Pamper Yourself in Capri Italy

Capri is a magical Island on the Amalfi Coast. It is south of Naples and south-west of Sorrento. You get here by ferry boats from Naples, Sorrento, Positano or Salerno. Some ferries are slow speed and others are high-speed. The ferries from Naples are as follows:

  • High Speed – Departs from Molo Beverello Napoli, duration is about 45 minutes and costs around 20 Euros (higher in summer),
  • Low Speed – Departs from Calata Porta di Massa Napoli, duration 1 hour 20 minutes and costs about 13 Euros (higher in summer).

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From the time you board your ferry until you leave Capri, it is a magical experience and a memory maker. This is a romantic island that offers beaches, museums, two wonderful small towns and unlimited sightseeing. The famous Blue Grotto is here but you will wait to get in especially in summer months. Typically you take a boat from one of the two marinas to the blue grotto and transfer into a smaller row-boat that will take you into the grotto. Then after exiting you transfer back onto your original boat.

Jo and I had just come off a 8 hour overnight flight with only an hour or two of sleep from Philadelphia to Rome and a 3 hour drive south to Naples. We were tired and just starting our day in Italy. As we boarded the high-speed ferry, I felt my adrenaline surge. This was very exciting and romantic. Soon we were out of the Bay of Naples and into the Tyrennian Sea. Almost immediately we could see a dot of land ahead that was Capri.

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Soon our ferry pulled into the large marina (Marina Grande) on Capri Island. Surrounded by pleasure yachts and other ferries we docked.

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As we disembarked the ferry with two giant suitcases we were met by young men grabbing our suitcases and asking what hotel we were staying at. This could have been alarming but we knew what to expect here. Suitcases are delivered to your hotel quickly on small golf cart like vehicles that run around the pedestrian paths of Capri.

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After leaving our bags with the gentleman at the marina, we were free to move about. We first went to the funicular stop at the marina, bought two tickets and boarded the next train. We were given views on the steep ascent up to the city of Capri. At the top we could see the marina we arrived in far below. Beautiful homes hung precariously on cliffs all around us. We were here in Capri and no longer tired.

We found a pathway that led from the piazza to our hotel. With a few wrong turns we were finally at Villa Brunella our hotel. Each room is on its own floor as the hotel clings to the side of a cliff. There are lots of steps here! We were ready and very excited.

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My next BLOG will explore the city of Capri and this wonderful hotel.

George

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Blue Grotto, Capri, Europe, Ferries, Funicular, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Romance, Rome, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I love the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is a cliff side road that winds from Sorrento on the western side to Salerno on the eastern side. It is located in southern Italy in Campania south of Naples. As you drive this ancient Greet horse road, you feel exhilarated. Some places you are high up overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and other places you are close to the sea. The road is never empty but in the summer it can be a parking lot. Busses have a hard time navigating its tight curves. If you encounter a bus coming towards you on a turn, you must back up giving the bus room to make the turn. Busses always have the right of way.

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As you leave Sorrento you travel over the cliffs heading south and then east. as you turn east you can look out to your right a clear day and see the beautiful Island of Capri. As you head east you will twist and turn in and out of coves until you arrive high above the wonderful town of Positano. It is said this is a town of one road and a million steps. Bring comfortable shoes and be prepared to climb. The one road winds from the Amalfi Coast Highway (one way) down to the town and beach of Positano. It then climbs slightly and ends up again at the Amalfi Coast Highway.

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Positano is very romantic. Enjoy a week here if you can. There are wonderful restaurants and two beaches. At the large beach you can catch ferries to Amalfi, Salerno, Capri, Sorrento, Naples and many small towns. You can arrive by ferry but you will have missed that wonderful road. Parking can be a problem but there are two large parking garages on the one way road. Most hotels will take your car to one of these. Once you rid yourself of the car, you will not need it until you leave. Positano is a city you walk in or take the Ferry to nearby towns.

D-Positano ai D-Positano aea D-Positano drD-Positano hnAs you leave Positano you head farther east on the Amalfi Coast Highway through tunnels and many small coves. You can see many lemon groves and wine bushes high on the hills. Try the famous limoncello in this area. You will pass many small fishing towns that are worth a stop. Eventually you arrive in the town of Amalfi. There is parking at the port and you walk into the town arriving at the main piazza. Here you can have lunch or a drink and view the magnificent cathedral in front of you.

