Category Archives: Italy

Visit the charming, historic heel of Italy

Hands down, the Puglia region of Italy has the best beaches and you can get confirmation of that from locals, European tourists and American visitors. Puglia, also called Apulia, is in the southeastern tip of Italy or the heel of Italy’s boot. The Adriatic Sea is on the East, the Ionian Sea on the Southeast and the gulf of Taranto is on the South side. 

The area has been recognized as an undiscovered gem — think stunning coastlines, miles and miles of olive groves, vineyards, charming towns, historic villages with cone-shaped trullo houses and unique cuisine. The Puglia region produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, about 300,000 tons a year.  

Bari, Italy

Two of the many areas of note in the region are Bari, the capital of the Puglia region and Matera, a city that truly makes you think you’ve stepped back into Biblical times. 

If you’d like to see Bari, Matera and Lecce, nicknamed the “Florence of the South” GetAway Travel can arrange your trip, or, check back with us for details on a trip planned for that area in 2023. 

 Bari: monuments and pasta 

 Bari is home to two important monuments, the Basilica di San Nicola, or the Church of St. Nicholas and Frederick II’s castle. It is a bustling harbor town with lovely beaches. The largest port on the Italian side of the Adriatic Sea, it gave Italians numerous access to shipping routes, second only to Naples. 

Beautiful tiled floor – Basilica di San Nicola, Bari

It is still a major ferry port. There are up to 15 ferry crossings a day including an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik, Croatia. 

Bari, Italy

The Church of St. Nicholas is thought to be the resting place of Santa Claus. Built in 1089 to house the remains of the saint, the church is a mixture of architecture styles. The remains of St. Nicholas of Myra were originally in Turkey, but they were moved to Bari when the Saracens attacked Myra in 1087. It is somewhat fitting his remains are in Bari because he is considered the patron saint of travelers, sailors and children. The church interior features beautiful artwork and mosaics. 

St Nicholas, Bari

The city’s main church is the Cathedral of San Sabino. It was destroyed and rebuilt in 1170 in a more Romanesque style. Take some time to study the front facade which is decorated with monsters and other imaginary creatures. 

View down the street – of Cathedral of San Sabino, Bari

The Castello Svevo was built by King Ruggero in the 12th Century, destroyed and rebuilt by Frederick II in 1233. It became a social hub in the Renaissance when Isabella of Aragon and her daughter, Bona Sforza lived there and hosted famous artists, writers and dignitaries. 

Castello Svevo, Bari

St. Nicholas Church and the cathedral are in the Old Town or Bari Vecchia area of Bari. It’s worth taking a walk through the winding streets in Old Town. You will come upon women practicing a craft perfected by their grandmothers and mothers — making orecchiette (little ears) pasta by hand. You can take a walking tour of the area or take a pasta making class. 

Making orecchiette pasta

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Picturesque Venice: A beautiful, serene floating city

There is just something so romantic about the idea of visiting a city built on water. Venice and its canals have provided a backdrop to many romantic movie scenes and its every bit as awesome in person. Venice is one of the stops on a planned GetAway Travel trip, but your travel advisors at GetAway can accommodate your wish to travel to the Floating City any time you wish! 

 Water, water everywhere 

 Venice, the capital of Northern Italy, is built on a series of more than 100 islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Since there is a finite surface area for building, residents continue to upgrade their homes and the classic palaces and estate homes — fabulous examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture — line the canals. There are no roads in Venice, so where ever you wander on foot, you will find something worth seeing since the city’s history goes back more than 1,000 years. 

Enjoy elaborate architecture and stunning art-filled palaces. Use gondolas, water taxis and canal boats to get around. A pro tip: you can’t just hail a gondola like a taxi in New York. If you are interested in a family tour or a romantic couples’ trip, reservations are necessary. 

There are things to see on every canal, but do plan a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. 

If you are taking a boat tour, or touring on of the other famous sites, you may find yourself standing in line waiting to buy a ticket. However, Venice, like many European cities, has something called “skip the line.” Your travel advisor can book tours or entrances to venues in advance and you can just — skip the line and gain entrance without wasting your precious vacation time. 

Rialto Bridge, Venice

 Palaces, paintings and piazzas 

 The city is divided into six sestieri districts, or neighborhoods with their own character, including San Marco which is the central district. The Piazza San Marco is a prime people watching spot and it’s where you will find St. Mark’s Basilica. It is decorated with art treasures seized during the fall of Constantinople. There are miles and miles of gold mosaics covering the domed ceilings and walls. The golden altar piece was put in the basilica in the early 12th century and eventually encrusted with 2,000 gems and precious stones. Walk across the Rialto Bridge to San Polo. The ornamental stone bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Venice  and a great place to take photos. 

Giant’s staircase Doges Palace

Vendors at the Rialto Market sell fish, produce, spices and some artisan products, but the San Polo district has great artisan shopping options and find designer items in the Calle Delle Mercerie or Calle Larga XXII Marzo areas. 

