Exploring Your Roots, continued

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community, and welcome to May!  Spring has sprung all over Connecticut and everything looks renewed as life gets back to normal.  I spent my free time this past week cleaning house and getting organized in anticipation of spending more time outside in the world now that I’m fully vaccinated.  Do you feel similarly liberated?

This quote made me stop my scroll, and I share it with you as we approach Mother’s Day…

“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Unknown

Being a mother is not about being perfect but doing our best to love, support, and guide our children.  It’s a tough job and some say is the best and most valuable in the world. 

We celebrate motherhood this Sunday, and so I thought it timely to offer an epic gift idea for all the moms in your family.  The idea is meant to give this year (2021) and experience next year (2022) – a family heritage journey! 

To explain this unique gift idea, I hosted a virtual event on Zoom on Tuesday focusing on family heritage journeys by one of my favorite travel suppliers Kensington Tours, who has a partnership with Ancestry, the leader in genealogy research.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • These trips are once-in-a-lifetime bucket list experiences customized to your family’s heritage story.  The experience goes way beyond what you can DIY with professional genealogists involved in the research and planning process.
  • It takes around a year to plan and secure accommodations especially for larger family groups.
  • Family heritage journeys are offered globally! 
  • One real-life example is a family from the Puglia region of Italy who visited the tiny village church where their ancestors were married and while there met many relatives who lived nearby – the village welcomed them with open arms!

The event was co-sponsored with the amazing Karen Reddington Sackowitz of Your Stories Ink (www.yourstoriesink.com), and I’m grateful that she partnered with me on this very special offering.   Her companion heirloom memory book is a beautiful way to capture and document your journey.

Email me to discuss and get the link to the event recording!

In this two-part newsletter, I cover a sample heritage itinerary for Northern Italy, specifically Rome-Florence-Benevello-Verbania-Milan courtesy of Kensington Tours.  Today we highlight north of Florence which are popular and hidden gem destinations for every traveler and extra special for those of Italian heritage.  Trains, boats, foods, wines, ancient sites, local people – this itinerary has all the ingredients for an incredible vacation! 

Reminder – A heritage journey is a travel experience like no other and fully customized to your family.  Your heritage journey will be designed around your ancestry and this is simply one example!  Read on for the scoop…

Benevello & Rural Towns in Northern Italy – Explore with an Ancestry Expert

Spend the day with your dedicated Ancestry Genealogist to uncover the sites and locations of your heritage, as determined in your research report.  Below is an example for Benevello. 

Set out with your private driver and on tour Genealogist on a full-day tour of Langhe’s ancestral villages, retracing the steps of your ancestors, and diving into your roots. Explore Benevello in-depth, starting from the nucleus of the village, a castle villa with history dating back to the 12th century. For an additional fee, your on-Tour Genealogist can lead an ancestral home visit.

Take a side trip to Modena, world-famous for gastronomy and automobiles in the Emilia Romagna region. Embark on a self-guided walk of the city or discover a charming place to have lunch and savor the culinary delights of Italy’s food capital.

Regional specialties to taste are the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, its recipe handed down like a family heirloom, the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese first pioneered in the 12th century by Benedictine and Cistercian monks, and the Prosciutto di Parma, or Parma ham enjoyed since the 14th century.

The Trek Continues to Turin and Verbania

Meet your private driver for a transfer to Verbania, pausing en route in Turin to visit the State Archives, and discover the Po Valley rice fields.

Arriving first in Turin, you’ll meet a private local guide for a tour of the city. Stroll around Turin’s principal square, Piazza Castello, taking in views of the stunning Royal Palace, a 16th-century palace recognized as one of the thirteen UNESCO World Heritage-listed Residences of the Royal House of Savoy. Just behind Piazza Castello, spot the 15th century Turin Cathedral with its 130-foot bell tower. An annexed chapel is where the renowned Shroud of Turin is held. Be sure to keep your eye out for glimpses of the Mole Antonelliana’s staggering 550-foot pinnacle, the highest point in Turin’s skyline.

If desired, enjoy a visit to the State Archives, where an archivist will show you through the historic civil registry of births, weddings, and deaths – a unique insight into personal ancestry and lineage. Leaving Turin, continue through the Po Valley for a panoramic drive through scenic rice fields where the famous Italian risotto is grown.

Arrive at a local cascina where a private local guide will then take you out into the picturesque rice fields, shedding light on the growing and harvesting practices. Afterward, transfer to Novara where you’ll be treated to lunch in a renowned restaurant, tasting dishes based on the local rice, including risotto of course, and some rare local delicacies. 

Exploring By Boat

Meet your private guide and embark on a walk to the nearby harbor, boarding a privately captained boat for a discovery of the beautiful Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore. You’ll first cruise to Isola Madre, the furthest among the Borromean Islands, where you’ll disembark to visit the elegant English botanical gardens animated by peacocks and pheasants roaming freely in the park, and a Renaissance palace still owned by the Borromeo family.

Re-board your boat and continue to Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen’s Island) to discover the tiny ancient village with its narrow streets, a church dedicated to St. Victor, and panoramic views of the lake. The afternoon will be devoted to a visit of Isola Bella with its magnificent Baroque palace richly decorated with Italian-style gardens.

Home via Milan

Milan is conveniently situated in northwest Italy’s Lombardy region.  The Alps and Lake Region (including Lake Como) are nearby, and Rome is only a three-hour fast train ride away.  Venice can be reached in only two and one-half hours.

Known for high-end fashion, design, and banking as the second-largest city in Italy, Milan is also full of culture, art, architecture, and fantastic restaurants!  The Duomo is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and La Scala one of the most famous opera houses. In Milan, you can see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting and get a full overview of his incredible impact on the world at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci. 

Seeing the city will make you hungry, and you can choose from small, family-run restaurants or high-end, gourmet affairs.  Like the rest of Northern Italy, the cuisine is heavy on butter, dairy, rice, and polenta.  Two traditional dishes are risotto alla milanese (creamy rice with saffron) and cotoletta alla milanese (breaded veal cutlet).  Don’t forget to enjoy an Aperitivo before dinner where you will have snacks served with your happy hour cocktail. 

What a fantastic way to say Ciao to Italy before you head home from your unforgettable family heritage journey! 

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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