Venice with Kids: 10 Fun Things to Do

Venice with Kids: 10 Fun Things to Do

San Marco Bell Tower

Piazza San Marco Photo by Savvy Nana

Last summer we took the fast train from Rome to Venice, one of our favorite cities.   We left Rome on the Frecciargento #9406 at 07:50 and arrived at the Mestre Train Station by lunch time.
The kids love taking trains around Italy.  The seats are comfy and the passing scenery is beautiful. The dining car helps too!
Train travel in Europe is fun and can be economical with train passes.  I always buy ours on Italia Rail.  You can get several types of passes for 1st. and 2nd.  class seats.  I always check their specials before I buy passes, sometimes it’s less expensive to buy point-to -point tickets, specially if you will mostly be taking the Eurostar or fast trains.  Seats on those trains require you pay a 10 Euro reservation fee per person  per train ride.  If you have a pass you must buy the reservation before you board the train, city-to-city ticket prices already include the fee.

Italy Trains

First Class Seats on the Eurostar Trains Photo by Savvy Nana

Italy Trains

Photo by Savvy Nana

First Class Seat

Photo by Savvy Nana

 

 A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this magnificent city.  From its opulent mansions to the grandiose Basilica, Venice is a city of Byzantine splendor.
But a trip to Venice does not come cheap.  Hotels, even the lower rated ones cost a pretty penny.  If you feel like a splurge the Danieli, Cipriani (where George Clooney and his guests stayed on his wedding weekend),  or the San Clemente Palace are high end luxury hotels.
San Clemente Palace Hotel

San Clemente Palace Dock

 I love the San Clemente Palace , built in the late 1700’s as a monastery, the hotel is located on a private  island in the lagoon.   It retains the ancient atmosphere and some rooms have awesome views of San Marco.  The hotel, as all other hotels in the lagoon, have their own private boats to ferry guests to San Marco Square.
A more family budget friendly alternative are hotels on the mainland in the town of Mestre.  This year we stayed at the Novotel Venezia Mestre Castellana  located just 4.3 miles from the city center of Venice.  It has larger rooms that accommodate 2 adults and 2 children.  Kids under age 16 stay free in their parents room and breakfast in included.  The hotel has a small pool and playground as well as a couple of video game stations in the lobby for kids to use.  The hotel is around the corner from the bus stop where you can hop a Venice bound bus for the 15 – 20 minute ride.

Novotel

Novotel Venezia Mestre Castellana Photo by Savvy Nana

Novotel Venice

Photo by Savvy Nana

Novotel Venezia Mestre

Photo by Savvy Nana

Another plus to staying in Mestre is that you don’t have to drag your luggage on the cobble stoned streets of Venice, or hire a porter, to your Venetian hotel.  Cars are not allowed in Venice.  Buses drop you off at the Piazzale Roma which is a short walk from Venice’s Santa Lucia train station.

Where ever you decide to stay here are kid friendly things to do in Venice.  Some can be done for little costs, others not so little.  Approximate costs are given to help you plan and budget.
 
1.  Buy a 1 Euro bag of corn nuts from one of the feed vendors in Piazza San Marco and feed the pigeons. The kids love it!  You get great pictures.  The Piazzetta di San Marco is right off the main square towards the lagoon, try feeding the pigeons there it is usually less crowded.  Keep away from and do not feed the big seagulls, they can be very aggressive and will “bite”.  
 
Piazza San Marco

Pigeons in Piazza San Marco Photo by Savvy Nana

 

 

 

 

 

St. Mark's

Piazza San Marco

 

             2.  Visit San Marco Basilica to see it’s magnificent mosaics.  When inside you can visit the Treasury, Museum, loggia, the tomb of St. Mark, and the spectacular high altar – each attraction has its own entrance fee, I believe we paid about 5 Euro per person for each attraction..
      Entrance to the Basilica is free, but you will have to stand in line for a long time.  Skip the que, make online reservations for a 2Euro service fee per person, kids 6 and under are free.   To book your ticket click here!
      You can get some great photos out on the loggia, you have an awesome view of the piazza in front and the piazzetta and lagoon from the side.  Photography is not allowed inside the Basilica or in any of the attractions, having said that I will share some photos my kids took in spite of my scolding.  To be accurate they took them in full view of staff, everyone else was taking photos, and at least they did not use flash.

za

 

3.   Ride a gondola in one of Venice’s side canals.  A must do for first time visitors although it is a bit pricey.  About 100 Euro for a gondola that seats 6.  Otherwise you can book a shared gondola tour for 30 Euro per person.  Click here to book your tickets.

