Cafè

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Capri, Italy

The Isle of Capri is a true place of beauty. This is why it became the playground of the rich and famous. Many people are confused by the isle’s name of Capri and the city of Capri on the Isle. The Isle has two main cities: Capri and Anacapri. This island is rugged with cliffs and a huge mountain near Anacapri. It has two beaches, the large and small beaches. The ferries drop you off at the large beach. There is a large marina there and porters will take your bags to your hotel. This is a great idea since you will be walking.

Once at the marina at the large beach you can take a bus up a windy road or a funicular up the hill to the center of Capri city.Take the funicular. it is fast and fun. At the top is the main piazza with its clock tower. In this area are many restaurants, bars, gelaterias and stores. Many of the small streets are alley like but take them and you will discover many interesting stores and shops.

So many tourists opt to come on a ferry in the morning and leave in the evening. This is the biggest mistake you can make! Stay at least one night. After the tourists have left, the locals come out. Be a local and enjoy life. This is what being an Italian in Italy is all about. Remember Italy is not a quest to visit as many places as you can in a week. It is about the food, the people, the life, the museums and the cities. You can not fully enjoy or understand Italy without sitting back in each city and being part of the life. Running through a city causes you to miss the life all together reducing Italy to just another tourist destination. Believe me, Italy is not just another tourist attraction!

Come walk with us through the cities of Capri and Anacapri and join us on a boat ride around the Isle. Be romantic in one of the most romantic places on Earth…

– George

Categories: Anacapri, Bars, Beach Resorts, Beaches, Blue Flag Beaches, Blue Grotto, Cafè, Campania, Capri, Cave, Cooking, Cruises, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Ferries, Food, Funicular, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mount Vesuvious, Museums, Naples, Passegiata, Planning a vacation, resorts, Ristorante, Romance, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Stairs, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, Villa Brunella, VLOG, Walking, 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

Ostuni, Italy

Ostuni is another small city in Puglia Italy near Cisternino. It is down on the heel of the boot near the Adriatic Sea. These are great cities to walk around and explore. Watch the Youtube video below and come walk with us through though wonderful town. Each Monday we will visit another town on my VLOG. Most will be small mountain towns or seaside resorts but a few will be large famous Italian cities.

These small cities are easily reached by car. Parking is easy and free in most but some have pay machines. You simply look at the machine to see the cost and time covered. Put enough coins in to cover your desired time and press the green button. A ticket is printed and you place it on your dash-board.

The best part of being in these small cities is to become part of Italian life:

  1. Eat the local food
  2. Drink the local wines
  3. Walk like the Italians do (you don’t need a gym in Italy)
  4. When you sit to eat, observe the Italian life around you
  5. Say Buon Giorno or Buona Sera to people you pass on the streets
  6. Speak to as many local people as possible
  7. Enjoy your time, be romantic and never be on a time-table. Be spontaneous

If you like this series of VLOGs, Press the YouTube button on the video below and like it and subscribe to my channel. I hope you enjoy our small walk.

– George

 

Categories: Adriatic Sea, Bars, Brindisi, Cafè, Church, Driving in Italy, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Ostuni, Puglia, Regions of Italy, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Italy and Health

Italy has one of the world’s most efficient healthcare systems. The World Health Organization  rates countries on their over all health. Italy’s healthcare system focuses on exercise, happiness and healthy food rather than drugs. The people of this country eat well and eat fresh organic produce that is grown or farmed near their own home. Fruit is seldom shipped but picked locally at the height of freshness and nutrients. It tastes better and is healthier for you.

The Healthiest Countries in the World

1. Singapore
2. Italy
3. Australia
4. Switzerland
5. Japan
6. Israel
7. Spain
8. Netherlands
9. Sweden
10. Germany

The Least Healthiest Countries in the World
1. Swaziland
2. Lesotho
3. Democratic Republic of Congo
4. Chad
5. Mozambique
6. Burundi
7. Malawi
8. Angola
9. Uganda
10. Cameroon

The USA was rated 33 on the least healthiest countries in the world.

We should take a lesson on this from Italy. Not only is it a country on everyone bucket list but it gives us a great example how to live a happy and healthy life.

George

 

Categories: Cafè, Cooking, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Fruit, General Travel, Health, Healthcare, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Ristorante, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, Vegetables, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Isle of Capri’s Anacapri

Anacapri is the other city on Capri Isle. It is smaller, quieter and less hustle bustle. You can drive, hire a car or taxi or take the bus from Capri. We chose the bus. Near the top of the funicular is a bus station with busses to various attractions on the isle. The bus to Anacapri leaves from here and winds up a mountain to reach this city. Along the way are many wonderful vistas. You can sea the sea, the large marina far below and in the distant Mount Vesuvious. You get off in the center where you can catch a bus back to Capri.

