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Tips & Tales: Hiking with Giulia



According to German philosopher Nietzsche, the well-being we experience while we are immersed in nature derives from the fact that nature has no opinion on us, it doesn’t judge us.

Perhaps, this is the reason why we often feel the necessity to move away from the more tourist itineraries to see natural areas of great and impervious beauty.
 
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We begin with one of our Luxury Experience Designers from our Italian office... Giulia, an enthusiast hiker! She will tell us more about this sport, not only from a technical point of view, but also and above all from an emotional one. Let’s begin!

Hi Giulia, welcome to our ‘Tips & Tales’ column! When and why did you start hiking?

'Hiking' is a very simple word, but it involves a multitude of aspects. From a purely technical point of view, hiking is a sporting activity practiced in natural contexts, such as mountains, meadows or woods. Going for an excursion certainly requires good physical preparation, as the main element is walking.

I live near the Italian Prealps and since I was a small kid my parents always took me to the mountain to spend some time surrounded by pure nature and landscapes.
 
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Growing up I started feeling that nature is my ‘happy place’, it is where I feel myself, complete and happy. This feeling increased a lot after moving back from London, a city that I loved, but where I really missed my mountains and lakes.

In the last years I have been trying to spend at least one day per week hiking. It has become a sort of therapy that helps me to feel peaceful, and it reminds me that we are so small compared to the magnificence of nature. 
 
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What are your best 10 hiking tips for beginners?

1. Wear comfortable shoes.

2. ‘Dress like an onion’, that means to wear several layers of clothes as the temperature may vary a lot while hiking.

3. Bring water and some healthy snacks.

4. Never forget your camera.

5. Don’t hike alone if you are a beginner or if you don’t know the path and the area. 

6. Bring with you sun protection, first aid supplies, and at least a waterproof jacket. 

7. Leave no trace on trails.

8. Watch your feet. 

9. Bring a GPS or a map. 

10. Don’t rush, enjoy every step.
 
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And what about the 5 steps you think are essential to ‘plan out’ a great adventure?

If you are planning a hiking trip in a place you don’t know, here my tips:

1. Check the best period of the year for hiking in that region.

2. Contact a local expert who will arrange the trails according to your level of fitness.

3. Prepare in advance the essentials to bring with you.  

4. Have a local guide accompanying you during the walk, to have the opportunity to learn about the area, its history and natural aspects.

5. Start your adventure with the right spirit, don’t be afraid to fail.

In your opinion, what is the best place for hiking in Italy?

In general, I love places that combine mountains and lakes or sea, where you can enjoy two opposite views. For example, the Cinque Terre, in the Ligurian Coast, is an unmissable place to go for hiking.
 
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If we go North, definitely the Ferret or Veny Valleys, in the Aosta Valley, with its Monte Bianco or ‘Mont Blanc’. And the Dolomites with their well-known peaks. Of course, I have to mention the place where I live, Varese, a province that boasts wonderful mountains and seven lakes located among Milan, Lake Como, Switzerland and Lake Maggiore. In my opinion, they are truly magic places.
 
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Here some of the experiences recommended by Giulia and available on our website: Hiking & Trekking and Hiking at Altitude.

Did You Know? Rome’s Oldest Pharmacy



Located in the heart of Trastevere, there is an ancient and precious place considered the oldest pharmacy in Rome: the 'Antica Spezieria di Santa Maria della Scala'.

The pharmacy, originally called ‘Spezieria’, takes its name from the nearby church and convent of ‘Santa Maria della Scala’.

Originally built in 1600 to meet the needs of the Carmelite friars, dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal plants, the Antica Spezieria di Santa Maria della Scala was then open to the public.

Throughout time it became so famous that important people such as Princes, Doctors and even Popes referred to it so much so that it was called the ‘Pharmacy of the Popes’. After such a long time, it still preserves bottles, vials, ampoules, herbariums and ancient medicines!

Over the years it has become a breeding ground for research: some of the most expert minds converged to take advantage of a garden full of fantastic herbs and learn the art of herbal medicine.

Through an antechamber you enter the ancient medicine salesroom, dating back to the eighteenth century. The furniture, shelving, display cabinets and counter still preserve their past splendour. Moreover, in the back room there is a liqueur laboratory also used as a library, medical office and warehouse dating back to the nineteenth century.

The Antica Spezieria di Santa Maria della Scala is also adorned with various relics of great importance, such as the ‘Trattato delle Semplici’, a very rare herbarium containing a list of all the herbs used in the pharmacy, attributed to fra Basilio, or the ‘Vaso della Theriaca’, a drug developed by Andromaco the Elder, Nero's Doctor, for the study of an antidote against poisons.

The old apothecary continued to operate until 1978, distributing medicines at moderate prices and today, after the visit it is still possible to buy some products, made with ancient recipes, among which the anti-pestilential water.

It was the best-selling product, a sort of sanitising gel ante-litteram created during the plague of 1600 in Rome. It was so important and used by the population in large quantities that a fresco representing it was painted on the vault of the saleroom!
 
