Doingitaly: the perfect choice for small group tours in Italy

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I met Thea online, before she organised small group tours in Italy. Honestly, I do not even remember when and how. Well… I guess she was friend of a friend on Facebook or Instagram. I don’t know why but soon after I immediately trusted her to get some advice and opinions about my blog. And after that we kept on exchanging some opinions from time to time, always via social media.

Until one day she announced her new project. She now plans and organises small group tours in Italy. Her aim is for the participants to discover Italy in a new light. In order to test her future tours and to give us a taste of what they will be, she invited me and other bloggers to join the #Doingitaly blog tour.

I was thrilled and also anxious. The main problem was as usual my poor English. When it comes to speaking live I often realize I lack fluency and knowledge of terms.

In the end I was happy to go. For two reasons. First of all I got over my fear (even if I didn’t talk much in English, cause everyone could speak Italian). Secondly I appreciated very much this blog tour, quite different from some I have experienced before. I had the opportunity to see a different side of Milan. To visit a museum having much fun. To meet new friends and live two days of laughter, “doing Italy”.

Thea is not only beautiful, but also smart, full of ideas and enthusiasm. She really cares for people to be satisfied with the doingItaly experience. Because she, for one, discovered the charm of Italy. And of the Italians too, 😉 cause she has an Italian husband… or better “hubby“. I learned this word precisely reading her stories 😀 . In Italian would be “maritino” [mah-ree-TEE-noh].

Our cosy and eco friendly hotel

We stayed at a convenient and cosy hotel at a stone’s throw from the train station of Milano centrale. The Starhotels Echo, just on side of the train station, yet very quiet. Very comfy bed, outstanding breakfast, providential air conditioning. And a important attention to eco sustainability: recycled materials, thermo and acustic (yay!) insulation, intelligent lighting and heating system, water recovery, solar panels, organic products, and many other adjustments that granted it the important Green Globe certification.

My room mate was Clindina. And she really made my day with her joyful attitude. Grazie! 🙂

Historic Barber Shop

First step was a visit to an historic barber shop (since 1904). For a moment I feared that they would have made us experience a beard cut even if we were all girls. But that was not the case.

I confess that when I was 8 I tried to shave. I always saw my father and my two brothers (13 And 15 older than me) do it and I felt left out. Of course I had no idea I should use the shaving cream so I used the razor as it was, directly under my nose. And I cut myself. What a disappointment!

Anyway, the Antica Barbieria Colla is a place of memory. Form the outside you probably wouldn’t notice it. And then you step in and it’s like a shop from another time, with antique furniture (including the pony-chair for kids) and tools of the trade. The walls are full of photos of more or less famous clients (director Luchino Visconti, Nobel prize Dario Fo, Roberto Benigni, singer-songwriter Giorgio Gaber). Among the heirlooms in the bottega the brush for Puccini’s moustache. Speaking of which, the barber stated during an interview: “I don’t care whether my clients are famous or not. I want my client to be decent people. That’s why there are just few politicians among them.” 😀

It was his daughter Francesca who welcomed us and explained everything, including a mention to a surprising technique “threatened with extinction”, the candle cut. I know it’s odd, but it consists of burning the end of the hair. Contrary on what you may expect, it actually strengthens them. Who would have thought? It’s thanks to people like these that we can preserve our history and identity, so I really appreciated this visit.

On the photo below (left to right): GirlinFlorence Georgette and consort (he claims to be French, but he is as Tuscan as I am Veneta, ie completely), beautiful Thea in her Botticelli Spring dress, my friend Cristiana, Francesca of Antica Barbieria Colla, me (yes, the only one wearing sunglasses inside the shop), Valentina (AroundandAboutTreviso), my roomate Clindina (blogdiviaggi), Bee (BeetheExpat), young but focused Tya (TyaTaylor on Youtube) and sweet (except if you mention fette biscottate, rusk) Natalie (AnAmericaninRome).

Antica Barbieria Colla
Antica Barbieria Colla

Look at me and the photographer while taking pictures! (reflected in the mirror)

Strike the pose
Strike the pose

Rooftops picnic

Second blog tour “task” (poor us! Right?) was a picnic on Milano’s rooftops. Lovely. I adore picnics. And that was the first time I had one not in a park or garden but on top of Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. Have I ever told you that I have a thing for picnic baskets? Those wickerwork weaving and the gingham fabric immediately remind me of happy times with friends. A gentle breeze properly decided to blow while we were eating so it was really al fresco, despite the heat of the day.

