Plan Your Italy Trip Now!

Florence, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasIt’s that time when a lot of people I know are beginning to decide on travel plans for the year. Airfares to Europe have dropped and the euro is low, so this is a perfect time to make plans for your Italy trip. As an experienced traveler who loves Italy, I have to share with you a post which  just may help you make that decision.

Reposted in part from Postcardz from Victoria. For the full post with all of Victoria’s enticing photos, please visit the original post, Solo but NOT Alone!

Solo Travel: Take another look…

How many of you REALLY want to travel but…you don’t have a friend that can go with you or wants to go where you want to go? Or, you have a partner or spouse that would rather do something else? But the thought of traveling “alone” scares  you?  I have some ideas!

©PostcardZ from Victoria

Is it possible to travel solo in a small group and enjoy all of the benefits of independent travel? You bet!!!

Traveling in a small group can be the best of all travel experiences, especially for the solo traveler, and here are 10 reasons why!

1. You don’t have a partner or friend to travel with but you don’t want to travel alone.
(Or your partner or friend doesn’t want to and can’t do what you want to do.)

2.You enjoy traveling with other like-minded, fun people, i.e., people who share your interests and passions BUT the idea of traveling with a huge busload of “tourists” is a turn off!

3. You’re a  foodie, wine lover, and/or art and history buff and either: You have ALWAYS wanted to go to Italy or you love Italy and want to see a different region.

4. You want to do and see a lot but at a comfortable pace– you want to enjoy what you do and see! You don’t want to go on a “tour” where you are hustled on and off buses, in and out of sites and shuttled hither and yon.

5. You want an authentic experience, not a touristy one. You want to eat, drink, see and immerse in the “real” Italy like and with locals.

6. You want lots of personal contact and attention, i.e., you want to be pampered.

7. You don’t want to unpack, pack, move and change accommodations every few days!

8. You want an affordable, good value and NO $ surprises!
You have a vacation budget and you want to know how much it’s going to cost before you go.

9. You have always wanted to go to/back to Italy but don’t want to hassle with planning. You want to just show up and have a marvelous time.

10. You want to celebrate a milestone event (birthday? anniversary?) with friends and/or family but you don’t want to plan or host it!

These are not “tours”! They are unforgettable unique boutique experiences!

There’s still time to join us for YOUR trip of a lifetime!

 Register today –
Space is Limited!

 

©Victoria De Maio

♦ Puglia Highlights! ♦

Spring Dates: May 27 – June 5, 2016

Fall Dates: October 7 – 16, 2016

♦ The Italian Riviera! ♦

September 9 – 18

♦ Tuscany! ♦

September 23 – October 2

Portofino harbor Photo by Margie MiklasAs many of you know, I enjoy solo travel but decided to join Victoria’s small group last spring in Puglia. You can read all about my experience here. I had a fantastic time and know that you will too.

What are your thoughts:? I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Ciao and Grazie

Puglia resized Photo by Margie Miklas

 

 

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Life in Sicily – Photo of the Day

The streets of Sicily is where you’ll find the real people, the locals who work hard and take pride in everything they do. They do it with a smile and in my experience, they always seem happy to engage in conversation. It’s never “just business.”

Produce on the streets of Catania - SICILY - Photo by Margie Miklas

Just a block away from our hotel in the center of Catania this Sicilian gentleman was set up for business in the street. I love how he used all surfaces of his vehicle for shelf space to display his fresh produce for the day.

Fragole di Maletto, translates to Strawberries from Maletto.   Maletto is a small town about 25 miles northwest of Catania, 3000 feet above sea level,  nestled on the slopes of Mt Etna. The strawberries are considered to be the most delicious in Italy, and in June a strawberry festival takes place in this hilltop town. The D.O.C. designation on the sign  is interesting to me.  Usually applied to wines and other products strictly regulated, I wonder if these strawberries from Maletto are also controlled.

I love shopping like this in Italy. I’m sure many of you do too. Please share your stores here. I’d love to hear them. And any ideas about the D.O.C. configuration are most welcome.

Grazie and Ciao

A dopo (See you later)

 

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Made in Italy, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Trip to the Hospital in Venice

Hospital in Venice, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasI recently retired from a lifelong career as a critical-care nurse and I have always been curious about hospitals in foreign countries. Often I have been tempted to walk inside and have a look around. Usually there isn’t enough time, but on his particular day in Venice I had no agenda and had plenty of time. When I realized I was walking alongside the hospital in Venice, I decided that today I would satisfy my curiosity.

Hospital in Veice - photo by Margie Miklas

As I entered the doors of Ospedale SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Castello I was surprised to find a sprawling labyrinth of walkways and halls.

Hospital in Venice -Photo by Margie Miklas

I didn’t realize that this building occupied a former fifteenth-century monastery, known today as Scuola Grande di San Marco. You’d never know from this elaborate facade that inside its walls is a hospital.

