Hone Your Perfect Vacay Vision (A Secret How-To for Rebels)

by Bianca Gignac

summer in italy

I’m not sure how the “other guys” who own travel companies (yes, most are owned by men) build their trip itineraries. I instinctively feel it would start with a healthy serving of Excel spreadsheets and boardroom meetings with “accounting.”

That sounds sucky. At least to me.

When I create my summer Italy tours, I try to think … what would be awesomest? What would be bestest? What would be funnest? Admittedly, being grammatically correct has its moments. Obviously not right now though.

Which brings me to my next thought: Sometimes you gotta strip it down to the essentials before you build it up.

Sometimes you have to be visionary. And rebellious (here’s your permission slip to be so).

Accounting departments don’t usually have their finger on the pulse of these concepts.

For me, hitting the target means pointing the arrow towards non-tangibles like feelings and experiences instead of sights and the “checking things off the list” rigmarole.

Because anyone can see the leaning tower of Pisa. Who cares about that, actually? (Especially if it was pain is the ass to get there.)

What do you really want?

I doubt you’re going to Italy to see the Colosseum. Your neighbour might have done that, but maybe you don’t actually give a rat’s bum about that sight.

I have a hunch you’re travelling for something bigger.

What is it?

I travel because I truly believe that a rich life comes not from the things I have, but the things I do, and the experiences and people I meet along the way.

When you’re designing YOUR vacation, but getting caught up in OVERWHELM — just strip it down.

Ask yourself: what do I want to feel, to taste, to do (or to be!) when I’m away?

“How-To” like a pro.

Once you have your bigger picture — you build the details from your ideal.

You flesh out the “how to” of your trip. Meaning:

  • How am I getting from A-B?
  • Where am I sleeping?
  • Where the heck do I park my car?

Those answers will be different, depending on what you’re looking for in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely obsessed with details. And timing. And flow. And a thousand other things. And I love every second of nailing that. Because that is an art.

I’d chew off my left arm just to make sure a client sees the sunset at exactly 7:47, from exactly that vantage point, with exactly that glass of bubbly in her hand. Because I know that moment will put enough wind in her sails to guide her ship for the next year. Or decade.

Nailing the details or NOT nailing the details makes a huge difference. It’s like the difference between french kissing the hottest guy you’ve ever seen, or just settling for the last one in the bar that night (no, not speaking from personal experience). Translation: one scenario makes you feel high as a kitty on catnip. The other … not so much. You feel me?

Have your strawberry gelato and eat it too.

My advice may sound counter-intuitive.

But I’ve been designing trips for a few years, and this is what I love about the process. It might not be how the “big guys” build their trips, but it’s my style I’ve honed and it feels right.

I’m building two tours right now (details to come) and this is great way to START.

It makes my trips feel effortless and exciting for my guests, and I hope my rebel-love tips will work for your trip planning too.

I understand that working out the finer details is easier for me because of my years of experience in Italy.

But honestly, you might not be an Italy expert — but you’re certainly an expert on YOU. What YOU like, what YOU want and how YOU want to feel.

So start there.

Then fill in the blanks with the details.

I know you can do it. I’m cheering you on.

Tear a page from my example below.

My perfect summer vacay vision for my Cinque Terre trips.

An Italian Seaside Village

Sleeping in sheets dried by the sun. Vino bianco in the shade. Cats sleeping under the oleander. Seafood pasta, al fresco. White dresses. Striped beach towels, stiff with salt. Warmness all around.

Downtime

Pretty (and pretty strong) cocktails on wooden tables. Olive pits piled in a tiny bowl. Eavesdropping on a language you can’t understand. Sunglasses. Your novel. Swimming before lunch. Watching your toes sink in the sand.

Fresh Air and Exercise

Walking everywhere (you can reach everywhere because it’s so small). Your shoes on dirt paths through vineyards and olive groves. No car exhaust, or Vespas to dodge (why can’t all villages be pedestrian?). A world away from routine.

Watching

Kids play in the piazza. Mama hanging laundry. A father holding his daughter’s hand, and an umbrella, on the way to the beach. Locals diving from cliffs. Old men in wooden boats. Old ladies on benches.

Feeling

Yourself smiling. Sun on your back. Your feet in the water. Curious eyes on you (from locals with dark hair). Lemon gelato on your lips. Cobblestones under your sandals. Space for daydreaming.

Smelling

Coffee and jasmine blossoms. Just picked strawberries. Warm pastries in the morning. Sun lotion. Margherita pizza, slightly burnt on the edges. Basil. A man’s cologne. Salty breezes. Dry soil from the vineyards. Limoncello at midnight.

***

Does any of these summer in Italy words conjure up thoughts for you?

What’s YOUR reason for traveling to Italy?

What do YOU look forward to tasting, seeing, smelling and feeling when you travel to Italy?

I’d love to hear from you. Who knows, your words could inspire my next trip vision.

Grazie mille,

xx Bianca

P.S. Do you share my perfect vacation vision? This Cinque Terre trip might be up your alley.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

sharon kurdell

Leaving soon for CT . Following many of your suggestions.
Ciao

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Hi Sharon,
I’m so happy to hear they’ve been helpful to your plans. Keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

A presto,
Bianca

Reply

Barb Hummert

Your perfect summer “Vacay Vision” for Cinque Terre is why my husband and I signed up for your “Wanderly” tour on July 5th.
Can’t wait to experience the fun and meet you and the other fun people who will be joining the group!
Until then…Ciao

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Hi Barb!
I’m so thrilled you and Bob are traveling with me this summer on our Wanderly trip. I can’t wait to meet you — we’re going to have a blast. Fasten your seatbelts!

