Buongiorno amici! My name is Nada Vergili and I'd love to share some fun aspects about Italy, food…and life with you all. As you may know, Nada's Italy was born out of my desire to share the amazing experiences I had growing up in Italy. I wanted others to see the country the way I did, growing up there, finding small treasures in unexpected places. When I moved to the USA in 2001 from Florence, I noticed an immense fascination people had towards “everything Italian”; from cuisine & wine, to art & history, travel, and so on. After teaching Italian for a few years, in 2004 I decided to take a small group to my home region of Tuscany as a way to introduce travelers to some off-the-beaten-path destinations most tours didn’t go to, as well as visiting family-owned wineries, even having my own Mamma come cook for us at a small villa in the countryside. I saw that people really enjoyed this type of travel and a couple of years later, “Nada’s Italy” was born. In all these years, the core philosophy of my tours has stayed the same: it’s about people connecting with people and enjoying Italy as a local. Andiamo!
A lot of people ask “Why are you different from other tour companies”?
Well, if you have traveled with us or had any interaction with our team, you know the answer to that!
At Nada’s Italy we strive to make sure our clients don’t just book a trip to Italy, we want to make sure you feel like family. Part of this process is making your trip more than just a tour but more of an experience. Nada has always had a passion for her homeland that she strives to share with everyone she comes into contact with but especially the folks who join us on a tour (or 6!) Italy for us is not just an item to cross off the bucket list, it is a way of life.
How do we do this you may ask? Well, for starters, when you call us you will always speak to a human and chances are, that human will be with you from your very first question to the minute you return home from your amazing Italian Adventure. Our entire staff is a big Italian family themselves and we want to make sure that your experience is comprised of more than just the details of booking a tour.
Throughout the year we have started hosting customer appreciation events-some people may wonder why we would bother to go to such lengths and expense. For us the answer is simple, we love our clients and they are the reason for our growth and continued success as a company. We have developed relationships with so many of our travelers and become involved in many aspects of their lives so it is hard to say they are just “clients”. We encourage you to come visit us at our travel center, join us for a glass of wine or just call to check in on what is new and upcoming.
You may be considering traveling this year and be in the process of debating between us and a tour company that charges less for their services. We understand that cost can be a factor but the relationships you will develop and the customer service you receive at Nada’s Italy is truly priceless.
We appreciate you taking the time to visit with us and if we haven’t had the chance to meet you yet, well, we look forward to the opportunity!
When something as tragic as the recent terror attacks in Paris happens it gives us all pause. For many people who lost loved ones their lives have been changed forever.
The goal of these terrorists is to instill fear into the hearts of people across the globe in an attempt to get them to put their lives on hold and stop enjoying what brings them pleasure.
When we hide ourselves away, afraid to travel, go to a sporting event, dine out or participate in the activities we love we are letting the terrorists win.
Life is a gift for which we should be thankful for every day. No one is given the knowledge of when they will breathe their last breath and we should always strive to live each day as though it may be our last.
While you should not actively seek out danger or put your life on the line, you should certainly not cease living either.
At Nada’s Italy we have seen the joy that comes from experiencing life through travel and we would not want anyone to feel that this joy has been stolen away from them.
Please take time to remember the lives that were lost, but remember the life you have and continue to live it to the fullest.
We look forward to another year of amazing experiences with hundreds of memories made and we hope to make them with some of you.
When traveling to Italy or most places in Europe it is important to remember several things about your acommodations so you do not end up surprised or disappointed. Most of the time, it is the expectations that ruin the experience not necessarily the venue. In America we have beautiful, sleek, new hotels with spacious rooms and standard amenities however, the same cannot be said about hotels in Europe.
First of all, the star rating as it applies to hotels in Europe is based on very different factors then it is here in the US-in fact amenities are more valued than quality and the star rating is not standard across Europe. Hotels and villas are often denied stars if they are lacking an elevator, if there are not refrigerators in the rooms or telephones.
Another point to keep in mind is the age of the building you are staying in while touring. There is not a lot of new construction in Europe so while hotels may be renovated they are rarely new. The walls may be made of plaster or stone and may not be as insulated for noise like they are here which can be difficult if you are not accustomed to hearing your neighbors.
