Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rome: What is my future?

Who can tell me about the palm readers in Piazza Narvona?

Are they only in here in December?

Have you ever had a reading?

Do different readers offer specialties?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Italy: Puglia opens a new tasting room

My best contact in Italia, Yle, just sent her new offering for travelers

Wine and Oil Tasting Room

Stop in today for a wine tasting or a delicious lunch

We offer fine wines and regularly schedule wine and oil tasting. This new addition to YLTOUR and COOK IN PUGLIA opens upon reservation and it is located in Squinzano, in the picturesque Piazza Plebiscito.
Schedule a tasting, a wine picnic or a gorgeous lunch. The scenic view of the Piazza Plebiscito makes the perfect place to enjoy a tasting or a wine experience.
Our wine and oil tasting room is the first of its kind where the most and less celebrated boutique producers making phenomenal wines, are all available to taste.
Enthusiasts, connoisseurs, collectors, aficionados, are all welcome.
Visit us at our new tasting room in Squinzano.

E-mail for more information or to make a reservation

The Palazzo

Cooking and tasting wine in an aristocratic palazzo

YLTOUR has teamed up with a beautiful and aristocratic historic Palace not far from Lecce and Brindisi (10 minutes by car from both) for a new program for travelers who want more than museums and church visits.
Inside the elegant Palazzo, the main balcony opens onto the picturesque southern village’s main piazza and allows students to interact with locals. In this wonderful Palazzo and unique kitchen, elegance and history pervades: grotesque frescoes adorning the entire walls will inspire you to take tons of pictures during the whole time we will spend in there.
French windows open onto a romantic and peaceful balcony overlooking the Piazza. You’ll feel like being on the set of a movie.

Monday, August 4, 2014

You are not eating Italian food in America!

I have been told twice in just the last month that Italian American food is not real Italian food.  !  So I decided to find out why and asked my best sources in Italy.   Monica Cesarato in Venice and Ylenia Sambati in Lecce, my Italian sources, are proficient  cooks who offer cooking classes in Venice and  Lecce. 

Where did Italian Americans learn to cook?

Photo courtesy  of Yltour.  Mamma Anna is their top cook.
If you were fortunate enough to have a nonna, you enjoyed days in her fragrant kitchen sampling everything she was spending hours cooking.   From the time you entered the kitchen, food was most likely offered with a simple mangia.

Some of us learned from mothers or aunts, watching and helping with the preparation.   I can remember all the women in the kitchen with aprons preparing meals.    I thought the lasagna, sausage and peppers and eggplant Parmesan was as common in all Italian households, as meatballs!  So I was surprised to hear..................

Nothing like the eggplant Parmesan we had.

That many Italian American foods are NOT found in Italy?
Spaghetti and meatballs:   According to Monica:  “Not an Italian recipe at all.  The origins of this recipe are very, very American.  It seems that this was the result of the creativity of  Italian women who have emigrated to the States in the early 1900’s and who came from very poor backgrounds.    It seems that the American tomatoes, which were needed to prepare the classic sauce, were quite watery.  The women were obliged to add tomato concentrate, exaggerating with herbs to flavor the sauce.  Meatballs were added since meat was abundant in America while in Italy at this time it was a luxury.”

Just need the large helping of grated cheese!

Do you remember the can of tomato paste added to the large  pot of sauce that simmered for hours?    
The bitter taste was cooked ‘out of the sauce’ over the 2 days it simmered on the stove.

I watched Yle prepare lunch one day at her home.  Fresh tomatoes were sauteed as the basis of a wonderfully ‘sauce’ seasoned with fresh herbs.   The sauce garnished the pasta, it did not drown it.    And who has tasted fresh pasta and noticed the incredible difference?

Eva Sandoval wrote a detailed story for Fodor's Travel, listing a number of foods that you wont find in Italy:

Garlic bread:    most times bread is not part of your meal and if it is, never with butter

Italian Dressing:  salad is eaten after the main course and often only with a sprinkling of olive oil.  Of course Italian olive oil offers the perfect complement to many foods.   I sat down for pizza with the owner of a small hotel in Lake Garda and watched her pour oil over our hot from the oven pizza!

Pepperoni Pizza:  Pizza can be sold by the square slice to 'take away' or at the table as an individual round pizza for each person.  You will not see a 'large pie' shared by more than one person.  A wide assortment of toppings are used but in more than 20 years of returning to Italy each year, I have never found pepperoni.  Individual pizza is eaten with a knife and fork. 

Sorbillo Pizza in Naples:  DND took me for  the best pizza in Naples
Each person has their own pizza and it is massive, hot and crisp

Lobster Fra Diavolo and Shrimp Scampi:  Wonderful seafood, pasta dishes that are American.
Seafood is an ingredient for areas in Italy near the sea. 

Vanessa DellaPasqua,the founder and chief editor of Italy in SF , wrote a wonderful list of 100+ Things to Know If You're Going to Italy.    Some of her items I found most surprising included:  you will not find 'orders to go',  no doggie bags for leftovers, meals do NOT start with a salad, chicken is not eaten with pasta, Alfredo sauce is NOT Italian.

