Tag Archives: florence

Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy

Italy WOW Moment: A Private Michelin-Star Dinner with Fireworks

Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
The view overlooking Florence from the restaurant rooftop where our traveler enjoyed his WOW Moment. Photo: Georgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini
Michelin-starred restaurant La Leggenda dei Frati in Florence, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Magini


How do you impress a traveler who’s been everywhere and done everything? That’s our challenge with a lot of our readers. You are a very well-traveled and discerning bunch! Even those of you finding The WOW List for the first time arrive with very high expectations—and we love that about you.

But it does create a challenge for us—and for the Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List—to dazzle you with something new and unexpected. Yet that’s exactly what Wendy aims to do with her WOW Moments. She personally adds a complimentary insider-access experience to your itinerary on your third trip with a WOW List–recommended travel specialist. It’s a thank-you for trying our new WOW trip-planning system and helping us test and fine-tune it.

The best WOW Moments come as a complete surprise. And that’s why we are thrilled with the response Jeff Bernfield had to his WOW Moment in Florence, Italy, last month. Dr. Bernfield, a physician in the Chicago area, is a special case: He’s used 15 of Wendy’s recommended travel specialists over the years.

“I could plan each trip myself, but it’s so much easier to use one of these people and let them plan the whole thing for you,” he told us over the phone after his trip to Italy arranged by Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore. “I never ever worry about things that can go wrong because even if something might go wrong, they fix it. They always fix it. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s like having an insurance policy.”

Knowing that Dr. Bernfield and his wife would be in Florence during the June Feast of San Giovanni—celebrated with historical parades, music, and fireworks over the Arno—Wendy worked with Maria and Brian to come up with something very special. Maria suggested dinner at La Leggenda dei Frati—a restaurant located in the Bardini Gardens—on the Terrazzo dei Limoni, an exclusive part of the restaurant with only five tables of two and fantastic views of the fireworks at night. Maria explained that, while there is another, larger terrace at the famed Michelin-starred restaurant, the Terrazzo dei Limoni would be more atmospheric and exclusive. Wendy agreed it sounded perfect, so Maria set it up, and we waited to hear the Bernfields’ reaction. Dr. Bernfield emailed Wendy right after they got home from their dinner, and then we followed up on the phone to hear all the fun details. This what he had to say:

Q: Did you have any clue what was being planned?

A: We knew something was up because I’m a voracious reader and researcher. Even with these travel experts, if they make a recommendation, I read about it and make sure it fits—I’m not good at just accepting things. For this, we got an itinerary, and I kept noticing that Saturday night was empty, and I kept questioning Maria about it. We had originally planned to go to the festival of St. John because Maria told us it was a great event in Florence—we scheduled our whole trip around being in Florence that day. And then there was nothing written on the itinerary for that evening. Our itinerary said, “Meet your guide at 3pm and she’ll show you around and then you’ll be left for the evening.” I had a feeling something was up, but I couldn’t find out what it was. Back at our hotel, we were told someone would meet us in our hotel lobby at 8.

Q: Sneaky. Who was it?

A: We went down to the lobby and, to our surprise, Maria and Brian were there! That to me was the highlight. For me, it’s always about the people. I don’t care what museum or what church or what holy site or any activity that we do. For us, travel is always 100 percent about the people, and I thought that was one of the nicest things she could have done. Even though that technically wasn’t our WOW Moment, for us that was it.

Q: But of course it wasn’t! What had they arranged for you?

A: They had arranged a taxi to take us to a beautiful Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking the Arno River, La Leggenda dei Frati, where we didn’t just have dinner—they took us to an open-air roof on top of the restaurant that we had to ourselves, and they hired an Italian opera singer to serenade us. That was incredible. There was also a harp player, and a private photographer taking pictures of us.

Q: This restaurant was special because of the Feast of San Giovanni. What was the location like?

