Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zio or Zia in Italy

Zia, Zio, Zuccoro, Zuppa

 There are not many other entries for this topic.
Zio   Mia Zio   My Uncle
Zia   Mia Zia   My  Aunt

Family is very important in Italy and I marvel at the continued practice of Sunday lunch at Mammas house.   Relatives from the extended family are invited to holiday meals, special events or for the pleasure of food, wine and company.

Zuccoro:   sugar   the base for all the wonder dolce created in Italy.  From the breakfast pastry to the biscoti shared over a coffee in the cafe.    Just remember for every docle you need to walk a mile....

Zuppa:  soup    One of my favorite food in Italy is the thick, seasoned soups you don't find everywhere.   Perhaps soup is considered a 'worker' meal, but along with the wonderful breads in Italy, I could enjoy zuppa anywhere

Any other Z words in Italian?  Please share.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Puglia, Italy: the contact you need


        While searching links to Italy on FB 2 years ago, I discovered Yle Sambati from Lecce, Italy.

I had never traveled south of Naples and the SE portion of Italy was a part of Italy I wanted to see along with Sicily and all the out islands.

         If you are traveling solo or have a special interest, Yltour.com is the only company (my opinion) that can create a trip that is more than a vacation.  On my adventure Yle found a nonna for me (grandmother) who would teach me how to make pasta.

         The following year I learned to taste olive oil, met the dolce boss of Lecce (pastry boss), met a master artist in traditional paper mache, wine tasting, visiting an Italian market and cooking with Mamma!     I could have stayed there longer, maybe forever.  I feel I have Friends in Lecce!  This year I adoped a 1,000 year old olive tree at the Taurino farm.   Perhaps I shall attend the olive harvest this year.

What will you select for your adventure:  cooking, photography, hiking, driving in classic cars, wine and oil tasting, pastry, art, language,  hiking, diving in the blue sea..... just dream.... 

