Amalfi Coast

How to properly see Italy

I get asked all the time how to see Italy so you don’t miss anything? What should I see on my first trip? How is the food? Is it safe? So this BLOG is to answer these questions and state some rules:

  1. There are no rules
  2. I don’t believe in tours. They take you to the worst restaurants in Italy and move you along from site to site too fast. Most people take tours because they are afraid of getting lost, Can’t speak the language or don’t want to miss anything. Use your smart phones GPS to get around. Search on top things to see.
  3. The big cities are a must but the real Italy is in the small cities. Don’t miss these.
  4. Italy can’t be seen in one trip. Plan several trips and enjoy it more.
  5. If you are seeing 10 cities in 7 days, you have not visited or seen Italy.
  6. The food, outside touristy places is fantastic. Eat with the Italians in small Trattoria.
  7. Museums are important but the art in Italy is all around you everywhere you go.
  8. Stay in small hotels not big American ones. Don’t worry about your points, you are in Italy.
  9. Learn a few key phrases in Italian and use them.

OK you are on your first trip and don’t know where to go. Plan Naples and Rome or Florence and Venice. Spend time in each city. You win nothing by running from site to site and then moving to the next city. In fact you lose a lot! Italy is a country that moves slowly. Sit and observe it. Walk with the Italians at lunch time (la passeggiata). It is not enough to see the famous art and buildings but the people who live here. Communicate as best you can. Use simple 2-year old talk or charades.

Tours normally work against these goals. They force you to eat where they make the most money. They rush you from one site to the next. You see Italy through a bus window. This is not much better than seeing it on TV. If you must take a tour, find a small walking or biking tour. Find something in a van not a huge bus. Make sure you have a few days on your own to explore as you want to. Don’t be afraid to take trains between cities. They go almost everywhere. Within cities the metro is clean and efficient.

Rome is a city of architecture and history unlike any other in the world. Naples is old and many Americans came from this area of Italy. Florence is the capital of art and the Renaissance, Here you will find unbelievable art and the beginnings of modern thinking. Venice is the most unusual city in the world. Here you will explore a large city made up of sidewalks and canals. There are no roads or cars. Enjoy these cities but take time to understand the history, the people and the food.

Plan more trips to visit places like Verona, Bologna, Capri, Amalfi Coast and the millions of small wonderful sea port and mountain towns. We love driving south from Rome on the A1 to our home. We see an interesting town high up on a mountain side in the distance. We use our iPhones to identify it and plot a course to it. After exploring the town we have a café at a bar or lunch in a small local restaurant. This is enjoying Italy and getting to know it.

Food and wine are a national pastime in Italy. Everyone is an expert. The truth is most food comes from farms in the vicinity, wines and olive oil are made locally.  The food is made from ancient recipes handed down over time. No-one cooks pasta as good as an Italians mom!

Hotels are for sleeping after a long day touring. You don’t need a resort type hotel. Pick local small hotels. We always prefer a room with its own bath (not all come this way). These small hotels are often family run. You get to know them as friends if you take the time.

Learn how to say some Italian phrases like Buon Giorno (Good day), Buona Sera (Good Evening – at sunset and beyond). Arrivederci (Good Bye) and Ciao (Hello and Good Bye). You might also want to ask How much? (Quanta Costa?). Jo Anne’s favorite is Quanta costa le Scarpe? (How much are the shoes?). Simply saying Buon Giorno to someone you pass will bring a smile and a Buon Giorno in return. Italy is a friendly place.

This brings us to How safe is Italy? Italy is very safe. There is almost no violent crime. There are pick pockets in large cities. Beware of you purses and wallets. Italians drive very fast so beware of cars speeding by you. We are never fearful walking around large cities like Rome. You are in Italy to learn and enjoy life. Just do it and enjoy a gelato.

Italy is the most romantic place on Earth!

Ciao,

George

 

 

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Bars, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Bologna, Cafè, Capri, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, GPS, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Metro Travel, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Pasta, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Towns, Trains, Traveling without a tour, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Agropoli, Italy

Agropoli is a large town in Campania, south of Naples, south of the Amalfi Coast and south of Salerno. From Salerno you drive south past the ancient Greek ruins at Paestum to Agropoli.

Paestum

Agropoli, like many Italian cities has a modern part and an old city. The old city is high on a hill overlooking the sea. It has a wonderful castle with a moat (without water) and a drawbridge (no longer functional). We enjoy walking around the old city. As you approach you find yourself on a street of interesting shops leading up the hill. The street soon turns into a set of stairs leading into the old section. There is a wonderful church at the top. Turn right and follow the signs to the castle and views of the beach and sea.

This is the beautiful and romantic land of Benvenuto al Sud! What a wonderful place for a passegiata. The beautiful mountain city of Castellabate is just a little farther south.

