Sunday, November 28, 2010

BIG storm at sea

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finding and Visiting Our Family Village

I have threatened my family that I was going to find and visit Petina for the past 3 years. Other relatives have visited by car, but I had hoped to take the train and taxi to this small town.
Little did I know that there IS NOT TRAIN OR TAXI. You can take the bus from Salerno 2 times a day and hope that this bus returns the SAME day. This was not the best choice.
I contacted several car service web sites on line. But the car servies could not give me a driver who spoke English. Not a problem for driving to and from Petina but I needed to obtain a birth certificate for my grandfather from the town hall. After a week of travel in Italy, I have been told many times that I really do not speak Italian and they have NO idea what language I am speaking! Strange because I have entire conversations with myself in Italian........ they are probably correct, i never use the proper tense or verb and my pronuciation could be polish for all I know.

But I shall not be detered. An American living in Southern Itlay who i met on Face Book put me in touch with

They have a wonderful website story about their founder and the years he spent building his business. They could accommodate me or a large tour group. And they would drive me wherever I needed and pick my up anywhere on the Amalfi coast! The perfect company. I will post a short blog about
Daniela Criscuolo in the future. But I loved their photos of the first taxi the company had. Right out of the 1940's!!!

So what am I to do aboutmy trip to Petina?

I tried a different approach.
I wrote to the language school I attended in Sorrento and the two schools I found on line in Salerno (closer to the area I needed to visit).  Only one school returned my email and told me about a british woman who taught English in their school.  Maria would be able to help me!!!  Yeah.  I dont know the Italian for Yeah!  but you get the idea.

This is Petina from the small two lane road that you take after exiting the maniac super highway.
I wondered aloud how did the family travel from this village to Naples to take their ship to America?
There were no cars in the late 1800s, there was no road, just I expect a track for waggons.

My aunt told me this week that my grandfather tried to jump off the wagon to return to the village as they pulled away......  so it is off to Naples by wagon!  It took an hour at top speed to arrive here.  How many days would it take to go throgh the mountains to reach Naples????   What an ordeal before they even boarded the ship.

So Maria and her delightful husband picked me up in Salerno (of course my Italian said one hotel and they went to a different one) and off we speed to Petina.   I am still amazed these kind people would take their time to take a stranger to a remote village in the mountains.

As a coincident the best man at their wedding lives in the area and he met up near Petina.  Here are my merry band of helpers in the records office:

After some discussion where I only understood some of the conversation the wonderful clerk found the book of all baptisims in Petina.  Hand written by the church priest and passed on.   Now the records were also filed by hand in an official book.  By searching the year of birth, they found the record of my grandfathers birth.   Of course this was not important to anyone but me but it was very moving.   The records are over 100 years old and they are just thumbing through the pages......

In further convesation with the most kind town clerk, we find that no family members remain in Petina but that we should try the next town.   Before we leave Petina we can walk by the house where my great grand parents and grandfather lived.   I just know all the zias and zios will lover this::::

But shall I tell them about the scandal?

So off we go to Sicignano degli Alburni which is over the mountain through the national forest and miles of chesnut trees that are ready to harvest.

This town is much larger and livler.  Petina had only 3 people in the street, all over 100 years old.  Two were waiting for the fish merchant to arrive in his mini van to sell fresh fish.......  Perhaps everyone else communtes to work or as I was told, works on farms in the surrounding area.

Petina is VERY clean and tidy.  Homes are well kept and we were able to walk around the entire town in a short time.  

When we arrived at Sicignano we made another visit to the county clerk just as they were delivering take out expresso!!!  Watch out starbucks.

With great luck, the clerk here knew the only remaining Laurino!  And sig. Laurino was called, came by the town hall and walked up over to his office..   Vittori is an engineer and speaks English.  He also had brothers in NYC and a relative with a summer home on Long Beach Island!!! this is only 1/2 hr from my home in NJ.

Life is very strange and the world is small

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Even nuns have a bad day sometimes.....

