Monday, July 17, 2017

Rome One Bite at a Time: food tour

I was introduced to The Roman Guy prior to my spring trip Home to Italy.   This Roman based company offers group or private travel experiences in major Italian cities as well as day trips.  For the week I was in Rome tour choices included early morning Vatican visits, art tours, gallery tours, walking and bike tours and many more.  Too many to fit into a week long visit!

Since I am a solo traveler the opportunity to enjoy local Italian food in locations I would not find on my own, was perfect.  I arranged to join the evening food tour "Trastevere Locals Food Tour in Rome". 

Michaele Henry would be leading our group tonight and he warmly welcomed each participant and introduced himself.

piazza Farnese 
The tour began at the piazza Farnese Michaele shared the history of the areas we were visiting and many antidotes that made our tour far more engaging.

Our first stop was a short distance away to sample a wide selection of cheeses.  The interior of this shop reminded me of an Italian deli in the Italian neighborhoods in New Jersey.


There were several trays of cheese samples prepared and Michaele  explained how each cheese was made and how they differed from each other.   This was a learning experience as well as a great start to our evening. 

Our appetites wet we moved on to Campo di' Fiore and had a quick history lesson about Giordano Bruno (statue in the center of the campo).   Bruno was a philosopher who died at the stake for heresy.
Campo di Fiore is a favorite place for locals as well as tourists.

 Next stop to try baccala.

Baccala was described as a "favorite Roman street food snack".   I only think of this fish in the dried form so it was a surprise to find  how moist the fried morsels were.    The batter is made with sparkling water and renders coating that is light. 

One woman cooks all the fish in a large fry pan

Our group finished all the platters of baccala

From Campo di Fiore we walked over the Ponte Sisto (bridge) to Trastevere to have some of the best pizza this Italian American has ever tried.  Pizza al taglio:  pizza by the slice.

The hot slice of pizza was crisp and very flavorful  



Farm to Table: 

Our next stop is for antipasto in a Kilometer zero restaurant.    "The Roma Guy explains that whatever is served in a KmO shop or restaurant is produced in the local region or surrounding area.  The product has traveled almost zero kilometers to your plate".

Our group almost filled this entire artisan restaurant.   Large platters of meats and cheeses were set in front of us to taste and cold white wine (for some of us) to sip while we tasted.   Not a fan of cured meats,  I passed on those and enjoyed the wonderful toppings on the fresh breads.   Wine, bread, cheese............

It was growing dark as we walked to our next restaurant.  The lights from the buildings surrounding the small square where we sat outside made a festive mood.  After a few glasses of wine our group became more chatty.   And I believe we were all becoming happily full.

                                                         And we ate some MORE!

OK this was so GOOD I forgot to photograph it!

In addition to the great food and new restaurants this was a great learning experience about how the dishes were prepared, sometimes the history of a dish or the ingredients and preparation.   Michaele has an endless knowledge of Rome, it's neighborhoods and food.

                                                         White and Red pasta.
                 Hard to say which was better and YES I finished my plate as I was taught to do.
                 Fresh pasta is a  unique taste and texture and the fresh sauce and grated chees was     
                                                   filled with a wonderful aroma
The best saved for Last    Gelato
With many falvors to choose from everyone selected two.
An evening tour is the perfect time to see Rome with almost no tourists, avoid the heat of the day and join the locals in their evening passeggita. 

On your next trip to Italy enjoy an experience not just a tour. 
See all the opportunities at The Roman Guy www. and enjoy!

I want to thank The Roman Guy for such a wonderful evening and I will join another food tour with them on my next trip  Home to Italy.   All opinions and photos in this post are my own. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Olga  Stinga and her special recipes...

When you are a traveler in Italy you often make friends you stay in touch with for long after your trip ends.  

I had the fortune of meeting Olga Stinga when I attended Italian language classes at Sant' 
Anna Institute during a 3 month sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy.   

Olga has shared the recipes passed on to her from her Aunt Milina and here is another one to enjoy.

Almond Sorbet, Italian style

The most delicate sorbet of them all, and you don't even need an ice-cream machine!

You can prepare one of the most delicate sorbets in Italy in no time and without an ice-cream machine. This gorgeous almond sorbet is one of Sicily's most famed dishes but it is famous also in Sorrento!

