Best places to experience the true spirit of Canada

a Canadian flag and mountain ranges

The Canadian natural and urban landscapes are undeservedly neglected in most travel plans. However, if you are looking for the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada, you have stumbled upon a guide that will list and explain why the home of maple syrup (among other things) should definitely be on your travel horizon.

Essentially, this is a big country that boasts one of the most mesmerizing and impressive landscapes in the world. On the one hand, you can encounter lakes, mountains, and other natural sceneries of indescribable beauty. On the other, Canadian cities are a perfect starting and finishing point on your trip. They offer you a chance to experience incredible architectural gems in a progressive and liberal society. Read on to find out more about the most breathtaking and exciting places in Canada you should visit on your next trip to the Great White North.

Toronto

If you are looking for the perfect city to start your Canadian journey, Toronto is the place for you (and my hometown). It is one of the largest and culturally most important cities in this country. Toronto’s distinguishing landmark is the CN Tower which you must have seen if you have ever received a postcard from Toronto.

When it comes to its tourist potential, Toronto’s transportation system makes movement through the city impeccable, with a network of subways, street cars, and roads. However, if you get bored with Toronto’s bustling urban energy, you can always take the ferry across the harbour to the nearby Toronto Islands.  

a Toronto skyline with skyscrapers and CN Tower
The famous CN Tower dominates the Toronto skyline

Banff

If you are looking to visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff is a great resort town to start your hiking, biking, or skiing journey from. It is located in the Banff National Park, the first national park established on Canadian soil. As for what it can offer to its visitors, Banff is a town that is brimful of small, local cafes, restaurants, art galleries, shops, and other tourist amenities. You can find the beautiful Mount Norquay towering over this little town and the famous Lake Louise just an hour away from Banff.

Icefields Parkway

Icefield Parkway is a world-famous 144-mile double-lane highway drive between Jasper and Lake Louise. What makes it so epic is that this road offers an incredible overview of the Canadian Rocky Mountains while taking you through orchards, waterfalls, lakes, and other intact natural scenery. This route is fantastic for those who enjoy hiking and camping in breathtakingly beautiful Canadian nature.

a big lake at the foot of mountains in Canada, symbolizing the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada
Canada is home to supreme vistas and natural sceneries.

Vancouver

Vancouver is another big Canadian city that should be on your priority list, especially if you are visiting western Canada. This city is famous for its multiculturalism and green living. Around 50% of its citizens speak languages other than English, making it a truly inspiring and eclectic city. As for what you can do besides the essential sightseeing around the city, Vancouver is a well-known stop for any serious skier given its nearby world-renowned ski resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb. The local city council continuously strive to achieve the best living standard by pioneering and incorporating green design ideas into the city’s infrastructure.

In fact, a rising number of US citizens are moving to Vancouver and other Canadian cities to pursue a cleaner, more humane way of living. If you are considering moving to Canada from NYC, be mindful that you might need to hire an international relocation company to help you get here from NYC, with the necessary vehicles and equipment.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton is a unique part of the province of Nova Scotia located on the east coast of the country. It is one of Canada’s most beloved road trip destinations because of its amazing landscapes that line the famous Cabot Trail – a 186-mile route through the Cape Breton National Park. You will be able to see fantastic nature from Cape Breton’s lookout points, picturesque fishing villages, and one of the most breathtaking scenic routes in the world. A drive through Cape Breton is one to not be missed.

Prince Edward Island

This lovely eastern province and island is famous for its green hills, red cliffs, and amazing seafood everywhere you go. Also, given that most locations in Canada are oriented towards active vacations such as walking or hiking, this island is the perfect getaway where you can relax and enjoy the island scenery. This island is also huge in the golfing world due to its many golf courses available for play. Beside these luxurious, upper-class amenities, the island is also famous for its seal population – as many as four different species of seal inhabit its shores throughout the year.

Niagara Falls

colorful waterfalls and a tree
Niagara Falls are an incredible sight any time of the year and the best place to experience the true spirit of Canada

And, last but certainly not the least, the amazing Niagara Falls. There is hardly a person who has not heard of this collection of waterfalls on the United States and Canada border. The Niagara Falls are indeed a natural wonder that merits at least a day of your attention, especially if you are staying or moving to Toronto in the future. 

The waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls – make up an astounding six million cubic feet of water that splash downward every minute. This makes the word wonder in the phrase “natural wonder” a literal description of what experiencing the Niagara Falls is like.

All in all, we hope this short guide has helped you visualize the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada. Of course, there are many more amazing spots which you can visit, especially if you enjoy spending your holiday in the great outdoors. Don’t forget Quebec, Newfoundland and the other provinces and territories (coming in a future post). Whatever your favorite places are, we are confident you will love every minute spent in this beautiful country. Just make sure you stay safe and healthy during your travel.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy

This Post Was Originally Published on the TuGo Travel Blog on May 21, 2019 by Mark Crone

A foodie’s travel itinerary for Italy—where to begin? When it comes to food, Italy is in a league of its own, with so many possible itineraries and meal choices for every palate. Yes, Italian food is available outside of Italy, but the fresh, local ingredients make Italian food jump to another level when you’re there! If you need a reason to travel, or need a reason to see Italy at all, food is certainly a good one.

Italy has 20 different regions, each unique with its own food specialties. A single travel itinerary with all 20 regions would be a dream come true! But to be more realistic, this foodie travel itinerary includes a few hand-picked regions this time (with a return trip to follow).

