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Rebecca Winke

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Rebecca moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter opened an agriturismo in a renovated family farmhouse at the foot of Mount Subasio near Assisi, Umbria. She spends her time taking care of guests at Brigolante Guest Apartments, writing about the lovely country she now calls home, and wondering what strange winds blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria.

Rebecca Winke

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Dreamy Lake Trasimeno, located in Umbria but hugging the border of neighboring Tuscany, is the perfect destination for travelling families who need to strike that delicate holiday balance between water fun and sports (for the kids) and cuisine and culture (for the grown-ups). The lake itself is ringed with family-friendly beaches and parks, a leisurely walking and biking trail, and casual restaurants and pizzerias. Further up in the surrounding hills, more active (and older) families can take advantage of a number of scenic walking trails, visit pretty Medieval lakeside villages, and sample some of the area’s excellent wine and olive oil.

If you tell any Italian that you are headed to the region of Abruzzo, the very first thing they will ask is, “Are you visiting Gran Sasso?”. Gran Sasso is shorthand for Abruzzo’s sprawling Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga (Gran Sasso and Laga Mountain National Park), one of Italy’s largest national parks—indeed, covering almost 350,000 acres, one of the largest protected areas in all of Europe.

Puglia—or, more specifically, the Salento Peninsula that forms the heel of Italy’s “boot”—is a fantastic destination for families, both for the wide range of things to do and see packed into this relatively compact area, and for the laid-back, kid-friendly pace that characterizes much of southern Italy.

Most visitors to Le Marche come for its beachside resort towns, which line the almost 200 kilometres of coastline lapped by the waves of the placid Adriatic sea – but this pretty (and largely unsung) central Italian region has much more to offer. The dramatic Sibilline mountains which border the region to the west boast some of Italy’s most breathtaking scenery, and the rolling hills which tumble eastward toward the sea are covered with tidy vineyards, pretty villages, and isolated castles.

Venice is, like most Italian cities, an open-air museum with its 1,000 year history played out in the palazzi and piazze (called campi in Venice) which line its ubiquitous canals. This is good news for travelling families, as “churched-out” kids can spend almost their entire stay in La Serenissima in the fabulously traffic-free outdoors and still get a fine look at the city’s history and culture.

Venice has the unfortunate (and undeserved) reputation of being one of the few places in Italy where the restaurants are expensive and not particularly good. Though it’s true that there is a concentration of “tourist-trap” eateries along the main thoroughfares, it’s also true that La Serenissima is a place where it’s easy to distance yourself from the crowds and find small, neighbourhood trattorias where the dishes are excellent and prices reasonable.

The Italian Lakes, wine and wineries

When thinking of Italian wine, it is most often the central and southern regions of Italy that come to mind. The crowd-pleasing super-Tuscans, the bold Sicilian Nero d’Avola, and the mouth-tingling tannic Sagrantino from Umbria all seem to dominate the collective wine consciousness (and worldwide menus), encapsulating in their deep red hues the Italy of long, languishing afternoon meals warmed by the Mediterranean sun and serenaded by sweet sounds of mandolins.

Pauline Kenny

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Pauline Kenny is an American expat living in the Cotswolds, England. She runs the Slow Europe website and forums (www.sloweurope.com) where she writes about her love of Slow Travel in Europe – staying in holiday cottages and taking the time to get to know a place. She is a frequent holiday home renter and regularly browses the HomeAway sites looking for new adventures.

Pauline Kenny

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After a busy morning in the Cotswolds, exploring villages, visiting gardens or walking on footpaths, lunch in a village pub provides a welcome break. On warm summer days, sit outside and enjoy the beautiful countryside; on cold days, get a table by the open fire and warm up. Many pubs in the Cotswolds are in historic buildings with low ceilings and stone floors, and have been inns and pubs for hundreds of years. Most of them also offer real ales from local breweries – Hook Norton, Donnington, Uley, and Butcombe, to name a few. And that's not all – pubs pride themselves on their good food, made using locally sourced products, too.

The Cotswolds is quintessential English countryside at its finest: amidst gently rolling hills, fields of sheep, lush river valleys and green woodlands, its beautiful towns and villages are built with local golden stone. The name 'Cotswolds' derives from the Saxon terms for sheep pens (cots) and hills (wolds), and it's no wonder: sheep have been raised in these hills for thousands of years. The Cotswolds is one of Great Britain’s 46 officially designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it stretches over several counties. Most of the Cotswolds is in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but parts go into Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire.

Afternoon tea in a traditional English tea room is a highlight of any day in the Cotswolds. Tea rooms are lively and friendly places, popular with locals and visitors alike. Open all day serving morning coffee and light breakfasts, lunches, and afternoon tea, they usually close at around 5pm. Cakes and other desserts will be on display, so you can walk up, have a good look and make your choice. A popular afternoon selection is a “Cream Tea”—one or two scones, with clotted cream and strawberry jam on the side, served with tea or coffee. Indeed, the Cream Tea originated in Cornwall, before spreading to Devon and the rest of the south-west.

 

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