Road Trip with #2SicilianGals

Savoca in Sicily View of Coastline Photo by Margie Miklas A brief account of how the upcoming road trip in Sicily with Victoria came about…

Victoria and Margie in Venice Photo by Victoria De MaioI remember growing up feeling that being Sicilian was something special. My maternal grandparents were born in Cesarò, a small village in the Messina region of Sicily, and all the traditions they maintained in their new home in America in the 1920s and beyond were borne out of their Sicilian roots.

My Grandparents' village in Sicily - Cesarò Photo by Margie MiklasThe first time I went to Sicily was less than 10 years ago and it had such a familiar feel for me.  It was like I was home. Walking on the same streets where my grandparents grew up was truly an emotional experience. I felt really close to them even though they been gone for many years. I’ve been to Sicily five times, and each time the magic captures my heart.

Isola Bella in Taormina Photo by Margie MikalsMy first connection with Victoria was on social media. I liked her writing style on her blog and was delighted when she contacted Italian Talks  inquiring about becoming a contributing writer. I was managing their blog and Twitter account, and after sending some details about the writing criteria to her, was happy to accept her initial post. Not only has she maintained her role as an author on Italian Talks, but we have become close friends. Initially as long-distance, virtual friends, we discovered that we had much in common including our Sicilian roots and love of travel to Italy.

Margie in Italy Photo by Margie MiklasI have been in the habit of traveling solo to Italy, yet Victoria’s small group experience in Puglia intrigued me. I decided to sign up, and join her tour  and in May of 2015, we met in person along with several other travel bloggers for the first time in Venice.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy ~ photo by Margie Miklas

Margie and Victoria in Polignano a Mare Photo by Margie MiklasAfter 12 days in Puglia, we continued our travels to other areas of Italy for another week and found that we had a lot of fun and travel well together.

Margie and Victoria in Puglia Photo by Victoria De MaioVictoria wanted to return to Sicily one day and felt it had to be with someone who has the same passion about it and would want to travel together, so she asked me if I’d consider someday going with her. My answer was yes and…someday is this October.

Sicily winding roads Photo by Margie MiklasTogether we agreed on 10 days in Sicily at the end of individual trips to Italy this fall. We’ve finalized our “itinerary” and we’ve booked our accommodations. Unlike us though, we’re staying footloose and flexible! We both agree that this will be a very personal and low-key girlfriend journey including a little bit of everything— archaeological and historical sites, sightseeing, exploring Sicily’s beautiful seaside towns, wine tasting, luscious local cuisine, meeting locals—and lots of cannoli!

Victoria and Margie in Puglia w wine Photo by Victoria De MaioWe’re meeting in Palermo, picking up our rental car (thank you Auto Europe!) and off we go! And these #2SicilianGals are beyond excited.

For me it will be particularly meaningful because I will be visiting my cousins in Taormina, as well as sharing places, familiar and unfamiliar with someone who has the same passion for Sicily as I do.

You’ll be hearing more, no doubt. We’ll be sharing along the way but we also hope to inspire you to put a fire under those travel dreams.

Watch for us, #2SicilianGals, on our blogs, social media, and maybe in the news! After all, anything can happen in Italy!

My traveling companion PostcardZ from Victoria
Auto-Europe
My Love Affair with Sicily

You can stay updated on my travels on FaceBook  Instagram  Twitter , and Pinterest,

 

 

 

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Posted in Italy Travel | 31 Comments

Little Italy Cleveland Celebrates the Feast of the Assumption

Photo by Margie MiklasEver since 1898 the annual celebration of the Feast of the Assumption has been  the highlight of the Italian-American community in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Occurring in August to coincide with Aug 15,  the Catholic feast day of the  Assumption of Mary into heaven, the celebration continues for a four-day weekend. In Italy it’s known as Ferragosto..in Little Italy it’s known as The Feast.

Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasHow fortunate for me that I happened to be in Cleveland this very weekend! Don’t ask me how, but I have never been to Little Italy before, even though I grew up in Cleveland.

Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasSince 1879 people of Italian descent settled in an area of Cleveland’s East Side known as Little Italy. Holy Rosary Church has been the heart of Little Italy for many generations.

Holy Rosary Church Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasAlthough the  procession venerating the Blessed Virgin through the streets following a solemn Mass at Holy Rosary Church wasn’t going to occur until Monday, the actual feast day, I went to Little Italy on Saturday night with my brother to experience the myriad of street vendors selling everything from pizza, sausage, pasta, Italian ice, pastries, and steamed clams.

Live music was also a major attraction at the Feast. And despite the rain, we had a great time!

Little Italy ClevelandMusic  filled the air as Italian-Americans entertained us with song and accordions.

The atmosphere was festive with Italian flags and outdoor food of all kinds.

Little Italy Cleveland Photo by MARGIE MIKLAS
Some of the best Italian bakeries and restaurants line Mayfield Avenue, and we had to go inside Presti’s and Corbo’s to whet our appetites with the smells of dolci!

Corbo's Bakery Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasLittle Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie Miklas
Presti's Bakery Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasIt took a lot of self-control to resist these cannoli, biscotti, and gelato choices!

Cannoli Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie Miklas

Biscotti in Little Italy Cleveland photo by Margie MiklasLittle Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasThe hand-painted murals on the wall tell a story in pictures of this community where my ancestors originally lived after their immigration into this country from Italy in the early years of the 20th century.

Little Italy Mural Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasLittle Italy Mural Cleveland Photo by Margie Miklas
We finally decided on Trattoria on the Hill and went inside for dinner.

Trattoria on the Hill Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasTrattoria on the Hill Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasBoth our choices of veal cutlet and Italian sausage with peppers and onions hit the spot. I loved the atmosphere and the delicious taste of authentic Italian-American food!

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I wish I had more time here but I know I’ll be back. The sense of community is strong here and I loved being able to experience it!

Have you been to Little Italy in Cleveland? I’d love to hear about your experience so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao.

In case you haven’t been to my Instagram page lately, please stop by and check it out for more images from Italy and other exciting places.

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Posted in Italian History, Italian lifestyle and culture, Italian-American, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Italy Travel Planning – Milan’s La Scala Opera

La Scala Photo by klik2travel (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/klik2travel/I’ll be headed to Italy soon and I’m flying into Milan mainly because I found such a great airfare on Emirates  back in February. I’m flying non-stop from JFK in New York to Malpensa in Milan for less than $600 round trip. How can you beat that?

Photo by Emirates Airline

Photo by Emirates Airline

I really hadn’t planned on an agenda in Milan, but decided to stay for two days before flying to the south of Italy. I’ve often dreamed of going to an opera at La Scala, the world’s most prestigious opera house.  Inaugurated 238 years ago, La Scala holds 2000 people and I’ve  heard that it is difficult to obtain tickets, and also that they are expensive.

La Scala Photo by IK's World Trip (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/ikkoskinen/

Teatro alla Scala Photo by IK’s World Trip (Flickr)

I decided to check on the dates I’m in Milan to see  if any performances were scheduled. Imagine my excitement when I saw that indeed an opera was on the schedule for one of the evenings. I went to the Teatro alla Scala website and actually found it to be in English and easy to navigate.  I checked prices and was able to easily see which seating corresponded to the pricing.

La Scala Photo by Ana and Michal (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/michalo/

La Scala Photo by Ana and Michal (Flickr)

I had hoped for a seat in one of the boxes, since I knew the stalls on the floor would be too expensive, plus I like the boxes. From my first opera experience in Palermo, I felt like a VIP in one of those boxes.

And I definitely knew I didn’t want to sit in the top two tiers known as the gallery, or loggione. Apparently at this theatre, the patrons who buy these cheap seats  have a reputation for booing the opera singers. They are known as the loggionisti, and are merciless in their judgment of the performers. They even booed Luciano Pavarotti  in his 1992  performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo.

