Happy New Year! We are back and apologize for taking so long to release a new episode. Moving forward, we will strive to have one episode a month to share our travels and tips, as we continue to each put more time into our respective websites.
But first, Tamara has a big announcement and that is that she is hosting a women-only small group trip to Iceland in September 2023! You can get all the information on YourTimetoFly.com and she really hopes that some listeners will be able to join! Note that there is a discount of 15,000 ISK if you register by January 15, 2023.
Next Tamara tells us all about her two-week trip to Northern Italy! Some highlights include:
- 5 Days in Piedmont full of wine tasting, truffle hunting, and great food
- Her stay at La Villa Hotel in Piedmont
- A wine tour with Piedmont Food and Wine Tours
- Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como
- 2 days in Milan (highlights walking tour with LivTours)
- Hired DayTrips to visit Bergamo, Brescia, Sirmione on Lake Garda, and Borgo sul Mincio
- 2 days in Verona (mentioned Love in the Villa and Letters to Juliet movies), ½ day walking tour with LivTours
- 2 days in Bologna
- Cooking class in Bologna with Cesarine
- 2 days in Parma
- Day trip with Food Valley Travel
- Return to Milan
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.250] – Kim Tate
Happy new year. We’ve got a big announcement. Welcome to Vacation mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:29.740] – Kim Tate
Tamara, it’s so good to be online with you again. For those who are listening, you know, Tamara and I always talk about this, but we are actually we’ve been talking now together for over an hour and we just not started recording. So we truly are good friends that like to share stuff. But I know that you have some exciting stuff to share with our audience. So do you want to make our big announcement for us to kick us off?
[00:00:51.780] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, definitely. But first of all, I just want to apologize to everybody for us being so long. We’ve definitely seen some messages like, are you still around? Are you coming back? And we’re here. We’ve just been so busy, focused on doing things in the background, working on our websites and things like that and just travel and such, but we’re here. You may not hear from us as much as you used to but we hope to come into your ears a little more frequently than we have recently.
[00:01:22.900] – Kim Tate
It’s been life been busy. Life’s been busy. We get rid of some kids and it’s still life’s. Busy.
[00:01:31.150] – Kim Tate
Hopefully we’ll be able to make a recording more often, at least once a month. How about that?
[00:01:37.450] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, definitely. But I do have that announcement that I wanted to share with you guys. And it’s not that we’re going away or anything like that, but it is something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while and I’m finally making it a reality. And that is I am hosting a women’s only group trip to Iceland this year.
[00:01:58.150] – Kim Tate
I was so excited to see that, but also bummed about the dates because it conflicts with us. But I think it’s just a perfect fit for you because you have always loved Iceland and your little brain, the way you plan vacations, I know that’s a perfect destination and you’re going to make it a great trip and super easy for people who aren’t totally ready to plan a whole vacation on their own.
[00:02:20.970] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I’ve definitely been hearing from people that are like, I really wanted to go there, but I don’t know how to plan. And other people are like, oh, my husband doesn’t want to travel overseas. And I’m like, this would be the perfect time to join this trip because basically it’s going to be anywhere from eight to twelve women. So nice and small, like trying to keep it intimate. We’re going to have a private driver guide for the whole time. We’re going to do really cool activities like a glacier hike and a boat ride around these islands where often you see puffins the puffins may be gone for the season, we’re not sure. And we’re going to see the Glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach and beautiful waterfalls. We’re going to go for a horseback ride. We’re going to Soak in Hot Springs. We’re going to just really see all the best that Iceland has to offer. And you don’t have to do a thing. You just need to show up and everything else is going to be taken care of for you. Hopefully we’re going to have a great group of women where you can meet some new meet some new people, make some new friends and just have a good supportive time together.
[00:03:22.580] – Tamara Gruber
I feel like this is the time of year where we’ve all made resolutions. And I know a lot of people make resolutions to take more time for themselves and often that can really fall by the wayside after, I would say a few days. Days. And so this really gives a chance to say, you know what, I’m going to do this for myself and it’s going to be about me. And that is okay because you need time. It’s okay for you to take time away from your family or your partner or friends and just do something that you want to do. And maybe you don’t have somebody that wants to go to Iceland in your life, but you really do. This is the chance to go and do that in a way that it’s not joining a giant bus trip of 90 people. It’s not going to be what it’s like at all. This is going to be just like a fun girls trip. And so I know the timing is definitely hard. It’s going to be in early September, so that’s challenging for a lot of people that have maybe younger kids that they have to see off to school or my teacher friends.
[00:04:25.100] – Tamara Gruber
I’m sorry, I was trying to look at different dates. And you know what? Summer is just really expensive. It’s really hard to find that number of rooms unless we book out like a couple of years in advance. I definitely did not want to do the winter because I feel like if you’re visiting Iceland for the first time, don’t do it in the winter.
[00:04:44.020] – Kim Tate
[00:04:44.640] – Tamara Gruber
You only have 5 hours of sunlight and so your time to explore is much more limited. And who knows if you want to spend all those hours hanging out with other people this time of year. I actually went in 2019 right at this time of year and I found it really great because you still have a lot of sunlight. It’s not freezing cold, definitely you still want to pack your hat and everything like that, but you have a chance of seeing the northern lights. It’s slim, but it worked for me, so you never know. So I feel like it’s generally a nice time. So if you have kids that are old enough to see themselves off to school, then come along. Or if you have kids that are out of the house or have someone.
[00:05:31.530] – Kim Tate
Else take care of them. Yeah, exactly.
[00:05:34.730] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I mean, it’s like when your kids are really little, you need to be there for that photo in that first day of school. When they’re older, they don’t want the photo anyway, so don’t worry about it. Well, in other photos.
[00:05:45.690] – Kim Tate
No, I think it’s going to be a great trip and I think shoulder season, like September is actually, I mean, it’s one of the favorite months when I travel because it is, like you said, more affordable. Typically crowds, tourist crowds have gone down a little bit, so things are just better and yeah, no, I think it’s a prime spot. I think you chose well.