Programs change and others added monthly so contact Yle for details.  Some of the programs offered when I checked her web site were:
FIND A PROGRAM BY INTEREST: cultural experiences through authentic travel programs We are happy to organize or book any activity from the large selection below. Our local staff will be delighted to help you arrange activities and excursions to make your holiday even more enjoyable. Fully escorted, Private, small groups tours: culture, food, wine, cooking classes, sport, painting, photography, Italian language camps are just some of our programs. We will escort you throughout the trip with a bilingual coordinator and Puglia expert.
COOKING CLASSES AT YOUR VILLA Culinary and Wine Classes at your private Villa. We organize private half day cookery classes right at your Villa, for your family and friends. Our cook and wine expert will bring everything is needed for this incredible culinary experience and serve a delicious meal you’ll have cooked together, paired with some great local wines.
WINE & FOOD TASTING TOURS Puglia is paradise to some amazing food, wine, cheese, bread and so much more. Let us custom your tour to cellars, mills, food markets, pastry shops, cheese farms where you can taste and meet the food producers.
PASTRY EXPERIENCE We organize a half day cooking experience in a traditional pastry shop where you will learn how to make biscuits, cakes and so much more, right with the local pastry chefs. Classes can be arranged either in the morning or in the afternoon and are set for singles, couples or small groups.
COOKING CLASS WITH A LOCAL MUM Cook with a local Mum preparing the real Puglia dishes of the peasant cooking style (cucina povera) and enjoy your preparation at the end of the class paired with some great indigenous wine. The cooking class can be provided at a wonderful masseria, in an oil mill, in a private kitchen of a Salento village. Ingredients to enjoy our cooking classes: lovely local mums and private kitchens, organic ingredients and new friends!
ITALIAN CLASSES Private Italian Language Classes at the place where you are lodged or at a place close to your lodge that you can easily reach. Your teacher will focus on your needs and teach you this lovely language in a very amusing and informal way. Italian classes are integrated with walks in the “daily” Italian lifestyle: local streets markets, cookery classes and more activities with locals only speaking Italian.
PRIVATE HANDS-ON JEWELLERY WORKSHOP Meet your lovey jewellery expert and create with her all kinds of multicolored gems and unique personal jewels. In the end of the lesson you will have your personal jewels as a souvenir of this beautiful creative experience.
PAINTING CLASSES AT THE MASSERIA A private painting lesson with a talented and skillful local maestro and a delicious lunch served at the end of your class. The maestro will give you a demonstration and teach you how to use colors and painting techniques. This painting class can be personalized. We will arrange an amazing picnic at the Masseria where the class will be held with some delicious Puglia selected cheese, cold cuts, organic bread, dessert and excellent wine.
SPORTS ACTIVITIES We provide a wide range of activities during your holidays, for children, couples and families alike: play tennis with locals, go sailing, snorkeling, diving, kite surfing and windsurfing, cycling, boat trips, fishing, family day out, sailing salento with lunch on board, yoga. BREAD MAKING WITH A LOCAL FAMILY We offers private bread making experience with a local family. We provide all the ingredients and equipment: whether you are an absolute beginner wanting to learn the basics or an enthusiastic baker, we would be glad to enjoy this authentic experience with you. The class is hands-on and you are actively involved in the process of bread making. We will teach you how to make several different types of bread.
CONCIERGE & BOOKING SERVICES FOR RESTAURANTS AND MORE We offer a complete concierge service for any need guests in Puglia may have: Typical Restaurants, wine bars & farmhouses, Stone pizza oven, transfer to and from Brindisi and Bari airport, city tours, escorted tours,shopping tours.
 PICNIC AND PRIVATE OIL & WINE TASTING AT THE OIL MILL Our English speaking personal tour leader will meet you at an agreed meeting pointand leads you to a traditional oil mill in one of the best areas of production of extra virgin olive oil in Puglia. You will first get a detailed introduction to the world of extra virgin olive oil in our area and the techniques of olive collection, the phases of the olive pressing process and the secrets for a good extra virgin olive oil according to the Mediterranean diet. After seeing the machinery, you will enjoy an amazing picnic amidst the olive trees together with local friends serving you different types of extra virgin olive oil of local production and indigenous wines. The picnic will be a spectacular Puglia experience of olive trees, extra virgin olive oil, wine, food and local friends.
POTTERY CLASS An expert ceramic artisan will teach you the secrets of the clays and help you creating unique objects: vases, jugs, plates and many other different objects. In the end the item you created will be baked in the oven and you can get it the following days and have your personal souvenir of Puglia. During this class we will offer you some very good wine!
MASSAGE AT YOUR VILLA Book a relaxing massage in the comfort of your own lodge. We offer private massages at your villa: our masseuse will come to your villa with her professional massage table, towels, oils, scents and gentle music. Our masseuse will put you at ease and make you feel relaxed and wonderful. This is a 50 minute massage.
A LECCE ORIENTATION - Walking Tour This half day tour is especially designed for those would like to get an overview of the magnificent city. You will be met by your guide at your hotel or a designated meeting point and thus begin your magical journey into the city of baroque. Our guide will share with you little known aspects of the Salento culture. They will also point you in the direction of the best of Italian shopping. At the end of this lovely walking tour you will also get recommendations on the availability of the finest local traditional cuisine and the names and addresses of some of the best restaurants in the area. Walking Tours in Puglia top destinations available as well.

Create Your Own Itinerary: if you would like a site that is not mentioned in our existing selection of tours we are able to eager you custom tour planning. Contact us and Yle, your personal Puglia trip holiday: info@yltourcongressi.com

Sunday, April 28, 2013

x,,,,,at the end of the alphabet

Well there is no X in the Italian alphabet so I shall speak about the xtra stories that did not fit into any other category:

      Everyone knows and most of us love Italian gellato, ice cream.  
While following Kelly Medford in Rome, to tell me her favorite gellato she shared with me an organic gelato store in the medico area of Rome.  

What a wonderful surprise when I walked into this charming small store.   It was early in the day so there was no line out the door.
The assortment of flavors and colors was capturing.

Engaging the server in conversation she was reluctant to be photographed or to let me write about our conversation.  But the hand made chocolates and other deserts were enough to tell the story.   There are 2 or 3 locations.  The flavors were very original and the next customer spent 15 minutes just selected which she would have!    

Piazza lessons in Como:
I had seen a sign for a pizza school in Naples years ago and although I searched I never found more information  So it was a surprise when I visited the pizza/focaccia store in Como with the young women I met at the tourist office. 

They selected the lunch location and what a surprise to find it was the same place I had 'discovered' the day before.
While photographing the exterior, so that I could blog about my 'discovery'  the owner came outside and told me (in Italian) that he also offered a pizza school at another location in Como.   He is from Naples where pizza was born but without a wood fire oven, the taste is different.  

Leather bags in Lecce
While strolling in the city center one evening I passed a small shop with leather bags displayed outside.   When I stopped to look the owner invited me into the store to view a large assortment of very stylish bags in interesting colors.   Yes there are great fashion stores around the main square in Lecce but like Rome or Milan, the prices are not always affordable for this traveler.