Gondolas

Gondolas in the Lagoon

 

 4.      Hop on the slow moving Vaporetto #1 (public “bus”) for a scenic cruise down the Grand Canal, this is the best deal in Venice.  It cruises by many landmark buildings.   Get on at one end, I prefer getting on in front of the train station Venezia Santa Lucia, and getting off the other end at Piazza San Marco.  You can buy a one way ticket or a 24 hour pass if you will use it to get around during your stay, or want to go to other islands such as Murano and Burano.
 
ACTV

Vaporetto

5.   Make your own mask.  Visit Ca’ Macana one of the oldest and finest mask making workshops in Venice.  They have mini-mask making courses, at the end you get to take home the mask you made.  
Click here for more info.
Mask workshop

Ca’ Macana

      6.   Hop on a Vaporetto to visit a glass blowing studio on the island of Murano.  These fine craftsmen having been making beautiful glass jewelry, figurines, and more for 700 years.  You can also pick up strings of glass beads here at half the price as those in the shops and vendors in the city.
Murano glass

Murano glass factory

 
7.  Take a day trip out of the city to the Brenta Canal (towards Padua). Take a bus to Stra or Mira, you can rent bikes  (they will deliver the bikes to any bus station) and bike alongside the canal to Villa Pisani, its hedge maze in the gardens will surely interest the kids. You can get lost in one of the most difficult hedge mazes in the world, Il Labirinto.  The maze is made of a dozen concentric rings of tall hedges that surrounds the tower in the center. The tower is climbed by a double-spiral staircase — someone is usually posted there to direct those who are hopelessly lost. 
 
Maze

Il Labirinto

 
8.  Walk up to the center of the Rialto Bridge for classic views of the Grand Canal. Then wander thru the shops and markets around the bridge.
Grand Canal

Grand Canal as seen from the Rialto Bridge

 

Rialto Market

Peppers at the Rialto Market

 9.      Enjoy a gelato and listen to music in Piazza San Marco.  If you feel like a splurge have at seat at Caffe Florian  or GrancaffeQuadri  they’re located in the Piazza across from each other.  Their outdoor diners  are entertained by the orchestra, my husband calls them the dueling orchestras.   Both are iconic landmarks in the piazza having been around for over 300 years.  My husband usually grabs a table and sits with the grandkids while the rest of us go shopping.  The good thing is once you’re seated you can occupy the table for the whole day.  
 
Expect to pay 14+ Euro for a few scoops of gelato plus a 6.25 Euro coperto per person.  A snack for a family of 4 will cost about 80-90 Euro.  

A pleasant surprise we found in the Cafe Quadri ladies’ room was a nice clean IKEA baby changing station.  These are hard to come by in Italy in general.
 
For a budget friendly option buy a gelato from one of the gelaterias in the piazza and enjoy the music standing up.  Unfortunately there is a lack of public seating in and around the piazza. If you try to sit at one of the café’s  tables someone immediately appears to tell you about the cover charge to sit and if you don’t agree to pay they make you leave, they can be rather rude about it. 
 10.   Have a nice meal by a quiet canal, away from the pricier places along the Grand Canal.  Try Trattoria da Giorgio ai Greci or one of the restaurants behind San Marco at the Fundamente ai Greci. Or Trattoria Pizzaria da Roberto on Campo San Provolo not far from St. Zaccharia church. 
 
     Whatever you decide to do in Venice I’m sure you will have a memorable vacation.  Venice is truly a magical city.A word on restrooms, this is crucial when traveling with kids!  There are public restrooms located throughout Venice.  Look for the sign that says “W.C.” there will be arrows pointing you to them. Some may have a small fee of  about .50 cents Euro to use.
M Most cafes and restaurants have bathrooms, they are usually very nice about letting tourists use them even if you aren’t purchasing anything from them.   I found Italian shop owners very helpful when you have kids that need to use their bathrooms.  But ask first to avoid problems.
Ciao!


VENICE GONDOLA ITALY TOUR

3 Reasons to Sail Around Europe

3 Reasons to Sail Around Europe

Europe

It is without a doubt that Europe is one of the most beautiful continents in the world. The continent is a haven for sailing, from the beautiful scenery to its historical richness, Europe is a continent oozing of natural beauty. There are also many glamorous sailing destinations to choose from.

