Culinary Tours Italy

Newly Announced Savings; Tuscany & Positano Food & Wine Villa Tours

Effective February 22, 2018, our chef hosted All-Inclusive Food & Wine Villa Tours, will offer you a savings of $1200 to $1400 for each room (two guests).  This is a limited offer when deposited by March 31st, subject to availability!

The Crowds are gone- Experience Autumn in Tuscany!

“Florence has the art, Pisa has the tower, but if you’re looking for the Tuscan countryside of films & glossy books then you’re looking for the Val d Orcia.”

 Positano – The Pearl of the Amalfi Coast!

“Positano bites deep.  It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there, and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” -John Steinbeck

For More Information:




Lemon Orchard

This Business Is a Lemon, and a Family Wants to Keep It That Way

AMALFI, Italy — On a recent spring morning, Luigi Aceto, a hale 78, climbed a ladder in a terraced lemon grove that stretched up the hillside in one of Italy’s most picturesque towns and expertly began snipping lemons into a wicker basket. The sun was shining. The lemons were ripe and as big as fists. The scent of blossoms was intoxicating.

Mr. Aceto, nicknamed Gigino, was born and raised in these lemon groves, where his family has been working for centuries, first as tenant farmers, then as landowners. But with the land on the Amalfi Coast far more valuable today for luxury tourism than boutique lemons, Mr. Aceto worries what the future will bring.

“I have the honor and the burden of bearing witness here to six generations,” he said contemplatively, as he stood on a promontory in the lemon grove, wearing, as it happens, a lemon yellow shirt. He was referring to the three generations that preceded him as well as his own, and those of his two sons and grandchildren.

In many ways, the Aceto family tree mirrors Italy’s transformation from an agrarian peasant society before World War II into an industrial power afterward — and its lingering ambivalence about whether it wants to compete globally or believes its future lies in local traditions. The debate has become more intense since the introduction of the euro in 2002, which raised the price of Italian exports, making it harder for small businesses to compete.

Today, 90 percent of Italian businesses have fewer than 15 employees. The Acetos make a niche product — world-famous lemons, prized for their low acidity and delicate flavor — and like many small Italian businesses, they are reluctant to grow, preferring quality over quantity, tradition over expansion. Mr. Aceto wants the lemon groves and the business to stay in the family.

The Amalfi Coast is known these days as a tourist mecca.Credit :The New York Times

“My two sons work for the business and are dedicated; I count on them,” he said.

Mr. Aceto’s son Marco runs the production side of the company, La Valle dei Mulini, making limoncello liquor, lemon honey and other products from the lemons, which are so sweet you can eat them whole. Marco’s wife works in the family shop selling the products in the town’s touristy main square. Mr. Aceto’s other son, Salvatore, recently left a job as an accountant to come back to work for the family business.

That isn’t always the case for other nearby families, whose children left the lemon groves to go to college and seek professional jobs in the cities. Keeping the lemon groves alive is a constant struggle.

“One of our main goals is to prevent the abandonment of the gardens on the coast,” said Salvatore De Riso, a well-known pastry chef and the president of the Consortium for the Protection of the Amalfi Lemon. “So many have been abandoned, and we’re trying to get them back by involving the owners. We’d like to valorize the Amalfi lemon, which is unique in the world.”

Mr. De Riso said that the consortium, which certifies the quality of lemons in products like limoncello to protect them from low-quality imitations, is trying to help local producers raise production.

The consortium is also trying to get state financing to help the boutique producers stay afloat. But that is a vexed issue in Italy, where in past years, although generally not in Amalfi, the misuse of European Union agricultural subsidies has often made it more lucrative for larger farms to let fruit rot on the tree than to pay the costs of harvesting and transporting it.

Luigi Aceto, whose family has worked in Amalfi for centuries, says he takes care of the “patrimony of humanity.” CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

Although Mr. Aceto helped start the lemon consortium, he no longer wants to be part of it, saying it is pushing small growers like him to produce too much.

Mr. Aceto would also like to sell the lemons himself, and frowns on what he calls “mercenaries,” or wholesalers who buy lemons from small producers and sell them at a markup to larger distributors.

Mr. De Riso disagrees. He said that increasing the quantity of production would help small producers earn more without detracting from the quality. All lemons certified from Amalfi must be of the “sfusato” family, which comes from the Italian word for spindle, because of their pointed ends. These grow only in the microclimate of the Amalfi Coast, where cooling breezes are trapped between steep mountain valleys.

