Autostrada

How we spend our time in Italy

We recently went to Italy to spend a relaxing time at our condo in southern Campania. Normally we take an extra week and travel to some other area of Italy but this time we just wanted to relax at the beach and enjoy Italy. This is a story about our local area, the people and the food. It is also a story about how Hurricane Irma caused us to have the longest trip home ever.

Watch the video VLOG below and follow us through this interesting trip to the mezzogiorno:

– George

Categories: Airplanes, Autostrada, Beach Resorts, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Blue Flag Beaches, Buffalo Mozzarella, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Dolce, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Fish, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Planning a vacation, resorts, Ristorante, Romance, sea, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking, WiFi, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I love Italy

This is a different VLOG for me. In this one I talk about the reasons I love Italy and give tips to both first time travelers to Italy well as experienced Italian travelers.

The video covers several sections:

  • Why I love Italy
  • Top Reasons I love Italy
  • Museums
  • What to do in Italy
  • Finding Places to Eat
  • The Metro (Subway)
  • Time to go
  • Hotels
  • Currency (Euros)
  • Airfares
  • Hopper App
  • Driving in Italy
  • Put Italy on your Bucket List

If Italy is not on your bucket list, it should be. Watch the video below and see why so many people love and go to Italy.

– George

Categories: Air Fares, Autostrada, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Church, Cooking, Dolce, Dolce far niente, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Exchange Rates, Ferries, Flights, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italian language, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Metro Travel, Money, Museums, Parking Garage, Parking Meters, Passegiata, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Towns, Trains, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, Walking, Weather in Europe, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 12

Now you are in Italy and have a great small hotel. Where do you eat? I have posted on this before but to be complete in this series, we will post it again.

Italy is an easy place to find great local food. It is always fresh and usually organic. Italians love their country, their food and their wine. It shows when you eat in one of their restaurants. We have a few rules about food in Italy:

  • Do not eat at tourist places – they are usually close to the monuments tourists go to see. The food is not real Italian. You can find hamburgers, poorly prepared pasta and cheesy pizza.
  • Restorante are top of the line restaurants – They serve excellent food but are expensive.
  • Trottoria’s are local food for a moderate price – This is where we like to eat. They are everywhere and have fresh local food prepared correctly.
  • Pizzeria – These are restaurants that serve Pizza. You can have Restrorante and Pizzeria, Trattoria and Pizzeria or just Pizzeria.
  • Enotecca’s – these are wine bars that allow you to buy and sample different wines. You can usually eat small dishes as well. This is a great way to taste some of the local wines and determine which you like.
  • Breakfast is easy! Go to a local bar … that’s right a bar. They serve coffee (espresso or American or Cappuccino) and pastries. Cornetto is a croissant like pastry. The pastries are magnificent. Crispy and light. Normally you pick what you want and eat and then go to cash register and say what you had and pay. Some bars require you to pay in advance and take the ticket to the bar and order your food.

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Cornetti (multiple cornetto)

  • Gelateria – Italian ice cream. These places have a large number of types of ice cream. They are all made fresh and served soft. You can ask for a sample of several types and then choose what you want. You can get your gelato in a cone or a dish. Some places even make fresh waffle cones. Gelato is generally lower in calories, fat, cream, and sugar than other styles of ice cream.
  • Auto Grills – These are restaurants on the autostrada. They have surprisingly good food. You can get a panini, pasta, or sweet rolls. They also have tourist things like bags of pasta, candy and cookies.
  • Fruit & Vegetable stands/stores – Most large and small towns have these. Stop and buy some fruit to eat. Grapes, strawberries, peaches, apples or what ever is in season. Smell the fruit! You can actually smell fruit that is in season and ripe. Choose the most aromatic ones.

Choose wisely and enjoy the food. You don’t need to speak Italian. Just read the menu. Most items are listed the same as in nice Italian restaurants in the states. Point to what you want. Ordering the house wine is usually a treat in Italy. It is very good and inexpensive. It doesn’t come in a bottle but a litter or half litter pitcher.

Enjoy

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, cornetto, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Panini, Pastry, Ristorante, Trottoria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 11

Your big day has finally come. You are going to Italy! Get to the airport early. We like to stop at Vino Volo after we get through security. We have a flight of wine (4 different glasses with about an ounce of wine each or one regular glass of wine). We also order some appetizers to go with the wine. For us this is the official start of our vacation.