If sailing around your Europe is part of your bucket list, then check out SailingEurope.com for amazing deals and packages. We help to make the decision to cross it out from the list sooner rather than later. Here are some of the top three reasons why you should definitely look forward to sailing around Europe.

Europe

1. Beautiful Sailing Destinations

When deciding to sail around Europe, you will be spoilt for choice with the many beautiful destinations to choose from. Depending on your preference and budget, to mention but a few, here are a couple of destinations you can choose from.

I.            French Riviera, France – This is one of the most beautiful sailing destinations in the world. You will be treated to the Celebrity Haunt Saint-Tropez, Coastline stopping off the Cannes and the Millionaire Playground.

II.            Ionian Island, Greece – This would be a great place to begin with sceneries such as whitewashed beautiful villages, traditional taverns, and rugged mountains

III.            The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia – Offers beautiful sun-soaked beaches, rich cultures from the beautiful traditional way of life of the people and hidden coves

IV.            Sporades Islands, Greece – Located in the East Coast, you get to sail through the beautiful Islands with rich vegetation, maintained green-blue waters and experience the people’s traditional rich cultures.

V.            Bay of Naples, Capri and Amalfi Coast, Italy – If you are a lover of wine and great traditional food, this is the place to start. You will also experience beautiful sunny shores, towns, and Isles.

Europe2.   Multiple Destinations Immersion

Imagine hanging out in the Volcanic Island of Ischia in the morning, wine tasting in Montalcino, Mecca in the afternoon and an intimate setting to recharge from a long day of discovery in the evening as you sail through to the next destination. This is most definitely possible when sailing through Europe. You are exposed to multiple destinations and cultures to choose from and experience at your leisure.

Europe3. Exposure to Many Different Cultures

 

Europe is a fairly large continent with 50 countries and numerous ports. It is, however, small enough to sail around. Every destination you chose offers a different experience from the people and their way of life to the food and drinks. You get to learn and appreciate the different traditions set by the locals and passed from generation to generation. You will get to learn new expressions, experience foreign languages and visit some of the famous cultural places like Ireland. All these aspects will bring you one step closer to all the great and beautiful things in the world and also influence you positively to appreciate the different ways of life.

Well, there you have it. All that is left now is for you to get your traveling gear ready, choose your first sailing destination in Europe and you are good to go.

 

European Christmas Markets – Awesome Way to Christmas Shop!

European Christmas Markets – Awesome Way to Christmas Shop!

Christmas MarketsChristmas Markets in Europe are street markets associated with the Christmas season.  They generally open in early November and last until the first week of January; and are usually located in the town’s main square.

Christmas Markets, also known as  Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, Christkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt orginated in Germany, but are now held in many European countries.  Its history dates back to the late Middle Ages in the German speaking areas of Europe and many parts of the Holy Roman Empire including the eastern regions of France.  The Christmas markets of Bautzen were first held in 1384. While Vienna’s “December market” can be considered a forerunner of Christmas markets and dates back to 1298.

So what exactly are Christmas Markets?  In my opinion they’re a delightful way to get some Christmas shopping done while having a great time!  These open air markets are more like  lively festivals where the squares are decorated for the holidays, nativity displays are set up, musicians play lively holiday tunes, and stalls are brimming with handmade handicrafts, all sorts of food and drinks; some for gift giving of course, but mostly to enjoy while you’re shopping!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Europe or are planning on a European winter getaway don’t miss the chance to visit a Christmas Market or two!  Most of the larger towns have them, but some of the best ones are in Germany, Austria, France, and Belgium.

Here are 5 of the Best Christmas Markets in Europe!  Maybe you’ll be close enough to visit one, believe me it’s a great way to spend the day.

Christmas MarketsItaly

Since Italy is one of my favorite countries I’ll start there.  There are many Christmas Markets around Italy, including the Nuremburg Christmas Market in Verona’s central square.  There are markets in Milan, Bolsano, and other cities.  But Rome is where many tourists go when they visit Italy.

There are several Christmas Markets in the Eternal City, but the most popular one is at Piazza Navona.  Already a popular piazza year round it transforms into a Christmas Market during Advent. You’ll find stalls selling nativity scenes, decorations, and sweets. There are street artists and arcobats to entertain kids of all ages.

