money on you during this time period", so if we call our trips "all-inclusive", and ALSO force free time on you, we don't think we are being fair or true to our word. That said, we know people do want free time, and not everyone wants to be on the go all the time. So we structure our itineraries in such a way that there is always something to do, but there are lots of opportunities to opt out of partial days. This way, you choose when and if you want free time. The problem we face with this policy is that some guests have told us they would like more free time, and when confronted with our philosophy, they tell us that they don't want to miss out on anything. While we understand this, we ask guests to consider that if we were to build in forced free time, they would be missing something, because we would have less on our itineraries anyway. They just wouldn't know what they are missing.
That said, the way we structure our trips to allow for people to opt in and out of partial days is by crossing back toward our home base during the day at some point, so on most days there is a morning activity, followed by lunch, then an afternoon activity, followed by dinner. We usually pass by or stop t our home base in the middle, allowing guests to opt out of the morning and be picked up for the afternoon, or vice versa.
Some of our trips, however, have a faster pace than others, giving less of a feeling of having down time. The Soriano trips, for example, cover the most ground, and are more action-packed than the others. The Sicily trips have more late nights, while the Bologna, Chianti, Amalfi, and Norcia trips have more rest time in the middle of the day to take breaks in your room and still do everything.
What kind of Italian food do you prefer?
Each of our vacations focus on local cuisine, and Italian food is very regional in nature, so getting a feel for the food may help guests choose which location they want.
A Side Note
Since we are talking about food (and when are we NOT talking about food?), there is also the subject of food quantity. If you read our philosophy in the last section, it applies here as well. That is, our vacations are all-inclusive. To us, that means you should never be hungry, otherwise we are failing you. One of the most common suggestions from guests is that we reduce the food quantity. Our view is quite simply that you always have the choice to eat or not eat what is available. If we have a meal and you ate too much, that was a choice you made, but if we have a meal and there was not enough food to satisfy you, it really becomes our problem. Since some people eat more than others, we must always consider the big eaters to be safe.
Soriano is in a mountainous area of Central Italy. This area is known for very healthy and balanced recipes. Not too heavy, not spicy, and very little in terms of creamy and heavy meat sauces. The cuisine here is a balance between Tuscan, Umbrian and Roman recipes. There will be absolutely no seafood this week, as all of our seafood is imported. The area is big on Porcini mushrooms, cold cuts, such as prosciutto, and Pecorino cheese. One stand out ingredient you find here that is only found on our Soriano weeks is Fennel Pollen, which is used in many of our recipes. Soriano is also well-known in much of Central Italy for its Porchetta (suckling pig). Remember that our cooking classes in Soriano are based on traditional home recipes... you know, the one's passed down by grandma.
Ask any Italian what comes to mind when they think of Norcia, and they will instantly say Prosciutto, Salame, Sausage, Black Truffles, and Lentils. These are not just specialties of Norcia, these things are what put Norcia on the map to the extent that every Italian knows of the town, and they know it for this reason. As such, they are heavily featured in their cuisine. Norcia is simply known for amazing food. It is Umbrian in nature, and very well-balanced. Remember that our cooking classes in Norcia are taught by a Michelin Starred Chef, and focus more on upscale cuisine. But we also have the pizza class (in a pizzeria) and chocolate class (in the Perugina Chocolate Factory) this week!
Our Sicily trips are on a tiny island that is off of another island, that is off of a peninsula. Can you guess the staple food here? SEAFOOD. So if you love seafood, this is a great choice for you. For those that are not big fans of seafood, do not be alarmed, because there are always wonderful alternatives, and non seafood eaters still go home loosening their belts! The cuisine here has very little meat, and tends to be a bit spicier than up north. The cooking classes here are very down to earth home recipes, with the exception of the sausage class that is done with a butcher.
Like Sicily, the Amalfi Coast is... well, on the coast. So seafood is a big feature here. Also like Sicily, there is quite a bit other than seafood to choose from. The diet here is rich in seafood, citrus, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese! The cooking classes here are very down to earth home recipes.
The diet in the Chianti area is very much like that of Soriano, except that it is 100% Tuscan Cuisine. This area is known for very healthy and balanced recipes. Not too heavy, not spicy, and very little in terms of creamy and heavy meat sauces. There will be absolutely no seafood this week, as all of our seafood is imported. The area is big on wine, cold cuts, such as prosciutto, and Pecorino cheese. Our cooking classes in Chianti are based on traditional home recipes.