Room size in Europe is typically smaller than your standard Holiday Inn or even a Days Inn as Europeans are more content residing and working in a compact environment and have adapted to being in close quarters. Not only that but space in larger cities comes at a premium so they do more with less.
Bathrooms and showers in particular can present even the savviest of travelers with a brow raising experience. Your bathroom set up can sometimes be perplexing since most Americans are unfamiliar with how bathrooms in Europe work. Bidets, lack of shower enclosure or even curtain and a spray nozzle sticking out of the wall with a drain in the floor can unnerve most first timers. Frequently instructions will be posted nearby.
Don’t expect to see a King size bed in your hotel room, as we have already established, space is precious and there is rarely room for a king size bed or even a queen. Most of the time a double bed means two twins pushed together.
The most important thing to remember is to be flexible and embrace your sense of adventure when staying abroad, the rooms may not be what you are used to or what you are expecting but that does not mean they are inherently bad. Consider it part of the fun and embrace all that Italy has to offer!
Italy is a vacation destination that is often dreamed about and sometimes attained but there are several facts about Italy that make it that much more intriguing. Here are just a few of them, feel free to research and find your own! They really are interesting.
Over 3000 Euros are thrown into the Trevi Fountain in Rome on a daily basis by tourists. At the end of the day it is all collected and donated to charity.
Italy is home to three active volcanoes-Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built in 1173 and began to lean soon after, probably due to a poorly laid foundation. During WWII, the Nazi’s used it as a watch tower. After reconstruction efforts in 2008, engineers declared the tower would be stable for at least another 200 years
Vatican City in Rome is the world’s smallest country
The first thermometer was invented by Italian Santorio Santorio in 1612
Up until 1999 children in Italy only had to attend school until age 14
The Olympics have been held in Italy three times The 1956 Winter Games were held at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Zuel, and the Dolomite Alps. The 1960 Summer Olympics were held in Rome. And Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Fourteen billion espressos are consumed each year in Italy and Italians use 3.7kg of coffee per capita
In 2007, a dog named Rocco discovered a truffle in Tuscany that weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold at auction for $333,000 (USD), a world record for a truffle
In northern Italy, last names tend to end in “i”, while those from the south often end in “o.” The most common Italian surname is Russo
Soccer is Italy’s most popular sport, and the famous San Siro Stadium in Milan holds 85,000 people. Italy has won the World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006), making the country’s team second only to Brazil's in number of wins
If you have found any other fun facts that you would like to share please post them on our Nada’s Italy Fan Page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/nadasitalytours
Italian food is sometimes demonized as being full of fat and carbs and overall the reason behind weight gain. On the contrary, Italians are very healthy! A lot of this is due to the amount of time they spend walking or being active but also because Italian food can actually be quite good for you. Most people don't know this but the Italians love to cook with fresh local ingredients, if it isn't grown or born within a few miles they don't typically use it. Here in the US traditional Italian food has been adapted to include added cheese, jar sauce and pre-made boxed pasta. The reality is, Italians love to cook from scratch and the use of fresh ingredients is key to this process. Not only that, but wine is a beverage that is enjoyed in conjunction with a meal, it is not often that you will see Italians enjoying a glass of wine without some food nearby.
An interesting fact-One of the 5 Blue Zones in the world is in Sardinia Italy, now if you are not familiar with a Blue Zone it is a geographic area where there are ten times more people who reach the age of 100 per capita than in the US. These people are eating better, moving more and enjoying healthy, full lives until they eventually pass away of natural causes. One of the mainstays of the Blue Zone diet is a lot of vegetables and beans and very little meat.
One recipe that is a favorite of Nada's, made by her Mamma and very Blue Zone friendly is her Minestra di Farro. This is a great meal for a cool fall evening and is easy to prepare, enjoy it and live longer!
Minestra di Farro “Spelt Soup”
3 ounces of spelt /or pearled barley
6 ounces dried red beans
chopped aromatic vegetables
(onion, carrot, celery)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 - Soak the beans for at least 8/12 hours in 6 cups of salted, cold water.
2 - Transfer to a pot, and cook until the beans are tender.
3 – Transfer half of the beans to a food processor, and puree. Stir the bean puree back into the pot.
