Italy BLOGs

Siena, Italy

Siena is a medium size town in the Tuscan region. It has a great piazza in the center and several beautiful churches. The piazza is where Italians and tourists meet to sit and talk or have a gelato. There are restaurants and bars around the edge of this piazza. It is a large piazza.

On July 2 and August 16 the famous horse race is run (il Palio), There are 13 Contrade or city wards that compete but only 10 of the 13 get to race. Ten horses and ten men race bareback around the piazza’s edge three times. The winner holds the honor for a year. The edge of the piazza is transformed into a dirt horse track. The center has areas for people of each Contrade to stand and watch as horses race around them.


– George

Categories: Bars, BLOG, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Ristorante, Romance, Shopping, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, VLOG, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Firenze (Florence) Italy

We love Firenze! It is a big and beautiful city. It is Italy. It is the capital of art and architecture in Italy. From the duomo to the ponte vecchio to the views this is an interesting city.

Stop at a bar or small restaurant and enjoy life as it passes by you. Have a cafè, panini, gelato or a glass of wine as you observe life.

Come and walk with us in Firenze in our video below and see this wonderful city…

– George

Categories: Church, Cooking, David, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Museums, Panini, Ponte Vecchio, Ristorante, Romance, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Walking, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Two Important Large Cities of Italy

Two great large cities in Italy are Rome and Florence. This doesn’t mean Naples, Bologna and Milan are not great or important. Italy has four categories of city that we love:

  1. Large cities – These are Milan, Bolgna, Florence, Rome and Naples
  2. Famous smaller cities – Venice, Verona, Capri, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Salerno, Palermo
  3. Mountain Towns – There are so many of these from good size cities to very small towns that we could not begin to list them.
  4. Seaside Towns – Again way too many of these as well. These are towns that are on the sea and not in any other category above.

Today we look at two of the large cities in Italy that we have VLOGGED on:

Rome

Roma is the capitol of Italy and is a very cosmopolitan city. Roma has subways (the Metro), busses, and taxis. Driving in the historic central is difficult and illegal without a pass. If you are staying at a hotel in the center you can get a pass. Streets are crazy. One ways going against where you want to go. We once mapped walking to a place in Roma but had the GPS on driving by mistake. It took much longer to drive it than walk it.

Roma has everything a tourists needs:

  • Great restaurants (Bars, Ristorante, and Trattorias)
  • Museums
  • Architecture – Roma is one big outdoor museum
  • Parks
  • Shopping

Walk with us in our video below and see the famous sites of Roma. Walk the small narrow streets and see the wide large avenues. Roma is to be studied slowly with a glass or two of wine. Study it, observe its people, enjoy its sites, marvel at its museums and pay attention to its fashion. Place your hand into the mouth of truth if you dare (Bocca della Verità).

Florence

Firenze is another very modern cosmopolitan city with all the forms of transportation as Roma. The museums are unreal (the renaissance started here). A visit to Firenze is incomplete without a visit to the Uffizi museum. Learn about how the Medici leaders travelled in secret from their offices (Uffizi Museum today) to their palace (Palazzo Medici Riccardi). Climb the stairs to a vista overlooking the city central and walk across the Ponte Vecchio bridge. See Saint Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City (An independent country not part of Italy where the Pope is President). Come walk with us and see all of this and more in the video below.

Be Romantic! Visit Italy!

– George

Categories: Bars, Beach Resorts, BLOG, Bocca della Verità, Bologna, Capri, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Florence, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Metro Travel, Milan, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Planning a vacation, Ponte Vecchio, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, sea, Shopping, Small Towns, Sorrento, Spanish Steps, Taxi, Towns, Trains, Traveling without a tour, Uffizi, Vatican City, Venice, Verona, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palinuro, Italy

Palinuro is a beach town in southern Campania. This town is on a curve in the land with views of the sea and nearby mountains. The sea water here is green close to shore and dark blue farther out. It is crystal clear. The beaches are small but sandy. Come walk this wonderful small beach resort and see why Italians come here for their summer vacations.

Walk the streets, meet the people, stop for something to drink and eat and have a gelato. There is really only one main street that runs parallel to the sea. Make a short visit and encounter this small town or stay a few days and relax on the beach. Watch the video below and visit Palinuro. Be an Italian…

– George

Categories: Beaches, Campania, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Palinuro, resorts, Romance, sea, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Towns, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Southern Campania’s Beach Resorts

Everyone knows about the Amalfi Coast. Positano, Sorrento and Capri are world-famous. The beaches at Positano are lava rock not sand. The beaches farther south in Campania are pure sand. The sea is very calm and gentle in the summer but violent with large waves in the winter. Jo Anne and I chose a second home in this area for both the beautiful beaches and high gorgeous mountains. Imagine laying on the beach feeling the sand, sun and water as you look at the mountains around you. There are four branches near us.