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Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to explore ancient Rome and enjoy discovering the most beautiful hidden gems with our trusted guides.  

Giulia’s Trip to Venice



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Venice is historic, romantic and gorgeous, small and compact, perfect to be explored in just a few days. The canals, the gondolas, the architecture, along with all the main attractions, make this city one of a kind.
 
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Our lovely Giulia from our Italian office went on a trip to Venice a few weeks ago and she delighted us with her stories and shots around the city. Venice is a must-visit region in Italy and one of the most travelled destinations in Europe. There are so many highlights to this beautiful city… Continue reading below to discover some of them through Giulia’s eyes!
 
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Have you ever heard about DFS Fondaco dei Tedeschi – Group? It is the world’s leading luxury travel retailer, that offers its customers a carefully curated selection of exceptional products from over 700 of the most desired brands through 885 boutiques from four continents. A unique duty free shopping experience you cannot miss!
 
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T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice has hosted a rich program of cultural events since its opening, such as exhibitions, concerts, literary and artist talks. However, its artistic and historic role is not the only thing that makes it special.

A visit to T Fondaco dei Tedeschi would not be complete without a visit to the Rooftop Terrace which features an overwhelming view of Venice. This magnificent place gives T Fondaco a picture-perfect finish to its astounding transformation as Venice's new cultural and commercial epicentre. 
 
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Right next to T Fondaco, just a couple of minutes walking, you can cross the majestic Rialto Bridge and reach the most unique market in the world, called Rialto Market. Displays of artistic piles of peaches and cherries, artichokes and red chicory from Treviso, fruit, vegetables, and fish are the main characters there. 

The Rialto Market, located at the north-west of the Rialto Bridge in the district of San Polo, alongside the Grand Canal, is a lively place where Venetians still buy their groceries, most of them zero food miles! However, in the last few years a lot of Venetians have moved outside the city centre so the market supplies are mainly restaurants now. 
 
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While walking into the maze of streets and canals, Giulia found out that what is known to the locals as ‘Ospedale Civile’ – the main hospital in Venice at present – is considered nowadays a proper attraction in the city! In the fifteenth-century, it was a monastery, and by looking at the elaborate facade you’d never know that inside its walls is a hospital. It rather seems like a luxury Palace or a hotel. Worth a quick visit from the outside!
 
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BOOK LOVERS ALERT! If you love reading and you are passionate about books, ‘Libreria dell’Acqua Alta’ is an unmissable spot. Situated in an uncrowded alley near Piazza San Marco and overlooking one of the many canals in the city, this unusual bookshop stands proudly since 2004 when ​​Luigi, the owner, a native of Vicenza but a Venetian by adoption, decided to create a microcosm from his experiences travelling around the world.
 
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Enclosed in this microcosm there are very unique books, unusual furnishings and friendly cats that wander around the store. To protect the many volumes from the water that gradually enters the shop, there are no shelves but only gondolas, canoes, boats and tubs to store the wonderful selection of books. There is not even a digital catalogue to find the desired book! 
 
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Don’t miss this place if you would like to get lost and experience an unusual side of books!
 
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Now let’s immerse ourselves into the traditional beauty of Venice, we find the ‘Palazzi Signorili’, mostly located along the Canal Grande with the main facade facing the canal. Back in the past, it was very important for wealthy families to own the best decorated facade to showcase how rich they were.
 
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However, there is a Palace which is not on the Grand Canal, but is hidden among some small streets, and the previous owners decided to show the importance of their family by building a spectacular outdoor staircase, the ‘Scala Contarini del Bovolo’, a real gem in the heart of Venice. 
 
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When telling us her experience in Venice, Giulia also mentioned about her wonder in finding one of Banksy’s works. Banksy, the anonymous British street artist, left his mark on the facade of a Venetian Palace, the ‘San Pantalon Church’ in the night between 8th and 9th of May 2019, then he posted a photo on his Instagram account a few days later thus recognising the paternity of the artwork, which depicts a child with a life jacket that signals his position by holding a fuchsia-coloured signal above his head with his right hand.

As usual, Banksy's graffiti connects the architectural elements and the context in which they are inserted: Banksy chose a wall overlooking the canal and then created the work above the waterline, thus separating with a body of water the figure of the migrant child from the viewer. Awesome! 
 
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Another landmark in Venice is the ‘Doge’s Palace’. It’s only by visiting the Palace that you truly understand the richness of the Venice Republic in the past and the unique system they were based on. 
 
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WHEN IN VENICE EAT AND DRINK LIKE A VENETIAN! It might be tiring to walk around the city all day, but… we have the best way to spend your afternoon!
 
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Drinking a refreshing Spritz might save your day! Alvise, our head guide in Venice, who met with Giulia during her trip, recommended her a great place in St Mark’s Square, the best spot to taste the refreshing Spritz along with ‘cicchetti’, the Venetian version of tapas! Have you ever tried? If not, Giulia highly recommends the meatballs or fish-balls, we quote her “just delicious!” keep that in mind for your next visit!
 