Don’t forget to visit the wonderful toy store Al Sogno at one end of the square!  It’s one of our favorite shops in Rome, the kids go in every time we’re in town!  For more things to do with kids in Rome Click Here!

Christmas marketsEstonia

The walled old town of Tallinn, Estonia in my opinion is literally a fairy tale town.  It’s quaint town square surrounded by colorful houses and steepled churches evoke images of princesses and their prince charmings.

Well during the Christmas season the square truly lives up to its fairy tale image.  Little wooden stalls circled with twinkling lights sell everything from handicrafts to sweets; don’t forget to sample the mulled wine!

There are merry-go-rounds and Santa Claus to keep the kids entertained.  And on the main stage singers and dancers perform.  It really is a Winter Wonderland!

christmas marketDenmark

Denmark is filled with Christmas Markets from Mid-November til late December.  They are all wonderful!

But my favorite one is held in Tivoli Gardens where four miles of lights are hung in patterns designed by Tiffany’s head designer and more are draped on the lakeside willow trees.

Tivoli Gardens is a year round amusement park in the middle of Copenhagen.  It’s a great place to visit any time of year.  During the holidays it’s transformed into a light filled extravaganza!  Enjoy seasonal treats such as æbleskiver (iced doughnuts with black currant jam) and glogg, a steaming hot mulled red wine with schnapps steeped raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.

Handicraft stalls join the regular rides and attractions during the holiday season.  There will be something for everyone at Tivoli Gardens!

Christmas MarketsBelgium

Every year for 5 weeks the Grand-Place in Brussels hosts the Winter Wonders.  It’s now a legendary event in Belgium’s capital city filled with lights, sounds, rides, and otherattractions.

Enjoy a day of browsing the handicraft stalls and sampling some seasonal specialties such as mulled wine and  ‘Kerststronk’ or ‘la bûche de Noël’a chocolate Christmas Log made of sponge roll layered with cream.  Delicious!  [spacer height=”-20px”]

 

christmas marketsGermany

I can’t write this article without including a Christmas Market in Germany, after all that’s where it all started.

I think every city in Germany hosts a Christmas Market. You won’t have trouble locating one.

Here’s the market in Munich which sets up for the season on the on the Marienplatz.  Craft stalls surround the 85 ft. tall Christmas tree.

Wander around and munch on sausages, potato pancakes, and Lebkuchen (gingerbread); then wash it all down with a steaming cup of mulled wine called glühwein.  By the way mulled wine wards off the cold, so feel free to indulge on a cold winter’s day!

Ready to plan your winter getaway?  Call Savvy Nana Travel for all your travel needs!  We specialize in custom itineraries for families, couples, and groups.

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6 Most Haunted Castles in Europe

6 Most Haunted Castles in Europe

haunted castles in EuropeEurope is steeped in history, many times violent and bloody.  What with ancient wars and feudes, palace intrigues, and domestic abuses it’s no wonder that many of its ancient castles are said to be haunted.  In fact it would be even more amazing if there were no haunted castles in Europe.

Every Halloween I like to share with you haunted places around the world.  Some of them I’ve been to, others are still on my bucket list.  I’ve shared my experiences in Tombstone’s Bird Cage Theater and have written about haunted hotels and other haunted places around the country.  But haunted places are definitely not exclusive to the United States, every country around the globe has its own spooky places that have stories of hauntings attached to them.  This Halloween I’d like to share 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe.

So buckle your seat belts as we fly across the Atlantic and have a quick peek at 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe.  Believe me there are so many haunted places on that continent it’s hard to pick just 6!

haunted castles in EuropeThe Tower of London

It doesn’t take much imagination to decide that London has many haunted places, specially on chilly nights when the fog swirls thick around  you as you walk down the narrow streets of the city.  After all London was home to Jack the Ripper one of history’s first recorded serial killers.  The streets of Whitechapel were known to be his hunting grounds.

Sure the pubs around Whitechapel are said to be haunted, remember many of them have been there since well before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree.  But since we’re talking castles lets start with the Tower of London.  It’s not exactly a castle, it’s actually a prison.  A 900+ year old prison that  housed some of histories most famous nobility, many of whom are now said to be haunting the place.

