Sicily

Traveling by Train in Italy

Public transportation can be daunting in a foreign country but train travel in Italy is easy and common once you understand the basics. There are different types of trains from high speeds to locals and the cost changes accordingly. Having a ticket doesn’t always mean you have a seat. Some tickets require validation before boarding. If they are not validated a heavy fine may be imposed.

The rules are simple and train travel in Italy is relatively easy. You can go almost anywhere by train or get close enough to your destination. Trains even go to Sicily. The train is loaded on a ferry and travels to the Island of Sicily where it is put back on tracks and your journey proceeds. There are European trains that will take you to any major city in Europe.

Sit back and watch our short VLOG video on how to use the Italian train system.

– George Febish

Categories: BLOG, Europe, Ferries, General Travel, Italian, Italian Facts, Planning a vacation, Regions of Italy, Rome, Sicily, Trains, Travel Guides, VLOG, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Italian Bucket List

I have been very lucky in my travels to Italy. I did a lot of work there and got to see a lot of the country and have lived both in the north and now in the south. I love everything about Italy. In so many ways it has figured out how to live happily. It is no wonder so many people want to go there. There is so much to see.

I have enjoyed its big cities:

  • Milan
  • Verona
  • Venice
  • Bologna
  • Florence
  • Rome
  • Naples

I have also enjoyed its diverse areas:

  • The lakes in the north
  • Tuscany
  • The Adriatic Coast
  • The Tyrrhenian Coast
  • The Amalfi Coast

There are still some places I want to see so this is my current Bucket List:

  • Cinque Terra (north) – These five small towns were once very remote and unseen by most tourists. Then the train came and brought many tourists to this region. There is a walking path connecting each of the five villages. You can also take a boat, Life here is simple and enjoyable.
  • Portofino (north) – This Italian fishing community and high-end vacation resort is famous the world over. The cove here is very picturesque. When I think of Portofino I can hear Andrea Bocelli singing here.
  • Lucca (Central) – A city in tuscany near the sea. It is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.
  • The Tulli Homes of Alberobello (south) – These unique homes are round with pointy roofs. This is a very unique architecture that is strongly enforced in this city.

trulli italy

  • Matera – Italy’s cave town (south) – Originated in the Paleolithic Period. The cave dwellings here were once slums and have been transformed into luxury housing and rentals. This is one of the most un pique cities in Italy and maybe the world.
  • Sicily (south) – This unique island has so much to offer. From the volcano to its magnificent towns to its Greek ruins. Sicily is easily reached by ferry, train or car. All three methods of travel cross to the island on the ferry.

What is your bucket list for Italy?

George

 

Categories: Alberobello, Amalfi Coast, Bologna, Caves, Cinque Terra, Cinque Terre, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Matera, Milan, Naples, Portofino, Rome, Sicily, Tulli, Venice, Verona | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

What is Southern Italy like in the Winter

Southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno, has a mediterranean climate but the weather is globally changing and can surprise you. Normally the winters are cooler than the summers but very enjoyable. Naples Italy ranges from 50’s (in the winter) to high 70’s (in the summer). It is a pleasant climate. Farther south from Naples gets warmer summers but never too hot because there are wonderful sea breezes. El Nino is causing temperature changes around the world. This winter has brought snow to Sicily for two years in a row. This was caused by El Nino. Southern Italy is not prepared for snow even when it lasts only several hours.

The sea is very calm in the summer months. It is like a sheet of glass.

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Summer Sea

In the winter it is a totally different sea. The waves are very violent. You would not want to be in it. It is still beautiful to walk along the beach but not too close to the sea.

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Winter Sea

Both seasons are very beautiful. We get to do everything we want in both Winter and Summer seasons. The beaches are very crowded in August (when most Europeans are off – this is from the days before air conditioners and has stuck as a custom). It is fun because you meet more people from everywhere and everything is open. In the winter months many restaurants near the beaches close on a weeknight and are open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The winter allows you to meet more locals in a relaxed environment. Sit and talk with them as best you can. We use broken Italian, English with a vowel on the end, and charades. It is not hard to communicate with happy people like the Italians.

