Where do Americans go most often?

According to TODAY.com, Americans go to these top ten cities outside the USA:

  1. Cancun Mexico
  2. London England
  3. San Juan Puerto Rico
  4. Paris France
  5. Toronto Canada
  6. Rome Italy
  7. Montego Bay Jamaica
  8. Barcelona Spain
  9. Punta Cana Dominican Republic
  10. Nassau Bahamas

Americans travel a lot! How many of these places have you been to? I have been to nine of them (I have not yet visited Punta Cana. My list would be in a different order:

  1. Rome Italy
  2. Paris France
  3. Cancun Mexico
  4. San Juan Puerto Rico
  5. Barcelona Spain
  6. Toronto Canada
  7. Nassau Bahamas
  8. London England
  9. Montego Bay Jamaica

I would also add Venice, Florence, the french and Italian Rivera’s and Lisbon. What are your favorites?

George & Jo Anne


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

Money and European Travel

Everyone needs money to travel. The cost of goods is one thing but the exchange rate is another. There are several things that make European travel more expensive. The good news is it is getting better and there are some things you can do to lower the costs.

  1. Exchange rates are dropping. This means Americans can buy more with their dollars in Europe than before. Exchange rates have been high. The higher they go, everything starts to look too expensive.
  2. On top of exchange rates you have credit card fees and bank exchange rates to buy Euros. Today the World Bank rate to buy 1 Euro is $1.352. You will never find a bank that will charge you that rate! They can be as high as $1.45. So you are paying a 5-10% premium to buy Euros.
  3. Some credit cards also charge an additional foreign transaction fee over and above the inflated exchange rate. This can be another 3-8% fee. So a $100 item can be costing you as much as $118 with fees. There are credit cards that are for foreign travel and do not charge this transaction fee. They still inflate the exchange rate.

Travel wisely and check rates and fees before you travel. Shop carefully in Europe. Costs can differ greatly by store. Some store will bargain with you. Once you are there, stop thinking about fees and rates! Just enjoy your trip and all of its experiences.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Europe, Exchange Rates, General Travel, Money | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is Italian Food so much better in Italy

I have asked this question over and over again. Even when Italians move from Italy to America, their food changes! Why? There are many reasons I have seen:

  1. Food in Italy is naturally organic and fresh
  2. Produce is sold only fresh (never canned or frozen)
  3. The fruit & vegetables still have dirt on them and smell good
  4. Cut into a tomato and it smells and tastes like a great tomato
  5. Great food takes time to prepare (Americans are always in a hurry)
  6. Food in Italy is a love for Italians and a way of life
  7. There are American fast food junks but most people eat well most of the time
  8. Fried foods exist but the oil is fresh and the temperature is maintained to absorb as little oil as possible (in America it is not profitable to use fresh oil all the time)
  9. Dolce (Sweets) are never too sweet. Chocolate is usually dark but even the milk chocolate is no where as sweet as here
  10. Pastries are crispy and flaky (I remember these here when I was a boy but they are really hard to find now)
  11. Ice Cream is not as sweet or fatty, Gelato is a different recipe from our Ice Cream
  12. Stores exist to make one type of thing well, Our little town in southern Italy has the following types of stores::
  • Bread store
  • Sandwich store (Panini)
  • Pasta store
  • Fruit and Vegetable store
  • Bufala Mozzarella store
  • Pastry shop
  • Butcher Shop
  • Fish Store
  • Chocolate shop
  • Wine store

We survive on extra-large refrigerators (sometimes two) and huge freezers. In Italy there are normally no separate freezers and the refrigerator is small by American standards. Why? It is because everyone shops for that day only! husband and wives in our town bring home what they need for dinner and maybe breakfast fresh. The refrigerator is plenty big for that. Pizzas are normally eaten at a restaurant not taken home or delivered. This allows them to be eaten hot they way they were meant to be eaten. Gelato is eating at a Gelateria. Bringing it home and putting it in the freezer forms ice crystals and changes the flavors. Vegetables and fruits are so fresh, tasty and smell so good. Why wouldn’t you eat more of them?

I have spoken to many restaurant owners that have had successful restaurants in Italy and in America but the food here is VERY different from Italy. When I ask them why? They say:

  1. Americans complain about al dente pasta so we make it soft
  2. American’s want huge portions so they can take it home for another meal (but it won;t taste the same)
  3. Americans don’t want a lot of vegetables
  4. They want very sweet desserts
  5. They want fatty pasta sauces like Alfredo (which was invented by a roman for the American market)

So when you finally make your trip to Italy, stay away from touristy places and big hotel restaurants. Get out and go to small trattoria’s that Italians are eating at. Order the specials. Enjoy the bread and the taste of the food. Have some wine to sit and relax with. Observe the other people. ENJOY … ENJOY … W+ENJOY!