The lemons were first brought to the Amalfi Coast centuries ago on trade routes from the Middle East and were treasured by sailors for warding off scurvy and other ailments at sea.

For the Aceto family, the euro — and the euro crisis — is yet another phase in a long and rich history. Gigino Aceto’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father tended the lemon trees for a local nobleman, when the Italian south had a largely feudal economy. His father was able to buy some land when a local noble family needed an infusion of cash.

The family’s limoncello. CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

Mr. Aceto was born in 1934, the eighth of 13 children; his parents got a special large-family subsidy from Mussolini’s Fascist government. In 1968, he enlarged the plot to about 20 acres with a special 40-year loan from the Italian state at 1 percent interest, part of an agrarian reform aimed at helping farmers buy their own land.

He isn’t nostalgic for the past and still remembers being a child during the war, when the family nearly starved and he and his siblings were sent to gather herbs and anything else edible. “We had relatives in America who sent us packages,” Mr. Aceto recalled. “Now China is taking over. That’s how the times are going.”

Faced with global competition, Mr. Aceto’s son Salvatore is not convinced that the euro is helping small businesses like his. “I’d say no,” he said. “There are lots of positive sides, but the other side of the coin is that we didn’t benefit enough. If we still had the lire, we’d have stayed more competitive as agricultural producers.”

The Aceto lemon groves could be sold for millions of euros for luxury vacation properties, but the family will hear none of it.

“I’m taking care of the patrimony of humanity,” Gigino Aceto said. Planted in a series of stonewalled terraces, the roots of the lemon trees help prevent soil erosion and landslides, a growing problem with the torrential rains of recent years. “The rays of the sun penetrate under the roots, so that the lemon is like a little baby in its cradle,” he said.

“Maybe lemon juice runs in my veins instead of blood,” he added.

After his afternoon nap, Mr. Aceto showed off the family’s smaller plot, high on the hills above the coast. A sweet breeze blew through the lemon grove. The sounds of traffic and water lapping on the shore rose from below. Above were the steep stone walls of the local cemetery. Salvatore Aceto looked up. “Here, even the dead are in paradise,” he said.

Positano Villas Almost Sold Out For 2018- Book Early

If you have not booked your villa dream vacation in Positano for 2018, you might be disappointed.  This destination keeps out performing each season.  Just when we thought you needed to book 12 months in advance, 2018 is mostly sold out and you now need to be considering 2019, even 2020.

Peak season runs May through mid-October, where other parts of Italy you will find lower rates typically September through May.

Please consider joining us in April 2019, when we roll out all of the bells and whistles with our All-Inclusive Villa Tour offering you a turn key & hassle free vacation.  We give you the option to book as a double and join our group of 14 guests with this breathtaking view in the most famous villa atop Positano.  For one week, you will be transported to your multi-million dollar villa, a more affordable vacation than you could do on your own.

We also offer customization for groups of 8, or more.  We create the experience you are dreaming of, from your private chef, wines, spirits, tours, transfers, tips and taxes etc. You then arrive having everything arranged and only need to enjoy your vacation; never tallying the cash register for what you want to do, worry about paying cash upon arrival, or finding tours are sold out, or a multitude of other challenges.

RENTAL CARS & PARKING is Near to Impossible on the Amalfi Coast;  another reason having us arrange your tours with private drivers for you or your group is vital to having a stress free vacation.

Samples of these can be found below for Positano, Tuscany & Puglia




With our network of hotels throughout Italy, with the Signature Network, we know it will be good!

We feature 4 & 5 Star Hotels and whenever possible, we would suggest a boutique hotel (under 30 rooms).  We prefer charm, over business hotels with oversized lobbies and lots of people.  There is nothing wrong with big hotels, but we just prefer a boutique hotel’s ambiance.  Sometimes location, price, and availability will lead to offering you something larger, and that is OK, too!

Depending on the city & the season, the rate starts around $200 to $1000, per night.  4-Star Hotels peak season, on average, will begin around $450 a night. The city, their availability, etc., will always vary, so this is an example.

If your plans allow you to stay a minimum of 3 nights, we suggest an apartment rental.  Often you will have a more affordable option.  If your budget is 3-Stars, you most likely will be able to buy up to a 4-Star, and likewise, you can upgrade to a 5-Star property with a 4-Star budget.

