Passion for Italy Travel is a travel agency for Italy only. We have knowledge and experience in travelling and living in Italy, gained over many years, in Italian Culture and hospitality. We personally visit all our Properties so we know where you will be staying. We also book quality group tour packages with our trusted tour operators who know their area well.
Several years ago, my husband and I went to this place and fell in love with it (and its wines!).
Every client has come back just as in love with it as we are, so I was excited to visit again this year.
Wandering the beautiful grounds felt like coming home. Before we knew it, someone pulled us aside because he recognized us. It was Lillo, our wine guide from 3 years prior!
We recognized him immediately.
Sitting down at the table, we were all laughing within seconds. Those of us who knew each other, and those we’d just met, all bonding over Tuscan flavors and joyful smiles.
If you’ve never tried the Tuscan Ribollita soup, you are is missing something rather special!
We sipped the soup and compared the flavors of Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva as Lillo told us the story of the black rooster on the label.
Nothing in Italy is complete without legend, and no surprise here, the black rooster has to do with the legend of the Chianti region.
As the story goes, Florence and Siena were to race towards each other on horseback beginning at the crow of the rooster. Where they met would determine the region’s boarders.
Siena chose a white rooster, Florence chose black. I’ll let Lillo elaborate, but anyone care to guess who won the race?
Both Chianti varieties are fantastic, but they’re only among the 13 products introduced here! Get to know them all, straight from the family who has made these wines for 15 generations.
As you laugh, and sip, and soak in the flavors, you gain such appreciation for the traditions here.
Teaching with the infectious Italian sense of humor, Lillo manages to make guests from all over the world feel like old family friends. Never has learning been such fun!
Pasta drizzled with truffle olive oil, gelato topped with aged balsamic, and wines ranging from the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano to Chianti, Super Tuscan and Brunello, you are in for quite the experience!
It’s not, “Here is the next wine, a Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and XYZ”. Here you learn about the grapes, but also the family member who the wines are named after, some dating back to 1720.
You learn not only about food pairing, and the correct way to hold your glass, but the right moment, mood and occasion each wine merits.
My favorite was, “The best way to enjoy this wine is lying under the stars, listening to the ocean with the one you love…open the bottle… alleluia!”
One touching story, one subtle and hilarious innuendo at a time, you get a taste of not only Italy, but Italians.
Big personalities, warm hearts, moments of smiles and laughter that no time could erase.
Saying goodbyes, the sweetness of Vin Beato and biscotti lingers on your lips, and the warmth of wine and laughter fills your heart.
My husband’s hand in mine as we pulled away said everything our words could not. We’re at home here. We always will be. And you will be too if you go just once.
Discovering Brunello wines with your own Sommelier may just be best decision you make on your trip to Italy!
Staying in exquisite Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany means waking up to fresh air and the lingering scent of bread in the oven. Delicious aromas wafting up and views for miles just beg for a glass of wine… or few!
We have the perfect way to experience some of the best wines in the world and absorb all the flavors and joys of Tuscany.
In the Val d’Orcia, we find the pretty town of Montalcino, world renowned for its Brunello wine.
While anyone can enjoy the flavor, with the right guidance you are able to gain a depth of understanding of the wines and land that produces them.
Anna; driver, guide, sommelier. A day spent with her encompasses everything we love about Italy: beautiful scenery, history, art, incredibly fun personalities, great food, and oh, the wine!
Every client I have sent to her has come home telling me that was their favorite day of the trip, so I was excited to meet her in person and experience it.
I had the highest of expectations, and she exceeded all of them.
Within maybe fifteen minutes of our drive to Montalcino I laughed until my cheeks hurt. Exchanging stories of blunders in each other’s language, we bonded immediately!
Anna had learned the hard way the difference in “warm” and “hot” when describing a person, and among my many corrections through the years was my constant, “wow!” Finally, a guide told me, “You speak Italian in Italy! No “wow”, it’s “Mamma Mia!” And so, our day began.
