This has been a very fun time for us!
We’ve been highly focused writing a travel guide with one purpose: to make your trip to Italy outrageously good.
We’ve been listening to readers and our tour clients for years, and we hear the same things:
Help! My trip is so overwhelming to plan! Can I ask you a few questions?
For people who are coming to Italy for the first or fifth time, planning a trip can be hugely stressful. And coming to a country where you don’t speak the language just adds another layer of complexity.
Trip planning is like a full-time job — there are so many moving parts. I plan trips for a living, and I know how much time and effort it can take. Even if I have an advantage (cause I do it a lot, have connections and read Italian language content), it still takes an immense amount of time, and there’s an art to doing it well! Given that, I really feel for the “first timer.”
Our new guide will give you “before you go” trip planning strategies, plus city guides for Rome, Florence, Venice and the Cinque Terre.
It’s full of step-by-step directions, must-know resources, lists of favorite hotels and rad food. We deliver it in a very personalized, “avoid that and do this” advice.
You know, things we would tell our clients who travel with us, or our friends. Just straight-up stuff.
We also wanted something that makes travel planning FUN and EASY. (Duh!)
Our BRAND NEW travel guide is the world’s first, “read, watch and listen” system.
Introducing … Gigi.
We call this new travel friend Gigi Guides.
(Pronounced with a soft “J”, like the word “Jeep.” It sounds like Jee Jee Guides.)
Gigi crushes the limitations of a paper guidebook (hello updates!) and gives you 24/7 access on any device. Watch videos on your laptop, listen to audio on your phone or just print the text guides.
Release date: April 2016.
Why did you write a travel guide, Bianca?
Over the years, we’ve been publishing free blog posts and by reading comments we get daily, we knew people struggled with trip planning.
Our most popular blog post “The Beginner’s Guide to the Cinque Terre” has over 600 comments and over 800 Facebook shares. (Huge, right?) I knew something had to be done. Which is why we wrote this Italy travel guide with “all in one” planning advice.
The best part about owning a travel company isn’t traveling.
You know, for me, owning a travel company isn’t just about traveling. In fact, the best part of my work is hanging out with great people each year. Both clients and collaborators.
I want to introduce you to a few folks who know me. Really well!
They’ve seen me in the trenches, taking care of travelers.
My homie Justina Blakeney is a New York Times best-selling author and design blogger. We host a workshop in Italy and last year our husbands and daughters played while we worked (but we all had a nice beach day together too!). Here’s what Justina says:
When I met Bianca on our first trip to the Cinque Terre, she immediately made me feel both at home and like I was on this incredible adventure. Traveling with Bianca is like traveling with a really good friend — a really good friend that also happens to be really fun, incredibly knowledgeable, generous, easy-going and full of good vibes–and did I mention that she has great taste, too?? She’s that rare combination of super high-energy and totally mellow — the perfect person to guide you through one of my favorite places in the world.
Justina Blakeney | LA, California
Meet Tim. I’ve been besties with this gal since I was 19 (translation: we’ve watched each other go through a LOT of boyfriends. Especially in our 20’s!) Boys aside (plus my husband reads this), she’s been working with me in Italy since “Day 1” on our tours and knows I am obsessed with finding the good stuff.
Bianca is the best there is. Her style and taste are impeccable, and she makes sure you get to share in her years of knowledge and experience of Italy, as if you yourself spend those years there. She takes your comfort, fun & peace of mind seriously!
Tim McDiarmid | San Antonio, Texas
I’ve worked with Leela Cyd in Italy for four years. Leela is a photographer and cookbook author (you MUST check out Food with Friends). We’ve shared hotel rooms, heatstrokes, ocean swims, and late night grappa sessions. Leela says:
Bianca brings you into the fold like family and leads you to explore the inner world of the Italy. Instead of the tourist traps, you are swiftly whisked away to homes for a glass of wine, a tiny cabana-covered beach of pretty pebbles, tranquil waters & only a handful of Italian families and her fave outdoor shopping markets. The restaurants Bianca shares are another adventure entirely — from the first sip of welcoming Prosecco served with aperitivo to last crumb of chocolatey cantuccini, we are hosted, lavished upon and generously taken care of in the old-world sense, where every ingredient is grown and prepared to the utmost refined simplicity and left to linger with each other. Never rushed, always enchanting, Bianca helps us find the most crucial commodity of our harried, digitized era: connection and time. Time for you to be awakened to the good life of Italy, and to the possibilities and beauty of living slower.
