Let’s be honest: no one wants to take a trip down memory lane and look back at 2020. It was a year best forgotten – and, in many ways, could be considered a year that time forgot – spent by many of us at home, in (ahem) leisure wear, dreaming about the day that we could once again travel across the world or even down the block with peace of mind.
That said, upon closer examination we should recognize that 2020 wasn’t a total wash and some positive things did happen, both for us here at CIUTravel and for the world in general. And in the spirit of closing chapters, as well as out of pure curiosity, we thought we would look back and trace our top blog post each month (based on traffic, some of the winners are from the pre-2020 archives) to see what our readers were interested in during the twists and turns of the past year. The results didn’t disappoint!
“I think there’s something here with what people were searching,” mused Brian, once we saw the top posts listed. “Before the pandemic, ‘how to’ traveling guides were popular, then people started cooking at home and taking virtual dream trips once their real trips were postponed. By the summer, we had all turned to cocktail hour, astronomy, and food to get by. Then, a little more travel dreaming with Italy tour guides, the novelty of our Cantina Direct launch, and finally ‘I’ve got to make fish for Christmas!’ searches.”
Join us now in this virtual stroll back in time through our top monthly posts from 2020:
Deciphering Your Restaurant Bill in Italy: Coperto, Servizio, and Tipping
Remember those halcyon days exactly a year ago when we were all looking forward to our upcoming travel adventures? Travelers headed to Italy were scraping our archives for practical information about how to navigate some of the trickier aspects of exploring the Bel Paese, and a perennially popular post is our exhaustive guide to all the different “extras” that you might find on your restaurant bill in Italy. Though this post is from a few years ago, the tips on tipping and other advice are still good. Bookmark this for future foodie trips to Italy.
Buying Leather in Italy: A Guide
Say you’re headed to Italy and you’ve done your research on all the practical things you need to know like tipping, how to use your cellphone and wi-fi, and even what to do if you get robbed or sick. Now you get to the fun part of planning: shopping! In February, readers who were thinking about souvenirs and leather topped the list. How to judge quality leather, where to shop, and even how much to expect spending are all covered in our ultimate guide.
Bringing Food and Wine Souvenirs Back From Italy
Planned trips were coming up fast by March and lists of souvenirs and gifts to bring back from Italy were getting fine-tuned. Gourmet Italian delicacies are one of the most authentic mementos of your trip and a gift that is always appreciated, but what can you bring back hassle-free and what will likely be confiscated by the USDA beagle squad at customs? Readers looking to put their mind at ease found all the information they needed in our guide to bringing everything from wine and olive oil (yes, you can bring those items back) to truffles (touch-and-go) and prosciutto (nope).
Five Italian Pantry Recipes for a Kitchen in Lockdown
The title really says it all. By April, we were all coming to the realization that our summer travel plans were on hold and even heading to the local grocery store was looking sketchy. Hunkered down at home, we slowly worked through our pantry stock and created satisfying meals with what we had on hand. Luckily, Italians have a knack for conjuring up amazing meals with just a few basic ingredients, so our five classic Italian pantry-staple dishes were a hit this month.
May and June
Brian’s Dream Trip and Maria Gabriella’s Dream Trip
These were the months that many of us went into active mourning for cancelled and postponed trips and cabin fever really started to set in. Armchair travel and wanderlust-fueled daydreaming got many of us through these months of uncertainty and stay-at-home orders, including the staff here at CIUTravel. We all came up with dream trips to share on the blog, both to entertain ourselves and to inspire our readers for future itineraries. Brian’s trip was a foodie journey with friend and fellow gourmand Michael Tucker; Maria’s a beautiful trip with her sister Renée that was, in part, a memorial to their mother who passed away in March, 2020.
Italy’s Classic Cocktails: Negroni and Spritz
By the dog days of summer, readers had begun to hit the bottle…and who could blame them? Lockdown continued and there seemed to be no good news in sight, and, while there was a smattering of open-air restaurant options, most people were dining and imbibing at home. We love these two popular Italian cocktails so much that our _personal Instagram account_ (https://www.instagram.com/negroniandspritz/) is named after them, so we were happy to learn that readers may have found a little sunshine in a glass.
Stars in their Eyes: Italy’s Notte di San Lorenzo
Gazing into the firmament has given humans solace for millennia, and this summer was no different. With so much uncertainty and sadness, the predictability of the planets and joy of shooting stars seemed to take on even more importance. We hope you were one of the many readers who spent time outside watching the Perseids light show – said to have been particularly spectacular in 2020 – and made a wish upon a star.
Porcini Italy King of Mushrooms
Temperatures started dropping this month, driving us from stargazing in our backyards to the warmth of our kitchens. Election campaigns were at a fever pitch and many of us needed to escape the daily drama of the news with some emotional cooking and eating (again, no judgment!). There is no dish that epitomizes fall comfort food like porcini risotto, and it looks like our readers discovered the magical soothing properties of this king of mushrooms.
Meet Our Guides (scroll to the end of the post for a complete list)
Perhaps one of the highlights of our year was the “Meet Our Guides” series of blog posts we ran this past fall highlighting some of our favorite tour guides and their cities or regions. It was a welcome excuse to touch base with these guides who have become friends over the years and many of our clients reached out to us to share fond memories of the tours they had taken with them over the years.
Introducing Cantina Direct
We had big news in November: the launch of our online store selling authentic Italian specialties like extra-virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and gourmet food boxes straight from Florence! This passion project was born from our dwindling Italian pantry supplies and our desire to lend a hand to a few of our favorite small producers in Italy who have taken a hit from the 2020 pandemic. Check out our selection of Italian delicacies here: Cantina Direct
Fish and Seafood in Italy
It was a simple holiday season this year for many, with limited travel and understated celebrations. One thing we all could do, however, was focus our energy on serving up a splendid meal to ring in Christmas and New Year’s Day. Our fish and seafood post traffic skyrocketed this month, as readers mined our blog for Italian-inspired ideas for a festive dinner to close out 2020 in style.