With its long history of torture, murder, and executions it’s no wonder this castle like building is haunted by a long litany of specters.  Arguably the most famous haunt is Anne Boleyn the unfortunate second wife of Henry VIII.  Her only crime was her inability to produce a male heir to the throne and her fickle husband grew tired of her and divorced her.  The king then charged the poor woman with treason and had her beheaded 1536.  Her headless ghost is said to roam the tower’s corridors.

Other famous ghosts include the two princes who were deemed illegitimate by Parliament and imprisoned in the tower.  It is believed they were murdered, actually smothered, by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester.  Today it’s said they’ve been spotted in the tower holding hands and looking afraid.

haunted castles in europeBran Castle

Believed to be the castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, Bran Castle in the Romanian town of Bran is said to be haunted by a variety of its previous occupants.

It is said the Stoker never actually visited this 13th. century stone castle , but used pictures of  it as his model for the home of  his famous vampire Count Dracula.

But somehow fact and fiction mingled to form the basis of legends about this picturesque castle.  Legend has it that some of Bran’s citizens are actually strigoi, people whose souls leave their bodies at night to terrorize the village.  This definitely encourages the areas vampire lore.  Who knows perhaps rumors of these legends reached Stoker’s ears in Ireland and encouraged him to write his classic novel.

haunted castles in europe

Leap Castle

Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) in Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland is notoriously the most haunted castle in Ireland if not the world.  This ancient castle has been featured in several TV shows about the paranormal including Ghost Hunters and TV’s Most Haunted.

It’s not surprising that the world’s most haunted castle would be located in Ireland, a land that’s steeped in legends and mystery.  And it’s not at all surprising that Leap Castle is haunted given its bloody history and ambiguous origins.

It’s unclear exactly when the castle was constructed, some say 12th. century and others 15th.  But whatever the year of it’s construction was one thing everyone seems to agree on is the site on which it was built.  Leap Castle is build over a site that was previously occupied by druids who used it for initiation ceremonies.  It was originally named Leim Ui Bhanain meaning Leap of the O’Bannons.

As the legend goes the O’Bannons were an affluent clan from County Tipperary.  Two O’Bannon brothers vying to become chieftain is said to have entered into a contest where they would leap off the rock where the castle was to be built.  The brother who survived would be chief and be responsible for building the castle.  Thus began the castles bloody history and hauntings.

However O’Bannons did not control the castle for long, the castle was seized by the O’Carroll clan, a ruthless and greedy bunch who left a legacy of carnage within the castle walls.  The years of O’Carroll reign over the castle are said to be cruel and bloody.  Many of their victims are said to haunt the castle including the lady in red.

The lady is said to be seen wandering the castle dressed in a fluttering red gown carrying a sharp blade.  The lady is said to have been imprisoned and repeatedly raped by the O’Carrolls.  She became pregnant and her child was murdered by the same men.  Overwhelmed by the murder of her baby it is said that she used the blade that she now carries to end her tormented life.

And then there’s the Bloody Chapel.  At one point the O’Carroll chieftain died without a clear heir.  Of course this resulted in a fight between his sons Thaddeus and Teighe.  Thaddeus was a priest and is said to have been in the middle of a mass when his brother rushed in and slaughtered him.  His ghost is said to wander in and around the chapel.

There are many more bloody tales about this castle as it seems that the O’Carrolls were a bloodthirsty and sadistic clan.  It’s really no wonder that their many victims haunt this castle.

haunted castles in europeEdinburgh Castle

Perched atop a hill overlooking Scotland’s most haunted city of Edinburgh sits Scotland’s most haunted castle.  Edinburgh Castle has seen its share of violent deaths.  With over 900 years of history behind it the castle has been the scene of surprise attacks, executions, and even a brief capture by the English.

It should come as no surprise that Edinburgh Castle is said to be haunted, it would be more surprising if it wasn’t.

The castle is home to a variety of specters including the ghost Lady Janet Douglas of Glamis who was imprisoned for witchcraft and burned at the stake.  Then there’s the unseen drummer who many have claimed to hear but never seen.  The castle dungeons were filled with notorious thugs and cutthroats many are said to be heard moaning and groaning down there.

haunted castles in europeMoosham Castle

Moosham Castle also known as Witches Castle is a 13th. century castle in Unternberg, Austria.  It was the location for the bloodiest and most gruesome witch trials in Europe.

