We can spend hours looking at the old men in this photo. Their facial expressions. Their hand gestures. Their clothes. Their shoes. Every part of them tells a story. If you stare at it long enough, you can write unique fictional attributes of each one of them. If you come back the next day and look at the photo again, the stories for each of them change.
We took the photo in San Gimignano in 2009. It hangs on our office walls as not just a reminder of our first trip to Italy but to let us know there are grace and wisdom in aging.
San Gimignano tells a story that dates back to the Etruscans three centuries before Christ. A shining city on a hill marked by its 14- towers, San Gimignano is a must stop for any tourist. 4-million people a year visit this mid-evil town in North Central Tuscany. Normally packed with people, beauty is found in the hustle and bustle of buses, walking tours, and onlookers.
Like most places in Itlay, specifically Tuscany, the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has taken its toll on the economy. But as you find out in this latest podcast. The people of San Gimignano are not sitting back and just crossing their fingers and hoping people return. They are using this time to rediscover themselves. Soul searching, should we say, to connect with its past so when the people do return, they get the authentic experience they want and deserve.
Just like the old men in the photo, the days go by, but the stories we share and pass down over time can live forever. Next time you visit Tuscany, make sure you make a story of your own in San Gimignano.
Esperienza personale.Translated to English, personal experience. Urbano Brini is on a mission. He wants everyone who visits Florence and Tuscany to have a once in a lifetime adventure.
Several years ago, he started Florencetown Tours. What began as a simple self-guided bike ride around the city, has grown into something much bigger. Something more unique. Something more personal.
Last December, I visited Urbano in his office, located a stone's throw from the Arno River. The view alone must provide Urbano with some of his most creative ideas. He is laser-focused on customer service and has a keen understanding of what savvy tourists desire. Urbano will be the first to tell you what visitors want changes over time.
Take Florencetown, for instance. Many of the company's offerings are group outings. Several people, many who you don't know, take a tour to see David, ride Vespas, or retrace the footsteps of the Medici family. Typical things a lot of us do when vacationing to Tuscany, but leaves us feeling more like a tourist rather than having the authentic experience we yearn for when visiting Italy.
Urbano and his team noticed this and wanted to offer their clients something more. They didn't need to reinvent the wheel; they just needed to look at the way people want to experience Florence and Tuscany differently. By differently, we mean privately, uniquely, and off the beaten path. Something that when you tell your friends what you did on your trip, they say, wow! How in the world did you get to do that?
Urbano makes dreams come true. It shouldn't be that much as a surprise, as you will find out by listening to this podcast, Urbano is one of the biggest dreamers of them all. We are lucky that he wants to share them with the world.
More Florencetown Priviate Offerings
Hosting a podcast explicitly dedicated to Tuscany has many advantages. The one we like the most is the network of friends that we have made over these 59-episodes. We hope that when you listen to every episode that you feel you have created a bond of some sorts with our guests as well.
We have discovered that not one size fits all when it comes to travel. Some of you like to do your planning. Some of you are not that detailed and want everything mapped out down to the smallest detail. This service is where Italy Customized comes in and is here to help.
Linda has lived in Florence for the past 18-years; she has dual citizenship, Australian and Italian. Her credentials described on the Italy Customized website tell you she had cut her teeth in the travel and tourism industry.
Our interview covers a lot, like the strangest request Linda has gotten when putting a tour together. She also reveals her hidden gems. Those places off the beaten path that tend to go unnoticed by tourists because they are on the road(s) less traveled.
Linda is part of our network of friends. We share a common passion, a love for Italy and the desire to tell stories or create an experience that inspires you to travel, experience a different culture, and take in a part of the word that still seems it like it was centuries ago.
We would love to hear your stories! Email us your pictures, and where you are at and with your permission, we will share them on our social media channels. The more we share, the more we inspire. The more we inspire, the more we live!
When you first sit down to start planning a trip to Italy, the experience can be a bit overwhelming. Where do we go? How long do we stay? How in the world are we going to see everything we want to see in such a short amount of time? Take a deep breath! We have been preaching on this podcast for the last three years that once you visit Italy, you keep going back and eventually you will see and experience everything you want to see.
Travelers are not created equal. Some of you like to travel in groups, getting to know different people, and maybe have most or all of the planning taken care of ahead of time. If you fall into that category, we would love to have you join us in October on our Total Tuscany Experience.
However, you might be a traveler who likes a more personalized experience for you and a partner and family members. This is when you contact today's guest on the Total Tuscany Podcast. Annie Ojile is the co-founder of Personalized Italy, an exclusive tour company that features tastefully designed custom experiences throughout Italy.
Annie is a native of Minnesota but now calls Rome home and the place she plans on living forever. Personalized Italy started out organically with Annie helping friends and family plan their trip to Rome and give them tours of the city. Before she knew it, she was helping friends of friends, and friends of those friends. Boom! A business was born, and it has been thriving ever since.
Personalized Italy combines American sensibility with Italian flair. Annie and her team conceive and deliver memorable, one-of-a-kind experiences that place your hand on the pulse of Italy. Whether you are visiting for the first time or planning a sequel to your holiday, you can reach out to Personalized Italy for original ideas for your itinerary.
You might be thinking that Annie only provides tours in experience in and around Rome. This is not the case! Personalized Italy can take you wherever you want to go and give you an exclusive experience that you will never forget.
Enjoy our conversation with Annie and start planning your next personalized vacation today!
In this latest conversation with Mario we discuss the following:
It's human nature to ask ourselves questions like; what am I doing with my life? Am I where I need to be? Is there something I should be doing differently for me that in return will serve others? The introspective thought is healthy and in many cases, people find the answers they are looking for, all it takes is a leap of faith and taking action that sets change in motion.