A: We had basically a private viewing of the fireworks over the river. In fact, other people sitting on the lower level of the restaurant could not see the fireworks because the trees blocked it. We’ve been sent the photos since then and they are great—much better than what we did with my iPhone. [Laughs]

After the fireworks, the chef introduced himself, took us into the kitchen, and took us to the separate private museum roof overlay, which had all kinds of art. It was outrageous. If I had tried to plan the most romantic evening I could for my wife, I would have fallen short of what Wendy and Maria and Brian planned for us. It could not have gone any better. For that, I thank her. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but we are very appreciative. It was the highlight of our trip. We’ve had amazing experiences all over the globe, but this ranks number one.

Q: You’ve used travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List more than a dozen times. How did you originally find Wendy’s list of travel specialists?

A: To make a long story short, I used to use a local boutique luxury travel agent here in the Chicago area, and my wife got sick and we were off the grid for a couple years. We couldn’t really travel, waiting to see if she got better, and she did, thankfully. When she got better, we decided that tomorrow isn’t promised, so to speak, and we’re going to live each day to the fullest. and we’re going to go out and see the world. So I called this travel agent, and she didn’t want to offer her services because we hadn’t used her in the past six months. And when I explained why, she still didn’t want to offer her services. I didn’t really know what to do. I’d told my wife that when she got better she could pick her bucket-list trip as long as I could pick mine. She picked Greece, and I picked Africa. And then kind of out of the blue, I reached out to Wendy, who was at Condé Nast Traveler magazine at the time, and I think I sent Wendy a tweet or an email, I don’t remember. I was not expecting a response—but she answered! [Laughs] I was stunned, because I didn’t know her and took a shot in the dark and she answered. I was looking for help and advice on how to do this and I didn’t have anybody local and one thing led to another. I think I’ve used about 15 WOW List people over the past few years, and in her nice way, Wendy reciprocated—she didn’t have to—with this WOW Moment.

Honestly, I think it was the nicest, most enjoyable evening the two of us have ever been lucky enough to spend. Apart from my son’s wedding five weeks ago, this ranks right up there with one of the unexpected enjoyable evenings.


Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

vasari corridor florence photo by Eric Stoen Travel Babbo

Florence’s Vasari Corridor Is Closed, Effective Immediately

Florence’s fire department has shut down the famed Vasari Corridor “effective immediately.” The medieval passageway is a hidden gem of an art gallery that is lined with approximately 700 works of art collected by Cardinal Leopold de Medici. The Corridor connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace via the Ponte Vecchio and was first constructed in 1565. Now 450 years old, it needs some renovations to bring it up to fire code.

Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt had previously announced a plan to revamp the Corridor—most of which has been closed to the public for years—and make it accessible to all visitors to the museum. Prior to the shutdown, the gallery had been open only to travelers who planned their trips through Italy travel specialists such as Maria Gabriella Landers, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Italy.

This most recent shutdown of the gallery is not part of Schmidt’s original plan, but the hope is that it will not delay the overall renovation project, which would’ve seen the Corridor refurbished and reopened in October of this year.

Vasari Corridor florence italy by lloyd alter

Inside the Vasari Corridor, you’ll find one of the largest collections of self-portraits. Photo: Lloyd Alter/Flickr

The experience is worth waiting for. Wendy has visited the Corridor herself and described it to Independent Traveler: “The Vasari Corridor…was built by the Medicis so they could walk between their workplace and residence invisibly, spying on their subjects from on high. The passageway houses the world’s largest collection of self-portraits by artists, and also provides some of Florence’s best views, but that’s not even what makes it so cool. The thrill is how it makes Florence’s history and secrecy come to life in such a visceral way. As the passageway winds this way and that, growing narrower and darker and more rough-hewn, it feels like you’re walking back in time. Alone in the tunnel with your guide, peering down into the shops on the bridge, into hotel rooms on the river, even into the church balcony that the Medicis used, you feel the power that the Medicis must have felt. Seeing without being seen, you get to be a spy like them.”