I also have heard that many of the seats in the boxes have limited vision of the stage, and the website conveniently allows you to click on the seat before purchasing it, so you can actually see what your view would be from there. I found this very helpful and was able to decide on a seat in one of the boxes and purchase a ticket.

So I am going to the opera in Milan for less than €100.   Stay tuned!

Have you been to La Scala or attended an opera in Italy? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao.

If you haven’t stopped by my Instagram page lately, please check it out. Lots of images from Italy there.

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Posted in Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Traveling to Positano

Fornillo Beach in Positano photo by MARGIE MIKLASAs I mentioned in a recent blog post I am returning to Italy this fall and of course am thrilled making travel plans and just thinking about it.  My destination is Positano, and for the first time, I will stay in one place for two weeks.

Hotel Pupetto in Positano Pghoto by Margie MiklasI am traveling solo and it has been a dream of mine to stay on the beach in Italy and write.

Positano Fornillo Beach Photo by Margie MiklasMany well-known writers have been inspired by the beauty of Italy and have kept homes in or near Positano for many years. Gore Vidal had a sparkling white mansion in Ravello that could be seen jutting out high on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast and overlooking the azure Tyrrhenian Sea a thousand feet below. It recently was listed for sale for $21 million.

And I only recently found that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of  The Rolling Stones wrote “Midnight Rambler” while staying in Positano on a holiday. Since I am a big fan of The Stones I found this story fascinating.

By now you probably already know that I am always drawn to the beach. The image of water, especially the ocean with its gentle rolling waves, is soothing to me and inspires me to write.

Vero Beach Photo by Margie MiklasEven when others are around, the sounds of the waves drown out distracting conversations. I go often to the beach near my home in Florida.

I’m beyond excited just thinking about staring at the shimmering sea and listening to the gentle sounds of the waves as I pen my first novel.

Positano Photo by Margie MiklasI’ll be staying at the same beachfront hotel where I spent five days last summer and thought I was in Paradise.

Positano View from Room Photo by Margie Miklas

Hotel Pupetto Terrace and Ristorante - Photo by Margie MiklasI hope to find my inspiration there and complete the first draft of my current work in progress, my first novel, Critical Cover-Up.

View of Positano beach Photo by Margie MiklasDon’t look for me too much on my blog or social media while I am there, since I want to stay focused on the manuscript.  Stay tuned to see exactly how inspired I was.

A recent article in The Huffington Post  describes exactly why  “Positano is the destination of your wildest dreams.” Enjoy.

What do you think? Do you think this view is inspiration enough to write? I’d love to hear you  thoughts so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao

 

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Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Italy Traffic and Rules of the Road

Traffic in Rome photo by Margie MiklasItaly traffic can be crazy to be sure, and I never thought I’d drive in Italy, but I have and somehow lived to tell about it. You can read about some of my experiences in my older blog posts if you are interested.

Traffic in Rome Photo by Margie Miklas Traffic in Rome Photo by Margie MiklasAlthough there are rules of the road, such as no cell phone use while driving,  and hefty fines to be paid when you don’t follow them, Italy drivers also have their own unwritten rules that seem to work for them. Can you say “Everyone just go at once?” LOL

Palermo Italy Driving Photo by Margie Miklas Driving in Palermo, Sicily Italy Photo by Margie Miklas
These photos give you the idea when there are multiple lines (if you can call these disorganized groupings of cars lines) of traffic that seems to converge into a narrow space. Remarkably no accidents occur. Every time I have visited Italy, seven times now, I have rarely heard the shrieking siren of an ambulance. However take a look at the cars and you will see numerous dings and dents in almost all of them.

Traffic in Italy Photo by Margie MiklasWho has the right of way here? Who knows? Just say your prayers when you start to cross the street.

On the streets of Italy Photo by Margie MiklasThe  drivers in Italy  don’t worry about bumping into the cars when they have to squeeze into a parking spot. I have witnessed it first-hand.

Italy's Passenger CarsDriving in the countryside and the autostrada isn’t bad. Even the Amalfi Coast road was okay when I drove it. It’s the cities that drive me crazy and give me un mal di testa, a headache!

