• Women sitting on patio

    Enjoy a Girlfriend Getaway on an Italy Culinary Tour

    <p>Take a deep breath and imagine yourself inhaling salty Mediterranean air and sipping limoncello. Now try to taste the hearty blend of flavors in a seafood and potato stew you made in the home of a professional chef in a small, coastal village. Listen to the clang and stirring sounds of a quaint <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscanyculinary/" target="_blank">Tuscan home kitchen while the owner teaches you and your girlfriends to make traditional favorites</a>.</p> <p>And smell the cappuccino. Oh, the cappuccino.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank">An Italy culinary tour is the perfect choice for a girlfriend getaway</a> — especially if you love food and wine! Add a glass of local Chianti and your favorite travel companions, and the recipes you carry home and cooking skills you hone are sure to give the scenery and historical stops some stiff competition as trip favorites.<br><br><img alt="Friend&#39;s cooking" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lS&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oB0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>These <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank">Italian destinations are sure to entice the senses of any food and wine enthusiast</a>, while traveling with a tour company can open doors to local farmhouse kitchens and guide you to trails otherwise unknown to average tourists. It’s also a great way to relinquish the planning and just enjoy the trip. Gather up your girlfriends — it’s time to get the suitcases ready!</p> <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscanyculinary/" target="_blank">A Taste of Tuscany</a></b><br>With cultural and historic high points like Michelangelo’s David, Ponte Vecchio and Piazza Signoria, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscanyculinary/" target="_blank">Florence is a perfect entry point to the feast for the senses that is Tuscany.</a> You and your girlfriends will love this region famed for its gorgeous hill towns and amazing food and wine, and there is no shortage of perfect local experiences — if you know where to find them, that is.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/culinary/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys culinary tour</a> groups stroll through the San Lorenzo market to pick up meats, breads and olives for a country picnic, enjoy a private look at a sheep farm to learn about the cheese-making process and follow up with cooking instruction at a farmhouse cucina.</p> <p>Leaving Florence, a sprawling landscape of castles and vineyards awaits, including opportunities for leisurely strolls among the grapes. Local artisans craft terra cotta pots by hand in Chianti and the ultimate hill town of San Gimignano poses for your photos with its 14 medieval towers. Siena brings more sips of local red wine and a lesson in making hand-rolled pasta, while a visit to Cortona immerses you in the olive oil pressing process.</p> <p>Local Tuscan craftsman and culinary artists enjoy sharing their history and skills passed down through the generations. Your travel company can make these connections for you and help avoid any logistics struggles, leaving more time for relaxing and enjoying the good company and, of course, the wine.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalficulinary/" target="_blank">Amalfi, Al Buon Gusto!</a><br>Colorful buildings carefully perched on the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalficulinary/" target="_blank">steep coastal mountains make the Amalfi peninsula especially photogenic</a>. Exquisite villas, each seemingly more beautiful and picturesque than the last, are home to quaint trattorias, lemon farmers, fisherman, coffee shops and boutiques.</p> <p>While here, a few highlights include taking time to slow down and wander the cobblestone streets. Spend a morning in a private kitchen to learn the local traditions and share a meal. Then hike off the extra calories on one of the many stunning hiking trails.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscanyculinary/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys groups take a hydrofoil transfer to Capri</a>, the island renowned as a sanctuary for the rich and famous. Feel like a local by having an expert point out the best family-run restaurants and lookouts unknown to tourists, including breathtaking views of the entire Gulf of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius towering in the background.</p> <p>Visit a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalficulinary/" target="_blank">charming 14th-century cliffside monastery in Positano</a> to take in carefully preserved original frescoes. Then meander down the trail for a private lesson in wood-fired pizza making and wine tasting.</p> <p><img alt="Pizza making in Italy" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lS&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002oB5" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>A <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalficulinary/" target="_blank">tour of Pompeii</a> — the town buried in volcanic ash in 79 A.D. — with a personal archeologist guide is sure to fascinate. Excavations have revealed the complete original city, including beautiful villas, streets and shops to explore.</p> <p>Sounds amazing, right? <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/culinary/" target="_blank">Get your gal pals together to plan your Italy culinary tour today!</a></p> <p><b>Choosing a Tour For Your Next Adventure</b><br>Avid travelers often enjoy the hunt for that truly local feeling, the type of experience you can’t find in any guidebooks. But there are certain experiences even the most resourceful traveler cannot access. Not all travelers know an Italian archaeologist who can personally guide them around the excavation sites in Pompeii, for instance, or a lemon farmer who can give a private tour of his orchard. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/approach/?utm_campaign=girlfriend-getaway-italy-culinary-tour&amp;utm_source=sojourn&amp;utm_medium=blog/" target="_blank">Tour groups can often provide access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences with long-lasting memories.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">It can be challenging to find a tour company striking the balance you’re looking for</a>— that perfect mix of engaging activities, amazing local meals and learning opportunities, but still some free time to explore. While searching for the right tour, consider the following:<br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/guest-reviews/" target="_blank">Read traveler reviews on their website</a> and other travel boards.<br>• Get a feel for potential compatibility with other group members by looking into group size and the company’s target market. Are their travelers mostly families with young kids, older couples, singles?<br>• Be sure you <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/faq/" target="_blank">understand what is and isn’t included in the trip fees</a> to avoid surprises.<br>• <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/local-tour-guides/" target="_blank">Evaluate the guides and find a group using locals</a>, or at least long-term residents, so you get as much — and accurate! — information about the area as possible.</p>