[00:06:05.640] – Tamara Gruber
So I’m really hoping right now the booking is open until March. I need to get five more people signed up between now and March, and I’ve had a lot of emails and things in the last couple of days, so I know that there are people that are thinking about it and interested. So I’m really hoping some of you guys might want to join me and we can finally meet in person and you can hear what I’m like in real life. But if you want more information, I will definitely link to it in the show notes. You can also go to my website of your time to fly, so it’s your time to fly.com. And there’s a blog post on there. Iceland group girls trip. And that goes through the whole itinerary, the pricing, the cancellation, like all of the details that you need. But if you want more information, also feel free to DM me. You can email me at tamara at we threetravel.com or DM me on Instagram. Any of those things works. If you’re thinking about it and you want more info, just let me know. But I’m really looking forward to it.
[00:07:05.560] – Tamara Gruber
I hope it’s a great trip and I would love if you are a listener and you sign up, let me know. I’d love to know if there’s someone coming on the trip that’s actually a listener. That would be really great.
[00:07:15.100] – Kim Tate
I think it’s also fun if you’ve been trying to talk to your girlfriends about taking a trip in the new year and planning that even if you have a girlfriend you really want to get away with, both of you can leave together and sign up together.
[00:07:27.470] – Tamara Gruber
I know there are two friends that already signed up because the person emailed me, she said that last year they went away together to Italy and they were going to go back this year and do some other parts of Italy. But then when she saw my email with this trip, she was like, let’s do that. Instead we went to do Iceland and so they signed up like they were one of my early bird sign up. So I think that’s a perfect way to do it. Grab a friend and ask them too.
[00:07:52.370] – Kim Tate
Yeah, for sure. I think going with a friend is a good way to make sure or that everything goes smoothly and then you can make some good memories. I was also going to say one thing. I know Tamara knows food and I know Iceland. That’s the one thing I’ve always worried about is the food in Iceland. So I know that Tamara will make sure you’re taken care of. So you’re going to eat well, probably stay in nice places, and you’re definitely going to see the highlights. So sounds like a fun trip and yeah, I’m glad you gave everyone the info about it.
[00:08:15.940] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I hope somebody can join me, but in any way that was the announcement. Nothing too startling, but something very exciting.
[00:08:22.790] – Kim Tate
I think it’s exciting and fun. Good job. Well, we could wrap before we start talking about something else that’s fun, why don’t we do a quick little take on what we’ve been up to since we last talked to our guests? I’ve had actually a very mellow holiday season. I kind of took back my traveling a little. I took one little solo trip down to Disneyland because I’m actually in the process of perhaps starting another site that focuses on Disney stuff, and that was just a little solo trip. And spent some time with Lizzy at her campus at Oregon State and then also had family for Thanksgiving and then just stayed at home for Christmas. So it’s been a very mellow and relaxing holiday season or I guess winter season for me. What about you?
[00:09:08.340] – Tamara Gruber
Well, it’s probably nice that it was mellow and relaxing considering all of the flight craziness. I’m so happy to be home.
[00:09:17.080] – Kim Tate
[00:09:19.730] – Tamara Gruber
It has been pretty quiet too. I’m going to chat in a minute about an amazing trip that I took in October to Italy. But after that I’ve mostly been home. Like, I did a little I don’t know if you call it staycation if I went to two different states, but around here it’s not very far away.
[00:09:37.370] – Kim Tate
You’re not sleeping in your bed, it’s a staycation.
[00:09:40.410] – Tamara Gruber
I did a little overnight to a hotel up in Massachusetts and then another one up in New Hampshire in Portsmouth, and that was in November. And then we just really enjoyed Hannah being home for Thanksgiving and then just been home in December. Just kind of working non stop, heads down, kind of crazy, very focused on work. But then when Hannah came back from college after her finals, we actually took a couple of days, flew down to Florida, saw her grandparents, saw family down there for a few days. We flew back home right before all of the things were getting canceled. We were delayed a little bit, but thankfully made it back. We got back to Boston at 01:00 a.m. On Friday night on December 23, and on the 24th, we drove down to New Jersey to see my family, but then at Christmas Eve ended up being canceled because my sister in law had COVID. So we just kind of went to my sisters for a little bit, and the next day we went to my nephews for a little bit and we drove home. So it was kind of a bit of a mellow Christmas.
[00:10:42.730] – Tamara Gruber
It was actually, like, not mellow in my book. No kidding.
[00:10:46.910] – Kim Tate
We flew here, we drove here, we drove here.
[00:10:49.790] – Tamara Gruber
It was actually chaotic. It was chaotic, but it was also depressing because I’m like, I really do not ever want to stay in one of these crappy hotels on Christmas Eve again. I spent so much money of these hotels. It’s literally, like, off the new. This is just where my family lives. There’s just nothing nice like nearby to stay hotel wise. I guess I could go into Princeton, but it’s just I don’t know, it’s generally, like there’s some chain hotels off the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m right next to an Amazon distribution facility because all of central New Jersey now is like one big warehouse, and it is, like, understaffed and it’s dirty and it’s just like it’s gross. And you wake up and you’re like, this is Christmas. You know, it’s just it’s really blah. But we used to stay with my mom, but I just can’t do that anymore. And I guess there’s no space at the inn for all the other family members. Yeah, it’s just a quick little visit. We actually have decided we’re going to start doing we did a couple of years during COVID but we’re doing more of like a Christmas in June or July summer type of thing in Seattle family.
[00:11:55.320] – Tamara Gruber
Because it just seems like every year, first there was the COVID restrictions, but now then there was like someone got sick last year, someone got sick this year. And then even my New Year’s plans this year got canceled because our friends that we always spend it with, they got sick. So I’m like, it’s just impossible. But I don’t know. Busy, but still not super exciting.
[00:12:14.810] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I get it. Well, it’s the New Year now, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners are making plans for places they want to go. I know I sent out a newsletter with a couple of recaps and inspiration from my 2022 blog post, but you had a pretty big trip in October to some beautiful region, and I know you had a lot of food and wine, one particular type of food, but what’s your little recap? Do you want to tell us all about your little trip to Italy?