Driving and Parking in Sicily Photo by Margie MiklasI must say the drivers in Messina are some of the worst. They park their vehicles anywhere, including the driving lanes and crosswalks.

Italy Parking spot Photo by Margie MiklasI felt fortunate to have arrived in one piece when I drove all day from Rome to Sicily.

Driving in Positano Photo by Margie MiklasPositano is really more a pedestrian place, so to drive on these narrow winding streets you have to be experienced. I would not be one to try it. Drive Amalfi works for me!

The roads are for cars, Vespas, and pedestrians..Anything goes!

I have recently partnered with the highly rated car rental agency,  Auto Europe, and they have a fabulous contest going now. Enter for a chance to win a 7-night Italian Road Trip Escape valued at over $3,200! One lucky winner will receive 7 nights of accommodation at three prestigious Italian resorts, a food tour in one of Italy’s gastronomy capitals, travel accessories as well as expertly written Italian travel guides. Ciao and Good luck!

Contest ends at 11:59pm on Sat, Aug 6th, 2016.
Click on this link to enter.

Auto Europe Road trip escape

I’d love to hear your thoughts on driving in Italy. Please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao.

 

 

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Outdoor Shrines in Italy – Italian Culture

Outdoor shrine embedded in a wall in Venice Photo by Margie Miklas

Outdoor shrine embedded in a wall in Venice

I love noticing the differences in the Italian culture, and one that seems pronounced is the existence of outdoor shrines in almost every city and town in Italy. Despite the commonly-held perception that Italy is a Catholic country, the latest poll indicates that “only 50 percent of Italians consider themselves Catholic.” Nevertheless, they love to display their favorite saints and the Virgin Mary in outdoor shrines.

Shrine in wall in Caltagirone

My favorites are the ones embedded into walls. Usually someone has undoubtedly left a flower out of reverence.

Outdoor shrine in a wall in Venice photo by Margie Miklas

Outdoor shrine in a wall in Venice

These occurrences that happen so often in Italy are not so often seen in the United States. Such is the captivation and  charm of Italy and one of the things I find so endearing every time I visit.

Shrine in Lenno on Lake Como

They may be on a hillside, or in a yard, on the side of a road or very commonly embedded into a stone wall. I found these very interesting and most oftens  freshly cut flowers are left there anonymously by someone.

Outdoor shrine along the Amalfi Coast

Outdoor shrine to Augustine in Colle d'Anchise Photo by Margie Miklas

Outdoor shrine to Augustine in Colle d’Anchise

Shrine in wall in centro storico – Caltagirone

Have you seen these outdoor shrines in Italy?   I  love  feedback, so please leave a comment.

Ciao and grazie.

If you haven’t been to my Instagram page, please check it out…Lots of photos from Italy ther

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

Burano – A Colorful Gem in the Venice Lagoon

Burano boats Photo by Margie Miklas On your next trip to Venice, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the unique island of Burano. This community has charm of its own with its brightly painted small houses that  artists and photographers dream about.

Burano streets Photo by Margie MiklasLocated in the Venetian lagoon, Burano is just seven kilometers from Venice, or forty minutes by vaporetto, or water taxi.

Fondamente Nove, widebodied vaporetto-style boatsWide-bodied vaporetto-style boats run from the Fondamente Nove stop in Venice to the islands in the Venetian lagoon.

Burano wide vaporetto style boats Photo by Margie MiklasThe tiny island of Burano  consists of four individual islands connected together by bridges. Originally a fishing village, Burano became famous as a lacemaking community in the 16th century. Although there is a school of lacemaking, few women perform this craft today, as it is very tedious and expensive.

Burano photo by Margie MiklasAn estimated 4000 to 7000 people live on this tiny island today, and they live inside their houses as well as outside, sometimes frying their fish and ironing their clothes in the streets. You will not find any overnight accommodations here, and the only restaurants are small trattorias and bars with outdoor seating areas. Burano is definitely a place with lots of ambience, which is why I enjoy it so much.