In the 17th. century the archbishop of Unternberg tried, tortured, and executed thousands of women here.  The women were accused of witchcraft.  Here those women were beaten, tortured, hanged, and some even drawn and quartered (their bodies tied to horses and were torn apart when the horses ran in different directions.)  It’s no wonder the place is haunted by those tortured souls who are said to roam the halls in search of justice to this day.

Another ghost said to linger in this castle is Anton the resident caretaker during the witch trials.  He roamed the halls then guarding his prisoners and is said to roam the halls still.

Frankenstein Castle

Yes there really is a Frankenstein Castle, its ruinhaunted castles in europes are located in Darmstadt, Germany.  And yes this is the castle and the legend immortalized by Mary Shelly in her classic novel Frankenstein.

The original castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the town dates back to 948 B. C.  Obviously it underwent many additions and renovations since it was originally constructed.

In the 1600’s the sole remaining member of the original Frankenstein family died instantly in a chariot accident.  He was on his way to see his one true love, Anne Marie.  Clearly he never saw her and as legend has it she stayed in the castle waiting for him until she eventually died of a broken heart.  Today it is said that both Knight Frankenstein and Anne Marie are wandering around the darkened castle searching for each other.  Now this is not the basis for Shelly’s novel, that one’s about monsters and body parts.  So how did that come about?

After the original Frankenstein family died out a man named  Konrad Dipple von Frankenstein moved into the castle.  He was an alchemist and grave robber.  As the story goes he was experimenting with human and animal body parts and the blood of virgins, he was trying to resurrect the dead.  His greatest creation was his monster made of body parts and reanimated in his laboratory in the castle.  The town folk were afraid and stormed the castle whilst the alchemist was locked in his lab.  He supposedly drank one of his potions and thus ended up committing suicide.  However his monstrous creation escaped and roams the forest to this day in search of virgins whose blood he needs to stay alive.

The brothers Grimm actually recounted this tale to Mary Shelly’s stepmother.  Mary Shelly later visited the castle and used the story as her basis for her world famous novel Frankenstein.

Well there you have it, 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe.  Visit them this Halloween or any time of year, if you dare!

Ready to plan your ghost chasing adventure in Europe?  Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan!  We specialize in helping families plan memorable vacations around the globe.  Call me at 808-372-7734 and we’ll start planning your adventure today!


Market  Day In Italian Towns

Market Day In Italian Towns

Europe is famous for Market Day.  It’s one of my favorite things about Europe!  I love wandering thru open markets where ever they may be.

market dayLike all the other European countries Italy has Market Day in just about every little town.  In fact some towns like Vicenza have a schedule of Market Days where different vendors rotate through out the week.  For instance Thursdays are usually a Market Day for food vendors to sell fresh fruits and veggies not to mention cheeses, deli meats, seafood, and more.  These vendors set up in the smaller piazzas around town leaving the main piazza for vendors selling clothes, carpets, and other household goods.  Tuesdays are usually a Market Day for clothing vendors who set up in the main square.  Then every last Sunday of the month  is strictly for antique vendors.

 

 

 

market day

 

Other towns like Camisano and Bolzano have a Market Days where pretty much everything is sold including produce, prepared food, clothing, toys, and house hold goods.  Venice has a fish market at the Rialto from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Naples has one pretty much daily.

 

 

 

 

market day market day

market day

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these markets! You’ll find fresh breads and pasties, seasonal fruits and veggies, rotisserie chicken, cheeses, and deli meats. In my opinion it’s a great place to buy a picnic lunch to take to the beach or park.

It’s hard to compile a list of all Market Days through out Italy, there are so many.  Again it seems like every little town has one or two.  Your best bet is to check out the local scene once you get to town.  Or better yet serendipitously wander into one!

Of course if you find yourself in Italy in late October or early November to the first week of January you’ll find plenty of Christmas Markets, now those are super awesome!  Hint hint there’s a big one in Verona!

Let me help you plan your Italian holiday!  Call me at 808-372-7734, Savvy Nana Travel.

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Infographic

Grape Harvest Festivals in Italy

Grape Harvest Festivals in Italy

grape harvestWhen I hear grape stomping and grape harvest this picture of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball of the I Love Lucy show) always comes to mind.  Of course I grew up watching re-runs of this famous  1950’s TV sitcom.  I don’t recall the story line but I do remember Lucy stomping grapes in Italy and getting into a food fight with the Italian lady.  Whatever it was probably one of the reasons Italy was on my bucket list.