I always plan a stop in Florence to buy my leather gifts and a purse every year.   But what a surprise to find hand made bags, the owner was downstairs making more, at affordable prices..... I shall be back even if I did buy 2!

who ate my post last night?

After posting my X story last night, blogger has removed it from my file!   Have not had that happen before.....

Friday, April 26, 2013

W Wine from Italy


When I walk down the aisles of wine displayed in stores, I always smile when I see vino di Italia.
I will read the label to see if I have visited the region or town where the wine is 'created'.

                                   I had a lesson in how to open wine, taste it and enjoy

Yes, I did just write 'created.   After attending a wine tasting with Yle (Yletour.com) I learned that wine has history, many steps and stages of production and many skilled hands to become the liquid treasure Vino.

And every region is passionate about their wines.  

In Orvietto I had a lengthy conversation with a woman at her wine shop.  Neither she nor I fully understood the entire conversations (Italian/English) but she easily conveyed her love for the popular white wine that I carried back to my hotel.  

Wine is revered in Italy......Each region has their famous wines and wine production is an art.  So it was a pleasure to have Michele show me how to appreciate a wine tasting.  (see video above)

Yltour.com conducts specialty food and wine tours throughout the year.    Her first collaboration with Robertson Fine Wine Tours was this April.    http://www.robertsonwinetours.com/italy/english/tours.php 
Robertson tour cover the regions of Piedmont, Tuscany, Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily as well as wine and cooking vacations.

All still photos are property of Yltour.com

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vegetarian In Italy

When thinking of Italy I never think of a vegetarian diet.
I enjoy the meat sauce, vitello (veal) and pollo too much.
There must be 30+ ways Italians prepare port products but those are not my favorite.

When I lived in Sorrento I passed a vegetarian restaurant every day.   It may have been the ONLY V restaurant in town.

When I returned last year the restaurant had moved to a larger location and now included a grocery story.
You can eat in or take food ‘away’. Take away is not a common practice in Italy.  I have seen it in pizza restaurants and small stands that sell croquetta  I  have also been told that you don’t take the remaining food home from a restaurant.
Perhaps service dishes family style helps prevent this.

Yle with Yltour.com in Lecce, Italy, was my first encounter with an Italian Vegetarian.  Her  travel company even offers planned  vacation breaks for you to learn to cook vegetarian while visiting    See my post at:  http://tinyurl.com/b4jl2rr

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Umber

If you have ever seen artist paints, the ones in the little tubes, you know the name burnt umber....

Well that color may originate from the incredible color of the stone in Italy.

And most of the homes  are OLD and are of stone, not  wood, vinyl or synthetic stucco, but real hard stone.

The stone can almost seem alive as it glows in the morning sun, darkens as the day progresses and finally become cool (in color and temperature) at the end of the day.

I have asked my 'travel friends' in Italy how they truly can stand all the beauty around them?   I am not sure some of them even notice it.  Today you find everyone with their face in an electric box, large or small.  Never looking up or interacting with anyone around them.

The photos will share the visual warmth the stone project and after thousands of years, the stories.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T Tavolo Caldo in Italy

T:   Tavolo Caldo or Hot Table

    You may know it as a buffet, a caffeteria or an Italian store that sells prepared foods.

As a solo traveler I spend too much time finding restaurants that I feel comfortable in or where the staff are not annoyed by serving only one patron. 

Since tipping in Italy is not required, you would think it would make no difference.  

In Italy there are cafes that offer an assortment of veggie dishes, pastas and other lunch type foods.
There are no instructions in the tour books but you can follow the lead of other patrons.   
If the cafe is very busy the staff may not have time to try to translate travel ITalian, but you can point to what you would like.
It is either priced by the item you select, the entire plate or I have seen it also weighed.   I can not tell you how you know, just follow the flow. 

Each trip I try to add to my list of TC where i can enjoy a hot meal.  In Florence I have on location past the Bobboli gardens frequented by only locals.

Also in Florence Leonardo is rather famous.  He has had his 'caffeteria' style restaruant for over 30 years.   This year we had a long conversation 'in Italian' and I believe he told me if you are happy with your work you will be happy at home.   Leonardo's is only a few blocks from the Duomo on the second floor.  

It is never busy when I have been there.   There is a selection of meets, pastas and salads.  Usually a meal is under 10Euros.