George & Jo Anne



Categories: Chocolate, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do I Love Italy?

There are so many reasons to love Italy. So many Americans (Italians and others) love going to Italy. What is our attraction? Why do we long for this small country? Here are some of my many reasons for loving Italy:

  1. The country side is very beautiful
  2. The people are friendly
  3. Italians love Americans
  4. The food is fantastic (and you can’t get it outside of Italy – it just isn’t the same)
  5. The wine is superb
  6. The chocolate is unforgettable
  7. The gelato is soooo much better than ice cream
  8. The cities are old (ancient) and the architecture is fantastic
  9. Each small town has its own appeal
  10. The autostradas are fast, wide and make driving enjoyable
  11. The trains work and  are very fast
  12. Italians believe in “Dolce fa niente”!

If you haven’t gone yet, GO! (or as the Italians would say VAI VAI). Life is too short to miss Italy.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Chocolate, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Metro Travel, Mountain Towns, Small Towns, Uncategorized, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

OK you are sold on Europe but How do you get there?

What are the top three reasons people don’t go to Europe? Money, Money, Money! Never borrow or use credit card debt to go. That only ruins your trip when you get back and have to pay for it. Most Americans don’t have four to six thousand to drop on a trip. There is the kids college fund, the mortgage, we need a new car, etc. The list goes on and on. There is a way. Save an amount you can afford each week, or month. Put it in a separate savings account just for vacations. Let it grow until you have enough to go. Then shop for deals on airfare and hotels. If having an account with several thousand in it is too tempting for you, start a Christmas fund and buy yourself a vacation gift at Christmas time.

Airfares are expensive but you can shop for deals. Last minute bookings can save a lot of money. Traveling Tuesday through Thursday instead of Friday through Sunday can save a bundle. Check both the airline sites and discount sites like Orbitz. Hotels can be inexpensive on discount sites. They don’t always get a lot off airfare but if you book it with them they can save you a lot on a hotel. Don’t pick the big American hotels. Go for small European hotels but be sure you have a private bath. The experience will be more memorable and fun. Many include a wonderful European breakfast with the room. Don’t look for American breakfasts, you are not in America. Eggs are usually only given as hard-boiled. The breakfast usually includes breads, pastries, meats and cheeses. Some have a variety of cereals as well. Juice and coffee is also available.

Enjoy your trip and be a European while you are traveling. Be romantic and be happy. Don’t forget the gelato and chocolate. These are less sugary than in the states and so delicious.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: General Travel, Europe, Chocolate, Money, Flights | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Essentials of Memorable Travel

So by now you know I love travel. Especially travel to Europe. Memorable travel is more than seeing turist places. It is enjoying ones self, being romantic, relaxing. How do you do this? For one follow by rules for a great and memorable trip:

  1. Don’t Do 27 cities in 2 weeks!
  2. Don’t do large organized tours!
  3. Don’t see the tourist spots but miss the country and people
  4. Don’t rush from place to place!
  5. Do stop along the way to communicate with the locales.
  6. Do stop for a coffee break or two and watch the other people.
  7. Do visit bars! They are not only places to drink alcohol. They are were you get coffee, breakfast, lunch and an inexpensive dinner.
  8. Do enjoy the food and wine.
  9. Do try local dishes.
  10. Don’t eat at touristy places!
  11. Do eat where the locals eat.
  12. Do things that are romantic.
  13. Do travel with that special person or close family & friends.

These will help you see the tourist attractions but also to relax. To stop and observe where you are. To see the real country you are in. I feel so bad for people who travel to Europe and see it from a bus window. Never getting out to communicate with the locals. They come home with pictures and stories of the main tourist places but not real memories. They missed the real country they visited. Are you missing a lot when you travel?

George & Jo Ann


Categories: Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Small Towns, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Best to Enjoy Italy

There are two sides to any country, especially Italy. On one side we have the large famous towns like Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence and Naples. These are must see places. They are full of history, art and ancient buildings. Rome is especially wonderful for giving you a feeling of walking among the Romans. Every time I walk in old Rome, I feel I am walking on the same stone roads as the Romans 2,000 years ago. Art is abundant in these towns. There are enough museums to keep you busy for a long time. Milan is a fashion capital. Some say above Paris and New York. You see smartly dressed Italians everywhere. These are great places to stop, be an Italian and have something to eat, drink and watch the people. Don’t watch your fellow tourists! Watch the locals. Eat and drink where they do. Enjoy life again. Be romantic, you are in Italy.