There’s no news yet on how long the shutdown will last but, in the meantime, there is plenty more behind-the-scenes insider access that travelers to Italy can enjoy—experiences available through Maria, as well as through our other Trusted Travel Expert for Italy, Andrea Grisdale. For example, Maria is happy to arrange an exclusive visit to the 16th-century Torrigiani Gardens, Europe’s largest private garden, with the Florentine nobleman who owns it as your guide. Andrea can set up you up in a beautiful mahogany speedboat for a lake tour that will reveal the many of the area’s magnificent hidden mansions and gardens, or get you access to Capri’s secret grottos.

What Italy experience would you recommend for other travelers?


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

girl in front of duomo florence italy

Florence Can Be Kid-Friendly: Just Follow These Tips

When I won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip contest three years ago, it was based on my essay about wanting to take my kids to Florence, a city I loved but that I didn’t think of as kid-friendly. Wendy and her WOW List expert Maria Landers crafted a great two-week trip for us—so great that Florence quickly became our family’s favorite destination, and we’ve now returned to the city every summer since the prize trip.

My advice to families heading to Florence for the first time? Embrace what Florence is known for—namely art, architecture, history and food. Here are my recommendations for how best to do that with kids:

Embrace the Art

visiting Pitti Palace with kids Florence Italy

Our guide Elvira (arranged through CIU Travel) showing our kids the art of the Pitti Palace. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

Art is everywhere in Florence—in the public squares, in the museums, and even on street signs. Our kids loved the Bargello, Academia, and Uffizi Museums with Elvira, our extraordinary guide arranged by Concierge of Umbria. At each museum we were able to skip the long lines and we had decidedly kid-friendly tours, focusing on lesser-known important pieces, as well as the major works. We never spent more than an hour in any museum, and every stop involved not only seeing the art but also interacting with it. Elvira arranged scavenger hunts and sketching sessions for us around town. After my kids saw David, they went out to patio of the Academia and drew photos of what they thought Goliath looked like. And our private tour through the Uffizi’s Vasari Corridor was extraordinary. Our kids still remember the corridor above their heads every time they cross the Ponte Vecchio.

We’ve also done private art sessions. Paul Bennett, another Trusted Travel Expert on Wendy’s WOW List,, set up a fresco making session with a Florentine artist. And through Arte al Sole the kids had a sketching class combined with a scavenger hunt through the Boboli Gardens. The best thing about the Arte al Sole class? We, the parents, weren’t involved at all. We dropped the kids off with their art expert Andi and picked them up three hours later at the entrance to the gardens. It’s the only time we’ve separated from the kids in Europe and they loved it!

Embrace the Architecture

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence Italy

The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence reflected in a puddle. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

My favorite way to get the kids to appreciate the architecture of Florence? Climbing to the top of the Duomo. Buy tickets in advance across the street, get there early and enjoy! And don’t fall for this “private tour” scam.

This year we also added in a scavenger-hunt-with-a-twist through the city using cards from Tava Adventures. The cards are for kids and show the major sites of the city, like the Uffizi, Santa Croce, and the Duomo, along with some games for the kids to play during downtime. But since our kids had been to Florence several times they already knew the information on the cards, so we tested the kids by letting them lead us to each site in the city based on the cards. That challenged their navigation skills and memory (and our patience a little!) but they got us to all of the sites successfully.

The last thing that we do is to make an annual visit to Piazzale Michelangelo above the city. It’s a great place to enjoy the sunset, but we let the kids point out to us all of the elements of the skyline so that they remember, for example, the difference between the churches of San Lorenzo, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria Novella. The Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and Ponte Vecchio are all visible from there as well.