4 – In a skillet, warm 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the aromatic vegetables, and saute’ for some minutes until brown. Dissolve the tomato paste in a bit of water, add to the skillet and cook for another 10 minutes. At this point, add the broth with the beans.
5 - Season with salt and add the spelt and some boiling water if necessary, and cook for about 1 hour.
6 - Set aside to rest for about half hour before serving with olive oil, fresh ground pepper and crusty Italian bread.
With fall tours just weeks away we know many of you are making your lists and checking them twice in order to get ready for the trip of a lifetime. We would hate for you to forget something you didn't even know you needed so we are including some items that may not have made it onto your list.
You will probably shop while in Italy as there are some fabulous deals to be had on leather, wine, jewelry etc. Make sure you know how much you can bring back
before you have to declare it by checking the Customs website.
US Customs - http://www.cbp.gov/travel Know what you can and can't bring back home.
Weather can be tricky when traveling and you never know what the day will bring, make sure you pack to dress in layers so you will always be prepared, and don't buy a pretty new pair of shoes and wear them for the first time while walking the cobblestone streets of Venice, your tootsies will let you know!
Italian cathedrals and churches are often interesting to visit and many hold important art works. Many also have signs posted asking visitors not to enter wearing shorts or with bare shoulders. Women can carry around a scarf that can be used to cover bare shoulders when wearing sleeveless tops. Some places, like the Vatican, will not admit people wearing shorts so plan your dress to go with your sight-seeing.
Are you someone who figures I will over pack so I am prepared for any situation? This may seem like a great idea when traveling by car or in the US but Internationally it can be a nightmare! Pack lightly so your bags are easy to transport and remember, you will be traveling with other folks and all your bags will need to fit in the back of the vans so make sure you aren't the one who makes it difficult! Not to mention you will have more room for anything you purchase and need to carry home.
Is your passport up to date and do you know where it is? Most people don't know this but your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months AFTER you return. Go to the safe deposit box and take a look, it never hurts to be sure! If you need to renew the process usually takes 6 weeks to 3 months unless you expedite it, this would be an awful way to start your vacation so make certain yours is valid.
Also, if you have remarried or your name is different than it is on your driver's license you will have a problem. Click the link below to see all of the rules and regulations the government has for you when traveling internationally.
There are more details and information that will arrive in your welcome box and you should read it all, it's just better to avoid issues before they arise so you can sit back, relax and let the good times roll!
Let's be honest, Italians are different, good different, march by the beat of their own drum different but awesomely different. We wanted to share a few ways that Italians differ when it comes to normal social interactions, eating, driving etc. If you are Italian you will recognize many of these and may have a few more we didn't include, if you aren't Italian grew up with Italians, or are an Italian wanna be, don't be jealous just enjoy the lifestyle and understand, we are a passionate people and while we may be loud we are intensely loyal and we love that you love us :)
- (Women) Dressing up to go to the grocery store or taking out the trash in heels.
- (Men) Kissing other men on both cheeks (in public) and calling them with terms of endearment such as "Ciao carissimo" (hello my dear!) and "Ciao bello!" (hello handsome!).
- (Men) Living at home with your parents after you turn 40 makes perfect sense, because "the cost of living is way too high". Since Mamma is so nice to do your laundry, why not go shopping for new Diesel jeans and plan your annual trip to the Maldives?
- Walking arm in arm down the street or in a park as you chat is common among same sex platonic friends, in the US it means you are a same sex couple.
- PDA (public display of affection) is acceptable at any age, at any moment, in any given place.
- Having sex in a car, regardless of its size or where it's parked.
- Wearing a Dolce & Gabbana belt, Luis Vuitton purse, tight Versace pants, and fuscia Converse shoes are typical male fashion items and accessories.
Eating & Drinking.
- Having 2 courses as a prelude to your main course.
- In America a rabbit is usually a pet, in Italy it's a main course.
- Having a glass of wine during the middle of the day.
- Drinking hard liquor such as grappa, amaro, or limoncello, with the justification that it helps with your digestion.
- If you're out of wine or beer, you can send your 12-year old son to grab some.
- Asking for ghiaccio "ice" will get you 1, maybe 2 cubes, if you are lucky.
