Italian Facts

Paestum, Italy

Some of the best Greek ruins are in Italy. Greek wealth and nobility would give the first son the site in Greece and the second son got the one in Italy. Southern Italy was a favorite place for the Greeks. It was easy to get to and there was plenty of land there. Paestum is in Campania, south of the Amalfi Coast and south of Salerno. It is between Salerno and Agropoli on the coast. This site was inflected with malaria and lay untouched by humans for a long time. It was for this reason it is so well-preserved.

Paestum today is a large outdoor museum. You buy tickets in a building across the street and then enter the site. Inside you can walk around this huge site with beautiful Greek ruins. The site is so well-preserved that it should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you are visiting the Amalfi Coast, this is a short drive to Paestum.

Come walk around these ruins at Paestum with us in our YouTube video below:

– George Febish

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Campania, Europe, General Travel, Greece, Greek, Greek Ruins, Italian Facts, Italy BLOGs, Ruins, Salerno, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pompeii, Italy

This is the famous city that was destroyed by the Mount Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD. It was originally an Etruscan city and then a Roman one. It is located in Campania south of Naples and north of Sorrento, Italy. It was buried in 13 to 16 feet of hot ash from the volcano. Years went by and people forgot about the city and the people who lived below the surface. It became a Roman colony in 80 BC. 1500 years passed until the city below was discovered.

Today it is an outdoor museum where you can see homes, stadiums, restaurants, houses of prostitution and bars. This is a stop well worth your time. As you walk around the streets of Pompeii, imagine the original occupants who lived here. Then imagine that fateful day when Vesuvius blew its top.

Come walk with us through this impressive ancient city that has been perfectly preserved in time. Click on the YouTube VLOG video below …

Ciao,
– George

Categories: BLOG, Eating Italian, Etruscan, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mount Vesuvious, Mountains, Naples, Pompeii, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Vesuvius, VLOG, Volcano | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 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

Pisciotta, Italy

Pisciotta is a small mountain town in southern Campania. It is high above its marina on the sea. This town is very small but beautiful with only about 3,000 people living there. The views of the sea are amazing.We walked around this town from the main piazza up the many stairs to see the views. We were rewarded by discovering a wonderful restaurant with the most amazing views. The owner allowed us to come out on their balcony and photograph the sea. Later we returned for a magnificent romantic lunch. The people at the restaurant, I Tre Gufi (the three owls), were so friendly and the food and wine was delicious.

As we entered the town we found a parking garage but there were no ticket machines to pay for parking. We had to leave the garage and go to the main piazza to find a bar that sold parking tickets (biglietto). After placing the biglietto in the car we were free to explore. At lunch we realized our parking tickets were about to expire. As I prepared to go buy another ticket, a man told me not to worry, the police were eating lunch as well and would not be issuing parking tickets. Italy is all about basic human needs like food. We love it.

Click on the YouTube video below and walk around Pisciotta with us. If you enjoy it, LIKE and SUBSCRIBE on YouTube. Thank you…

– George

Categories: Bars, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Campania, Driving in Italy, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Parking Garage, Parking Meters, Passegiata, Pisciotta, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perugia, Italy

Perugia is in the Umbria region near the Tuscany border. This is Italy’s famous chocolate town. Home to Perugina (Back) chocolates. These are one of the best chocolates in the world. As you walk around the old section, each store sells these wonderful chocolates. How great to walk an old city, see beautiful vistas, be on small streets, see old architecture and eat wonderful chocolates.

The old section has very tight small streets. You may not want to drive into it. Park in the central parking lot outside the old section. See the video VLOG below for more details.

Perugia was one of the most important Etruscan cities. Etruscans were an ingenious people who ruled cities around Italy during pre-Roman times. This city has history and the architecture to prove it. This is a city to walk and explore its wonders. Many streets are narrow alley ways that twist and turn. As you enter a piazza the space and number of people increases. Piazzas have many outdoor restaurants were you can sit on the piazza under an umbrella and enjoy a drink or something to eat. These are great places to sit, relax, watch and become part of Italian life.

Please watch my video VLOG below and if you enjoy it, please LIKE it and Subscribe on YouTube. Thank you.

– George

Categories: Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mountain Towns, Museums, Parking Garage, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, Umbria, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

An EXPATs Banking Nightmare in Italy

My wife Jo Anne and I bought a home in Italy in 2013 and went through the experience of opening a bank account, transferring money into the account, dealing with the difference in the exchange rates and finally the closing meeting. When you’re buying something expensive like a property, exchange rates can quickly add up. An extra 10% or $10,000 on each hundred thousand dollars can significantly add to the cost of the property. Finding a way of exchanging dollars to euros inexpensively was a must.

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We chose a British firm that has offices in the United States, World First USA Inc. You can wire dollars to them and they then transfer them to euros and wire the euros to your Italian bank account. You can get a contract that states if the money arrives in a certain number of days this is how many euros you’ll get. We did this and received close to the world bank rate which is the cheapest you’re ever going to get.