Embrace the History

Flag throwing with the Bandierai degli Uffizi, Florence Italy

Flag throwing with the Bandierai degli Uffizi. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

History is obviously intertwined with art and architecture, but there are some excellent museums that are more historical than artistic—like the Bardini, Galileo and Stibbert museums—that our kids really enjoyed. We also had a great visit to the Torrigiani Gardens with Elvira and Maria, which included a tour of the gardens (Europe’s largest private garden) by the owner of the property and a private demonstration by the Bandierai degli Uffizi, one of the most prestigious flag carrying/throwing groups. Such a cool afternoon, all rooted in Florence’s history.

Florence italy park

Take walks with one or more of the kids at sunrise; you’ll have the city to yourselves. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

My favorite thing to do in Florence, sometimes with one of the kids and sometimes by myself, is to walk around the city right at sunrise. There are a few locals out but very few tourists, and it’s amazing to have all of the sites virtually to myself. I love standing in the middle of the Piazza della Signoria, closing my eyes and thinking about the Medici, artists, and others who have walked through that exact spot. Florence isn’t particularly enjoyable in the middle of a summer day with hordes of tourists and day-trippers off of cruise ships, but early in the day, as the sun is rising and the city is coming to life, it’s magical.

Embrace the Food

trattoria entrance Florence Italy

Become a regular at a restaurant during your trip and you’ll soon be treated like family. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

We love the food in Florence. Every year we return to our favorite restaurants and also make a point of trying new places. Even when we don’t love a trattoria we rarely have a bad meal. My primary dining advice to people when traveling to Europe applies in Florence just like it does in Paris or anywhere else: become locals! If you find a place that you love, go back again and again. You’ll find the service is completely different when the staff recognizes you and appreciates that you’ve returned. We typically eat at our favorite casual place three times a summer. The staff remembers us even when we haven’t visited in 11½ months and greets us with handshakes and hugs. We sometimes get a local discount. And this year we were given a bottle of our favorite wine as we were leaving the final time. The restaurant is barely in the top 50 percent of Florentine restaurants on TripAdvisor, but to us it has some of the best food in the city and the service is great. Find your own favorite place and go back again and again! I promise it’s worth it.

pasta making class Florence Italy

A cooking class is a great way to introduce kids to local cuisine, and to continue the memories once you get home. Photo: Eric Stoen/Travel Babbo

Beyond restaurants, we’ve done many cooking classes in and around the city. We’ve learned how to make pizza, gelato and pasta. We’ve made chocolate, tiramisu and salads. We’ve cooked chicken, pork and zucchini flowers using only local ingredients. Every cooking experience has been excellent and our kids have loved every minute. Maria and CIU Travel set up several of the cooking classes for us. We’ve also found others through TripAdvisor—simply search for Florence, and then go to Things to Do and choose Classes and Workshops and then Cooking Classes in the menu on the left (here’s my full guide on how to use TripAdvisor to find great things to do). Our last class was extraordinary, through Let’s Cook with Jacopo and Anna, but there are a lot of highly-ranked classes.

Overall, we’ve found Florence to be extraordinarily kid-friendly, but it’s kid-friendly because we’ve gone out of our way to find family-friendly guides who make the art and history of Florence come alive, and we’ve made walking around and sightseeing highly interactive. Food is no longer something to order; it’s something to learn how to make, and then to build on that when we get home. Take your kids to Florence! But do it right.


Meet our writer

Eric Stoen, the founder of Travel Babbo, travels around the world constantly with his three kids. Wendy met him when he won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Contest a few years ago and was so impressed with his travel savvy that she invited him to contribute to WendyPerrin.com.

My kids running to dinner at the Four Seasons Bora Bora.

5 Steps to the Best Family Vacation You’ll Ever Have

Traveling to almost 30 countries with young kids I’ve learned a little something about crafting vacations that the kids love and remember but that are also sophisticated and fun for the adults. Here are five tips for making summer travel gratifying for the entire family:


Our tour of The Marais with Paris Muse.