My Almond Sorbet (the recipe of my aunt)


Granita di mandorle [pronunciation is: grahneetah dee mandawrlay]

200gr almonds, shelled and skinned
1 liter mineral water
300gr sugar
Bitter almond extract

- Start by grinding the almonds to a powder. You can use a mortar and pestle like I do or do it in the mixer, but please don't use ground almonds bought from the store, much of the delicate almond taste will be gone before you even start.
- Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add the ground almonds and leave to rest overnight. You can use a mixer to further grind the almonds in the liquid if you want. The point of the overnight infusion is to draw as much of the almonds' flavor as possible.
- The next day, taste and add a little sugar or bitter almond extract if needed.
- Some people will not filter their granita but I find the bland almond powder distasteful. I recommend you use a cloth or find sieve to filter them out. - You will end up with almond milk, a whitish liquid reminiscent of cow milk but with a delicious barley water flavor. Amazing for breakfast!

If you have an ice cream machine, just churn it until frozen. Most people don't have an ice-cream machine and just place the almond milk in the freezer, removing it every 30 minutes or so for a quick mixing with an electric mixer. You could even do it with a fork, the point being to avoid the formation of large water crystals and go for a snow-like consistency.

It is traditionally eaten over brioche, the French butter-and-egg Sunday bread, a testimonial of 19th century French influences over upper-class local cuisine. Although the association of ice cream and pastry seems odd and of the I-love-to-mix-ketchup-with-mustard kind, the combination is a real winner.

I recently served this with brioche for breakfast but I love it decorated with small piecs of white almonds!

Sorrento Lingue S.r.l.
Registered office: Via Marina Grande, 16 - 80067 - Sorrento (NA) Italy
Headquarters: Via Marina Grande, 16 - 80067 - Sorrento (NA) Italy
Paid in capital: € 50.000,00 I.V. REA: TO-908649
P.IVA 07631160012
Phone: +39 081.807.55.99 | +39 081.878.44.70
Fax: +39 081.532.41.40

Monday, May 22, 2017

Florence: the children's home Ospedale degli Innocenti

More of the renovation has been completed 5/1/2017
 Florence, Italy

Ospedale degli Innocenti: the hospital of the innocents

Walking through the Piazza Santissima Annunziata as an exchange student many years ago, the imposing building on the east side of the piazza was never open, but it has proudly kept its long history of service to children.  

For the past year+ scaffolding and plastic sheathing has promised a renovation that will educate visitors on the buildings’ history.
The building style was unique for the 1400 and well documented in Wikipedia.

Now open to the public the ospedale innocente tells the story of the children left at the infants table (a circular platform that rotated to send the infant to the interior of the building) or older children brought to the ospedale when parents could no longer care for them.  Parents entrusted children to the ospedale until the family might be able to continue to care for them.

According to the information at the 'infants table' that infants were passed through the bars.   I expect only very young infants managed to pass this test.  
Other children were housed, fed and trained for skilled jobs when they reached maturity.   Girls might become nuns or marry since the organization supplied dowries for girls.   
Three floors are open to view for a small admission fee.   On the top floor is a large glassed wall café with outside seating to enjoy the rooftop views.   Off the cloister on the prima piano is a large meeting room and many other doors that were not open to visitors.   

On my second visit I found a new portion of the museum open for visitors.

                                                      The Museum

This is an interactive museum with audio, videos and text available in English as well as Italian.   A headset is an additional fee.  You can spend as much time as you wish at each exhibit. 
The bank of wooden drawers was captivating.

Each drawer was labeled with a child’s name and a date.  Inside is the original item a mother might have left with her child so that identification might be easier when a parent returned to claim their offspring.     Opening a drawer from more than 200 or 300 years ago, you find a ribbon or half of a medal (the parent would keep the other half) and other mementos that came to the ospedale with a child. 
I inspected dozens of boxes, some from the late 1800’s thinking of the mothers who left their children to be cared at the institute.

There is a note station nearby where you are asked to leave a message. Videos of several of former siblings of children adopted from the ospedale can also be played in English and explained how a family might bring a child from the ospedale home to join their other children.


                      Black and white photo show some of the children and workers, always formal photos. 

You could easily spend most of the day reading all the display entries, enjoying lunch in the café and viewing the extensive art exhibit also housed in the buildings.     I saw Italian tour guides with small groups in the museum but no mention of any scheduled tours.

The top floor art gallery houses pieces from very well-known artists.  The room is striking from an architectural view point.

Large gift shop is located on the first floor, free lockers at the entrances allow you to store handbags and back packs (free when I visited) and restrooms.  
There is a small Church within the ospedale but it is only open on Sundays for mass.  Perhaps on my next visit more of the interior is renovated that exhibits from the daily lives of the children and the caretakers will be on display: furniture, clothing, housewares and written accounts from the years the ospedale was open.  

