Our Top Ten things to Eat in Italy

Italy is all about food! Each region has its specialties. Don’t miss out on any of it. The north is about truffles, Tuscany is all about meat, Naples is about pasta and pizza and the south is about fish and seafood. Try local wines with whatever you eat. Italian food in Italy is very different (much better) than Italian food in America. It is fresher, no GMOs, cooked to perfection and slightly seasoned (never with heavy sauces). Fetticini Alfredo is not Italian! It was invented by a Roman for Americans. You can find it in Italy in tourist restaurants but most Italians would never eat it.

Here are our top ten foods:

  1. White Truffles – In the north around the Alba area you get this wonderful treat. It is available in the fall. It is served on eggs, veal, pasta and pizza.
  2. Pizza – In the north (Milan) it is Pizza Quattro Stagioni (4 seasons) and in the south it is Pizza Margarita (preferably from Naples).
  3. Pasta – All types with simple red sauce to fish or vegetables. Done Al Dente and flavorful. Risotto is a wonderful Italian rice dish mostly done in the north.
  4. Fresh Fish & Seafood – Especially in the south. It is locally caught and served hours (not days or weeks after it is caught and never frozen). Shell fish is especially great in Italy. Mussels, clams, calamari, octopus, etc. Clams in the south are tiny but so flavorful.
  5. Vitello Milanese – Veal Milan style. When George was a meat eater, he loved this dish. It is a pounded flat cutlet with a bone in one end. Fried lightly.
  6. Happy Hour – In bars all around Italy you have a happy hour in the early evening. You order a drink and they serve you small plates of food for free. Italians do not like to drink without eating something. Each bar has different dishes.
  7. Gelato – Everyone reading this BLOG knows our love of Gelato. A more flavorful, less fat filled ice cream served soft. There are so many flavors you will have to make more trips to Italy to try all of them. Every town has Gelato shops.
  8. Chocolate – Italian chocolate comes in dark and milk but is much less sweet and more flavorful than our chocolates. You can find small shops in each town that make the chocolate right there. It is not commercialized. Try it plain, with fruit or nuts.
  9. Bread – Italian bread is every bit as good as French bread. They use whole grain non GMO flours and bake it to perfection in a very hot oven. It comes out soft on the inside but hard and crispy on the outside.
  10. Pastries – Italian pastries like French pastries are made with real ingredients and butter (never substitutes). The result is flaky crispy crusts with fresh fruits or nuts.

Experience Italian food in non tourist restaurants with a glass of local wine. Don’t eat desert in the restaurant but walk a little and find a pastry shop or Gelato shop and enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Dolce, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Pastries, Pastry, Pizza, Risotto, Sweets, Truffles, White Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Top Ten Works of Art in Italy

Italy is loaded with wonderful works of art. Every city you go into has a museum with beautiful paintings and sculptures. The largest cities have many of these museums. If you are an art lover, they are all worth seeing. The following is our list of must see:

  • Leonardo di Vinci’s Last Supper – This wonderful painting is hanging in a small former refectory of a convent (Santa Maria delle Grazie) in Milan. It is being restored to its former glory.

Da Vinci's Last Supper

  • Leonardo di Vinci’s Museum of Science in Milan – This is a wonderful museum with the creations of Leonardo. You can see his tank, an airplane (without a motor), a modern looking speed boat (without a motor) and so much more. He clearly understood motion in air and water.

leonardo

  • Michelangelo’s David in Florence – It is located in the Galleria dell’Accademia. This is a fantastic statue showing muscles made of marble that look like flesh. Don’t miss his unfinished pieces in this museum.

David by Michelangelo

  • Apollo and Daphne in Rome – This work of art is located in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. This beautiful marble statue looks like flesh. It is hard to believe you are seeing stone.

Apollo daphine

  • The Vatican Staircase in Vatican City – Located in the Vatican Museum. This staircase is a wonder of architecture.

Vatacan Staircase

  • Leonardo di Vinci’s Annunciation – This great work is in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. This is the bible story of the angel sent by God to tell Mary she would be the mother of God.

Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Annunciazione_-_Google_Art_Project

  • The Greek Ruins at Paestum  – These are beautiful Greek ruins in better shape than the ones in Greece. Pastime is just south of Salerno Italy which is at the Eastern end of the Amalfi Coast.