Bologna is in an area made faous by its Prosciutto, Mortadella, Tortellini, Parmesean Cheese, etc.
How much will you want to avoid seeing other tourists?
This is something of loaded question that guests should very much consider when trying to decide between our locations. Just about everyone says they want to be away from other tourists, but then faced with trading some of the comforts of home, it can be a balancing act when deciding how few tourists there are. After all, the more tourists an area has, the more it has learned to adapt to our customs and creature comforts. There is also the question of "Headliner" destinations. If you have heard of a place we are going, so have others. Here is a basic breakdown by location:
Soriano is one of our most off-the-beaten-path locations, and is also our most immersive. While tourism is growing in Soriano, it has not grown enough to really adapt. The tourists you see here will be mostly our own group, and occasional people here and there staying in a local time share hotel. Hardly any of the locals speak English, but remember that all of our key people are bi-lingual, so you don't need to speak Italian by any means. You will be staying in your own private village home, making it very immersive. That is, all of your neighborhoods will be local residents. It is not at all a hotel-like setting. Furthermore, on our Soriano weeks, we have breakfast in TRUE Italian style, at the local cafe, Cappuccino & Pastry. You won't find any American coffee or eggs and bacon here. There are no souvenir shops or tourist traps. Every store here is there for the local residents, period. While our home base is very tourist-free, a few of our excursions do go into "The Tourist Zone". This would be places like Assisi, Orvieto, and Montepulciano. But most of the week, we are well off the beaten path.
This is one of those places that is really on the edge of discovery. Think of Tuscany 30 years ago. Most of the "tourists" here are Italians, but the region of Umbria is starting to get noticed internationally as "The New Tuscany", and Norcia is a true jewel in Umbria. The foreign tourists you will see in Norcia are more "travelers" that are looking for something new and undiscovered. What this means is that they have more creature comforts than you would find in Soriano, but not overly so. You will be able to find find Americanized coffee in the morning, and if you really want it, they can prep some eggs for you. The stores in town are a mixture of "for the locals" and "for the visitors", but the visitors are mostly Italians looking for all of Norcia's famed food products. There are some souvenir here and there, but what will really strike you is that many shops are all Truffles or Butchers. As for our excursions, the only real touristy places we go this week are Assisi and Perugia. Outside of those, you will not see very many foreign tourists.
Find any Top 10 list of what to see in Italy, and the Amalfi Coast is on it, so if you are looking for a place where you won't see tourists, it just isn't going to happen here. However, our trips are all about giving guests an insider's experience, rather than a touristy experience. This presented quite a challenge for us when we set up here, as the entire area revolves around tourism, and how do we plan a trip that doesn't go to the touristy places meaning we would need to avoid Amalfi, Ravello, Capri, Positano, and Pompeii? We wound up striking a wonderful balance here between unavoidable tourist attractions, off the beaten path hidden gems, and cultural immersion. To begin with, we stay on the southern part of the coast, which is much less crowded, an we are staying in our own private property on the water, away from the hustle and bustle. We do go to Positano, but we do it in a very unique way, as we do with Ravello, Pompeii, Amalfi and Capri (which we do with a private boat from our private dock). We also go to places few tourists have heard of, such as the wine growing area of Tramonti, the village of Minori, etc. And rather than dine in the tourist trap restaurants, we go to little off the beaten path places... the ones here the locals go to generally get away from the tourists. We even have a dinner in a private home one evening. In a nutshell, while this is a very touristy area, we can pretty much guarantee that if you compare notes with others that have been here, your experience will be completely different and very rich by comparison. You will have experienced it as a local would.
Like the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany is a major bucket list destination, so everywhere you go, there will be other tourists. But most of the tourists looking for the beautiful little Tuscan Hill Towns go to places like San Gimignano, thinking they are getting a real Tuscan experience. They are not. In fact, we often joke that San Gimignano may as well be renamed to Disney Italy.. or "Disnitaly". While tourists flock to the entire region, we stay in the village of Radda in Chianti. There are other tourists here, but it is significantly more subdued. Our excursions this week take us to some more touristy places, such as Siena, Greve in Chianti, and Montepulciano, but the bulk of the week gets out guests much more off the beaten path in Tuscan hill towns and destinations where you will find more locals than tourists. Like the Amalfi coast trip, when you compare what we do to what others who have visited Tuscany have done, you will see that our trip is much more like visiting friends that live here and integrating into the life.
