Getting in Shape in Italy

OK, we have been talking about wine, gelato, pastries, pizza and great Italian food. How do we enjoy all of these and not put on weight? It’s easy! First Italian wheat has no GMOs. GMOs are associated with weight gain. Their food is still pure and fresh. Second you exercise a lot when you travel in Italy, or you should. I am not talking about a gym. You don’t need a gym. Just walk and take the stairs.

  • Hotels – have very small elevators. Use the stairs to your room and to breakfast.
  • Around Town – Walk to the tourist sites and restaurants you want to visit. There are great Metros (subways) in Italy but most cities have a small old city areas and it can be walked.
  • Steep Cities on Mountains – Cities like Positano are full of stairs and a steep road. Take stairs and if you tired take the road (it is still exercise since it is so steep). We stayed at a place in Positano that was 104 steps above the road.
  • Monuments – Museums, churches and galleries have steps. Some do have elevators but take the stairs.
  • After Lunch Walk – Italians close businesses after lunch so they can be with family and walk together. Enjoy a slow walk around town. Meet people and greet them.

You will find you can eat like the Italians and keep a trim waist like them as well. You are in Italy so be Italian!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Pastries, Pizza, Weight Gain, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Italian Sweets (Dolce)

In italy desert or sweets are called dolce. Italians don’t normally eat a lot of deserts. Instead they will eat fruit or cheese after a meal. They do love their gelato on a hot day. Given a special occasion they break out all the stops. Here are some (but certainly not all) of their dolce:

  • Gelato – Italian ice creme that tastes better than ours and has less fat. How do they do it. It is always served soft not hard and icy.
  • Tiramisu – A wonderful dolce made with mascarpone cheese (a sweet cheese), cocoa, espresso, wine and lady fingers. We have had it both soft like a cream and firmer like a very moist cake. See picture below.

Italian Dolce - titamisu

  • Cannoli – A Sicilian dolce made with a crisp pastry and ricotta cheese and chocolate. When these are made correctly they are divine.

Italian dolce - Cannoli

  • Sfogliatelle – This is one of our favorites. a crust to die for. These are made crispy and flaky like the best Parisian Croissants. It has a light creme inside.

Italian Dolce - Sfogliatelle

  • Amoretti – small Italian cookies made with Amaretto liquor.

Italian Dolce - Amaretti

  • Biscotti – Crisp twice baked cookies that are normally dipped in coffee or wine.

Italian Dolce - biscotti

  • Pizzella – An Abruzzi dolce that is very popular in America at Christmas time. It is a waffle like desert that is crispy.

Italian Dolce - Pizzella

There are so many more types of dolce. Garrubbo has a website that lists many of these delights. Each town has special dolce made locally. Try each one you visit. Pastries are made fresh in Italy and enjoyed fresh. Only fresh ingredients, fruits and nuts are used. Breakfast in Italy is one of these delights and a Cafè. Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Cafè, Coffee, Dolce, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Pastry, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Staying in and getting around Rome

Rome is a magical city of old and new. It is modern new and Roman old. You can not walk the streets of Rome without seeing both worlds. As they dig to build a new building, they hit old Roman ruins. They are protected by Italian law. They may build the lobby of the building around the ruins. How cool is that? Rome is a city of architecture, narrow streets, shops, restaurants, bars and a lot of very modern people.

Rome has great public transportation. It has busses and subways (Metro) that you can take anywhere. It is a safe and easy to use system. We had wonderful weather in the end of December beginning of January. It was cool but not too cold so we walked everywhere. Try to stay central to what you wanted to see. We stayed at Hotel Trevi (around the corner from Trevi Fountain). It was the hub of a wheel that led out to all the sites we  wanted to see.