Paestum

  • Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam – This is a wonderful painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Creation of Adam

  • Botticelli’s Birth of Venus – This great work is in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. You can spend hours in this museum and hours waiting to get in. The Florence City Pass is well worth the savings in time as you bypass all lines.

birth of venus

  • Duomo in San Gimignano – San Giminagno is George’s favorite town in the world. It is preserved as a perfect medieval city. In the main piazza is this duomo. This church and town are well worth a visit. Park outside the ancient walls and walk into the past.

duomo San Gimigano

Wherever you go in Italy you will find great art. Enjoy it.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Duomo, Florence, Italy, Milan, Paestum, Rome, San Gimignano, Vatican City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Favorite Things we Love about Italy

Italy has so many things to love and be enjoyed. It has been the number one place many people want to go or have gone. It is a land of romance, beauty and healthy good food. It is a country that actually likes Americans. When you put it all together, what place could be better to spend your vacation?

We enjoy getting into the culture. We always meet new local people in our travels. We try the local foods and wines. We feel relaxed and happy when in Italy. Here are some of our favorite things to do:

  1. Meet and watch the local people. You can learn so much about a country that way.
  2. Eat local foods at non touristy restaurants. A Trattoria is our favorite place to eat but we also enjoy a good Enoteca.
  3. Gelato!!! Eat all you can get while in Italy. It is less fat than normal ice cream but tastes so much better.
  4. Drink the wine. Italians enjoy their wines. They don’t get drunk but enjoy a glass or two with dinner or at happy hour with the free food that is served.
  5. Swim at the beaches! We love the southern Italy beaches that are sandy (not the rocky ones). These are among the cleanest and nicest beaches in the world.
  6. Visit the big cities and major attractions but get out into the Italian countryside and visit small towns and mountain towns.
  7. Stay at small family run hotels, B&Bs or a Agriturismo.
  8. Eat the great crusty Italian bread and pastries. They are less sweet than our sweets but so flavorful.
  9. No trip to Italy is complete without COFFEE! Italians love their coffee (espresso).
  10. If you happen to be lucky enough to be in northern Italy in the fall … Eat the white truffles. These are unique to Italy. Other countries have the less flavorful black truffles but not the white ones.

If this appeals to you, visit Italy soon. Be happy! Be Romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agriturismo, B&Bs, Coffee, Enoteca, Espresso, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Italy, Mountain Towns, Pastries, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Sweets, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthcare in Italy vs USA

The World Health Organization (WHO) rates various health aspects of each country:

US                  Italy

  • Expenditures (in $) per capita on healthcare        $8895              $3040
  • Expenditures as a % of GDP                                          17.9%                9.2%
  • Life expectancy at birth                                                 76/81                 80/85

Italy has a higher life expectancy than Americans and it costs them much less to provide it. Our healthcare is based on a symptom drug scenario. The American system is not interested in causes of health problems only the relieving of a symptom through a drug. It obviously isn’t working since chronic illness is on the rise. At some point we won’t be able to afford healthcare. Italy on the other hand uses a scenario of exercise and eating healthy to prevent chronic illnesses. It seems to be working for them and the cost is much less.

In Italy the idea of a walk with family, passagio, is not exercise but a social thing that everyone enjoys. Eating healthy is the only way Italians eat. Their food is pure, organic and always fresh. It is more about quality and taste than amount. Again they are not doing it to be healthy but because they have a very refined sense of taste. Eating is a social thing that all Italians enjoy and understand.

We need to take a hard look at how our friends across the pond are living a more healthy lifestyle.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, Healthcare, Italy | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

How Much Money to Take on a European Vacation?

Money is a very personal thing. How much you need is related to how you spend, what you buy and how often. If you are going buy Gucci products in Italy, you will need some money. We like to arrive with some Euros in our pocket. Maybe 200- 400 so we can buy tickets, take a taxi, etc. Most restaurants and stores take credit cards. There used to be a problem at some places because the European credit card machines require a computer chip on their credit cards. The US has finally caught up to the rest of the world and most banks are now issuing credit cards with both the old stripe and the new chip. Choose a credit card that does NOT charge an extra foreign transaction fee. There are many today to choose from.

You can get money from a European ATM easily. His is the easiest way to replenish your cash. Banks offer great exchange rates but can take a while to fill out paperwork and get your cash. When you are returning home, don’t exchange your Euros back to dollars if you plan another trip in the next few years. The double exchange is very costly. Hold on to your Euros with your passports and use them on the next trip.