Vino Volo

Vino Volo

We board the airplane early to ensure we get overhead space. The flight from Philadelphia to Rome is always full. We normally took US Airlines but they merged with American and they are one airline under the American name now. The planes are all newly painted with the new American logos. The plane is an airbus A330-300 – wide body. The non-stop flight is American 718 going to Rome and 719 returning. The 718 flight leaves Philadelphia at 6:25 pm and arrives in Rome the next day at 9:10 am. Coming home we leave Rome at 11:55 am and arrive in Philadelphia at 3:45 pm the same day.

American Airlines

The overnight flight going is mostly in darkness. After the meal service they turn off the cabin lights and you can sleep. If you don’t sleep onboard, you can watch movies or play games on your personal monitor in the back of the seat in front of you. You can also read. The flight goes fast if you can catch 2-3 hours sleep. Before landing you see the sun rise over Europe and a small breakfast service is given. The return flight has a lunch service and a snack before landing in Philly. It is in sun-light all the way so you can easily stay awake. We watch 3 movies to pass the time.

Arriving in Italy you are tired and your body is confused. After all it is 3:10 am back in Philly. We rent a car and drive to our first destination. We will stop on the Autostrada for a Panini (sandwich). This helps adjust your body to the new time zone. It is VERY important to not nap during the day! If you do you will wake-up in the middle of the night and be starving. Force yourself to stay awake and tour. Find something interesting to do. Have dinner and don’t go to bed before 8 pm. You will crash and sleep like a baby. When you wake up the next day you will be fully on Italy time.

Returning is easier since it is in daylight all the way. You arrive at 3:45 pm and by the time you get home it is after 5 pm (11 pm Italy time). Have some dinner to help adjust the time zone and go to bed around 8 pm. You will again wake-up on the correct time zone.

Arriving in Italy you have your adrenaline going, you are excited to start your vacation. Italy is a safe country. Violent crime is very low (even in the big cities). There are pickpockets so beware of who is around you. George puts his wallet and phone in front pockets. Jo Anne puts her purse straps over her head. Don’t stress about it! You are here to enjoy yourself and be romantic.

Italian Flag

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Airplanes, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Panini, Romance, Rome, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 6

So we have our itinerary and know where we are staying, Know we need transportation while in Italy. We have a few choices:

  1. Tour – This is our least favorite and we never do this. Tours tend to be big, slow moving and they choose restaurants that give them a kick-back (not ones with great Italian food). Tours have had complaints for a long time. Some are giving Free Days where you are on your own to explore. They do handle the issues of language, getting lost and easy of touring but at an expense. In our opinion a great expense.
  2. Rental Car – This is our favorite to go to small towns and hilltop cities. In large cities we park for the duration of our stay and walk or take local transportation. Car rentals are easiest at the airport. You get your car and drive out and are on an autostrada quickly. In the south where we have our home, it is critical to have a car. It is the country and you need a car to get around. Italy’s roads are easy to navigate and GPS works great. You have a choice of American car rentals like Hertz, Avis and Budget as well as European (usually cheaper) like Eurocar. The Autostrada has great Auto Grille (rest Areas) with good bathrooms, great food and gifts. Take a break from driving and enjoy.
  3. Cruises – This is an option we do not like. Cruise tours are short and not enough time to really see a city. A few hours in Rome is not enough to see it. It certainly is not enough time to sit at a bar and experience Italian life. You go to Italy not just for the sites but to experience the Italian people and customs.
  4. Ferries – In beside areas like the Amalfi coast, take a ferry to visit other local towns. This is a fast and sonic way to travel an area. Ferries are usually not expensive.
  5. Train – An in between option is to take the train. Most airports have easy access to trains that take you into the nearby city. From any of Italy’s big cities you can board high-speed trains (Trenitalia) to any other big city in Europe. Trains are fast and efficient. Remember that your ticket must be validated before boarding the train unless you have an e-Ticket that says no validation necessary. Validation is sticking your ticket into a yellow validating machine at the end of tracks and getting it time stamped. From a large city you can transfer to local trains that go to almost all local towns. You can get to your destination or a nearby town easily.