We do not book hotels asking for 100% payment in advance with a 100% penalty if you cancel.  If you prefer to shave a few dollars (maybe 100 euro for the week), we recommend that you book directly. If you’re looking for a new experience altogether, try staying in an Italian Villa.

Villa Rentals

Apartment Rentals

Apartment Rentals are on the rise, and for good reason; they often offer a more affordable alternative to hotels.

Often you can have a 3-Star budget and book a 4-Star experience, or you can take your 4-Star budget and receive a 5-Star experience.

Most apartments range in size from a studio, 1 bedroom, 2-3 bedrooms.  There are limited options for 4, or 5 bedroom apartments.

Massage Services

We Offer Private Massages at Your Villa!

Relax in your chosen villa with a private massage therapist.

We can offer you a list of top massage therapist with expertise in one of the many specialties: Holistic Massage, Relaxing Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Sport Massage, Pregnancy Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Lymphatic Drainage, and Reiki.

Tuscany – Lucia Calo, Massage Therapist

Lucia, born in Rome, has travelled around the world in search of inspiration and techniques, with the aim of using massage to attain well being for the body, the mind, and the spirit.

She arrived in Val d’Orcia, four years ago and fell in love with the landscape, the people, the way of life.  Since then, this valley has become her home.

Lucia brings all her knowledge and expertise from her travels, from India to Australia, Bali, and Thailand.  She shares the secrets of these age-old civilizations and their massage techniques.

Lucia also offers beauty salon services: manicures, pedicures, waxing, and make-up.

Wine Excursions

We would be happy to arrange half, or full day wine tours, but as you can read from the article below, there are numerous regions and choices.  Please give us your preferences, time frame, and budget, and we will make a recommendation for you.

Wine Folly 

Getting into Italian wine is a never-ending adventure of new wines to taste. The book Wine Grapes identifies 377 unique indigenous wine grapes in Italy. With the existence of biotypes or sub varieties (genetically the same but with morphological and physiological differences), many believe this number is much higher. Add on to this 408 D.O.P. (Denominazioni di Origine Protetta) or regional wine quality denominations (DOC + DOCG), many of which have multiple styles, and you have an even larger number. To put it into perspective, if you tasted a new Italian wine each week, it would take you 20 years to taste your way through Italy.

If you tasted a new Italian wine each week, it would take you 20 years to taste your way through Italy.

Fortunately, each of Italy’s 20 regions specializes in just a few primary wines and this is where you can start. Below you’ll find a list of Italy’s 20 major regions (see link below) their vineyard plantings (from 2010), and their major varieties or wine blends along with a few tasting notes to describe them. There are 51 wines listed below and if you’ve tried them all, you’ll gain a profound understanding of Italian wine.

Full article-


Culinary Experiences


Every corner of Italy has its own unique cuisine, and we are here to help you find the best experience.  Whether you want a full week of cooking, or just a cooking class for half of a day, or no cooking, we offer a variety of food-related outings. Our food and wine tours in Italy give just about any foodie a vacation they’ve dreamed about.

If you enjoy spending time with like-minded people who are passionate about food and wine, we recommend one of our All-Inclusive Villa Tours.  These are limited to 14 to 16 guests and cater to people who want some exclusive behind the scene food and wine-related experiences. For more information:

Walking Tours in Historic Centers

One of the most memorable experiences you will have in your travels is a guided tour of the historical centers.  Nothing will ever compare to a private guide who can bring the rich history alive through their storytelling.

You can always take your guide books, rent headphones, or go with a tour group and follow the leader with their colored flag.  Do you want to be in a large group of 20+ as you stand around trying to hear your guide? We didn’t think so.

With us, a private guide will be spending 3-4 hours being responsive to what interests you; while you are taken back in time. In most instances, our Italy guided tour packages will cost 350 euros for 3- 4 hours.  If you are a group of up to 12, the same price applies. You will also be able to enter in through a separate door and not stand in line.

Entrance tickets are extra but are nominal.  Museums are not open 7-days a week, and hours vary.

You will want to book your private guide in advance, especially during peak season.

Do not delay, please contact us for your own Italy guided tour package!


Transfers & Private Driver Guides

Often your best vacation is experiencing the destination, instead of stressing on how to get somewhere.  May we recommend private drivers for either your transfers from point to point, or private drivers for tours.