  • Trevi Fountain
  • Colosseum
  • Old Rome
  • Vatican City & Saint Peters
  • Castel d’Angelo
  • Spanish Steps
  • Villa Borghese
  • Pantheon
  • The many piazzas of Rome
  • Shops

The longest walk was to Saint Peters and Vatican City. Vatican city is a separate country from Italy. The Pope is the president and the Swiss Guard its army. Walk the streets of Rome and enjoy what you see. Stop for a gelato or a Prosecco (Italian Champagne) at a bar. Drop into small stores and enjoy the city and its people. The old history is important but the modern city and people are as well.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Italy, Rome, Europe, Gelato, Champagne, Bars, Prosecco | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WiFi in Italy

Many of the small bars in Italy offer free WiFi. You can sip a Cafè or Cappuccino while face booking friends about your trip. There are other hotspots in the major cities. Some hotels offer it free others charge for WiFi. We recently found a company, Wi Tourist, that offers a device that produces a WiFi hotspot for up to 5 – 10 devices (depending on device). You can pick it up at the major airports or they will deliver it to your hotel and pick it up at the end of your stay. The price ranges from 3 to 7 Euros per day. The speed ranges from 7.2 to 100 Mbps. After 12 days the price drops to 1 Euro per day for all plans.

This allows WiFi coverage at hotels that charge 10 Euros per day for a very reasonable price. You are on vacation and WiFi and the internet should nor be your main concern. Many travelers must stay in touch with their office or are on business not vacation. This device can be an economical solution.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Europe, Hotels, Italy, WiFi | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Italian Language

If you go to Italy, you will want to say some basic things in Italian:

  1. Grazie – Thank You
  2. Prego – You are welcome (always said to someone who says Grazie to you)
  3. Per Favore – Please
  4. Buon Giorno – Good morning (said until sun is setting)
  5. Buona Sera – Good Evening (said after sun is setting)
  6. Buona Notte – Good Night (said the last time you see someone in the night)
  7. Quant0 Costa – How much does it cost?

But if you are staying longer than a short vacation or you want to be able to converse in Italian, you will need to take lessons.

  1. The language school in Naples – has an excellent course that will get you speaking fast
  2. Rosetta Stone – has excellent interactive classes. We found that these help a lot in vocabulary and spelling but not a lot in conversation.
  3. Pimsleur - Has an interactive course as well as CDs. We bought the CDs (or MP3 files) and love it. It gets you speaking quickly and understanding Italian. You do one lesson a day. You can repeat next day if you feel you didn’t really understand it.
  4. Children’s Books – We love trying to read Italian. Reading children’s books helps you get started. The internet has many of these for sale.
  5. When in Italy try to speak with the Italians you meet. This will help your ear to better understand Italian and improve your pronunciation of their language.

Above all else, enjoy Italy and remember it is their country and we are visitors. Be respectful at all times. Italians are very polite and always say Please, Thank You and You are welcome.

George & Jo Anne




Categories: Europe, General Travel, Italian language, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Italian Hotels

OK, we have been talking about how to save money when going to Italy. Hotels are a big part of your vacation budget. There are hotels and there are hotels. If your budget is unlimited, then go to the big resorts and spend $500 to $1,000 a night. If you would rather save some money to buy a pair of Italian shoes or a Murano glass necklace then here are some tips:

  1. American chain hotels are typically more expensive. We avoid these at all costs except at the Rome airport for one night.
  2. Italian hotels can be cheaper. Make sure you have a private bath with your room or you will be sharing it with others. These rooms can be small and in Rome some are VERY small. You are only sleeping there! You should be out of your room seeing Italy for as many hours in the day as possible.
  3. Italian resort hotels in big cities or at the lakes are expensive. If this is what you want and your budget permits then by all means enjoy it. In Capri on our honeymoon we spent the big bucks (500 Euros/night) for a great hotel with a view.
  4. B&Bs are all over Italy now. Like in America they can be more expensive than a budget hotel but are usually run by a family. This can give you more of an Italian experience.
  5. Smaller cities usually have small Italian hotels at reasonable prices. Our Italian home is at a sea resort and rooms in season are about $100/night and only $50/night the rest of the year.
  6. Agriturismo  is a small B&B like establishment that means a combination of tourist and agriculture. These are farm-house hotels that are great for the whole family. They grow organic vegetables and provide organic farm raised meats and cheeses right off their farm. These are obviously outside of larger cities.