Traveling is fun and money shouldn’t be the main concern. You are on vacation and you should relax and enjoy the trip.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Cash, Dollars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Italy, Taxi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan an Italian Vacation

We are planning a trip to Tuscany and then our home in Campania. Tuscany is a popular spot for vacationers. Here is what we do before boarding the airline:

1) Get a general idea for timeframe. This is important to determine airline costs, clothes to bring, and sites to see.

2) Price your airlines and hotels. Remember saving a few hundred dollars on an airfare that adds 10 hour stop overs is not a wise use of your money. We choose Italian hotels but insist on private baths.

3) Pick the main cities you want to see. Don’t try to do all of Italy in a week or two. All you will see is the inside of planes or trains. Good size trips are a) Northern Italy (Milan, Verona, the lakes and Venice), b) Tuscany, c)Rome and Orvieto and Pompeii, d) Naples and Capri, e) Amalfi Coast, f) Southern Italy and g) Sicily.

4) Now look around each city on a map and see what small cities are close by. Research them on the internet. If you find a great city plan on a visit. Maybe it is to see a festival or a museum or taste wine.

5) Now list the top ten things you want to see in each place. More than ten starts to use up a lot of your time. If you are going to a major museum list the top ten things in the museum you want to see.

6) Determine how you will travel to each city and in what order. Will you need a car or go by train or plane?

7) Now estimate the amount of time you will need in each city. This is critical in doing the things you want to do.

8) If your total time is more than you can take, cut something out. If you have more time, add it to tight cities.

9) Make a list of hotels, addresses, phone numbers and costs as well as museums, etc. This will help when you arrive.

10) Make a check list of what to pack and what to do before leaving like Passports, Euros, turn water off, camera, umbrellas, etc.

The most important thing about traveling in Europe is to be spontaneous. If you find something unexpected, add time to enjoy it and cut something else out. The important thing is not to check off everything on your itinerary but to create lasting memories. Be romantic and enjoy the country that created romance…Italy!

City Passes sometimes look expensive unless you are going to see most sites included but can still be worth the money to save hours of time avoiding lines. City Passes usually allow you to go to the head of the line and have minimal or no delays.

Also don’t miss out on enjoying Italian life:

1) Try some gelato
2) Local wine
3) Pastries
4) Expresso
5) Pizza
6) Pasta

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Air Fares, Amalfi Coast, Capri, City Passes, Eating Italian, Espresso, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Orvieto, Pastry, Pizza, Pompeii, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Sicily, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Tuscany, Venice, Verona, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benvenuti al Sud the movie

There is an Italian movie with English subtitles called Benvenuto al Sud (Welcome to the South). It is a very funny movie that tells you a lot about life in Italy between the north (NORD) and the south (SUD). It is a movie about a postman living outside of Milan that wants to work in the Milan Postoffice. He tries everything including pretending to be handicapped. It almost works but he is caught and sentenced to work in the south. He is transferred to Campania to the city of Castellabate. I have written about this wonderful town high up in the mountains.

Benvenuti al Sud

He believes everyone is wild and will mug him (like our wild west). Soon he realizes the people are friendly, the city is beautiful and he is enjoying himself. He keeps telling his wife that things are so bad because she feels sorry for him and treats him well. She decides to make a trip south to see his life. He organizes the town to use an old movie set to have gun fights and make it appear as scary as possible.

Of course she finds the truth and in the end they both make real friends of the local people. This movie had a sequel called Benvenuti al Nord. There are rumors they may be an Est (east) and Ovest (west) version in the making.

This movie is only available in PAL (European) format DVD. It will not play on most DVD or BlueRay players in the USA. Our MAC will play it as well. You can also buy cheap PAL DVD players.

Enjoy this peek into Italian folklore.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Castellabate, Europe, Italy, Movie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pompeii and the Monster Vesuvious

Most people have heard the story of how Pompeii was destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD. So much of the mountain was blown away, that it looks like two mountain peaks today. It was an ancient Etruscan city and then conquered by the Romans. The volcano spewed out very hot ash that killed everyone instantly. Roofs of wood caught fire and were destroyed. The walls of buildings, frescos on the walls and roads are preserved as they were then. You can enter homes that were large even by our standards today with indoor pools and gardens.