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Another spot Giulia recommends is the Fondamenta area in Cannaregio, known for its wine bars and small restaurants with tables outside along the canal, ideal for happy hours, local cuisine and a great spot to enjoy the sunset.

Oh! And don’t worry if you don’t find a free table, it’s very common among Venetian people to simply sit on the street next to the canal. Why miss the opportunity to do a picnic style in the city centre of Venice along the canal?
 
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Whether you are a frequent visitor or a first-timer, we would like to suggest some of the best experiences we offer in Venice.

If there is anything you are interested in, please do not hesitate to give us a call or quick email, we will contact our top private guide Alvise - as Giulia did – to arrange private, tailored tours you’ll never forget! 

See you in the next blog post!
 
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Get the best of Venice from the ground or the air! Choose between ‘The Best of Venice’, a full day tour which will allow you to discover the Venetian food, craft and history, or ‘Flying Over Venice’, a 30 minutes tour by helicopter admiring natural mosaic formed by the diverse landscapes, from Lido to the South Laguna, Bacino di San Marco, the north Laguna and Jesolo.

Curious to know more about the hidden gems of the city? Our half-day tours ‘The Hidden Jewels of Venice’ and ‘The Doge’s Palace’ are designed for the ones who would like to discover more about ‘Scala Contarini del Bovolo’, one of the wonderful Venetian Palaces hidden in the heart of Venice, and the Doge’s Palace, a great example of the Venetian Gothic architecture and a building that represents the seat of Venetian political power.

Oh! And don’t forget about another landmark, St Mark’s Basilica. Explore the stunning Basilica after hours in this amazing tour – ‘St. Mark’s Basilica’ – with your private guide. After that, you might want to stroll through the beautiful city of Venice when it is at its quietest in this fascinating 2.5 Hours experience ‘Private Evening Stroll and Gondola Ride’.

Tips & Tales: Reiki and Meditation with Sylvia



We are delighted to introduce you to our ‘Tips & Tales’ column! 

Our first guest to Tips & Tales is Sylvia, our Account Director USA from our France office. Sylvia is extremely passionate about Reiki and Meditation, and today she will talk about these ancient and peaceful techniques, by also giving us some insightful tips which we hope might be helpful to overcome this hard time that we have all endured, and help us find a new light in our life path.

The idea comes from the desire to share with you the stories of our beloved team members who, besides being excellent professionals and employees are wonderful human beings, full of great passion with many stories to tell and tips to dispense!

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Hi Sylvia, welcome to our ‘Tips & Tales’ column! We’re happy to have you here today, and we are very curious to hear about your passion. 

How would you describe Reiki and Meditation?


Thank you for having me! It’s an honour for me to share my passion here with you. Reiki is a traditional technique used for healing and enlightenment by using Ki, which is the Universal Energy. This Universal Energy exists in everything. It is the life energy inside the human body that gives us natural healing ability and the power to live with vigour.

The use of Reiki was developed as one the secret methods in ancient times. It had been handed down without being revealed to the public eye until being systematized and perfected by Usui Mikao in 1922. Since then Reiki has travelled from Japan through many countries. In Reiki, the effect does not differ from the believer to the non-believer, so we can apply it to anyone who wants to receive it and to animals and plants as well.
 
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Mindfulness means to be present. It means being ‘in the moment’, experiencing life directly as it unfolds. It's a way of stepping back and resting the mind in its natural state. But after a lifetime of being lost in thoughts, the right conditions are needed in order to learn how to step back in this way. That's where meditation comes in, simply as a technique which provides optimum conditions for practicing the skill of mindfulness.

When and why did you start practicing Reiki and Meditation?

Reiki & Meditation brings out joy into my everyday life. My journey to Reiki began in early 2019 when Julia Sidko, my dear colleague at ‘Queen of Clubs Paris’, introduced me to a Reiki Master in Paris. I took three Reiki sessions from the Reiki Master and from the first session I felt a stream of energy flowing through me. I knew deep down in my heart that I wanted to have this serene feeling every single day.
 
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I decided to learn Reiki and I received a First Degree in April 2019. Then I wanted to share this wellness technique to others as well, so I continued the training and I received a Second Degree Reiki in February 2020. As for meditation, I did it for the first time when I was living in Bali, back in 2011. I did it on and off for several years. Then I began to meditate more regularly in 2017 when I was pregnant. I saw a huge benefit not only for me, but also for my family. Today, I continue to practice and I include three short sessions in my daily schedule.
 
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What are your best meditation tips for beginners?

It’s pretty helpful to see meditation as a practice. It’s an experience which gives us nothing new than what we already have within us. However, it helps us to release all the things we no longer need, such as worry, fear, anger, guilt, shame, and so on, so that our inner Light can appear. Meditation is not a quick fix, so we cannot hope to do it once and expect miracles.
 
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At first, we can start with only a couple of minutes a day. We can sit down to meditate first thing in the morning. Alternatively, we can go to our meditation pillow in the evening before going to bed. We can even try it for one minute at the beginning, to establish a daily habit. As we continue, we no longer see meditation as a chore we have to do, instead as a gift we offer to ourselves to relax.