 On my second visit to Lecce, Puglia last year I found a real treasure.
Caffe Tito Schipa just off the main square.  

Arriving after the 'rush' there were only a few patrons so I had no problem asking for what I wanted, the owners (as do most Itlaians) spoke some English and I cuold understand what each of the dishes contained.

And of course there is always a dolce after lunch, but there are additional sweet treasures to find in many of the other cafes. 
I can find a treasure on any of my trips and think I am the only one 
who knows about it until I check the internet and see they have a web site!  You will find some great history about this lovely spot.    
From their web site:

The Coffee Tito Schipa, conducted in 1993 by the family Pati, occupies a prestigious position, located between the beautiful Piazza St. Horace, living in the city, the scene of concerts and events of various kinds and the wonderful "candy" of Lecce Baroque: The Basilica of Santa Croce.
Tito Schipa Coffee, one of the classic bar Lecce, while recurred over time, has kept up its name and quality of supply to customers, starting by the excellent espresso accompanied by the typical sweet Lecce: pasticciotto , to be eaten sitting at a table placed near the square ... or in the beautiful and elegant lounge, furnished austere but comfortable.
The culinary specialty of the restaurant is
the aperitif "Tito Schipa" , served at all hours, conceived and prepared by the owners, is a 'unique opportunity to taste the typical products of Salento in various and delicious recipes.
Due to the location offset from the square, the venue offers visitors the chance to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the center in a pleasant atmosphere accompanied by a friendly and professional service.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Solo Travel in Italy

Solo Travel In Italy

I usually post solo travel ‘deals’ on a separate blog but Solo Travel In Italy has some challenges so I decided to share on Home to Italy as well.

Italy may have more travelers than many other country in Europe.   After traveling to Italy for years and staying 4 to 6 weeks at a time, I fully understand why everyone loves Italy.

With all those ‘tourists’,  being a traveler has some challenges.   

I never thought it was ‘odd’ to travel solo.
I am solo but not sad.
I travel solo because I have no friends who would EVER travel in the style I do. 
And the one  perception I continue to receive is that only gay people travel solo.  What? 

During my 3 month sabbatical in Sorento, I became friends with two lovely much younger woman who I met at the local Internet café.      While having dinner early in our friendship they both agreed that ‘no Italian woman would travel solo'.    I was VERY surprised.   Apparently it may not have been socially unacceptable but solo travel was NOT something an Italian woman would do…..

There are endless benefits to solo travel but I want to cover a few of the ‘challenges’ solo travel in Italy may present:

1.  With the crowds of tourists in Italy it can be difficult to visit ‘tourist spots’ solo.   The endless lines of 'groups' often do not even see a solo.   It is interesting to watch.  Similar to a wave.  
Tour buses do not know what to do with a solo.  Other travelers do not want to sit with a solo person….
2.  Reaction of Italians that solo travel is ‘odd’.   In Italy the family has great importance.  It may not occur to Italians to go off by themselves and travel. 
3.  Economics:  Italy as other countries are in an economic situation.   A solo traveler may be perceived as wealthy.    On one trip I wanted to compare living costs in Italy with the USA and as I compared the salaries with the USA, I understood this misconception.   Housing is expensive in Italy and this may be another reason family members remain at ‘home’ until they marry.
4.  Travel in Italy during tourist season means crowds on buses and trains.
Solo travel means you have no one to ‘watch your bags’ while you use the WC or even go to an ATM.
One year, before ATM’s were on each corner, I could not enter the money exchange at the Rome termini because they used a revolving door and my bag would not fit in the door!
5.  You spend more time planning and organizing a solo trip, no one to share the work.
6.  For me dining is the hardest part of solo travel anywhere but the USA.  Here in the USA we have so many casual restaurants and my all time favorites, diners, that you are mostly unnoticed.  The disadvantage is you are unnoticed in some restaurants and service is ‘different’.  I understand the tip will be less than a couple, but I also don’t take up as much time at the table.

In Italy eating is VERY important.  Going to diner is the entertainment for the evening often taking hours.   I only remember seeing one other solo diner in a restaurant in Florence.  And they put us next to each other.   I have had waiters look at me with pity and surprise that I am sitting alone.    Why do people assume solo is sad?