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  • Gardens at Villa Rufolo in Ravello, Italy

    Italy's Amalfi Coast: Heaven in the Details

    <h4>I am in <i>amore</i> with Amalfi.</h4> <p>There’s no point in denying that bias—one I share with every smitten traveler who’s toasted one of its tangerine sunsets with an electric-yellow <i>limoncello</i>.</p> <p>The scenic beauty had me at “hello,” but it’s much more than skin deep. Succumb for a week to this legendary Italian coast, and you quickly realize that it is…well, it’s… “Heaven,” volunteers Sergio, completing my thought as I suspect he’s done for many other guests in his care. Classic Journeys’ senior guide and most well-connected friend for 20 years, he’s a passionate Napolitano who’s famous for his appreciation of all things Amalfi. Sergio’s point is undeniable, and he’s not just referring to the spectacular vistas. Here, heaven is truly in the details.</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank" title="Learn more about our Amalfi Coast vacations">LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR AMALFI COAST VACATIONS.</a></h3> <p>“You must relax into this place, let it wash over you and happen,” says Sergio. “Don’t worry about the sights of Ravello or Naples that you read about on Wikipedia. I’ll see to it that you see them.” It’s lovely advice—well taken in a setting where the wide-angle spectacle can easily distract you from the intense, second-by-second charms of life.</p> <p>My first proof comes on the chairlift up to Capri’s Monte Solaro. The vast arc of the Bay of Naples sweeps off to the right. But just below my dangling feet is the back garden of a small house. A <i>nonna</i> steps out just then, looks up, and throws me a smile. Her faded floral tablecloth, hung out to dry, snags on a thistle-y artichoke plant, almost ready for steam and lemon and butter. A little bit of everyday paradise.<br><br><img alt="Chairlift in Capri" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n5&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pZi" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Personally, I’m not much of a shopper, but a different kind of moment in Capri is one I’ll never forget. We were out for a stroll at dusk. The lanes were so quiet it was hard to believe the town was a crush of people earlier in the day while we had been out in the countryside. There in a shop window, under a tiny spotlight, all by itself, glowing like a crown jewel: a pristine, lapis-lazuli blue cashmere sweater. The shopkeeper, at ease after a busy day, smiled and crooked her finger to invite me in. A leisurely chat later, I’m a V-neck richer. I prefer to think of it as a cultural exchange rather than a retail transaction.</p> <p>Once you discover the trick of focusing close-up and letting the scenery be its plain-old beautiful self, you realize that this is a place where a pizza can easily overshadow a 14th-century monastery. We stopped at that historic building on a coastal walk one day—fascinating to see the monks’ cells, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But best of all, it was just down the path from the home where Sergio’s friend Luca lives. In we went, to toss some dough and bake a simple pizza in his wood-fired oven. It’s the bad luck of every pizza I’ve eaten since that it has to be compared to that homemade pie. Does its fire-blistered crust shatter like that one? Never. Do the tomatoes have the bite of the ones grown in volcanic soil? I wish. Does the cheese melt like the day-old <i>fior de latte</i> made of local milk? Why ask? Was it one of the simplest, nicest experiences I’ve ever had on a vacation? You know it’s true.</p> <p>Then there’s Positano. You’ve seen the photos of the amphitheater-shaped town where each tier of pastel-colored houses seems to stand on the shoulders of the row just below. Unlike many postcard shots, this isn’t one that requires you to stand in one very specific spot to capture it. Positano poses perfectly from every vantage point. Down at sea level, where water laps at the feet of restaurants and shops, ask Sergio to point out the location of your hotel. (You can, after all, see virtually every building in town all at once!) “So you see the wide lemon-colored house with the three colonnades? Just up and to the left, there’s a coral house with lime umbrellas. Look two to the right, and the two-story Pompeian red building with the creamy-white balustrade is it.”<br><br><img alt="Positano" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n5&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pZn" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>There are, of course, plenty of other rapturous sights. The <i>Faraglioni</i>—legendary rock formations that erupt from the sea. The bone-white remains of Pompeii, negotiated with a private guide whose favorite mural is in a house too far to the edge of the site to attract crowds. The Blue Grotto, especially in the morning when the sun is at just the right angle to amplify the blue (and the tourist horde has yet to arrive).</p> <p>But then I found myself walking on the <i>Sentiero degli Dei</i>, or Path of the Gods, the same route once used to move goods by mule-back from town to town along the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/top-5-family-activities-on-the-amalfi-coast/" target="_blank" title="Amalfi Coast">Amalfi Coast</a>. Yes, I have photos of the vista. But what do I recall most vividly? The fig trees, sagging under the weight of sun-warmed fruits. If I close my eyes, I can still taste that air.</p> <p>To be an <i>Amalfitano</i>—even for just a week on an <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank" title="Amalfi Walking Tour">Amalfi walking tour</a>—is to appreciate that no moment is too small to be sweet, that pleasure is everywhere and that you have every right to claim it all for your own. That is pretty heavenly.</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/" target="_blank" title="Extend one of our Amalfi walking tours">CUSTOMIZE IT! EXTEND ONE OF OUR AMALFI WALKING TOURS TO SICILY FOR AN AMAZING ITALIAN VACATION.</a></h3>

