Thursday, January 30, 2014

Naples Will Surprise You

The bay of Naples
Travelers often avoid Naples when they plan their trips to Italy.    After spending the day with a member of the Discover Naples Destinations, Naples is on my list of cities to return to on my yearly trips Home To Italy. 

Naples has surprises.   Have you seen Roman era Town of Baia?  It is now underwater and can be viewed by glass bottom boat.

Underground Naples, almost a second city, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and caverns.   A portion of these tunnels are open to the public.

           One of the oldest doll hospital in the world:  150 years

Meet Tina

Dispel your impression of Naples as

a place to avoid and explore beyond the museums and high end waterfront cafes. 

DND, Discover Napoli Destinations offers an insiders’ look at the real Naples and the Campania region.

In 2010 Four friends, all born and raised in this complex city, decided to design a new travel concierge company to combat the negative impressions most tourists have of Naples.  They specialize in personalized travel itineraries for individuals and small groups.

You will learn about the rich history of the kingdom of Naples.   Every street and building has a unique story that DND can bring alive during their original itineraries.

With DND you can visit hidden treasures that are NOT in tour books.  DND has the ability to offer visits to private homes or collections.    No two tours are alike, your tour can be designed for your personal interests:   art and history, wine and food, shopping, sports.

But DND does not stop there.  Some of their more unusual offering include:  legends and ghosts, underground Naples,  shopping for locally made products.  Don’t forget to ask them about shoe alley.

Or design your own itinerary.  Visit the best stores selling fashions to chocolate, stop for REAL pizza, have coffee in the oldest café in Naples, tour the neighborhoods that are reached by funicular, visit any of the islands or travel to sites in Campania.  DND will assist you to create a special visit to Napoli.

 Contact DND:    Tina
 Phone  +39 339 3969649

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wine Tour in Italy with the Yle, president of Strada del Vino

In Puglia there’s a “Strada del Vino” and the President is Ylenia Sambati, our Travel Consultant

Ylenia Sambati, Puglia Travel Consultant and owner at YLTOUR ( has recently been elected President of the Wine Route “Vigna del Sole” ( during the association’s general assembly.

She received a unanimous vote from the associated members among which wine cellars, wine makers and municipalities. The just elected President, a passionate of the area and local wines that she daily promotes through her consultancy in travel job, is already working on a “don’t miss” wine program for wine lovers visiting the region.

The Wine Route feature a number of cellars that offer daily wine tastings, cellar tours and wine sales. Puglia is beloved by tourists for its great villages, food, olive trees and wines of course. Its picturesque farmhouses and castles amidst vineyards are often home to some of the top wine estate. She is thus designing a wine map destination program to experience the finest wines and warm hospitality.

Wine in Puglia is one of the biggest tourist attraction and the Route of Wine represents many wines and grape producers. It is in fact home to some of the best wines in the region among which the Primitivo, Negromaro, Salice Salentino and many more. Puglia is Italy’s premium wine and oil producing region offering a range of different styles of wine even with the same grape varieties. The Strada del Vino includes different interesting topics: wine, country, history, art, local food artisans and it is located in the southern part of the Puglia region.

The wineries situated along this wine path, the big ones as well as the minor wines, all of them produce a high-class wine. Top attractions include cellar tours and the art of viticulture where local wine makers create their great wines. Cellar tours and daily wine tastings are offered on a daily basis by appointment. “Puglia has such a natural vocation for food and wine” the President quotes “and it is now time to channel the current trends in the wine international system into a well structured enological travel and taste experience”.

For more information on Puglia Wine tourism and wine experiences, please contact Ylenia Sambati at: or

photos above property of

Monday, January 20, 2014

Florence San Marco Market Magician

How often do you go shopping for gifts in the San Lorenzo market in Florence and meet a magician?

I met a delightful young man in the Florence market.
On a cold day in November he was

selling leather bags and accessories.   But  as you watch the video you will see his true passion.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Learn a language in Italy: 3 different approaches

If you are traveling in Italy I have three suggestions for learning Italian that are not the standard classroom technique:             Caffe amici, a home stay and a total immersion.

Italian was never spoken in my New Jersey Italian American home.
Until I  attended a University abroad program in Florence I never heard Italian spoken so fast, so loud and with such expression!

A perfect way to immerse yourself into a local culture is to speak the  language.   Language lessons offers an instant sense of belonging and often new friends both other travelers and locals.

On a 3 month sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy I joined a class of other travelers for instructions offered ONLY in Italian.   Previously I have taken classes and listened to audio files that asked you to repeat phrases, parroting the speaker.  

Sant'Anna Institue had a different approach.    I look forward to trying a home stay with Monica and a week at the amici caffe.

sorrento (1)
Sorrento, Italy, Sant’ Anna Institute
While spending several  months in Sorrento I joined their  program designed for adults.   Students from all over the world and at all levels of proficiency were attending classes and participating in the variety of cultural activities offered.   The entire class is offered in Italian, English is not used as par of the learning process.
10127_1256074686829_1749043_n                                                 Contact Olga Stinga for details on your Learn Italian adventure, 
Individual or group lessons are available.  In addition to their 50+ program this year they offered a December program including a home stay with a host family….a total immersion during Christmas.  A program during Easter is being planned.  The processions in Sorrento  during Easter should not be missed.

Full day language tours are offered.  Cultural events offered to students include  local art shows, concerts, visits to Pompeii, Herculaneum,Naples the Amalfi coast, Capri, and  cooking lessons.  Olga tells me they just added a voice course with a local soprano. Share your interest with Olga and SASI should be able to find an Italian experience for you.

Caffe con Amici
Puglia, Italia.  PARLIAMO ITALIANO in Puglia

971555_10200823440817778_327943322_nEnjoy a one or two week Italian Language Immersion in Puglia for Italian language lovers.  Participants will combine not only Italian lessons but also the exploration of Puglia:  one week in the  South, the Salento, one week in the Trulli area in the North.
In addition to conversation lessons by two local instructors, students will enjoy a special activity caffè con amici”. organized conversations with local Italians to improve vocabulary and spontaneous speech.

photo credit: In designing this program, Ylenia Sambati from YLTOUR quotes: “ I was thinking of a great opportunity for students to experience Italy at its best: not just learning Italian but also living this language immersion as the trip of a lifetime. Sometimes during these campus you only have a limited number of visits during the week: in our cultural programs, students will daily explore and improve their Italian. It will be educational and fun”.

 All levels of Italian language are welcome, as well as students of any age.  Accommodations are in self catering flats.  Contact for dates and cost.

Home Stay
Venice:  Learn Italian with a weekend home Italy
The perfect combination of travel treats:   cooking, language and living with a family

Venice: Italian Language Homestay

Experience life with a Venician family, learn Italian and take a cooking lesson, the perfect immersion!

Monica Cesarato is a trained teacher and an accomplished cook as well as a guide for Venice.  But Monica can show you parts of Venice not in the tour books.

You are not a tourist when you see a town or city with a local.

This home stay includes all meals in her family home, 12 hours of Italian language lessons, a 3 hours cooking course in a real Italian kitchen and a 3 hour Tour of Venice. Spend a weekend as an Italian not a tourist!
clip_image004      Contact her at

As I discover other travel and learn opportunities I will share with you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Learn Italian in Puglia while traveling home to Italy!

                      Let's Speak Italian!

One or two week Italian Language Immersion in Puglia

For the Italian language lovers Yle has designed a new cultural experience: a one or two week language trip, available  in two different areas of the region to improve and speak Italian in a relaxing atmosphere with local tutors.

Parliamo Italiano is the YLTOUR’s brand promoting Italian language and cultural weeks to spend in Puglia during which participants will combine not only Italian lessons but also exploration (the northern central and southern part of the region).

In designing this program, Ylenia Sambati from YLTOUR quotes: “ I was thinking of a great opportunity for students to experience Italy at its best: not just learning Italian but also living this language immersion as the trip of a lifetime. Sometimes during these campus you only have a limited number of visits during the week: in our cultural programs, students will daily explore and improve their Italian. It will be educational and fun”.

Students can choose between one or two weeks. One week will be in the southern part of Puglia, the Salento, while the other week will take place in the central part of Puglia, the Trulli area.

Classes will be kept small in order to ensure students all the dedication and care in teaching. Conversation, pronunciation, focus groups on specific topics, but also singing and dancing. Students will learn new words every day, meet and speak with charming locals for an unforgettable Italian language experience.

Conversation classes will be the highlight:  practicing spoken Italian language, joining a conversation and have every time a special guest to chat with in a very informal manner.

Teachers are all local and mother tongue: beside the two main teachers students will have during week one or two, they will meet a certain number of locals (a special activity called “caffè con amici”), with whom speaking and making specific conversations. All of these activities are intended to increase the numbers of Italian words in the vocabulary and make speaking easier and more spontaneous.  Our teachers are qualified native speakers experienced, dedicated, friendly, flexible with a great ability to teach and explain things simply.

All levels of Italian language are welcome, as well as students of any age.

At the end of this one or two weeks Italian language immersion in Puglia students will get more and more confident to speak Italian on various topics and expand their vocabulary.