Counting the days,
Bianca

Reply

richard maiselson

We plan to drive from Florence to Naples this early October , please advise best route for best scenic and food stops .
Best Regards
Richard

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Hi Richard,
That sounds like quite a trip! You have a few routes to choose from, depending if you want inland of through the Maremma region of southern Tuscany. I suggest buying a paper map now, and plot out some ideas before you go — based on your interests. Then you can book hotels along the way that fit into your itinerary.

I’ll be posting a lot of scenes from my trip heading south this summer. Stay tuned for those. In general, pre-trip planning can also be done online using Michelin routes: http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Routes

I like to add a GPS to car rentals in Italy, but they can go haywire so paper map back-up is essential. Hope my tips from the road this summer will help you.

Best, Bianca

Reply

leela

this sounds beyond perfect — can’t wait to be there with you and our ladies!!

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Leela,
Grazie mille! I can’t wait to host our event with all our lovely ladies too!

xx
Bianca

Reply

Dianne

Hi Bianca,
I am an active senior (mid 60’s) travelling to Italy in September from Australia. I have been trying to find a comfortable pair of shoes to wear when walking on cobblestones most days.
I don’t know if you have the Ecco brand in Italy (possibly not). Any suggestions would be appreciated please.
Thanks Bianca.
Dianne

Reply

Olga

Cara Dianne, I was reading Bianca’s post and saw your question on “Ecco” brand shoes. I have sometimes seen these shoes in shoe stores here in Italia, but mostly online. I wear Geox brand shoes which are incredibly good for walking (on cobblestones and everywhere) as they also breathe so feet are always comfortable. This is not a promotion of Geox but just to let you know what brand you may find more readily here. Have a bellissimo viaggio!! Ciao, Olga

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Hello Dianne, and thank you so much Olga for chiming in. I love everything you said!

Dianne — The great thing about Italy is there is a shoe store every 100 metres — and many of them are “comfort shoe” specific stores. I also like the markets for some comfort shoes — I have great orthopaedic sandals I buy every year for 10 euros from the markets. The point is — I don’t think you’ll have any issues finding comfortable footwear while you’re in Italy. xx Bianca

Reply

Jean Macleod le Cheminant

Bianca! Carissima! A poet as well as an artist of life! (We could see it coming from early on…) You are the perfect portal through which even the timid can step into a world that opens to them to a richer, deeper, wilder experience of life than they have ever known. Brava!!!

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Jean, Can you be any sweeter? Thank you! xx Bianca

Reply

Roland

We’re off to Italy for two weeks this August so everyday I surf the web for articles like this. I keep on coming back to your blog because it EVOKES strong and exciting feelings of what’s to come. I am a perctionist planner myself so yes I feel you when you said plans needs a flow. Don’t go to places just because. Be a traveller not just a tourist… nod nod.

I’ll step a bit out of topic though, I wish to know what you would suggest to wear for both men/women in Cinque Terre during August? I’m not sure if you have created an article about that (if not, you should!) but this will be our first time in Europe and we need tips.

For example, we are planning on doing a couple of hikes (Corniglia to Manarola, Vernazza to Monterosso) and lots of swimming. Is there a universally awesome footwear for hiking/walking/swimming that you could suggest? I’ve seen some suggest Barefoot Sandals, but we’re not into the barefoot feeling (sounds painful). Anny suggestions?

Reply

Kiiri @ Italian Fix

Ciao Roland,
There’s no one shoe or brand that we universally love – just make sure you bring along something that you are really comfortable walking in. This summer was extremely hot, so full-on hiking boots might have been too much. Something like Teva sandals would have been perfect – supportive but open. Good running shoes would be great too. This being said, I did the entire hike from one end to the other eleven years ago (when I was younger and stupider…) in flip flops and was fine. I wouldn’t recommend that, but mention it to say that you don’t need to get kitted up in full hiking regalia to enjoy the Cinque Terre. Just know what your own comfort levels are and buy accordingly.
Hope your trip was wonderful, and so glad you’ve gotten so much inspiration from our site! Do let us know how everything went, ok?
Kiiri @ Italian Fix

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Tiffany

FYI- website is still under construction
Really enjoyed this article as I am a rebel in disguise and having so much fun detailing out my trip to Italy in late October, mainly going for the Truffle fesitval in teh La Marche region,but have heard so much about Cinque Terre that I am trying to learn more about it and how best to spend my time there. Just curious, any chance you have some ideas on how best to spend your time there in late October? Not finding a lot of information on this yet.
Keep on writing, love your style it ‘spoke to me’!
Best,
Tif

Reply

Kiiri @ Italian Fix

Hey Tif,
Love that our blog has resonated with you! And that you’re putting together an amazing little vacation for yourself in our fave place in the world 🙂 Late October is of course a little cooler – anything water-related is pretty much over at that time of year, and there aren’t as many people around. But everything is still open and so you can pretty much plan to enjoy the area as you would in the summer months minus the tanning and swimming. And hiking is that much more enjoyable because you’re not dealing with the heat.
Omg, we’ve heard amazing things about the truffle festival. You must come back and let us know how it went, ok? My mouth is already watering…
Kiiri @ Italian Fix

Reply

Gina Pagnella

I just love that you found words to explain the essence of what goes on here in the Cinque Terre.

Reply

Kiiri @ Italian Fix

Love you, Gina!

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Italy tours

I love Italy country….several time going for Italy vacation with right travel ….lots of memories in Italy….

Reply

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