Posts Tagged With: Cooking

Why you really want to spend a night in Capri

Most tourists take a ferry from Naples, Sorrento or Positano to the Isle of Capri. They spend a day mostly waiting to get into the Blue Grotto and then return by ferry in the evening. This is a big mistake! After all these tourists leave, the natives of Capri come out. The streets of Capri City are much less crowded. You can enjoy your stroll without being knocked about by tourists. The island and the city become magical. The lighting is perfect for photographers. Restaurants gear up for the evening meal. Bars await customers looking for a drink.

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We had found a few small (alley like) streets off the main piazza. They had stores and restaurants. One store made custom sandals. You are measured one day and can pick up your shoes the next day. There were also small grocery stores. We decided to spend one evening eating at our hotel. We were able to get a bottle of wine, cheese, bread, olives and chocolate at one such shop. Our hotel with the fabulous view became a romantic restaurant for the evening. We dined on our private balcony overlooking Capri and the sea.

We tend not to like places were a lot of tourists gather. But these small streets were a real find. They are cooler in the summer, have fewer people on them and offer small cheaper shops that normally do not cater to the tourists. It would seem that tourists like to stick to the main piazza and streets. They shy away from small streets. Their loss!

Go to Capri and be romantic. Stay an evening or more. Make the island your island. If it is a special occasion, spend the extra money and stay at Villa Brunella. You pay once but will remember it for the rest of your life.

B-Capri ad B-Capri de

George

 

Categories: Bars, Blue Grotto, Bread, Campania, Capri, Cheese, Chocolate, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Ferries, Food, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Naples, Positano, Romance, Sorrento, Traveling without a tour, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Reasons I Love Italy

Italy has a special place in my heart. I am not Italian but I did a lot of work there. I gained a respect and a love for the country, the people, the food and the wine. Italians seem happy with there life. They know what is important. Their families, their life , their food & wine are all very important to them. They have to work but it is not a important part of their lives. Walk any Italian city (big or small) and you will see the elderly and the young walking. They enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables. They love their cooking especially mamma’s cooking. Their coffee, wine, gelato and bread are a tradition to them. You can here them argue about how good or bad the pasta is at a restaurant. It will never be mamma’s pasta.IMG_3189
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As I walk through a city, I smell the cooking. I see the people outside all around me. I hear the language and the passion with which it is spoken. This is the Italy I so love. People are very friendly here. Just say Buon Giorno to a stranger and watch the smile appear and you will get a Buon Giorno back. If you are trying to speak the language remember there are informal and polite forms of speaking. The young are becoming less formal but the elderly still require a stranger to speak formally.

  • Come Sta – How are you (formal)
  • Come Stai – How are you (informal)
  • Ciao – Hello (informal)
  • Buon Giorno – Hello (Literally Good Morning – Formal)

Be respectful, smile and enjoy all that your senses are experiencing. I even enjoy seeing Italian laundry out to dry. No I don’t have a laundry fetish! I enjoy the colors and shapes against a backdrop of old buildings. It is one of my favorite photo op. In Italy you can buy a dryer but most people prefer the clean scent of drying their clothes outside.

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In the morning I enjoy being in the local bar for coffee and a cornetto. You are submerged in a group of Italians, all talking and quickly drinking their coffee and eating a small cake or cornetto.

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Cornetto

As you leave after breakfast, you are again engulfed in Italian life on the streets. Listen and watch how they talk and communicate with each other. Enjoy the scooters speeding by you. Take in the smells as you pass a restaurant. Later stop in a bar, pizzeria or trattoria for lunch. Bars are famous for eating standing up. It costs more to take a table. You will see Italians eating Panini (sandwiches) and drinking a beer or glass of wine. Between about 2 pm and 4 pm watch the Italian Passeggiata (walk). Families and friends stroll together to enjoy each others company.

