Chocolate

Madrid Spain

Madrid is the capitol of Spain and is a wonderful city to walk, sites, eat food and drink wine. Tapas are the specialty for lunch and snacks before dinner. These are small portion plates that can be shared. Order several and try many new or old favorites from Spain. We order several tapas and some wine or sangria and make it a meal. For breakfast there are many options but a national favorite is churros dipped in melted chocolate. How can you say “No” to this?

When flying into Madrid’s airport remember there is the metro and the Renfe trains (c1, c10, etc). They are two different systems with different entrances and fees. If the metro does not go close to your hotel, try the Renfe lines.

Come wander around the small streets of Madrid, museums, the Palace, the Botanical Gardens and so much more:

– George

Categories: BLOG, Botanical Gardens, Cafè, Chocolate, Church, churros, Eating, Food, General Travel, Hop on Hop off Bus, Madrid, Metro Travel, Museums, Spain, tapas, VLOG, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why you really want to spend a night in Capri

Most tourists take a ferry from Naples, Sorrento or Positano to the Isle of Capri. They spend a day mostly waiting to get into the Blue Grotto and then return by ferry in the evening. This is a big mistake! After all these tourists leave, the natives of Capri come out. The streets of Capri City are much less crowded. You can enjoy your stroll without being knocked about by tourists. The island and the city become magical. The lighting is perfect for photographers. Restaurants gear up for the evening meal. Bars await customers looking for a drink.

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We had found a few small (alley like) streets off the main piazza. They had stores and restaurants. One store made custom sandals. You are measured one day and can pick up your shoes the next day. There were also small grocery stores. We decided to spend one evening eating at our hotel. We were able to get a bottle of wine, cheese, bread, olives and chocolate at one such shop. Our hotel with the fabulous view became a romantic restaurant for the evening. We dined on our private balcony overlooking Capri and the sea.

We tend not to like places were a lot of tourists gather. But these small streets were a real find. They are cooler in the summer, have fewer people on them and offer small cheaper shops that normally do not cater to the tourists. It would seem that tourists like to stick to the main piazza and streets. They shy away from small streets. Their loss!

Go to Capri and be romantic. Stay an evening or more. Make the island your island. If it is a special occasion, spend the extra money and stay at Villa Brunella. You pay once but will remember it for the rest of your life.

B-Capri ad B-Capri de

George

 

Categories: Bars, Blue Grotto, Bread, Campania, Capri, Cheese, Chocolate, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Positano, Romance, Sorrento, Traveling without a tour, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feelings of Living in Italy

Many people ask us, what it is like to live in Italy? A foreign country intrigues some and scares the hell out of others. We love our area of Italy it is in the Campania region south of both Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Our hamlet is called Velina, which is part of the city of Castelnuovo Cilento. To be even more confusing the whole area is referred to as part of Casal Velino. Velina is a small town that has stores for food, clothing and miscellaneous items. It has a post office, church and cell phone store.

When I am there it is all about the friendliness of the people, the sounds, the smells, the tastes and the visuals. Lets look at each of these and how I feel about them:

 

  • People – We are known to be foreigners by our look and dress but if you greet someone with Buon Giorno (good Day), you will get a smile and a Buon Giorno in return. These are people who enjoy life, family and their way of living.
  • Sounds – I go to sleep and wake up at our condo to the wonderful sounds of a rooster, birds and an occasional dog bark. There are also church bells early in the morning. You can hear the train go by below us. These have become sounds I look forward to and expect when I am there. They gently rock me to sleep at night and slowly wake me in the morning.
  • Smells – Italy has wonderful food smells. As we walk through our small village and enter stores we are aroused by the smells of bread, cheeses, sweet rolls, chocolate and of course Cafè. We have grown accustomed to these smells and look forward to them. They bring on a level of awareness and hunger. What a great way to start a day. Buon Giorno a tutti (good morning to all).
  • Tastes – Now that we are awake we head to one of the local bars for a Cafè and cornetto (Croissant like pastry). Now the coffee awakens us more and hits our sense of taste. It is strong and has a wonderful flavor. The cornetto is softer than a croissant but is delicious. You can get it plain, filled with a light cream, filled with chocolate or filled with jelly. They are tasty and never over sweet. The fillings are small for flavor never over filled.
  • Visuals – Now fully awake we can take in and enjoy the visuals all around us. We have the wonderful sea, the huge mountains, the towns, the architecture and the people. On market day we get an added visual of all the stalls selling clothes and foods. This adds more to our sense of smell and sometimes we taste a sample.