Come walk with us in the old city of Agropoli. Click on the video below …

– George

Categories: Agropoli, Amalfi Coast, Beach Resorts, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Campania, Castellabate, Church, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Paestum, Passegiata, Romance, Salerno, Shopping, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento is a popular tourist destination on Italy. Sorrento is on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Naples. You can see the Isle of Capri looking south-west and Naples looking north. Mount Vesuvius, the famous volcano, can be seen to the north as well. Sorrento is the western gateway to the famous Amalfi Coast Road. Salerno is at the other end with great cities in between like Amalfi and Positano.

Sorrento has beaches at the bottom of cliffs, a seaport where you can catch a ferry to Capri, Naples, Positano and Amalfi and great shopping areas. There are great bars and restaurants around this city. So sit back and enjoy Sorrento in our video below:

-George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Salerno, sea, Shopping, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Naples, Italy

Naples is one of Italy’s main cities. Many Italian-Americans came from Naples or the surrounding areas. Naples is famous for pizza and tomato sauce on pasta. It has an old section, castles, a Pantheon and a sea port. It also has a dangerous view of Mount Vesuvius. It is an old city with a vibrant life and style. Come to walk the old part of the city or to stop and have a pizza. This VLOG is based on a one day stop in Naples on our way to Pompeii. This is NOT enough time to spend in this great city. We will do a future VLOG on exploring the old section and sites.

From Naples you can easily travel by ferry to Capri or Sorrento. If you have a car, drive the fantastic Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Salerno with stops at Positano and Amalfi. You can get to Naples by car on the A1 Autostrada from Rome or on a high-speed train from Rome or Salerno. This is a very beautiful part of Italy.

-George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Driving in Italy, Eating, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mount Vesuvious, Naples, Pantheon, Pasta, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Pompeii, Positano, Romance, Salerno, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buying a Place in Italy

We decided to do a series of BLOGs on our experience in buying a house in Italy. We are not saying that the way we did it, will be for everyone. It did work for us and we are very happy with the decision. Many books talk about the horrible red tape in dealing with Italy but we had a very smooth ride through the whole process. Things do go slower in Italy which is really good for your health and blood pressure. The main advice is to remember things are done differently there than here. So relax and enjoy the experience …

We started looking in Tuscany (as all Americans do) but the prices are just too high. We wanted it all, a Seaview, a mountain view, a nice place with modern conveniences, a real Italian city void of tourists and the right price. Impossible right? Well we got it all and at our budget. We saw a place that was in a newly constructed building (a rarity in Italy) and it had fantastic mountain and a Seaview. It was a few kilometers from the beach. When we saw the price we thought it must be a time share but it was to purchase. It is a building with 4 units per floor and two main floors. There was a penthouse occupied by one of the owners children and two more units in the basement opening out onto the yard.

We actually put a non refundable down-payment on it without seeing it in person. We walked the city it is in on Google Earth and the beach towns near by but never went to see it first hand. Finally iin May of 2013 we were on the Amalfi coast on our honeymoon and met the realtor and made the 1.5 hour trip south to the small town of Velina. We saw it for the first time. It is VERY small but the views are to die for. No kitchen or closets which are normal in Europe. We loved it.

Over the next 6 months we had a kitchen installed, a bed and a table with chairs. We then went to stay in our place for the first time over Thanksgiving. We bought a love seat and wo chairs which can be used inside or taken out on to our deck to enjoy the views. Having wine and cheese out on the deck was what it was all about. We couldn’t wait to explore the area.

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Our beautiful new home

We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates were high when we bought. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.

We were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). We were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. We went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday came and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.

Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get the required certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee. È normale!

The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used.

There is no kitchen or furniture in our new place. It would be like camping out with a bathroom to stay like this (Jo is not a camper – She has always told be camping is staying in a Hilton with only one bathroom). So we look for a kitchen. Kitchens come in modular form with cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove and cook top. You can also get a dish washer at the expense of cabinets. We decide on not getting a dishwasher. We did not like the kitchens in the other units of our place. Our condo manager (the owner’s daughter) helps us remotely. We look at kitchen places in Rome but delivery is way too expensive. Maria manages to find a wood cabinet (dark stain) kitchen with everything we want.

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We have a new kitchen

She negotiates a kitchen with a table and 6 chairs for the price of the kitchen. We then decide to get a bed (mattress and frame – Italians do not use a box spring) from the same place. They come and install the kitchen and setup our bed. We are not ready to come back to Velina without camping out.

We find online that our Home Land Security requires a form documenting any foreign deposits over $50,000. If your account had $50,000 or more, even for a day, you must declare it. This is NOT an IRS form. So I download the form and fill it out. The fines are huge if you are caught without doing this. We are now ready for our Thanksgiving in Velina Italy.