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  • Mojitos, Cuba

    Thirst For Adventure? Walking Tour "Happy Hours" Hit The Spot

    <p>One summer not long ago, we were thrilled when the head guide from our walking tour of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/turkey/" target="_blank">Turkey</a> arrived for a visit to Southern California. Cemil (pronounced JEM-ul) is the kind of guy who loves to reconnect with old friends, so we knew we were in for a treat when his rather hefty carry-on bag revealed bottles of <i>raki</i>, Turkey’s national drink. Flavored with anise-like the infamous <i>ouzo</i> in Greece, <i>raki</i> has a reputation for adding a certain wallop to festive proceedings.</p> <p>That got us to thinking about other iconic libations we’ve run across during our travels. As self-confessed foodies, we look at international cuisine much the same way. How many times have you recalled an outstanding meal or an exceptional beverage that came to symbolize how you felt about an entire destination?</p> <p>Here at Classic Journeys, it’s a pretty common phenomenon. Not only because our walking tours are conducive to raising a glass at the end of an active day…but also because food and drink play such a sensory role in our cultural explorations. They don’t even need to pack a punch like <i>raki</i>. Their true power is the ability to create a vivid memory, one that even years later can take you back instantly to a favorite vacation moment.</p> <p>Wherever you’ve been or still hope to go, proposing a toast to your good fortune is a ritual worth preserving. Here’s just a sample of the popular pairings our guests enjoy as they meander all over the map:</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank">Tuscany &amp; the Cinque Terre</a> – For most of us, hearing the word “Tuscany” conjures up two distinct images: endless vineyards and ancient hilltowns. Our itinerary obliges with plenty of both as we ramble the footpaths of Chianti, savoring private tastings in intimate cellars and soaking up the medieval towers silhouetted against the sky.<br><br><a href="http://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank"><img alt="Chianti barrels" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oW&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002sp9" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/southerntuscany/" target="_blank">Southern Tuscany to Rome</a> – After sampling the Super Tuscans indigenous to this region, you could be forgiven for thinking they were produced by superheroes. Actually, it’s the vintners of Bolgheri who are responsible for the famed Sassicaia, a signature blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">Amalfi Coast &amp; Capri</a> – You’ve seen photos of the famous cliff-hugging villages, but the region’s real pride and joy is the humble lemon. Hence the wildly popular liqueur called <i>limoncello</i>, locally produced and happily sipped by our guests on a private tour of the factory.<br><br><a href="http://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank"><img alt="Limoncello factory" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oW&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002sop" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/bordeaux/" target="_blank">Bordeaux &amp; the Dordogne Valley</a> – The medieval village of St. Emilion in southwestern France may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but for oenophiles, it’s home to flinty red vintages coaxed from the limestone hills. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a week of historical time-traveling (like the wines of the Cotes de Nuits on our walking tour of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/loire/" target="_blank">Loire &amp; Burgundy</a>).