Pompeii

The streets ran down hills. They opened pipes at the top to allow water to run down the street and take dirt and garbage with it. Crossroads had speed bumps that acted to both slow down a horse and carriage and allow pedestrians to walk across the street without getting their feet wet or dirty.

This city had bars, brothels, restaurants and arenas. It was a more modern city than we think of for that time. As you walk these ancient streets you feel as if you are there in that time. You keep an eye on Mount Vesuvius which looms over the city.

From Rome you can catch a tour bus to Naples and Pompeii. It is a day trip with an hour or two stop in Naples and two hours in Pompeii. This is followed by lunch and a return drive to Rome. From Naples it is very close. In fact you can see the monster Vesuvius easily from Naples.

Driving south from Rome or Naples you pass Pompeii on the way to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. You can catch a bus from Naples to Pompeii and then Sorrento. From Sorrento take a ferry to Capri. The drive is an easy one as the highways are great.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Capri, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mount Vesuvious, Pompeii, Rome | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to see in Italy?

Italy has unending beauty and places to visit. Do your homework and pick places that have an interest to you. Rail Europe lists the top ten cities to visit in Italy in reverse order:

10. Ventimiglia

Many people hop between the neighboring border towns of Nice and Ventimiglia with a train ticket. A trip so close, and made even easier with a France-Italy Rail Pass. You’ll find both French and Italian regional lines service Ventimiglia. More than a train hub, Ventimiglia has a stunning, quintessentially Italian medieval city center. As it always has, its classic architecture stands guard on a hilltop over the Gulf of Genoa, but now with the new city between them. Make sure you visit Ventimiglia’s famous Friday Outdoor Market!

9. Bologna

Why not visit the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088? Naturally, there’s plenty to study: from medieval, renaissance and baroque monuments to modern-day industrial marvels like Ducati, headquartered there. More high-speed thrills? Travel by train from Bologna to Verona in just under an hour.

8. Verona

What do you call a city dramatic enough to be the setting of three Shakespearean plays, and interesting enough to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site? This is Verona. Along the Adige River, this picture-perfect city of cobblestone streets lined with medieval buildings, Roman sites and churches is second to none for inspiration. Known for its pink buildings and Juliet balcony (yes, one of those plays was Romeo and Juliet), a visit to this city will immerse you in the classic Italian experience. Want more inspiration? Venice is one of the perfect destinations for it. Verona to Venice is about an hour by train.

7. La Spezia

Located on the Gulf of La Spezia, this port city is a bustling mix of old and new. This scenic waterfront is perfect for arrival by train from Verona (via Milan) with a Eurail Italy Pass. Today, this modern-day port stands in stunning contrast to the spectacle of its antiquity and charm. So much charm that many poets have found inspiration here, from Byron to Shelley to DH Lawrence. It is, in fact, referred to as “the Gulf of Poets.” What will it inspire in you?

6. Turin

Baroque architecture with the Alps as the ultimate photo backdrop. Site of the 2006 winter games. And, of course, the Shroud of Turin. The amazing city of Turin is one of contrasts that include a café society of truffles, wine and other extravagances, and Turin Cathedral, home to the Shroud of Turin. (Please note that while The Museum of the Holy Shroud is open daily, the shroud is only displayed once every ten years.) Next stop? Milan. Aboard Frecciarossa trains, Turin to Milan is just about an hour’s journey.

5. Milan

High style all around. The Italian center of finance, industry and commerce, as well as a global capital of fashion, industrial design and architecture. Milan is also the home of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don’t miss the spectacular Duomo, which took over 6 centuries to complete. (And don’t forget to get your Milano Card for easy transportation and discounts all over town.) Also, remember it’s just as easy to arrive from Paris to Milan by the high-speed TGV trains.

4. Naples

The birthplace of pizza has drawn many hungry visitors, including those hungry for culture: its historic center is the largest in Europe, covering over 4,000 acres and 27 centuries. It’s almost unreal how much this port city has to offer — including hydrofoils to the Isle of Capri and the Blue Grotto. Naples is a must-see for every history/arts/culinary/naval/political/cinema-buff. And so is Venice. Naples to Venice is about a 4 hours and 45 minutes journey by train.

3. Venice

Venice, the land of gondola-filled canals, ancient trades and water taxis. Enjoy a Grand Canal boat tour and views that have remained basically unchanged for centuries. See how Venetian glass and Venetian paper is made. Shop on the Rialto and along the waterways to roving (and rowing) tenors, as well as the occasional accordion. There is only one Venice, so how could it be #3?