Pausa Caffè

The time for a caffè, or better a caffè shakerato, at Pasticceria Marchesi, a chic historic café (since 1824) with a view over the Gallery, and off to the next appointment.

Concert at the Museum

We had the pleasure to visit the Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano and hear a jazz concert by a privileged position, right beside the musicians. All around us, more than 200 paintings by 1900s artists such as Fontana, De Chirico and Morandi. They were all collected over the years by the owners, husband and wife, who liked to be surrounded by art and artists and used to organize some musical entertainments, such as the one we attended.

Our house is a very very very fine house…

Next stop was at the house of an artist and craftswoman called Veronica Lanza Linneo. As soon as she opened the door I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Her apartment was so out of the ordinary! The kid’s room was a dream. Full of toys and stuff. A table where to draw. Music instruments. Maps. And a ceiling with snow flakes made with cotton. And then she welcomed us in the living room and she told us her story. Of a girl who has been working with ceramics since she was 4. And who was in love with nature and animals. And strongly desired to make something meaningful. Her jewels are the result of her passion and her ideal. And are full of commitment and memories. For example those of the year she spent with husband and 2 kids around the world: Chile, South Africa, Tasmania, Japan.

Jarit

Final stop of the day a mystery dinner. We haven’t been told of our precise destination until last second. And we ended up dining at Dinner at Jarit. It was a very peculiar place. Everything is pasteurized and closed in a jar. Hence the name.

By the way, while getting from Veronica’s house to the restaurant we spotted some flamingos in Milan! Incredible! They were inside the park of a big house.

Flamingos in Milan
Flamingos in Milan

Milan’s Sistine Chapel

On Sunday we visited an unbelievable place. San Maurizio Monastery. A quite ordinary church, judging by the exterior. But you immediately change your mind as soon as you go inside. Marvellous frescoes with vivid colours await you. It’s no wonder it’s called the Sistine chapel of Milan. Since I reckon that high expectations can be the main cause of disappointment, I won’t tell you anything more. Except: go! And look for the Noah’s Arch fresco. You will find two peculiar animals getting on board. 😉

Lunch stop at Castello Sforzesco, not without ending up in the middle of classic Fiat 500 parade (lovely!). And then off to the Montenapoleone district.

Classic 500 parade in Milan
Classic 500 parade in Milan

Scavenger hunt among Renaissance treasures

Bagatti Valsecchi Museum welcomed us for an unusual visit. An original scavenger hunt around and about its historical rooms. We discovered its treasures, paintings and furniture while having fun. What is better than that? Hunt aside, the museum is absolutely worth a visit.

The historic house museum was once the house of two brothers, the barons Bagatti Valsecchi, who (at the end of 1800) decided to refurbish their family in the Lombard Renaissance style. It’s therefore full of furniture, decorations, armours, weapons, glassware, sculptures and paintings of that period, in excellent conditions. The heirs of the two brothers continued to live in the palace until 1974. At that point Pasino, 70-year-old son of one of the two barons, constituted a foundation and donate the house to it, provided that it would have been open to the public as a museum. I want to thank one of the staff members for the hint she gave me, but I didn’t manage to win the scavenger hunt anyway. 😀


The final verdict 😉

I got back to Padova with a positive feeling of satisfaction and happiness, full of things to tell to my husband and friends.

If you liked my story, know that you could live a similar and improved experience with Doingitaly’s small group tours in Italy. I’m sure it could be a perfect occasion to live an Italian trip in a different and meaningful way.

Other than visiting major sites, you’ll have the chance to see quaint spots and little gems. Plus to live some private experiences (a dinner with a private chef or a cruise along Lago di Como) or surprising experiences (having picnic on the rooftops like we did or making cheese with your hands at a farmstead – I’d like that!). Some of the experiences will be kind of chic, to let you dive into the Italian dolce vita. Others will be intended to mingle in Italians’ everyday picturesque life. Moreover you’ll get in touch with locals, with their uniqueness and quirkiness.

All the tours are planned for small groups in order for the participants to fully enjoy the experience. A professional tour guide will be at your disposal. And also a photographer. I found this idea very convenient. A photographer accompanied us too. At first we were a bit surprised. But then we got used to it. We had not the need to take photos all the time and to actually be present in the moment and live it.

Thanks a lot to Thea for this opportunity.

Thea and I in Milan - Doingitaly: small group tours in Italy
Thea and I in Milan – Doingitaly: small group tours in Italy

Doingitaly: small group tours in Italy

Just visit the website Doingitaly for more information.


Post in collaboration with Doingitaly. Opinions are my own as usual.