Through our laughter, Anna paused to tell us where to see the best works by Luca Signorelli nearby.
I expected a wine tour, I did not expect such a comprehensive tour of the area, culture, history, and land the whole world has fallen in love with.
Anna’s knowledge is incredible. She must have studied intensely for many years, but her personality is such fun that she gives you the impression she just woke up one day with all this knowledge and a passion for sharing it.
Her Brunello tour is special.
Through a visit to three wineries, she educates you on how the soil on different sides of the hill affects the flavors. At our first stop, we paused at the vines, and she pointed out the grapes, Sangiovese Grosso.
It’s often thought that “grosso”, which means “fat” in Italian, alludes to the size of the grape, but she told us that actually, it has to do with the skin of the grape, not the size.
She introduced us to the winery guides who each showed us around their vineyards, barrels, and processes. Then, she met us in the tasting rooms.
Of course, since she’s driving, she isn’t drinking the wines with us except for a small sip to point out the tasting notes. This is where having a sommelier as your guide comes in handy.
Anna walks us through each of these wines, along with the staff at each winery and point out differences, food pairings, tasting notes, even the feel of the wine on your tongue.
The amount you learn about wines is incredible, but this tour is more than that.
During lunch she tells us to notice the bread, made without salt. Much of what we have come to adore in our Tuscan cuisine was born out of poverty.
Salt was once very expensive, think of the word “salary”, and the phrase, “worth your salt”.
So, here we are in one of the most revered wineries in the world, enjoying delicious food, paired with Brunello Riserva, 2012, (Mamma Mia!) and learning about Tuscan traditions, centuries old.
Even with all the wine, the day is unforgettable!
After three wineries, Anna took us for a visit to Montalcino. Picking up a Val d’Orcia calendar, she knew where every single picture had been taken should we want to see the views in person.
We learned about Montalcino’s history of being caught between the power struggles of Florence and Siena. And of course, Anna knew every pretty little alleyway that led to expansive Tuscan views.
Driving us home, she told me about why she started doing this. She wanted to be a different kind of guide; to share the culture and flavors of the area in a fun way and really have a chance to connect with her guests.
I certainly believe she has achieved and surpassed her goals. This tour was beyond imagination. If you love wine, and want to gain a full appreciation of Tuscany, this is the tour for you.
Contact us to arrange your tour and accommodations in the gorgeous Val d’Orcia!
The Vatican City is without question a highlight of Rome. For Catholics and non, it is a mesmerizing maze of art, architecture, and the Catholic Faith.
Here, a guide is essential, but there are so many, and all tours are not created equal.
At PFI Travel, we recommend an Early Morning VIP Tour so that you gain access to the Vatican museums and Sistine Capel before they open to the public.
Over decades of educational tours in Italy, I’ve done several Vatican tours. Most have left me a bit bewildered, slightly disappointed, and overwhelmed. Until this one.
This tour is beyond comparison.
Many guides have a memorized speech and groups so large that there is no room for questioning and creativity. Our tours are never over 12 people, so you get a very personal experience.
Our guide, Cecilia, was hands down the best guide I’ve ever had at the Vatican, and one of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world.
She greeted us warmly, got to know each of us as we were waiting to get inside. Then, she used the time we were waiting on the early admission to begin to tell us stories and show us the highlights of what we would see inside.
There are some realities about the Vatican that no guide can avoid, such as the policy of silence within the Sistine Chapel. No speaking is allowed, and if you’re there in high season it is crowded.
Guides like Cecilia prepare for this by telling you the fascinating history and a few secrets as you wait outside.
She had a book with pages focusing on details of the art, and as we went along, she would show us a picture, tell a story, and gently begin to connect the dots for us.
There are three sculptures from antiquity that Michelangelo adored. We admired them as he once did, and Cecilia pointed out in the book, where we should look for these figures to be depicted in the Sistine Chapel.