Leela Cyd | Santa Barbara, California
Stalk these photos.
Here are shots from people I’ve helped have rocking vacations in Italia and I can do the same for you with Gigi Guides.
Stalk Instagram posts from Anthony, Nikki, Deepa, Lauren, Jessica and Anuschka.
Client images, top to bottom: @zioandsons @nikkicadestudio @moonbirdpottery @currystrumpet @laurenelizabethsims @jessicagiesey @hipaholic
To celebrate Gigi Guides coming in April, enter our contest!
If I gave you a FREE plane ticket to Italy tomorrow — where would you go and why?
I’ll be picking one random winner to get a free 30-minute phone consult from me (ask me anything: travel, business, where I bought my latest hot dress).
Answer 2 questions to be eligible:
- Where would you go in Italy.
I look forward to reading your comments below! **Random draw on Tuesday March 15th @ 2 pm PST.**
Thanks for checking out our blog!
Are you interested in travelling to the Cinque Terre with us on a current trip?
Check out our Day Tours of the Cinque Terre HERE!
(We’ve also got tours in Florence)
We’d love to see you in Italy!
Right away, I would head to Venice to the Teatro La Fenice where they have La Traviata playing!
(I’m really going in June, but I don’t know what to see yet – and saw that this was playing now while doing research!)
We’d go to the Dolomites, Venice, Florence, and Cinque Terra! It’s a bucket list trip my wife and I have talked about for years! The logistics are a little daunting, so I’m looking forward to the release of your travel guide!
I would head straight to Chinque Terre. Why? I have been to Italy twice on tours yet never heard of it until I started planning my own trip (happening this June). I stumbled upon this blog and you honesty caused me to fall in love. I am so excited to be visiting Italy again but truly I am dreaming of the day I will put my feet upon that beautiful coast!
I would return to Florence. Our last trip we didn’t manage our time properly, and we only had time for a Gelato. I literally cried. There was so much we wanted to see and had only 3 hours. We are still married, lol and are planning on a trip for our 30th.
Without a doubt I would head back to Venice. I was there for the first time in September. We only spent 2 full days there based on everyone’s recommendations that’s all we needed because it is crowded, dirty and confusing. HOW WRONG THEY WERE!!! Venice was magical, I loved getting lost and discovering hidden gems. The people were incredibly friendly and the food amazing. I need to get back for several more days.
Hands down, Cinque Terre. We have been planning to do this for years. We have paid off everything but our house and the last of 6 kids is in college! Empty nesters, married off 4 out of 5 and now it is time!
Positano and the Amalfi Coast has always been on my wish list because it looks so glamorous and romantic. Cinque Terre is a must too!
Impossible to choose. Anywhere inland in Marche with its sprawling hills and hilltop towns. Sicily, for its southern wonders. Tuscany for a wine fuelled road trip. Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre for its beautiful cliff side towns and blue waters. Damn it just give me a ticket anywhere in Italy and I won’t leave.
We would go to the Chianti Classico valley and soak in the vineyards, thick woods, steep roads and wildlife. You must catch a glimpse of the Chingiale at night. The food is simple elegance and the people are the best. The wine is our favorite. You simply cannot go wrong!
I would definitely go to the Cinque Terre. I get a wonderful feeling inside every time I look at pictures of the cliff side villages and the beautiful blue water.
I have been fortunate enough to have been to Italy three times but not since 2005. It always feels like home when I go back….