Where ever you choose to stay, have fun. We choose a hotel by location. We like to stay central to the things we want to see. You can always find a bar nearby for breakfast (if your hotel doesn’t provide one) and trattorias to eat at. Breakfasts at Italian hotels are buffet style with hard-boiled eggs (no omelets or over easy usually), cereals, juices, cheese and cold cuts and wonderful bread. There are also lots of fruit and yogurt. Enjoy it.

George & Jo Anne



Categories: Agriturismo, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Eating Italian, Euro, Europe, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Small Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everybody Wants to go to the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast, in Campania southern Italy, is beautiful and has tourists stops like Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Amalfi and Salerno. You can see Naples on the way. If you don’t want to drive how do you get there. Naples has busses and trains from Rome. Getting to Capri (an Island) can only be done by a ferry. The Amalfi Coast is difficult except by car or ferry. Salerno has good train service from Naples.

Many people do not like to drive especially in this area of narrow winding roads. You have two choices:

  1. Hire a driver from Naples or the Naples airport
  2. Take the ferry (hydrofoils) – there are two types the cheaper and slower kind and the higher speed more expensive type. We always opt for the high-speed.

From Naples you can go to many cities by ferry including:

  1. Sorrento
  2. Capri
  3. Positano
  4. Amalfi
  5. Salerno

Then from these cities you can ferry to others. Local ferries stop at many small towns that give you a glimpse of life in Italy. Check schedules and return schedules so you don’t get stranded in a city. You can also go to Agropoli but service is limited and usually requires an overnight.

These cities along the Amalfi Coast are hilly and roads can be very crowded in the summer (especially August). You do not need a car! Take the ferry and enjoy the sea and the beautiful water. We recommend seeing Sorrento, Capri and Ana Capri, Positano and Amalfi. From Amalfi you can take a bus up the mountain to Ravello. Spend at least a night on the Island of Capri. It changes in the evening after the day tourists leave. Spend a couple of nights in Positano. It is a very magical town. Amalfi and Ravello can be seen in a day. Take a ferry in the morning from Positano to Amalfi. See the church and have lunch in the Piazza. Then catch a bus (near the ferry stop) up the mountain to Ravello. You can be back in Positano for a late (Italian style) dinner.

All of these towns are walkable. They are not very big area wise but towns like Positano have many steps. Be prepared. The one road in Positano is steep but saves you hundreds of stairs. On a hot summer day, stop for a gelato. It gives you a break from the steep climb and a refreshing snack.

George & Jo Anne



Categories: Agropoli, Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Campania, Capri, Driving in Italy, Europe, Ferries, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Positano, Ravello Italy, Revello, Rome, Salerno, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Dollar vs Euro

Yesterday we talked about can you afford Italy. Any discussion on cost in a foreign country has to take into consideration the conversion rates. Last year it cost $1.34 to buy 1 Euro. That was the World Bank Rate. Your actual costs were higher depending on where you buy the Euros. Banks add-on .10 to .15 cents and exchange booths at the airport add-on much more! The best conversions are often with credit cards. They add-on an amount but not as high usually as banks and exchanges places. Many credit card companies now offer no fee foreign purchases. They still tack on cents to the World Bank rate but do not then charge an addition fee for foreign purchases.

Today the rate is $1.08 per Euro. That is a savings of $.26 per Euro from last year. If you spend $3,000 that is a savings of $780. That will buy you something nice on your trip. Europe has not been as cheap in a long time. Now is the time to book a trip and enjoy romantic Italy. The lower exchange rate makes hotels, meals, gifts, purchases and tours bought in Italy cheaper by 25% from last year. Airfares are the same since you buy them with dollars. If you purchase a local airfare or train tickets while in Italy it also will be 25% cheaper.