B-Capri do

Anacapri

Walk the small streets and look at the restaurants and bars. Try to decide what to have for lunch in an hour or two. Look into the ceramic shops. We bought a very large spaghetti dish and they packed it for travel. We placed it in our suitcase and hoped for the best. It survived perfectly. The ceramics are made in this town and hand painted. They are all unique and beautiful.

One of the streets from the center leads down through these stores and restaurants to a small piazza with a church. Walking here is like mediating. It is quiet and peaceful. Enjoy this time before returning to the hustle bustle of massive tourists in Capri. This street has many tourists but beyond the piazza with the church are mostly locals.

B-Capri dr B-Capri dt

Someone house and the center of town at bus stop

On the way back to the center, we decided to eat lunch. We had seen a small restaurant/bar on the way that served food out a window to you on the street. We got two panini, a drink and a fabulous desert. The owners talk with you at the window. Everything is made in front of you and is very delicious.

Finally we were on the bus back to Capri with our dish in hand. The ride down is less dramatic as you are mostly on the mountain side of the road and not the cliff side. We arrived back at the bus station and began our stroll through the beautiful city of Capri once again. You could hear many different languages being spoken, Music, laughter and the clang of dishes at the restaurants and bars. This is what I love about Italy. It is always alive and full of life and fun. All you have to do is place yourself in it and enjoy it.

This is an Isle that is easy to be romantic. You feel it everywhere. You see couples in love all around you. Hold hands with your partner and enjoy your life.

Next BLOG will talk about why you want to spend the night in Capri.

George

 

Categories: Anacapri, Bars, Cafè, Campania, Capri, Ceramics, Eating, Eating Italian, Food, Funicular, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Panini, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Typical Day in Italy

We typically get up and spend time on our balcony looking at the sea and mountains. Monte Stella is a beautiful cone-shaped mountain that protrudes through the clouds. Some days it is hidden by clouds and others it is right there. Our little town is below us on the hill. A train runs by often taking people from Naples to Sicily and back. Jo Anne takes a hundred pictures of this exquisite beauty.

We eventually get ourselves out and drive down to Casal Velino Marina for Breakfast. We have two favorite places: 1) Franco’s and 2) Isola Verde. Isola Verde has free WiFi so we can connect to the world and see what is happening. I order a Cafè (espresso) and Cornetto and Jo Anne orders a Cafè Americano and a piece of Torta (cake) for a few Euros.

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Cornetto

At Franco’s the selection is more exquisite. One of our favorite is sfogliatella.

sfogliatella

sfogliatella

As we sit and finish up with the internet, we plan our day. What city will we visit today? We then drive to our destination and start our tour/walk. At lunchtime we look for a small restaurant or a bar. Bars have great sandwiches and you can have a beer or wine. Small restaurants let you order a local dish and local wine.

After lunch we are back to touring, walking and climbing steps (lots of steps). We typically walk 5 to 8 miles a day and can climb as many flights of steps as 50. This helps work off lunch and maybe that afternoon gelato we can’t resist.

Sometimes we eat dinner locally or we may head back home and eat in one of our favorite local restaurants. Pasta, fish, pizza and other specialties are all prepared fresh and wonderfully. We get to talk with local people and maybe have dinner with friends.

Finally we head home to sit on our balcony with a glass of wine and reflect on Italy’s beauty and prepare for another day of the same encantment. We are blessed and lucky to have such a romantic place to call home!

George

 

Categories: Bars, Beer, Cafè, Casal Velino Marina, Coffee, cornetto, Dolce, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Exercise, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cafè and Vino

Vino or wine in Italy is special. Most Italians drink cafè and vino. They are universal drinks in Italy. Cafè is pretty much the same all over Italy. Coffee beans are fresh and roasted to perfection. The people making the cafè are highly trained individuals. You go to a bar to get your cafè and maybe something sweet to eat with it.

cornetto1 Pavoni 2

Vino is different in different parts of Italy. Italy  has many world-class wines like Brunello and Chianti. Their Brunello stands up to the top wines in France or California. It is expensive even in Italy so it is not consumed by most people at the dinner table. Italy has local wines by region. You can find both red and white, dry and sweet varieties. Some are bottled and others are only available in bulk to consumers. Bulk wines are poured from a large cask into what ever vessels the consumer has. They range from water bottles to glass or ceramic pitchers.

