holidays

/holidays

November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

By |2018-11-21T16:22:42+00:00November 21st, 2018|General, holidays, Informational, Olive oil, Tuscany, Wine|

Happy Thanksgiving!

When we think of Thanksgiving or giving thanks, we think of family and friends gathering around the dinner table with drinks in hand to relax, enjoy each other’s company and feast!  In America, it’s an important holiday largely centering on feasting, quality time and football! After all that food, what else can you do?

The tradition of Thanksgiving originated to celebrate the harvest of the year.  Plymouth, Massachusetts is where the first American colony started and its people were known as the pilgrims. After the first harvest, the pilgrims celebrated in November with a meal shared with Native Americans.  Thus, Thanksgiving was born.

There is no official Thanksgiving in Italy like that we know of in America.  There are many other days of thanks for other reasons including patron saints.  Generally, the typical Thanksgiving meal (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and plenty of pies) is not served in Italy.  Some restaurants will accommodate a special menu for a private group–especially in a city like Rome or Florence where there are many different nationalities constantly traveling through.

What we’ve found very popular is a group of friends and family looking to enjoy Thanksgiving together while learning how to cook.  A cooking experience all can enjoy over Thanksgiving is definitely very popular.  A Toast to Travel’s Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun experience fits the bill perfectly.  Each day, you will cook a meal from start to finish together while enjoying music, fun, and wine.  You will learn from an authentic Italian chef all the secrets of the Italian cuisine and then sit down with your friends and family to enjoy the meal you’ve all just cooked together.  It’s a very bonding experience and the unlimited wine doesn’t hurt either.

During the experience, you also have the opportunity to hunt truffles, explore Florence and Siena, tour and taste wine at a stunning winery in Chianti and enjoy relaxing yoga classes to burn off some of those calories.  All the dishes we cook are very natural (as is commonly the case in Italy) so you can indulge a bit more without the guilt.  We learn to make starters, fresh handmade pastas, pasta sauces, second courses, side dishes, and decadent desserts!  All while staying in a cozy, sleepy villa in Tuscany.

If you are looking for a different experience in 2019 for Thanksgiving for your friends and family, please contact us soon so we can hold the week for you.  Thanksgiving should be enjoyed to the fullest–filled with fun, authentic and life enhancing experiences.  We have one for you to enjoy!

Live like a local in Tuscany so you can enjoy it to the fullest and get the most out of your experience with your hosts, Natalie and John, at A Toast to Travel!

October 2018

Christmas in Tuscany with A Toast to Travel

By |2018-10-18T04:10:34+00:00October 18th, 2018|Christmas, Feature, General, holidays, Travel Tips, Tuscany|

Florence Christmas market 600

Christmas in Tuscany with A Toast to Travel

The holidays are an important part of the year in which Italians gather with family to exchange gifts and enjoy a nice meal. Our Christmas in Tuscany experience includes the mainstays of our A Toast To Travel trips where travelers can see historical landmarks in Florence, Chianti, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, taste exquisite wines and gourmet dinners, take tours of the art galleries and wineries across the region of Tuscany, as well as the once in a lifetime opportunity of joining in on traditional, Italian festivities!

The Christmas markets are a must-see for any traveler during this time of year with the powdered cobblestone streets, skies lit with cheerful lights, and brightly colored goodies every which way you turn. Browsing the Weihnachtsmarkt, which is German for Christmas market, and warming up with a cup of mulled wine is a tradition among the locals of Florence, and will surely create a memorable experience for traveling with family and friends.

We also offer the chance to travel through time while driving up through the snowy trees of the medieval towns of Chianti and to their own holiday markets. Pisa, the birthplace of Galileo, is also a sight to see with the leaning tower and other architectural landmarks like the Battistero and Piazza dei Miracoli, followed a trip to Lucca the famed walled city to wander through their own gorgeous holiday markets. On the streets of the holiday markets, musicians play holiday tunes that are old and familiar, but also new and exciting!

The last few days of your holiday trip with family and friends include visiting Siena, a United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific (UNESCO) World Heritage site, Midnight Mass with the locals at the Duomo, and spectacular multi-course dinners paired with Tuscan wine. In Siena, journey to the Middle Ages with the artistic masterpieces, medieval architecture, cuisine, and of course, the great city’s brightly lit holiday markets.

Our farewell dinner of Festa dei Sette Pesci, Feast of the Seven Fishes, will quite literally give you a taste of authentic Italian Christmas! This meal is commonly served on Christmas Eve in Italian families and features several types of seafood, a pasta dish, and dessert of season’s greetings. While the origin of the feast is unknown, it continues on with the spirit of bringing family and friends together to celebrate Christmas.

Being at the center of Florence makes the Duomo, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, a welcoming church to those who don’t identify as religious and allows all to view the gigantic, festive tree, a life-size nativity scene, and the experience of the art and culture along with the locals. Midnight Mass at the Duomo will allow you to get in touch with your spirituality while appreciating the grandiose high ceilings, mosaics, and paintings in peace with travelers and locals alike on La Vigilia di Natale, Italian for Christmas Eve.

With A Toast to Travel, having a warm and unforgettable holiday season is made simple by taking the stress away from the holidays and curating a trip that will be cherished by all.

