Firstly let me say this: I’m a very well educated, travelled, sophisticated, and reasonably successful “independent’ thinking man. It had been my dream not to take some blasted ‘package’ but to go to Italy…something I had wanted to do since my college years when I minored in Italian at Columbia University….(but ran out of money like most who give up everything to attend the university of their dreams.)
Trying to do this on the internet i lucked into Zicasso who referred me to Cutural Italy and lucked in again when I began working with Laura Postolis. You see…it meant so much to me to be working with a knowledgable Italian who knew my tastes were more ‘Italian’ and wanted to experience that which was authentic and of high and human culture.
Laura is quite simply the best travel professional…in my world!! She knows the Piedmont and part of my concentration was the mushrooming of the area, truffles. Yes I wanted something unique and extraordinary and in each case, there were three hunts, all were quite good. Furthermore…without behaving like a instructor she vastly helped me with my Italian…a dream..speaking Italian after having minored in it at university….within this dream. Laura is sensitive, knowledgable, authentic, and unbelievably conscious of my doings often conveying really crucial info through my email and messenger. It was NO SMALL PART attributable to Laura that this 30 year dream of mine came to such superb execution.
Let me say a bit about each stage of the trip…hotels…etc.
Florence and Colleoli
Both times I stayed at some really charming boutique hotels…the former being a fav of poet TS Elliot who came from St Louis…well we went to the same prep schools….but the Helvetia and Bristol was old world aristocratic and superb experience. Although I lived in NYC and SF, Firenze is far more animated and tumultuous…. I’m so glad I opted for GPS…really shouldn’t allow someone to get in a car over there without it…took me right out to Colleoli. The Agriturisimo there…beautiful and isolated…was really set up for ‘wedding parties’ and such…so i went to the next town over Paoli for breakfast and see the real deal at the ‘Bar’ that also is the breakfast coffee place for the town.
The hunt and dinner with Savinni was SO world class: they had a beautiful show with every type of sauce, apron, and gizmo under the sun….they let me go back into the kitchen to see the prep and the chef was most cordial…then they have an elegant dining area…and i had the most mind blowing 5 course truffle meal…well I had to take some home as I simply could eat it all. The guide was superb…Giotto…a super truffle dog…we found 4 lickety split…when I got back to the lodge…I had to sleep…just not accustomed to these 2-3 hr cents!!
Is the most romantic and exotic city I ever visited…staying at a 500 year old Palasso del Contorini di Ferro del Porto…was genius…its out of the way…all the rooms are monstrous… the people are so cordial…great courtyards….a total riot. My tickets were right up front…the opera house Felice is the most beautiful imagined…one thing…you need a personal GPS in Venice…i have never been lost so many times in my life so yes my new iPhone 6 google map was ESSENTIAL. Trains were great…and got a superb sports car Lexus hybrid to race up to Lago Como in…
it took 4 hrs to find Le Feniche b n b because the GPS is inaccurate and the host really didn’t go out of his way to put me right. The b n b was beautifully situated…its ideal to stay up on the hill as its quieter and more beautiful…the people…well there wasn’t any privacy…I was put in a room that was ALL PINK! and there were some noisy other people….I couldn’t lay down without the proprietor interrupting me for some item…one day a television man visit of one hour…i don’t watch television…the food and digs were most clean…but there were more ‘donts’ than dos…his only suggestion was to take a bus! to a pizza joint!!! so i cut out and went to Bellagio a great decision…I love that area and look forward to going back…but with more privacy and greater insight as to what is really fun to do there than just shop till i drop.
What a superbly run Hotel Callisandro it is!!! they helped me with my wash (no one else had!!! save the place in Colleoli…a bit)….everything was run like a 5 star…..the transfer people were EXTRAORDINARY…sorry I can’t remember her name…but she took me to the HEAD TRUFALAU Piercarlo and his super dog Rocky for a smashingly beautiful day of truffling in the hills of Barberesco…across from Borrollo….a winos paradise. Turns out her family had a restaurant…really great one..and her husband was the chef…he took some fresh porcini I had purchased in Alba and turned the meal into a work of art experience even allowing me to see him prepare the sauce…that I have on video!! as a cook myself…its such an honor to be allowed into a professional kitchen..following my ******GUIDE EXTRAORDINAIRE*** a University of Torino art history grad…took me to a Romanesque church…******this was the highpoint of my ‘cultural Italy ‘ stay….she was professional…charming….extremely knowledgeable and could explain Charlemaignes influence in the area even down to what it means in current life….****this is what i had most wanted*** an insiders authentic full day experience of high and human culture. ***if I knew this persons name i would write her a separate recommendation as she was extraordinary..it was always this focus of art and civilization that I most enjoyed at Columbia and the reason it was chosen. Who could imagine…an isolated old Romanesque church in Piedmonte would answer my prayers?
Very charming set up…though not to busy…most isolated but beautiful…again…chef very wonderful and prepared me a full truffle meal…it was a family place..the room itself was probably ordinary but the setting and all in all was still very high mark….****I left my beloved Corneliani linen travel jacket there…and Laura retrieved it and its being sent to me….can you ask for better service? It’s new to me!
Milan and I Vigli
Mason Borella…if you can find it…is a wonderful experience…the staff was a little stiff/big city…but it was so charming…everyone so first rate…restaurant courtyard room setting…best experience in weekdays as that area is a madhouse on weekends….La Scala…well tickets were not so great..up in a balcony next to stage over the pit…rather hard to see the stage…but it was pretty wonderful…I really liked Milan and it was more like the city that I can relate too…as to the overwhlemingingness of Venice and Florence. The transfer very professional…I didn’t realize had to really get out of there as airport so far…so I ran quite a bit in that airport not getting my taxes refunded…think I can mail them in anyhow..Milan airport is the nicest one I believe I every saw in my life!!!
***it should be noted that preceding this I had spent a week biking the ‘hills’ of the Val dal Orcia…a real workout but got me properly ‘Tuscanized”….I was amazed how little spicing/seasoning is used in Italian cooking compared to what we do here in the USA…live and learn!
Hope this helps…Want you people to always be part of any trip i every take there…I want Laura’s cards to refer her within my sphere…..I want to thank you for doing such an exceptional job here…it was so better than expected…gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!
E and L:
Was hoping you would come up with a reason to contact me…and you did! That sums it up….you’re smart and high end…ahead of the game. I know Im an American but there are so many (millions) of dumb jackasses here who do not know their businesses…..and for this reason
I so much loved dealing with you all…you sharp minded Torinese from San Diego to Asti and Sarah……
Had just run out of my fav EVOO Monini Fruttato….and nice to receive an award winning olive oil; my personal preference is one that tastes green like the olives….this Ravida does but also lots of pepper….perhaps its the 3 main notes clearly determinate is why it was an award winner.
You all know…beauty comes from within….its the only kind worth holding onto ….ELENA….thankx for putting together such fine group……i know the difference….it was so much fun
And no one in their right mind…would ever want it to stop….
St. Louis, Mo