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After your afternoon walking or visiting museums, look for a large piazza. Life really explodes in the Italian piazzas. You will find lots of bars and restaurants here as well. Pick a non touristy place for dinner. I always look for one with mostly Italians and few or no foreigners. You will have to eat late to see Italians as no one eats dinner early in Italy.

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Evening is my favorite time to walk, watch and have a gelato.

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Life here is much less stressful. Enjoy what you have and what you are. Be Italian for a short while.

George

 

Categories: Bars, Beer, Bread, Coffee, Cooking, cornetto, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Fish, Fruit, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italian language, Italy, Pizza, Trottoria, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bella Perugia

Perugia is a small town in Umbria known for its chocolate (Perugina). It is the capital city of Umbria and is very near the Tuscan border. It is also close to the wonderful city of Assisi. The Tiber River flows through this city to Rome.

This is a town that invokes a lot of emotion for me. As Jo Anne and I walked this town, we were thrown way back in time. It started on the escalator  from the central parking garage to the old city on a hill. The escalator is underground going up through old ruins. If this is your first glimpse of Perugia, it will be a lasting memory.

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Ruins seen on escalator

As we exited the escalator and building contains its terminus, we were in a small piazza in Perugia. Life was exploding all around us. As in any Italian town, life is vibrant. Motorcycles were all around us and loud. Small and larger cars were everywhere. As I looked out at the parking around the Piazza, I was reminded of my youth playing with cars. It appeared the cars were randomly placed by some giant all around the Piazza. Cars faced both directions and some were so small they could just park backed in-between two other cars.

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Parking

Italian was being spoken loud and with passion all around us. Hands are a big part of the Italian language. I am finding I use my hands more and more as I speak. It must be contagious. Life here is very visual. You can not help be emerged in it.

From the Piazza we walked down a set of stairs away from the hustle bustle of automobiles and into a restricted driving zone. Here there maybe be and occasional car or motorcycle but it is mostly pedestrians and tourists. These streets make you feel like you are in ancient times. The architecture is fantastic. Buildings almost touch each other with narrow roads in between. These roads would be impassable to large vehicles. Some passageways I can touch both sides with outstretched arms.

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Narrow roads everywhere

Walking along these streets gives a sense the buildings are closing in on you. Soon we were out in another Piazza. Life was again happening all around us without cars or motorcycles. Restaurants with outdoor seating were everywhere. Italian life is about being outside with other people. So we picked a place and joined in.

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At a bar/Restaurant in a Central Piazza

From our table we could nourish ourselves and partake in this age-old tradition of Italians. For a day we were becoming locals. We already knew we would miss this place when we had to leave. But for now we were here and enjoying life to its fullest.

In the movie Benvenuto al Sud, they say you cry twice in the south. One when you arrive and once when you leave. I felt this way as I shed a tear on my arrival at the sheer beauty of this place and another on leaving it because I would miss it. I tend to feel this way about most Italian towns. I guess I am just a helpless romantic.

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Memories of Perugia

George

 

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italian language, Italy, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rome Tour – Day 2

OK you walked around Trevi, the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese yesterday. You had a good dinner and slept well. Now we are ready for more walking around the eternal city. Today, as each day, we start at the Trevi Fountain. Facing the fountain we will exit the piazza to the left on Via delle Muratte. This is a pedestrian and scooter street only. Some small cars will go on it for local deliveries. You will cross a major street, Via del Corso. Look to your left and you will see the Victor Emmanuel II building known in Rome as the Wedding Cake.VVictor Emanuel Building

Victor Emmanuel II Building

Continue on the road which has now changed names to Via di Pietra. In the small square ahead is a Murano glass jewelry store, bear to the left on Via del Pastini. There are many shops and restaurants along this road. Some of the restaurants are tourist type and the food is not the best. Continue into Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon. There is a beautiful fountain in front of the Pantheon. Enjoy this piazza and take in life around you.

Enter the Pantheon and look up. This is the first floating dome building built by the early Romans. It has a hole in the center to let in light. Even on a hot humid summer day, it is cool in here.