Our tour of The Marais with Paris Muse. Photo by Eric Stoen/TravelBabbo.com.

1) Book a family-oriented walking tour.

No matter where you’re going, there’s likely a company that offers walking tours through certain neighborhoods or museums. Select one that’s geared toward the kids. Good walking tours are interactive and highly educational, without the kids even realizing how much they’re learning. And given that we parents have forgotten most of the history that we learned in school, they’re great for us too! My family has now done walking tours in Paris, Florence, Athens, Ephesus (Turkey) and Valletta (Malta). I particularly like those we’ve done with Context Travel and Paris Muse. An added benefit: By arranging museum tours in advance, you can generally skip the lines. With our guide from Paris Muse we walked right past an hour-long queue at the Louvre.


My daughter making pici pasta at Boscarecce Cooking School.

My daughter making pici pasta at Boscarecce Cooking School. Photo by Eric Stoen/TravelBabbo.com

2) Consider a cooking class.

What better way to let the kids be creative, teach them life-long skills, and introduce them to local cuisine? Our kids always come home wanting to cook the things that they made abroad, and they’ve become better eaters as well. And how many kids prefer to make their own pasta instead of buying it at the grocery store? Ours do, after we learned to make pasta at Boscarecce Cooking School outside of Florence. We’ve already booked a pita-making class in Greece for this coming summer.


3) Look into day camps.

When we go on a family vacation, we generally don’t look for activities where we can drop off the kids for seven hours at a time. But there are some week-long day camps that are so cool that we’d be excited for our kids to enroll. Arte al Sole has workshops throughout Italy that incorporate art projects (think frescos and mosaics), cooking classes, walking tours, history and even movie-making for kids 6 to 12, and parents can participate in some of the activities (such as museum visits) with their kids. An added benefit is that your kids will make friends from all over the world. If a camp or workshop doesn’t fit your travel schedule, it’s worth asking if they can arrange something that does. When my nine-year-old and I were in Bali in March, we stumbled upon a three-day ceramic camp at Gaya Ceramic that looked like a lot of fun. Gaya doesn’t pre-schedule family-oriented workshops, but they can arrange group or private workshops at a very reasonable cost.


Eric Stoen kids at Rosewood Mayakoba

My kids feeding the fish from our dock at the Rosewood Mayakoba. Photo by Eric Stoen/TravelBabbo.com.

4) Find a hotel that’s both romantic and kid-friendly.

Impossible? Nope. Both Wendy and I have had great stays with our kids at Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The hotel has many romantic touches—including private plunge pools, outdoor showers, moonlit restaurants, and a sensuous spa—yet it’s also got a kids’ club, kid-friendly cooking classes, a children’s breakfast buffet, a kid-friendly pool and beach. There’s even a snow cone machine by the pool. Four Seasons resorts also tend to achieve that balance of sophistication and kid-friendliness. Our overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Bora Bora is one of the most amazing places we’ve stayed, with a spectacular view and a definite honeymoon feel, yet the hotel staff also set up an entire inflatable water playground for our kids, and let us know that they would open up the kids club and plan activities just for us anytime we wanted.


The Torrigiani Gardens, which CIU Travel got us access to.

The Torrigiani Gardens, which CIU Travel got us access to. Photo by Eric Stoen/TravelBabbo.com.

5) Ask Wendy for the right family-friendly travel agent.

Most of the experts on Wendy’s WOW List create trips for families and can suggest (and get you into) unique places that you couldn’t access on your own. Our best vacation ever was two weeks in Florence planned by Maria Gabriella Landers of CIU Travel. We made pasta, pizza, gelato, chocolate, frescoes and books. We went through the normally off-limits Vasari Corridor. We saw a private flag-throwing demonstration in the amazing Torrigiani Gardens. We did kid-friendly visits to all of the major sites and museums. It was literally a perfect trip—and it made our kids love Florence so much that we now go back annually.