I am traveling in Italy for 30 days and this is not a glamor trip. While doing several other projects, see other posts, I am trying to see if I can do Italy on 100 a day. NO not 100 dollars, 100 euors and it is difficult. So I am staying in convent hotels in most of the cities I will visit. I break up these austere accomodations with hotels and an apartment for a week in Spoleto.

In Rome I stayed at one location two separate times. The building has the most amazing roof terrace! Had dinner up there and videoed the sunset over St Peters. But on my second visit in 10 days when I asked for a fan for my room I was given a hair dryer. No i dont know the word for fan or hair dryer but hair dryer is easier to pantomine! I offered to draw a pictue and received the usual Italian hand signal to go away and see me tomorrow. Well I didnt need a fan in the morning , i needed one TONIGHT.

So I just put it in my funny story pile.

I was lucky, I was not asked to leave when my alarm clock went off at 7:00pm. No I did not wake anyone but as I walked down from the roof terrace I heard a noise similar to a car alarm.... this is from the 4th floor. As i got closer to the 2nd floor where my room was I realized it was my alram clock! You could hear it from four floors away and through thick stone.... jsut another travel event, small and trivial...

The bus in Italy hates me.....

NEVER take the bus!! i have written about riding the bus to Fiuggi with 25 teenagers
I have taken the bus to Fiesole but that was the end of the route and i could not get lost, but i have been left in a small town during the FOUR hour lunch hour because the bus did not run and today I took the BUS from Hell.

i have not done the amalfi coast bus because i understand it is very scary but today i was in Capri
and wanted to see Anna Capri and you must take the bus or go by taxi. the bus was packed and one of the riders pushed me into the stairwell so that he could be more comfortable. As we go up the mountain the bus is within 3 inches of the edge of the road. i tried to tell the driver i wanted to get off but noticed even if i wanted to walk back there were NO sidewalks. buses, cars, motorskooters were all careening up the hill around curves. All i saw was the thousands of feet to the bottom or into the sea.

So i shall keep my vow to NEVER take the bus. This week i shall take the ferry to Salerno.

Home To Italy Finding my family Home

Everything is out of order, I am posting events that happended today and have not posted the previous week. But a quick up date on my adventure: i did find and visit our home village of Petina and as for traveling in Italy for 100 euors a day HA, I have good days and bad days. I do not intentionally spend less on food for the days my hotel exceeds the budget. But I do think it will all average out in the end.

The only problem is the LUGGAGE! I have traveled before and can not understand why this trip is so heavy. I shall be shipping things home or throwing them away before i drag this bag anoother mile to the train station.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I am finally Home to Italy!

I have been in Italy for 2 1/2 days and this is the first wifi spot i have found so that I may use my own computer!
I must add photos to this spot since it is close to heaven, literally, i am on a cliff side on Capri in a delightful albergo piccolo.   More on that today.

Truely as I sit overlooking the ocean, rock cliffs and the many houses perched on the hill side I wonder how it becomes any better than this........

But today my computer is speaking Italian!!! when i signed on the screen was all in Italain!   Just guessing at the proper prompts and we will see where it takes us.

More later.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home to Italy 2010 Is NOTHING like a trip on $50 a day.....

Today a solo  trip home to Italy requires more planning and a lot more HELP.
I have signed up for a global "watch" to give me assistance if i run into trouble.   Nice but I can't even use the Italian phone system without help!   One year,before cell phones, until I met a very helpful shop keeper in Venice I could NOT call the airlines to change my ticket.     I ended up phoning from a public booth in the middle of a piazza!  A little noisy.

I plan to go back to this shop and spend money on xmas gifts as a thank you for her kindness.  I often wonder if the people who touch my life while traveling even notice or remember the incidents that meant so much to me.
When I am in Sorrento next month I will visit the Tuesday market just to see if the man who sells cheese remembers me.   I still can feel the thrill the day I visited the weekly market when his face lit up with a big smile and a buongiorno!     I felt as if I actually belonged.   Perhaps  I just looked like someone else he knew but no mater.

Being an observer and not always a participant I notice reactions, facial expressions, gestures that never seem to be seen by others.   Example:  the flower vendor was offended when the tourist wanted to take a photo and NOT buy a plant.    When I always asked for one vegetable at a time, I often received exasperated looks that I was a waste of time.