The Lion is the symbol of St Mark

Other churches of note include Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. Santa Maria Gloriosa was started by the Franciscan monks in 1340 and it has some spectacular art pieces including a wooden statue of St. John the Baptist. While palaces and churches in Venice feature ornate facades of limestone and marble with ornate architectural embellishments, Santa Maria dei Miracoli is an exception. Designed by architect Pietro Lombardo, the facade is entirely of matched colored marble which creates intricate more ethereal designs. The interior is just as lovely. 

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia, was founded in 1750 as a sort of artist incubator and now it houses works from Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Titan and Giambattista. The more than 800 paintings chronicle the evolution of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century. 

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a museum for modern art lovers. One of the first contemporary art museums in Italy, it has works by Pollock, Klee, Mondrian and de Chirico. It is located in a partially completed palace, the Palazzo Venir dei Leoni. 


Don’t skip a water taxi ride to Murano and Burano 

There are two great museums on lagoon islands a short distance from central Venice. Murano is home to the Museum of Glass. Glassmaking is a hot, fiery — and in the 13th century — potentially dangerous process. Especially dangerous to homes crowded together which was allegedly the reason why Murano was established as the area where all glassmakers were ordered to live. As a side note, it also meant the process was safeguarded in one area. Today, Murano glassmakers create everything from small items to huge, elaborate chandeliers. Watch a glass blowing demo at the museum and also learn the history of the art. 

Murano, Italy

Burano is a Venetian lagoon island renowned for its striking, brightly painted houses and delicate, handmade lace. According to historians, the homes were brightly painted to help guide fishermen in through the mists that rise up from the lagoon waters. 

Burano Island, Italy

From 1872 until the 1970s, the Lace School on Burano was in operation. The museum in the palace Podestá of Torcello has lovely pieces on display as well as videos about lacemaking and interviews with some of the school’s last students. 

 If you need help navigating the ins and outs of visiting Venice, want to join the group tour or want to design a vacation of your own with GetAway Travel, we’re here to help. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: or 

Experience a renaissance revival in Florence, Italy

 While Florence, Italy is smaller than Rome or Venice, it’s packed full of destinations for art and history lovers as well as attractions for foodies and smart shoppers. Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and the historic center of Florence has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. It retains its historic site status by the careful preservation of ancient streets, buildings, fountains and monuments. 

It’s a city where you can get fabulous gelato, see Michelangelo’s “David” and pick up some great designer bargains. 

Your travel advisor at GetAway Travecan set up your tours of city attractions based on your interests. Buying your tickets to tours and sites in the city ahead of time means less time standing in line and more time enjoying your getaway! 

Opportunities for art lovers 

 The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Florence is home to masterpieces of architecture and art. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the Duomo Cathedral is easily recognized by its terracotta-tiled dome. The dome’s design was engineered by Brunelleschi and the neighboring bell tower by Giotto, but the exterior is also a marvel of architectural features including a decorative mix of pink, white and green marble insets. 

Windows inside along the narrow interior walkways offer great views of the city and the floors are “carpeted” in marble mosaics.  Continue reading

Virtual Visit Week – If it’s Monday let’s go to the Uffizi

While we are not travelling right now, it’s a great time for some virtual visits.

The Galleria degli Uffizi is a prominent art museum located in the historic center of Florence, Italy.  It is one of the largest, best known, most important and most visited Italian museums.  It holds a priceless collection of art, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.  

Fifteenth century Italy was unlike any place in Europe – divided between independent city-states each with a different form of government.  Florence where the Italian Renaissance began was an independent republic.  It was also a banking/commercial capital and the 3rd largest city in Europe after London and Constantinople (or do you say Istanbul?).  Wealthy Florentines flaunted their money and power by becoming patrons of the arts. 

I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance. – Steven Wright

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Add Assisi to your list of places to go in Italy

Assisi is a hill town in central Italy, but it is not in Tuscany – it is in the Province of Perugia in the Umbria region. A visit to the Medieval town of Assisi is essential; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its  represents “a series of masterpieces of man‘s creative spirit.”  The town revolves around its most renowned citizen, St. Francis, Patron Saint of Italy: from the Basilica, which is dedicated to the Saint and contains his tomb, to the hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri), a few kilometers outside the town walls, where St. Francis used to retreat in prayer.

Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.  Born in Italy circa 1182, Saint Francis of Assisi was renowned for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned for ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison — awaiting his father’s payment — and, according to legend, began receiving visions from God.

After his release from prison, Francis heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. Consequently, he abandoned his life of luxury and became a devotee of the faith, his reputation spreading all over the Christian world.