The bulk of our trip in Sicily is based on the island of Favignana. This island is a very popular destination for Italians, but virtually unknown outside of Italy. Since we began here, we have run into exactly TWO people that speak English as their native tongue. But while there is virtually no foreign tourism to speak of, there are shops and services to support visitors, as it is so popular among the Italians. We only come here on the shoulder seasons, so it is never very crowded. It primarily serves Italians, so you will not find American style breakfasts. No American coffee, no bacon and eggs, etc. The final evening of this trip, we are in the town of Erice, which does get a good amount of tourists, and will have all sorts of souvenir shops. If you are looking to go somewhere way off the beaten path for foreigners, this trip is a pretty solid choice. Do look at all of the other considerations for Sicily as well, as this trip is not for everyone.
We just cannot figure out why this area is not absolutely swarming with tourists, but it just isn't. With such iconic wines coming from one place, not to mention the breathtaking scenery, the food, etc. It is a wonder to us that this isn't as popular as Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast among foreign travelers. Perhaps it is a failure of marketing on their part, but here we are, and somehow we always find ourselves sharing this fairy tale world with very few international travelers. Like Norcia, there is some level of tourism, which is enough to provide some creature comforts. We will find the international breakfasts available at the hotel, and some of the places we go will have some souvenir shops. But life here really revolves around local life. We often find ourselves talking about how Tuscany was 30 years ago, when it was so authentic with very few tourists, and how much it has changed over the years. We knew the place before souvenir shops replaced the local vegetable stands, and miss it so much. Bologna gives us that feeling we had years ago in Tuscany, as well as the feeling that as more people discover it, what makes it so pristine will be lost to time.
How much walking can you handle?
People ask us almost every day how to choose between our locations. This is one of the most difficult questions for us to answer, because we truly put so much heart and soul into each one of them, that we we think of them almost like our children. How does one ask a parent to choose between their children? But we can help you choose by giving you a series of questions to ask yourself. Here they are:
How Much Walking Do You Want?
Our trips are active, but some more than others. Some are more on flat surfaces, and some have you climbing cobblestone hills. It is always difficult for us to advise people that may have some walking issues, because we never know what your actual comfort level truly is until we are all together. Here is a general breakdown of how the locations differ in these terms, but please, oh please... have a good look at the itinerary pages of our website. Each one has a tab labeled "Is this for you?", which details walking, stairs and inclines day by day, activity by activity.
If you don't walk well, this is the one you think twice about before considering. Soriano is a hill town with lots of uneven cobblestone streets. While some of the homes guests stay in are in the flatter areas of town, there is nowhere to go but up or down from there. We are not talking long distances or mountain here, but it has been an issue for some guests. Additionally, there are two excursions that people sometimes opt out of because of walking issues. Most weeks at least one person opts out of going to the Dying city, as it requires a walk up a foot bridge to get to the town, and on the day we go to Assisi, many of our guests like to go up to the castle, which is an uphill walk. Regardless, all week we are in hill towns.
While in the hills, Norcia is significantly more flat than Soriano, and there is less walking involved on the trip. The only thing of any real concern this week is the day we go to Assisi. Like with Soriano, most guests like to walk up to the castle. However, guests that have difficulty can simply stay in town while the others go to the castle.
Walking itself is not a great concern in Sicily, as most everything is fairly flat. That is, most everything. The larger issue here is that we are in and out of boats quite often, and it is important to have secure footing. Additionally, there are two days that we will be in a situation with people swimming from a boat, and getting in and out of the boat is a matter of jumping in and climbing a small ladder. You don't need to swim, but if you have difficulty with footing, the boats may create a problem. The last concern is our final day in Erice, in which we will be required to walk uphill a few hundred feet.
Stairs, Stairs and More Stairs. And don't forget there are stairs. Everything along the Amalfi coast if built up on cliffs, so get to and from just about anything requires stairs, and sometimes lots of them. On our excursions, each town we go to will have steps to get to and from. It is simply the nature of the place. In addition to this, the day in Pompeii is a big walking day. The excavation site is large, and it is all walking. Finally, consider the times we are in boats. They are small boats, so good footing is a must to get in and out of them. Like Sicily, there is also some swimming from the boats should you choose.