2. Florence

Florence is Italian perfection: the Duomo, the Uffizi Museum Tour, crossing the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace… everything that makes Italy, Italy, is here in the appropriately titled “cradle of the Renaissance”– except you! You’re not here yet, and nothing makes it easier to get here than the train. On Italo trains, Venice to Florence is about a 2 hours trip, while Florence to Rome is an about 1 hour and 30 minutes of relaxing, stress-free enjoyment. Which is perfect since…

1. Rome

Well, the saying is “all roads lead to Rome”. Fortunately, so do the trains! Travel from Vienna, Innsbruck or Munich to Rome via direct overnight trains. All those “Roman ruins” around Europe, why not visit their birthplace? And where else can you see the Colosseum? Classical architecture buffs will enjoy researching the arch, the dome, and the vault—all developed here. Of course, a Vatican Sistine Chapel Tour is guaranteed to provide a most divine experience. This is it people. This is where the world changed. And when you visit, well, it can change your world too.

We also add:

  1. Capri
  2. Positano
  3. Paestum
  4. Cinque Terre (5 cities)
  5. Siena
  6. Assisi
  7. Perugia
  8. San Gimignano
  9. Matera
  10. Bari
  11. Agropoli (old city)
  12. Castellabate
  13. Amalfi
  14. Sorrento
  15. Orvieto
  16. Pompeii

There are so many interesting places in Italy to enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Assissi, Bari, Campania, Capri, Castellabate, Europe, Italy, Milan, Mountain Towns, Naples, Orvieto, Paestum, Perugia, Pompeii, Positano, Regions of Italy, Rome, San Gimignano, Siena, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Venice, Verona | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italy – Travel the right way

Traveling to Italy is important. It is the dream of millions of people. It doesn’t have to be just a dream. It can be a reality. Save each month for a vacation to Italy. When you have enough, make reservations. See this beautiful and romantic country. Airfare is the most expensive part of the trip. Traveling off-season can drastically reduce airfares. Stay in small European hotels not big name American hotels. Make sure you have a private bath. Eat in bars or a trattoria. Never travel in August! It is hot and very crowded.

Tour groups can be expensive as well. They are run like cruises. The initial expense doesn’t seem bad but then they always have side-trips you want that can run up on the bill. They guide you to their restaurants and shops that give them a kickback. These are not always the best places for a memorable vacation. Be a smart traveller! Do your homework. Buy a guide-book or study the Internet. Here is a checklist:

  1. List the cities you ant to visit. Don’t try to do all of Europe or even all of Italy in one trip.
  2. List the top things you want to see in each city.
  3. If museums are your thing, list the top things in each museum that you want to see. Don’t try to do all of a large museum.
  4. Research Italian hotels. Look at location, price, amenities and other travelers reviews. Don’t worry if breakfast is included. Breakfast in Italy at a bar is cheap and delicious.
  5. Estimate the time you need in days in each city. Then estimate travel time between cities. You can fly, drive or take a train. Flying gives you the most time in your cities if they are a distance from each other. Trains are romantic and you can see the country side.
  6. List entrance costs and local transportation (metro) to get to each attraction. Many cities can be walked if you are in shape.
  7. Now estimate your trip. List days in each place and when you should go. Airfares are often cheaper on Tuesday through Thursday than weekends.
  8. Now you have an itinerary and an estimate on cost. Add in spending money and extras that you will find spur-of-the-moment.
  9. Now you are ready for a wonderful trip. Sit back and enjoy it.

We love taking people around Italy. We enjoy seeing the amazement in their eyes and the joy they feel. When we take a group it is always small and we don’t try to do everything in a single trip. It is important to end your vacation feeling happy and full of memories, Our rules are:

  1. Visit the main cities first. See the top ten things in each city. Experience the city as an Italian. Meet and talk with people. Most Italians speak some English as it is the national second language.
  2. Visit small mountain and sea-side towns next. Some of these are so small that the large tour busses can’t get to them.
  3. Never go to touristy restaurants or shops. Be spontaneous and see what you find during your walks.
  4. Have a general itinerary but be spontaneous and be able to change it.
  5. Experience not just the monuments but the people, food and wine.

Italy is a passionate and romantic country. Experience all of its emotions.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Bars, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Romance, Small Towns, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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