Trains Italy

However you get around Italy, enjoy the ride. Look at Italy’s vast rugged countryside. The mountains are large and very rugged. Italy was formed by very violent volcano and earthquake events. It literally rose out of the sea. What was left is a very beautiful countryside. Italy is one of the most visited countries on Earth. Go and see why! Explore Italy and be romantic.

Tomorrow we ill look at booking your airfare and pricing.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Car Rentals, Cruises, Driving in Italy, Europe, Ferries, General Travel, Italy, Parking Garage, Romance, Small Towns, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorrento Pictorial

Sorrento is on the southern edge of the bay of Naples (Naples is on the northern edge). It is also on the Tyrrhenian Sea in Campania. The population is around 16,500. There is a good highway from Naples passed the airport and south to Sorrento. The A1 Autostrada connects with this highway and goes north to Rome, Florence and Milan. This highway becomes a narrow two lane road in Sorrento and becomes the famous Amalfi Coast Road. Sorrento is a big tourist stop and gateway to the Amalfi Coast and has many ferries to Capri.

C-Sorrento di

One of several beaches

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The town is on a cliff above the beaches and sea

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The Town

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The coastline

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The streets

Sorrento has small markets on tiny pedestrian only streets. Most of the items are tourists trinkets but some are good finds. Sorrento has good food, friendly people and great views. It is a good place to begin your Amalfi Coast tour.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Autostrada, Beaches, Campania, Europe, Ferries, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Naples, Rome, Sorrento, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where to Eat in Italy

French wines are usually made to accompany food.

French wines are usually made to accompany food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People that have been to Italy often ask us what is the difference between the types of restaurants in Italy? It can be confusing so we give you this guide.

Italy has fantastic food everywhere. We even stopped at an “Auto Grill” on the autostrada (highway) and had a great espresso and pastry. Other times we will get a Panini at the Auto Grill. Not like our turnpike rest areas. In Italy there are several common types of places to eat and a few others in certain areas.

Types of Restaurants in Italy:

  1. Bar – A place to eat or drink. In the morning you go here for coffee and pastry, at lunch you go for sandwiches (Panini). In the evening you go for a drink and a snack. Many bars also serve gelato. Bars are cheapest if you stand and eat. Sitting at a table costs more but allows you to relax and observe Italy and its great people.
  2. Tratteria – these are small private owned eating cafes with great food at reasonable costs. Lunch and dinner are great. Usually Italian favorites as well as local dishes are served. The atmosphere is simple but comfortable. A version of these are Pizzeria Trattoria. These include pizzas along other dishes. Some have outside and inside seating available.
  3. Ristorante – These are for lunch or dinner and are nice but expensive. The atmosphere is classic and the food is great. You can also find Pizzeria Ristorante’s. The wine lists are more extensive and the atmosphere is more formal.
  4. Osteria  – These are places that usually serve wine and simple food with limited menus.
  5. Enotecca – Small wine bars that allow tasting local wines (for a charge) and serve small dishes or sandwiches or Tapas like foods. These are a great way to get to know local wines.
  6. Rotisserie – Small restaurants that specialize in roasting meats on a spit.
  7. Agritourism – Usually a farm-based establishment with a B&B type hotel and food grown or raised on their farm. They sometimes have stores to buy products and take home. One near our home in Italy has a vegetable and fruit market as well.

Pizza is everywhere! You can have it in Trattoria’s or Ristorante’s. The bread in Italy is great. It is crusty on the outside but soft or airy inside. Always stay away from touristy places serving hamburgers and hot dogs. The food won’t be good and prices will be high. Enjoy your trip, taste Italy’s great food & wines. Sit back and smile as you watch the Italians strolling with family at lunch time or in the evening. Lunch usually ranges from 12 noon to 3 pm (shorter in the north) and dinner from 6 pm (for tourists) to 11 pm. The south of Italy eats much later than the north. The south also serves more fish than the north. If you happen to be in the north of Italy in the fall, DO NOT MISS the truffles.

Remember Italy is the land of romance. Sit back and enjoy yourself. Stay away from the American Fast Food places. You are in Italy enjoy its great foods and wines. Save the fast food for when you get home. Do NOT go into eating establishments in Italy and be in a hurry! Use a bar if you have to eat fast. Good food takes time to prepare and serve properly.

