Small Towns in Southern Italy Pictorial

Our pictorial continues with small beach and mountain towns of southern Campania, Italy.

Vallo della Lucania

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Castelnuovo Cilento

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Marina Casal Velino

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Paestum

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Salento

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Acciaro

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Santa Maria di Castellabate

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Maratea

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Old Town Agropoli

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Pisciotta

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Wherever you go in Italy, you see old beautiful towns. Each make their own foods, wines and olive oils. Give yourself and your tastebuds a vacation … go to Italy and experience the real people and places. Don’t settle for a tour with bad food. Enjoy life and be romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Maratea, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Paestum, Pisciotta, Small Towns, Tour Groups, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Southern Italy Pictorial

Here are some of our favorite places and pictures:

Rome

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Naples

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Capri

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Positano

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Amalfi

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Ravello

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Tomorrow we will show pictures of small mountain & beach towns of southern Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Capri, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Positano, Revello, Rome, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some of our Favorite Italian Cities

We love large and small Italian cities. We love both mountain cities and beach cities. Italy has it all! Rome, Naples, Venice and Florence are must see cities. They have great museums, architecture and food but after you have seen the top touristic cities where do you go? Italy has a second level of great cities and after those there are thousands of small cities some have never seen tourists. Here are my top second run cities in Italy:

  1. San Gimignano – This is George’s favorite city anywhere. He fell in love with it long before it became a tourist destination. It originally started as an Etruscan village in 3 century BC. This should be on everyone’s bucket list.
  2. Trastevere Rome – This is not a city but a section of Rome often overlooked. It is a maze of small streets that are now home to many artists and great restaurants. There is good night life here as well. We allowed ourselves to wonder and get lost. When it was time to return to our hotel, we turned on a map app on our iPhones and in walk mode just walked out and back to our hotel.
  3. Orvieto –  This is a small walkable city on top of a butte of volcanic tuff. It is in the province of Umbria north of Rome. In the center is a huge Duomo (Cathedral) of marble. There are great shops and restaurants here as well. From the train stain at the bottom of the butte, is a funicular to the city above. The views are amazing.
  4. Ravello – This is another city high up above the city of Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast. There is a winding road up but the views and food are worth the trip. You can take a bus (often very crowded) or a taxi.
  5. Largo (Lake) Maggiore –  The second largest lake in Italy (the first is Largo Garda). It boarders Italy on the south and Switzerland and the Alps on the north. This is home of the rich and famous. Small Italian wooden boats cruise the lake in the warm summer while you can still see snow high up in the Alps.
  6. Abruzza – This is a region of Italy with many towns in it. It lies on Italy’s East coast (bordering the Adriatic Sea). The western border of Abuzzi is only 50 miles from Rome. On its Adriatic shores are many resorts and beaches.
  7. Genoa – Is part of the Italian Riviera. It is close to the French border and the French Riviera. It was founded by the Greeks but probably served as a small port for the Etruscans as well.

Go to Italy and relive history. Take your history out of the books and onto Ita;y’s beautiful landscapes. Enjoy and be romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Beaches, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Naples, Orvieto, Rome, San Gimignano, Small Towns, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Facts

Most people I speak to have either been to Italy, are going or want to go. It should be on everyone’s bucket list! Is it on yours? Italy is a romantic country with romantic people. It’s landscapes are beautiful. It’s history is deep and ancient. It’s food & wine are among the best in the world. Below are some facts on Italy from “Italy Facts for Kids”:

  1. Population in 2013 was 61.3 million people
  2. The capital of Italy is Rome (founded in 753 BC)
  3. It’s official name is Repubbica Italiana (nicknamed Bel Paese or beautiful country)
  4. Italy has a 98% literacy rate
  5. The flag as three colors: Green (hope), White (faith) and Red (charity)
  6. The country of Italy completely surrounds two of the smallest countries in the world: San Marino in the north and Vatican City in Rome

Italian Flag

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, Italian Facts, Italy, Rome | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Euros

Euro to dollar conversion rates are always changing. When the euro was about $1.40 everything in Europe was expensive. As it drops closer to $1.00, where it started, everything looks cheaper. It is currently at $1.27 which is a great rate. This is a good time to visit Europe. You will save on everything you buy in Europe including meals and hotels. If we look at $1.40 vs. $1.27 that is almost a 10% drop in rate. That means if your hotel, meals and spending for two weeks cost $4,000, you will save about $400.

Rates are on the down swing and may even get lower. You still have to be careful of where you convert your dollars to euros. The banks and currency exchange places can charge a lot on top of the $1.27. If you are careful you can plan a nice vacation and enjoy a savings.

Europe awaits you. If it is on your bucket list, now is a good time to go.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Car Rentals, Eating Italian, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, General Travel, Money | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving in Italy

First and foremost, the Italians drive on the same side of the road as we do. This makes it a whole lot easier. Rental cars are abundant. You can rent from an American company like Hertz, Avis or Budget or from European companies like Europcar and Sixt. I prefer to rent a diesel when in Italy. The fuel is cheaper there. Fuel prices are very expensive compared to ours (about $10/gallon). Any savings you can make on this will help. I rent economy or compact cars since they get better mileage. Italian cars do not have all the smog and clean air protections we have so they get a much higher MPG than we do.

The roads are great. The largest roads are called Autostrada and are numbered A1, A@, etc. A connecting Autostrada can be named E24 etc. These are high-speed roads usually have three lanes each direction. They are limited access roads. Italians drive these roads at 140 KPH (about 90 MPH). The left lane is for passing only! DO NOT DRIVE IN THE LEFT LANE WHEN CARS ARE APPROACHING BEHIND YOU! Italians are kinder  to other drivers than we are but they will get very upset if you drive in the left and hog it. The middle lane has a slower speed limit and the far right has the slowest speed limit. There are speed cameras that will ticket you over 140 KPH. There are tolls on most of these roads. Have euros ready to pay your tolls.

Next are highways with limited access. These are typically two lanes with more curves (a slower speed limit). They are good roads and can get you from the Autostrada to near where you are going. Finally there are regular roads which can range from a flat surface road to a very curving mountain road. Some mountain roads have guard rails others do not (like California).

Fuel stops are everywhere so getting fuel is not a problem. Prices range as they do here. You should have a smart phone with European GPS (we use the Western Europe Tom-Tom App) or rent a GPS unit with your car. Directions are not always obvious and a GPS can help you. We also use our iPhone Tom-Tom for walking directions in big towns like Rome. Go and get lost then plug-in your hotel address and put it in walk mode.

Don’t drive in big cities like Rome. Most will not allow you to drive in the old city center. If you are driving and have a hotel, email them as where to park. They may have to email you a pass to enter the old city center and park. Driving will get you places that tours don’t go. So get out and enjoy yourself and have fun.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Car Rentals, Driving in Italy, Euro, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Parking Garage | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuscany

Tuscany, Italy is a beautiful and romantic place. No visit here would be complete without a stop in Firenze (Florence). Florence was the capital of the renaissance movement. It has great architecture and museums. The Statue of David by Michelangelo is magnificent. It is located in the museum at the Accademia Gallery. In this museum there are other statues that were mistakes in the creation of David. They are also very beautiful. The Statue of David was replicated many times. There is a copy in the main Piazza near the Ponte Vecchio (old Bridge). The Uffizi and the many Churches and museums are worth a stop. Buy a good guide-book and tour this wonderful city.

I enjoy other places in Tuscany as well:

  1. San Gimignano – This medieval walled mountain town is my favorite place. It was a great secret but over the last 10-15 years the tour buses have found it. You must park outside the city walls and walk in. There are two main entrances to the city (one in the north and one in the south). Don’t be afraid to wonder off the two main streets. The small side streets are romantic and provide a feel of the original life here.
  2. Siena – A beautiful old city that is easy to get to off the Autostrada. The Palio is a special event in Siena. It is the racing of the horses around Piazza del Campo. The duomo is magnificent as well. Be romantic and walk the small streets of Siena.
  3. Cortona – This small beautiful city was made famous by Frances Mayes book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” and the movie that followed. Cortona is a small city with wonderful hills and views all around. Get out and walk! You can see the house used in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” but it is difficult to find. Ask the tourist office in Cortona.
  4. Perugia – OK Perugia is near and dear to my heart and my sweet tooth. This is Italy’s chocolate city! It is where Perugina chocolates (Bacci) are made. You can tour the plant and taste chocolates. The Perugina factory is a short drive outside of Perugia. The city is divided into two sections. One up on a hill and other down at the base of the hill. There are escalators to transport you up and down. The main square is old and worth a visit.
  5. Assisi – This city is the home and burial grounds for Saint Frances. His church is really two cathedrals one on top of the other. It is massive and worth a visit. The town is old and has many interesting sites. Park and take a walking tour (like the one in the link above). Wikitravel has walking guides and things to see.
  6. Montepulciano – This is where Italy’s best and most expensive wine (Brunello) comes from. Many consider this city to be one of Tuscany’s most attractive cities. It is built up on a mountain with views of the area around it.