If I could go one place in Italy tomorrow it would be Lake Como. Why? Right after my parent’s divorce when I was young, my dad traveled in that region and sent me a postcard with a long, loving message on the back. I remember missing him terribly and staring at that post card for hours. I still have that postcard and all of the others from that trip. He says now that although it was the most difficult time in his life, traveling with his backpack, taking photos and writing postcards to me helped him heal. I still have all of those postcards and those very photos planted the travel bug in me at a young age. He says that was his goal 🙂 Well done, Dad.
I would love to see Trieste, it’s supposed to be famous for pastries, coffee and an east/west feel for Italy, and as one who has worked in restaurants and run my own chef service company, I’d like to experience this area of Italy that is perhaps less traveled to than some other areas. I haven’t been to Trieste, I think it would be great to start there and head down the Adriatic coast. And I would love to take a perfume making course, but I think it’s near Firenze.
One trip to Italy and it becomes an addiction!!! Anywhere in Italy would be a dream come true! Almafi coast, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Venice, Sicily, on and on and on. People, food,wine, scenic landscapes, romantic! Where can you go wrong!
Where would I go? I’d probably flip a coin, or throw a dart at a map board, just because I like adventure. Why? The perfect trip is the one at happens! So happy to see these guides. Thought about traveling to Italy last year but it it wa so overwhelming trying to figure out where to go. Your guides will be so helpful. Thank you!
I would spend two months visiting my favourite city, Venice and then head off to Positano and Amalfi ( l am looking at a painting l bought when l visited the beautiful coastaltown/villageof Positano.
I would go to Cinque Terre. I have been to Italy twice before and have visited all the hot spots like the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Tuscany, Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa. I feel that Cinque Terre will be the topping my Italy “cake”! Even since I stumbled onto Bianca’s blog, I have planned to take one of her tours to Cinque Terre for a hands-on, up close and personal experience. It is just about time!
I want to travel to Cinque Terre! I have had 3 dreams about Italy this year. In the first one it was the future, I was looking down at the ocean from atop a colorful building that was attached to a bunch of other colorful buildings. The wind blew through my hair and I could hear the ocean!
The second one I was walking to my apartment and there was the ocean! There were people swimming and having a great time! I walked into my apartment and on the first floor a women sewing greeted me. There were 2 cute kitties and a dog on the second floor hanging out next to a place that was serving homemade barrata cheese with vine ripe tomatoes on a veranda overlooking the ocean. The third dream I was walking along a cliff with an old man who was talking to me about the history of where we were. We passes a few houses then stopped to look at the ocean. In the distance I saw two little islands. All of these places looked like Cinque Terre (although I don’t know about the two little islands). So I must go!
Having been to Italy, I would like to go somewhere different than the “main attractions” in the cities. This time I would go to Cinque Terre….I haven’t been there, and the photos look like somewhere out of a dream! I love to hike, and I love tiny villages, slow pace, warm sea, hot sun, cold gelato melting in my mouth, along with all the delicious seafood! Cinque Terre seems to have it all!
I would also include Sicily and the Aeolian Islands on my itinerary. In a country well trodden by tourists, Sicily is the real off-the-beaten-track place to go, where the only language you hear is Italian, beautiful crumbly stone villages tumbling down to azure waters, fruit trees and vineyards combing the landscape, mixing it up with ancient ruins, and island hopping on volcanic desolate islands!! Can’t get much better than that!!
I’m going to Rome and Toscana — to explore architectural wonders and ancient Roman sites (Roma) and medieval beauty of small towns and villages (in Toscana). Next stop would be Puglia to see my friends (and Sicilia — for some nature).
Right away I would head to lakes and the mountains as I have never been to this region and I have only visited Italy in summer so I can only imaging what Spring must be like with the end of the winter on the mountains and the countryside coming to life in spring. Then again I have never been to the south either and would love to visit the coast. I will be visiting the Cinque Terra this summer and I can’t wait to read the guides!
I don’t know that’s why I need you!!! My dream is to travel to Italy and the Cinque Terre. I am from Australia and want to plan a trip next year but I don’t know where to start, pleas help ?