[00:12:44.350] – Tamara Gruber
Yes, I will say, first of all, this was one of the best trips of my life, for sure. We had such a fabulous time. Actually, we rented a house one time with this couple when Hannah was three, so it was a long time ago, but we’ve been friends for quite a while and we finally convinced them to travel with us. They keep saying, like, when we retired, I’m like, no, don’t wait that long. So when they found out that I was considering this trip, my friend Greg was like, well, we’ll go with you because we know that you will plan everything for us and we will have a fabulous time and I don’t have to do anything. And so the person, though, I’m with.
[00:13:22.110] – Kim Tate
A travel writer planner, so even though.
[00:13:25.270] – Tamara Gruber
My friend Tracy is a teacher and she can’t usually take off during the school year, she was convinced to take some time off without pay and just come along. So it was just a really great time to spend with friends doing like, very grown up kind of things. We did a lot of, like you said, a lot of food and wine. But basically we did Northern Italy for a week with the four of us, and then three of them flew home and I stayed for another week and just did some things in Italy that I’ve wanted to do. And I’m like, well, I’m already here. I paid for the plane ticket. I don’t need to get back because my kids in Arizona. So basically we flew into Milan and rented a car. We drove. We spent five nights in the PIA Monte region, which is north west section of Italy. It’s known for wine like Barolo and Barbaresco. It’s known for truffles. And in the fall, which is one of the reasons why we went, they have the White Truffle Festival in the city of Alba. And so that was just like a foodie thing that I wanted to do, but it ended up being just I loved that region so much, and I feel like anyone that loves Tuscany would love going to Piedmont.
[00:14:39.520] – Tamara Gruber
So basically you have similar, like, rolling hills, you have vineyards everywhere. You have medieval hilltop towns, except they’re not crowded at all. You have amazing wine, you have great food. We stayed at a hotel, which I found just like a lot of Google searching. There’s not like a ton in that area, so it’s kind of hard to find what I was looking for. And I think you guys know that I really love boutique hotels that are a little more on the smaller, intimate side, but still have a lot of style and luxury feel to them. But they’re more affordable than those ultra luxe hotels that are easier to find on the best of kind of lifts lists. So I found this place, it’s called Sweet Villa, and it is run by an English woman, actually, and she is the most hard working person. You saw her nonstop, but amazing personality, and I feel like that kind of carried through to her staff, and so all the staff was just fantastic. So you’re staying in a place I don’t actually know how many rooms they are, but I would say definitely like under 30 rooms. But it has a spa, it has a restaurant, it has a pool.
[00:15:54.810] – Tamara Gruber
It’s just like, beautiful design, but it’s the kind of place where they really know you. They know what you’re doing that day. If you tell them, you talk to them at breakfast, breakfast is included, which is like, whatever you want, plus a buffet. It’s really wonderful. But you come in at night if you want, like, a drink, like the bartender breeds say to Greg, like, oh, you want an old Fashioned. Again, they know you and they have that kind of service. And I thought for that quality hotel, it was fairly affordable. So it wasn’t like a budget hotel, but it was like 330 euro a night, which we could have taken a cheaper room, but we both had suites. It was like a one bedroom suite with a private terrace. So they’re like beautiful rooms. I don’t know, I just again, keep going back to I just spent $400 a night for just a terrible residence. You compare it that way and it feels like the ultimate in luxury. Yeah, but it was just fantastic. And so we just did every day I had set up like one day we did a truffle hunt, which was like a local truffle hunter.
[00:16:56.680] – Tamara Gruber
Like five minutes away. We found three truffles. It’s just so fun just to see how it works. And, like, anyone that is have you ever watched the Stanley Tucci Goes to Italy show?
[00:17:06.710] – Kim Tate
I know I’m in, but I don’t watch it.
[00:17:08.110] – Tamara Gruber
[00:17:08.400] – Kim Tate
[00:17:08.970] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So basically this trip was the Piedmont episode and the Bologna episode, like I did on my own. So it was just like having this experience where like, wow, I’m doing this in real life. I’m actually getting to see the dog, like, dig for the truffles. And then we had this fantastic lunch at this beautiful Michelin Star restaurant where we just kind of took the that was our afternoon activity. We had this amazing lunch, great view. Then we walked around the town. We just go walk around these little towns, explore. We took a full day wine tour one day with actually another British guy, but he was fantastic. It was Piedmont wine tours or food and wine tours and just a fantastic day. So much fun. And then another day, I had booked us a visit to a hazelnut farm because hazelnuts are also a big thing in that region. And so we kind of learned about them, learned how they make them. And then did a tasting of all these different types of hazelnuts and chocolate covered and honey roasted and all those kind of things. So it was just fun to really see where the food comes from and then have these great meals, mix it up with some cute towns and things.
[00:18:24.130] – Tamara Gruber
So you can tell I’m a little excited about it just a tad.
[00:18:28.220] – Kim Tate
No, I think it’s awesome. It sounds perfect for you. It’s everything I would think of for you. So that’s awesome.
[00:18:34.550] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And then from there, we went to Lake Como for a couple of days. Lake Como has always been on my wish list to go to. It’s like, that whole lifestyle is the rich and famous deal too.
[00:18:45.030] – Kim Tate
[00:18:45.660] – Tamara Gruber
And I knew it can be so crowded in the summer, so I’m really glad to be there during the shoulder season. And when we were there, it was pretty misty. One day was rainy, so it wasn’t, like, brilliant sunshine. We had, like, one nice afternoon. And I will just say, as much as I loved it and I loved our experience there, like, I think I’m all set. Like, I went once and I don’t really need to go back. I think it’s just one of those places that it’s very pricey. We stayed at a really nice hotel, actually. The hotel was Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and it was just put on the I think it was Conde Nast, like, top 20 hotels in the world kind of list. So it was definitely, like, one of the most luxurious places that I’ve stayed at. And it was one of those, like, okay, we’re going to balance out something that felt, like, more affordable with, like, two nights at this more expensive one. But you wouldn’t want to stay there more than two nights because I couldn’t afford it for sure. But it was, you know, it was a beautiful hotel, like, very high service, but it just had that, like, poshness to it that didn’t have, like, the intimacy and the personal touch of the other one.
