Category Archives: Grand Tour

Inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence: Touring the Medici’s Secret Passage

Inside the Vasari Corridor Florence Italy Medici

We recently had the pleasure of touring inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence Italy. The Vasari Corridor is an enclosed private passageway built in the 16th century by the Medici family to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. This narrow elevated passageway allowed the Medici family and their privileged guests to travel freely and unnoticed and to have advantageous views of Florence and its populace. The Vasari Corridor snakes across many of Florence’s most important landmarks as it makes it way from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace, including the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Felicita church, and the Boboli Gardens. The Vasari Corridor remained closed to the public until the 1970’s when it was restored and opened for select special openings and for group tours provided by specialist tour companies. Today, you too can enjoy the privilege of going inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence and Read the Rest…

Exploring the Art at the Borghese Gallery in Rome

Apollo and Daphne Bernini Borghese Gallery Galleria Borghese Rome Italy

The Borghese Gallery is the perfect place for art lovers to admire art in a beautiful space without big crowds in Rome. While the Vatican Museums are filled with treasures and are a must visit site in the Eternal City, it is also one of the largest and most crowded museums on the planet! But luckily Rome is full of art, some contained inside museums, some tucked away in churches, and some weathering in its piazzas. The Galleria Borghese, or Borghese Gallery, features one of the world’s greatest private art collections assembled by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century in his Roman garden villa. The collection is particularly rich in ancient Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art, with major works by Bernini, Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael, Correggio, Rubens, and Canova. A great thing about the Borghese Gallery is that it has a timed reservation system that keeps the crowds to a minimum; however, Read the Rest…

Discovering the Romantic Poets on our Grand Tour in Rome

Romantic Poets Grand Tour in Rome

During our modern-day Grand Tour in Rome this past October, we had the opportunity to learn more about the English Romantic poets and their history within the Eternal City on a tour with Context Travel. From the 16th century until the mid 19th century, many wealthy young English men would travel to Italy on a Grand Tour in order to finish off their education and gain a better understanding of art, culture, and history. However, many used it as an excuse to gamble, drink, party, and visit prostitutes. Three of the most famous English Romantic poets: George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron), Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats, would all visit Italy and the city of Rome would serve as a backdrop for significant personal events in the poets’ lives and as an inspiration for their poetry. The guided tour includes a visit to the last residence of John Keats, a wander through a Read the Rest…

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Train: A Luxury Train Journey from London to Venice

Belmond Venice Simplon Orient Express

This past October we had the pleasure of riding the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train from London to Venice where we held our wedding ceremony. The original Orient Express train service ran from 1883 to 2009, and its name became associated with glamour, luxury, intrigue, and even murder! In its heyday, it was the most luxurious train in Europe and today this tradition lives on with Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE). The VSOE makes regular luxury train journeys across Europe, offering gourmet meals, private overnight cabins, and attentive staff within its wonderfully restored historical train carriages. The signature trip is the 36-hour luxury train journey from London to Venice which has to be one of the most elegant ways to arrive in Venice! We’ll share all you need to know to decide if this trip is a good fit for you, from the historical background of the Orient Express to how to book Read the Rest…

How to Visit the Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica Without the Crowds

saint marks basilica st. mark's basilica without the crowds

Visit the Doge’s Place and St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds? St. Marks’ Basilica and the Doge’s Palace are two of the most popular places to visit in Venice, and although they are must-see stops for travelers, they also tend to be very crowded. It can be hard to enjoy these historical sites as you are standing in lines, jostling elbows with fellow travelers, and trying to see around selfie sticks and flag-waving tour guides. Walks of Italy, an American-based walking tour company, has come up with an eloquent solution for this dilemma. They have designed a tour that allows late entry into the Doge’s Palace which is a time that the palace is typically quiet, and most importantly they have received permission to run exclusive after-hours tours inside St. Marks’ Basilica. So you get to experience St. Mark’s Basilica as very few people do, alone with only your tour Read the Rest…

Casanova’s Venice: Discovering 18th Century Venice with Context Travel

Rio dei Mendicanti Canaletto Ca' Rezzonico Context Travel

During our trip to Venice, we did a Context Travel walking tour themed around Casanova’s 18th century Venice. Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was an Italian adventurer, author, and womanizer who was born and lived in Venice during the gilded and decadent eighteenth century. Perhaps best known for his daring and amorous exploits, Casanova’s autobiography is considered one of the best sources of European lifestyles and customs of the 18th century. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Venice had amassed significant power and wealth through trade although its power was rapidly fading by the 18th century as the republic was no longer a major center of international trade. In the 1700’s, or Settecento, Venice became known as a place for leisure and pleasure, with the 18th century being considered the most hedonistic period in Venetian history. This period is often symbolized by gilded palazzos along the Grand Canal, lavish fashions, elaborate parties, elegant cafes, mask-wearing Read the Rest…

Wedding at Sea: Our Cunard Queen Mary 2 Wedding

Cunard Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea cruise

I have been wanting to write a post about our Queen Mary 2 wedding at sea for a few months. In August, Laurence and I got married at sea aboard the Cunard Queen Mary 2 ship as we sailed from New York City to England. We had struggled for a few months to decide on a wedding location given that we have different nationalities, residences, and family and friends spread out across the world. We already wanted to do a transatlantic cruise aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 as a way to get to the UK and once we booked this, we decided to also hold our wedding here. We were married by the ship’s captain, Captain Kevin Oprey, about halfway between the United States and England while sailing on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a wonderful experience for us, but a wedding at sea is not for Read the Rest…

Travel History: The Tale of Thomas Cook, Father of Modern Tourism

Thomas Cook Thomas Cook & Son travel history

Do you know who Thomas Cook was and what contribution he made to the history of travel? Perhaps you have heard the name, seen it on the travel agencies that still carry his name, or maybe you’ve even taken a Thomas Cook tour. But my guess is that, like me, you don’t know too much about the man or how he fits into the history of travel. Thomas Cook was a passionate man who was born into a world where most working class people worked long 6-day weeks and never traveled more than 20 miles from their home towns. Thomas would begin work at age 10, laboring in a vegetable garden for 1 penny per day; but with a lot of determination and hard work, this working class man would eventually build one of the largest travel companies in the world. This post is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Read the Rest…