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Pantheon

It was originally commissioned to be built around 27 BC but the current building was built around 118 AD. The Italian painter Raphael is buried here.

Outside in front of the Pantheon facing the fountain, look slightly to your right. There is a restaurant on the corner. It is usually very crowded and touristy but the food is good. In the fall they serve dishes with white truffles. Sit outside at a table with a good view of the Pantheon. Observe the people around you, the fashion, the smiles and enjoy your meal or drink.

Now we will proceed to the Coliseum and Old Rome. These are paid admissions but there is usually one day a week that admission is free. This walk is about 20 minutes and 1.8 km. At the opposite end of the piazza from the Pantheon head left on Via della Minerva. Then continue on Via del Seminario. Cross Piazza di Sant’Ignazio to Via del Caravita. Turn right at end of street onto Via del Corso. Turn slight left onto Piazza Venezia. At the other end of the Piazza take the road to the left, Piazza della Madonna di Loreto. Turn slightly right onto Via dei Fori Imperiali. Old Rome will be to your right, Continue straight ahead to the Coliseum.

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Enter the Coliseum first. What a marvelous structure. You are sitting with early Romans watching Gladiators fight. Look at the columns around you. The marble facade of this building is long gone. It was taken by the Vatican to build Saint Peters Cathedral. As you leave the Coliseum, head across the street to the entrance of Old Rome. There are no building left standing but there are arches, cobblestone streets and foundations. You are walking the same streets as the early Roman citizens and the Roman Army did.

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The Roman Forum is part of Old Rome. What a wonderful place to walk, meditate and think about history. As you leave look for a gelato store or a bar and cool down. There are also many restaurants near by. You are not far from the Vatican but that is another day.

George

Categories: Coliseum, Europe, Food, Forum, Gelato, Italy, Rome, Traveling without a tour, Truffles, White Truffles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tour of Rome Day 1

Here is our tour of the eternal city of Roma (Rome). Our first day tour starts at the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain).  Facing the fountain to your 5 o’clock is an old church worth a stop. It is called Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio.

Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio

Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio Church

This is a classic Baroque church built around 1650. It is known because it contains the embalmed hearts of 25 popes.

From here head north on Via della Stamperia to the end and cross via del Tritone and turn left a short distance to Via del Nazarene and turn left. Turn left on Via del due Macelli. Continue into Piazza di Spagna. The famous Spanish Steps will be on your right. Rome’s best shopping is on your left in the many streets leading out of the Piazza.

Climb the Spanish Steps to Trenità del Monti (church at the top).

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Trinità del Monti

Enjoy the views of Rome. You can see as far as the Vatican and Saint Peters Basilica. Behind this church are the extensive Villa Borghese Gardens. Visit the gardens and go to the museum, Borghese Gallery, but you will need a reservation. There you can see:

  • Apollo and Daphne
  • David
  • The Deposition
  • and so much more …

The great shopping is along:

  • Via della Croce
  • Via della Carrozze
  • Via dei Condotti (Louis Vuitton
  • Via Borgognona (Gucci)

Stop at a bar for a coffee or wine or beer and maybe a snack. Eat lunch in a Roman Trattoria. On a hot day (or a cold one) stop for a gelato.

This tour will take you from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. It is a good walk and you will pass many places to have gelato, a drink or something to eat. In the shopping area just look at each store window you pass. The Italians are masters of design. One of my favorites was for gloves. A group of different colored gloves were displayed against a white background. It was not just gloves but art!

Enjoy Rome and be romantic! Tomorrow we will do Day 2.

George

Categories: Bars, Beer, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Food, Gelato, Italy, Romance, Rome, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tartufo Bianco

White truffles are a treasure from the Piedmont area of Italy. They are known for their therapeutic an aphrodisiac properties derived from the god Jupiter. In the Middle Ages, the discovery of white truffles was associated with the dance of witches. It was not until 1831 that the botanist Carlo Vittadini scientifically described and classified truffles in his book, Monographia tuberacearum. Alba is the best known city for these delicacies. Until you have eaten a white truffle you have not lived. No, you don’t eaten them by themselves but they are shaved or grated on eggs, pasta, risotto, meats, etc. They add flavor to a dish as a spice would. They are the second most expensive food in the world. Saffron is the most expensive by weight. Thank God you only need a small one and they do not weigh much.

To get one Fed Ex’ed to America will cost you around $100. They will last for a few days to a week at most. Italians use them on their dishes while they are fresh and store them in a jar full of risotto rice. The rice will eventually rob the truffle of its flavor. The good news is you now have a wonderful flavored rice to make risotto from.

Many countries, including America has tried to grow these wonders without much success. They grow like a mushroom on the roots of special Oak Trees. Since they are underground they are hard to find. Italians have used pigs to find them but pigs love them and usually win the fight. They now use special trained dogs to find them The dogs will not eat them leaving the farmer with his treasures.

Black truffles grow in more places and are the truffle used most in France. The white truffle is stronger and more of a treasure. To a person that has never tasted one, the smell is not a pleasant one. After you have eaten them the smell becomes an attraction. Don’t let your nose spoil a wonderful dish for you. Manga il tartufo bianco!

George

 

Categories: Alba, Cooking, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Truffles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Walking Rome

When Jo Anne and I were in Rome (Jo’s first trip to Italy but I had been there many times), we wanted to really experience the city. There is no better way than walking! Rome has excellent metro and bus services that will get you anywhere you want but walking lets you be a Roman. You experience this great city first hand. All the important sites are walkable if you can walk a few miles.

We stayed centrally at Hotel Trevi just around the corner from the Trevi fountain. This is a hard hotel to find even with some cab drivers but worth a stay. It has been getting more popular and the price is going up. From Trevi fountain you can easily see:

  • Spanish Steps and shopping by the steps
  • Villa Borghese
  • Pantheon
  • Trastevere
  • Vatican City
  • Castel San Angelo
  • Forum
  • Old Rome
  • Coliseum
  • Piazza Navona
  • Basilica San Clemente

As you walk to these wonderful tourist attractions, take in the buildings, architecture, streets and people around you. Stop in a bar for a coffee or glass of wine. Hear the motorcycles and scooters all around you. Listen to the music of the Italian language. This is Rome! This is Italy! It must be enjoyed on the streets with the people.

Never stop in a tourist restaurant (any place very close to one of the above attractions). Seek out small family run trattoria that are full of locals enjoying their meal. People eat later in Italy than in the states (except large cities like New York).

Breakfast is usually at a bar on the run. You have a coffee and sweet roll or cake as you catch up on gossip and sports with friends. Lunch is at a pizzeria or trattoria and is taken around 1 or 2 pm. Dinner is much later around 8 or 9 in Rome. Farther south dinner can be as late as 11 pm. Restaurants will open for tourists around 7 or 7:30 pm. The terrible tourist only places stay open all day.

I love strolling these ancient streets, meeting modern-day Romans and partaking in their ancient customs. Let Rome take you away. Enjoy it fully. Don;t be afraid of it. There are pick-pockets everywhere but violent crime is very rare. As you return to your hotel, review what you did that day. Relive each important moment. These are memories you will enjoy for the rest of your life.

Be Romantic …

 

George

 

Categories: Bars, Coffee, Coliseum, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian language, Italy, Metro Travel, Pantheon, Pastry, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Romance, Rome, Shopping, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Trottoria, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fast Food when you Travel? Really?

International Cuisine is not fast food!. Many travelers look for McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and other American fast food chains when they travel. I have news for you, Fast Food is NOT cuisine! If you go to a foreign country and eat American Fast Food, you are missing out on the true gems of that country. Countries like Italy have unbelievably good food. It is NOT the same as Italian food in America. It is soooo much better. Go, see, experience and enjoy the food and wine.

