Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Food & Wine Lover's Journey in Puglia - Join me! - Food Lover's Odyssey

Food & Wine Lover's Journey in Puglia - Join me! - Food Lover's Odyssey:

Cook,  Eat,   Drink,   Discover Puglia!

Yle has created another wonderful adventure for travelers to Italy. 
Learn how to cook as an Italian.

Visit cities that are not on every tourist's itinerary
Stay at an elegant country farm house
And fill your days with endless fun...*
- Sign up for the Sept 1-9 trip by May 30th and receive a $200 discount per person - 

check the link above for a complete outline of events or contact
Yle at   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 Language Immersion Tour in Puglia: August 19th – 26th :: Diario di una studentessa matta

Wish I could be part of the group planning this wonderful language adventure in Puglia this August
I have toured the "farm" they are staying in and it is the ultimate country luxury!

Think about joining Yle and Mellisa on this great adventue in Puglia, Italy

Review the wonderful list of event.  I have visited the
2012 Language Immersion Tour in Puglia: August 19th – 26th :: Diario di una studentessa matta:

Italian Americans can find their roots in Puglia

Are you one of the millions of Italian Americans in the USA?  Did your family immigrate from the Puglia area of Italy?      Now include a visit to your family village as part of your next or first visit to Italy!     Having a local expert in Puglia to help you research your "home" village, arrange transportation and even arrange translation services if your Italian is not fluent.    Dream of walking the streets that your grandparents told you about............Yle can help make this happen.

Puglia Roots anyone?
Explore Puglia with a local expert
How many of you have Puglia roots and have always longed to get back to the places where your family grew up and walk along the same streets as they did or simply find any possible contact in your family village? 

There are many Italian Americans associations with members who remember the story of their families and dream of getting in touch with their family and friends in Italy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Do you have Sicilian Roots? Travel in Sicily with an expert

I had hoped to write my own story about Ciro Grillo after a trip to Sicily, but he is offering services you might need now, so I shall post information on from a post Ciro did on face book.   

I was most interested in his ability to help fellow Italian Americans find their family villages.

If you are looking for your family roots in Sicily he may be able to help.*

Ciro Grillo (from a recent FB entry)
4:11am Apr 12
Our main purpose is to make your Sicilian adventure a positive one. We have worked in the tourist industry since 1980 and have vast experience guiding group tours. Not only can we ensure that you see all of the beautiful highlights that Sicily has, but we can also arrange trips to the rest of Italy.
The possibilities are endless! Whether you want to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea or the beautiful mountainous inland areas, we can accommodate all requests.

Explore the land of your heritage or simply enjoy the endless beauty and archaeological treasure that is Sicily.
We specialize in custom tours that include:
- All accommodations (be it a hotel, unique selection of villas and private properties, B&B or charming Italian farmhouse (agriturismo)
- Custom tours by an English/Italian speaking guide
- Comfort travel in a private car or van (if the group is larger) with an experienced driver
- Excursions to outlying islands via deluxe sail or motor yachts
- Visits to the town of your family ancestry (research on family history can also be accomplished)
- Wine tours and exposure to the “REAL" Sicilian cuisine.
-Traditional Sicilian Cooking course.
- genealogy research service provided by Giovanni Montanti at
- new!!         WEDDINGS in Sicily There are many spectacular wedding locations around Sicily. Whether you wish a wedding in Sicily across this fantastic island we can give you all the help you need.
1st class and quality holidays in Sicily. All that we propose, accommodations, wineries, coastal and country retreats and chartered yachts, in Sicily, are the best. If you hunger for quality, authenticity, honest opinions & excellent service from people who really know Sicily, you have found the right place.

Ask us to tailor an escorted holiday for your private group:
Call or email:
+ 39 393 8161997 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            + 39 393 8161997      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
skype : ciro.grillo57

please visit our web site

PiazzaSicilia, LLC
1099 General Knox Road
Washington Crossing ,PA 18977
(215) 369-7630 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (215) 369-7630      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax (215) 325-1074
Email :

* I was very impressed when Ciro was able to help a SOLO traveler recently.   