It soon became clear to me that Cecilia was not just great guide, but a great art historian with passion and depth of knowledge for everything we were seeing.
Art becomes so much more interesting when you learn about not only the techniques, but also the inspiration, the conflict, and who these artists were.
Coming into the Sistine Chapel, we now knew that Michelangelo, not unlike Dante, had placed some of his critics in hell in his Last Judgement. We could pick out the sculptures in the painted figures.
If you don’t leave the Sistine Chapel with a sore neck, you were rushed. We were not rushed. We were completely blown away.
Amazing as his talent was, other incredible artists were present around the same time. A contemporary of Michelangelo was the almost as famous Raphael, who was painting special rooms in another part of the Vatican.
The Raphael rooms are gorgeous, and the highlight is his “School of Athens”.
Cecilia pointed out interesting aspects including a figure inspired by the artist’s visit to the Sistine chapel to learn from Michelangelo. You can witness his growth as an artist just looking at the knees of this man.
Other Renaissance artists are represented in the painting as thinkers of antiquity, we learn how to recognize each, as well as Raphael’s self-portrait.
Of course, no Vatican tour would be complete without learning about the Popes who created and commissioned the amazing things we’re seeing.
How conclave works, today’s unique situation with two popes living at the same time, the residence of Pope Benedict today, and how Pope Francis declined to live in the more decadent apartments in favor of simplicity; all incredible things we learn and see on this tour.
Among the most famous and important of the Popes, was Pope Urban VIII, thanks to his patronage of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Throughout the tour, Cecilia pointed out the image of bees on various sculptures and reliefs, and explained that he was Bernini’s greatest patron. You see this image all over Rome in Bernini’s sculptures.
So, why the bees?
Because Pope Urban VIII was a member of the Barberini family, and the bee was the family symbol. Since he employed Bernini, the bee is a sure sign that a sculpture with bees represented was a work of Bernini commissioned by that Pope.
We see this in one of its most magnificent examples in Bernini’s baldachin above the tomb of St. Peter, under the center of the dome.
Also, in St. Peter’s is Michelangelo’s expressive and beautiful Pieta`.
Cecilia pointed out the mosaics so impressive they seem painted, a wedding going on in a side chapel, and the size of the letters above, 6 feet tall.
Before concluding the tour, she is sure to point out the way down to see the tomb of St. Peter, the way up to climb the dome, the Swiss Guard wearing uniforms designed by Michelangelo, and gift shop where you can have your religious souvenir blessed by the Pope.
During our time together, she called us, “family” and, like family, we laughed and cried, and walked with mouths gaping open as she introduced us to these treasures and stories of the Vatican.
With an incredible guide like Cecilia, your time in the Vatican is sure to be an unforgettable journey.
We all need a bit of Encouragement sometimes… I found this beautiful poem in the gift shop of the paper museum in Amalfi, and fell in love with it immediately. Anyone who has faced and overcome challenges can relate to this, so I wanted to translate it and share.
To me this line is just spectacular, “Love it every time you’re born”.
Anyone who has been to Italy will probably recognize this sensation, when you experience such beauty that something new inside you is born.
No doubt many Americans’ dreams of Positano were born, like mine, in the movie theater watching Under the Tuscan Sun.
Remember the scene where Frances walks out onto the balcony of Marcello’s house holding the little kitten, and looks out over the gorgeous views of Positano?
Well, you can stay there, in that very room. In fact, it is one of our favorite hotels in the Amalfi Coast.
The hotel is special not only to those of us who love the movie, but more importantly, because of the wonderful family who owns it, and the breathtaking views from each room.
Many hotels charge more for a sea view, but not here. Each room offers a splendid sea view, so rest assured if you stay here, yours will be special.
Opening the door and stepping out onto the balcony has got to be one of the greatest pleasures in the world. There it is! The sea, the town you’ve always dreamt of, and music in the voices and restaurants down below.