Yes we love Italy a country that really gets it.

George

Categories: Bread, Buffalo Mozzarella, Chocolate, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Pastry, Traveling without a tour, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Food in Italy

Italy is known for its food but why is it different from Italian food in other countries? The main difference is it is:

  • Organic
  • Fresh
  • Simple
  • Tasteful
  • Prepared properly

Most countries have Italian restaurants. The pasta is usually prepared over cooked not al dente. The dishes mix many different ingredients and tastes. We associate certain dishes with Italian but they are not. Spaghetti and meatballs is in every restaurant in America but it is not Italian! Italians do not serve this (except in tourist restaurants to please tourists). They do serve spaghetti and later will serve meatballs but not together.

Just observe Italian life. It is simple and fresh. People in Italy do not buy frozen or prepared foods. They shop each day for that day or maybe the next. Vegetables and fruits are fresh out of the Earth, meats are organic and fresh from local farms, fish is just caught in the sea and breads and pastas are made fresh. This is what makes real Italian food so good and so different from what we expect.

When you go to Italy, order the local dishes and wine. Stop and taste the flavors. Eat slowly and enjoy each bite. Take a piece of crusty bread without butter or oil. Taste the freshness of the bread. Experience the crusty texture of the crust. This is eating Italian.

OK you like sweets. Taste the Italian pastry, gelato and candy. It is not as sweet as sweets in other countries. It is tasty. Enjoy what you eat slowly. Each bite is an experience. Avoid tourist restaurants and please do NOT eat American Fast Food in Italy! Your taste buds deserve to be treated to a real experience.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bread, Chocolate, Cooking, Dolce, Eating Italian, Europe, Fast Food, Food, Fruit, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Sweets, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Florence Pictorial

This is the last in our pictorial series and it’s a big one … Florence. What can you say about Florence? A lot more than in one BLOG! It is a major art center and city of Italy. It is where the Renaissance began (14 – 17 centuries). Imagine being in Florence in the dark ages and all of a sudden there is an explosion of new ideas and art as the birth of the Renaissance begins. Lorenzo de Medici was the ruler of Florence at the time and a patron of the arts. Art, science, music and religion exploded with new ideas. Artist like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, Botticelli, and so many others created their master pieces in this period.

In florence you can see wonders of creation like the Duomo and visit endless museums to see the art of this time like the statue of David. Florence is in the Region of Tuscany, Province of Florence. It has a population of 381,000 people.

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Duomo

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Front of Duomo

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Baptistery of Duomo

The famous gold doors of the Baptistery are here. The originals are in a museum, Opera del Duomo.

Florence baptistery doors

Baptistery Doors

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The city of Florence from nearby hill

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Michelangelo David

The original statue shown above is in the Academia Gallery.It originally was in the Palazzo della Signoria.

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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio opened 1345 and was originally set up as stalls to sell meat. The Medici’s hated the smells as the crossed the bridge from their palace (Medici Riccardi Palace) to the Uffizi where they worked. They kicked out all the butchers and replaced them with gold jewelry merchants. To this day all the shops sell gold. Notice the second level of the bridge with the windows. This was a private passage for the Medici. It started at their palace, crossed the river on the bridge and ended in the Uffizi. They were the first bankers.

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Uffizi Museum

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The fake David in Palazzo della Signoria

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Florence market

Lines can be very long in Florence especially in the hot summers. You can get a reservation for a time to see the Uffizi and the Academia Gallery (David). Stop at a tourist stand for information on where to buy the reservation. The Duomo is crowded as well so go early or late before closing.

Florence is easily walkable and very romantic. Stop for some chocolate, a snack, some wine or of course a gelato. The walk to the hill overlooking Florence is not long for those used to walking but has many steps up. You will be rewarded with the best views of Florence.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Chocolate, Duomo, Europe, Florence, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Museums, Romance, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do Americans Love Italy?