Meet our writer

Eric Stoen, the founder of Travel Babbo, travels around the world constantly with his three kids. Wendy met him when he won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Contest a few years ago and was so impressed with his travel savvy that she invited him to contribute to WendyPerrin.com.

Beer sampler at Cerveceria de Valle Peru

It’s National Beer Day. Where In the World Is Your Favorite Beer?

We love food holidays: National Beer Day, which falls today, is at the top of the list (along with World Nutella Day on February 5, and National Ice Cream Day on July 19). What better way to celebrate your hard-working self on this gloomy Tuesday than with a cold pint at the end of the day…or at lunch, if you can get away with it. Actually, there is a better way: Use today as an inspiration to start planning a trip to a great beer destination. Our Trusted Travel Experts weighed in with some of their favorite spots around the world to take advantage of well-stocked pubs, restaurants with notable beer selections, and picnic spots where nothing beats fresh market food and a local bottle of brew.


Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, Alaska

Moose’s Tooth brewpub in Anchorage. Maybe it’s the convivial atmosphere or the inspired pizza toppings (smoked salmon? apricot sauce?)—or perhaps it’s simply the strong beer on tap, but for whatever reason, it’s a favorite local haunt. —Judith Root, Trusted Travel Expert for Alaska

Read Judith’s Insider’s Guide to Alaska


Plaza España, Barcelona

Plaza España, Barcelona Photograph by Jaime Gros

Friends while away entire afternoons at Vaso de Oro, a tapas restaurant in the seaside district of La Barceloneta. The place hasn’t changed in 50 years, and the food is consistently superb. Try the homemade foie gras and the house-brewed beer. —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guide to Barcelona

Cape Town

Chapmans Peak, South Africa

View from Chapmans Peak. Photo courtesy South Africa Tourism.

Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill on Saturdays. Over 100 farmers, bakers, grocers, fishmongers, butchers, craft-beer-brewers and chefs set up at this market each week. —Julian Harrison, Trusted Travel Expert for Africa

Read Julian’s Insider’s Guide to Cape Town and the Winelands

County Kerry, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Helen Sullivan’s pub and restaurant in Kilmackalogue, on the Beara Peninsula, is a place so charming that you won’t believe it’s for real. It’s smack on the sea, and the fish and famous mussels she serves are all freshly caught. Experiences don’t come any more authentic than at Sullivan’s. —Jonthan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guide to Killarney and County Kerry, Ireland


Pick up picnic provisions upstairs at the Mercato Centrale, where you’ll find tasting stands with ready-to-eat wares and specialty shops selling everything from Tuscan cheeses to artisanal beer. Once you’ve stocked up, hail a taxi to take you about seven miles from Florence’s center to Pratolino, where the Park of Villa Demidoff awaits. This estate, originally built by the Medicis in the mid-1500s, had been abandoned for centuries before Prince Paolo Demidoff restored it in 1872. Now a public park, the grounds are dotted with the remains of the original artificial caves and fountains, a number of statues, a small lake, and miles of walking paths. —Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore, Trusted Travel Experts for Italy

Read Maria and Brian’s Insider’s Guide to Florence

Juigalpa, Nicaragua

Restaurant la Embajada. It’s in the town of Juigalpa, on the way from Managua to San Carlos, and it’s impossible to find on your own. There’s no sign, no nothing. They serve only meat—great quality meat! (Juigalpa is one of the most important cattle areas of Nicaragua.) Wash it down with a local Toña beer, then go a block away to buy some fresh cheese. — Pierre Gédéon, Trusted Travel Expert for Nicaragua

Read Pierre’s Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua


The Cerveceria del Valle brewery in the Sacred Valley on the way to Machu Picchu. Inaugurated in October 2014, Cerveceria produces delicious IPAs, porters, pale ales, and other brews found in bars in the valley and in Cusco; we can organize a guided tour with the owner. Peru’s craft-beer scene has exploded over the past few years; a 2014 festival in Lima showcased 60 types of craft beer from 16 different breweries. —Marisol Mosquera, Trusted Travel Expert for Peru