- Managing to have all attendees show up late for a business meeting.
- Whereas in the US you could be sent to sexual harassment training for saying to a woman at work "Hello, gorgeous!", in Italy "Ciao bellissima!" (and sometimes raunchier remarks) is perfectly acceptable, if not expected.
- Unlike many in the US whose lives revolve around work, Italians' lives revolve around leisure. Therefore, closing your business down for the month of August because you're going on vacation is perfectly acceptable, even if you're a Gelato maker.
- Getting a good position at the bank because of your connection to uncle Franco.
- In some areas of Italy a red light is, let's say, a suggestion.
- Jay-walking is just normal. And it's perfectly acceptable to honk, insult, make jerky hand gestures, not to mention tailgating while driving 90miles an hour on the highway..
One thing Italians are passionate about is food, all things food, the creating, sharing and eating. Did you know that most of the regions in Italy prepare food that is local to their area? That is typically why you will not see fish on a menu in Florence which is more well known for beef. Nada has some favorite recipes that have been shared on her tours and are family favorites. If you are a foodie or want to try something new, give this recipe a try. Now it may not be low fat or low carb but it is high on taste and a crowd pleaser! If you are feeling really adventurous try making your own homemade pasta.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- 1 Cup diced Pancetta (Pancetta is Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and spiced with black pepper and sometimes other spices, if you can't find it at your local grocery store try a specialty market or butcher or substitute bacon)
- ½ Cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
- Spaghetti pasta (try making your own!)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
OPTIONAL : ¼ cup heavy cream
Heat Water to boiling and add salt, add pasta, cook until al dente or slightly firm. Sautee diced pancetta in heated pan with olive oil. Stir until it’s golden. While the pancetta is cooking, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, the grated cheese, and pepper.
Pour in the pancetta (make sure it’s not too hot, otherwise it will cook the eggs) You may add the cream at this point if you wish and whisk to combine.
Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss to mix & serve!
A lot of people want to know what are some of Nada's favorite wines? What does she drink when she goes to Italy. Well, there are more than one of course! Over the next few weeks we will share some of "Nada's Picks". These are wines and recipes that Nada herself has chosen as her favorites or specialties made by herself and her family. We want you to feel like family when you travel with Nada's Italy and what better way then by sharing our love of food and wine?
Amarone della Valpolicella is a favorite of Nada's. This wine is made from grapes harvested in various vineyards located on hills in the Valpolicella zone (Mezzane and Tregnago hills). Different sources and different grape varieties are crucial to obtain well-balanced wines with the fine structure that only a few single areas in the Valpolicella zone can provide.
Its color is a strong ruby red. Clear and transparent.
This wine has notes of vanilla and sweet fruits such as currants, blueberries, cherries depending on the varieties of grapes.
The flavor of the Valpolicella has a velvety, raisiny character combined with the structure and typical stylish bitterness to give it good balance. It has an enduring and persistent flavour.
Suited for ageing: it is a keeping wine.
Combinations: red meat and aged cheeses.
Grape harvest: end of September, beginning of October.
The next time you travel with us on the Venetian Splendors Tour make sure to bring home a bottle (or a case!) to enjoy with friends and family.
This month's spotlight is on
Senior Nada’s Italy Tour Director
Leonardo “Leo” is an amazingly warm person, extremely knowledgeable, and friendly. Groups get along with him the minute they meet him and want to take him home once the tour is over. There have been many tears shed for Leo, so be fore-warned if he’s your Tour Director! Leo was born and raised in Florence where he studied languages at the University. Following his desire to venture out, see the world, and meet people of different cultures, Leo got his certification and started working as a tour guide in 1999.
After a few months of working together, Nada and Leo realized their own mothers were best friends and grew up in the same neighborhood! This in turn, created an emotional reunion of the “Mammas” who are now best-friends again. He loves to make new friends, learn, teach, share, enjoy (and eat!). He now trains and coordinates other Nada’s Italy Tour Directors on various itineraries and has become an important reference point for Nada and her team. During a tour, you might often wonder whether he is working or playing, as he poses the question “Are there any other jobs as fun as mine?”.
Leo is one of our most popular tour directors but you have to come with us to Italy if you want to meet him!