Rewind to 2012 and picture a 56-year old woman standing outside coffee shop in Rome. She is on the last day of her vacation and realizes that she doesn't want to go home. Sure, all of us have had that feeling at one time or another, but we pass the emotion off as a pipe dream and return to our daily grind of what we call "normal" life. Lisa Condie was fed up with "normal" and after taking a deep breath, she decided that Italy was going to be her new "norm" and start a life many of us dream about, but we rarely try and make it come true.
Lisa has helped hundreds of women find themselves. She also shares her stories on the Huffington Post and Tut, and she's even been featured on the Today Show. Her change has happened so fast she is chronicling her story in a book titled "I Found Myself In Tuscany." How fitting, right?
Be inspired, listen to the podcast and discover the power of making a decision and following through with the action.
We would like to hear your thoughts on this podcast; please leave your comments, thoughts, or questions in the box below. If the moment moves you, please share this link with others you know will be inspired by the story. Go find yourself! If it's in Tuscany, even better!
Find yourself tour photos
When it comes to tourism in Tuscany, Querceto Di Castellina has what I call the holy trinity for visitors.
If you are a regular listener to the Total Tuscany Podcast, you know that we've talked about Querceto before, way back on Episode #3 with Jacopo di Battista. While traveling to the United States to promote the wines of Querceto, Jacopo met the love this life, Mary Shea. Having done consulting work in the food and wine industry, Mary knew a good wine when she tasted it. However, we aren't quite sure if that was prerequisite to getting the first date but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
After a long distance courtship, Mary has moved to Tuscany to be the Marketing Director for Querceto. She manages the brand from a social and visual aspect, but Mary also makes sure the hospitality and service you get when visiting Querceto are second to none. It's no secret that tourism in Tuscany is very competitive and visitors looking for a unique and memorable experience.
Querceto is a family owned Agriturismo and the wines produced on the estate are certified organic. Currently, there are five different vintages produced at the farm that dates back to the 14th century.
The estate also produces olive oil and Grappa di Chianti Classico
affinata in Barriques.
It's hard to believe we have been podcasting for over two years! Hundreds of thousands of listens later we have arrived at episode #46. The number itself isn't that significant; the content in this episode is what we are so excited for you to hear.
After years of planning, organizing, making contacts, and testing, we are ready to launch the Total Tuscany Experience! Join us October 29-November 5, 2016 on a trip of a lifetime. Whether it's your first trip to Tuscany or your next, this experience gives you the right amount of structure and organization but still the freedom to roam and take in Tuscany at your pace.
Our experience is tailor made for couples who are looking for a unique opportunity to travel, meet new friends, and ignite a passion that will open your soul to new possibilities and a slower pace of life. One of our favorite quotes about travel is this one by Saint Augustine.
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
For the longest time, we were stuck on page one. Are you stranded, looking to turn the page to have the entire world open up? Start with us as we host you in the Tuscan countryside with other couples who share the same feeling for Italy as you do.
We are not going to use this blog post to go into full detail of what the trip entails. Our suggestion, listen to the entire podcast. Once you have heard what we have to say about the journey, spend a lot of time going through and reading our newly designed website, (we hope you like it.) Here you will find all the information you are looking for about our planned Total Tuscany experience. What's included, what's not included, the cost of the trip, and a daily itinerary so you know exactly what you will be doing. If you are excited about what you will be doing just by reading the website, trust us, experiencing it first hand is a million times better!
We want to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave your comments below. Are you interested joining us in Tuscany this fall? send us a and email, email@example.com and schedule a time to have a one-on-one conversation with us, we are looking forward to it!
When you think of matchmaker, what comes to mind? An internet dating service? It's fine if you do, a simple Google search of the word yields 11,500,000 results.
The 1997 movie of the same name starring Janeane Garofalo might jar your memory or if you are little older, the 1958 cinema not so classic with Anthony Perkins (before Psycho) and Shirley MacLaine.
Our friend Mario Scalzi is an Italian matchmaker. No, Mario is not a broker of relationships. Instead, he looks to make the perfect pairing between you and the villa you choose to stay in when visiting Italy. Mario started Parker Villas over 20 years ago; full disclosure, we have rented from Parker Villas on three different occasions and give the company our highest recommendation.
This interview marks the 3rd time we have featured Mario and Parker Villas on the Total Tuscany Podcast. Why do we keep having him back? Simple, we think Parker Villas has the best selection of villas in Italy and Tuscany. Besides have the best collection of vacations homes, Parker Villas offers 5-star customer service. This attention to satisfaction so important as you are getting ready to make an investment in what might be the trip of a lifetime.
Why are we having a conversation with Mario again? First, the Parker Villas Spring Sale is going on right now, and you can get great deals on vacation homes all over Italy including a large selection in Tuscany.
Also, with the 2016 booking season about to hit a fever pitch, we thought it would be a good idea for you to hear about some of the new properties Parker Villas is offering and what are the major differences that set it apart from its competitors.
Make sure to listen all the way to the end, we have a teaser for you on something big we are working on at Total Tuscany. We want to know what you think of the podcast; please leave your comments below. Your feedback and suggestions are very helpful and give us great ideas on how we can tell stories that interest you.
Thanks for listening and tell a friend or two about us. We'll talk to you next week with another Total Tuscany Podcast.
Travis Justice & Pat Campagna have been traveling to Tuscany since 2009. They produce the Total Tuscany Podcast and all the content on this website.