Majolica tiles give the entire town a hand painted appeal, and the same colorful cheeriness is present in each room.
We had just stepped out onto our balcony when there was a knock on the door and a friendly face smiling with two glasses of prosecco.
What joy, to sip wine that sparkles like the sunlight on the sea below from your very own balcony.
The entire feel here is happiness, bright sunshine, and lemon scented splendor.
At check in the staff invites you to make a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant, which we highly recommend!
Lemon risotto is a delicious welcome to this charming little town, and the restaurant’s views are unforgettable.
In Positano at night, there is a little light that shines in the sea, and in its beam the color of the water glows turquoise. It’s a beautiful hint at the water that will greet you in the morning light.
Coming down for breakfast in this hotel is such a treat. Fresh fruit, pastries with figs and honey, cereals, eggs, and of course the delicious coffee prepared as you wish, are sure to start the day out right!
In less than a minute, you can find whatever your heart desires in the shops of the town; linen, pottery, soaps, jewelry.
It’s all there, just steps outside your door.
In about 5 minutes you can reach the beach, or a ferry to take you to neighboring towns or the Isle of Capri.
But, perhaps the greatest joy of staying here is coming in at night and being greeted by the delightful family, then stepping out again onto the balcony with a glass of prosecco to soak in all the beauty and happiness that is Positano.
Think of Ancient Rome and one monument immediately comes to mind conjuring images of gladiators and exotic creatures, emperors and a roaring crowd.
The Colosseum is a place everyone should see in Rome, but to really grasp all that happened there and in the Roman Forum, you need the expertise and enthusiasm of an excellent guide.
A special guided tour is now available for those fortunate enough to get tickets, offering a glimpse into life as a gladiator: the underground areas of the Colosseum.
On a recent trip to Rome, I was excited to be able to experience this myself, so I could tell our clients about it in person and see if it is worthwhile. Is it ever!
We met our guide, Cristina, just outside the Colosseum and before the tour ever started we were amazed.
One of the most incredible parts of Rome to me has always been its accessibility. It has a way of giving gifts just when you need them.
We were about to purchase a new bottle of water when Cristina told us it wasn’t necessary. There is a fountain providing free and delicious water just behind us, natural or sparkling!
Hydrated and ready, we began what became the most educational and fascinating Ancient Rome tour I have experienced in 16 years of travel there.
She pointed out the numbers on the archways, numbered like this for organized entry, just like our stadiums are today.
During the underground access portion of the tour, only a Colosseum guide may speak. Ours was Francesca and she, too, was fantastic.
Descending into the underground area is a special way to gain understanding of how intelligent the Romans were, and just how terrifying it would have been to be a gladiator.
Exotic animals were kept in cages, still visible. With a system of winches and trap doors, the animals would be raised up and the door would fling open, releasing a new threat to the gladiator on the floor.
Always a surprise, never knowing where the next threat was coming from, the fear would have been immense.
Because of the proximity of the emperor to the action, guards had to be stationed to protect him if things got out of hand.
Meeting up with Cristina again, she showed us intimate details of the building, where metal rods had been removed and melted down, and marble had been stripped to cover churches like St. Peter’s.
Among the most incredible features, were awnings stretched out to provide shade. They were operated by skilled sailors. Interestingly, this was called the velarium, and the Italian word for sail is vela.
Leaving the Colosseum, she paused to tell us that on this very street Mussolini and Hitler paraded into town.
A quick stop to explain the Arch of Constantine, and we were on our way to the Forum.
I have never encountered such a knowledgeable or passionate guide about these areas.
With every word she spoke, every expression on her face, her knowledge was infused with passion and the stories astounded us time and again.
We entered the Forum from the way she thought best, and of course it was. There was no line at all.
An archaeological dig was going on, and we were able to see their freshly uncovered finds.
No matter how much Roman history you know and have studied, without a guide, the Forum is a confusing maze of ruins.