Enjoy the savings while it lasts. Check off another item on your bucket list!

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Air Fares, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Hotels, Italy, Money, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing affordable meals in Italy

Everyone loves the food in Italy but can we get really great food for an affordable price? The answer is YES! Here are some rules:

  1. Food is cheaper in small non touristy towns than in the big cities.
  2. Pizzerias and trattorias offer very good local food and wine at an affordable price.
  3. Bars offer breakfast and lunch cheap.
  4. Happy Hour bars offer free food with affordable drinks.

All non tourist restaurants are great in Italy. If you are in a tourist area like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, you will find lots of tourist places to eat serving bad food. They serve pasta, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Don’t be fooled! These are not Italian restaurants. We always walk around on our way to attractions and take a side street that looks interesting. You will find interesting shops and real restaurants. Next we look to see who is eating inside or outside. If it is mostly tourists, we skip it. When we find a place with a lot of Italians we try it. Italians eat lunch between 1:30 and 4 with family or friends. Dinner is usually eaten late, between 7:30 and 11 pm. If you are looking in a restaurant at 5 pm you will either see no one or just tourists. You might want to look the night before on your way back to your hotel if you are an early diner.

Good restaurants in Italy are small. They only have a small number of tables. Cooking fresh pasta for 100 is not possible. They cook well for a few people. When you find such a place, visit it often. Try lunch and dinner. Try different dishes. Be sure to tell the owner or your waiter that it was good (è molto buono).

Some restaurants charge extra for outside seating. This is usually not that much and is well worth being able to eat and watch the people pass by. In the colder seasons, they will turn on heaters outside to make you comfortable. If they are too hot for you, tell your waiter. They can adjust them or turn them off.

Pizza can be gotten in a pizzeria (pizza shops), ristaurante (restaurants) and Trattoria (small inexpensive restaurants). Enjoy the place you pick. Be romantic, you are in Italy. Forget your worries and just enjoy the food and people you are with. Eat slowly and enjoy the taste. Drink some wine and taste it. It enhances your taste buds. It will make the food taste better. Try the bread it is well worth it in Italy. Italian bread is crusty on the outside but soft inside.

When you are done you can have a great desert or if you are too full, walk a bit and stop at a gelato shop (gelateria). There are so many flavors of gelato, it would take the rest of your life to try them. Not a bad way to spend your time. Ask for a sample and then choose. You can get a regular cone, sugar cone or dish. Enjoy

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Bread, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can I afford Italy

So you want to spend 6 months, a year or move to Italy. Can you afford food? The good news is Yes … Yes … Yes! Large cities are more expensive than smaller ones just like here in the USA. Eating out or buying food and cooking at home can be reasonable in Italy. USA Today wrote an article on the cost of food in Italy. They concluded:

  • Eating out is about $20/day. Breakfast at a bar is about $2.50, Lunch at a bar is about $ 3 to #6. Dinner at a trattoria is about $10 to $15. Breakfast is usually a pastry and coffee, lunch is a sandwich (panini and coffee or wine or beer and dinner is pasta or local meat/fish.
  • Buying food to cook at home is inexpensive. Fruits and vegetables are very cheap and usually grown organic locally. Meat or fish is local and reasonably priced. Pizzas can be ordered to take out (more so in the south).

Don’t be sucked into expensive hotel breakfasts (serving American breakfasts). Eat like you are an Italian. Bars are your friend even if you are not a drinker! They are very crowded for breakfast but lines move quickly. Same for lunch. Panini are stacked on the bar in a napkin. Eat what you want and drink water, soda, beer or wine. Some even serve pasta of the day and gelato (ice cream). Trattorias are a step up from the bar and have tables to sit and enjoy a meal. You can usually order pastas, vegetables, meats and fish. Order what is from local providers. If you are in warmer weather eat out side and enjoy life around you.

George & Jo Anne


Categories: Bars, Coffee, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, Italy, Pastries, Pizza, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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