Buon Viaggio,

George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mezzogiorno, Regions of Italy, Sicily, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Weather in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Top Places to Visit in Southern Italy

Southern Italy has so much to offer. It is different from the north but has great places to see, great food to taste and wonderful people to meet. First let’s look at some of the differences:

  1. Fish – Is the main food in the south. There are meat dishes but great fresh fish is so prevalent.
  2. Language – Italy is barely 150 years old. It was formed by individual and warring states (small countries). As the Italian country was formed, Italian became the official language as it was spoken in Bologna. Each small state had their own languages and dialects. To this day the dialect is still spoken.
  3. Beaches – The south has many of its cities built on the coast. Beaches are important. Each seaport had a walled castle town in the mountains nearby. These would protect the people from pirates. These have become major resort areas for Italians and other Europeans.
  4. Wines – Wines and Olive Oil are a local made commodity throughout Italy. They differ by region and should be experienced as you travel. Always order the local wine.

The main places that should be on your bucket list are:

  1. Naples – Modern Naples is trying to clean up its act as a dangerous city. It is very old and poor but there is so much to see here. Most of what we think is Italian in America comes from the south and much of it from Naples. This is the birth place of Pizza and spaghetti with red sauce.
  2. Amalfi Coast – This very rich area is the vacation spot of the rich and famous. The island of Capri, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are very beautiful. Each town is built on a mountain side and worth a visit. This is an area of ferries, steps and steep hills.
  3. Casal Velino Marina & Ascea – Two resort towns with beautiful sandy beaches. Ascea has a train station and Casal Velino Marina is very close to the north.
  4. Alberobello – A very unusual town with dome-shaped homes. You can not change the architecture of a building in this town. These homes are called Trulli.Alberobello
  5. Sicily – This is a beautiful island with many ruins, great cities and an active volcano. Many Italians argue it is not part of Italy.
  6. Ischia Island – This is a beautiful island off the coast of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ischia is the name of the main port town on the island. The architecture is old and city is beautiful.
  7. Procida Island – Is another island between Ischia and Naples. The architecture is middle ages and a great place to explore.
  8. Matera – A town in the region of Basilicata southern Italy. The historical center is well-known and called the Sassi. Homes were built into the side of a mountain. This is one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. It is dated from the Paleolithic Period.

There so many other small mountain and beach towns that are worth a mention but too numerous to list. Just get out and explore each region.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Alberobello, Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Beaches, Capri, Casal Velino Marina, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italy, Matera, Mountain Towns, Naples, Pizza, Positano, Ravello, Sassi, Sicily, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Stairs, Trains, Traveling without a tour, Truilly, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Research Italy before you go

[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC)

[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Everyone wants to go to Italy. If you are planning a trip to Italy, plan it out before you go. You don’t need a tour! Just get a book on the area you are going and determine the top 10 things to see. eliminate any that are of no interest to you. Don’t try to do all of Europe or even all of Italy in one trip. For Italy choose:

  1. Milan, alps, Verona, Venice and the lakes area, or
  2. Tuscany, or
  3. Rome (take a side trip to Naples, Pompeii or Orvietto), or
  4. Naples and the Amalfi Coast including Capri, or
  5. Sicily

Trying to do too much will get you blisters and frustration. Be an Italian and stop to enjoy what you are seeing, think of the history and those that walked these streets long ago. Think of the people there now and enjoy the food and wine. Stop to chat with store owners, people in trattoria’s or on the street. Italians love to talk. Most speak some english and can converse with you. Learn some basic phrases in Italian so they feel you have tried.

One site that provides a lot of information is the Italian Tourism Official Website. Take photographs and be kind to people. You are a visitor to their country act like one. They are NOT your servants. If you plan well and stop to enjoy life, you will come home with memories you will never forget.

If you must do multiple cities, try Venice, Florence and Rome. Take the train between the cities. Fly into Venice and out of Rome. This is more hectic than we like but if you have only one trip this is how to do it.

Remember Italy is romance! Romance should be enjoyed slowly.

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Categories: Amalfi Coast, Capri, Europe, Florence, Italy, Naples, Rome, Sicily, Tuscany, Venice, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Campania, Italy

(English version) Category:Maps of Campania Ca...