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Life in Italy as a Vegetarian!

When you think of Italy you think of the wonderful cured meats, the regional specialties of perhaps hare or bore.    

If you thought you could not travel and eat well in Italy, Yle shares with us first hand knowledge of the bella vegetarian life in Puglia!
Why not join her and the mammas on veggie cooking adventure?

It took a little time for my parents to understand their child would become a vegetarian.  It just took a little practice but at some point, when they realized I cried every time they suggested I eat meat and that I rescued any possible form of animal,  they easily learned how to best accommodate my foodie needs.   

Vegetarianism is getting more and more popular in Italy and the number of people eating healthy and organic is growing fast. Once it was very unusual for Italians to shop organic food (they had to look for dedicated shops).   Now it is much easier and you can buy excellent food for vegetarians in shops and food markets.   At the beginning when you said you were a vegetarian,   people thought you only ate salads and were ill somehow.   Now it is assumed to be a nutritional choice and a lifestyle.
When travelling, a vegetarian or vegan may find some difficulty without planning:       tasting local food in fact is often a meaningful part of travelling and learning about the culture of the country you’re exploring.   Fortunately the Internet helps a lot,  not only in sharing recipes but also in recommending how to be inspired by the best travel tips.

Being a vegetarian myself I love planning tailored tours and cooking classes that my “green” friends, finding highly rewarding, simply combining ingredients in numerous ways and learning to make tasty meals with only creativity.   This region in Italy is popular for using vegetables, legumes and wild plants, so developing special programs is  natural and intriguing for me.

When I am asked to tailor a tour for vegetarians my goal is to tell them about the many spectacular dishes we prepare with those vegetables in a way that only our mums know how to combine and are so special in developing the preservation of the destination through tradition and healthy principles.   Local farmers do not use chemical products for their fertilization and many people here eat what they grow in their vegetables gardens.

Organic food is now available also in restaurants  and combined with what this destination offer (warm hospitality, unique landscapes, good wine and white sandy beautiful  beaches) makes Puglia very attractive.
Furthermore, this nutritional philosophy goes straight in the direction of sustainable travel, minimizing ecological impact and teaching respect to both travelers and hosts.

Vegetarian travelers looking for a vacation in Puglia will find Puglia particularly vegi–friendly and appreciate the lifestyle of the locals promoting the principles of the good life through sustainability and good healthy organic food.    Basically local people are very passionate in growing their vegetable gardens (big or small) and sharing this pleasure with friends is a joyful experience for them.
Upon our guests arrival, we give any possible information and direction on local farms and markets, where to purchase veggies, cheese, milk and much more information.   We are keen on promoting suppliers who daily use  their special skills (real wooden fire oven, hand-made pasta) employing local people and only fresh products.

Cooking Classes for vegetarians can be a unique experience  during which a local mum teaches our guests how to employ seasonal vegetables and herbs (from our organic vegetable garden and the local markets) in a creative repertoire of unique dishes that locals are fond of.

And remember….once in a restaurant the question you have to ask is…..Avete un piatto vegetariano? Do you have a vegetarian dish?
If you have any queries or questions about our Vegetarian cooking classes (daily and week long programs, recommendations on accommodations) and Holidays in Puglia please don't hesitate to send us an email to:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter! Pasqua in Italia, how to celebrate as an Italian

Pasqua: among colomba*, almond paste lambs  and chocolate eggs!

The holy week in Puglia, just like in the rest of Italy is a very busy one in every kitchen.

Lots of sweet stuffs to prepare, mainly based on almond paste, breads (with a row of eggs on top), cookies and chocolate eggs of any size with a nice surprise gift inside.

Although it is a religious metaphor and many people do, being myself a vegetarian  I will not encourage the killing and eating of lamb at Easter.    I rather prefer the almond paste version:   it is one of the best expressions of pastries here that together with “colombe”(Easter Dove cake), represents authentic, artisans artworks every family loves sharing with family and friends on their table at Easter lunch.