If you are inspired by Sylvia’s passion and you are now looking for unique experiences to reinvigorate your mind and body, take a look at some of the experiences below before you go! 
 
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When it comes to our mind and body we simply deserve the best, and the wellness of our clients is very important to us, so if you are planning to travel to Ibiza we have the right experiences for you! Ibiza is not only one of the best party scenes in the world…. there is definitely something else you can do! 

Why not indulge yourself in unique wellness activities ranging from kundalini yoga to massages and sound meditation? We have a vast amount of options for you to discover when on the island. If a more therapeutic wellness experience is what you seek, you can try our crystal therapy or water therapy experiences. Whatever you may decide on, relaxation will be a guarantee! Take a look at our Wellness section and treat your mind, body and soul to blissful peace and detoxification.

A big thank you to Sylvia for this reinvigorating chat, we hope you enjoyed our first ‘Tips & Tales’ column, wishing you a peaceful and safe day!

 

Did You Know? The Integrity of Naples Might Depend on an Egg!



It is said that Virgil, the Latin poet who wrote the Aeneid and who lived in Naples for a long period of time was also a magician. Apparently, he had placed an iron cage with an egg inside a carafe full of water in the basement, the cage hung on a beam in a secret room of Castel dell’Ovo.

Legend has it that if the egg were to break one day not only would the castle collapse, but it would have tragic repercussions for the whole city.

In reality the room has never been found despite the fact that the castle has been inspected several times. There was a period under the reign of Joan I in which the castle suffered a lot of damage, and the people believed that the egg had broken. So, to avoid alarmism the Queen was forced to declare that she had replaced the egg!
 
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Naples is rich in enchanting and mysterious tales, where reality and fantasy often merge. Why not immerse yourself completely in the culture and history of Naples by checking our experiences, ‘The Tales of Naples’ and ‘San Severo Chapel’. An expert storyteller will guide you through myths and legends about the foundation of Naples!

Our Planet



Over the years, our negligence has catapulted us into a new era of crisis which brought us to enter the so-called ‘decade of action’. We are now facing the most urgent call humankind has ever faced, climate change and, along with it, so many other issues caused by the threats our planet Earth has endured because of mankind. In this regard, we would like to share with you a book by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, ‘The Future We Choose’, we found very insightful and on-topic. 

‘for centuries […] conquerors of distant lands pillaged colonies for metals, minerals, and exotic foods, in many cases leaving little more than chaos, infectious diseases, and Bibles in exchange. As managers of fertile soils, we humans have proved remarkably effective at extracting trees and nutrients, leaving only depleted topsoil in our wake. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these instincts. They help us grow to meet rising challenges. But our growth, both personal and professional, is a two-way street: what we get and what we give. As a species, however, we have become used to a one-way transaction, that of getting, often losing sight of the void that our taking has created. […] Staring us in the face is a huge red sign that reads STOP: PRECIPICE AHEAD’.

This statement helps us think about how humans have always taken from nature without giving back or at least respecting it. Nature provides us with our oxygen, regulates our weather patterns, pollinates our crops, produces our food, our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, and most importantly, oxygen, the air that we breathe, are all provided and regulated by the sea. 

We really need to protect our ocean, all our wonderful animals, plants, species on Earth, and coexist harmoniously, not only because we need them, but because we occupy the same space since our planet originated, and we both have the same rights to be here.

We can all do something, both as individuals and businesses. Now, more than ever before, our goal is to adopt a sustainable way of living by taking very few precautions: donate what we don’t use, avoid wastefulness, recycle, respect and support local economies, help children to become aware during their growth, use affordable and clean energy. 

Together we will do our best to protect our planet, and we truly believe becoming closer to nature is our future to happiness, so from today onwards we’ll meet you weekly on our social media feed to share authentic pictures and videos of the beautiful nature from all of our destinations with the hope you’ll enjoy our point of view on what we believe is the greatest treasure of our life.

Road Trip to Cinque Terre



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If you are searching for the ultimate Italian road trip itinerary, then you are in the right place! 

We will be documenting all of the great wonders that Jennifer and her family visit whilst on their road trip. First stop Cinque Terre, so here we go!
 
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Famous all over the world, the Cinque Terre is a coastal area within Liguria in the northwest of Italy. This area is characterised by the presence of five ancient villages overlooking the sea: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, surrounded by Genovese-style pastel houses perfectly clustered together.

These little towns are well known in the world for their rare beauty, and they are considered one of the most attractive Italian tourist destinations thanks to their crystal clear waters, beaches, rugged coasts of unparalleled charm and a large network of paths. Sure enough, in 1997 they were included by Unesco in the World Heritage List.
 
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Jennifer and her family were staying at the ‘Grand Hotel Portovenere’, which is located in a very good position right on the outskirts of Cinque Terre.

