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

Montepulciano, Italy

Montepulciano is music to the ears of wine drinkers. I know it is music to my ears. It is a hardy great Italian red wine named after this small mountain town. In this town and the surrounding area you can taste and purchase great Montepulciano wines. Tuscany is a fantastic wine-producing region of Italy. It has become world-renowned for great red wines. Walk around Montepulciano and stop in an enotecca to taste the wine.   Maybe stop at a bar for something to eat and some wine. You may be rewarded by a medieval parade as we were (see video below).

Watch our VLOG video on YouTube (Below) and walk this small mountain town with us. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, stop by here and enjoy Italian life in a small town.

The streets are small and narrow and there are stairs but this is a great town. We stopped at a bar in the main piazza and had something to eat and some wine. Sit and watch Italian life all around you. OK there are also tourists. Just erase them from your mind’s eye and focus on the locals. They are the well dressed people speaking Italian.

We wandered all over this town and in the very back corner found a wonderful small shop that sold a man’s art works. We met him, spoke for an hour and bought one of his paintings for our place in Italy. He is in our video above. Look at his smile. These people are very happy and live a good life. Maybe it’s the wine … who knows?

Montepulciano is near Perugia, Assisi, Cortona, Siena and Florence. Include it in your Tuscany vacation. You do not have to be a wine drinker to enjoy this romantic city.

I truly wish that all of you could visit this town in real. If you can not, visit it with us in our videos on YouTube (above). If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to our channel.

Visit small and large Italian cities with us in our videos on YouTube. Our Italian series has many great Italian cities to see.

– George

Categories: Assisi, BLOG, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Romance, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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

Marina di Camerota, Italy

Marina di Camerota is a beautiful seaside resort with crystal clear waters. The sea is green close to shore and deep blue farther out. This is a very small seaside town built up on a seawall to protect it from the sea. The marina is home to many boats. People come to southern Campania from Marina Casalvelino to Marina di Camerota for the Blue Flag beaches. You come here to enjoy the sea and to slow down life’s pace. Slowing down and enjoying ones life is an important part of Italian life.

Come walk with us through Marina di Camerota. See the water, the marina and the small town. The beaches are not huge commercial beaches but small isolated beaches. Most are at the bottom of stairs leading down to the sea. Click on the video below to watch. This is a very romantic part of Italy that moves at a slow pace and enjoys life.

– George

Categories: Beaches, Blue Flag Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino Marina, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Marina di Camerota, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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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Continue reading

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

Assisi, Italy

Assisi was the home town of Saint Francis of Assisi. He started his religious sect in a very small church outside of the city. Today that church still exists inside a Cathedral called Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels.

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If you go to Assisi, a stop here is a must. Inside the town, at one end, is the Papal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. This is two churches on top of each other and a crypt below them. In the crypt is the body of Saint Francis.

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As you walk the streets of Assisi, you see many touristy shops selling memorabilia of Saint Francis. It is a big business here. Assisi is also a typical Italian small city. It has lots of small narrow streets and stairs. Parking is in lots on the outside of the city. The lots are numbered so remember where you park.

Assisi is in Umbria near the Tuscan border. The popular cities of Orvieto, Perugia and Cortona (Under the Tuscan Sun) are not far away. A visit to this area of Tuscany or Umbria should include a stop at Assisi. You can walk the town and visit both Basilicas in several hours.

Watch the YouTube Video Above

– George

Categories: Assisi, Church, Cortona, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Mountain Towns, Orvieto, Parking Garage, Perugia, Saint Francis, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Which of these Italian Cities are your Favorites?

For everyone that has been to Italy and wants to return, is planning a first trip to Italy or is just dreaming about a trip, These videos are for you. There are ten (10) videos below of 9 cities and a very interesting cave restaurant. Some cities are large others are small beach towns or mountain towns. Each Monday a new town is added. I explain things you need to know about Italy as well as taking you on a walk through each city. I hope you enjoy these vlogs. If you do, please share with your friends and like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. We will not have a new VLOG on January 2, 2017 but will continue each Monday starting January 9, 2017.

Introduction to my Channel

Cities in Italy

 1. Cisterninio (Puglia)

2.Ostuni (Puglia)

 3. Alberobello (Puglia)

 4. Grotta Palazzese ( in Polignano a Mare – Puglia)

 5. Rome (Rome)

6. Positano (Campania)

 7. Castellabate (Campania)

 8. Florence (Tuscany)

 9. Perugia (Umbria)

 10. Marina di Casal Velino (Campania)

11. Assisi

12. Marina di Camerota

13. Cortona

You can see the entire playlist on my YouTube Channel.

Happy travels & may you one day be in Italy…

– George

Categories: Alberobello, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Campania, Casal Velino Marina, Castellabate, Cave Restaurant, Cisternino, Coliseum, cornetto, David, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Florence, Food, Galleria dell'Accademia, Gelato, General Travel, Grotta Palazzese, Italian, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Ostuni, Perugia, Polignano a Mare, Positano, Puglia, Regions of Italy, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Trottoria, Tulli, Tuscany, Umbria, Vatican City, Villa Borghese, Walking, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marina Casalvelino, Italy – Beach Resort

We own a condo a few kilometers from this beautiful beach resort town. It is located in southern Campania south of Naples, south of the Amalfi Coast and south of Salerno. The town is small with a beautiful sandy beach. The water is calm in the summer but very violent in the winter. There are free beach areas and paid clubs.

The clubs give you lounge chairs, umbrella, table, music and free wi-fi. They also have bars or restaurant to order drinks and food. There is nothing like sipping a cool prosecco on the beach in a glass champagne flute. This is beach life in Italy.

This area is very popular with Italians from Rome south and Germans. The British and Americans have not found it yet. The beaches are better than the lava beaches of the Amalfi Coast. Come and really relax in Marina Casalvelino.

Rent a boat or have someone take you out in one. Go to a private beach or just tour this beautiful coast line. From the coast you can see huge mountains everywhere. This is some of the prettiest coastlines in Italy. All of the beaches here have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag Award for cleanliness.

There are many beach resorts in this area and tons of beautiful small mountain towns waiting to be explored. Driving is easy with a highway that connects this area to the A3 autostrada. There is also a great train system with some high-speed trains from Salerno, Naples and Rome. Parking is easy right at the beach with pay-for-parking meters. This is a very romantic area to relax at the beach or explore small local cities. There are bars and restaurants around town and hotels and B&Bs. Enjoy …

-George

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Bars, Beaches, Cafè, Casal Velino Marina, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Naples, Prosecco, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Salerno, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, Trottoria, WiFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

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