Many Italians actually will have colomba long after the Easter holiday,  for breakfast with their cappuccino or caffĂ© e latte (coffee and milk).

Egg is the recurrent symbol for breads and cakes:    any area of the region may call it something different, according to the dialect, but it is basically made with flour, eggs, sugar and extra virgin olive oil.     The dough is shaped in various way and garnished with a row of eggs and dough stripes.Lamb shaped almond paste is together with the chocolate eggs and “colomba”, the most popular Easter symbol:    it is made with almonds, sugar and glaze (stuffed with chocolate and pear  marmalade).      

Processions,wrapped, large egg shapped container in stores, and dolce!

Easter Traditions in Puglia

It will be Pasqua in a few days and Yle has sent me some wonderful photos of special breads and novelties her friends created.   I am waiting for her to send the receipe to find out if they are sweet cookies.  Wish I were there for Sunday lunch!  

Did your family have a tradition with this type of treat?   Notice the eggs that are incorporated into some of the design and they were backed in an outdoor over!     
Yumm, sure beats the donut store..... 
                                                                                                                                              I dolci di Pasqua nel Salento
 (non solo Colombe e Pasta di Mandorla)

Easter sweets in Salento (not only Doves and almond paste) 

Yle has shared her family recipe for Colombe with us!
Try it and let me know the results!


3 cups (400 grams) flour
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk (set aside the white)
1 stick butter
100 gr sugar
½ tsp salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grated rind of 1 small orange
1 cup flour
3/4  cup milk
1 oz fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
100 grams sultanas (only if you like it)
Almond Glaze:
50 grams almonds
1 egg - white
50 grams sugar
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
50 grams whole almonds
Confectioners sugar

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gelato! A food group all it's own!

Perhaps I LOVE ice cream because of my Italian blood.........and it is really gelato I am looking for every time I stop at an ice cream store.       When home in Italy each year  I taste gelato in every town I visit in Italy.   I have my favorite gelato stores and flavors that I visit every time I go home to Italy.     Yes it is different in EVERY town and EVERY store.   And I am sorry to tell my 23 million Italian American friends, nothing in the USA comes close to gelato in Italy!

Un’arte tutta italiana: il gelato, Yle

Creamy, swirls of gelato 
When clients ask me for a spring culinary experience I often suggest for them to assist in a GELATO demo and learn what Italians gelato makers do and how artisanal gelato is made. 

And when it is about making it (gelato) with some nice friends and learn this Italian art, the answer cannot be anything but positive. 

Last time I saw Luca, the gelato maker, he made me taste a gorgeous fruity gelato and that was at that time that I thought my clients would have loved it. On several occasions, during my USA visits, I have tasted gelato, but have been  disappointed by the quantity of sugar used in it.    In some cases I tought it was a bubble gum rather than a gelato and could not finish my serving.

What makes Luca’s Gelato so special, is actually the freshest products used for ingredients and the limited quantity of sugar he adds.           Actually having tasted sugar free and gluten free gelato, it is one of the best experiences and  I can recommend it.   Also, his gelato is made without preservatives and artificial additives  which made me prefer tasting this rather than others. 

In this area of Italy (Puglia)  people basically eat  healthy , so  planning a vacation for a vegetarian  is not complicated at all.      Well, as probably some of you have realized, I like all things genuine and simple. This selection does not only fit a lifestyle, but is also a guidance in my daily nutritional plan.   

It was a busy spring weekend devoted to the inspection of new lovely places to recommend for my one day or longer tour programs. I asked two friends of mine to join me in this foodie inspection and share with me the pleasure of having breakfast with a “just made” gelato. 

When I told them the factory was by the ocean, they were simply happy.         Our scheduled time with Luca was quite early in the morning and the light on the ocean at that moment of the day is simply gorgeous.