Oh! And we must highlight this lounge bar and restaurant in Portovenere called ‘Torre di Venere’! As the name implies, it is a small old tower situated just before St Peter's Church. The stunning view of the sea, the exceptional food and the breeze coming in from the sea waters makes it not only a great place to have a magical meal, but also a must-see spot on the coast.
 
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They drove to the first village called Volastra and Jennifer just couldn’t resist stopping the driver and taking a short walk and taking snapshots of the splendid panorama!

They couldn’t wait to start hiking high up in the Cinque Terre with their private guide Boris, an excellent licensed tour guide and also certified hiking guide - available for tours also in Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and other adjacent areas.

They saw the most magical vistas of the villages and the sea while also being able to watch people at work in their personal vineyards, which are also amazing terraces to the sea. It was quite unique and personal as they were the only ones there. After their exhilarating walk of 20-30 minutes, they finally reached their driver who was waiting for them in Corniglia. 
 
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Corniglia is the only village in the Cinque Terre that is not directly on the sea, instead, it is located on a rocky outcrop that juts out into the sea. Largo Taragio is the main square, the centre of the town, and the marina can be reached through a steep staircase with several ramps.
 
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After Corniglia, they drove to Manarola where they walked around the town with their private guide, who explained the wonderful history. The must-see attractions of Manarola are mostly found by following the main street of the town. You can start from the top where the church of San Lorenzo was built in 1338, and which is known for its interesting Gothic style on the outside and its surprising Baroque style on the inside.

In the square, in addition to a magnificent panorama of the town and the sea, you will also find the bell tower that was built on the remains of a pre-existing lookout tower. Going down the street you will meet the building with the mill and its wheel, from which perhaps the toponym ‘Manarola’ derives - from ‘Magna Roea’, that is ‘Magna Rota’, which means ‘large water mill wheel’. Going further down you will meet several piazzas, and from there you arrive at the marina, the most scenic part of the village, and the most photographed part of the Cinque Terre.

With such a scenario they could not fail to end up on a private boat, visit caves, underwater rocks and jump into the crystal blue waters, taking in another stunning view point of Cinque Terre from the sea. 
 
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Then, they reached the coast of Vernazza, known for its steep and narrow alleys that go down to the main road via Roma, from where you can reach the lively piazza located in front of the small beach harbour where only super small boats can enter. Here there is also the romantic Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia, whose original Romanesque nucleus dates back to the XII century. 

After their private guide, Boris took them through the internal carruggi, uphill, where you can reach the Doria Castle, the ancient ‘Castrum Vernatio’, built as the maritime base of the Obertenghi, lords of Vernazza. The symbol of the castle and the town is the tower that stands out at about 70 meters above the sea at the end of the town. While sitting on the piazza and having lunch or dinner you can observe the stunning scenery, filled with boats and tourists, and this is exactly what Jennifer and her family enjoyed before leaving this gorgeous village and heading back to Portovenere by ferry.
 
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To sum it all up: they did a little bit of everything… driving, hiking, swimming, boat trips and history. They saw beautiful seaside villages and towns, and enjoyed breathtaking vistas from high to low, from the sea to the land. It seems the Cinque Terre has it all. It is the perfect place to spend a holiday immersed in nature and kissed by the sun!

Wandering what will be Jennifer’s next stop on the road? We don't want to spoil the surprise, but here’s a little clue: France! 
 
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If you enjoyed reading about the first part of Jennifer’s road trip and you would like to visit these wonderful places, we can definitely recommend the experiences Jennifer did and help you plan your trip in detail.

Here are some of the experiences mentioned above: Hiking & Trekking in the Italian Riviera, and Luxury Cruise in the Cinque Terre/Portofino/Golfo dei Poeti.
 

Did You Know? Brunelleschi's Dome is the World's Biggest Dome and Made Entirely Out of Bricks!



Yes sir! Brunelleschi’s Dome is the world's biggest masonry dome to date and Brunelleschi - the founding father of Renaissance architecture - managed to design the construction of the dome without the use of any support structure more than 500 years ago!

It was obviously a great challenge, and the risks that a dome weighing tens of thousands of tons would slope inwards were very high. In addition, the dome had to be built on the octagonal floor plan dictated by the existing walls. A real undertaking!

So in 1418 the Florentine fathers announced a contest for the ideal dome design, with a prize of 200 gold florins for the winner. Many leading architects presented their ideas, one of them proposed to support the dome with a huge pillar in the center of the church; another architect suggested building it out of sponge-stone. There was also an architect who said he wanted to use a mountain of soil and coins as scaffolding.

The proposals were many and some of them very interesting, but eventually the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was designed and built by Filippo Brunelleschi. He actually promised to build two domes, one inside the other. Although he was described as a buffoon for his absurd statement, everyone knew he was a genius, so in 1420 he became the superintendent of the project.

Brunelleschi wanted to highlight the symbolic importance of the building and he definitely succeeded! The dome has been overlooking the entire city of Florence for centuries and it was built almost 55m above the ground, on top of the existing walls. It has an outer diameter of 54.8 metres and an inner one of 45.5 metres. It took 16 years for the dome to be completed.

Begun in 1420 and completed in 1436, Filippo Brunelleschi’s Dome, is part of the marvelous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a UNESCO World Heritage Sites, along with the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, which are part of the cathedral complex in Piazza del Duomo.

Florence is celebrating the 600th anniversary since the construction work began on Brunelleschi’s Dome, and we are proud and glad to be able to offer you unique experiences which you will never forget! Whether you want to visit the inside of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore after its closure to the public - After Hour Visit of the Florence Cathedral - or observe the majestic Dome from the sky standing in a wicker basket thousands of feet up in the air - Tuscany From the Sky - we can make it possible for you!

Another Day, Another Valley - #TravelBecause



Whether they were explorers, pilgrims, merchants, errant knights, colonisers, captives, castaways, ambassadors, pirates, or scientists, travellers filled most of history from medieval to modern times.

In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries the history of travelling in Europe was characterised by a new paradigm for travelling, called the ‘Grand Tour’, usually described as the traditional trip undertaken for pleasure by the social élite.

It began as a French expression, ‘le grand tour’, but it was appropriated by Britons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries who had enough money to travel. It was a social ritual aimed to prepare these young men for leadership.

The Grand Tour had a common itinerary: crossing the Channel, going through the Loire Valley, Paris, and then Geneva; after that, the tourists would cross the Alps and proceed through Turin, Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome, and Naples. The average duration was around two years. On their way back the tourists’ journey would include Austria, Germany, and Holland. However, Italy and France were the most popular destinations.

Throughout the centuries, travelling has taken on different shapes, starting in the form of educational experience for aristocratic students, then it evolved into something different. Travelling, as we know it nowadays, embraces a new way of being in the world. The modern travellers want to broaden their horizons, while also enjoying the leisure aspects of it. This is the case of our lovely team member Giulia, who has recently been to Courmayeur in Italy hiking among the stunning Alpine villages, such as Valgrisenche, Val Veny, Val Ferret and many others.

Unfortunately, Covid19 has harshly hit our lives and the travel industry sector, but at the same time it has pushed us to reconsider the place where we live. Therefore, even though for the most it’s very difficult to travel due to the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel, we can still travel within our country - as Giulia did - and enjoy the beauty it offers.

We have to join together, in this collective effort, so that once these hard times are over we’ll be able to travel freely once again, and we’ll be stronger than ever and waiting for you, ready to be at your disposal with our love, passion and experience.

#TravelBecause authentic travel experiences can open your mind to life’s endless possibilities.

#TravelBecause the more you see of the world, the more you’ll realise how it works.

#TravelBecause it increases happiness.

#TravelBecause you’ll discover as much about yourself as you do about the world.

#TravelBecause travel is what makes us feel part of the same world.
 

DUCO Parla! Tuscan Treasures




If you didn’t know, DUCO is an invitation-only event featuring top producers, travel advisors, and outstanding hoteliers and suppliers from all over Italy, held annually in Florence. Due to the current situation, Duco Travel Summit has been postponed to March 2021.

The passion for cultural exploration of this amazing organisation didn’t stop them from spreading their message through a series of webinars called DUCO Parla! A far-sighted Dante Alighieri once said: ‘beauty awakens the soul to act’. This is precisely what drives DUCO’s organisational machine and this is what drives us, Queen of Clubs.

On Thursday May 28th DUCO Parla! invited us to talk about Tuscan treasures and our Chief Business Development Officer Jennifer Virgilio, panelist presenter of the webinar explored the historical and cultural traditions of a wonderful region, Tuscany, along with Chef Simonetta, Wine Master Gabriele Gorelli, the Gruppo Storico of Lucignano and some of the most marvelous Tuscan hotels, villas and resorts:

Borgo Pignano, Flavia Brutti-Righetti
Castello Banfi - Il Borgo, Maddalena Vedele
Fontelunga Hotel & Villas, Paolo Kastelec & Philip Robinson
Fonteverde, Antonello Del Regno
Grand Hotel Continental Siena, Nathalie Beaugonin
Hotel Byron, Salvatore Madonna
Il Borro, Salvatore Ferragamo
Locanda Rossa, Barbara Valleggi
Principe Forte dei Marmi, Cristina Vascellari
Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa & Golf Resort, Barbara Scorza
Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, Dario Iaquinto

The journey through the cultural, historical, and culinary heritage of Tuscany has been exciting and inspiring. Our special guests Frances Mayes, author of bestselling novel and movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and Ondine Cohane, author, journalist, contributing editor at Conde Nast Traveler US and UK, and frequent travel writer for the NY Times Travel section, just released a new book titled 'Always Italy' written by both together with National Geographic. Throughout the webinar they delighted us with their experience and knowledge of this beautiful land, Tuscany:

'Living there for so long has changed my life in so many ways that it’s so hard to even think what my life would have been like otherwise.
When you live in Tuscany you live in beauty.
What a privilege it is to live in that exhilarating landscape of terraced olive grounds and cypress lanes.
You spend time there and you have this, they become part of you, and I think living in beauty changes you drastically.
It’s such a surprising country.
I said country because it’s like a country itself, it is so various and so diverse.
And I guess the biggest change for me, personally, is that I feel that Italy has given me and particularly Tuscany all these books I’ve written.
So, I’ve found so much to write there and I feel like if I had ten more lifetimes I would not get to the bottom of everything I would love to say about Tuscany'.
- Frances Mayes


'You can do so many things here, you can wake up and it’s a sunny day,and be an hour from Pienza, on the sea coast, having a delicious pasta alle vongole, swimming in the sea.
If it’s a Sunday you can go to Arezzo and visit one of the most beautiful antique markets in the world.
In forty five minutes from here I can go and have the best Brunello or Vino Nobile.
I could get lost in the poppies and the wild flowers, just that, every day’.
- Ondine Cohane

Tuscany is about wellness and traditions, so you can relax in the pools of thermal waters overlooking stunning views, while also tasting some of the best wines in the world. Tuscany is about extraordinary landscapes, such as long pristine beaches and the majestic Alps just next to them, and wide green hills overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Tuscany is a second home, a place where you will always want to go back after the first time, its authenticity and beauty is what awakes our souls and drives our company to provide the finest travel solutions and choose the best experiences for our clients.

Our biggest thank you goes to Duco Italy for inviting us, to our Italian team for their ideas and collaboration, to our Chief Business Development Officer Jennifer Virgilio, panelist presenter of the webinar, to Frances and Ondine, Chef Simonetta, Wine Master Gabriele Gorelli, the Gruppo Storico of Lucignano, and to all the guests who explored the historical, cultural and culinary traditions of this wonderful region, Tuscany.

Did You Know? Ciao!



What’s the origin of the four-letter-word imported from Italy, that has become now a universal greeting?

Its origin goes back to the Venetian dialect and in particular to the phrase sciao vostro, which means ‘I am your slave’. Over time, the expression was abbreviated to simply sciao while still keeping the same meaning. Even though its origin goes back to the Venetians dialect, its fortune comes from Romans who by conquering almost the whole of Europe contributed to the spread of Roman language first and then Latin, which was later influenced by the local populations and so by their dialects. Today, it would be incorrect to say hello by using the word ‘slave’, but in the past the word was used to express deep respect. Throughout history, Italians instinctively recognised that ‘ciao’ isn’t a greeting to be used with anyone, but it is an informal way especially used among young generations.

Ciao for now!

The Most Dangerous Thing About Coronavirus is the Hysteria



Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This message comes intentionally relatively late as we did not want to add more misleading information into your already congested inbox after this hysterical week.

After all the recent events in Italy, Europe is in fightback mode, trying a concerted approach to lessen the coronavirus panic.

I am sure that worlds' governments will act the same as this is to be considered a global issue and would be a mistake to think that this problem can be circumscribed to certain countries.

We are worried that an "epidemic of misleading information" would damage "more than the virus itself", which has in fact infected so far 0.1% of certain towns in Italy and even the local governments admitted that a normal life should continue as it has been.

"It's time to stop the panic", said the Prime Minister in Italy, asking the national broadcaster Rai to "tone down".

Everybody appeals for calm. Milan and the North of Italy are re-opening museums, bars and public attractions reducing security measures which were put in place just at the beginning to take the necessary time to better understand the facts of the situation at hand.

But this is a story driven by perceptions, and if it's true that "The most dangerous thing about coronavirus is today hysteria", I truly believe we should all take the time to think carefully before reacting in an emotional and fear based way.

While it is human nature to worry, we are confident that your clients understand how to discern a real threat from a perceived one, therefore, if the idea is to cancel their trip and their travel dates are more than two weeks away, we recommend to wait another week or so before making any final decision.

Please contact us to discuss alternative options as we are here as your partner to insure that clients ultimately experience a memorable vacation while not putting their health and safety at risk.

Reminding you that Queen of Clubs hotline is open 24/7 every day and Jennifer and I are always at your complete disposal,

I wish you a peaceful Friday,

Filippo

Hot Exhibitions



Discover the finest collections of 2020 in Italy such as Raphael at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome starting 5th March, showcasing and celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of this High Renaissance Master. Or, for shows in Milan, the Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Great Game at Palazzo Grassi; an exhibition on the ‘Master Collection’.

But what’s Milan without Armani? See the permanent, retrospective exhibit at Armani Silos, curated by Giorgio Armani himself, of bags, jewels and shoes. And with the re-opening of Armani Silos on the 22nd February, stroll through the past and present of the new and amazing Heimat: A Sense of Belonging.

We have so many more wonderful exhibits, keep an eye on our Ticket page!

 

Only the Best for the Euro 2020



It’s that time to indulge in a month of fantastic football. 12 cities. 12 countries. From the finest in hospitality and accommodation to private jets, transfers, and fantastic experiences, we have amazing packages for you!

