The Porto-canale designed by Leonardo da Vinci

For our first letter to our new friends, we have chosen to speak of Romagna, the region where we were both born and the inspiration for our careers. Our job is to host people, take them to visit our favorite places, and share with them the best that Italy can offer. Romagna is famous for its innate hospitality, and a trait that we both inherited from our families.

Romagna is part of the beautiful Emilia-Romagna region with Bologna as its capital and it is situated on the North-Central part of Italy. As the name suggests, there are two different territories: Emilia, the largest part (that includes the provinces of Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Piacenza and Ferrara), and Romagna, the smallest part on the South East and the Adriatic sea (that includes the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna, Rimini).

The beautiful Posto Canale

Cesenatico, located between Ravenna and Rimini, is a typical town of the Romagna coast (Riviera romagnola) and for sure one of the prettiest. We love this place because it is on the sea, for its great food, for its culinary traditions (fish and sea food, piadina, strozzapreti and other pastas), for the friendly people and because it reminds us our childhood during the summertime.

In the Roman times, much of the territory on which Cesenatico stands today was covered by the sea.  There was a human settlement confirmed by historical sources that testify to the presence in the territory of Cesenatico as a small Roman center.

The present Cesenatico was founded in the Middle Ages as “Port of Cesena” following an authorization of Pope John XXII that approved of its construction. The port was destroyed and re-built several times since the original construction in 1303.

This is a typical town along the Romagna coast.

In the 1500’s Leonardo da Vinci redesigned the port to become a more strategical military defense. Da Vinci’s design remains still today.

Cesenatico in the following centuries was occupied by Venetians, then by the Church. Napoleon built a new tower for defense, and finally in 1827 Cesenatico gained its independence. The departure of Garibaldi from its port gave to this town a place in history. In 1860 Cesenatico became part of Regno d’Italia.

At the end of the 1800’s, doctors discovered the benefits from the sun and the air from the sea and the sea water for our body, Cesenatico became an important location for summer holidays.

A typical yet delicious fish meal

In 1878 the area of Cesenatico began to build structures on the beach, along with shops and restaurants that would provide activities for all the new tourists. Swimming instructors were provided and in the beginning of the 1900’s other services, such as hotels and commercial activities, were opened.

During the summer time several tourists, mainly from Italy, spend their holidays in Cesenatico and other little towns on the Romagna coast. The surrounding area is a beautiful and rich countryside with smooth hills that produce peaches, apricots, strawberries, kiwi and others fruits that are considered among the best in Italy.

For these and more reasons, this little town will be included in our new tour in Romagna. The area around Porto Canale is full of energy, alive with lots of restaurants, shops, bars, and osterias. Here along the beautiful coast, it is possible to enjoy some of the best fish and seafood of the region while taking in all of the many local specialties.

Wine and local flavors.

Last but not least, Cesenatico was the birthplace of the famous cyclist Marco Pantani and of the very famous food writer and chef Marcella Hazan who introduced the Italian cuisine to the US since the ‘70s.


Marcello and Raffaella Tori invite you to come and taste Italy in an authentic, unclose, and personal way. Everything is arranged, from food and wine tastings to cooking lessons, walks in the countryside and meanders through beautiful villages. Marcello and Raffaella live in Bologna and have over 20 years of experience working with people just like you who want to taste all Italy has to offer. Their unique experiences are enduring in their simplicity and authenticity. Join us for a day trip or a 4-7 day tour and taste and see amazing Italy through the eyes of Marcello and Raffaella. What are you waiting for? Come and Taste Our Italy! Find our more at bluone.com and follow us on BluoneCookingWineToursItaly/.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

Posted in Italy, Marcello and Raffaella Tori, Slow Travel Tours | Leave a comment