[00:19:50.320] – Kim Tate
I get what you mean. Sometimes sometimes there’s, like, luxury hotels can be so upscale that they almost feel cold and not so warm and welcoming.
[00:20:00.510] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, and you’re just like everything. I mean, first of all, the breakfast there was insane. It was an entire room. My friend just went around, like, taking, like, a video of everything. It was like an entire room. I can imagine. It was crazy. It was so good. But then everything, all the other meals are just, like, ultra expensive, whereas when you’re in Piedmont, you can find really high end meals or you can find more rustic, kind of everyday osteria type of meals. So it was more of that. We took a private boat tour around the lake, which was amazing. My friends are boaters, so it was just so fun to be out on the lake. But our guide was saying, like, in the summer, a lot of people just rent boats, but they have no idea how to drive a boat and they’re drunk and you have accidents. It’s just, like, kind of crazy. It just sounds like I would never, ever want to be there in the summer. They’re talking about the tens of thousands of people that are invading these small little towns. So it was really nice to go and walk around when it wasn’t super crowded, but it’s also, like, all the boutiques are very posh, like, a lot of designer boutiques and things.
[00:21:09.820] – Tamara Gruber
So it was lovely. I really very much enjoyed it, but I’m good.
[00:21:15.910] – Kim Tate
That sounds nice. It’s cool to hear, though, that you did find I mean, I can appreciate I think it’s good to find those things where it’s like, I’m glad I did it. I don’t need to go back.
[00:21:25.770] – Tamara Gruber
Exactly. We went to Milan. We only spent one night in Milan, but then I actually spent another night on my return trip, and so I got to see more of that city. And I feel like a lot of people just, like, skip over Milan, and it definitely does not have anywhere near, like, the charm of Florence or Venice or Rome.
[00:21:46.340] – Kim Tate
I know it’s fashion. That’s all I know.
[00:21:48.870] – Tamara Gruber
It’s fashion, it’s finance, it’s opera. So if you love New York, then you might love Milon. So it may not be what you’re thinking of when you think of Italy or romantic Italy. Yeah, exactly. But there’s some incredible architecture. The Duomo, which is their large cathedral, there was just an exceptional bit of architecture, and you’re able to book a tour to go up to the terraces, to the rooftop there. We just kind of took a tour of some of the highlights, and then when I went back, I wandered through by myself. So I would say you don’t have to skip it. Two days is perfect for Milan. If you want to shop, definitely don’t skip Milan, but bring a big budget. But I enjoyed going there. But I don’t think you needed to make a separate trip to Milan. But I definitely enjoyed going there.
[00:22:37.410] – Kim Tate
When you were buying Airfare, was it just as easy to find flights and pricing in and out of Milan versus Rome?
[00:22:45.410] – Tamara Gruber
So with Rome, for where I live, there’s direct flights, whereas for Milan, I had to connect. We connected in Amsterdam, but because of where we were going in the north, it just made a lot more sense to fly into Milan okay. Than to fly. If you flew into Rome, you’d really then want to probably fly up to Milan versus taking or fly to Torn or another city in that area versus, like, a train. Train. Really long term. Yeah.
[00:23:08.970] – Kim Tate
Okay. Got you.
[00:23:10.510] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So it just made sense for that purpose. And I feel like if you’re going to any of those areas, flying into Milan definitely makes sense. But then should I tell you a little bit about the stuff I did on my own, too?
[00:23:21.500] – Kim Tate
Yeah. Because I know there’s one I was.
[00:23:23.580] – Tamara Gruber
Like, oh, it was so sweet.
[00:23:24.760] – Kim Tate
Like a couple of the towns. I mean, I definitely think you should talk about some of the towns that you fell in love with. Tell us about your little solo exploration.
[00:23:31.310] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So when my husband, my friends left Milan, I was debating I wanted to go over to Verona, which is kind of near Venice, and I wanted because I wanted to see Verona for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drive or take the train or how I wanted to get there. And then there were some places that I wanted to see along the way. So what I ended up doing is I booked a driver with this company called Day Trips, and they’re not a guide, but they will drive you from place to place, but they will stop at other places along the way, and they even make suggestions of places that you can stop along the way. So basically, first I went to the city of Bergamo, which I loved, but basically the driver just dropped me off in the center of town and said, I’ll pick you up in an hour or whatever time we had arranged. And I just walked around on my own. And like, that town I really loved it’s kind of like a fairly large city, but they have this upper town, which is like the original historic town with medieval walls around it.
[00:24:32.470] – Tamara Gruber
And it just was so charming. It felt incredibly authentic. Like, when I went there, it was a Sunday morning, everyone was in church because I popped into a couple of cathedrals and churches to see, and I’m like, oh, there’s a service going on. Let me be very quiet. And then when the service ended, everyone’s coming into the square and going to the cafes, and they’re having this, like, cheese market. And it just felt incredibly authentic, but it did not feel crowded. It just wasn’t touristy. So I just loved that aspect of it because I feel like there’s not many places that you can see that.
[00:25:05.590] – Kim Tate
Are like it feels like locals and not just tourists.
[00:25:10.650] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that’s awesome.
[00:25:12.320] – Kim Tate
Really quickly with your driver this Day Trips, is it kind of like a violet type thing? Anyone can be a driver and have a listing on there? Or is it these people hire these drivers? Like, is it a tour company like our live tours?
[00:25:27.810] – Tamara Gruber
It’s a little bit in between. In that Day Trips provides transfers and trips in many cities and places kind of around the world. And they’ve contracted out drivers who may also have their own taxi or driving company. They’re vetted and you hire Day Trips, not the individual driver. Okay, so a little bit in between.
[00:25:52.820] – Kim Tate
So it’s kind of like Uber ish.