George & Jo

Categories: Agriturismo, Auto Grills, Autostrada, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Cooking, Enoteca, Fast Food, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive to Rome and Home

At the end of each of our trips to Italy, we drive to Rome Fiumicino Airport the day before our flight. This allows us to get rid of the car and have a good night sleep in a hotel at the airport. The drive from Velina to Rome is about 4 hours.

As we leave Velina, we drive north past the train station to the entrance of the SP 430 highway. This takes us north-west to Agropoli and then onto the A 3 Autostrada at Battipaglia. There is a spot on the SP 430 that is damaged and we have to detour onto a mountain road. It is just past one of the tunnels.

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This rout passes Paestum and follows the Mediterranean coast. Once on the A 3 we head north-west to Salerno. At this point we leave the sea behind and head inland to the mountains. Soon we are passing Vesuvius. This is a very daunting volcano. You feel small and helpless near this huge volcano. Soon we are at the A 1 Autostrada (Italy’s main Highway). We are just north of Naples heading North-West to Rome. Along this stretch we usually stop at one of the many Auto Grills. They have bathrooms, gas, food and tourist items. As in most bars in Italy, you pay first and then with your ticket in hand get your food.

At Rome we head West around the loop on the A 90 that circles Rome and onto the A 91 to the airport. Fiumicino is near the sea again. We typically stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport. You can drop your luggage at the hotel, check-in and gas up the car. Then drop it off at the airport and catch a shuttle bus to long-term parking and the Hilton Garden Inn. Now we relax with a drink and wait for dinner at 7:30 pm.

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Soon it’s dinner time and the food is pretty good here. The free WiFi allows you to catch up with your Facebook and emails. The next morning we have breakfast and take the shuttle back to the airport.  Soon we are onboard and leaving our beloved Italy behind.

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Nine and a half hours later we are landing in Philadelphia. The trip was awesome, the people friendly and warm and the food & wine the best. Until our next trip!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, Driving in Italy, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Paestum, Rome, Velina, Vesuvius, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Home in Velina Italy

Velina is a very small hamlet that is part of Castelnuovo Cilento. It is close to the highway (SP430) that goes north toward Salerno to the A3 Autostrada). It has many shops for pasta, chocolate, pastry, bread, wine, Bufala Mozzarella, Vegetables and clothes. It even has a supermarket (Supermarcato). From our condo we have wonderful views of Stella mountain.

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We also have views of the sea.

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The food here is the best with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, pasta and of course fish.

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The local church is small but old and beautiful. It has very special doors.

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It is perfectly situated near two beaches (Ascea & Casal Velino Marina), many mountain towns and the larger towns of Agropoli and Salerno. Life here is slower. Go to a bar for breakfast and enjoy the local people, After lunch take a walk at the beach or in town. Remember the locals are doing the same so shops close up tight between 2 pm and 4 pm. Dinner is late. Most restaurants don’t open until 7:30 pm. Go to a bar for happy hour.

Tomorrow we talk about the trip north to Rome to catch our flight home to the USA.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Ascea, Autostrada, Bars, Beaches, Bread, Buffalo Mozzarella, Campania, Casal Velino Marina, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Romance, Salerno, Small Towns, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vallo della Lucania

Vallo della Lucania is the largest city near our home in Velina. It has a hospital and is a college town. This is a large mountain city without many steps. The center doesn’t allow cars but parking is easy and you can walk in. The central piazza is beautiful stone work but this last trip it was all ripped up and being replaced.

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November 2013 Piazza

This is a great town to walk in. Some of its streets are very narrow and invite exploration.

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As in any Italian town, there are street markets on some days. You have to walk around and find them.

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This town is served by a limited access highway the SP430. This road leads south to Sapri and Maratea and north to Agropoli, Paestum and the Autostrada A3. Vallo della Lucania has shops that sell everything you need. Of course there are plenty of restaurants and bars to take an afternoon break at.

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While we were enjoying our process, we saw a church letting out. It was First Communion day and all the boys and girls were in white. Parents were dressed up and heading to this bar to celebrate. If you stop to take in the city and people around you, you can experience wonderful things.

Tomorrow we are off to Castelabate and Santa Maria Castelabate.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Autostrada, Bars, Cafè, Campania, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Vallo della Lucania, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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