ABC40 Road Trip: Newport, R.I.
NEWPORT, R.I. (WGGB) — Newport is certainly an amazing place. A small island off the coast of Rhode Island, it’s about 2 hours from Springfield and well worth every minute.
Of course, one of the things Newport is best known for is some of it’s most famous homes.
You can’t help but think of sprawling estates and grand mansions when you think of Newport. And if you’re looking to see one of these amazing homes up close then you’re in luck, many are open to the public daily. Not only do they serve to make us all gawk in wonder, they also provide lessons in history and architecture.
“We have eleven historic properties that really people on the breadth of the story of America, the development of America right here in Newport Rhode Island,” says Andrea Carneiro, Communications Manager for the Preservation Society of Newport County.
And no two of these homes are the same.
“We have french pilazzos, and Italian palaces and we have Gothic Revival cottages and we have colonial architecture. So really 300 years of architecture is here, in a very small area right here in Newport for people to see,” explains Carneiro.
Many of the architects and designers drew inspiration from Europe, and brought the designs here for wealthy American families…
“A lot of the houses that you see here in Newport really look like things you would expect to see in Europe, but you would certainly not expect to see in a small New England town,” said Carneiro.
One of the most recognized mansions here in Newport is also one of the largest. Built by the Vanderbuilt family the Breakers has 70 rooms and over 138,000 square feet. Yet this was considered to be a summer cottage and only inhabited for 6-8 weeks a year. When you step inside it’s hard to even think about calling this estate a cottage, complete with it’s water fountain under the grand staircase, and platinum leaf inlays on the walls.
As Carneiro says, “Newport really was the place to be in the summer during that period of mid to late 19th century. It was the place where society and industrialists and artists all came to summer.”
Of course to run an estate of this magnitude these families had servants. For instance at the Breakers the Vanderbuilt’s would employ 40-45 servants to run the home for them. And now as visitors you can actually tour the Elms Mansion servant quarters. But you need to be nimble! Visitors will enter through the servants entrance and climb the 82 stairs to the third floor servant quarters before learning about individual people who lived with and worked for the family, and then continuing downstairs to the basement to view their working conditions.
Newport is a gorgeous town and there are so many ways to tour it’s mansions as well as the water around the island. But our next attraction has to be the most up and coming way to see a city. There are walking tours, segway tours and even duck boat tours, but the latest trend is travel is now the food tour!
“Everybody talks about Providence, nobody talks about Newport. So we decided how can we promote these great restaurants and introduce food lovers to the amazing chefs here in Newport. So we decided food tours would be a natural way to do that,” says Michael Martini, co-owner of Newport Gourmet Tours, a unique small business that provides foodies of all kinds with the tour of their dreams.
“Basically what we do is in two hours you get five to six stops at local restaurants, hotels or gourmet shops. You go inside, you get to meet the owners or the chefs, you get to go behind the scenes and you get a little bite to eat at each place,” explained Michael.
A nibble here, or a sip there. With two different walking tours to choose from each stop along the way not only gives visitors some nourishment for their stomachs but also their brains. Local and food history is all part of the experience. Along with a healthy dose of humor.
“A lot of our chefs actually remove the calories before,” Michael jokes.
And every stop is also an opportunity to shop for those looking to exercise their credit cards as well as their body!
“We’ve got an amazing kitchen supply shop on that tour that basically I always say it’s voted most likely to destroy my debit card because every time I walk in there I just want everything off the shelves,” he said.
Tours are rain or shine and cover about two miles at a leisurely pace, but still you’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes. Either way if you haven’t been on a food tour before, but you love to cook or just love to watch other people cook then Newport Gourmet Tours is a great way to spend an afternoon in Newport.
Also when planning your trip if you are staying overnight, consider booking your food tour for the first or second day of your trip. That way you get a sneak peak at each restaurant and can decide whether you would like to return for the full dining experience.