July 2018

Christmas in Tuscany

By |2018-08-05T11:52:03+00:00July 24th, 2018|Christmas, Feature, holidays, Informational, Tuscany|

Florence Christmas market 600

Christmas in Tuscany

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday.  And there is no better place to spend Christmas than in Florence, Italy.  Christmas, as you might have guessed is one of most important holidays in Italy and you will definitely feel and see the importance when you are there.  The cobbled streets are all decorated with beautiful lights and festive decorations.  Warm wine is abundant and the holiday markets are in most of the major town squares.  There are holiday specialty baked goods in all of the stores, restaurants and bakeries that will constantly tempt you.  There are just too many things to list in a blog, but below are some of the must-see and do highlights.

The Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore):
This cathedral is the hub of Florence.  Located in the center of the city, you cannot miss this magnificent work of art.   Even for those who are not religious, this is a must-see attraction.  At Christmas time, there’s a life size nativity scene outside of the cathedral as well as a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  This is also the favorite place for Christmas and Christmas Eve mass.  Christmas Eve mass starts at 11:00PM and seats are first come first serve.

Christmas markets:
The biggest Christmas market in Florence is located at the Piazza Santa Croce.  If you want to immerse yourself in holiday cheer there is no better way than to walk around this market.  Grab a glass of warm mulled wine and explore the various stalls boasting beautifully decorated ornaments and other festive wares.

Concerts:
There are always amazing concerts in Tuscany, but at Christmas time, they are especially amazing with all of the beautifully written Christmas music.  You can find the upcoming events listed at the individual venues.

Food:
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is called the Feast of the seven fishes or Festa dei sette pesci.  The origins of this feast are blurry and the number of courses is not set in stone—the main reason for the dinner is to bring together family and friends.  The meal traditionally consists of 7 or so courses of seafood dishes and of course, there’s a pasta dish and a sweet ending.  While in Tuscany, there are many restaurants that serve this traditional feast, and reservations are highly recommended.

Around Tuscany:
There are many Christmas markets around Tuscany as well as other Christmas related activities, including the Santa Claus factory located in Montepulciano which is a real treat.  Expect to be transported to a fairy tale time that is all about Christmas and Old St. Nick.  The factory is not just for children, it’s a magical way to spend a day or evening for adults too.

Experiencing Christmas in Tuscany is a bucket-list Experience that you will never forget.  Join A Toast to Travel this holiday for a fully hosted, all-inclusive experience where you’ll live like a local!  For more holiday cheer, you can also check out our Christmas blog from last year.

May 2018

Happy La Festa della Mamma!

By |2018-05-07T21:19:43+00:00May 7th, 2018|holidays, Mother's Day in Italy|

Happy La Festa della Mamma!

Once again, Mother’s Day is just around the corner! We love to celebrate the most important women in our lives and show them how much they mean to us. As it turns out, this sentiment is echoed in Italy, where La Festa della Mamma—the Italian phrase for “Mother’s Day”—is widely celebrated on the second Sunday of May, much like American Mother’s day. La Festa della Mamma was first celebrated in Italy back in 1957 at the initiative of the parish priest of the Tordibetto church in Assisi, Umbria.  Mothers are some of the most important figures in Italian life—so much so that Italian men are often referred to as mammoni (meaning “mama’s boys”), so sure enough, Mother’s Day quickly caught on. By 1958, the Italian senate had made the holiday official. Nowadays, it’s a very important event for many Italians!

A widely known quote throughout Italy that encapsulates the spirit of La Festa della Mamma and demonstrates to value Italians place on their mothers translates to “There’s just one day in which to remember who gave me life, but there are 364 days for me to make you proud of that gift.” This devotion to mammas culminates in the ways Italians celebrate La Festa della Mamma. On this day, Italian mothers are recognized for their reputation of harboring a nurturing, caring nature. Families reunite from all corners of the country in order to give their moms the best celebration possible, and if anyone is unable to attend, they’ll still be sure to make a call and send a card or flowers. Mamma is not to lift a finger during her special day, so any cooking and cleaning is left to the rest of the family. La Festa della Mamma is much less commercialized than American Mother’s Day, and this is reflected in a number of ways. Many sentimental, homemade gifts will be given, and she may receive cards and letters bearing the phrases “Ti voglio tanto bene” (I love you so much) or “Sei la mamma migliore del mondo” (You’re the best mom in the world). Additionally, in a wonderful show of affection, children will typically prepare a special poem for their mothers at school and then recite it in the presence of the whole family.

The day’s activities are mainly centered on family togetherness, and the main event is a family lunch. There’s no set rules on whether or not the meal must be homemade or not; any family is as likely to go out as they are to cook. As long as the family is together, celebrating their wonderful mamma, then it’s a proper La Festa della Mamma celebration. A practice that does remain consistent, however, is the manner in which the meal is typically topped off: a lovely heart-shaped cake with a liqueur coffee!

All in all, Italians love and value their mammas, the Italian Mother’s Day experience reflects this greatly! This Mother’s Day, be sure to call or visit your mother, or at the very least, reflect on the impact she has made in your life. Buona Festa della Mamma!