Why do so many Americans vacation in Italy and buy homes there? There is a love affair going on between America and Italy. Maybe it’s that we have so many Italians in America and even more Italian restaurants that it feels familiar. I think it goes deeper than that. Italy has obvious charm:

  1. Old cities with buildings we can’t see in America
  2. Famous places we read about
  3. Clean beaches
  4. Majestic mountains
  5. Walled mountain top cities that are so unique to us
  6. Cities like Venice that are unbelievable
  7. Food that is so much better than anything we get back home
  8. Cheap table wine that rivals the best of wines
  9. Italians love for life
  10. Italians love for Americans

Is it any wonder we love Italy? Where else can you get people who love us, food that is the best, wine that is superb and views that rival any other place? Italy is unique. It was created by violent earthquakes and volcanoes millions of years ago. Today it is a pl;ace artist go to see the wonders of nature. Even places like Vesuvius, a still very active volcano, attracts us like a moth to the flame.

Is it any wonder we look to visits this country over and over again? The views take our breath away. We want a piece of it. If you haven’t yet been to Italy, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Go and see the major cities: Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice and Milan. See smaller cities like Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Verona (Romeo & Juliet). Get off the beaten path and see small walled cities with fantastic views. Experience chocolate in Perugia (home of Perugina chocolates – Baci). Go to Assisi and Siena and our favorite San Gimignano.  Don’t miss Tuscany, Orvieto and Pompeii.

Many towns, such as San Gimignano, were enclos...

Many towns, such as San Gimignano, were enclosed with walls, causing crowding and the building of tower houses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italy has so much to offer it would take a life time to see it all. So don’t wait, get started on your adventure. Be adventuresome, be romantic and enjoy your life.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Chocolate, Eating Italian, Europe, Florence, Food, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Naples, Owning a home in Italy, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Pompeii, Positano, Romance, Rome, San Gimignano, Small Towns, Tuscany, Venice, Verona, Vesuvius, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paris a perfect place

Paris Sunset from the Louvre window

Paris Sunset from the Louvre window (Photo credit: Dimitry B)

Last year we took a vacation to Paris with my sister and her husband. After the long flight we made way into Paris on the train. It was quick and bypassed all the traffic. After dropping suitcases off at the hotel, we went sightseeing to Notre Dame. We walked everywhere, following George’s rule to not take a nap but keep busy until evening. Then crash overnight and you are on local time.

Paris is the city of lights, not because there are a lot of lights but because it brought about enlightenment back in the middle ages. People came here to study and show art, literature, science and food. Paris grew as a world capital. Paris is today a city of love. Couples go there for the romance of Paris. Paris Perfect is a BLOG on apartment rentals in Paris and they did a BLOG on what to see. The top sites are all listed in the books and should be on everyone “Don’t Miss List.” The other “Don’t Misses” are the food and wine, the small street markets, the shops and just walking the streets of Paris. Watch the people around you and enjoy your trip. Of course when in Paris you MUST buy a baguette and walk the streets with it. You will look like all the Parisians.

One great way to enjoy Paris is to rent an apartment. If you are traveling with another couple or two, it is usually cheaper and larger than a hotel room. Apartments can put you in an area with the Parisians. Walk to local pastry shops with them in the morning as they go off to work. Our apartment was in a great area of Paris. We had the best Croissant place around the corner and plenty of restaurants and stores. Head to a busy street and buy a baguette, some cheese, meat (if you like), wine and of course chocolates. Then go back to your apartment and enjoy. It is romantic and fun. It is being a Parisian.

Paris is a city you can walk to everything. If the weather is bad or you can not walk well, take the Metro. It is safe, clean and quiet. It can get you everywhere. There are smartphone apps that will take you from where you are to where you want to go. They show where the nearest Metro is, which trains to take and how to go from Metro to your destination.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Baguette, Chocolate, Europe, Food, France, General Travel, Metro Travel, Paris, Pastry, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Top Ten things to Eat in Italy

Italy is all about food! Each region has its specialties. Don’t miss out on any of it. The north is about truffles, Tuscany is all about meat, Naples is about pasta and pizza and the south is about fish and seafood. Try local wines with whatever you eat. Italian food in Italy is very different (much better) than Italian food in America. It is fresher, no GMOs, cooked to perfection and slightly seasoned (never with heavy sauces). Fetticini Alfredo is not Italian! It was invented by a Roman for Americans. You can find it in Italy in tourist restaurants but most Italians would never eat it.