Let your mind wander back hundreds of years and you are in Renaissance Florence.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

See Italy: advice from locals

An inside look into travel in Italy but    
NOT a travel book 


My Secret Italy A Girl’s Guide to Intimate Italy, by Isabella Campagnol, Beatrice Campagnol and Elizabeth Rainer
Photographs by Lorenzo Di Renzo 

This collaboration by native Italians offers a fresh approach to experiencing Italian culture, a cities and people.   The authors share the secret places and locals you can find in Italy if you know where to look, includes wonderful history lessons, folklore, superstition and biographies.       

Italy is special.   The more you visit the more you long to return.   If you have a love for the Italian way of life or enjoy exploring a town or city beyond the list of ‘important sites’, the approach the writers of this ‘experience guide’ take, will show you how to enjoy Italy on a different level.  Tourists transform into travelers when they enjoy meeting locals, discovering unknown places and experiences not featured in travel books.  My Secret Italy opens doors to the places and people that may not be included in well promoted travel books.     

This is NOT a tour book but a great on the ground resource for seeing Italy as a traveler.  You may find yourself reading every page of My Secret Italy, as I did and highlighting many ‘stops’ for your next trip Home to Italy.  The introduction explains “the inspiration for My Secret Italy from the destinations for the 19th century traditional Grand Tour”.   Today’s list includes far more: “all of these experiences, and more, become a select itinerary for the sensitive traveler”.   What a great inspiration!

Each chapter in this delightful book takes you to a different region in Italy, many that are not on the usual tourist’s list.   You visit large and small cities and even a few small towns.     You will learn more than what are the most important buildings, churches or art found in each location but also discover such treasures as ‘Emilian rolled-out pastry in Bologna, a house with 12 sisters in Milan, a museum to Mary in Abruzzo, silks for a King in Caserta, the statue that stopped the lava in Naples or wine doors and windows in Firenze’.  Stunning photographs and illustrations punctuate each description.  

With more than 70 entries you are sure to find some surprises.  Have you visited the Museo dell’Occhiale (eye ware museum) in a small town in the Dolomites?  Did you know that Nove in the province of Vicenza is known for ceramics?   The legend of “An Honest Woman and a Greedy One” (page 45) will have me searching for the marble face in the wall, in Venice.     If I visited a fraction of the fascinating shops and artisans listed, I would be traveling for many weeks.    Just a small sample of many unique entries.  

You will find a few recipes included and contact information for shops and museums is also available.    Directions should be available on the individually listed web sites.   The color-coded sections, dividing entries into North, South, East or West, allows the reader to target parts of Italy. 

A thoroughly enjoyable read even for an armchair traveler. 

“My Secret Italy” A Girl’s Guide to Intimate Italy by Isabella Campagnol, Beatrice Campagnol and Elisabeth Rainer.   Photographs by Lorenzo Di Renzo 
ISBN number 9788873017738 

You may also enjoy the in depth tour of Venice where you will meet artisans and visit shops  while learning about Venice from locals.
“My Pretty Venice” a Girls’ guide to True Venice by Isabella Campagnol, Elisabeth Rainer, Illustrations by Beatrice Campagnol
ISBN 9788873017745

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Learn Italian in Sorrento Italy

Travel to Sorrento and experience living as a local while you learn Italian!
Sant’Anna Institute

After years of experiencing Italy as a tourist I moved to Sorrento and attending the language program at Sant’Anna Institute.   

This experience was unique and even after 8 years I still am in contact with the wonderful instructors, professors and even the other students from this experience.    

Now you have an opportunity to immerse yourself in one of the most charming cities in Italy.   Locals may tell you they would never consider living anywhere else!

Special offer for March and April 2017: study Italian and live in  Sorrento, Italy

The school is housed in a former convent with a stunning view of the sea

  • -20% off on the Italian courses fee (1 week = 220€  176€ / 2 weeks = 400€   320€)
  • - Enrollment fee at 60€ (instead of 75€)
  • -1 hour individual lesson for FREE
  • - Orientation tour of Sorrento
  • - Cultural courses
  • - Italian Cinema at School
  • - Free Wi-Fi
  • - Activities, trips and more… 
Programs are available to all ages and is a great alternative to a traditional tour.

Accommodation are not included.

The school offers different accommodation options on request at an extra cost.