But back to prep work for a month+ solo in Italy:   Now I require trip insurance and the more important insurance to ship you home if you become ill  or worse die while away.    A procedure I did not care to discuss with the insurance agent.   After insurance you find a place to buy Euros.   You forward the mail.
Find someone to pay your bills on time.   Have someone do your yard work so the neighbors do not think you have walked away from your mortgage.    And then there is packing.

Does anyone else pack by putting everything they have every wanted to take to Italy with them on every flat surface in your room.  Sort by colors, Cross sort so colors work with several different items,  on and on and on.  Eliminate, eliminate.

But my favorite was deciding what remedies for what ever possible condition you could ever come down with in a few short weeks:  itches, pains, scrapes, blisters, etc.    And then there are the hair products........

All this will fit into a 40 lb bag!   This year I have a 7lb suitcase which will give me 4 extra pounds of stuff  I can bring that I  may not use.

So back to the sorting and stacking.   Guess I really do not need that "out to dinner dress" since I don't know anyone and to stay in my 100 Euros a day budge,  I shall be having a good lunch and probably pizza for dinner.

If you have the perfect packing list, let us know.

Italy on 100 a day, Ha!

Do you mean $100.00 a day or 100 Euros a day?
Remember the Frommer travel books that showed you on the summer before or after college graduation, how to travel for 3 weeks to all the countries in Western Europe for $50.00 a day?  
I took that trip my junior year with two other girls and we ate where Arthur told us, booked b&b's where he suggested and did the trip on little money.
We were not back packers.  I had worked two jobs the previous summer to pay for the adventure. 
 If you can believe this, jeans were just becoming popular,  yes there was a time before jeans.   You will see the 3 of us in our photos in Izod look alike dresses, our practical rain coats and luggage before they came with wheels.

So now i am returning to Italy (my 8th or 9th trip) solo, seeing if the 30 day trip can be done for 100Euros a day.  I gave up on the idea of $100 a day when I found prices up about 20E from my last trip 18 months ago.

I will not be sleeping in hostels, couch surfing or in train stations.   My trip includes a week in a large apartment in Spoleto in Umbria and several guest houses/hotels run by convents in Rome and Florence. 

I leave in 4 days and of course I am not packed and do not have hotels booked for 1/4th of the trip!   But that is part of the adventure.

See you next in Italia!    All my Italian American amici write and tell me your favorite town/city in Italia.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Why do you Go to Italy solo?

I hear this everytime I start to plan, pack and become frenzied peparing for my return Home To Italy every year or 18 months.  
How do you explain the pull that Italy has?  
How do you explain what it is like to feel the energy of the people in a market?

How do you explain the marvel that the 800+ year old building is still being used and how did they do that without steel supports?

I have stopped trying to explain the intangible feeling that solo travel to an Italian American returning to Italy feels..........
and so glad i have that spark that makes it so exciting....

Solo Travel To Rome: where to eat solo????

As I prepare for my 8th solo Trip Home to Italy I asked a colleague where would she recommend to eat, solo, in Rome
I think I shall try at least one of them next week when I am home in Italia!!!

Here are some restaurants for a solo dinner:

1 - "Le Finestre” in via Chiana 80, Tel.: 06-8551076, This is an informal restaurant for every age that serves pizza, meat and salads. Outdoor space. The area is Trieste near Parioli (villa Borghese)

2 - Always in Trieste is "Napolitanos", an Italian Steak House, there is another one in NYC, that also serves pasta and salads in viale Regina Margherita 72, Tel.: 06-8844684, 
slightly dim, relaxing atmosphere inside and an outdoor space in spring/summer, casual, also for solo people who are in Rome for work

3 - In the historic centre in a side street off  piazza del Popolo there is "Gusto" which is restaurant, pizzeria, bar. There is always a lot going on, casual and mixed customers.

Where do you suggest a solo traveler to eat in Rome???

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Perugia Chocolate Festival!

who thought up the most wonderful 'holiday' in the world?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Villa Rental In Umbria and Olive Picking/Pressing near Pisa and learning Italian in Todi!

I am going Home To Italy after more than 18 months since my last visit.
It is like a fix, chocolate, wine, face book,  something that completes your day and enhances your life.
While talking with a stranger about Italy I was amazed that they understood how addictive Italy can be.   Almost from the time you step off the plan or the ship if you are lucky to have that method of arrival, something happens.  Life becomes animated, people are seen in color, I feel more alive.  Perhaps it is becaue I can understand some of what they say and listening to their daily conversations is like watching a movie.  When you view life from the outside/in it can be very interesting.

Back to the topic!   I have not posted in weeks because I was finishing a 23 year career that I closed this week, tried to sell a house to finance the plan to move Home To Italy (yes that was a joke in todays market) and organizing my next adventure:  30 days in country and a 2 week sail back to NYC.

Have so much to share and I shall post each in turn, so stay tuned for my life, Home to Italy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Flash Backs of Italy! Or just dreams of a life in the Tuscan Hills?

Have you visited Italy or have you dreamed of a trip to the wonderful areas of Italy?

Take a moment to meat a colleague of mine I met while promoting Italian real estate here in the USA.
Ms Ford and I stayed in touch over the past 6 years and visit every trip I return HomeToItaly.
Now I find there is an artist behind the real estate professional! 
Do you remember the incredible light, the colors and how they change as the day progresses when you walk the streets of a very old town or city in Italy? 
Now you can take that image home in photos or even note cards.
Take a look at Sheilas gallery of art treasures and make one your own.

From her web site:


Real Estate agent by profession but by passion photographer, Sheila Ford has lived and worked in Florence for more than 25 years.

"Of English origin she has always had a love for photography. On her eighth birthday she was given her first camera a Kodak Brownie 127 which she still keeps! 
Today her photography is much more involved and wishes to share her emotions captured through the eye of the lens. The Florence and Tuscany she knows, the streets, colors, ancient stones revisited time and again from angles less known."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No more Beach Vacations

Now that I don't spend every waking hour tanning or sitting on the beach (even if i did spend the time reading a book) it opens up far more time and opportunity on where I can travel, solo.
The beach is wonderful and the view of the sea or ocean one of the joys of life, but if you add up all the hours from age 16 to 35 (approx) you could travel the world in that amount. And your tan fades, and you freckle and have brown spots later on. Yes it is true.

However, i watched Italians sun every possible moment while I was in Sorrento, and show no wear and tear on them as you looked at older sun worshipers. Who can stay indoors with a view of the sea, the islands, or just a walk along the coast??

Now what to do with all this time?

Traveling solo and on a budget (because of the dreaded single supplements) often requires that I have to travel off season: Europe in the fall or spring, the USA the reverse of the vacationers:

beach trips in the winter, ski areas or Montana, Utah in the early summer. Forget about seeing the leaves change in the fall, two many couples to be able to find a room.

There is an art to solo travel and I am still exploring all the possibilities.

how do you handle the cost of solo travel during the "best" travel times

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Food in Italy a Good 4 letter word! Have you tried any of these?

A recent post on FB from Venere listed a number of restaurants and pubs in the Campania area of Italy
(south of Naples and all the way to Salerno+).   I was interested in this because I had lived in Sorrento Solo for 3 months while assessing if I could really live in Italy as an Italian.   Since I am Italian American I thought it would be no problema!  While there I was on a very tight budget since I still had to maintain a home in the USA and had NO income.  Sounds like my life now with out the view of the sea, view of the bella people and great food.     So I did not have the opportunity to eat in the wonderful places listed in their report.   Please see below.

However, to compare their opinion with that of my travel angel, Andrea, I asked him to rate the list.
Why is Andrea a travel angel?  see at the bottom of this post..*******

Venere's post from Face Book:

Venere Travel Blog > Restaurants & Food > Best Restaurants and Pubs in Campania

Best Restaurants and Pubs in Campania

Anita Choudhary Thursday, May 6th, 2010

One of Southern Italy’s most beautiful regions is Campania. It is the most densely populated area in Italy as well as being the second most populated region of the country. Throughout the region’s colorful history, it has been at the center of Western Civilization since the beginning. The capital city of Campania, as well as a very popular tourist destination is Naples but the entire region is rich in architecture, culture, and of course, Italian cuisine.