With a guide like Cristina, Ancient Rome comes to life before your eyes.
Every building has a purpose, each column has a story.
You learn not only what happened here, but about who these people were, and how they have influenced culture and art over thousands of years.
Again, with the accessibility of this city, most of these ruins are not roped off and untouchable. You can walk right up to them and feel the cool stones, touched by emperors and citizens long ago.
This year, a particularly charming area has been opened, the house of the Vestal Virgins. It is such a pretty sight, draped in flowers with a pond of fish among the columns.
Cristina showed us government buildings and temples, even the place where Julius Caesar was cremated.
When we said our goodbyes, she had spent more than a half hour of extra time with us to point out every spell binding remnant of history.
A guide like that, with such knowledge alone would be enough to amaze guests, but her passion for this history and for visitors’ understanding of it makes this tour the opportunity of a lifetime.
Contact us to book your tour!
PFI Travel, USA
A Private Orientation to Rome Tour. Rome is a city that immediately captivates its visitors. History is everywhere you look, but the way it effortlessly mingles with life today makes the city so very special.
To really feel the personality of Rome, we recommend an orientation tour with a private guide.
While it is perfectly possible to enjoy the beauty of Rome on your own, this tour lets you in on its secrets, charming legends and stories, and the symbolism behind the art that might otherwise go unnoticed.
We met our guide, Marilena, at our beautiful guesthouse near the Spanish Steps. She walked us along telling us of John Keats, who lived in the house on the corner. You can visit his home today, a museum of Keats, Shelley and Byron.
What a beautiful scene it is, the ever-splashing Fontana della Barcaccia, the scalinata, and church of Trinita dei Monti perched on top. It is one of the prettiest piazzas in Rome.
Marilena was chatting with us in an instant as if we’d known each other for years. Maybe it was the mutual passion we shared for the city, immediately understood, but I am quite certain she makes every guest feel this way.
There are no umbrellas or scarves on a stick with this tour, it’s an intimate conversation.
Within 5 minutes of meeting us, she had managed to point out one of my favorite aspects of Rome; the water.
Almost anywhere in Rome the sound of water fills your ears. A symbol of life, purity and abundance. Without water, none of the life or history here would have been possible, so it’s no surprise that it has been celebrated through the ages.
Walking through the city, Marilena pointed out behind a wire casing, a source of water spilling from a spout. The Acqua Vergine aqueduct that brought pure water to the ancient Romans, and still fills some of its most treasured fountains today. Incredible.
She went on to explain the Trevi Fountain, perhaps the most famous fountain in Rome, is one of these, and the reliefs above it depict the Roman soldiers, and the legend of the discovery of the spring.
Today the fountain is freshly cleaned, its travertine glowing among the splashing turquoise waters. A joyful symbol of Rome, promising the return of those who pause to toss in a coin.
Just before discovering the aqueduct, we noticed a red Ferrari parked outside the building. Marilena pointed out the elegant “V” on the building. “The fashion house of Valentino,” she told us, “and for sure the Ferrari is his.”
From ancient to modern to baroque and back again, that is Rome. It is so very charming.
Seeing our interest in Bernini, Marilena walked us into a church and pointed out the statues inside, originally designed for Ponte Sant’Angelo.
We learned that the rivalry between Bernini and Borromini was very real, though shrouded in legend. I love the legends, because they keep this history alive and interesting. They are a special part of Rome’s personality.
In Piazza Navona it is said that the figure of the Rio de la Plata in Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers holds his hand in front of his face in horror of Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and fear of its collapse.
In response, Borromini’s statue of Agnese holds her hand over her heart assuring the city (and Bernini) the church is strong and turns her face away in distain for the fountain.
Marilena tells us this through laughter and joy, proud to be a part of this city with its infinite charms.
Between Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain, stands the best preserved building from ancient Rome, the Pantheon.
The ancient building today houses the tombs of the Renaissance artist, Raphael, as well as the first king of Italy, and second, with his wife, Queen Margherita for whom the pizza was named! Again, such history in one place!