Read Marisol’s Insider’s Guide to Peru for Food Lovers


Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

For a splurge, spend an evening at La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoisie in Prague. It’s an event to eat at this small Michelin-starred restaurant in Old Town, where the six- and eleven-course tasting menus imaginatively update traditional Czech fare: think garlicky pastry-crusted beef tartare and a meringue-like tomato dish filled with honey and balsamic vinegar. Courses are paired with complementary wines, beers, and fruit juices.

For a cheaper thrill, hit the pubs, which are everywhere in Prague, and Czech beers are good and affordable. You can drink the most famous brand, Pilsner Urquell, virtually anywhere. —Gwen Kozlowski, Trusted Travel Expert for Eastern Europe

Read Gwen’s Insider’s Guide to the Czech Republic

Trancoso, Brazil

Don’t miss Caraiva. After a two-hour drive down dirt tracks and a ferry ride over the river, you come to the tiny village of Caraiva, as cut off from the outside world as it’s humanly possible to be these days. Pull up a stump in the shade of the almond tree at the Boteco do Pará; order a portion of skate-wing pasteis, the catch-of-the-day baked in a banana leaf, and an ice-cold beer; and spend a lazy afternoon watching the colorful fishing boats come and go. —Paul Irvine, Trusted Travel Expert for Brazil

Read Paul’s Insider’s Guide to Trancoso


Where’s your favorite beer destination? Tell us in the comments!

Barcelona - Park Guell, Spain

European Cities that are Surprisingly Kid-Friendly

You’d be amazed how many of our frequent-traveling families prefer European capitals of culture to the beach.  So we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite European cities for vacations that are exceptionally kid-friendly yet also sophisticated enough for culture-vulture parents:


The fantastic public transportation network is what puts Berlin over the top as a family-friendly destination. “Every place of note in the city is well served by public transportation,” says Gwen Kozlowski, who is one of the Eastern Europe travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts and who frequently takes her young son on European scouting trips.  “Getting around as a family is easy and a good value. The Berlin Welcome card provides from 48 hours to 6 days of unlimited transportation on the metro, S-Bahn (elevated train), and city buses, and each card covers one adult and three kids 6 to 14 years old; children under 6 are free.”  For families Gwen recommends the Adina Hackescher Markt hotel, where a two-bedroom suite costs less than a standard room in many of the city’s five-stars. Expose your kids to history at the Checkpoint Charlie House—but only later in the day, she advises, after all the tour buses have left.

For the best possible family-friendly trip to Berlin and to be marked as a VIP, contact Gwen through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Gwen’s trips here.  


child playing with toy boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris France

Paris is filled with parks and playgrounds. That’s Wendy’s son Doug in the Jardin du Luxembourg when he was eight.

When you’re traveling with kids, you want engaging activities, easy transportation, and great spaces for downtime, and the City of Light ticks all of these boxes. Paris also has an increasing number of pedestrian zones and neighborhoods closed to traffic on certain days, and strollers, scooters, and various bike set-ups can easily be rented to get around. Many Paris museums have kid-friendly spaces and self-guided tours; make sure to download the children’s activity book before tackling the Eiffel Tower. If you’re seeking special private experiences, nobody is more plugged in than Jennifer Virgilio, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for France, who can arrange hands-on activities such as an éclair-making class or an out-of-the-box tour that focuses on the city’s street art.  Renting an apartment in the right arrondissement can be a smart move for families too. Finally, when all you need is to burn off some energy, head to one of the many neighborhood parks and playgrounds, all well maintained and fenced in for safety.

Read Jennifer’s Insider’s Guide to Paris with Perks and, for the best possible family-friendly trip to Paris and to be marked as a VIP, contact Jennifer through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Jennifer’s trips here.


