Imagine touring the Vatican’s hallways with a seminarian and by happenstance meeting the Pope; attending a private party for Il Ballo del Doge, the Venetian masquerade ball during Carnival, or watching Siena’s famous Palio horse race from the balcony of a princess’s private apartment. This is the type of exclusive experience Dream Italy affords its guests.
Giorgio Dell’Artino, owner of Dream Italy, has made a career of pairing his country’s visitors with their dreams. High-profile examples include Bob Dole’s tour of World War II sites, Rick Steves’ research visit and comedian Jeff Foxworthy and his wife’s hot air balloon ride over Tuscany, before landing in a sunflower-blanketed field for a picnic. On our trip, we traveled north from Rome to Tuscany in route to a small, family-owned winery and olive farm in Montenero renowned as Italy’s most-awarded olive oil producer (more than 300 awards) since its 1996 debut on the commercial market.
Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a city built on three hills.Undisturbed by World War II, it’s a treasure, whose bi-annual tradition, a bareback horse race three times around Piazza del Campo, represents the region’s hottest ticket for the city’s locals and its guests. However, it is underground Siena—known by many but experienced by few—that is most intriguing. Closed to the public, we were privileged to be escorted into the town’s library and enter through an obscure locked metal gate to descend beneath the city into its ancient aqueduct system and underground passageways.
Guests partaking in the Dream Italy experience can ride along in one of the company’s 18 luxury cars including Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, McLarens and one of the world’s few Bugattis. As we zipped along Via Chiantigiana, the route between Siena and Florence, we dissected the region’s Chianti Classico wine zone, detoured to the tiny town of Vertine (an intact, walled Etruscan village dating back to the 10th century) and stopped in Panzano in Chianti, home of famed celebrity butcher Dario Cecchini. The day concluded in a hot air balloon ride over Siena, tracking wild boar running beneath us.
Once again on the road, our course was a day’s journey south to Matera, a city known by few and the European City of Culture in 2019. The ancient town of Sassi di Matera is known for its cave dwellings and layer upon layer of history. For accommodations, L’hotel in Pietra is a converted 12th century Benedictine church built into and over the caves. To best appreciate the town’s many facets, go for a walk. Pass through the alleyway that is featured in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and wander into Piazza del Sedile, the site of the Conservatory of Music.
As all good things must come to an end, what better route to return to Rome from Matera’s southern Italy location than the Amalfi Coast. Multi-colored terraced towns on one side, the Mediterranean far below on the other, you’ll share the narrow, winding road with buses, bicyclists, motor scooters and pedestrians before arriving back at your final destination.