[00:25:54.600] – Tamara Gruber
Type a bit for longer days. I find it like just a nice there are many people that provide transfers and driving, and it’s sometimes hard to find when you’re just researching a specific city. And I’m like, oh, I want to go from here to here, but stop places. Usually it’s like a transfer. It’s not stopping.
[00:26:16.940] – Kim Tate
[00:26:17.320] – Tamara Gruber
So I like this concept.
[00:26:19.430] – Kim Tate
[00:26:21.050] – Tamara Gruber
So where else? There. I went to this town called Brescia, which is more like there’s a castle there to see. So I just kind of spent. Like an hour there. It was fine. There’s definitely more to see in that town. It’s a big cultural center. I just didn’t have time to do it because then what I really wanted to hit was this town in the southern part of Lake Garda. So there’s many lakes in northern Italy. Lake Cuomo is one of the most famous, but Lake Garda is like super popular, especially if you’re coming from Venice. A lot of people go and do either a day trip or stay a few nights in Lake Garda. And I will say I loved it. It was beautiful. The lake itself was beautiful. The town is simerone, and it was really pretty. It was like touristy, but definitely not the upscale posh way, but not in a cheesy way either. It was like somewhere in between.
[00:27:10.940] – Kim Tate
So Lake Garda over Lake Como, in your opinion?
[00:27:14.000] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, okay. I think so. I mean, that’s just my opinion. Yeah, I really enjoyed that. And then we stopped at one other little village before we got to Verona, which is just like the sweetest little Borgo with like a little river running through it. And I could not believe how many Italians were there. It was like Jampacked, but all Italians. So I feel like, okay, this is not a place that locals know, but I’m sorry, that tourist is a place that locals know.
[00:27:44.370] – Kim Tate
Cool. That’s awesome.
[00:27:45.880] – Tamara Gruber
And then we went to Verona. So they dropped me off in Verona. I spent two nights in Verona and I loved it. It’s like it was like the city of love, right? Because Romeo and Juliet, although it’s really.
[00:27:56.790] – Kim Tate
A tragic story, I always laugh about that. Like, everyone’s like, oh, it’s so romantic. I’m like, oh yeah, they all died at the end. Sorry.
[00:28:03.870] – Tamara Gruber
Anyway, my tour guide was telling me, like, oh, you should watch Love in the Villa on Netflix because it’s set, like, in Verona, like an obsession with Romeo and Juliet. So actually I just started to watch it the other night on Netflix. I didn’t finish it, though. Like something else came up, but I was like, oh, I’ve been there, I’ve been there. It’s kind of neat. And if you’ve ever seen the Letters.
[00:28:27.130] – Kim Tate
To Julia yeah, Letters to Juliet, I think, or from Juliet. Yeah, Letters to Juliet.
[00:28:32.940] – Tamara Gruber
One of those.
[00:28:34.370] – Kim Tate
That cute. The blonde. I can’t think of her name. She was in Mama Mia.
[00:28:38.160] – Tamara Gruber
I know. I can’t think.
[00:28:39.130] – Kim Tate
Amanda Cypher, I think so anyways, I think it was her, but whatever.
[00:28:44.410] – Tamara Gruber
But that’s cute. And that’s a real thing. So when you visit Juliet’s balcony in that little square, there’s a mailbox and you can let it write to Juliet. And there’s a real group of women.
[00:28:55.180] – Kim Tate
Oh, I was just going to say they actually reply. Oh, my goodness, that’s awesome.
[00:28:58.360] – Tamara Gruber
In many languages. It’s like really so sweet. I thought it was just like for the movie, but I’m like, it’s a real thing.
[00:29:03.790] – Kim Tate
Me too. I thought I didn’t realize that it actually happened.
[00:29:06.900] – Tamara Gruber
That’s awesome. Yeah. And I did a walking tour, like a half day walking tour that day with live tours and just kind of gave me a good sense of history and things. But I will say Verona is so here are my impressions. Beautiful, extremely easy to navigate, pristine, clean in the center, like the tourist downtown center, and very, very safe. As a solo traveler, I felt, like incredibly comfortable even walking around at night. And I just loved it there’s. Like, beautiful architecture. The food was amazing. I had some of the best one of those, like, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten type of thing. Wow.
[00:29:47.520] – Kim Tate
Was it pasta?
[00:29:49.370] – Tamara Gruber
So, a few things. First of all, some of their food I would never eat because if you go to a restaurant and you will see horse dunky, tripe, a lot of things. And I’m like, no, one of the things was risotto amarone. So Amaroni is a type of wine from near there. And so it’s risotto made with wine. And so it has this, like, deep purple color, but it has this richness to it that it just I’ve never had we actually tried to recreate it for New Year’s Eve. We didn’t get quite there. But now I’m like, oh, I have to go back to Verona to have tasty. That sounds the original. It makes it cool.
[00:30:29.850] – Kim Tate
About our side note. Remember in Portugal, our vegetarian who has always given risotto.
[00:30:36.250] – Tamara Gruber
Here’s some risotto anyways. Definitely. And I love Italy so much because the food is so regionalized. So when we were up in Piedmont, it was like risotto truffle. There were certain kind of it kind of looks like a tortilloni or tortellini, but it’s like tortoloni, but they have meat. There’s just certain dishes that you see over and over in certain regions and then you go to another region. And even within the next region that I went to, like, the difference from Verona to Bologna to Parma, they all have their own way of doing things. And so it was good. So their Nyuki there were actually made from polenta, which usually it’s potato. So I’ve never had anything like that. And I had it. It was fantastic. And then I had this other appetizer with polenta. So I had some really yummy things.
[00:31:30.410] – Kim Tate
Verona is a win.
[00:31:31.960] – Tamara Gruber
Verona is definitely a win. I would highly recommend it. It’s very easy to add to a trip to Venice. I liked it way more than Venice. It was not crowded. Awesome. It was, again, that pleasant amount of like, there are people around, but you didn’t feel like, oh, I can’t even get through the street or anything like that.
[00:31:47.700] – Kim Tate
Yeah. So then from Verona, where’d you head.
