Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Give the Gift of Travel in Italy

The perfect gift that fits everyone

Gifts for a major holiday, graduation, retirement or just for the love of travel to Italy!

YLTOUR  offers gift certificates for the traveler on your list

Travel in Puglia will be enhanced with time spent

  • wine tasting class  lunch/dinner
  • a cooking class and wine tasting
  • a walking tour of Lecce and wine tasting/lunch
  • birthdays and anniversary celebrations



What's cooking?

Select one or all of the events offered

Contact Ylenia Sambati at
for rates and a wide selection of other events offered for
Your Puglia Adventure!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Italian Christmas Witch: Befana

I only learned of Befana a few years ago while doing a story on Christmas in Rome.     I can't remember ever hearing of Befana growing up in Italian American New Jersey.   http://hometoitaly.blogspot.com/2013/11/christmas-viewed-from-italy.html

But we did have the fear that if we were bad we would receive coal in our stockings...........and my cousin Gary did get coal one year!

So I was thrilled when a  face book contact posted the following story.  It explains who Befana is and  her legend.   With the posters permission:    La Befana
The xmas market in Rome sells Befana dolls

Stephen Mark Ulissi

  In Italian folklore Befana is portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick.  She visits children all over the world on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their socks with a sweet (dolce) if they have behaved well (buona figura) or good piece of onion if they have been bad (brutta figura).  Befana enters each house through the chimney and, being a good housekeeper, uses her broom to sweep up a bit before she leaves.  Many of the past year's problems are swept away during this cleaning.  Children who are wise (furbi) leave a glass of wine (vino) and a bite to eat (it is said she loves cardoons) to nibble on just to make sure she does not fly over without stopping in.

  Befana's origins date to the time when she was approached by the biblical Magi (Three Wise Men) soon after the birth of the Infant Jesus.  They had become lost when, after seeing His star in the sky, they set out to bring gifts to the Savior.  The Befana didn’t know the exact location but pointed them towards Bethlehem and gave them a place to sleep in her tidy house.  Just prior to departing, the Magi asked her to accompany them on the journey to find the baby Jesus.  But Befana chose to stay behind as it had been a very bad year and many problems needed to be swept away.  Soon after their departure Befana had a change of heart and went out to catch up with the Magi.  Her efforts were in vain and, on the 6th of January, the Epiphany took place in her absence.  To this day Befana searches the world over for the Our Lord.  During her endless wandering she stops along the way to leave treats for all good children to enjoy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thinking of retirement in Italy?

 My dream is still to live half of the year in Italy

For now, I spend a few months 'Home" each year.
I have no idea where I shall finally find my perfect Italian home, but an article by Maya Dollarhide in Investopeia.com has a review of prices in several regions in Italy.  

Now I have several new areas to research on my Spring trip Home to Italy.

The Top Regions For Retirement In Italy


There's lots of choice: Italy has 20 regions and a wide range of climates from Alpine to hot and sunny. Each offers a wealth of amenities and activities, regional food and wine, even dialects. Speaking of which, if you decide to settle in Italy, you will need to learn at least some Italian to be comfortable. In major cities such as Milan, Rome and Venice, many people speak some English; in more rural communities, you may find yourself regularly reaching for your Italian-English dictionary.
Best Regions for Retirement
When shopping for a place to call home, a little homework on regions beyond the well-known Tuscany will go a long way in securing an affordable lifestyle. Here are three to explore, plus information on Tuscany, too.
Abruzzo. This southern region is split between the mountains and the Adriatic Coast, and one-third of its territory is made up of national parks and nature preserves. It is cheaper to buy a home here than in Tuscany. A lot cheaper – homes here are up to 80% less expensive and up to 50% less expensive than in Umbria, another popular expat destination.
A home in a rural village could cost you between US$38,000 and $100,000, depending on size and location. Larger towns or cities in the region, such as the city of Pescara on the coast, or the medieval town of Castilenti, offer homes in the $300,000 range and up. A modest monthly budget of $1581 will cover basic expenses – home, utilities, entertainment, food and wine – in most areas. Pescara to Rome is three-to-four hour day trip by car, train or bus.
Le Marche. This mountainous region of hill towns, farms and Adriatic Sea beaches is in central Italy. According to the AARP, renting a home in La Marche can run anywhere from $600 in the countryside to $1500 a month to live on the 100 miles of Adriatic coastline. Looking to buy? You might be able to find a home for approximately $300,000 on or close to the water, in a town like Senigallia or Potenza Picena – or in one of the medieval towns that dot the hilly, green countryside, such as Fermo.
Read about other regions:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Italian Lovers: the gift of learning