Of course many of us don’t exactly travel to Italy to stomp grapes, but if you find yourself in Italy during the fall then you’re in for a treat!  Fall is grape harvest time in Italy.  Now I don’t have to tell you that Italy has a ton of vineyards and everyone one of them has a grape harvest or vendemmia every fall.

There are 20 Italian wine regions, basically every region in the country has vineyards and produce wine.  Of course the most popular regions are Tuscany, Veneto, and Piedmont.  Tuscany is where the Chianti Region is located, the Veneto is famous for its Valpolicella wines, and Piedmont known for its Barolo and Moscato d’Asti.  The other regions have their own specialties including Lambruscos, Pinot Grigio, and sparkling wines that rival the best Champagnes of France.  Whatever your wine preference I’m sure you’ll find a grape harvest to suit you.

grape harvestNow when I say grape harvest I don’t just mean picking grapes off the vine and stomping them in a huge vat, you can of course do that if you want to.  But grape harvest means grape festivals and festas!  And that means wine tastings and pairings.  Yup lots and lots of delicious food and wine!

Our family recently went to a grape harvest festival at the Fattoria dell’Eremo not far from Vicenza in north east Italy.  But before I tell you about it let me first give you some general information about Italy’s grape harvest and festivals.

The vendemmia season is generally in the fall, but times vary depending on the region and the summer weather. When the summer is very hot the harvest season starts early, harvest season is later in the north part of the country.  So harvest season is sometime as early as late August and lasts until early to mid November.  But it’s safe to say that you’ll more than likely find a harvest festival somewhere between early September to mid October for sure.

Having said that let me tell you about our grape harvest adventure.  First off be prepared, this is run on Italian time, meaning it turns into a day long affair starting around noon and ending sometime after sunset.

Before you go you must book in advance.  The cost is €25 for adults who will drink wine, €15 for adults who will not drink wine (that’s your designated driver, trust me you will need one!), and €10 for children.  The price includes beverages (4 glasses of wine if you paid for the wine ticket), food (antipasti, pasta, meat dish, dessert), music, and grape picking and stomping.  There are also horses to ride for those who want to ride around the vineyard, there’s no extra charge for the ride.

grape harvestYou’re asked to bring your own scissors, a pair for everyone who wants to pick grapes.  You don’t have to pick grapes if you don’t want to.  You could just admire them or enjoy the views.

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grape harvest

You put the grapes you picked into a crate which is the combined with the grapes everyone else picked.

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When all the grapes have been piled into the big vats it’s grape stomping time.  To keep it organized the kids are allowed to stomp the grapes first, followed by the ladies, then the men, then ladies and men.

grape harvest

grape harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

grape harvestNow mind you while all this is going on they’re bringing out food course by course.  Large plates of antipasti that included a huge wheel of cheese you could help yourself to.  Pizzas, pastas, and roast meats.  Then there’s dessert!  And of course the wine is flowing.  If you need more wine other than the 4 glasses included in your ticket there’s a bar where you can buy wine by the bottle to enjoy during the harvest or to take home.

It’s a long day but definitely lots of fun for the entire family!

This vineyard also has a restaurant so if you can’t make the vendemmia or harvest you can always come for a wine tasting event.  They do pizza and wine pairings all year long.

grape harvestAnother winery in the Vicenza area is Cantine Enomas Muraro in the little town of Longare.  They don’t offer a grape harvest event but you’re always welcome to a DIY wine tasting.

If you bring a picnic lunch or dinner they have tables and benches outside where you can hang out and drink wine purchased from the winery store.

 

 

 

 

grape harvestIf you’re not sure which wine you like you can grab a wine glass and taste different wines for €1.  You can pour your own wine to taste and buy from the taps.  And while you’re there check out the huge wine vats!

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grape harvestOnce you decide you can buy one of their pre-bottled wines starting at €3 a bottle.  Or you can purchase a large plastic or glass bottle and fill it up yourself.  By the way don’t toss the bottle you bought, you can bring it in next time for a refill!

One of the great things about Italy is the wine!  Even if you’re not a big wine drinker trust me you’ll find it hard to resist a glass or two.  In fact buying wine at a restaurant is much cheaper than buying a soda!  Really!

Ready to book your autumn in Italy?  Let me help you plan your great adventure!  Contact me 808-372-7734,  Savvy Nana Travel!


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