[00:31:50.900] – Tamara Gruber
I took a train then to Bologna. And I will say getting around Italy on the trains is very easy. Yes, sometimes they’re delayed, but it’s simple. It’s an easy way to travel, like as a solo traveler, I had no problem doing that.
[00:32:05.900] – Kim Tate
Really aware of your stuff, super aware of your belongings. I know so many people that have been have theft and pickpocketing with Italy trains in Italy. Okay. Yeah. They’ll get their attention on one side and then their buddy comes in from the other side and grabs your bag or picks something out of your pocket, little things like that. Because normally when you’re on a train, you’re busy and thinking and looking and trying to figure stuff out and you’re not as conscientious of your surroundings.
[00:32:34.030] – Tamara Gruber
[00:32:35.650] – Kim Tate
Anyway, sorry note.
[00:32:37.400] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, no, good tip. I always try to carry those bags that have the locking zippers and things and make sure everything is safely tucked away. But yes, I went to Bologna, and Bologna I really wanted to go to for a long time, and Bologna we were going to stop at for a day in between Venice and Florence last March. But then we never made it past Venice because of the whole COVID thing. So I thought I was going to love it. I really thought I was going to love it. And I will say I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I was going to. Here’s my honest you know, all my honest opinions coming out here, but here’s why. So number one, I like that it is a very much living, working, studying city. So it’s a big university town, so it’s like super busy with locals. And that’s a good thing, right? It’s nice that it’s not like a Venice where it’s all touristy, but it is just a little chaotic. I just found, like, there were and maybe it was just like me being there on my own, starting to get tired, but cars going everywhere.
[00:33:43.920] – Tamara Gruber
There’s bikes going everywhere and it’s like you’re waiting at an intersection to try to cross and you get the green, but then bikes are still going when they shouldn’t go and you feel like you’re going to get plowed over and just like I don’t know, a lot of people. There’s an area around the main square where there’s a lot of the old shopping market areas, so you have a lot of produce shops, fish shops, cheese shops, meat shops, like that kind of thing. And those can get narrow and crowded and just like a little chaotic. I don’t know, the architecture is pretty and I loved all the porticos because they have all these covered porticos with archways that go that cover like miles and miles of the city. So those are really beautiful and really cool. But some of the other architectures almost like a little bit obscured because there are all these cable car lines, like crisscrossing in front of them and it was kind of like, oh, I’m going to build this tower. I’m going to build a tower right next to you to prove how rich I am. And like, they’re kind of tilting and, you know, the the cathedral is the facade is like half finished because they ran out of money and like, I don’t know.
[00:34:49.870] – Tamara Gruber
It’s a cool city. I liked it. It’s an amazing food city and that’s why people go there.
[00:34:55.330] – Kim Tate
Is that where Bolognese sauce is from?
[00:34:57.390] – Tamara Gruber
Yes. And if you do watch the Stanley Tucci and Bologna episode, I basically did all of that. It was so cool. But I wanted this to be mostly a foodie experience. So when I got there, I checked in and then I did Highlights and Hidden Gems tour actually with locals was the company that I used. And that was a good intro. It was just like a private me and her walking around for 3 hours. I had lunch at this amazing place where they hand make their tortellini and they serve it just like in a broth, which was one of the best things I’ve eaten. And it seems so simple, like tortellini soup, but it was really fantastic. And then I took a food tour that night. But one thing that bummed me out on this trip is that I was a solo traveler and I wasn’t traveling at peak season. So I signed up with the same company, which maybe was a mistake in three different cities with food tours, and they canceled all of them on me because they didn’t have anyone else sign up and they wouldn’t go with just one person. So I was struggling to try to come up with another.
[00:36:02.210] – Tamara Gruber
What else can I do? And there are a lot of food tours in Bologna, so there are a lot to choose from. But I needed to fit it in between other things I had scheduled. This is my window. And so only one company was available and it was called Taste Bologna. And it was fine. It definitely was very authentic because I met with someone the next day and she was like, oh, they took you here, they took you here. Oh, you’ve really seen all the authentic things. I’m like, okay, that’s good. But from a food tour perspective, it was basically like we looked in the window of one place, then we ate a piece of bread at a bakery. Then we stopped and picked up cheese and meat from a place in the market. And then we went to this very hundreds years old kind of wine bar where locals go and you can sit in there and you kind of bring your own food because it’s only wine that they spend there. So then we ate the mortadella and the different meats and things that he picked up. We ate them around the table.
[00:37:01.500] – Tamara Gruber
But it’s not like sometimes on a food tour, you’ll sit, you get a little serve each. Yeah, exactly. So this is kind of like your charcutory. And then we went and we walked around the market to Arabic. So it’s like a vegetable market that’s not the touristy one. So we saw some authentic things there, but we didn’t eat there. And then we went to a pizza place, which Bologna is not really known for pizza. The pizza was very good, but it was like, all right, it’s not really what I thought it was going to be. And then we stopped at a really good July auto place. So it was fine. It was interesting. We definitely saw authentic things, but I felt like I’ve had better food tours. But I know some other people. I just updated a blog post on my website that was originally written by someone as a guest post, but then I kind of added to it and changed it up to add my own experiences. And she had a really good I think maybe it was delicious Bologna or something like that. But a couple of people have said there was this other food tour company that does a really good one.
[00:37:59.960] – Kim Tate
[00:38:00.700] – Tamara Gruber
I checked it out. But then the next day I did something super fun that I really loved. And I did a cooking class, but it was different than some cooking classes. So I had found this company called Cesarina, or Chesarina. It’s like Cesarina and it is a network of home cooks. So it’s like women in their own kitchens that teach their family recipes all throughout Italy. So it’s like a way to find.
[00:38:27.200] – Kim Tate
Wife missy is doing a little bit not that same thing, I don’t think, but that’s kind of what really yeah, that’s a side note. Sorry. Anyways, go ahead.