As we get familiar with our town, we keep staring at the views all around us. We look like tourists that have never seen a beach or mountains. The views are so spectacular here. The weather is tropical and always great. Some mornings we wake to see snow on the mountains around us. We are interested in buying some furniture to sit on in our unit. We want some that can be taken out on the deck as well as be inside. There are many furniture stores around us (called Mobili in Italian which literally means furnishings). We find a store with very interesting furniture next to our supermercato. It is closed but we window shop and make a note to return after 4 pm when everything reopens. This store has everything. In Italy they don’t like to turn the heat on in the winter. The manager of the store greets us (Buon Giorno) with a heavy coat on. It is actually much colder inside these thick walls than outside where it is mild. We look at bedroom sets as well but decide to buy these at a later time. We do find a wicker set that has two chairs, a table and a love seat. It’s a perfect size for our small apartment.

I ask the man if they take credit cards (carte di credito). But he says only cash (solo contanti). We have an Italian ATM card for our Italian Bank Account and we know there is an ATM in town. He loads the furniture onto his truck without any payment and follows us into town. We stop to get the cash and he continues to follow us up the hill to our place. He unloads all the furniture and carries it up to our unit refuting any help. He waits for us to arrange it and sit on it and smile. He then accepts the payment. Why are we so shocked when people act so kind?

After taking all the wrappings off the pillows and seat cushions, we arrange the furniture about 5 times. It fits perfect and looks great.

The Condo and the Mountain beyond

It provides us with ample seating inside to relax and when we take it outside we can have some wine and cheese while we take in the views. This is Italy! Life moves at a slower more enjoyable rate. We can feel the tensions drain off after a few days. We are Italians while we are here. We shop only for today and maybe tomorrow morning. We buy only what is grown or made fresh. Italians take a lot of pride in their food and will only buy what is made in Italy. This very small place seems adequate and almost spacious as we settle into Italian life. Life is good.

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The New Furniture

The furniture is portable so we can move it out onto our deck to enjoy the views.

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Categories: Amalfi Coast, Banking, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Cash, Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Banks, Italy, Mountains, Owning a home in Italy, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Velina, World Bank Rates | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Which of these Italian Cities are your Favorites?

For everyone that has been to Italy and wants to return, is planning a first trip to Italy or is just dreaming about a trip, These videos are for you. There are ten (10) videos below of 9 cities and a very interesting cave restaurant. Some cities are large others are small beach towns or mountain towns. Each Monday a new town is added. I explain things you need to know about Italy as well as taking you on a walk through each city. I hope you enjoy these vlogs. If you do, please share with your friends and like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. We will not have a new VLOG on January 2, 2017 but will continue each Monday starting January 9, 2017.

Introduction to my Channel

Cities in Italy

 1. Cisterninio (Puglia)

2.Ostuni (Puglia)

 3. Alberobello (Puglia)

 4. Grotta Palazzese ( in Polignano a Mare – Puglia)

 5. Rome (Rome)

6. Positano (Campania)

 7. Castellabate (Campania)

 8. Florence (Tuscany)

 9. Perugia (Umbria)

 10. Marina di Casal Velino (Campania)

11. Assisi

12. Marina di Camerota

13. Cortona

You can see the entire playlist on my YouTube Channel.

Happy travels & may you one day be in Italy…

– George

Categories: Alberobello, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Campania, Casal Velino Marina, Castellabate, Cave Restaurant, Cisternino, Coliseum, cornetto, David, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Florence, Food, Galleria dell'Accademia, Gelato, General Travel, Grotta Palazzese, Italian, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Ostuni, Perugia, Polignano a Mare, Positano, Puglia, Regions of Italy, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Trottoria, Tulli, Tuscany, Umbria, Vatican City, Villa Borghese, Walking, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marina Casalvelino, Italy – Beach Resort

We own a condo a few kilometers from this beautiful beach resort town. It is located in southern Campania south of Naples, south of the Amalfi Coast and south of Salerno. The town is small with a beautiful sandy beach. The water is calm in the summer but very violent in the winter. There are free beach areas and paid clubs.

The clubs give you lounge chairs, umbrella, table, music and free wi-fi. They also have bars or restaurant to order drinks and food. There is nothing like sipping a cool prosecco on the beach in a glass champagne flute. This is beach life in Italy.

This area is very popular with Italians from Rome south and Germans. The British and Americans have not found it yet. The beaches are better than the lava beaches of the Amalfi Coast. Come and really relax in Marina Casalvelino.

Rent a boat or have someone take you out in one. Go to a private beach or just tour this beautiful coast line. From the coast you can see huge mountains everywhere. This is some of the prettiest coastlines in Italy. All of the beaches here have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag Award for cleanliness.