Now we had euros to purchase our new home in our British temporary account.  We now needed to open an Italian bank account and then transfer those euros into it. We found a problem for US citizens that our homeland security requires foreign banks to not open an account for an US citizen unless they are present so passports and IDs can be checked to make sure it’s you. This was a real problem for us because we would have had to fly over to Italy to open an account and then fly back to the US to wire the money because in those days our bank would not allow international wires that were initiated remotely. This would have cost an extra $2,000 – $3,000 in airfare and hotels which was ridiculous!

Euro

We then flew to Italy, opened the Italian bank account and then had the money wired into it just worked perfect for us. Opening this Italian account was no easy task. Our real estate broker had a meeting with an Italian bank, Banco di Napoli, set up to open an account while we were in Positano. When we got there we found the bank manager, Paolo. He told us that he had never opened a bank account for anyone that lived outside of the Positano area and we were two hours south of Positano.

Luckily on Wednesday, we were going to go see our new home with our real estate broker, but that would only be three days before closing. We went another branch of that bank about 20 minutes from our new home. Finally, we had an Italian bank account. I then texted the transfer company and ask them to wire the euros into the new account and they told us in Italy this can take anywhere from 2 to 3 days even though the wire goes in immediately.

On Thursday we check the account and see no money. Friday was the last day we would be able to get the money needed for settlement. We checked the account again on Friday and luckily, there it was. Now we went back to the bank that wouldn’t let us open an account in Positano to get two cashiers checks, one for the closing company and one for the owners that we were buying the property from.

On Saturday we drove up to Rome and checked into our hotel room for the evening. Our closing was later that afternoon. Closing went relatively easily. Everything is done written on a long piece of paper and translated from Italian to English. We were told that the Italian document is the official one if there’s a difference. Once the closing was over we celebrated it with a picture taken, see below, and everybody was happy. The owners of the condominium made their money and we got a new Italian condominium.

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One thing to remember is that things in Italy can take time and not everything happens on your schedule, so relax, try to get things accomplished but when they don’t happen, don’t get upset – just find another way.

– George

 

Categories: Banking, Europe, EXPAT, Italian Banks, Italian Facts, Italy, Italy BLOGs | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Grotta Palazzese Cave Restaurant in Italy

Grotta Palazzesse is a famous cave restaurant in Polignano a Mare on the Adriatic sea. This is the most romantic place in the world to have a meal with someone you love. The views are magnificent. You will remember this for the rest of your life.

The restaurant is:

  • Expensive
  • The views are spectacular
  • The experience is a once in a life time moment
  • It is a very romantic place

We spent a morning touring the old center of Polignano a Mare and then had lunch in this fabulous restaurant. We were so lucky to get a table at the edge overlooking the sea. You feel fabulous as you sit at your table sipping a glass of good wine. As you enjoy your wine, you look down to the sea and see boats below you entering and exiting the cave.

Come join us in this great restaurant and see the views we saw. If you are lucky enough to be in this area of Puglia, make a reservation here and experience it yourself.

– George

Categories: Adriatic Sea, Cave, Cave Restaurant, Caves, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Fish, Food, General Travel, Grotta Palazzese, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Mezzogiorno, Pasta, Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Regions of Italy, Ristorante, Romance, Southern Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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

Italy Loves Wine

One of my favorite things about Italy is their love of wine. Everyone drinks it. Even the children have a little. The entire country has an appreciation for good wine but you seldom see drunks. If you do see them, they are usually tourists. Red wine is their preferred drink but good whites show up as well. Places like Orvieto produce great white wines.

orvieto

Orvieto, Italy

Most countries serve wine by the bottle in restaurants. In Italy and Spain you can also get it by the liter or half liter in a glass or ceramic pitcher. These restaurants by local wine in bulk and can sell it to you cheaply because there is no bottle, cork, label or cap. The wine is excellent and can be dry, sweet, red or white.

We found a place in our town that sells wine in bulk. There are several huge wooden casks full of various kinds of wine. You can taste them and then choose. They will fill your vessel of choice such as an empty water bottle, a pitcher, a jar, etc. They charge by the liter and wine is about 2 euros per liter or about $2.20 for a bottle and a third of good wine.

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Wine Served in a Picture at a Local Restaurant

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We serve it at our home in Italy in a pitcher

The other way to taste different wines in Italy is to visit a local Enoteca. These are stores that sell wine and allow you to taste them as well. They exist all over Italy. Some serve small plates of food as well. Italians don’t like to drink without having water and food available. An Enoteca is a great way to taste the local wines around you. You can then decide what you like and buy some. The wines here are usually sold in bottles.

Bar in Italy IMG_1755

Enoteca

However you drink wine in Italy, enjoy it! Sit outside at a bar or a trattoria and sip it slowly, Taste the complex flavors of Italy. Observe the people around you and enjoy it. This is experiencing Italy. You do not do it fast, you do not eat fast food, you do not rush from city to city or museum to museum, and you do not have an unchangeable schedule. In Italy you make time to slow down and enjoy your life. Dolce Far Niente! (The sweetness of do nothing). When you finally understand this simple phrase, you understand Italy and can enjoy it. Buon Viaggio.

George

 

Categories: Bars, Ceramics, Dolce far niente, Eating Italian, Europe, Fast Food, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Facts, Italy, Museums, Orvieto, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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