Before concluding the tour, we enjoyed a coffee together at a famous, historic café. No surprise, it was the best we had ever tasted.
As we said our goodbyes, Marilena told me why she created this tour; to make visitors to Rome feel at home. It’s even possible by golf cart for anyone not able to walk.
In two hours together, we felt we were walking with a local friend. She opened her city and her culture to us, and in just about 2 hours I fell even deeper in love with the city that’s always had my heart.
Whether you’re visiting Rome for the first time, or your heart has belonged to it for years, this tour will be an unforgettable experience, unique to you. You will gain a relationship with the city, and it will become a dear friend.
Without a guide, tourists stand for hours waiting for entrance to the Accademia, and by the time they get inside they’re so exhausted that the effect of the art is muted by their already aching feet.
That doesn’t happen on this tour. As your guide marches you right around the line of exhausted tourists, you realize you’ve made a fantastic decision!
On our tour this September, I was awed by the talent of Marzia, our guide that day. She had three of us: myself, my husband and our aunt… all with different backgrounds and interests.
I have studied art history longer than I can remember. Matt studied logistics and has a newly discovered love of sculpture, and Jane had dreamt her entire life of coming to Italy and seeing the David.
Marzia managed to have two of us speechless and in tears, and the other one asking the questions we wished we could open our mouths to speak!
I caught a glimpse of a painting I recognized for some reason and she caught me, “Botticelli. An early one” she smiled, understanding exactly what was going through my mind. He is my favorite painter, an old friend I was happy to find.
As we stood awestruck under the David, Marzia paused to notice Jane, with tears streaming down her face.
“You are emotional!” Marzia exclaimed, as her eyes teared up and then mine as well. “This is Stendhal’s effect”, she told us. Some people weep, some faint, for the sheer awe of the work of art before them.
These are the moments we travel for; inexplicable, raw and true.
To me, the most incredible thing about the Accademia isn’t even the David, it’s Michelangelo’s “unfinished” statues. Though, Marzia told us they were finished to him. He completed them as much as he wanted to.
Michelangelo left us a great gift in leaving the statues in this state. He said he could see what was inside the marble before he ever started carving it. He had only to set the figure free. Gazing at these works, we see these figures stepping out of the marble, coming to life before our eyes.
Marzia took us to a part of the museum many guides skip to show us a collection of sculptures covered in holes. She explained that these were the plaster casts that every artist used to measure and create the statues before carving them in marble. Every artist except Michelangelo.
Before we finished with the Accademia she took us to the gift shop. Grabbing a book and turning right to the page, she showed us how the David was moved to his current home. Incredible. Especially to our logistics man! She is good!
Leaving the Accademia, she went on to show us the rest of the city. The gorgeous Duomo, and it’s piazza, full of life and Renaissance history.
We learned about the palazzi, the Medici, Brunelleschi, and took a break to enjoy a coffee with Marzia’s delightful colleague, Paola.
While seeing the art and the sites is amazing, it’s even more so because of people like them; and moments when we as tourists are invited into their lives for a moment.
Passion is contagious. All the art and beauty in the whole of Italy could never have the effect it does on us if it weren’t for the Italian people.
Having a guide like Marzia or Paola to bring Florence to life for you is the souvenir you will cherish forever.
Castello di Sammezzano in Tuscany. Unbelievable beauty – an amazing private castle and park outside Reggello, Province of Florence. Simply amazing – such architecture and incredible work done in the 19th C by Fernando Paciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona 1813-1897.
There are guided tours 5/6 times a year and it is used as a photo and movie set but there is a huge waiting list, for a guided tour. One day it will be opened regularly to the public. We just have to wait….
One of the movies filmed there, was “Il Racconto dei Racconti” by Garrone, was presented at the film festival in Cannes.
This is a long video but keep going until you see the amazing interior salons.