Photo by Frans Drewniak

Photo by Frans Drewniak

Hospital in Venice - Photo by Margie Miklas

Known to the locals as Ospedale Civile, this is the main hospital in Venice.

I wandered around without any signs of security or anyone questioning me.

Hospital in Venice -Photo by Margie Miklas

Soon I passed the psychiatric department but couldn’t see anything other than this sign.

Hospital in Venice -Photo by Margie Miklas

Eventually I came across  the Emergency Room or  Pronto Soccorso Traumatologico. From what I could see everything looked very clean and modern. I was already impressed.

Emergency Room at Hospital in Venice -Photo by Margie Miklas

ER - Hospital in Venice -Photo by Margie Miklas

I decided that possibly  I might be able to visit the ICU which was upstairs by way of the elevator. At the information desk I was pleased to find a friendly young Italian gentleman who spoke perfect English. I inquired if I  might be able to have a tour of the ICU, since I was a critical-care nurse visiting from the USA. I expected to be turned down, but to my surprise, he was happy to oblige. “Let me call upstairs and see if this is possible. Please wait here,” he said.

Within a few minutes he informed me that he would escort me to the floor where the ICU was located. I could not believe my good luck. When we got off the elevator a sign directed us to an area called CICU (Cardiological Intensive Care Unit). “Please wait here while I speak to the nurse in charge,” he said. After about two minutes a woman wearing blue scrubs and a name tag approached me and spoke in Italian. Obviously the charge nurse, she indicted that she needed to obtain permission from the director. She instructed me to put on some paper booties, like the ones typically worn in the operating room.

The gentleman from the Information Desk waited with me until she returned and  motioned for me to follow her. He then said goodbye and went back to his duties, while she escorted me inside the unit. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any photos here, and I also was aware that she was busy and I was grateful for the opportunity to tour her ICU.

Once inside I observed a center desk and console of state-of-the-art cardiac monitors. No one was sitting at the desk. She explained in Italian that the unit had seven beds and an  extra room for emergencies. She brought me into that emergency room, where they treat patients who have coded. I was surprised to see two balloon pumps sitting there. Standard equipment in most busy critical-care areas, I didn’t expect a small unit in Italy to have such high-tech equipment. Now I was doubly impressed. We walked past a room where a patient as on a ventilator, and she told me that she could not take me in there, for patient privacy reasons, naturally.

I asked her if they stay busy and she said yes, informing me that only two nurses care for all these patients, and that the nurse-patient ratio is the same for both day shift and night shift. She shrugged her shoulders to express her frustration with the short-staffing issues, which seem to be the same as in the States.

I thanked her and said good-bye, letting her get back to work. I never saw another nurse.

So I left the hospital feeling good, my curiosity satisfied. I also know that if I am in Venice and would need the services of a hospital, this would be the place to go.

Outside the hospital were the water ambulances. (Yes of course the ambulance is a boat.) If you look across the lagoon in this photo you’ll see Isola di San Michele, Venice’s cemetery,  conveniently located.

Water ambulance in Venice - Photo by Margie Miklas

This was not  your typical touristy day but a satisfying one for me to be sure.

Have you had to seek medical care in Italy? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please leave a comment.

Grazie and ciao.

Posted in Italian History, Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Photo of the Day – Life in Naples, Italy

Here’s how pizza is delivered in Naples, Italy. Seems pretty efficient, don’t you think?

Pizza elivery in Naples, Italy Photo by Margie Miklas

I’d love to hear your your thoughts. Please leave a comment

Ciao and grazie

Posted in Italy Photo, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Travel Tips in Italy – Embrace the Italian Lifestyle

Laundry in Portofino, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasIn my opinion one of the main caveats or “travel tips” is to embrace the Italian lifestyle. Unless you want to be labeled the ugly American, you have to consider that you are a guest in another country. Of course life is different in Italy. Isn’t that one of the reasons we want to go there?

Italian men - Photo by Margie MiklasDress with respect for yourself. No sloppy sweat pants.

Photo by Margie MiklasPerhaps it is partly due to the climate, but I see far less people wearing scarves and stiletto heels in southern Italy. A colorful scarf is always a welcome accessory for both men and women.

For the past couple of years  temperatures have been higher than normal all over the world, and Italy is no exception. 2015 has been reported as the hottest year on record according to the New York Times. I have noticed  many Italians now wearing shorts, although most are young people and I see this trend more in the south of Italy, and of course near the beaches.

Photo by Margie Miklas

Dogs seem to be welcome everywhere in Italy. I have seen them on buses, trains, boats, in stores, restaurants and on tours. One bar even had a bowl of water and a specific section marked “Dog Bar.” Some are well-cared for but in many areas they are stray and appear unkempt. Dogs are used for truffle hunting and more practical reasons than for pets, so don’t expect to see so many pampered pets as you may see in the US.