We offer private transfers from the airport/hotel, or pier throughout Italy.  Rome Airport to the city center is around 65 euro.  Yes, you can take a taxi, but after hours of travel, there is nothing better than having someone waiting outside of customs with your name on a sign.

Another reason for hiring drivers for your tours, is due to limited parking in many Italian cities/towns. Even when you can find parking it can be quirky, and not often, are there consistent means to pay for parking.  In the U.S. we take for granted that there are machines that allow you to use your credit card, or an attendant to take your payment.  Not true when traveling throughout Italy.

Sampling of tours

Florence a walking city; you cannot have a car in the historic center without a permit.  They are only issued daily by the police station.  May we suggest a guided walking tour, based on your interest.  You will want a full 3 days to scratch the surface of Florence, or opt for a driver for one of those days, to visit the Tuscan Countryside.

Tuscany Half Day Tours from Florence: Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Sangimignano and the Chianti wine region.  Full day excursions are available to Cinque Terre, Pisa/Lucca and Montepulciano/Montalcino; the Brunello Wine Region

Rome may we suggest a 3-hour city tour with a  driver, who will take you to all of the sites to give you a broad perspective. A walking guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican, a must!

Amalfi Coast: Sorrento, Naples, Positano, Praiano, Amalfi, Ravello, Pompeii.   The Amalfi Coast is a 30 mile stretch of arguably the most scenic coastline in the world.  We highly recommend drivers and guides due to traffic & limited parking.  We also suggest water taxis that travel up and down the coast.

Venice a city with no cars made up of 113 islands.  We suggest a guided walking tour of Venice and water taxis to take you to the outer islands of Murano and Burano.


Customizable Group Villa Tours

Are you looking for a one of a kind experience? You have come to the right place!  We specialize in group travel, whether it’s a milestone celebration, a special interest group, (yoga, painting classes, etc.) sales incentive, or a conference, we will take care of all the details. Experience real Italy in an Italian Villa. We offer special incentives for groups of 14 or more.

Please let us help you plan your perfect group dream vacation or business meeting! We offer a wide variety of tours for just about anyone. Our Italy Food Tour package is great for the foodie in your group! With this tour, you’ll try food that Italy is famous for, and some you’ve never heard of. You’ll also experience wine tastings and spectacular restaurants.

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All Inclusive 7-Day Villa Tours

A villa rental offers a hassle free vacation option. Much like cruises, you unpack only once & they are more affordable than you might imagine.

You can add a villa to any cruise, or other land tours in Europe with a quick inter-Europe flight, or choose as your entire vacation in a region of Italy that is on your bucket list.

Villas rent Saturday to Saturday; great for those short on vacation time, or extend as you wish.
A wonderful option when you want to travel with a group of your friends & family or, especially well suited for multi-generational travel when celebrating those special milestones.

Arrival back to your villa after a day of touring is very celebratory! The anticipation of dinner while you wander in the kitchen to see what your private chef is preparing. The smells of the freshest ingredients & authentic cuisine catered to your groups preferences will soon be ready.

The evening is full of conversation sharing the days stories! Instead of sailing to the next port, or moving to another hotel you imagine what lies ahead knowing a whole day of new experiences await. The bar doesn’t close since this is your own private oasis, but when you are ready, your beautiful & spacious en suite bedroom awaits you.

Or, you may opt to join one of our all-inclusive hosted villa tours & just book as a double. Click here for more details.

BC & First Class Flight Options

Should you need assistance with booking Business, or First Class flights, please let us know. Through our Signature Network we have access to several carriers.

Travel Insurance: Travel Guard

Should you purchase travel insurance?

Why do we buy insurance for our homes, our cars, our health, but not insurance for our vacations?

Travel insurance helps protect against the unexpected. A primary incentive to get travel insurance can be for emergency medical assistance. Without these benefits, you may be expected to spend over $10,000 out-of-pocket for treatment and transportation expenses.  Travel insurance usually costs less than 10% of your entire vacation, so it might be the best option for those with the ‘just in case’ mentality.

If you decline to purchase travel insurance, we simply ask that you sign a statement that you have been informed of the cancellation policies.

Our preferred vendor, as an affiliate of Signature Travel Network, is Travel Guard.  They are a solid company that stands behind their policies.  We have professional and personal experience working with them.

Travel Guard
Travel insurance company