There are many beach resorts in this area and tons of beautiful small mountain towns waiting to be explored. Driving is easy with a highway that connects this area to the A3 autostrada. There is also a great train system with some high-speed trains from Salerno, Naples and Rome. Parking is easy right at the beach with pay-for-parking meters. This is a very romantic area to relax at the beach or explore small local cities. There are bars and restaurants around town and hotels and B&Bs. Enjoy …

-George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Bars, Beaches, Cafè, Casal Velino Marina, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Naples, Prosecco, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Salerno, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, WiFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Positano, Italy

It is true that I left my heart in Positano! It is a city of much beauty. There is something special about this wonderful place. Every time I return, I feel I am returning home again. When you see it first from an overlook on the Amalfi Coast Road or from the sea on a ferry, you realize it is a city built on the side of a steep cliff. How could they have done this? There are two roads and one is the Amalfi coast Road that skirts the town. The other is a one way road that starts high up on the cliffs at the Amalfi Coast Road and winds its way down into the city and then out to the Amalfi Coast Road again.

This is a seaside city of great shops and restaurants. It has views at every turn. There are two beaches (the small and the large). The large beach has ferries to Naples, Capri and to many towns along the Amalfi Coast. This is a relaxing town designed to spend time in and enjoy. Shop the small stores, eat in the wonderful restaurants, spend time at the beaches. The most important thing is to be romantic and enjoy yourself. Buon viaggio…

– George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Church, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Lemoncello, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Planning a vacation, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Magnificent Views of Italy

It doesn’t matter where you are in Italy. There are views and eye-catching sights everywhere. You can be in a big city looking at a famous monument, on a small street, looking at a small city high up on a mountain, at the beach, climbing stairs or sitting at a small trattoria. Italy is all about its architecture. It has a personality all to itself. Here you stand on ancient roads, some dating pre-Roman. You feel and see its history. At the same time there is a modern culture all around you. iPhones, iPad and computers are everywhere. Most bars have free wi-fi service.

We come to Italy for the food, the people and these views. I love the feeling of being in an ancient place. Thinking about those ancient people and what they did, what they felt. Was their life that different from ours? These views can talk to you! Just listen and hear what they are saying. This is not a country to be rushed. Stop, relax and take in these views. Listen to them. Imaging yourself back in those times. Soon your modern problems give way to an appreciation of this great history.

My wish to all my readers is to be able to travel. experience another culture. Enjoy life more. There is so much to experience and learn. Pick a place you are passionate about and visit it. Put it on your bucket list. life is short but memories are forever.

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My passion is Italy, what is yours?

George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino Marina, Coliseum, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Perugia, Planning a vacation, Ravello, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Siena, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Stairs, Traveling without a tour, Tulli, Tuscany, Umbria, Velina, Venice, Villa Brunella, WiFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

My Italian Bucket List

I have been very lucky in my travels to Italy. I did a lot of work there and got to see a lot of the country and have lived both in the north and now in the south. I love everything about Italy. In so many ways it has figured out how to live happily. It is no wonder so many people want to go there. There is so much to see.

I have enjoyed its big cities:

  • Milan
  • Verona
  • Venice
  • Bologna
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • Naples

I have also enjoyed its diverse areas:

  • The lakes in the north
  • Tuscany
  • The Adriatic Coast
  • The Tyrrhenian Coast
  • The Amalfi Coast

There are still some places I want to see so this is my current Bucket List:

  • Cinque Terra (north) – These five small towns were once very remote and unseen by most tourists. Then the train came and brought many tourists to this region. There is a walking path connecting each of the five villages. You can also take a boat, Life here is simple and enjoyable.
  • Portofino (north) – This Italian fishing community and high-end vacation resort is famous the world over. The cove here is very picturesque. When I think of Portofino I can hear Andrea Bocelli singing here.
  • Lucca (Central) – A city in tuscany near the sea. It is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.
  • The Tulli Homes of Alberobello (south) – These unique homes are round with pointy roofs. This is a very unique architecture that is strongly enforced in this city.

trulli italy

  • Matera – Italy’s cave town (south) – Originated in the Paleolithic Period. The cave dwellings here were once slums and have been transformed into luxury housing and rentals. This is one of the most un pique cities in Italy and maybe the world.
  • Sicily (south) – This unique island has so much to offer. From the volcano to its magnificent towns to its Greek ruins. Sicily is easily reached by ferry, train or car. All three methods of travel cross to the island on the ferry.

What is your bucket list for Italy?

George

 

Categories: Alberobello, Amalfi Coast, Bologna, Caves, Cinque Terra, Cinque Terre, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Matera, Milan, Naples, Portofino, Rome, Sicily, Tulli, Venice, Verona | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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