Stray dogs sleeping in Pompei ruins Photo by Margie Miklas

I learned to be aware that each region in Italy is known for certain items either grown or produced in that area, such as olive oil, vino, ceramics, lemons, etc.

Wine tasting with authentic Puglia wines Photo by Margie Miklas

The Italian people who live there are extremely proud of these items coming from their region, and they are eager to share with you anything they can. It may be taking a lemon from their tree, and scraping its skin, allowing you to smell its strong flavor. This part of the Italian lifestyle is heartwarming.

Photo by Margie Miklas ~ Life in Italy

Italians seem very connected with the earth and they appreciate whatever grows there naturally, using various herbs and plants to their benefit. Rather than taking these things for granted, the Italians have such a passion and appreciation for what grows around them, and they know how to make the most use out of it. They use what they have.

hoto by Margie Miklas Life in Italy

So if a restaurant doesn’t have something, it’s probably because it’s not in season and not grown or produced locally. They will smile and simply tell you “It is finished,” or “It is not possible,” and that’s the end of the conversation.

So go to Italy and enjoy every moment. don’t ever expect it to be like it is at home. Embrace the Italian lifestyle and immerse yourself amid the Italian people for the best experience you will ever have!

Have you been to Italy? What travel tips do you have?

I’d like to hear from you so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao

If you would like to read more travel tips about Italy I highly recommend Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style by my friend and author Victoria DeMaio. I have the book and have learned a lot from it. It’s funny and packed with travel tips that will come in handy when traveling in Italy.Victoria's Travel TipZ Italian Style

 

Posted in Italian Language, Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

An Evening in Siena – Book Excerpt (Audio)

2044 In 2011 I went to Italy for three months as a solo traveler. That adventure is detailed in my first book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My  Love Affair with Italy.  During that trip I stayed in Siena for ten days, using it as a base to travel through Tuscany. One evening in Siena was particularly lively. I thought you might enjoy an audio excerpt about that night.

Soccer game in Siena Photo by Margie Miklas

 

 

Soccer game in Siena Photo by Margie MiklasStay tuned for more audio excerpts from my books…thanks to the help of my son Brian and his professional sound mixing expertise.

Siena Photo by Margie Miklas

Have you ever attended a soccer game in Italy?

Siena soccer game Photo by Margie Miklas Photo Apr 22, 10 35 01 PM

Have you traveled to Siena? I’d love to hear your impressions, so please leave a comment.

Siena campo Photo by Margie Miklas

Grazie and ciao

Memoirs of a Solo Traveler - My Love Affair with Italy

Available on Amazon or if you prefer an autographed copy, I will be happy to mail you one. E-mail me at margieeee@comcast.net

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Christmas Baking – Making Italian Torrone

Italian Torrone Photo by Margie MiklasI am not a food blogger but I do like to bake. My mother baked almost every day for our family, and she taught me how to bake when I was 10. She was a good teacher and I have enjoyed it ever since. Thank you Mom!

I love the Christmas season and especially enjoy baking Christmas cookies. This year I made my usual biscotti, pizzelles, sugar cutout cookies, Italian snowball cookies, and a few others.

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Thanks to a recipe shared from another Italy lover I met on social media, I also made Italian anise cookies. Thank you Tony Staffaroni.

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I also tried making fudge for the first time and it turned out great. My granddaughters were very helpful helping in the kitchen and they love decorating the sugar cookies.

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Baking together is something we do throughout the year and hey have become quite good at it too.

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This year I decided to try to make the traditional Italian candy known as torrone. Available in Italian shops year round, torrone is a traditional Christmas favorite.
torrone 1

This sweet treat is a traditional Italian nougat candy made with honey, sugar, egg whites and toasted almonds. Making it was time-consuming, but not that difficult. It turned out fantastic…I was surprised at the color but it tasted good and the consistency was right.


After letting the torrone sit overnight the color lightened and the flavor was even better!

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The recipe I followed was from this article on Swide.com.

I have become more adventurous when it comes to baking since I have taken several cooking classes in Italy over the past few years, and more recently one in NYC. It’s fun and with all the videos and cooking shows available making something for the first time is not so intimidating. I encourage anyone who is thinking about it to give it a try.

Do you like to bake? What do you bake for the holidays? I‘d love to know so please leave a comment.

Buon Natale!
Grazie and ciao.

Posted in Italian Cooking, Italian Food, Italian-American | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Some Things Are Different in Italy

DSCN3045 (640x480)Things are definitely different in Italy, and I’m not talking only about the driving!  Some of these are good, and some not so good, but a lot of them are funny, and maybe even a little bit weird. Here is a short list of some traditions and laws in Italy.