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Going to restaurants in Italy yields a large selection of wines in bottles and local wines that are served in 1 liter and 1/2 liter pitchers. These wines are usually very good. Italians pride themselves on their wines. The next time in Italy try a 1/2 liter of a local wine. These will vary greatly by region and city within Italy. You could spend a life time sampling all the different local wines throughout Italy. Enjoy …

George

 

Categories: Bars, Cafè, Ceramics, Europe, Italy, Sweets, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coffee in Italy

Coffee or caffè in Italy is a way of life. It is not guzzled in gallon sized mugs but sipped in small demitasse cups. It is what we call espresso. Italians love their caffè because it is not just a drink but a social activity. You meet friends and colleagues on the way to work and have a caffè. Their caffè is never bitter but it is strong and delicious. It is always drunk hot and quickly in a few sips.

Pavoni 2

Cafe Machine

Caffè is purchased at a bar. This is where Italians eat breakfast. Breakfast is a caffè and a pastry like a cornetto (croissant).

cornett02 cornetto1

Cornetto

This breakfast is fast and light. It is not as sweet as our pastries. It is not about sugar but taste. You never sit and drink 5 caffè in a row. You drink one and may return later for another and to meet a different set of friends.

I was doing consulting in Milan many years ago. I was working for a division of Olivetti. We met a 8 am to start our meeting. I put a schedule of what we wanted to achieve on the board. It took about half an hour. Then the president of the subdivision said, Let’s go to the bar! I thought, WOW they want to go to the bar at 8:30 in the morning? What I soon learned is that the bar is where you eat breakfast and more importantly get caffè. I was learning and enjoying life in Italy.

I never worry about getting breakfast with my hotel room. I know there is a bar on just about every corner. I can get the most delicious and light pastry and a great cup of caffè.

OK you want a big cup of coffee not so strong. No problem! You just ask for Caffè Americano. Cappuccino is very popular all over the world but no Italian would dream of ordering it after 11 am. There are Caffè coffee rules to be followed in Italy. There are also many types, with associated names, of coffee. My favorite name is Caffè Corretto (Coffee corrected – with liquor).

When in Italy go to a bar and have breakfast or lunch or gelato. It is not like bars elsewhere. They are family oriented and fun. I remember arriving in Rome one afternoon. I was tired and heading up the elevator of my hotel with my luggage. Two older American women got on with me. The one looked at me and asked, Are you American? I replied affirmative. They then asked where they could get something to eat before 7:30 pm. I said in Rome most places do not open until after 7:30. I suggested going to a bar. The one lady gave me a very stern look and said, Sonny, I have never been to a bar and I won’t start now. I had a good laugh and had to think, How unfortunately for them. They would never experience the simple delicious meals at a bar. Oh well you can not help everyone!

George

I will continue to do this BLOG while Jo Anne does her’s on southern Italy BLOG.

Categories: Bars, Cafè, Coffee, cornetto, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pastry, Sweets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Amalfi and Ravello

Deutsch: Die Terrazza dell'Infinito der Villa ...

Deutsch: Die Terrazza dell’Infinito der Villa Cimbrone in Ravello (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are planning a trip to Naples, Capro, Sorrento and Positano, don’t miss these two wonderful cities.

We arrived in Amalfi by ferry from Positano. You can arrive by car, bus or ferry. Once in Amalfi you will find a pedestrian piazza with the church. The church is up a set of steps and has a wonderful tour. At the bottom of the steps is a fountain you can drink from and plenty of restaurants in the piazza to eat or have a drink. Outside the city walls by the ferry docks (and bus stop) you can find a bus to Ravello. Buy your tickets at a tobacco shop (there is one at the city wall. The bus ride winds itself up a very steep mountain to the top. Ravello sits atop this mountain with unforgettable views of the sea. Once at Ravello, the bus stops outside the city walls. Walk through into the central piazza. There are bars and restaurants. There is a tourist center near by where you can get a map. Walk to the other side of town to Villa Cimbrone Gardens. It is well worth the walk. These gardens were a refuge for Hollywood movie stars years ago. Now they are open to the public to enjoy. At the very end of the gardens you will find yourself on a walk by a cliff that overlooks the sea, Amalfi and the road up to Ravello. Relax and enjoy.

After your walk back to town stop at a bar and enjoy a drink or a soda.  Relax and take in the people and the town. Imagine life here. When you are done retrace your steps back out through the town wall to the bus stop. Buses can get very crowded. There are also car services and taxis to take you back down to Amalfi.

One of Fiats new car commercials shows a new fiat being driven off a dock into the sea. It was filmed at the docks in Amalfi.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Bars, Cafè, Capri, Europe, Italy, Mountain Towns, Naples, Positano, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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