Isabel, a friend in Rome, agreed there is 'no pasta with cheese sauce in Rome, there are no meatball sandwiches here and baked pasta is a dish you eat at home, not really at restaurants".   

Lasagna:  I questioned several travel friends from Italy to research this Italian American staple.  Tina, a member of Discover Naples Destinations, described two classic types of lasagna.  " Lasagna alla bolognese, which is lasagna baked with a meat sauce and bechamel * sauce, parmesan cheese and sometimes, a little mozzarella.  Then there is the lasagna Napoletana, which is much more complex, with tomato sauce, lots of mozzarella, little tiny meatballs, ricotta, and pieces of link sausage. The Neapolitan is usually  eaten during the Carnival period ".
According to Monica "what really upsets Italians is the way American-Italians change our food
(Americans in general) think that using oil means pouring bottles of it on (food)!  The same for butter and sauces!   Italians believe:  poco è meglio, less is better ."  

 "It's like you (Americans) do not want to taste the real flavor of things.  So many times we (Italians) eat things as they are,  no sauce, oil or no seasoning, just as it is.   Just  an example:  if you fry real fresh fish, really good, fresh, fish, there is no need for salt or lemon.    Steak:  we simply grill it on a dry grill (no oil based) then a couple of drops of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, that's all".  

Italians have a philosophy on food that may not have immigrated with our ancestors.    Italians enjoy eating and it is the feature part of the day.  Meals are taken with family or friends.  I am not sure Italians understand eating alone and certainly don't accept eating in their cars.   At my first lunch in an Italian home in Lecce, I noticed Yle put a table cloth on the table.  She told me "she could not think of lunch, sitting at the table without a table cloth".      

As the CEO Yltour in Puglia, Yle has developed a number of travel itineraries to learn about Mediterranean cooking, the use of olive oil and the enjoyment of wines to improve health.     On her recent NYC visit she found the food 'heavy', rich and sometimes  flavorless.  "Cuisine, especially for a Pugliese, should always be fresh, in season and not heavy".  "We find that the simpler the more delicious.  .. Freschezza and sapore."            
As you sit down to Sunday dinner this week identify all the foods on the table that are really Italian!

You can learn Italian, stay with an Italian family and a cooking class with Monica Cesarato.  An energetic tour guide with an endless knowledge of Venice:
Yle has an endless list of events you can experience in Puglia.  What I found best was her ability to create an event based on your interests:  cooking, wine tasting, photography or a visit with a nonna.
contact Yle at
Tina is a partner in Discover Naples Destinations.  Even if you have been to Naples, you have NOT seen the places Tina can show you.  Based on your interests DND will create a special event for you and can offer countless an independent traveler may not find.
Olga Stinga with SantaAnna Institute in Sorrento, can offer lessons and cultural experience in and around Sorrento.  A single class or an extended visit will enrich your experience in Italy.

Isabel Salesny is an estate agent in Rome.  She can help you find your 'next home in Itlay'

*béchamel, or balsamella as it is called in Italian.  It is used in many Italian baked dishes and gratinées, and is a necessity in meat lasgane. - See more at: 













Saturday, August 2, 2014

Rome Italy through the eyes of a talented American artist

Kelly Medford:  see her paintings at 

After reading a post on sketching in Rome, by Browsing Rome , I discovered Kelly Medford an expat and an accomplished artist living and working in Rome.   Browsing Rome always shares a wonderful insiders' view of life in Rome, restaurants and interesting places to visit, that tourists may not find.

Kelly was in the middle of a project of 120 Days of  Painting and she welcomed my request to 'shadow' or follow her during my December trip to Rome for Home to Italy.             

Our meeting on Via Margutta, a small street between Piazza Popolo and the Spanish Steps has a history for artists and now galleries and restaurants.  One of the shop owners remembers Kelly and watches as she sets up and starts to paint a street scene.


 Kelly travels by bike to each location she plans to paint.  Her 'French' style easel/paintbox folded compactly and worn as a back pack.

Kelly has a wonderful plan to paint Rome, it's historic buildings, settings, hidden places before streets change, buildings renovated or worse, torn down and replaced with modern construction.

Painting in all parts of Rome and in all types of weather.  This day it was cold but Kelly was committed to accomplish her mission even with an annoying blogger asking questions.

 It was exciting to watch the street scene come alive under Kelly's brushes.   From a quick outline to buildings, doorways and even the mini truck in the street.

 Kelly has a wonderful plan to paint all over Rome.   As you will see on her web site there are areas not mentioned in tour books.
 Her hundreds of paintings will make a GREAT app tour to search Rome an match the sites with her painting.

At the end of the day, Kelly packs up all her supplies and the painting into a wooden artist box and pedals to the next location. 

Kelly is offering sketching tours of Rome and for those with he desire to do more, week long painting tours in Tuscany and other locations.   Check her web site for details.

A very big thank you to Kelly for sharing her day with me and introducing me to a café nearby that is packed with 'naked'  statues and other carvings.  They also have the best cake!