A European vacation is one of the topmost requested international trips for people all over the world. Renowned for its incredible depth of beauty, culture, history, cuisine, and religious relics, it is no wonder that millions of people make their own “pilgrimage” to many of the famous European countries and cities each year. However, while any trip to Europe is sure to be magical in the know travelers and those accustomed to a higher level of access and service, take their trip to the next level.
Find out the top 5 exclusive experiences that you can have on your next European adventure.
5. Private hot air balloon ride and picnic in the Alentejo plains of Portugal:
The Alentejo region of southern Portugal may be the countries largest, but it hides many of its best-kept secrets. Medieval castles, amazing cliffs which nearly fall into the sea, vast plains and coastlines create one of the most beautiful and unspoiled regions of Portugal and perhaps all of Europe. It is lined with glorious beaches, many of which lie empty and in wait of discovery, incredible local restaurants, fantastic wineries, and spectacular vistas. History buffs will be enchanted by stories of the many cultures and societies which have left their marks on the area, including dolmens, cromlechs, Romans, Arabs, and Christians.
For an unforgettable experience, take a hot air balloon ride and then stop for a picnic in one of the beautiful villages and towns which make up the so-called Rota dos Castelos (Castle Route). Nisa, Castelo de Vide, Marvão, Portalegre, and Alter do Chão are all charming, authentic, and beautifully preserve the history of the people who have inhabited them over the centuries.
4. Tuscany Truffle hunting:
Anyone familiar with mushrooms will be able to tell you that Truffles are the rarest and most prized variety. Difficult to find and even more challenging to grow, there are only a few regions in Europe which supply the world with this delicatessen. Though many areas are experimenting with cultivated truffles, it appears only the less popular varieties respond to farming, whereas the more prized species only grow well in the wild. Even within the same “family,” size and shape can make a huge difference in the flavor, and without a doubt, those who work with truffles will tell you that Mugello and the hills of San Miniato produce the most delicious and flavorful varieties.
While there are six types of Truffles, the Tartufo Bianco and the Tartufo Negro are the most desirable.
The Queen of Truffles and one which happens to grow quite well in Tuscany is the Tartufo Bianco (white truffle). It can be found from September 10 to December 31 in Mugello and San Miniato. This particular truffle can cost up to 3000 Euros a kilo, used by the finest restaurants and chefs in the world.
The Tartufo Nero Pregiato (black truffle) is harvested from November 15 to March 15. This delicious mushroom has a softer fragrance and is preferred by some renowned chefs and those looking to enhance the flavor of their home-cooked dishes.
For true aficionados, nothing is quite as adventurous as joining professional truffle hunters and their faithful companions on a Truffle hunting mission. Since truffles grow under the dirt and display no foliage above ground, hunters need a partner with a very acute sense of smell. While pigs have been used traditionally, modern hunters employ trained dogs to join them on their searches.
3. Private visit to Michelangelo’s “Secret Archive” with historian:
Art lovers and those with a keen interest in the life and works of one of the world’s most renowned artists will love the experience of being afforded a rare and exclusive view of one the most secreted places in Italy. In 1530, nearly two decades after completing the infamous Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo fell out of favor with the church and his patron family and holed up in a tiny secret room under the Medici Chapel of the Basilica di San Lorenzo to escape their wrath. The artist had been working on the lavish tomb of the family to whom he owed his career when political turmoil forced him into hiding. Equipped with little more than charcoal, he covered the bare walls with drawings of himself, Christ, his many infamous works, and other sketches.
When finally the Pope left word that Michelangelo was forgiven, he re-emerged into Florentine society but kept his hiding spot a secret. Unknown for nearly 500 years, the location was only accidentally discovered in the 1970s by the director of the Museum of the Medici Chapel. Given the fragility of the artwork which was kept safe in the tiny, dark, and unvented space by lack of human intervention, space is generally closed to the public but can be opened on rare occasions for those lucky enough to be allowed entry into this magical time capsule.
2. The Vatican behind the scenes with access to hidden rooms and Bramante staircase:
The Vatican and it’s star attraction, the Sistine Chapel, are high on most visitor’s bucket lists for Rome. Millions of people pass through their doors to marvel at the treasures and artwork hidden inside. Most waits in long lines to then be quickly rushed through the rooms before crowding in sardine-like fashion to be allowed to admire the spectacular frescoes of the world’s most famous ceiling.
But while the masses crowd and wait a few lucky visitors are privy to very different experiences, allowed to enter through a reserved entry and granted behind the scenes access to the most restricted areas of the Vatican. These visitors can view hidden areas like the Bramante Staircase (Scala del Bramante), the Room of Gold (Sala degli Ori), a wealthy place holding a dazzling collection of papal gold jewelry and precious Etruscan jewels, the little known Niccoline Chapel (Cappella Niccolina) which is just as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel and is adorned with gold brought back from Christopher Columbus’ travels and other rooms which general tourists may not even know to exist.
Of course, as no visit to the Vatican would be complete without setting sights on its star attraction, the visit ends on a high note with private access to the Sistine Chapel for your group alone.
1. Cooking class with Michelin-starred chef in Paris, Rome or Barcelona:
Have you ever wondered how the best chefs in the world create their menus, choose their ingredients, and conjure up the most beautifully presented and deliciously tasting dishes? A cooking class with one of these renowned culinary geniuses can make even every day cook up their game and enhance their skills. Working side by side and receiving hands-on experience while creating delicately prepared foods teach the pupils the nuances and special touches that help the chefs create their signature dishes.
Many classes start with a local shopping experience, which teaches the students how to source and pick the freshest and finest ingredients, after visiting the markets where the chefs do their shopping the hands-on training begins. Classes finish with a feast where the group can enjoy the fruits of their labor and discuss additional tidbits that could enhance their future cooking experiences.
For assistance with booking these and many other exclusive VIP experiences, contact BTA https://www.travelbta.com, and one of our fantastic travel advisors will be happy to help you design your next unforgettable adventure.