While these may be some challenges to solo travel, some of the perks in Italy:
vendors in markets will often chat with you
you can stroll the town center without dragging a reluctant companion or child with you.
You can often observe without being noticed….take a peek into daily life.
And you can have gelato whenever you want!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q: Quotidiani: my daily newspaper


You thought I could not find an Italian word with a Q.  
Well besides who, what, this and that, I could not…

But a quick email call to my resident Italiana American authority, Sig Ferrara,  it was suggested I use Quotidiana…..

Giornale is also used for newspaper……but I do like this new word, much more forceful.

And you do see Italians reading the daily paper.   I read that on the way to the bar for una café and cornetto (breakfast) they will stop at their local vendor for the paper.

The man above was in front of the metro stop at the Colosseum in Rome.   The tourists were looking at the Colosseum and trying not to be run over while they crossed the street, but the newspaper captured this Romans full attention.

The newspaper stand is found in all the towns I have visited, some are larger than others, some carry other items. But each of them has a wide assortment of newspapers, all with the heading for the day displayed.  

Since newsstands will also sell bus tickets the ones in train stations are usually large.  In Firenze there were several stands, In Venice and Bologna they also sold maps of the city. Avoid the one in Como, a very angry woman works there, while the lady in Spoleto gave me a free basic map to the city so that I walked in the correct direction. 

  In Sorrento the newsstand at the train station was open daily but you could buy English newspapers (a few days old) at the store on the main street.  There is a BIG stand and cafe in Lecce but it is at the train station.

Refreshing to see a country where news is still printed and not absorbed by an electronic device.

Where have you found news stands in Italy?    

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Olive Oil the Italian Way

Olive Oil the basis for all Italian food

In Puglia I learned how to taste olive oil, how to cook a Mediterranean diet for health and long life

The Taurino Olive Farm, located in Squinzano, has been a family operation since 1942 and is now managed by  Donato and Rosaria Taurino.   Their state of the art pressing and bottling facility can be seen on my blog on how to taste olive oil:   http://bit.ly/14osDbr   

Yle with Yltour.com took me to visit the Taurino farm on my last trip to Puglia.   As you turn into the road that leads to the main building, there are endless rows of olive trees, 60,000 +- I was told latter!  Some of the trees dated back hundreds of years.  

When you read advertisements for property in Italy you often see that the property includes vines (wine) and olive trees.    Olive oil is a staple in the Italian diet and having your own supply of olives 

Valentino is a wealth of information on Olive Oil.  I had no idea before we met that tasting olive oil was a skill and not the process of putting bread into a dish of oil!     The Taurino Farm has just launch the Oliva line of extra virgin olive oil and it is available for purchase and shipment to you.  (detail inquiries directly to Taurino's) 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Southern Italy Travel Puglia Part I

  Southern Italy Travel

       The big 3, Roma, Firenze and Venezia, are the most visited cities in Italy but exciting alternatives await you in less know Southern Italy    Having never traveled south of Naples it was a new adventure to explore the Salento  the past two years. 

        Puglia does not receive much, if any coverage in tour books.   Cities in Puglia are smaller, towns along the coast cling to the edge of cliffs, and thousands of olive trees stand like soldiers along the country roadways.         What cannot be captured by a camera is the impossible
blue color of the sky early in the mornings and the glow of the honey colored stone that is intricately carved to embellish the countless churches
in Lecce.  

      You may need to consult a map to find the towns of Puglia:  Lecce, Gallipoli, Oltrano, Bari, and Brindisi, the Unesco World Heritage sites of Alberobello or Castel del Monte.  These are only a few of the many unique and welcoming towns and villages throughout Puglia.    
Closer to northern Africa than Europe, the history of Puglia may reflect this in the architecture and the cooking traditions.  The food of Puglia is based on the Mediterranean diet:  fresh produce, wonderful olive oil and wine.                                                                           

Cooking classes or entire cooking holidays incorporate the products of the local wineries, olive oil farms and local farmers.
This is not an area of only art and museums.   Travelers seeking an active adventure can dive in the Adriatic on the coast of Puglia, bike on the roads along the sea or into the interior or hike in the national park.   
                                           Photo courtesy of Yltour
I found Puglia to be a part of Italy where meeting the local tradesmen, master pastry chef, artisans, wine growers and olive oil producers to be the captivating part of a visit. 
Consider exploring Puglia with the help of a local expert who has spent many years creating ‘travel adventures for her guests’.   Yle Sambati established yltour.com to offer visitors to her native region  a complete exposure to The Salento.     A specialized tour will be created based on your special interests, budget, group size, dates or itinerary.
Contact Yle for your special travel 'wish'...

ylenia (info@yltourcongressi.com)