(English version) Category:Maps of Campania Campania Campania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Campania, Italy is a beautiful area including Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi. It also includes so much more. You know how much we love this area of Italy. We bought a house there.

The Province of Campania includes the regions of:

  1. Caserta
  2. Benevento
  3. Naples
  4. Avellino
  5. Salerno

Cilento is in the Salerno region.

It has some of the most beautiful mountains and some of the best beaches in all of Europe. Cilento is one of the largest national parks in Italy. It has a building code to prevent new building of condos, hotels, etc that will ruin the sea views and beaches. If this type of living interests you, visit Campania.

You can visit ancient Greek ruins in Paestum, large cities like Salerno and Agropoli and visit the famous Amalfi Coast. All of southern Italy is within a several hour drive. Sicily is just a ferry ride across the boot from mainland Italy.

 

There is a rainy season in November and December that can have rain almost every day or mild sunny days. The rain can be heavy and have strong thunder storms. This too is a beautiful side of nature but can ruin a trip if you are unaware. Choose your season and enjoy Italy. I would also avoid August as all of Europe is in vacation and beaches and towns are very crowded.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Agropoli, Amalfi Coast, Campania, Cilento, Europe, Ferries, Greek Ruins, Italy, Paestum, Salerno, Sicily, Southern Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

At the Beach in Scario Italy

Scario is south of us in Italy. There is a good highway (SP430) the meanders south through the mountains (tunnels) to the beach area of Scario, Sapri and Villamare. Sapri is a major stop on the railroad. A new high-speed train runs from Naples to Sapri. Scario is a beach town that looks south to Sapri and the mountains that contain Maratea. Maratea has the 5th largest cross on the mountain top. It can be seen from Scario on a clear day. You can drive up to this cross.

Scario is on the side of a hill leading down to the sea and docks. Follow signs to parking, docks and boat loading areas. You will come to a street that runs from the parking area along the sea. There are restaurants and docks with boats and fisherman everywhere.

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At the far end of this road is an old church which is now a private home.

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From this old church go down the steps toward the sea to a path that runs back along the church. The views are great. There are streets that are narrow, some turn into stairs, others are a steep climb up the hill.

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One restaurant right on the beach is Tipiteca. You can sit outside near the water and eat wonderful Sicilian dishes. The owners mother cooks them from old Sicilian recipes. We had a fish encrusted with pistachios and of course some pasta.

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The owner is very friendly and speaks English.

Nearby, a sign on the wall says Adesso ci siam noi (Now we are there).

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As you walk this small seaside town, you know you are there!

Tomorrow we travel back up to our area to a small mountain town called Casal Velino. A town forgotten by time.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Campania, Casal Velino, Driving in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Maratea, Mountain Towns, Naples, Romance, Sapri, Scario, Sicily, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Villamare | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How to Plan an Italian Vacation

We are planning a trip to Tuscany and then our home in Campania. Tuscany is a popular spot for vacationers. Here is what we do before boarding the airline:

1) Get a general idea for timeframe. This is important to determine airline costs, clothes to bring, and sites to see.

2) Price your airlines and hotels. Remember saving a few hundred dollars on an airfare that adds 10 hour stop overs is not a wise use of your money. We choose Italian hotels but insist on private baths.

3) Pick the main cities you want to see. Don’t try to do all of Italy in a week or two. All you will see is the inside of planes or trains. Good size trips are a) Northern Italy (Milan, Verona, the lakes and Venice), b) Tuscany, c)Rome and Orvieto and Pompeii, d) Naples and Capri, e) Amalfi Coast, f) Southern Italy and g) Sicily.

4) Now look around each city on a map and see what small cities are close by. Research them on the internet. If you find a great city plan on a visit. Maybe it is to see a festival or a museum or taste wine.

5) Now list the top ten things you want to see in each place. More than ten starts to use up a lot of your time. If you are going to a major museum list the top ten things in the museum you want to see.

6) Determine how you will travel to each city and in what order. Will you need a car or go by train or plane?

7) Now estimate the amount of time you will need in each city. This is critical in doing the things you want to do.

8) If your total time is more than you can take, cut something out. If you have more time, add it to tight cities.