St Francis returns from war

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Only an hour from Florence by train, Pisa should be high on your list of sights to see in Italy.  The most iconic structure to see is Torre Pendente or the Leaning Tower, which was conceived as the bell tower for the splendid Duomo di Pisa (or Pisa Cathedral).  Shortly after construction began in 1173, the tower started to lean due to the soft ground on which it was being built.  Tower construction occurred in 3 phases over a period of 199 years.

the tower and the duomo

Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass.  It’s not known if this is completely true or not – but it does make a good story and demonstrates an important property of physics

Looking down into the top of the tower

During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and its campanile, and thus refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.  (you can read an account of this story here)

the stunning baptistry

Numerous efforts were made to stabilize the tower and it was closed for a long time for safety reasons.  In 2008 it was reported by engineers that it stopped moving for the first time in 800 years and that it should remain stable for at least another 200 years.

inside the church

There is so much to see and do in this area of Italy – We can help plan the perfect GetAway for you – just call!

Italy will never be a normal country and we love it that way.


“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.”

-Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy…


Professional Service & Awards

At GetAway Travel, we pride ourselves on great professional service to our customers.  Travel industry surveys continue to relate that travelers that work with travel agents have more fulfilling vacations than those that do not.  We certainly believe it is true, and obviously so do our clients.  Our clients expect to be treated like friends and family.  They are confident in our abilities.  They do not expect to be “sold” on travel as we already know they want an amazing vacation, what they want is our opinions, our help and our support.  One of the ways we support them is by maintaining professional agency affiliations. The affiliation that we are always most excited about is with MAST Travel Network – and unless you are in the industry, you likely have never heard of them.  We’ve been MAST members for many years now, and in fact Sue currently is serving a term on the board of directors.   MAST helps keep us up to date on the travel industry and products, but more importantly puts us face to face with suppliers.

This week was the 12th annual MAST awards night and GetAway Travel came home with 2 awards which bring us great pride.  The first award is for “Best Travel Show”, for our “Afternoon in Italy” event last February.  The second award is the “Directors Achievement Award”, recognizing one of MAST’s smaller agencies for outstanding sales and support with highest percentage increases from one year to the next.  This was a new category and we are truly blessed with being the first agency to ever receive this award.

You should expect great things from your travel agency, and we hope that for you that the travel agency you rely on first and foremost for amazing vacations is us.

Florence, Italy – Capital of Tuscany, Cradle of the Renaissance

GetAway Travel is taking a group of clients to Florence in October 2015 and here is why.

“The Creator Made Italy from Designs by Michelangelo”  – Mark Twain

32-Florence Italy 6-5-2008 1-38-21 AM 3872x2592And one of Italy’s greatest places to see those designs is in Florence.  In Italy, all roads lead to Rome, but in Florence all roads lead to the elegant Piazza della Signoria  – the location where Michelangelo’s statue of David was originally unveiled in 1504.  (Yes, over 500 hundred years ago!)  At the time this was also where the seat of the civic government of Florence resided.   Strategically positioned, the eyes of David with his warning glare were turned towards Rome.  In 1873 the statue moved to the Galleria dell’Academia, where it is viewed today.  A replica statue now stands in the Piazza on the exact spot where the original once stood.

Politically, economically, and culturally Florence was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years, from before 1300 until the early 1500s.  Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the “Dark Ages”, a term invented by a Florentine. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, Lyon and Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years’ War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of the papal palace in Avignon and then reconstruction of St. Peter’s and the Vatican when the papacy returned to Rome.

01-Florence Italy 6-4-2008 8-12-53 AM 3872x2592Florentines were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his “enterprise” to the Spanish monarchs, and which he then used on his first voyage. Mercator’s famous “Projection” is a refined version of Toscanelli’s map.  The western hemisphere itself is named after a Florentine writer who claimed to be an explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci.

The greatest banking dynasty family that ever lived – the Medicis were centered in Florence.  From there they changed the world more than any other family.  The taught the rest of Europe how to conduct state-craft.  Their offspring married into and influenced rulers in France, Spain and England.

Florence had a profound impact on the world of art.  While your children may only know them as names of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the artists Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino) Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni are all forever linked to Florence.

Florence is the capital of Tuscany – and you know what that means….Italian hill towns and amazing wine – but that will be the subject of a future post.

Why not join us in Florence in October?


Top 10 Reasons to have GetAway Travel help Plan your next Vacation – #6

Ahhh Europe!

Rich culture and history, amazing cuisine and diverse heritage are all packed into this amazing destination.  Europe has some of the greatest intellectual and artistic developments the world has ever known.  The landscape is dense with museums, cathedrals, monuments and palaces.  Irresistible and intriguing, Europe continues to call us to visit. to experience the rich culture, history, and warm friendly people.

There are so many places to go – where do you begin?   From the oldest monument in Europe (Stonehenge) to the most amazing museums:  Louvre in Paris, Uffizi in Florence, Guggenheim in Blibao, and the list goes on and on.  From the rolling Tuscan countryside wine regions in Italy to the mecca of beer – Hofbrauhaus in Munich.  From the pristine beaches at Normandy where the allies initiated the liberation of Europe in World War II to the defensive fortification of Hadrian’s Wall built in the 1st century AD.

There are so many places to go and so many ways to see Europe that the best place to begin is right here with us.  We can help plan the perfect trip that is right for you.

#6 Europe