Reed Travel Features
NEW YORK -- The newly formed operator Italian Country Living
takes small groups to wander in the countryside, where tourists can
see the "real" Italy, the company's principals said.
Italian Country Living's Linda Rivero has taken small groups to
Italy for seven years as the owner of La Pergola Tours.
She decided it would benefit her business to have a partnership
with a local outfit, and Italian Country Living was born when she
joined forces with one of Siena's oldest ground operators, Balzana
Italian Country Living was launched this year with three small
* La Dolce Vita is a seven-night food and wine tour of Tuscany
priced at $3,650, double, including air from New York and three-
and four-star superior accommodations. The tour departs April 6 and
The maximum group size
* The nine-night Jewish Heritage Tour of Tuscany is a deluxe
program that features Relais & Chateaux accommodations, with
departures sched-uled for July, August, November and February.
A highlight is a Sabbath dinner at the home of a Jewish
The tour is priced from $3,600, double, with air.
The maximum group size
* Women's Wellness Week in Italy, with departures on March 21
and June 27, is a program designed to lift the spirits of
participants through fine food, intellectual stimulation and
relaxation in the Siena region.
The tour, including air and three-star hotels with local flavor,
is priced at $2,150, double, with a maximum of 15 participants.
On the women's program in particular, Rivero said, she picks
colorful restaurants and hotels "that most agents and operators
have never heard of."
"These establishments provide a personal touch, with Mama in the
kitchen ready to talk to her guests after the meal is served."
Accommodations for the wellness program overlook enticing
scenery and are authentic, Rivero said.
Some are residenze, apartmentlike hotels with kitchenettes and
The women have the chance to dine in a variety of restaurants,
from family-style country kitchens, where there are a few long
tables and benches, to more elegant eateries with linen
Rivero had been going on "wellness weekends" with a YMCA group
in New York, which gave her the idea for her own program.
"Woman really enjoy the company of other women, especially when
men aren't around.
"I thought about the things my friends like to do, like shop,
relax at a spa, take a cooking class and learn something new. I
incorporated these things in the tour," she said.
Women's Wellness Week includes spa baths in thermal pools
overlooking the Tuscan hills and in San Gimignano, seats at the
famed Palio horse race in Siena , a cooking lesson and a
wine-tasting tour in Chianti, and a hike on Monte Amiata
"In America, we think of wellness as heavy-duty exercise and
"But in Italy, people get their exercise from their daily lives,
like walking and bicycling. To them, wellness is a mud bath or
eating fresh vegetables," she said.
Rivero said many Americans have misconceptions about Italian
"In Tuscany, they use fresh ingredients, plenty of vegetables,
salads, fish and home-made olive oil. We're not talking lasagna in
cream sauce," she said.
One special tour feature is an evening with some Italian women,
who share their lives with their American counterparts.
"Italian women are fascinated by the lifestyle of American women
because Italy is still much more traditional," she said.
"Women's roles there are changing, and they're working outside
the home more and more, but in the countryside, it's like America
20 years ago. Men are washing the dishes and helping with the
children for the first time, and some are not very happy about
For information, call Italian Country Living's office in Nanuet,
N.Y., at (914) 358-6035; fax (914) 358-7184.