Marina di Casalvelino

This is a beach resort in every sense of the word. There are plenty of restaurants in walking distances as well as some great bars. There is a supermercato across from the sea. The main road at the beach has restaurants and stores on one side and the beach with palm trees on the other.

 

YouTube VLOG on Marina Casalvelino

The beach is large and beautiful. You can choose free beaches and take your own chairs and umbrella or a club that charges a fee, around 20 Euros/day (Discounts for larger time periods), for two chairs, and umbrella with a small table, free WiFi and music. These clubs also have restaurants that serve wine, prosecco, beer and food. We love this option as it is relaxing with no worries or hassles. There is a great market just off the beach each Friday.

There is a large marina here where you can rent boats or hire someone to take you out, There is a good train with connections to Salerno, Naples and the rest of Europe.

Ascea

Ascea is just south of Marina di Casalvelino and is another great beach. It has less foreign tourists and more Italians on vacation than does Marina di Casalvelino. This beach has similar free beaches and club options. There is a great market by the beach each Thursday.

This city is larger than Marina di Casalvelino and has many interesting small shops. We have not yet done a YouTube VLOG on this beach resort but it is coming soon. There is a good train with connections to Salerno, Naples and the rest of Europe.

Marina di Camerota

Marina di Camerota is a small beautiful city. This beach town is about a half hour drive south of Marina di Casalvelino. The beach areas are very small but the water is crystal clear with tints of green and blue colors. There is a large marina here where you can rent boats or hire someone to take you out, Take time to walk around this small town.

YouTube VLOG on Marina di Camerota

Palinuro

Palinuro is another small beach town just north of Marina di Camerota. You can easily walk this town. There are good restaurants, bars and gelaterias. The beaches are small like in Marina di Camerota but worth a visit. Our VLOG on this town will be published Monday January 9th.

Italy has some of the greatest beaches in the world and the water at these beaches consistently win a Blue Flag Award for cleanliness.

Be romantic at the beach …

– George

 

Categories: Ascea, Bars, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Blue Flag Beaches, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Marina Casal Velino, Marina di Camerota, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Naples, Palinuro, Positano, Prosecco, Romance, Salerno, Small Towns, Trains, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, WiFi, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Bella Italia

We just got back from almost 3 weeks in Bella Italia. As usual it was a great trip. We flew from Florida to Philadelphia to Rome and then drove the 4.5 hours south to our home in southern Campania.

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Our mountain through a screened window

As we opened up the house to face a years dust, we discovered that our refrigerator was not working. When we closed the place down last year, we turned off the main circuit breaker and opened the refrigerator door. As I thought about this new and frustrating problem, I remembered we had an air conditioner installed while we were gone. We also changed electric companies and had requested an automatic withdrawal from our account in Italy, which did not happen. The AC people told us that there was no electric in the house. Our electric was turned off since the bill was not paid. After many calls and emails the bill was paid and the electric turned back on. The AC people must have left the circuit breaker turned on. The refrigerator started up since the door was open and ran and ran until it burned out.

Oh well we were on vacation and needed a refrigerator. We bought a new one and a clothes washer and had them installed.

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New refrigerator and washer

Now we were ready to enjoy ourselves. As we did our wash, we were reminded of how nice it was to hang clothes outside to dry. They dry very quickly in the brisk mountain air and smell so good. OK now we needed a glass of wine …

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Views with a glass of wine

More to come on this magnificent trip!

– George

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Small Towns, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vasarian Corridor Florence Italy

Many people go to Florence for the sites, the museums and the food. Most tourists end up on Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge). Few realize that there is an ancient passage above the bridge. It is 1 km long going from  the Medici offices in the Uffizi Museum to their palace home (Palazzo Pitti) on the other side of the bridge. These were bankers and business men that needed to be able to pass safely from home to their offices and back again.

If you look at the Ponte Vecchio on the Uffizi side of the river, you can see a passage go from the museum over the street and then along the river to the bridge. Looking at the top of the bridge you can see the windows of the passage. On the other side of the bridge you can see this ancient passage go inland to the palace.

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Ponte Vecchio

It is still possible to walk it as the Medici once did but you will need a reservation. You have to book it in advance of your trip to Florence. It includes an English-speaking guide and admission to the Uffizi Museum. The price is 89 euros per person. You can book it at this site.

George

Categories: Architecture, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Medici, Museums, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi, Vasarian Corridor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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