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Now we head farther east on the highway (not really a highway but a small two lane road) to Salerno. You will pass ceramic stores worth a stop. They can wrap things well for travel or ship them for you. Salerno is a major shipping port with cruise ships. High above the city is an ancient castle. Salerno is a large major city. Here you can find great high-speed trains with service back to Naples or Rome. You can also head south to Sicily.

This is a road trip you will never forget. Enjoy the many cities it has to offer and the people, food and wine. Be romantic and spontaneous. You are an adventurer in Italy.

 

George

 

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Ceramics, Driving in Italy, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Ferries, General Travel, Italy, Lemoncello, Mountain Towns, Naples, Parking Garage, Positano, Romance, Rome, Salerno, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Trains, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

Favorite Italian Movies

What is your favorite Italian movies? How about favorite Movie Stars or Directors? Italian movies are all about love, romance and sex. Some of my favorite are:

  • La Dolce Vita
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Rome Adventure
  • Il Postino
  • Divorce Italian Style
  • Two Women
  • The Garden of the Finzi Contini
  • Benvenuti al Sud (PAL format only)
  • Benvenuti al Nord (PAL format only)
  • 8-1/2

My favorite Italian movie stars:

  • Marcello Mastroianni
  • Gian Maria Volontè
  • Giulietta Masina
  • Giancarlo Giannini
  • Totô
  • Anna Magnani
  • Sophia Loren
  • Isabella Rossellini
  • Gina Lollobrigida

My favorite Italian directors:

  • Federico Fellini … Federico Fellini … Federico Fellini
  • Victoria De Sica
  • Roberto Benigni
  • Franco Zeffirelli

We all have are favorites. Even the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood were great. These were directed and filmed in Italy. They include:

  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • For a Few Dollars More
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

These movies were originally in Italian but there was very little dialog so they could easily be translated to English and other markets.

What are your favorites?

George

 

Categories: Italian, Italy, Movie Directors, Movie Stars, Movies | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rome Tour – Day 3

We have already seen a lot of Rome but there is so much more to do and see. Put your walking shoes back on because we will be walking more today. As usual we start our tour at the Trevi Fountain. Today we are headed to Vatican City. We normally do not take tours but the Vatican is a good place to take a tour. You can sign up at your hotel. Then just walk or take the Metro to the Vatican and join your tour.

On our walk to the vatican we will first visit and cross the Bridge of Angels and then enter Castel di Angelo. GPS your way to the Bridge of Angels and the Castle of Angeles. You will see the Tiber River and the Bridge of Angels. As you cross the river look at each statue of an angel. The castle is directly on the other side of the bridge.

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Bridge and Castle

Inside the castle climb to the top and be rewarded with views of Rome and Saint Peters. As you leave the castle turn right onto Via della Conciliation into Piazza San Pietro. There are many shops and restaurants along this road. The cathedral is right in front of you. If you have tickets for Vatican City tour, Go there first and you can exit the Sistine Chapel into Saint Peters Cathedral. Getting to the Vatican City Tour Entrance is about a mile from the castle. GPS it or take a taxi. Inside the entrance is a ticket office where you can join a tour or buy a ticket and tour on your own. You will see many things here and the tour ends in the Sistine Chapel. You have a choice there to exit back the way you came or exit directly into Saint Peters Cathedral. Once in Saint Peters you can not go back. You will exit the church normally and be in Piazza San Pietro. The Castle of Angels is directly ahead on Via della Conciliation. Information on tours can be found here.

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Saint Peters viewed from the Castle

From the Castle cross back over the bridge to go to Mouth of truth (Bocca della Verità). Set your GPS from the Castle to the Bocca della Verità. It is a about a mile and a half walk. It is outside a small church, Santa Maria in Comedian. The legend has it that if you place your hand in the mouth and it comes out OK, you tell the truth. If you lose your hand you are a liar. We saw many Italian women place their hands in and withdraw them successfully but most of the men would not do it.

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Line waiting to place hand in the Mouth of Truth

As always GPS your walk on you smart phone, take a taxi or the Metro. Roman is easy to get around. Always have your hotel name and address programmed in your smart phone. You can show a taxi driver the name or use the address to GPS your way back.

George

Categories: Bocca della Verità, Castel Sant'Angelo, General Travel, GPS, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Taxi, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 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.

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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

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