The Perfect Gift for all those who love Italy

Give your friends and family members the gift of learning Italian 
in Sorrento, Italy!!!!!

The gift that always fits.     

Beginning or updating your Italian language skills, 
SantAnna Institute offers in class group lessons,
private  lessons or online with Skype   

If you are visiting Sorrento for a day via a cruise ship,
a longer vacation or interested in learning the Italian Language, 
this is a program for you.                  
 Contact Olga at info@santannainstitute.com for payment options and details
Lessons starting at only 30 euros

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite Italian Christmas Treats: from my friends in Italy

Tiramisu - Mascarpone Cheese dessert

A  new addition to "Italian Treats" from

Monica in Venice, Italy

This is my favorite Xmas recipe - it is not pretty Xmassy but it is what we always have for Xmas in our family every year since the 80s!   Monica is a professional food expert:  tours, classes and an upcoming book

Tiramisu (Mascarpone cheesecake dessert)

This is the authentic recipe for Tiramisu, originating from Treviso –
you will notice there is no rum or marsala or any other sort of liqueur.
But you can vary the recipe as you please, adding Amaretto or Bailey’s, or any other liqueur.
Tiramisu – Mascarpone Cheese dessert


400 gr. Savoiardi (sponge fingers)
eggs, separated
4 spoons of sugar
1 big pot of strong coffee, preferably espresso
500 gr. Mascarpone cheese
pinch of salt
cocoa powder
a square serving dish with high sides

Prepare the coffee and let it cool down. Separate the yolks from the whites.
In clean bowl whisk with an electric whisker or a hand whisk the yolks with the sugar until light and pale.
 Add the mascarpone cheese  mix still using the whisk

In another clean bowl whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.
Gently fold the whites into the mixture of Mascarpone using a metal spoon, do not stir, just gently fold in.

Now start to assemble the dessert. Place a couple of spoon full of the Mascarpone cream on the bottom of your serving dish and spread it well (this will make it easier to remove the slices of Tiramisu when cooled)
Dip very quickly each savoiardo biscuit in the coffee, but not too long – if you dip it too long it will get soggy, if you deep it too little it will be too dry.
Place the savoiardi next to each other, tightly packed and cover all the base of the dessert dish. Now place half the mixture on top and spread it well.
Cover with another layer of soaked savoiardi and cover with the remaining cream. cover with cling film.
Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Just before serving sprinkle with cocoa powder

Enjoy!    http://www.cookinvenice.com/cooking-classes/   
Monica Cesarato is a food blogger and culinary guide from Venice, organizing Cicchetti Food Tours and cooking lessons as Cook In Venice. Her articles have been published in La Gazzetta Italiana as well as many travel and food blogs and she recently appeared in the Venice episode of Alex Polizzi’s Secret Italy. Monica is currently writing a book about Cicchetti with the historic cook of Osteria La Vedova, one of the oldest bàcaros in Venice

Olga shared this from Sorrento, Italy

I Roccocò:  an Italian Christmas Treat

 Olga Stinga shared a treat her aunt made every year and the history of the Roccoco

""My aunt was used to make them on the 14th of December (here we celebrate Sant’Agnello, the saint patron of the village named Sant’Agnello) , 10 days prior to the Christmas Eve."
'These cakes typical of the Neapolitan Christmas tradition (whose origin dates back to 1320, through the work of the nuns of the Convent of the Real Mary Magdalene) take their name from the French word "rocaille", because of their shape and baroque round.