Parliamo Italiano is not just an Italian language learning experience, but also a great opportunity to explore the region and its most beautiful places.

Students will be accommodated in “Dimore”, basically self catering flats, in the towns of Lecce and Cisternino.  The goal is to make them experience Italy as locals every day.

To confirm this tour we need at least 6 people registered.
Contact Yle at for dates, details and prices.

If you are an Italian Language tour leader and would like to put together a small group, please contact   The tour leader can arrange his or her small group in the following months: april, may, june, july, october, November.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yle has created another special event in Puglia With Victoria De Maio

Let’s discover and enjoy Puglia, the charming heel of Italy’s boot, together!!
* Cooking Classes * Yoga * Wine Tasting * Sightseeing * Bike Rides * Olive Oil Tasting *  * Beach Time * Creative Time * Free Time and Fun Time! *
* And So Much MORE! *

Your Hosts:
Victoria De Maio, Postcards from Travel PiZazz
Travel Consultant, Blogger, Writer & Yoga Instructor, Lover of All Things Italian

Yle Sambati, YLTours
Puglia Travel Expert, Tour Organizer & Leader    
The Spring 2014 Trip is FULL! (Wait List Only)

NEW Fall 2014 Dates – September 28 – October 8!

Our Daily Itinerary *

La Dolce Vita for YOU and me!
The spacious and gracious Masseria Provenzani, a beautifully renovated farmhouse, with its lovely sala di pranzo for dining, library, inviting patios, pool and gardens is the perfect place to relax and experience la dolce vita. Enjoy the company of friends and make new friends in this cozy and hospitable setting.
puglia 2014- masseria provenzani
Receive a Warm Benvenuti at Masseria Provenzani!
We’ll enjoy fresh, organic Pugliese cuisine and wine tastings daily. Yes, wine will be an important part of our time together! Meals will be prepared just for us (and sometimes by us!) in the large kitchen or, when visiting other areas, we’ll eat where the locals eat.
Visiting ancient and historic sites, we’ll learn about the local culture, traditions, and lifestyle of this spectacular  region of southern Italy. And then, of course, there are the gorgeous beaches and crystal clear blue waters…and so much more!
Ahh, I can hardly wait, can you? So, let’s go! Andiamo!
spacer - long red with  ylw
  • Spend 10 days and 9 nights in fabulous Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot.
  • Travel with a small group (min. 6, max. 12).Puglia 2014- Cooking & Wine
  • Airport transfers to and from Brindisi Airport.
  • Bi-lingual hosts and guides.
  • Stay in one fabulous, luxury accommodation, Masseria Provenzani, located in the heart of the Salento region.
  • Morning yoga and meditation with Victoria. (No previous yoga experience necessary.)
  • ALL meals lovingly prepared at the Masseria by a private chef or at local family-run trattorias.
    puglia 2014- eat & drink
    Enjoy delicious Pugliese cuisine prepared just for YOU!
  • Four cooking classes featuring local, organic ingredients and local mums.
  • Wine tasting at every meal.
  • Olive oil tasting.
  • Visit local artisans for gelato, cheese, and pastry making demos (and tasting, of course!).
  • Visit historic and charming Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli, the Itria Valley with its famous trulli, and more!
  • puglia 2014 - sightseeing
    Visit the unique & breathtaking Salento region of Puglia.
    Sightseeing and excursions including a wine tour, walking tours, and a boat ride.

  • Enjoy a local cartapesta (papier-mâché) demonstration.
  • Optional bike rides and art class.
  • Beach time.
  • Relaxed pace.
    puglia 2014 - pool
    Enjoy free time to just relax & enjoy “la dolce far niente”!
  • Free time to enjoy the pool, read a book, get a massage, take a walk, relax or just indulge in la dolce far niente (sweet doing nothing!)
…and MORE!
After all, you do like surprises, don’t you?
                                                                                                                                Victoria De Maio, Postcards from Travel PiZazz                                                      La dolce vita for me! 
My name is Victoria De Maio, and I am a lover of all things Italian.
IMG_1083 copyI grew up in an Italian family in California and am in a constant state of “homesick for Italy”!