[00:38:34.440] – Tamara Gruber
So it was just like a fun it wasn’t like going to a restaurant or doing I mean, you could do it as a group if I had a group or a family or something. But we met up, we walked to the market, we bought ingredients, and we went to her home. And I learned how to roll out pasta. And usually at home, actually, Glenn makes the pasta, but he also uses like a pasta machine there. I used the big huge rolling pin and I got it. You could see my hand through it.
[00:39:05.460] – Kim Tate
[00:39:06.480] – Tamara Gruber
And then I made tarmacu. We made some other kind of bread. I did not make the bolognese sauce, though, because it takes like hours to simmer. So she had already had that. But then I sat and eat and it was lovely. It was just such a fun kind of thing to do. Yeah, that was really like my time in Bologna. And then are you bored of me talking about food yet?
[00:39:30.230] – Kim Tate
It sounds like a lot of yummy food. Even though you didn’t love, love the city, you still had some good experiences. And so where did you head next?
[00:39:37.690] – Tamara Gruber
So next I went to Parma, which you might guess is where parmajan cheese ham, another picture about you.
[00:39:47.440] – Kim Tate
And there made me think of an amazing race challenge. But anyways, go ahead.
[00:39:50.980] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So I went to Parma for a couple of nights because it’s also right near Modena, which is where balsamic vinegar is from.
[00:39:59.410] – Kim Tate
That might be all over that. Like, give me some bread, olive oil and balsamic. Yes, that is.
[00:40:05.010] – Tamara Gruber
This whole area is like the Parma food valley. And so you have Parma ham, which is like pursuit of the Parma Parmesan cheese. You have balsamic vinegar. So it’s just all it’s just called the Food Valley. And so I spent one day just in the city of Parma. I took the train up to Parma. It’s a very short little train, and I took a tour of the downtown there and there it’s also a university town, but it’s not nearly as busy as Bologna. And I feel like Bologna is one of those cities that you go to on your second or third trip to Italy. Parma you probably go to on your fourth or fifth or 6th trip to Italy. So it’s a little bit more off the tourist beaten track, but there are definitely some things to see. It’s really pretty architecture. It actually has a lot of French influence. Apparently there was a connection between I guess I’m not going to remember my history now from everything she told me, but I believe there was, like, a Pope that came from Parma, and then there was someone else in Parma that married, like Medici or maybe the Medici, I don’t know.
[00:41:11.610] – Tamara Gruber
Somehow. No, it wasn’t Medici. Somehow they married someone from France. We’ll have to look it up. You can leave this in because I’m rambling, but there’s basically a connection between France and Parma is my bottom line.
[00:41:26.200] – Kim Tate
[00:41:27.130] – Tamara Gruber
That affected the food or that affected well, it affected the architecture. So you see a lot of kind of French influence in that way. And a lot of things are very yellow. It’s kind of like the color of Parma, but the food is also very good. And I decided on my second day in Parma to take a tour of the Food Valley. So I booked with a company called Food Valley Gourmet Tours. Imagine that. So it was a private tour. It would be better if you could do it with others because it’s a bit pricey because it’s a full day. But my first stop was at a cheese manufacturer, so I got to go in. If you saw it on Instagram, you saw me, like, all covered up with my PPE. But you got to see them stirring the cheese. They just milk the cows, and they stirring the milk and everything and these huge vats, and you’re seeing it start to come together over the course of the time that it were there. Then you go and you see where they store it, and there’s 80,000 giant 100 pound wheels of Parmesan cheese. It’s like the coolest thing.
[00:42:33.810] – Tamara Gruber
They have robots that actually go up and brush the salt off of them and turn the cheeses and their age for a certain amount of time. And obviously, at the end of each of these things, you do a tasting, which is awesome. And so you’re tasting, like, the 24 month old aged and the different ages and things of the cheeses. And then from there, we went to another manufacturer that does parma ham and other types of meats. And that one, well, it’s definitely not for vegetarian. It was very interesting, but there was well, let me tell you, there’s a bit of an aroma in those places that’s a little strong.
[00:43:10.730] – Kim Tate
I could not handle that. I don’t do that.
[00:43:12.380] – Tamara Gruber
I was kind of like, all right, let’s move along. And it was one of those things where I’m like, I think I just want to eat it.
[00:43:20.210] – Kim Tate
I don’t want to know about the procurement.
[00:43:22.730] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, like, you’re in a room with thousands of hanging legs of ham. It was a lot. It was good to then do the tasting and such. And then from there, we went to a winery that was, like, up on a hill with a view of a castle, and it’s like a family run winery, so you could taste the wines from that region and have a sit down lunch with, of course, more meat and cheese, but also, like, pasta. And then after that, we went to visit a balsamic vinegar manufacturer. And let me tell you, that is fascinating when it comes to how they make that. These are generally, like, passion projects for wineries, and they’ve been in the families for generations. They have some of these little kegs that they’re in that are decades old, but they do it’s just they call it black gold. And it is so different than the balsamic vinegar that you would have that you buy from the grocery store. And they, again, have different levels. They have, like, gold, silver. They have different aging. I mean, a little bottle will cost you, like, $50, but it’s one of those things where you’re only supposed to use a couple of drops, but you get to do a tasting of that afterwards, and that’s fun.
[00:44:40.170] – Tamara Gruber
And then we finished off. I would definitely just stop there. I apparently booked the grand tour, which included, like, five stops, and by that time, I’m like, really? Can I just go back to my hotel room? Because I’m so full. But we made, like, one more stop at this place. They did a different kind of pork cam type product, and they have, like, a little museum, and they were very insistent. They’re like, okay, take this audio guide and go through the museum. And I’m kind of like, do I have to? I kind of went through part of it, and I came out, and they’re like, no, no, you didn’t see this part yet from here. And I’m like, can I just do my tasting and leave? It was a really nice place where they have actually, like, a hotel and a Michelin star restaurant, and it was beautiful, but I was just kind of, like, done by that time. And it’s so funny because pretty much the whole second half of the trip, when I was by myself, I had one meal a day because I wanted to taste things, but there’s no one to share it with.
[00:45:34.330] – Tamara Gruber
And I came back, and I was like, glenn, I cannot look at a charcuterie for, like, a couple of months now. I’m all set on processed meat and cheese for a while.