In Caserta and other areas of Campania Region, the Roccocò have an S shape, with a curl at each end that recalls the typical decorations of Rococo style. In Sorrento, instead, we make them with the shape of donuts crushed the average size of 10 cm.

I share the recipe for My Aunt Melina, my favorite aunt, who instilled me with the passion for cakes.'

The preparation of Roccocò is not difficult: they have a base of almonds, flour, sugar and Pisto, that 'their smell and the color characteristic. The Pisto is a mix of spices, made up of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, star anise and nutmeg, which serves to help the soaring Roccocò. It can be found in pharmacies, shops for sweets and, in Naples, even in supermarkets.

Ingredients:    500 g flour
                       500 g sugar
                       300 g almonds
                        2 gr Ammonia cake
                        12 grams of Pisto (spice)
                        150 g of water
                           50 gr Candied
                           1orange peel
                           1 lemon peel
                           1 egg for brushing (the tops)

How to prepare Roccocò

Mix sugar, the peel of 1 lemon and the peel of 1 orange
Add all the ingredients, except the egg (because it only serves the purpose for brushing) and mix them with the mixer
Add the almonds and, if necessary, a little water and candied fruit.
Cut the dough and put them on the table.
With the knife divide the dough into pieces and form the Roccocò shaped donut.
Brush the Roccocò with the egg, put them on a baking sheet and bake 180 ° 20-30 min.

My tips
If you can not find the Pisto, you can prepare a dose blending together 12 cloves, chopped half a nutmeg, grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, half a stick of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

Typically Roccocò are eaten quite hard, in fact, make a typical noise "scrocchiarello" when you bite into. For those who prefer softer, just cook them a few minutes less.
Finally, I suggest you try these cookies by spraying in Champagne, in Chocolate Liqueur, in the Cream of Limoncello, in Marsala or liquor you prefer;-) 



Isabell Salesny, co owner of Casa Italy in Rome contributes:

For a busy Christmas with never-ending to do lists, here is a delicious treat that does not need to be baked


Rumkugeln (Rum balls)



2 egg whites

1 cup icing sugar

grated dark chocolate



Mix egg whites, icing sugar and grated chocolate. If you wish, add rum. Keep the "dough" in the fridge for 1h. Make tiny balls.

Wrap a few balls in sparkling Christmas wrapping paper for a marvelous Christmas feeling.

Rachel Vermiglio Smith Mason  in Florence shared her favorite treat:
Ricciarelli (Sienese Almond Cookies)

2 cups blanched ground almonds
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar
3 drops almond extract
Extra powdered sugar for rolling in 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Prepared almond "flour" or "meal" is available online from Bob's Red Mill and Whole Food Market. If you grind your own almonds, I recommend a Swiss nut grinder, and there is one by Zylos that's fabulous. 

Combine the almond "flour" with the baking powder, powdered sugar, and flour. Beat the egg whites until stiff and mix into the almond mixture. Add the almond extract and blend until you have a soft paste. 

Place some powdered sugar on a clean, dry surface. Form one tablespoon of dough into a small ball, roll in the sugar, and then form the traditional diamond shape, flattening the cookie with the palm of your hand. 

Place the cookies on a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. 

Ricciarelli are fabulous with tiny cubes of candied orange peel rolled into them and then dipped in chocolate.

Makes about 16 cookies.

Recipe for Ricciarelli found on the Divina Cucina blog.




Monday, December 1, 2014

Italian Cooking Tour with Anne Robichaud

Americans often quickly call people they meet 'friends' if they find mutual interests, hobbies or travel styles.       Over this past year I have made new 'friends' online who live in Italy, are expats  or visit as often as I do. 

Anne Robichaud is one of my 'new friends' .    Anne has lived in Italy for many years and has taught Italian, cooking, given tours of the hidden treasures of Italy and writing about Italy.

Based near Assisi, Anne is a busy woman.   As an official Umbrian Regional Tour Guide since 1997, she is in demand for tours of Assisi as well as the surrounding area.     Since 1998 she has returned to the USA for her lecture/cooking lessons, demonstrating the rural cuisine of Umbrian in private homes.

The 2015 tour schedule is almost ready.    Contact Anne for details and more information.     And when you visit Italy make sure you plan to work with your 'new friend' Anne.

You can learn more about Annes life in Italy, here on her bio:  http://www.annesitaly.com/about-me/

Anne's 2015 schedule for cooking in the USA

2015 U.S. Cooking Lessons/Lectures Tour Itinerary

What a joy to “tour Umbria” with friends or family in your own                                           home through savoring Umbria’s flavors! Save the airfare and bring                                   “A Feast of Umbrian Rural Cooking” event to friends and family in                           February/March 2015.
Most U.S. cooking classes take place in private homes but restaurants                         have hosted classes in the past, too.
And if you’d rather just gather family and friends in for an                                              Umbrian banquet (no cooking prior), I’m happy to cook the                                           feast for the enjoyment of all.
My U.S. February/March tour often includes lecture venues as well.
The 2015 itinerary is now starting to form and will be set                                               out on this page, updated as the tour comes together.
Please note:
At times, cooking class hosts have additional spots for participants.                                   if you wish to attend a class – rather than host – or wish to                                           attend a lecture, kindly contact me.


Anne Robichaud
Pian della Pieve
Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy
Tel: +39-075-802334+39-075-802334
Cell: +39-333-9238448+39-333-9238448

2015 U.S. Cooking Lessons/Lectures Tour Itinerary

Please note: this itinerary is now forming. As the tour evolves,                                           all dates and locations will be posted here. Note, please: if a cooking                                 class is not indicated “sold out,” there could be spots available                                       for others to join in. Please contact me if interested.
Feb 4Fly to Los Angeles, CA from Rome, Italy
Feb 5open for southern California cooking classes
 or lectures
Feb 6cooking class – Monarch Beach, CA – sold out
Feb 7cooking class – Laguna Hills, CA
Feb 8cooking class – Trabuco Canyon, CA – sold out
Feb 9open for southern California cooking classes
 or lectures
Feb 10open for southern California cooking classes
 or lectures
Feb 11cooking class – Del Mar, CA – sold out
Feb 12Probably in Santa Barbara, CA for cooking
Feb 13open for Santa Barbara, CA cooking classes
or lectures
Feb 14cooking class – Del Mar, CA – sold out
Feb 15Fly to San Francisco CA
Feb 15open for cooking class or lecture in
San Francisco Bay area
Feb 16open for cooking class or lecture in
San Francisco Bay area
Feb 17cooking class – Healdsburg, CA
Feb 18open for cooking classes or lectures in the
Healdsburg or San Francisco Bay areas
Feb 19open for other events in the San Francisco Bay
Feb 20cooking class – San Carlos, CA
Feb 21open for cooking class or lecture in
San Francisco Bay area
Feb 22open for cooking class or lecture in
San Francisco Bay area
Feb 23open for cooking class or lecture in
San Francisco Bay area
Feb 24Fly to Seattle, WA – probably
Feb 24open for cooking or lecture in Seattle area
Feb 25cooking class – Gig Harbor, WA
Feb 26open for cooking or lecture in the West
Feb 27open for cooking or lecture in the West
Feb 28Fly to Tucson, AZ
Mar 1cooking class – Tucson, AZ
Mar 2open for cooking or lecture in AZ
Mar 3open for cooking or lecture in AZ
Mar 3open for other events in AZ – or fly to
Houston, TX?
Mar 4open for cooking or lecture in Houston area
Mar 5open for cooking or lecture in Houston area
Mar 6cooking class – Houston, TX
Mar 7Arrive Austin, TX
Mar 7cooking class – Austin, TX
Mar 8cooking class (lunchtime) – Austin, TX
Mar 8cooking class (dinner) – Austin, TX
Mar 9open for other events in Austin, TX –
or head to Dallas?
Mar 10In Texas – Austin or Dallas? Or
head to Louisiana?
Mar 11-14Probable cooking classes, lectures in Shreveport,
Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA
Mar 15Possibly fly to Chicago, Il
Mar 15cooking class request in Chicago area
Mar 15 to 19Destination to be confirmed
(requests in from Il, Wi)