Premium Locations
Get into the game with luxurious service available in Rome, London, Glasgow, Dublin and now also in Amsterdam! Enjoy sublime cuisine and fine dining. See the matches from the best vantage points. Experience the most superb hospitality luxuries available and pamper yourself with the most delicious tastes of Europe as you’re immersed in the action and spectacle.

Exciting Packages
With packages including the finest seats available for the best views, access to private suites before and after matches, dedicated service, high-end cuisine, and a vast array of beverages as well as additional entertainments, food stations, commemorative gifts and more, there’s definitely something for everyone!

Around the Globe
We also offer incredible packages at the additional destinations of the remaining matches. Enjoy the game at the best venues in these cities offering perfect views of the matches, committed service and relaxing luxuries for the ultimate in sophisticated enjoyment.

Service meets Luxury
Queen of Clubs can help you with every aspect of your trip. We offer private jets, meet and greet services and superior cars as well as amazing experiences, tours and luxurious accommodation. All of our services are available on request so please do get in touch with us to find out more.

For additional information on what we can offer, please request our newly published Euro 2020 Brochure, just email sports@Qofclubs.com

Truly Jet-Setting



Air travel is a truly luxury experience and flying privately really is the only way to fly! 

Travelling ‘door-to-door’ is just what the doctor ordered – relaxing, less stress, more efficiency. It’s a much happier and luxurious experience all around! 

In a schedule that revolves completely around you, get from A to B conveniently no matter where A and B are! Bordeaux to the South of France? No problem. Travel between Madrid or Barcelona to Ibiza, St Tropez and Ibiza, Paris, London, Rome, Florence, or Naples with no connections and no lengthy waits. 

Single, return and multiple leg journeys can be tailored to you and your needs. If you are a group of 4 or more, it may even be more cost effective to travel for business or leisure via private jet. Specific scheduling or flight routing for attending business meetings has never been easier. 

By-pass security. Fly from private terminals in bespoke aircrafts. Travel with no connections through smaller airports. Meet your pilot, and unwind during your flight, feeling refreshed at the other end - this is what private jet travel is all about!

Queen of Clubs is an official licensed private jet broker and an expert in private jet travel within Europe. We can source the best plane for your trip of complete luxury! 

An Italian Natale



A traditional Italian Christmas is like no other. With its interesting customs like giving lentils for good luck and the playing of Panforte Christmas games, it’s a delightful country to spend the holidays in.

Take a tour of the festive and utterly charming Bolzano Christmas market. Try the Ricciarelli, the sublime Italian coffee, Christmas cookies, panforte and mulled wine on a food tour and taste some of the best of Italian cuisines.

Celebrate the season as the Italians do; with some skiing and sampling of delicious delicacies in the traditional mountain huts of Alta Badia in the scenic Dolomites. Sample fine wines, visiting some of the finest vineyards and villas Italy has to offer and find the true essence of Italian living.

For foodies and adrenaline junkies alike, the winter sports, Michelin-starred chefs and exclusive events make this UNESCO World Heritage site a wonderful and exciting place to visit.

Or, immerse yourself in a fantastic land of Nativity in Naples. Enter this world of unique miniature creations as you explore the city in a different and exciting way, finding the birthplace of the Neapolitan Nativity in the pedestrianised San Gregorio Armeno Street.

Spend some time in the amazing city of Venice. Listen to the bells ringing out all Christmas Day from the tower in St Mark’s Square as you indulge in a hot chocolate. Take an afternoon shopping trip through one of its famous Christmas Markets. There really is something for everyone in Italy, especially at this time of year.

10 Years



Over the past ten years, it’s been a wonderful journey, making great friendships, forming lasting partnerships and creating a lifestyle of wanderlust and luxurious experiences.

We thank you all deeply for keeping our wonderful dream alive and helping to keep Queen of Clubs at the forefront of the industry.

Our biggest thanks goes to our team at Queen of Clubs who, each and every day, strive to make the company everything it can be.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Filippo & Jennifer

Celebrating 10 years of limitless luxury.

Excited to Be Live!



We are just over the moon to present our new and exciting website! The idea was to create an exclusive platform for ease and dependability with everything at your fingertips - just for you.

Password protected, navigating through our weird and wonderful experiences and luxury services is quick, easy and stress-free! Explore our vast range of tickets that we can acquire for concerts, sports, ballet, opera, cabaret, and other events - even if they’re sold out!

The elements of our QofC Lifestyle section have been carefully selected, listing our suggested hotels and restaurants. Enquire about nightlife - including a star selection of Beach Clubs and the best of Ibizan bars and clubs.

All of this can be enjoyed whilst listening to the beats of Filippo Torriani’s playlists on our Music page, complementing the vibe of your week, and don’t forget to keep an eye on this page – Stories – to stay caught-up on the latest news of our four destinations: UK, France, Italy and Ibiza.

Get started

You’ll be asked to fill in a quick, one-time form to create a password for our exclusive experiences. This will be sent via email and that’s literally it; you’ll be able to view our full range!

We hope you love our new website as much as we do. 

Enjoy browsing! With love