Small towns can also offer ancient buildings, art and places to see but on a smaller scale. Italy is full of small wonderful towns. These are especially good for people watching. Stay in a small town, be romantic and enjoy yourself. I was in a small town in central eastern part of Italy. As I walked the street, I smelled something wonderful being baked. It was biscotti (a typical hard Italian cookie). They didn’t have a bunch of flavors or shapes. You had a choice of ONE! I bought some and the man tried to explain to me to take my biscotti to the bar across the street and order the local wine. Then dip the biscotti in the wine and enjoy it. I said to my self, OK I will be a turist. Everyone will laugh and say we got another one. As I order my wine, I noticed all the locals had their own biscotti and were dipping it in their wine to soften it. Life is good!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Naples, Rome, Small Towns, Venice, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After we found small towns in Italy, How do we get there?

If you are visiting larger towns in Italy, you can take public transportation. It’s very good in Italy. My first rule is travel to the nearest non-stop city. Airlines offer discounts for multi-stop flights but these flights can take as long as 36 hours instead of the normal 9! I would rather be in a car driving the Italian countryside looking for small towns than in an airport waiting for a connecting flight. At big cities you can take European trains almost anywhere. They even go to some small towns but not usually mountain towns. There are very fast trains between Italy’s main cities and the cities of other countries in Europe. Then there are local trains that go to all the other small cities. These can be crowded and slow. You can also rent a car or hire a driver. I love driving in Italy. Drivers are still courteous  and drive in right lanes allowing other drivers to pass on the left. Remember when we drove like that?

The Italian autostradas our high-speed and wonderful. They get you from one region to another quickly. Then get off and take the regular roads and see Italy. Stop often, have a coffee. Eat lunch or dinner. Meet the local people and enjoy life as Italians do. Remember the line from Eat, Prey, Love – Dolce Fa Niente! The sweetness of doing nothing. Don’t worry about work, the kids, your parents, the bills. Just relax and enjoy life again. If you are traveling with your one special love, be romantic. This will bring you closer together and create memories you will never forget. Life is meant to be enjoyed, stop wasting it. Have another gelato!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Eating Italian, Europe, Flights, Gelato, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How do you find small mountain towns in Italy?

You look, look, look! They are everywhere. When we drive from Rome’s airport (Fumichino) to Velina (about 4.5 hours) we pass some of the most beautiful real-estate in Italy. The autostrada from Rome to Naples passes in a valley between mountains. On each mountain are numerous small mountain towns. Get off at the next exit, stop and use maps on your smart phone to find the town. Then plot directions from where you are to the town. When you get there look around, park and walk the town. If it’s in the morning stop at a bar and have a coffee and a pastry. If it’s lunch time stop in a trattoria or bar and have lunch. Trattorias have full lunch menus while most bars have pan inis to eat. Enjoy it. Sit out side if the weather is nice and watch the locals going about their business. When you are finished plot a course to the next big city (e.g. Naples or Rome) on your smart phone. It will get you back on the autostrada. Stops like this are the real Italy. You won’t find them on normal tours. These are the types of cities we specialize in. Be romantic, eat Italian, drink local wine, watch the people, communicate with locals, buy local products, eat their chocolate and eat lots of gelato. These are what memories are made of!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Chocolate, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Small Towns, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Airlines Have fair Pricing?

I fly between the US and Europe a lot. Airlines only post pricing about 11 months out so you don’t have a lot of time to plan your vacation at work and make reservations. Typically prices are posted high at first. They then drop and can then go up and finally drop as the departure date nears. I use US Air from Philadelphia to Rome a lot. It is a non stop flight and they use comfortable planes. Pricing for this trip can be as high as $2100 for couch non refundable and as low as $1200. I can usually get it around the $1200 end of the scale. Sites that offer discount airfare have come-ons that say Philly to Rome $896. When I click on ad there is NEVER a fare for $896 but there are fares for high $900′s. This is a good fare until you realize it makes one or two stops and you can spend 9 to 12 hours in lay overs. Sometimes it is a night stay somewhere. This raises the cost if you get a hotel or makes for a very uncomfortable trip if you stay at the airport overnight.

For me, I want non stop on all my flights. Get me to Rome as quick as possible so I can get my car and start traveling the beautiful Italian countryside. While the cheaper flight would have me in some European airport stuck behind security, I could be having a panning and glass of wine in a beautiful hill-top town.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Air Fares, Eating Italian, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Rome, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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