Burgundy might be best known for its wine, but there’s plenty else to keep the underage set happy in the region’s capital. Dijon, you see, was the capital of the Valois Dukes—who were once more powerful than the king—so the old center is full of well-preserved medieval architecture. At the farmer’s market, France Trusted Travel Expert Michael Eloy arranges for kids to help an organic farmer run his stall. He also sends families to the Parc de la Colombière, where young and old can tackle a treetop ropes course, and to the Place de la Libération, where parents sit and enjoy a respite at a café while the kids play in the fountains.

Read Michael’s Insider’s Guide to Burgundy, and for the best possible family-friendly trip to Burgundy and to be marked as a VIP, contact Michael through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Michael’s trips here


Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“At first glance, Florence is intimidating for families because many of the famous attractions are museums and monuments that seem grandiose and overwhelming, even to adults,” says Maria Landers, Trusted Travel Expert for Italy. “But with a little research and planning, Florence—and by extension, Italy’s Renaissance history—can be made vibrant and interesting for younger visitors. Several of the city’s museums, including the Palazzo Vecchio and the Museo Galileo, offer guided itineraries for children, and the Bardini and Boboli gardens are perfect outdoor spots for romping and picnicking. Don’t forget to reward yourselves with healthy doses of gelato as you go!”

Read Maria’s Insider’s Guide to Florence, and for the best possible family-friendly trip to Florence and to be marked as a VIP, contact Maria through Wendy’s questionnaire. Read reviews of Maria’s trips here


Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower and the street in the Old Town of Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Shutterstock

Many of the city’s sites naturally appeal to youngsters: “The Rahmi M Koç Industrial Museum’s interactive displays are great for kids, who also love going underground to the Byzantine Cistern and spying fish in the water,” says Earl Starkey, Trusted Travel Expert for Turkey. Earl uses art as a kid-friendly window into Turkish culture, arranging private classes on pottery and ebru (the Ottoman technique of paper marbling), as well as cooking. Even the pickiest palates will be satisfied with pide—best described as Turkish pizza—and Istanbul’s ubiquitous fresh-squeezed juices. To escape the city’s hustle and bustle, take a ferry to the car-free island of Buyukada, where you can rent bikes or hire a horse-drawn carriage.

Read Earl’s Insider’s Guide to Istanbul, and contact him through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.


National Gallery in Trafalgar Square London England

Many museums in London are free, including the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Photo: Michael Heffernan/London and Partners

Free museums make London a great choice for families.  The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery,  the National Maritime Museum, the National Gallery, and the Museum of London are only the start.  “Anywhere else, visiting even half of these would ring up costs of at least $100 per person,” notes Jonathan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for the British Isles. He adds that traveling to London removes the language barrier that can trip up some kids—especially on their first adventure abroad. Epstein’s young son is a devotee of the pirate-ship climbing structure at the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. And then, of course, there’s Harry Potter: Families can visit sites featured in the books, or even tour the studios where the movies were filmed. Don’t miss this London advice from Wendy’s 14-year-old son: Dos and Don’ts For Your Trip to London.

Contact Jonathan through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.


Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia looks to some like a child’s masterpiece in sand. Photo: Pixabay

The Mediterranean climate makes it almost always pleasant to be outdoors (who wants to be cooped up inside with kids?), and there’s a fantastic beach area where can spend your afternoons after mornings spent exploring the city. Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia looks to some like a child’s masterpiece in sand—maybe that’s why kids are so drawn to his buildings and to the other Catalan Modernist structures sprinkled throughout the city. You could spend an entire day exploring how nature and architecture are woven together at Parc Guell.  And did you know that chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spanish?  There’s a chocolate factory in Barcelona that will have your kids begging for a second trip.

Contact Spain expert Pablo Calvo through Wendy’s “Start a Trip” questionnaire to be marked as a VIP and get the best trip possible.

What European cities would you add to this list?

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.