[00:45:45.390] – Kim Tate
But it was good.
[00:45:47.230] – Tamara Gruber
It was a food experience. I really got to see more of these Italian cities that I’ve wanted to see for a while. I’m really happy that I did it. I had fun, like, traveling on my own and doing that. There’s definitely downsize. I have no problem, like, being on my own or eating on my own, but after a while, I was like, I don’t know if I feel like walking out to do that tonight. I might just skip dinner and read a book.
[00:46:14.520] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I get that.
[00:46:16.200] – Tamara Gruber
It was good. It was quite an adventure.
[00:46:17.950] – Kim Tate
[00:46:18.300] – Tamara Gruber
I hope that for anyone that is a foodie, like, any of these destinations would be so good. And I know that I really focused on the food and wine and such because I was there without kids, but if you are visiting with kids, you can still find lots of history and other ways to enjoy these areas. But I had a great time. I love it. I’m actually finally getting to the point where I’m writing about these different destinations now, so I’m actually just finishing up my post about Edinburgh, which I visited back in September.
[00:46:50.290] – Kim Tate
[00:46:51.000] – Tamara Gruber
I’ve been focusing on all the other things I’ve been updating, so finally getting to the new stuff.
[00:46:55.780] – Kim Tate
That’s good. Well, it’s good that you’ve been updating, because I’m behind on everything, but that’s part of starting a new year, hoping to be more productive. But I think it sounds like a great trip, and it’s fun that I think it’s cool that you extended the trip at the end and kind of had some time to explore on your own, because, like you said, well, I didn’t have to get back, and I had already paid for the airplane ticket.
[00:47:15.780] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I mean, that’s sometimes the biggest cost of getting there, and also just from a cost perspective. So Bologna is a little more expensive, but Verona pretty cheap, I think I said at a Hotel Indigo for, like, 150 a night.
[00:47:30.700] – Kim Tate
So is it more chain hotels? Because hotel Indigo I mean, hotel Indigo is nice. They try and bring in, like, some.
[00:47:37.240] – Tamara Gruber
They do bring square more of the local kind of thing. Yeah, you don’t have to like, there are definitely other local hotels, but that one was kind of equidistant walking from the train station and walking to the historic city center. So I thought, like, hey, spend less on cabs and things if I can walk with my bag to the train station, but I don’t want to do half an hour drag my giant bag through the streets, the cobblestone streets or something.
[00:48:02.920] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I get it.
[00:48:03.820] – Tamara Gruber
So that’s why I picked that one.
[00:48:05.180] – Kim Tate
[00:48:05.580] – Tamara Gruber
And then Bologna is more expensive. But I actually booked the location was just I booked a luxury hotel, but the location was just the best location in terms of being very centrally located. But it was also part of that American Express, like fine hotels. And so you get the $100 food and beverage credit. So that covered my meal one night. And then also what was the other thing? Oh, yeah, they had the special promotion where it was like $200. Kind of rebate when you have one of those hotels.
[00:48:39.090] – Kim Tate
I think it’s only one a year, though, right?
[00:48:40.870] – Tamara Gruber
One a year. That was the only one that I did nice. It was kind of like getting one night free. That’s cool. And then I found also a cheap hotel in Parma, but I did not like it. It was really close to the train station, and it was fine. But the thing I think to think about when traveling to Europe is they have very different rules around energy conservation than we do. And so even when we were in Piedmont so basically, you and I experienced this when we were in Portugal, and then it was a lot warmer when we were in Portugal in October than it usually is. And it was the same when we were in Italy. So I really feel like global warming, you can expect warmer falls, except it’s in certain places. In Italy, they have rules of, like, you have to turn off the air conditioning at a certain date. And so you are in places that maybe need air conditioning, and there isn’t any air conditioning. So at least in Piedmont, I was able to open the doors to our terrace, and we had, like, a fan, and it was okay because we were kind of in the mountains, it cooled off at night.
[00:49:46.670] – Tamara Gruber
But in Parma, in the city, I could only open, like, this one window, and it just wasn’t cooling off in there. And then it was just super loud because I was right next to the gas station.
[00:49:59.080] – Kim Tate
I was just going to say, yeah, that’s the other thing.
[00:50:01.120] – Tamara Gruber
When you’re in cities, not ideal. So luckily Bologna still had the air conditioning on, and I kind of cranked it. But I will find, like now in certain places in Europe, you can’t put on the heat above maybe like 65 degrees or something like that. So you might be used to having it warmer in your house at home. So I just think you need to think about some of those things that are different. And part of it is because of the energy crisis, because of the war in Ukraine, and part of it is just they’re trying to do their part to combat global warming as well. So it’s just something to think about.
[00:50:36.860] – Kim Tate
Good to know. Well that sounds like I think we had a good wrap up. It sounds like you had a good time and hopefully our listeners enjoyed hearing from us again and they should definitely go check out at your time to fly your other site to check out your Iceland trip if they’re thinking about doing that in September. But otherwise we are going to sign off and come back again in hopefully February. Yeah, I was going to say in February we’ll just put it we’re going to be there. So, yeah, we’ll make it happen.
[00:51:05.430] – Tamara Gruber
And you and I will have seen each other in New York between now and then, hopefully, and we’ll be able to picture yeah. Share some new travels now that we’re kind of coming not out of work mode, because work obviously still needs to happen, but there’s going to be a little bit more frequent travel happening in the next few months as well. So yeah, stay tuned. I hope that you guys are still subscribed and listening and maybe you could go and I don’t know, leave us a comment, leave us a review, something like that to make us know that there is someone still here paying attention to us.
[00:51:40.220] – Kim Tate
It’s not a black void for sure because we were gone so long and.
[00:51:44.290] – Tamara Gruber
If not, I got to tell you all about my trip.
[00:51:46.490] – Kim Tate
Yeah, it was great. So thanks for tuning in you guys. We will talk to you again soon.
[00:51:51.360] – Tamara Gruber
Take care you.