This general area of Tuscany is also home to Italy’s best Chianti wines. Look for bottles and wineries displaying the black cock. It is a symbol of the best made wines.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Chocolate, Europe, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gelato

Gelato is Italian ice cream but it’s so much more. First of all it is made differently. Gelato has three differences from ice cream:

  1. Fat – Gelato uses less of it. Fat is important to slow down crystallization.
  2. Sugar – Since recipes vary greatly for both ice cream and gelato, sugar is about the same. We have noticed in Italy in general things are made with less sugar than in America.
  3. Temperature – Gelato is served at higher temperatures than ice cream. It is similar to American custards. If you freeze gelato it will turn hard as ice.

Gelato stores exist in just about every city in Italy. In big cities like Rome, they seem to be on every street. Typically you enter the store and look at the many selections of gelato they have. They will let you taste a few. Then you go to the cashier and tell them what you are having. How many scoops and cone or cup. You pay and get a receipt. Next take it back to the gelato counter and give it to a server and tell them what flavors you want. They hand you your delicious gelato.

Italians usually eat it standing and talking or walking the streets. Some stores have small seating areas. Gelato is good on a hot summer day but it is also great in the winter. Its soft texture and strong pure flavors are so much better than ice cream. The color of gelato is from what fruit or nut is in it. The ingredients get ground up and color the gelato. If you get strawberry for example, there are no chunks of strawberry in it. The strawberry have been ground up and color the gelato red. Every bite has a wonderful strawberry flavor. Our favorite is Nocciola, a hazelnut gelato. The hazelnuts turn the gelato a light brown. Each bite has a wonderful hazelnut flavor.

If you are headed to Italy, you must try their gelato. It will calm you and bring a smile to your face.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Castelnuovo Cilento, Italy

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Castelnuovo Cilento is our sister town. It is where people would go when the pirates raided the beach towns below. It is located in Campania and in the Cilento National Park of Italy. It is high up on a mountain top and has ancient fortified castle walls around it. Inside its walls is a church and restaurant. Just outside is a small town. The road up is steep, winding and in need of some repairs. We had read about a festival featuring Cilento foods in this castle. We went up around 7:30 pm thinking it would be going on. It was just being setup. We learned it was going to start around 10 or 11.

We met a man setting up for the festival that owned the restaurant/bar within the castle walls. His restaurant was closed for the season (it closed September 1st). He actually opened his restaurant and gave us a tour. He had a wonderful bar and decks with magnificent views of the valley below. It totally amazes us the friendliness and warmth of these people. We vowed to return next trip for dinner.

All that was left was the steep downhill road home. At the bottom we relaxed a little and continued to our home.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Campania, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Eating Italian, Europe, Festivals, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Velina Castelnuovo Cilento, Italy

Our second home is in Italy. The town is a little confusing. It is called Velina but it is part of the next town called Castelnuovo Cilento. It is in The Cilento national Park and the Province of Campania. The whole area is referred to as Casal Velino which is a mountain town nearby and has a beach town called Marina Casal Velino. People in the Amalfi Coast area never  heard of our town. Only those that vacation here in the summer know of this area. There is good train service into Valo Scalo or Ascea. The Valo Scalo train station is called Vallo della Lucania which is a nearby town with a college and good hospital. The train is actually in the town of Valo Scalo.

Our town has two main streets. One is the road that runs from Valo Scalo to Ascea. In our town it is loaded with stores. Beach shops, clothing stores, shoe stores, fruit and vegetable stands, pastry shops, chocolate shops, bread stores, mozzarella stores, bars and delis. From this street another main street goes off to Casal Velino and Marina Casal Velino. This street has several bars, a used car lot, supermarket, laundry and furniture store.

Tourists don’t usually come to our town even though two great beaches are less than 2 miles away. Our town does have an Agroturismo or family run farmhouse hotel. These are great in Italy. They grow organic vegetables and fruits and raise organic animals for meat. They have a big store to sell their produce to the public. They also have a hotel. Rooms are clean and breakfast is usually included. Tourists do wonder here since the rooms are cheaper than the beach hotels.

All in all the town of Velina is a great place to live. You have everything you need in the town. The beaches are close by and there are many mountain towns a short drive away. There are good highways into this area from the south or the north (Rome, Naples and Salerno). There are the ancient Greek ruins of Paestum and Velia close by. Restaurants are very good and abundant. The drive from the Rome Airport is only 4 hours.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Bars, Beaches, Bread, Campania, Casal Velino, Chocolate, Cilento, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Mountain Towns, Naples, Owning a home in Italy, Paestum, Rome, Salerno, Small Towns, Trains, Velia, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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