High-speed railway ring scheduled between Rome, Milan and Venice airports

This is a good thing. Italy’s already fantastic-by-comparison-to-the-US train system means we can very cost-effectively schedule tours around where the best airfares are; you can pick the departure and arrival cities that make the most fiscal sense and get to and from pretty easily regardless of the cities you’re actually going to visit for the most part. This will make it even easier to take in more of the regions you want to see while being picky about where to fly to and from.

Italian Insight

The Italian Ministry of Transportation and the Italian State Railways signed an agreement to provide high-speed railways links between the airports of Rome, Milan and Venice.

Pursuant to the agreement, the Railways will have to start the evaluation phase before the end of the year. The Ministry will formulate its guidelines and provide the required financial resourced in the beginning of 2015.

The railway ring was required by the United Arab Emirates flagship airline Etihad as a precondition to pump fresh money into the embattled Italian flagship airline Alitalia.

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How Not To Behave In Venice

Dear Venetians:  rest assured these folks are *not* Sassi Italy Tours clients.  Venice is not a campground where you break out a portable stove or backwater where you drunkenly engage in uhm…adult behaviors in public.  It’s not a sunbathing beach (the Lido isn’t that far by ferry, people).  It’s a unique connection to the past, a living museum you can walk around in, but please don’t ruin the magic for others while you’re doing so.

wine – 1997 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino

On the list of things I’ll drink this every day when I win the lottery.


  • 1997 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino (8/21/2014)

    Tasted non blind.

    Dark garnet color in the glass, clear looking throughout. Nose of leather, anise, dark berries and dark cherries. Flavors of black berries, black cherries and black raspberries. Medium to bright acidity, medium tannin, full bodied. Drink or hold. (93 points)

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Siena. Il Palio.

Check out this detailed account of the Sienese Palio! Sounds like a thrill.


As the horses and their bare-back riders line up against the starting rope in Piazza del Campo, you can almost taste the anxiety, agitation and adrenaline, rising up from the 40,000-strong crowd. The last few weeks, months and years of planning have all led to this moment. And the next one and half minutes will decide the happiness of one of Siena’s contrade for the year to come and even beyond. This is the legendary Palio di Siena horse race and it’s a spectacle not to be missed!

The Palio dell'Assunta, Siena 2010 The Palio dell’Assunta, Siena 2010

The Palio is a piece of living history. The tradition of horse racing in Italy goes back to Ancient Roman days when a pallium, or precious piece of material, was awarded to the winner. In medieval times, the Senese people held races called palii alla lunga through the city streets, with the winner being the first bull…

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Venice Too Crowded?

Some think so (I suspect the cruise ship problem is relevant here).  As long as you’re not there in June, July, August, or September, it’s generally not.  But even if you are, one of the perks of traveling with Doug Sassi is how deftly he can show you the Venice found not just on the Rialto and in Piazza San Marco, but also off the beaten path that takes just a bit of adventuring to find.  It can feel easy to get lost and waste time hunting around there, but we’ll get you where you can see the *real* Venice with ease and avoid the crowds.

Venice Quiet
(Doesn’t look too crowded does it?  And not that far a walk from major tourist attractions you can find quiet romantic corners like this to explore and take in the Venice Venetians know and love, if you know where to look.)

wine – 1999 Piero Talenti Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello. Who’s up for a wine tasting in Italy?


  • 1999 Piero Talenti Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino (8/16/2014)

    Tasted non blind at a wine dinner.

    Garnet to dark garnet color in the glass, clear looking throughout. Nose of dried herbs, berries and cherries. Flavors of berries, cherries and raspberries. Medium acidity, medium tannin, full bodied. Drink or hold. (91 points)

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Siena. Contrada life.

Have you considered adding Siena to an itinerary? Any traveler should consider making a day for an excursion here with Doug Sassi!


Paris has its arrondissements, New York has its blocks, and Siena has its contradas. But a contrada, or district, is not just a geographic designation within the city’s historic walls, it is much, much more serious than that. It is life itself.

Contrada first Contrada first

The UNESCO heritage city of Siena will host the second of her annual Palio horse races this weekend, on Saturday 16th August, but before we can delve into the history of the race, we first need to understand what a contrada is and why passions run so high at the Palio.

The Palio of Siena The Palio of Siena

Siena is divided into three main parts, called the terzi, or thirds. These are Terzo di Camollia, Terzo di Città and Terzo di San Martino. These are then divided further into the 17 contradas, or to be more correct contrade (Italian plural), that sit proudly within the medieval walls. The contrade…

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