9) Make a list of hotels, addresses, phone numbers and costs as well as museums, etc. This will help when you arrive.

10) Make a check list of what to pack and what to do before leaving like Passports, Euros, turn water off, camera, umbrellas, etc.

The most important thing about traveling in Europe is to be spontaneous. If you find something unexpected, add time to enjoy it and cut something else out. The important thing is not to check off everything on your itinerary but to create lasting memories. Be romantic and enjoy the country that created romance…Italy!

City Passes sometimes look expensive unless you are going to see most sites included but can still be worth the money to save hours of time avoiding lines. City Passes usually allow you to go to the head of the line and have minimal or no delays.

Also don’t miss out on enjoying Italian life:

1) Try some gelato
2) Local wine
3) Pastries
4) Expresso
5) Pizza
6) Pasta

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Air Fares, Amalfi Coast, Capri, City Passes, Eating Italian, Espresso, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Orvieto, Pastry, Pizza, Pompeii, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Sicily, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Tuscany, Venice, Verona, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Beaches in Italy

Italy is usually thought of as a place to see ancient ruins and great museums. It is also a place to enjoy great food, chocolates, gelato and wine. Italy is also known for great beaches. They use a Blue-Flag designation to indicate clean great beaches. Italy has many of them. The water is greenish near shore and dark clear blue farther out. The sand can be white soft sand, volcanic black sand or rocky. Most Americans want the white soft sand.

The travel Channel listed the top beaches in Italy:

  1. Amalfi Coast –  The best and most crowded areas are between Positano and Amalfi. Many beaches are eroded and are of the volcanic black type of sand or small pebbles. The views are to die for. Our favorite place is Positano. This very hilly city is beautiful and friendly. It has great ferry service to the entire Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Capri and Naples.
  2. Capri – The beaches here are made of pebbles and are small but again the views are magnificent. Capri can be expensive because it is the playground of the rich and famous.
  3. Italian Riviera – This is a magnificent area of golden sandy beaches. Rock cliffs are everywhere. This is every bit as impressive as the French Riviera.
  4. Tuscany – Tuscany is normally known for Florence, small towns, art and wine but it also has great white sandy beaches.
  5. Sicily – You can find white sandy beaches and exotic black sand beaches here. Sicily is and island and has many beaches. You can drive here or take trains or airplanes. Driving and the train are linked by the ferry (your car or train is loaded onto the ferry).
  6. Sardinia – You will find some of the best resorts and beaches here. There are many miles of great beaches.
  7. Tremiti Islands – Has great sandy beaches and is located in the Adriatic Sea.
  8. Venice – We don’t think of beaches in Venice but on the Lido Island there are great sandy beaches.
  9. Southern Campania – South of the Amalfi Coast is a little known (to Americans) resort area. There are many towns that have great pure sandy beaches and the water is to die for. We love Marina Casal Velino and Ascea. The train serves many of these resorts and it is also an easy drive from Salerno south.

Where ever you plan to be in Italy, you can find fun beaches with more than sun and sand. Many are in interesting small towns that beg to be explored.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Adriatic Sea, Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Chocolate, Europe, Ferries, Gelato, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Naples, Positano, Romance, Salerno, Sicily, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Tuscany, Venice, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Train to Sicily

If you are in Italy and want to go to Sicily you have three choices:

  1. Airplane – The fastest but expensive.
  2. Drive – This allows you to experience the beautiful countryside. At Messina, Italy you drive onto a ferry which takes you the short distance to Sicily.
  3. Train – The train allows you to enjoy the countryside without driving. The train ends up in Messina where it is loaded onto the same ferry as #2 above. At the ferry docks in Sicily and train is removed and continues it journey in Sicily.

Sicily is an Island that almost touches Italy at Messina. It is also very close to the African coastline. Many Italian-Americans are from Sicily so this is a popular destination with American tourists. You can fly into Rome or Naples and train it to Sicily. You might want to stop along the way at the many beautiful villages you will pass through. Spend some time maybe a night and reboard the train to Sicily.

The BLOG “The Train to Sicily: Ferry From Messina to Sicily” has excellent suggestions and pictures. Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Europe, Ferries, Italy, Naples, Rome, Sicily, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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