I’d go to Piedmont. Why? To drink wine, eat the food, hike the foothills, explore Turin, or tour a castle. It’s not going to make the cut for my yet-to-be first visit to Italy because it requires more than a quick stop. Piedmont needs to be explored and savored.. It will be it’s own destination trip.
Cinque terra to hike with my family on the trails and visit all of the villages. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I saw Rick Steves’ video about them. When I found your blog, I thought it must be possible. Just didn’t figure out the housing yet for a larger group. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!
Being a hopeless romantic I would head back to Genova, my favourite Italian city. When I saw the stone plaque on the wall of the house where the poet Lord Byron lived with his Italian mistress, Countess Teresa Gamba Guiccioli, I fell in love with everything about Genova. It’s got loads for culture vultures seeking an Italian fix and hills just like Scotland too…
I would go to Cinque Terre. My daughter was in Sweden, just finishing University courses and I planned to meet my daughter in Italy but backed out because of lawyers fees for my divorce. We talk of planning that trip to Italy and staying in a villa!
Kathy from Ontario, Canada
I would probably head back to the lovely town of Chiavari. Why? Because I have a good friend there, plus there’s the farmers market for fresh produce, a small super market, natural food stores, diverse restaurants, and the outdoor antique market for old Italian treasures. Chiavari’s handy train station is the link to every town up and down the Ligurian coast for easy day trips to – Sestri Levante, Camogli, Genova, the Cinque Terre – and into the interior – Pisa, Lucca – and, in fact, is a great base for connecting to all of Italy.
I want the best of both Italian worlds! My ideal trip would include several days to take in the old world history, art and architecture of Florence – plus – plenty of time to relax and soak up the beauty of the land and the people of the Cinque Terra.
As we’ve been to Rome and Venice(loved them both, especially Roma), we’d like to try Bologna, Florence and the Cinque Terre area. Let’s see, fly into Bologna, spend 6 days exploring Bologna, Florence and Parma. Then spend 6 days in the Cinque Terre, and then spend two days in Milan and fly out of there.
This is actually the itinerary we will be doing this April, so this was a relatively easy question. I’m the planner in our relationship. After this trip, we are hopeful for 3 more……
So, send those tickets please??. Dan.
If I won a plane ticket to Italy I would fly to Florence and quickly make my way to Cinque Terre. I spent two days there with may family last year and it only made me realize that I would be coming back. I love the Italian people and feel like I was dropped into a a wonderful small town with breathtaking views and amazing food.
Did I mention I would only need a one way ticket 🙂
I would find myself a copy of “Under a Loggia” by Eleanor Lavish (or at least unearth “Room with a View”) and head directly to Florence, where I would soak up as much magic as possible from the art, architecture and ambience of the place. I studied art in school, and somehow I’ve never managed to make my way to its mecca. Now my daughter is studying art history and I’d love to go there with her.
Hmmm… that’s a terribly hard question Bianca 😉 I pretty much want to go to every nook & crannie. Since I’ve never been (although that’s finally changing in May), I’d have to say Florence. It seems to have a bit of everything I love — fashion, food, culture, & beautiful views.
Kerry & I would always go back to Rio Maggiore and stay in an apartment overlooking the harbor owned by Mario and Luigina. To arrive by train and have Mario meet you is always a highlight as he helps you carry your bags and we meander together up and down stairs to his idyllic abode where you stand at the window to hang your washing, look at the boats arriving and the people rushing to discover what I consider the most idyllic of the 5 Cinque Terre towns. The little beach around the corner is a highlight as in sipping limoncello with our hosts as they always invite their guests up for a drink and idle chatter.On our last trip we discovered Santa Margherita which was truly beautiful but I would like to go to Sicily and the islands just above, I think San Pietro is meant to be lovely. We have been to Italy 3 times now but the allure to go back is always there and as we get older we want to discover more of it’s hidden delights. Enjoy !!