In Milan a law states that locals must constantly smile or risk being fines. Those attending as funeral or visiting a hospital are exempt.

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It’s against the law in Florence  to eat or drink in the immediate vicinity of the main churches and public buildings.

Florence's Campanile - Giotto's Bell Tower

Florence’s Campanile – Giotto’s Bell Tower

The Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that it is legal for anyone living in Italy to grow marijuana from balconies or terraces.

cannabis-364565_640

A few years ago the Italian Supreme Court ruled that having sex in a car that is parked in a public place is a felony, carrying a possible prison sentence of anywhere from three months to one year.

In the coastal town of Eraclea, building a sandcastle on the beach is prohibited  since  it might “obstruct the passage” of anyone strolling o the beach.

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Turin has a law that requires dog owners to walk their pooches at least three times a day to avoid a fine of €500. It is also against the law to “turn one’s dog into a ridiculous fluffy toy.”

When a vendor or shop owner gives a customer change, it is never handed to you directly, but instead always laid on the counter or in a receptacle on the counter.

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It is against the law to feed the pigeons in St Mark’s Square in Venice, but every time I go there, people are doing it. Many of these odd laws are not easy to enforce.

Feeding pigeons in St Mark's Square - Venice

Feeding pigeons in St Mark’s Square

One of the most unusual laws that I’ve heard of is testing of dog poop samples in Naples and Capri. According to the New York Times, the samples are then matched to a DNA database and the owners who don’t clean up after their dogs are fined 500 euros. I wonder how that’s working out.

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Have you heard of these facts about Italy? Do you know of any other unusual laws or traditions that set Italy apart from other places?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao

 

 

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

The Italian Lifestyle – Photo of the Day

An Italian woman in Colle d'Anchise, Italy Photo by Margie Miklas

An elderly Italian woman enjoying some sunshine in Colle d’Anchise, a small village in the Molise region of Italy. This is the village of my grandparents. I had a nice conversation in Italian with her. She could be a distant cousin.

She was so pleasant and her smile revealed how happy she was. The simpler lifestyle in Italia seems to have its benefits.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment.

Grazie and ciao.

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

A Fountain of Joy in Siena

Fonte Gaia in Siena Photo by Margie MiklasIf you have been to Siena you couldn’t miss seeing the famous  Fonte Gaia or Fountain of Joy on the high side of Piazza del Campo. This fifteeenth-century white marble sculpted fountain and pool is one of a few medieval fountains in Siena with water supplied from ancient aqueducts and nearby canals in the surrounding hills of Tuscany. One of the top tourist attractions in Siena,  seldom is there a time when the fountain is not surrounded by people.

Siena Photo by Margie Miklas
Built in 1419, the Fountain of Joy has been nicknamed “the queen of Sienese fountains.” Fonte Gaia has the distinction of being the highest fountain in Italy as its Siena location is 321 meters, or over 1000 feet above sea level. The water, once used by the townspeople for drinking and other needs, is not potable today.

Photo by Lena1 - PixabayThe Fountain of Joy is a stunning piece of art and everyday thousands of locals and tourists alike photograph it, sit by it, throw coins into it and stare at this marvel sculpture. The elaborate panels surrounding the pool are actually copies of the original works of art, which are now housed in the nearby Palazzo Pubblico.

Fountain of Joy Siena Photo by Margie Miklas

Siena’s most acclaimed sculptor, Jacopo delle Quercia, was commissioned to build the Fountain of Joy to replace an older fountain which featured the pagan statue of Venus. After the Black Plague claimed 80,000 lives in Siena, this pagan statue was blamed and Quercia replaced it with Fonte Gaia, dedicating it to the Virgin Mary. Once water flowed freely from the completed fountain the Siena people were celebrating with joy and thus the fountain was named.

Fountain of Joy SienaPhoto by Margie Miklas

Some of Quercia’s sculptures on the sides of the fountain depict the creation of Adam and Eve and the flight from the Garden of Eden. In the center of the fountain, the Madonna and Child are the featured design. Two angels and a depiction of the cardinal virtues also adorn the center part of the fountain. In 1858 a replica (with some adaptations) replaced Quercia’s original fountain due to degrading of the structure.

Photo by Jim Forest https://flic.kr/p/8ctAir

The Campo is so huge,  the first time I visited I was overwhelmed. Taking in all the outside cafes and the interesting architecture of the various buildings  I did not see immediately this beautiful fountain . Throngs of people surrounded the fountain,  and it was not until I actually walked closer to it to find out why so many people were there, that I viewed and appreciated the Fountain of Joy as the masterpiece that it truly is.

Have you been to Siena? What was your first impression of the Campo? Did you throw a coin into the Fountain of Joy?

Siena campo Photo by Margie Miklas

I’d like to hear your stories, so please take a moment and leave a comment.

Grazie and ciao.

Posted in Art, Italian History, Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments