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12 Differences between America and Italy

Here are 12 differences between America and Italy. They are not all the differences but some to consider on your trip. Italy is a wonderful country with great people, food, wine, museums and countryside. It is a different country with different customs and ways. These are not good or bad just different. Be aware of differences and don’t be shocked.

The YouTube video below goes through the 12 differences:

– George Febish

Categories: BLOG, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Fish, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Shopping, Supermercato, VLOG, Walking, 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

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto is a small city in Umbria Italy on top of a butte of volcanic tuff. It is a wonderful city to walk around. If you drive or take the train, you arrive below at ground level and must take a funicular up to the city. Once in the city you at an old fort that is worth investigating. There are small streets, wonderful restaurants and a marvelous Duomo (Cathedral).

We spent a day here. We arrived by train from Rome in the morning. We walked around the entire city. The shops were wonderful and had unique items to buy. Jo bought a purse from a woman who actually made it. We then had lunch and relaxed. We love taking in the Italian life all around us and talking with locals. After lunch we visited the huge Duomo. There are bible stories painted on the outside and throughout the inside if this unbelievable church.

After Duomo we walked more and saw the back edge of the city (opposite the funicular). From this edge, we could see down over the vast countryside below. This is a city to be enjoyed slowly.

Come walk with us around Orvieto in our YouTube video below.

Ciao,

– George

Categories: Church, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, Funicular, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Mountain Towns, Orvieto, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Shopping, Small Towns, Umbria, VLOG, Walking, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Agropoli, Italy

Agropoli is a large town in Campania, south of Naples, south of the Amalfi Coast and south of Salerno. From Salerno you drive south past the ancient Greek ruins at Paestum to Agropoli.

Paestum

Agropoli, like many Italian cities has a modern part and an old city. The old city is high on a hill overlooking the sea. It has a wonderful castle with a moat (without water) and a drawbridge (no longer functional). We enjoy walking around the old city. As you approach you find yourself on a street of interesting shops leading up the hill. The street soon turns into a set of stairs leading into the old section. There is a wonderful church at the top. Turn right and follow the signs to the castle and views of the beach and sea.

This is the beautiful and romantic land of Benvenuto al Sud! What a wonderful place for a passegiata. The beautiful mountain city of Castellabate is just a little farther south.

Come walk with us in the old city of Agropoli. Click on the video below …

– George

Categories: Agropoli, Amalfi Coast, Beach Resorts, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Campania, Castellabate, Church, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Paestum, Passegiata, Romance, Salerno, Shopping, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento is a popular tourist destination on Italy. Sorrento is on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Naples. You can see the Isle of Capri looking south-west and Naples looking north. Mount Vesuvius, the famous volcano, can be seen to the north as well. Sorrento is the western gateway to the famous Amalfi Coast Road. Salerno is at the other end with great cities in between like Amalfi and Positano.

Sorrento has beaches at the bottom of cliffs, a seaport where you can catch a ferry to Capri, Naples, Positano and Amalfi and great shopping areas. There are great bars and restaurants around this city. So sit back and enjoy Sorrento in our video below:

-George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Salerno, sea, Shopping, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Tyrrhenian Sea, VLOG, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

Buying a Place in Italy

We decided to do a series of BLOGs on our experience in buying a house in Italy. We are not saying that the way we did it, will be for everyone. It did work for us and we are very happy with the decision. Many books talk about the horrible red tape in dealing with Italy but we had a very smooth ride through the whole process. Things do go slower in Italy which is really good for your health and blood pressure. The main advice is to remember things are done differently there than here. So relax and enjoy the experience …

We started looking in Tuscany (as all Americans do) but the prices are just too high. We wanted it all, a Seaview, a mountain view, a nice place with modern conveniences, a real Italian city void of tourists and the right price. Impossible right? Well we got it all and at our budget. We saw a place that was in a newly constructed building (a rarity in Italy) and it had fantastic mountain and a Seaview. It was a few kilometers from the beach. When we saw the price we thought it must be a time share but it was to purchase. It is a building with 4 units per floor and two main floors. There was a penthouse occupied by one of the owners children and two more units in the basement opening out onto the yard.

We actually put a non refundable down-payment on it without seeing it in person. We walked the city it is in on Google Earth and the beach towns near by but never went to see it first hand. Finally iin May of 2013 we were on the Amalfi coast on our honeymoon and met the realtor and made the 1.5 hour trip south to the small town of Velina. We saw it for the first time. It is VERY small but the views are to die for. No kitchen or closets which are normal in Europe. We loved it.

Over the next 6 months we had a kitchen installed, a bed and a table with chairs. We then went to stay in our place for the first time over Thanksgiving. We bought a love seat and wo chairs which can be used inside or taken out on to our deck to enjoy the views. Having wine and cheese out on the deck was what it was all about. We couldn’t wait to explore the area.

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Our beautiful new home

We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates were high when we bought. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.

We were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). We were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. We went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday came and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.

Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get the required certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee. È normale!

The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used.

There is no kitchen or furniture in our new place. It would be like camping out with a bathroom to stay like this (Jo is not a camper – She has always told be camping is staying in a Hilton with only one bathroom). So we look for a kitchen. Kitchens come in modular form with cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove and cook top. You can also get a dish washer at the expense of cabinets. We decide on not getting a dishwasher. We did not like the kitchens in the other units of our place. Our condo manager (the owner’s daughter) helps us remotely. We look at kitchen places in Rome but delivery is way too expensive. Maria manages to find a wood cabinet (dark stain) kitchen with everything we want.

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We have a new kitchen

She negotiates a kitchen with a table and 6 chairs for the price of the kitchen. We then decide to get a bed (mattress and frame – Italians do not use a box spring) from the same place. They come and install the kitchen and setup our bed. We are not ready to come back to Velina without camping out.

We find online that our Home Land Security requires a form documenting any foreign deposits over $50,000. If your account had $50,000 or more, even for a day, you must declare it. This is NOT an IRS form. So I download the form and fill it out. The fines are huge if you are caught without doing this. We are now ready for our Thanksgiving in Velina Italy.

As we get familiar with our town, we keep staring at the views all around us. We look like tourists that have never seen a beach or mountains. The views are so spectacular here. The weather is tropical and always great. Some mornings we wake to see snow on the mountains around us. We are interested in buying some furniture to sit on in our unit. We want some that can be taken out on the deck as well as be inside. There are many furniture stores around us (called Mobili in Italian which literally means furnishings). We find a store with very interesting furniture next to our supermercato. It is closed but we window shop and make a note to return after 4 pm when everything reopens. This store has everything. In Italy they don’t like to turn the heat on in the winter. The manager of the store greets us (Buon Giorno) with a heavy coat on. It is actually much colder inside these thick walls than outside where it is mild. We look at bedroom sets as well but decide to buy these at a later time. We do find a wicker set that has two chairs, a table and a love seat. It’s a perfect size for our small apartment.

I ask the man if they take credit cards (carte di credito). But he says only cash (solo contanti). We have an Italian ATM card for our Italian Bank Account and we know there is an ATM in town. He loads the furniture onto his truck without any payment and follows us into town. We stop to get the cash and he continues to follow us up the hill to our place. He unloads all the furniture and carries it up to our unit refuting any help. He waits for us to arrange it and sit on it and smile. He then accepts the payment. Why are we so shocked when people act so kind?

After taking all the wrappings off the pillows and seat cushions, we arrange the furniture about 5 times. It fits perfect and looks great.

The Condo and the Mountain beyond

It provides us with ample seating inside to relax and when we take it outside we can have some wine and cheese while we take in the views. This is Italy! Life moves at a slower more enjoyable rate. We can feel the tensions drain off after a few days. We are Italians while we are here. We shop only for today and maybe tomorrow morning. We buy only what is grown or made fresh. Italians take a lot of pride in their food and will only buy what is made in Italy. This very small place seems adequate and almost spacious as we settle into Italian life. Life is good.

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The New Furniture

The furniture is portable so we can move it out onto our deck to enjoy the views.

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Categories: Amalfi Coast, Banking, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Cash, Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Banks, Italy, Mountains, Owning a home in Italy, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Velina, World Bank Rates | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Positano, Italy

It is true that I left my heart in Positano! It is a city of much beauty. There is something special about this wonderful place. Every time I return, I feel I am returning home again. When you see it first from an overlook on the Amalfi Coast Road or from the sea on a ferry, you realize it is a city built on the side of a steep cliff. How could they have done this? There are two roads and one is the Amalfi coast Road that skirts the town. The other is a one way road that starts high up on the cliffs at the Amalfi Coast Road and winds its way down into the city and then out to the Amalfi Coast Road again.

This is a seaside city of great shops and restaurants. It has views at every turn. There are two beaches (the small and the large). The large beach has ferries to Naples, Capri and to many towns along the Amalfi Coast. This is a relaxing town designed to spend time in and enjoy. Shop the small stores, eat in the wonderful restaurants, spend time at the beaches. The most important thing is to be romantic and enjoy yourself. Buon viaggio…

– George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Church, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Lemoncello, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Planning a vacation, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rome, Italy

The eternal city! Ancient Romans believed that no matter how many wars or new civilizations came about, Rome would go on forever. Rome is the capital of Italy. It is both a modern and an ancient city. Although Rome is a large city, it feels like a small one with its small narrow streets. There are large streets as well that are 5-6 lanes wide. Walking around Rome is amazing. You can not help but marvel at its architecture. You know immediately that you are in an old and special place.

Whenever they dig for a new building, they run into ancient ruins that have to be preserved. Usually the ruins become a part of the new structure.  A sunken area that can be viewed by visitors. Rome protects its ruins and its history. Roman is an amazing city but it is also a living museum.

Rome is to be enjoyed. Sit at a bar or a trattoria and enjoy the life around you. Come walk Rome with us in our YouTube video VLOG below.

– George

 

Categories: Coliseum, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Lazio, Metro Travel, Museums, Pantheon, Romance, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Shopping, Spanish Steps, Traveling without a tour, Villa Borghese, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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