Here are our top ten foods:

  1. White Truffles – In the north around the Alba area you get this wonderful treat. It is available in the fall. It is served on eggs, veal, pasta and pizza.
  2. Pizza – In the north (Milan) it is Pizza Quattro Stagioni (4 seasons) and in the south it is Pizza Margarita (preferably from Naples).
  3. Pasta – All types with simple red sauce to fish or vegetables. Done Al Dente and flavorful. Risotto is a wonderful Italian rice dish mostly done in the north.
  4. Fresh Fish & Seafood – Especially in the south. It is locally caught and served hours (not days or weeks after it is caught and never frozen). Shell fish is especially great in Italy. Mussels, clams, calamari, octopus, etc. Clams in the south are tiny but so flavorful.
  5. Vitello Milanese – Veal Milan style. When George was a meat eater, he loved this dish. It is a pounded flat cutlet with a bone in one end. Fried lightly.
  6. Happy Hour – In bars all around Italy you have a happy hour in the early evening. You order a drink and they serve you small plates of food for free. Italians do not like to drink without eating something. Each bar has different dishes.
  7. Gelato – Everyone reading this BLOG knows our love of Gelato. A more flavorful, less fat filled ice cream served soft. There are so many flavors you will have to make more trips to Italy to try all of them. Every town has Gelato shops.
  8. Chocolate – Italian chocolate comes in dark and milk but is much less sweet and more flavorful than our chocolates. You can find small shops in each town that make the chocolate right there. It is not commercialized. Try it plain, with fruit or nuts.
  9. Bread – Italian bread is every bit as good as French bread. They use whole grain non GMO flours and bake it to perfection in a very hot oven. It comes out soft on the inside but hard and crispy on the outside.
  10. Pastries – Italian pastries like French pastries are made with real ingredients and butter (never substitutes). The result is flaky crispy crusts with fresh fruits or nuts.

Experience Italian food in non tourist restaurants with a glass of local wine. Don’t eat desert in the restaurant but walk a little and find a pastry shop or Gelato shop and enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Dolce, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Pastry, Pizza, Risotto, Sweets, Truffles, White Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perugia, Italy

Perugia is a special city. It is home to Perugina chocolates. They are best known for their Bacci (Kiss) chocolate. The chocolate factory (with tours and tastings) is just outside the city. The city itself is medieval. What a charming place to stroll. Imagine walking on the same small walkways as people did during the medieval period. There are old squares, churches, Castles and fortresses.

Perugia

This is a great town to spend a night or two and go back in time. It is a very romantic place to spend some time. Imagine peaceful walks on old narrow streets, eating in a small trattoria, having some Perugina chocolates, sipping some local wine. Eat a Perugina back (kiss) then kiss someone special. Are you ready to go?

Perugia is near Assisi and Cortonia (where Under the Tuscan Sun took place and the real Frances Mayes home is). It is also not a long drive from Siena or Florence.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Cortona, Florence, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Romance, Siena, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Assisi, Italy

Assisi is a beautiful small town on the eastern side of Italy. It is very close to Perugia the chocolate town that is home to Perugina. Assisi is known as the birth place of Saint Francis. St. Francis is known because as the son of a rich man, he gave up all his worldly possessions and lived in the forest. He later founded the Franciscan Monks.

Assisi is home to the cathedral of Saint Francis at one end and a typical small city center at the other end of the town. You can easily walk around this city. Driving in the center is restricted but you can park in lots outside the center and walk in. The church is actually two churches, one on top of the other. Visit Saint Francis’ grave. Walk around the church complex and visit inside each church. Then walk to the city center and enjoy a caffè, gelato, Panini (sandwich) or lunch at a trattoria.

The church is built on a hill and the surrounding countryside and mountains are beautiful. This is a special place to be enjoyed and o relax in.

Assisi

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cafè, Chocolate, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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