Our Bologna weeks are quite flat, so there will be some walking in an out of town, but not so much as the other locations. Most of the excursions have us in relatively flat and easy to walk areas. That said, this is not a "park and walk 10 steps" trip by any means. Please look at the details on the itinerary page.
While we are in hill towns all week, this week is still probably the best for the not-so-great walkers among us. Don't misread this to think you can do this with a walker. You do need to be able to get around on your own and walk more than you are likely accustomed to back home. But most of the places we go have parking close to where we are going, and have relatively flat options. There are two exceptions to this. The biggest is Montepulciano. We start on foot at the bottom of the hill and wind up on top. However, this is a very slow pace walk. At the end of the day, we are walking downhill. On our day in Siena, the walking is mostly flat, but it is a city we will be doing on foot.
How much time in a bus is ok for you?
OK, not a fair question. Who wants to spend much time in a bus? Well, if you get in our Soriano bus, you may want to hang out for a while. Nonetheless, most of our trips take a "Hub and Spoke" approach to travel, meaning we stay in the same place all week and our excursions take us out to different destinations, returning home afterwards. We draw a 50 mile (80km) radius around our base locations and pick the most interesting destinations for our excursions. Two days in a given week, we go to the more distant places within that radius as full days out, and the rest of the week is usually broken into half day excursions and/or events. But Italy is full of hills and winding roads, so that 50 miles can be much longer in some areas than others. If you look at the itinerary detail on our website for each location, you will see a tab labeled "Is this for you", and like the day by day detail for walking, we also have it for travel times.
We'll start with the longest. Our Soriano trips spend more time in travel than others, mostly because there are so many amazing places in our general area. The biggest day is the day we hit the Tuscan wineries. It is about 2 hours and fifteen minutes to our first stop. From there we backtrack during the day on short rides. From our final stop that day, it is a little more than an hour to get home to Soriano. Our second big travel day is Assisi, which is about an hour and fifteen minutes each way with a stop in Deruta on the way there. Third is Sunday afternoon, which is about 45 minutes to an hour each way for Pitigliano. Other than those, all of the rides are quite short. Still, the two longer days are long, and thankfully we have the ultra luxury bus for them!
The second longest is Norcia, which really starts with getting there. Norcia is about 2 1/2 hours from the Rome airport where we do our transfers. During the week, the long haul days are Assisi and Perugia, but of which are the full days out. Each is about an hour and 20 minutes each way, thanks to the winding roads. After that, the only long ride is Montefalco, which is about 50 minutes each way.
The Chianti week has one day that is almost identical to the Tuscan wine day in Soriano, but coming from a different direction. The time in bus is about 20 minutes less each way, however. Other than that, all of the driving this week consists of short 30 minute or less drives, except the visit to Volterra, which us about an hour.
The Bologna week is similar in times as the Chianti week.
On the Amalfi week, we have about an hour each way when we go to Pompeii, and about a half hour each way when we go to Tramonti. Other than that, all driving time is very short, contingent on traffic jams.
Most of our trasportation this week consist of boat transfers. On the island we have little 5 minute hops in vans. On the day we go to the Salt Flats and Erice, we have about a half an hour.
How well do you do with motion sickness?
Italy is a country full of winding roads, surrounded by lots of water. People that suffer motion sickness have little option other than to sit in the front of the vehicles and/or take something. While in the bus, we often take the highways when possible, but that is rarely for very long. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect in each location.
Winding roads won't be a problem here. The water will. We spend a good amount of time on boats, and some do get seasick at some point. We may have good sea conditions, and they may be rough, but no matter what we have, there is nothing we can do to change it.
Like Sicily, we have the boat issue, but on top of that, when we are driving, all of the roads are full of tight curves. While we won't spend that much time driving, it may be an issue for some.
Soriano, Norcia, Chianti
All of our other locations are completely land based, but as mentioned before, much of our driving is on small winding roads with no alternative options. If you suffer from motion sickness, we will always give you preference to sit up front, but there is nothing more that we can do to straighten to roads.
This area is relatively flat, with mostly straight roads, so for those that suffer from motion sickness, this is an easy one.