Throughout the region, there is definitely no lack of great pubs and restaurants to explore and enjoy while visiting Campania. Whether it is the allure of active nightlife over a few rounds of beer or wine, or if you want a romantic dinner for two to cap off your evening out, Campania has something for every taste. The following is a list of our choices for the best pubs and restaurants to enjoy while you are visiting this region of Southern Italy.
Bar del Carmine Di Collela E Fattorusso
Located right in the center of the city of Sorrento, this is one of the more popular pubs in the Amalfi Coast and the entire region. Many visitors rave about the relaxing atmosphere and that it is the best place to kick back and just watch the world fly by.

Bar Birecto
Considered to be the best traditional café and pub in the town of Atrani, it is one of the most popular meeting places in the town and is always a hub of activity.

Tramp’s Pub
Rated as the best combination pub and restaurant in the city of Salerno, Tramp’s is always a busy place. You’ll want to consider making reservations well ahead of when you want to eat or endure a lengthy wait if you show up during peak dining hours.

Jolly Blu

Another great combination pub and restaurant located in the city of Sant’Agnello it is definitely one of the city’s most popular dining and drinking destinations as well as a must-see stop on your itinerary.

Da Giovanni’s
A multi-use type of restaurant located in Avellino, Da Giovanni’s has something for every one including families with children or having a business meeting. Additionally, the facility features outdoor seating to enhance your meal or you can take advantage of their take-out buffet. Italian cuisine is the primary aspect of the menu, but you can also enjoy American, fish and chips, Mediterranean, and Mexican.


Another great restaurant for families with children located in the city of Salerno and features a wide array of cuisines including American barbeque and Middle Eastern cuisine. The restaurant operates on a buffet format and provides the diner with outdoor seating to make your dining experience that much more enjoyable.

Photo of Atrani, in the Amalfi Coast, by Allerina & Glen MacLarty.

Andrea, who works in travel had the following opinions.

restaurants, here are my TOP choices  as per Andrea:  

In Amalfi, try La Caravella and Da Gemma.

In Conca dei Marini, Ciccio cielo mare e terra.

In Positano: Le tre sorelle, in front of the beach, and La Tagliata located in the highest part of the village.

In Praiano La Brace

In Salerno Tramp's Pub

The most famous (and VERY expensive) restaurant in the area is probably Don

Alfonso, in Sant'Agata (between Positano and Sorrento).      Did he say "Don"?


yes Birecto in Atrani, and del Carmine in Sorrento are indeed nice.

in Salerno, in via roma, you will find about 50 pubs next each to other. Salerno, during the week end, is famous for its movida (night life along its many pubs)

I promised you an explaination about Andrea.   The additonal information on Salerno is on part 2,
see you there

ice cream the next food group!

once again, Dream Of Italy, (subscribe to their news letter) has captured a part of Vita Italia that we do not have here.  read and dream.   This is something any Solo Traveler can do!   Go now, Go Home To Itlay!!!

Dream of Italy Travel Newsletter: A Reason to Fly to Italy: The Florence Gelato FestivalDream of Italy Travel Newsletter's Notes.

A Reason to Fly to Italy: The Florence Gelato FestivalShare. Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 8:55am

Florence, what some consider the mecca for gelato lovers, will host the Florence Gelato Festival from May 28th through the 31st. Gelato (to call it ice cream is to not do it justice) is practically a staple food in Italy and especially in Florence. The festival expected to draw 300,000 visitors to the city for the weekend event.

Piazzas and squares all over the city will turn into outdoor gelato markets where the public can line up to sample the rich, creamy ice cream served in biodegradable, earth-friendly cups. The Gelato Festival will also incorporate gelato-making demonstrations and games for children.