As a travel consultant, blogger and writer, I am dedicated to providing no-nonsense,
practical travel tips and insights - with a light-hearted twist - and I specialize in helping people plan and take that next fabulous vacation.
Please join me at You’ll also find me on Italian Notebook (, Facebook  (Postcards from Travel PiZazz), Twitter (@LADOLCEVITA4ME ), Google+ (Victoria De Maio), YouTube ( and
                                                                                                                                                             Details of your time in Puglia  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Naples Holiday food with an Italian American

     While researching a new travel concierge group in Naples, Italy this year I learned many new things about Naples that I shall report in a later post.   More important is I have met a new 'travel friend'.   Although busy cooking for 20 family members this Christmas, Tina was kind enough to share with me the menu for their feast:  tonight's menu (we're 20 family members tonight!) 
  • Smoked salmon on toast
  • Penne with Arugula and Feta Cheese
  • White (vegetable) Lasagna
  • Linguine with Clams
  • ****
  • Cauliflower salad (Insalata di rinforzo)
  • Parmigiana di Melanzane
  • Mozzarella tidbits (bocconcini)
  • Tuna Quenelles with Wine Sauce
  • ****
  • Cassata Napoletana
  • Struffoli
  • Panettone 
  • Pandoro
  • Christmas cakes (Roccoco-Mustacciuoli-Paste Reali)
  • Fresh Tangerines-Walnuts-Stuffed Dates-Almonds
As you can see, there is no meat served on Christmas eve!
  • Tomorrow's menu is:
  • Tortellini in Chicken Broth
  • Stuffed Cornish Hen
  • Fried Zucchini Sticks
  • Baked Beans
  • ...and all the leftover desserts *O*!!!
I had asked about a game I only heard about for the time last year:

Tombola                 Tina describes this game for us:
    Typically, tombola, a type of Bingo is played in most Neapolitan homes, and in most of Italy as well! All members take part, nonnas, nonnos, aunts, uncles, down to the small children who have an adult who helps them with the numbers. 

The numbers which are called out are "covered" with dried beans! A lot of fun!! The prizes are made with the money used to "buy" the cards!!  BUON NATALE!!

 Now I need to look up all the dishes listed above!
Thank you Tina. 

I look forward to the menu for Easter!

"Pastiera" the traditional Napoli Easter cake and "Casatiello" which is a savoury bread loaded with salame and cheese. They are both staples on any Napoli (or surroundings) Easter table!!

Pastiera is a pie made with a filling of cracked wheat cooked in milk, ricotta, eggs, sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and candied citron. The magical ingredient which is added at the end  is "Acqua di fiori d'aracio" a distilled orange blossom essence!! Heavenly smell and taste!! Each family has its own recipie, usually handed down from generations, and proportions vary according to personal taste.  Some prefer a deep dish pie, others opt for a lower version.  Usually it is prepared on the Thursday that preceeds Easter so it has time to "rest" and all the flavors merge into a fantastic, unique taste. The pastry shop windows have pastieras of all sizes, even single portions and it is found in any restaurant during springtime, but any Neapolitan woman worth her salt makes it at home!!

Casatiello is the "Easter" version of a bread called Tortano during the rest of the year.  The big difference is that Casatiello is decorated with hard-boiled eggs with a pastry cross over them to honor the crucifixion and resurrection.  It is an incredible taste experience, although it is loaded with cholesterol!! The bread dough is made with lard, and it is filled with pieces of salame, those heavenly pices of pig fat and meat called cicoli, loads of cheese, provolone and pecorino and a good dose of pepper. Casatiello is a good deal more complicated to make than Pastiera, and many people buy them at bakeries today.

So, here is the traditional Easter menu in Napoli!!

Antipasto of different cold cuts-salame, capocollo, prosciutto, hard boiled eggs, ricotta salata (dried salted ricotta cheese) and fresh fava beans which are shelled at the table and eaten raw.  All this is accompanied by Casatiello.

Entree- either Minestra Maritata made with green vegetables and pork meat or Minestra Primavera, made with fresh peas, artichokes, fava beans and new potatoes.

Roast Lamb with peas and/or potatoes


"I am in the process of preparing my pastieras and casatielli. I make 6 or 7 of the first and 3 or the second.  We give them as presents to good friends... if you were here you'd get some, too!! (I'm including a pic of my kitchen with the eggs I bought yesterday to make everything!!!)"

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Tours by Yle in Puglia: Eat, cook, learn



Join acclaimed chef Rachel Woolcott and her local Puglia foodie experts

on an 8 night culinary immersion program that will leave you feeling like a local.

         This amazing journey will give you an unforgettable week of wine and food tasting, cooking lessons, demonstrations and learning the culinary secrets of this beautiful Italian region.
        As one of the oldest settled parts of Italy, Puglia’s flat, fertile land is ideal for farming and ranching and is also known to produce over 50% of the worlds olive oil.   Miles of coast lends to the freshest seafood while the land provides some of the best wine, vegetables, cured meats, whole grains, fish, burrata and ricotta cheese; all of which you will get a chance to explore. 
       You will shop at local markets, meet the winemakers and farmers of the region and fall in love  with the warmth of the land.   You will meet the most charming local people who are passionate about their lifestyle and produce 
       In addition to cooking, traveling and exploring with chef Rachel, your group will be led daily by professional guides who are experts in the Puglia lifestyle of food and wine.