If I win a ticket tomorrow to visit Italy I would say hubby you take the kids for a week – I am off to have some super me time :). I would like to visit any place in Italy since I have never been so picking one location is hard. I am reading the comments above and I had to Google some locations because I have never heard of them like Cinque Terre. This place looks amazing so I would say this is my pick. Why? Well from what I am seeing online its filled with so much energy and colors. It is every designer’s dream to find loads of creative inspiration. I think my camera and sketch book will be filled with new collections.
Sicily hands down – all over and everywhere on the island!
Last summer we stayed in Viareggio and were able to take a boat that sailed the coast of Cinque Terra. Two stops were made for a short visit. Amazing to see the coastline from that distance. My eyes followed the train track, that’s where I wanted to be. I travel with my now 12 year old son. We both agreed to visit again and then follow the tips Bianca had written about, which paths we can walk, where & what to eat. I was able to pick out the ‘child friendly’ notes from Bianca’s site. Right down to the ice cream ! Yum !! There’s a lot of romance there, but also the beauty and the warmth in the people made me and my son feel right at home. We both like hiking, but I might just have a couple more years that my son wants to hike with his mom..If there’s a free ticket out there, bring it on 😉
I would return to Riomaggiore and I would bring my 2 children with me this time. Why? I already got to experience the “romantic” version of Cinque Terre with my husband and this time I would like to share it with all 4 of us!!
I would go to Capri. I went there for a few days in 2014, and fell in love with the locals. The food and scenery were excellent , but the days spent walking the beach front and talking with the locals, ( I’m trying to be more proficient in Italian ), was the best. I rented a car and drove to a family owned olive farm and tasted the best olive oil ever, and promised to return and visit with the family.
After losing our daughter to ovarian cancer my husband and I decide to find some kind of happiness and I chose to go to Tuscany Valley. I studied the area and ended up staying in Greve. The moment we arrived at our villa and saw beauty at its most spectacular height we looked at each other and felt happiness. We have never met such a beautiful loving culture in all our life. The people have so much love to offer to everyone. The food is absolutely amazing. If I win a ticket I would close my eyes and pick a place knowing that the experience and the beauty would be the same anywhere in Italy. My husband are retiring this year and plan in going back every year during our winter. To walk among such loving people is like walking in the clouds.
Venice! My daughters (just about to be 18 and 14) and I have been dreaming of going to Italy for years and Venice always tops their list. Canals – ancient buildings – street markets – the romance of it is irresistible to my two midwestern farm girls. 🙂 If I were going on my own (I turn 50 in May and a solo trip is wildly tempting), it would be Cinque Terre. We are saving and planning and very excited about your guide book!
Cinque Terre! My husband and I want to travel to Italy for our first anniversary and I think this would be the perfect spot. The coast, the views, the colors, the villages, the food…I want to experience it all!
Rebecca, we randomly chose from this list and you won a 30-minute trip consult with me. Look out for an email from us!
I would go back to Castiglion Fiorentino. It’s the town where I first studied abroad in Italy and where all my Italian family is. I’d particularly go back to visit the family I was a nanny for. My little boy was 4 when I first nannied and now Elia is 9! I’d love to see how big he is now!
Definitely Cinque Terre, to check out the Azure Trail! This location is on my bucket list and has been for years.
Even though I tour guide in Eastern Europe, there’s parts of Italy that has been a “happy place” for me for years. Lago di Como. Verona. Rome. Trieste. Picking one is hard 🙂
But if I could go Anywhere in Italy – Tomorrow (what a gorgeous thought!) – I would go to Trieste. Not an easy choice (the pasta of Rome is calling too and the adventure of Sicily) but there’s something special about Trieste.
To me, “she’s’ like a grand old lady, proudly facing the salty sea with her back to the cold mountains. A combination of old Austro-Hungarian history and Italian bliss. Plus you get salty treats when you order a glass of wine. Which is simple luxury to me.
Trieste feels like home and that’s why I always want to return 🙂
UPDATE: 2 pm PST March 15, 2016. Thank you everyone for contributing to the contest! Keep commenting below as we love to hear from you, but the contest is now closed to win a 30 minute consult with me. The winner has been emailed.