Venice

A great starting point for your foodie travel itinerary is Venice. Tourists are everywhere, and the streets are always packed. The main walking routes offer quick Italian takeout foods like slices of pizza, baked goods, and gelato. When you venture off the main routes, you’ll find side streets and squares or “piazzas” where the locals are. The small neighbourhoods with cafes and restaurants are where you’ll enjoy an authentic Italian meal. Venice is not particularly known for a cuisine of its own, but you’ll find seafood and pasta aplenty.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy - Venice

Naples

If you’re a fan of stone oven pizza, the birthplace of pizza, Naples, must be on your itinerary. In the 18th century, an inventive chef was said to have added tomato to traditional Roman focaccia flat bread. Authentic Neapolitan pizza has a thin crust, flavorful sauce and a dusting of cheese.

Among the many pizzerias in Naples, there are a couple that stand out. Gino’s is Italian-style fast food, and pizza at its best. Big, delicious, and ready in 5 minutes. You’ll be lining up for a table unless you book in advance, but it’s well worth the wait. The Neapolitans also head to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba—the oldest pizzeria in the world, dating back to 1830. Even with just the traditional ingredients, there is a marked difference in taste.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy - Naples

Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views, and getting there adds to the excitement. From Naples, we drive south along the highway, then onto the winding roads of Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano, most famous for its incredible coastal views, is our first destination on the Amalfi Coast. It also has some of the region’s top hotels, including Le Sirenuse, with its Michelin-starred restaurant, La Sponda. It’s not cheap by any means, but well worth the 5-star experience. Down on the beach, there are some great restaurants including Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle–both highly rated and right beside each other. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy - Amalfi Coast

Rome

A foodie’s trip to Rome is akin to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Within the ancient city and its grand architecture lie restaurants that combine fresh ingredients into simple dishes. Perhaps the best example is the classic Roman dish, Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). This dish is made with 3 ingredients – black pepper, pecorino romano cheese, and pasta (normally spaghetti). A gastronomic euphoria takes over when these ingredients combine to create a dish that has been indulged since ancient Roman times.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy - Rome

Roman food also has the adept ability to use “poor man’s” ingredients known as quinto quarto. These are the animal parts that are often frowned upon including tongue, tripe, brain, and liver. If you’re adventurous, you’ll enjoy trying these dishes. If you’re a picky eater, why not give quinto quarto a try under the adage ‘when in Rome!’

Hostaria Costanza is the place to go for traditional old Roman dining. Built from the ruins of Pompey’s Theatre, Hostaria Contanza is overflowing with Roman/Italian atmosphere. Some of my favourites include fried artichokes with cheese stuffed zucchini flowers, crepes funghi e tartufo (mushroom and truffle), ravioli di carciofi (ravioli with artichokes) and a tender beef fillet with Barolo wine sauce. And of course, all meals are enjoyed a little more with a glass of the house red wine.

Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your foodie Italian travel itinerary. The wine, the food, the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The other well-known wine in the area is the Super Tuscan, blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400-year-old winery provides an intimate tour and wine tasting for just 10 Euros.

A Foodie’s Travel Itinerary for Italy - Tuscany

Among the many places to visit in Tuscany are Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course, Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands out. It’s an amazing, well-preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants.

My favourite restaurant is Le Vecchie Mura. It has both a restaurant inside and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course, local wine. Eating a Tuscan meal overlooking Tuscany views is hard to beat.

An experienced travel agent will save you time and money in planning your foodie travel itinerary for Italy. You’ll need to book airfare, accommodations and a car rental to make this Italy dream trip a reality. Start planning and get packing–and bring your appetite!

Safe travels,

Mark

The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in just 2 weeks. So what do you see. And where do you start? Well right here.

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – GETTING THERE

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – VENICE

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. The Italy Road Trip has begun. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Making our way along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes let you see the real Venice. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and visit the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But do yourself a favour and take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – PROSECCO

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we have hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit but look for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters); Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – TUSCANY

Tuscany gives you many reasons to be included in your Italian Road Trip. There’s Tuscan wine; the fresh and delicious food; the views; and last but not least the warm people. Classico Chianti wine (noted by the black rooster on the bottle neck) is exceptional. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. It covers an area of approximate 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Villa San Andrea is among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines). This small winery is a neighbour to the much more famous Antinori winery. For 10 Euro, Villa San Andrea provides an intimate winery tour and tasting. Their Super Tuscan is far less expensive than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Within Tuscany, there many towns to visit including Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and Florence. San Gimignano stands near the top for me. It’s a very well preserved medieval village with shops, museums, several small hotels and restaurants. “Le Vecchie Mura” is one of the top restaurants in town and a personal favourite. It is divided in 2 parts- an inside restaurant and across the laneway is an outside terrace (weather dependent). Authentic dishes feature deer, rabbit, wild boar and of course pasta, steak, and local wine. Enjoying a long meal here overlooking Tuscany is something very special. Who doesn’t love great Italian food!

ITALY ROAD TRIP – AMALFI COAST

The rugged coast and the views are worth the trip to the Amalfi Coast. And driving there adds to the anticipation. Heading south along the highway through Naples, we make our way through Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa) and some great restaurants. Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle are both highly rated and right beside each other right on the beach. And there are many small boutique shops along the walkway to the beach. Staying in Positano, you can easily make day trips down the Amalfi to small towns like Ravello, Minori, Furore and others.

ITALY ROAD TRIP – SUMMARY

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?