Day One
            Welcome friends! You’ll arrive at Bari airport and be whisked away by a private transfer.        We will stroll the streets of Bari acclimating ourselves in the old city where women still make orecchietta pasta right there in the streets.
           Our first tasting of the trip will be lunch featuring delicious focaccia in a setting that will acquaint you with the unique Puglia lifestyle.
           Next you will settle in to your accommodations.   Relax and get ready for your welcome wine tasting and a traditional Puglia dinner.

Day Two
           Wake up refreshed and after breakfast we will head to Gioia del Colle, the most famous village in Puglia for mozzarella making.   We will explore this tiny old town to see first hand how mozzarella and burrata are made. Of course we will be tasting too!
            Next stop we drop in on a famous local winery for a special lunch where we will drink in the landscape AND the wine.
            We will make a foodie visit to Polignano a Mare where the small, coved beaches are often tangled with travelers and the fisherman sell their catch right off the boats. We explore the charming old port and famous fishing village followed by a traditional dinner.

 Day Three
            After breakfast we will make our way to the town of Altamura, exploring the old city and stopping by a local DOP bread producer (Denominazione d' Origine Protetta "protected designation of origin").

    Here we will have a traditional bread making lesson and learn how to make the most delicious “Focaccia Puliese”.    Next, we go to Matera for lunch followed by an afternoon guided walk of the ancient Sassi Caves .
    We will go back to our accommodations and that evening we will enjoy dinner together and overnight.
    Day Four

    After breakfast, we will drive to the Itria Valley to explore the Trulli area, well known for the dry stone huts with conical roofs.    We will stop for a cured meat tastings like Capocollo di Martina Franca and other local food traditions.              We will lunch in a  traditional butcherie serving “Carne al Fornello”.                        In the evening we will enjoy our first cooking class together  where we discuss ingredients and show you how to prepare local specialties. 
Day Five

         After breakfast, we will drive to the Salento area, known as the 'heel' of the Italian 'boot'.  This area is considered one of the magical beauties of Puglia with stunning landscapes, colors and flavors.    Along our journey, we will stop in Alberobello for cheese and bread tasting and a visit to a traditional Trulli Farm complete with all the farm animals. 
        We continue our drive to Lecce, one of the largest towns in Salento and over 2,000 years old.  The Baroque architecture is captivating and after a well deserved lunch we walk it off with a guided tour of the old city.
After such a fulfilling day we will be ready to check into a beautifully restored farmhouse nestled in the countryside just outside of Lecce.    Enjoy the property and relax with a private tasting of the local rose wines before our cooking class and demonstration with Chef Rachel.
Day Six
It’s all about the wine today! We will learn the delicate nuances of Puglia
wine that distinguish it from others. We finish up breakfast and head out to
taste and explore two exceptional local wineries settled in the Negroamaro
region. We will do extensive wine tastings and learn about the local wine
directly from the winemakers.
There is also a very special lunch planned with the passionate owner of a
well known olive grove. We’ll dine in a private room overlooking the groves
and later head back to the farmhouse for a fun pasta making class accompanied               by dinner.
Day Seven
       This morning, after breakfast, we hit the Lecce farmer’s market with our guide and enjoy several food tastings. Next up, we head to Gallipoli, the Salento fishermen’s village on the Ionian coast which is surround by high walls which were built to protect it against attacks from the sea.
We will savor a delicious seafood meal followed by a walking tour of the old city. Our afternoon will be spent with a prominent local pastry chef where we will get a hands-on pastry making class.

We head back to our accommodations for a cooking demonstration led by Chef Rachel, then dinner.

Day Eight
       After breakfast we will head down the coast a little to the Salento sea village of Otranto, located on the Adriatic coast. On our way we will visit a local food artisan for a tasting.     Lunch will be based on the local dishes we’ve come to know as “cucina povera”, and depending on the weather, we may have our lunch aboard a sailboat, fingers crossed!
      Later that afternoon we’ll stroll through Lecce and have some free time for shopping and independent sight-seeing. We will meet later for a bittersweet ‘arrivederci’ dinner in a very special Lecce restaurant.
Day 9.
After breakfast you will have a private transfer to Brindisi or Bari airport for your travels home. Safe travels and we look forward to your next visit to Puglia!


• For further information and a full view of the itinerary please CLICK HERE •