</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/normandy/" target="_blank">Normandy &amp; Brittany</a> – Another region, another specialty…this time the potent apple brandy called <i>calvados</i> that springs from the orchards of Normandy. Distilled from dry apple cider (using up to a hundred different varieties of apples), it’s enjoyed as an aperitif, a keynote ingredient in cocktails, and even in cooking sauces. Like the <i>pastis</i> of <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/provence/" target="_blank">Provence</a>, yet another anise-flavored liqueur, <i>calvados</i> is a staple of local culture.</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/ireland/" target="_blank">Ireland</a> – Take it from the toucan on the famous 1930’s-era poster: “It’s A Lovely Day For A Guinness.” For our guests, the legendary stout and national drink of Ireland is a fine way to cap off a day of walking the emerald green hills and coastal paths. (Meanwhile, several hundred miles to the north, guests on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scotland/" target="_blank">Scotland</a> walking tour have a lovely day of their own, sipping single malt at Glenturret Distillery while drinking in the highland scenery.)<br><br><a href="http://www.classicjourneys.com/ireland/" target="_blank"><img alt="Man sipping whiskey" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oW&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002sou" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/morocco/" target="_blank">Morocco</a> – “Exotic” doesn’t even begin to describe the ubiquitous green tea with mint. In the traditional ceremony, the host deftly pours the tea from a great height into tiny glasses, topped off with hard sugar cones or sugar lumps. It’s especially enchanting in the firelight of our Berber tent encampment in the middle of the Saharan desert.</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica/" target="_blank">Costa Rica</a> &amp; <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/panama/" target="_blank">Panama</a> – The tasting room at a working plantation high in the hills of Central America is where coffee is meant to be savored. We learn about the process on a private tour of the coffee fields and roastery, which somehow makes the flavors taste even richer. You’ll never look at Starbucks the same way again.</p> <p>* <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/argentina/" target="_blank">Argentina</a> and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru/" target="_blank">Peru</a> – In Patagonia’s Mendoza region, we follow the “Route of the Wines,” touring the vineyards and tasting fine Cabernets and Malbecs with an expert agronomist. In Peru, it’s all about the pisco sours, the national cocktail consisting primarily of grape brandy, lemon juice and sugar…the perfect pick-me-up “sundowner” following a day among the ruins of Machu Picchu.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/argentina/" target="_blank"><img alt="Winery in Argentina" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oW&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002soz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br> </p> <p>We could go on, about the beer halls in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Prague &amp; Budapest</a> and the wineries that re-emerged after the fall of Communism on <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/croatia/" target="_blank">Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast</a>, but for some reason we’re feeling a bit parched.</p> <p>If you’ve had a special moment (or two) when someone catered to your thirst for adventure with the right beverage at the right time in precisely the right place, we’d love to hear about it. Drop us a note at <a href="mailto:blog@classicjourneys.com" target="_blank">blog@classicjourneys.com</a>.</p> <p>Until then, cheers, <i>santé</i>, <i>¡Salud!</i>, <i>sláinte</i>, and <i>salute</i>!</p> <p>PS One final note: Our nominee for Most Acquired Taste goes to yak butter tea, served to us by villagers in a remote Tibetan valley ringed by mountains on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/china/" target="_blank">walking tour of China</a>. Guaranteed to put the old maxim about “When in Rome…” to the test.</p>

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