Sant'Anna Institute | Via Marina Grande, 16 | 80067 - Sorrento (NA) Italy | 
Tel: +39 081.807.55.99 - Fax: +39 081.878.44.70 | Email:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Agnone, another hidden treasure in Italia

            Almost every week I stumble on a comment, post or reference to another 'treasure' in Italy.   It may be a stunning work of art, museum or landscape but I also discover people with a dedication to their village, crafts or ancient skills.    
Photo credit:

Agnone is a town I have not visited and had to search online for the map location.   Jenifer Landor shared some of the special people you can meet in Agnone.

Jenifer Landor

The story of the bells..........

"The fascinating heritage of a small Italian town in the Apennine hills -  where, for centuries the Marinelli family have been making bells"

"The 3rd oldest continuously family-owned business in the world is in Molise – in the small town of Agnone, where my grandfather’s cousins have been making bells for over 1000 years. A heritage passed down from father to son in a town famous for its artisans – gold, silver, copper, stone and ironwork among the most important."

"At one time, there were 6 families making bells in Agnone – today, only the Marinelli family continues the craft, sending bells all around the world."

"As a child growing up in America, my mother used a small Marinelli bell to call us to dinner – it could be heard throughout the neighbourhood. We dimly knew the story, and acknowledged some pride in being related to the ‘oldest bell makers in the world’. Our family visit to Agnone one summer left a deep and lasting impression on all of us.

                                         In the bell foundry as Children in the summer of 1967 –

the Marinelli brothers today, Armando and Pasquale

"But it is really only now, having spent considerable time in this unique town, that I begin to understand the enormity of this heritage."

"La Fonderia Pontificia Marinelli continues today to use the original ‘lost wax’ technique of its founders. Artisans first imprint a wax form of the design onto a brick structure covered in clay, which is then overlaid with a second layer of clay to form a ‘false bell’.  When the wax inside is melted, it leaves the design imprint on the inside of the ‘false bell’."

the art room where wax designs are being created

Using an ancient wood-burning furnace, the molten bronze is heated to a temperature of 1200c (2200f) and poured into the gap between to form the bell.

                         Outside the foundry with various cousins and its then director, Zio Pasqualino.

The Marinelli Bell Foundry after WWII

"The process of creating a bell in this way, entirely by hand, takes a minimum of 3 months and requires enormous strength, courage and concentration. The mould is placed in a deep pit where it is buried in sand and soil which has been carefully patted down to prevent the slightest movement. When molten bronze flows into the space between the ‘soul’ and the ‘false’ bells, a priest says a blessing and the workers come together to offer prayers. As the bell begins to cool, good wishes are exchanged. Later it is sanded and polished and the clapper is added to produce the correct sound."

                   Take a look at the foundry -

the Art room  
"In 1924 Pope Pius XI granted Papal status to the foundry – hence, its official name, Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli. 30 years later, the Italian President honoured the Marinelli Family with a gold medal for their prestigious work and status as the oldest family business in Europe.

Some of the famous bells created at the Marinelli Foundry are:

1923    Pompeii –restoration of the Mariano Sanctuary
1950    Monte Cassino - reconstruction of the Church of San Benedetto, destroyed during the battle               of Monte Cassino in WWII
1961    Rome – commemoration of 100th anniversary of the founding of Italy
1992    Washington DC – to commemorate 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery               of America
1995    NYC – for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations
2000    Rome - Jubilee Bell for St Peter’s Square, inaugurated by John Paul II
2004    Pisa - Leaning Tower, a 600k replica of the 17th century bell damaged in the bombing of 1944"

"Agnone is a simple and modest place, its inhabitants are fiercely proud of their heritage and the traditions of their ancestors."

"If you are thinking of an experience in a small town to learn Italian and meet the locals contact":

I hope Jenifer will share more about learning Italian with locals in a future post.

Meanwhile contact her directly.
LIVE AND LEARN ITALIAN invites you to combine Italian study with exploring the traditions and everyday life of the region, mixing with the community and engaging in local activities. Of course, a visit to the Foundry is high on the list of special events.

Live And Learn Italian
Intensive language and culture holidays - off the beaten track

+44 7771 750 189
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Look Up! or you will miss the most unusual things

If you look around you and always look UP, 

there are amazing things to see

Street artist that caught my attention
I often wonder who they are without makeup?
Every day at lunch the line snakes down the street for hot sandwiches.

Two years ago this midget (only 2 patrons at a time) shop opened just a few blocks for the Duomo in Florence.
Select your bread from several oversized loafs, select your filling and the owner will 'toast it' or what you will recognize as a pannini machine.  I tried cheese but it never became a grilled cheese.   Filling and well priced.