Visitors can also attend meetings and seminars in Piazza Santissima Annunziata to learn about the history and consumption of gelato in Florence, starting with the man who invented gelato – Bernardo Buontalenti, a 16th-century Florentine architect, painter, and food enthusiast – and continuing to present-day gelato artisans. These workshops will also educate participants about the range of techniques used in the production of gelato.
The festival aims not only to provide visitors with delicious ice cream, but also to educate foreigners about the quality and importance of gelato as an indispensable Italian product. Besides its large contribution to the Italian and global economy – gelato has increased in sales and production during the current recession – the unique ice cream is also recommended by some Italian doctors for the reported “happy effects” it produces in consumers. -- Elaine Murphy

Monday, May 3, 2010

What was that cheese? Food In Italy is all Important.

An article I found on Sorrento Info.  A great group of travel professonals in Sorrentol.
The generously allowed me to use their office a few days while living in Sorrento.  Kind and generous and a great source of accomdations and other info.  Be sure to see their web cam in the center of Sorrento.  You will feel like you are living there!

The Provolone del Monaco cheese

Besides being a beautiful natural and historic place, the Sorrentine Peninsula is famous for its gastronomy and delicious typical products. Among these products there is one of the most tasty and appreciated cheese all over the world: the Provolone del Monaco. It is produced on the Lattari Mountains, an area with a wholesome air, pasture lands and plenty of water.

In ancient times the product was brought to Naples to be sold because it was too expensive for the rural inhabitants. During the sea journey from the beach of Seiano to the port of Naples, shepherds used to wear a long mantle to shelter themselves from the cold so that they seemed real monks. That’s why the cheese is called ‘Provolone del Monaco’ (Monk’s Cheese).

Technically speaking, the Provolone del Monaco is the result of a raw milk processing. The milk comes from Agerolese cows and is rich in organoleptic properties. The cheese has a characteristic ‘pear’ shape, but it can also have a cylindrical one. After it has reached the desired shape, the pickle, drying and maturing phases follow. They are made in cellars for a period of time that goes from 4 to 18 months.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I have been "home to Italy" every year for the past 5 solo. and 2 years ago i took a sabatical in Sorrento for 3 months. Since i am older most people dont notice me but i had no problem traveling throughout the country and visiting most of the sites i wanted to see.

suggestions: some of my best hotel accomodations have been booked with throughout italy there are many convents/monestaries that no longer are used as school or hve enough memebers. They rent CLEAN room, are safe and in the case of the one i stayed in in Spoletto had some of the best food of my entire trip.
The sisters and staff usually think it is interesting that you are off on your own and are curious. In most of the locations i meet travelers from other countries as well as Italy. If you want more of a service/social setting the properties with Venere have been great. i travel by train so i prefer to be within walking distance of the train stations. I have not tried hotels but i understand they are getting better all the time.

suggestion: the VERY BEST trip i had was the one where i took a week of language lessions (in sorrento) i met women from 5 other countries,I was the only American in the school and started to feel like an Italian instead of a tourist.

buono viaggio

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Travel Solo

Why do Americans travel as if they were on the ark?
Does anyone except the most fearless, go off on their own and expericence the world, life?

This begins a series of stories about two adventures:

solo trip across the Atlantic for 21 days with 2,500 "new friends"

and a life adventure (no longer do I travel on vacations) in 2008 when I traveled to Sorrento, Italy to rent an apartment in town and live as an Italian!

Solo travel, not single travel is freeing! There is nothing like the experience of knowing you can do what ever you want. No worry that your companion does not care to walk to the top of the tower, eat whenever you wish, sit and read all afternoon in the piazza if you find the urge, I can go on and on.

When i returned I found my life, attitude and future had changed. I no longer had worry line, lost sleep in fear of my next appointment, and most of all I discovered I was happy!

You may think this is odd but working 24/7 for the past 20 years I never took time to just be.
Time to think, reflect, expand ideas. It is amazing what the mind can create when it is given space.

What I discovered about solo travel will be posted soon.

Ciao bella!

Friday, January 15, 2010

a Blog is Born!

After an extensive 3 hour class today, a Blog is born.
more to follow soon