I’m back with another list of some of what I consider the best Italy expat blogs, and this time the category is expat bloggers in Italy who work in the tourism industry. By this I don’t mean that they work for Italy’s official tourism board (although I’d love it if they did, since I can’t seem to get those people to reply to my emails), but rather people who somehow work in hospitality so that you or other travelers might take advantage of their on-the-ground expertise on an upcoming trip.
Sometimes when you’re looking for someone with local know-how, you really want that person to be a native. I know that one of the things that made my tour through Naples this past June that much more meaningful was that my tour guide was born and raised in the city – her hometown pride came through, big-time. But if you don’t speak the language, or you just want to get suggestions from someone with a similar background, then being able to consult an expat who lives in the area is a great option.
On this list you’ll find people who run B&Bs, cooking classes, and walking tours, along with some travel consultants who’ll help you plan a trip. And because they’re all bloggers, you can get a feel for their style before you even meet them – thereby determining whether you want to use their services long before you send off your first email.
>> Did you see the first list in this series, of the expat bloggers in Italy I think are some of the most helpful?
Expat in Italy Blogs: Bloggers who Work in the Travel Industry
(listed in alphabetical order)
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Baur Bed & Breakfast (@DianaBaur on Twitter)
Baur B&B is in the Piemonte region in northern Italy, and it’s run with great care by Diana (American) and Michael (German) Baur. Like many B&B owners, Diana & Michael don’t have a huge house with lots of rooms to rent – there are only two, in fact. This ensures the kind of personal service that people who like B&Bs expect, and which the Baurs are happy to deliver. They know the area well, and it’s particularly good for anyone interested in a wine tour – there are more than 400 wineries within an hour’s drive of the B&B. Diana & Michael will organize excursions to local wineries or cooking classes at the B&B or elsewhere, and they’ll help you out if you’re more into golf, hiking, or mountain biking (they have bikes you can borrow). For a more relaxed routine, the city they’re in is home to one of Italy’s oldest thermal spas. Diana blogs at Creative Structures.
Bella Baita Bed & Breakfast (@BellaBaita on Twitter)
Another B&B in the Piemonte Region, Bella Baita is a “mountain house” in the Italian Alps that’s actually pretty close to the French border (most of the rooms have a view over the border, in fact). The B&B is run by Marla (American) and her husband Fabrizio (Italian), who both come from a cooking background – so you can imagine that the food is a big part of the experience at Bella Baita. Marla & Fabrizio not only cook great meals at the B&B, there are also cooking classes you can take on-site. The property is several kilometers off the main road in a relatively remote area, so this isn’t the B&B to choose if you’re only getting around by public transit – you need a car for this spot. But the good news is that once you get there, you can relax into your surroundings and may never want to leave! Marla blogs at Bella Baita View.
Bella Vita Italia (@bellavitaitalia on Twitter)
Megan is an American who moved to Italy and started her “travel concierge” business after being bombarded with requests from friends, family, and guests at the B&B where she worked – they all wanted help in planning their Italian vacations, so Bella Vita Italia was born. Megan lives in Liguria, and in addition to her trip-planning services she has since expanded her business to include things like organizing weddings and renting vacation properties, so she’s involved in all kinds of travel-based enterprises and is an excellent resource. She has also helped Fodor’s update the “Italian Riviera” section of their Italy guidebook. Megan blogs at Bella Vita in Liguria.
Context Travel (@contexttravel & @romephotoblog on Twitter)
This is a bit of a double entry rolled into one, as I’m a big fan of both Context Travel tours and a couple of the people who work at Context in Rome. I’m not much of a vacation package girl, but I do love a good walking tour of a city – and I can’t say enough great things about the kinds of tours Context runs. You seriously feel smarter at the end of the tour, and yet you’re never bored. It’s not like sitting through a lecture, I promise you. Context tours aren’t cheap, but for what you get out of them it’s worth the price (even if you can only do one per vacation). I’ve met two of the gals who work in the Rome office of Context, one of whom (Katie Parla) I listed in my last post about helpful bloggers. The other, Jessica Stewart, in addition to working at Context, is a talented photographer. They’re both responsive to questions about Context if you’ve got them, and Jessica’s Rome Photo Blog is one to check daily for the gorgeous pictures.
Divina Cucina (@divinacucina on Twitter)
Judy Witts Francini has been in Italy so long, it’s hard to think of her as anything but a local. She left her native U.S.A. behind in 1984 when she moved to Tuscany, and she hasn’t looked back. She’s a foodie with serious credentials, and so she started Divina Cucina in 1988 to show visitors to Italy what it was like to shop in Italian markets and cook Italian meals. Judy’s classes range from 1-7 days, and can include tours of Florence’s famous Mercato Centrale (where you’ll feel like you’re walking around with royalty, as everyone there knows Judy). She’s generous with her encyclopedic knowledge of Italian cuisine, sharing recipes freely on her various websites, and has recently published a collection of Tuscan recipes. Judy blogs at Over a Tuscan Stove.
Il Cedro Bed & Breakfast (@mybellavita on Twitter)
This B&B is run by an expat who currently has only one outlet in the tourism industry, although I wouldn’t be surprised if she expanded her services in the future. Il Cedro B&B in Catanzaro, Calabria is run by American Cherrye and her Italian husband Peppe, and all four of the rooms available for rent were completely remodeled before they opened for business. Unlike many budget hotels in Italy, every single one of Il Cedro’s bedrooms has a private en suite bathroom. Peppe may be the native Calabrese, but Cherrye is enthusiastically embracing her new home – and she’s always eager to share it with guests. Cherrye blogs at My Bella Vita, and because she regularly posts excellent travel advice (primarily about Italy, but not always), I think if she ever found any spare time she might start working as a travel consultant, too!
Italy: Beyond the Obvious (@MadelineJ on Twitter)
Now, technically speaking, Madeline Jhawar – the woman behind Italy: Beyond the Obvious – is no longer an expat. She now lives in the United States (though she’s Canadian), so why am I including her on this list? Because she lived in Italy for many years at several different points in her life, so she not only knows the country but she knows it from different perspectives – that of a student, a nanny, a tour guide, and an employee of an international company. Madeline creates custom trips to Italy for clients, and will even design your schedule down to what activities you’ll do each day if you want. The itineraries Madeline produces are personal guidebooks, with photos and maps for each stop along the way, and will not only help you plan your trip but also sort out your photo album or scrapbook later! You’ll find information about Madeline’s travel planning services as well as her blog at the same web address.
La Tavola Marche
What happens when a professional chef and a hospitality pro open an agriturismo & cooking school on 250 acres in central Italy? You get La Tavola Marche, run enthusiastically by Americans Jason and Ashley Bartner. Jason’s the chef, and he’s happy to teach guests how to make classic Italian dishes. Ashley comes to her role of agriturismo hostess with ease after many years as a resort concierge, and she also writes a regular column about life in Le Marche for an English-language magazine about Italy. All the accommodation options are apartments at La Tavola Marche, and in addition to cooking classes there are also hikes, foodie excursions, and plenty of reasons to kick back and relax. Ashley & Jason blog at La Tavola Marche.
Who did I miss?
I know there are many more expats in Italy in the tourism biz who have blogs, especially since new ones seem to come across my radar every other day or so. So if I missed your favorite in this category, please let me know in the comments.
Photo by: Coffee Channel