Thatched Roofs and Ancient Stones

Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

The southwest of England is full of intriguing spots – well-known Stonehenge, of course, more prehistoric stones we’ll see later today, and on the way from Bath, headquarters of our November Mozartfest tour, to Avebury a white horse or two carved into the hillside! These aren’t as old as the stones, and this one, the Cherwel White Horse, was cut into the chalky hill in 1780 at the direction of a certain “mad doctor”. It certainly catches our eye from the road!
The Red Lion in Avebury, proudly “the only pub IN a stone circle” now boasts a recently rethatched roof  (2015 – just minutes ago in this part of the world)  –  it was under renovation when we stopped by in September.We wander among Avebury’s rocks, part of the largest stone circle in the world, and sheep, climbing up the berm which winds for miles above a vast ditch (called a henge).We think Avebury is so much more interesting than better-known Stonehenge – we love being able to walk and dream among the stones, here for more than 4000 years. No need to stay at a distance as at Stonehenge.
The village itself is well worth a visit too – just one lane, home to a handsome church, St. James (with an ancient Saxon window or two still intact), and several pretty homes.
Wellies at the ready here, and this one’s reserved for the teacher – nice!
Next stop, the village of Lacock, which is a National Heritage Site in its entirety. Our table is waiting at The George, an historic pub dating from the 15th century.Unlike many popular tourist sites, or a place renowned for its history rather than its food, The George serves terrific British food, such as this quintessential dish, complete with mushy peas. Their authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding is deeper and darker than any I’ve tried – almost a musky taste. The chef shares her secret – a lavish amount of dark treacle syrup – I’ll have to try that at home!
It’s recess time – Lacock’s primary school has around 75 pupils.
The village, with its well-preserved church, homes, and businesses, is perfect for a tv production or movie set centuries ago. Scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, some Harry Potter movies, and most recently, Downton Abbey have been filmed here – can’t you imagine this lane, minus cars, with actors in period dress stopping by a shop?
What a pleasure to step back in time for a day…we recommend these evocative spots highly!
************************************************************************************The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.



Posted in England, Kirk and Anne Woodyard, Restaurants, Slow Travel Tours | 1 Comment

Pleinair Painting as Slow Travel

I’ve been a professional artist most of my life. My studio work has primarily been landscape based, so wouldn’t it stand to reason I’d also enjoy pleinair (outdoor) painting? Well I do, but I didn’t…. Let me explain.

In my younger days I painted outdoors because I felt it was something I should do as an artist – an obligation of sorts. Plein air painting was supposed to be good for me, part of the landscape tradition, but truth be told, it was usually a huge disappointment. I’d return home with little more than some mediocre watercolors and the feeling I’d missed something. Plein air painting was not an activity I looked forward to. So what changed?

An early Italy pleinair painting from the early nineties

In a word, it was Italy. I loved every minute of my first visit back in the early nineties. I had never been to a place that thrilled me more, visually, emotionally – my senses were so alive. I felt connected even though I was a stranger who did not speak the language.

Pleinair painting was my introduction to slow travel. We stayed in that Tuscan town for three weeks – never bored for an instant. The act of painting enabled me to linger, to observe, to savor everything I saw, heard and smelled. It also afforded me the opportunity to meet locals – a few of whom have remained my friends to this day.

Back in 2001 we lived in Spello (Umbria) for a month. I much prefer the freedom and expression in this little watercolor.

One of my favorite pleinair paintings. This one went very quickly.

It would be most romantic to imagine I returned home from that first Italy trip with a stack of good paintings. That was not the case, however another profound thing happened that totally changed my outlook. I didn’t care whether the paintings  I made were any good or not! I stopped caring about the “product” and started  loving the “process.” Interestingly enough, that’s when my pleinair paintings began improving, as if the pleasure of the act had finally found its way into the work.

A photo taken in a hidden corner in Gubbio in Northern Umbria.

A simple pleinair painting of the same site. You can see many liberties are taken

I often use this analogy: if a fisherman simply likes to eat fish it would be much easier to go to the fish market and by one. But fishermen love to fish. Most will tell you there’s never a bad day out on the water. Of course it’s great if you land a big one, but it’s all about the experience, not hanging some trophy on the wall.

My wife Barbara frequently attracts a crowd of admirers when she draws outdoors.

I encourage our clients to go slow and savor. This applies to artists and non-artists alike.  If you’re a painter, quit trying to hit a home run and don’t worry about producing something “wall worthy.” Keep it simple. Even a basic sketchbook, scrapbook, or travel journal can be used as a visual diary – a means of locking in the senses. I purposely use the cheapest composition notebooks for my travel journaling – no beautiful leather-bound volumes for me. I don’t want to be intimidated or obligated to say something profound. No one needs to read what I’ve written. I’m not submitting my writing to the New Yorker. My journal is for me – as are my paintings.

My next post will cover a few of the practicalities for any readers looking to get started painting on your travels.

Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pleinair Painting as Slow Travel