American Fast Food

Fruits & vegetables in these countries are so fresh and ripe. You can smell them and the taste is so delicious. Fish is wild caught and meats are raised and fed properly. Everything tastes great the way it was intended to taste.

In addition to the raw ingredients, the recipes are old and delicious. In Italy you don’t find heavy sauces or a dish with 17 different ingredients. Dishes are simple and stand on the taste of the one or two main ingredients.

I suggest that you try different things when traveling in Italy. Even if you don’t think you like it. This is how you expand your taste buds. There is no better place in the world to do this than Italy.

My memories are of the bread, coffee, gelato, pasta, pastries, pizza, fish, truffles, buffalo mozzarella and wine of Italy.

Mangia … Mangia!

George

 

Categories: Bread, Buffalo Mozzarella, Coffee, Espresso, Europe, Fast Food, Fish, Food, Fruit, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Sweets, Truffles, White Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fish in Southern Italy

Southern Italy is known for its fish. Where we are in Campania there is always great fish. Off the coast and to the south is a major swordfish area. The fish is always fresh. You can get many kinds of fish plus shellfish. Shrimp, calamari and octopus is great. We eat fresh fish in the local restaurants or buy it in a fish market to prepare at home. As we shop for fish, we often see a local fisherman with his catch in the store.

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Fresh Fish

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Local Fisherman with his catch

It is so different eating fish caught that day for dinner. The taste is fresh and delicious. Italians don’t even have a word for fishy. Often the fish is over pasta but you can also have it on a plate as a steak.

One difference is the fish all have heads on when served. The Italians look at the eyes to determine freshness of the fish. They are experts at cleaning the fish with a fork and knife. The clams are tiny and so tasty. If you don’t like clams because they are chewy, you will like these because they taste so good. Fish is never over cooked. It is never covered in sauces. It is served with a little salt and you taste the freshness of the fish.

When in southern Italy, try the local fish. Enjoy fish at its very best. Life here is rally Dolce far ninete!

George

 

Categories: Campania, Dolce far niente, Eating Italian, Europe, Fish, Food, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Typical Day in Italy

We typically get up and spend time on our balcony looking at the sea and mountains. Monte Stella is a beautiful cone-shaped mountain that protrudes through the clouds. Some days it is hidden by clouds and others it is right there. Our little town is below us on the hill. A train runs by often taking people from Naples to Sicily and back. Jo Anne takes a hundred pictures of this exquisite beauty.

We eventually get ourselves out and drive down to Casal Velino Marina for Breakfast. We have two favorite places: 1) Franco’s and 2) Isola Verde. Isola Verde has free WiFi so we can connect to the world and see what is happening. I order a Cafè (espresso) and Cornetto and Jo Anne orders a Cafè Americano and a piece of Torta (cake) for a few Euros.

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Cornetto

At Franco’s the selection is more exquisite. One of our favorite is sfogliatella.

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sfogliatella

As we sit and finish up with the internet, we plan our day. What city will we visit today? We then drive to our destination and start our tour/walk. At lunchtime we look for a small restaurant or a bar. Bars have great sandwiches and you can have a beer or wine. Small restaurants let you order a local dish and local wine.

After lunch we are back to touring, walking and climbing steps (lots of steps). We typically walk 5 to 8 miles a day and can climb as many flights of steps as 50. This helps work off lunch and maybe that afternoon gelato we can’t resist.

Sometimes we eat dinner locally or we may head back home and eat in one of our favorite local restaurants. Pasta, fish, pizza and other specialties are all prepared fresh and wonderfully. We get to talk with local people and maybe have dinner with friends.

Finally we head home to sit on our balcony with a glass of wine and reflect on Italy’s beauty and prepare for another day of the same encantment. We are blessed and lucky to have such a romantic place to call home!

George

 

Categories: Bars, Beer, Cafè, Casal Velino Marina, Coffee, cornetto, Dolce, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Exercise, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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