Burano laundry photo by Margie MiklasAn easy place to explore on foot, Burano’s main attraction for me are the brightly painted houses with clothes hanging out to dry. Around each corner the scene is more interesting than the last. With its narrow streets, there is basically one main street, Calle Galuppi, which  is filled with shops and small cafes such as Bar Caffe Palmisano.

Burano Bar Palmisano photo by Margie MiklasYou know I had to stop in here to  enjoy a cappuccino along with some of the famous Italian S-shaped cookies, my favorite.

Burano cookies photo by Margie MiklasCalle Galuppi is also a favorite with locals for their evening stroll or passeggiata and everyday socializing. The shops here also are painted in bright colors, keeping with the same tradition as the houses.

Gasoline pumps appear at the end of a canal. No cars here but of course the boats need fuel.Burano gas pumps Photo by Margie MiklasThe colorful houses attract a lot of artists, and the famous French designer and artist Philippe Starck actually owns a home here.

Burano boats Photo by Margie MIklasI found it interesting that whenever a resident wishes to change the color of his home, he is required to submit the request to the government. A system is in place to insure that variety continues in the colors, and so different areas of Burano have different color combinations. This tiny island of Burano  truly is one of a kind, separating it from the other Venetian islands.

Burano Photo by Margie MiklasTradition attributes the story behind the colorful houses to the local fishermen. Supposedly, they painted their houses bright colors, different from one another, so that they could see them when returning from the sea in the fog. This seems like it might have origins in truth, but no matter the reason, the houses in Burano make visiting this island an unforgettable memory.

Burano photo by Margie MiklasA stay in Venice is wonderful and usually crowded, but a few hours on one of its Venetian islands made me feel like I was in another place altogether. Don’t miss this gem in the Veneto!

Have you ever been to Burano?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Ciao and grazie.

If you haven’t been to my Instagram page, please check it out…Lots of photos from Italy there.

 

Posted in Italian History, Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Summer in the City

Flowers in NYC Park Photo by Margie Miklas
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited NYC in the summertime and I can attest to the fact that July in the city is hot and humid. Of course I’m used to heat and humidity, living in Florida, so I’m not complaining.

What I really enjoyed were the summer flowers blooming in Heather Garden at Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights neighborhood in upper Manhattan.

Fort Tryon Park in NYC Photo by Margie Miklas
Part of the NYC  park system, this was a pleasant respite with its shaded walkways and paths. Every morning I walked the trails in the park for my daily exercise and I was rewarded with the fragrances of so many different varieties of flowers in Heather Garden,  the largest public garden with unrestricted access in New York City.

Here is a sampling of what I saw in the garden. Enjoy.
 Flowers in NYC Park Photo by Margie Miklas
 Flowers in NYC Park Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie MiklasFlowers in NYC PArk Photo by Margie Miklas
 Have you ever been to this park in NYC?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Ciao and grazie.

If you haven’t been to my Instagram page, please check it out…Lots of photos from Italy there.

 

Posted in TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Beach at Amalfi

Amalfi Beach Photo by Margie MiklasThe Amalfi Coast in southern Italy is known for its undeniable beauty and mind-blowing views. Every time I visit I feel like I’m in heaven.  Most towns have their own beaches and this section of the beach at Amalfi caught my eye with its colorful green and yellow striped umbrellas.

Farther down the beach are blue umbrellas and read and white striped umbrellas, based on the  vendors who operate these areas where you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs for the day or part of the day.

I shot this photo in May, not yet summer, so the beaches were nowhere near as crowded as they would be during the peak of the season. August is the worst as far as crowds go, and in fact the Amalfi Coast road frequently comes to a standstill, from what I’ve been told by the locals and the taxi drivers.

The sand was warm,  the shimmering water of the Tyrrhenian Sea inviting, and the brilliant sun felt so good against my skin.

I can never stay away long  from this dazzling stretch of coastline in Italy, so it should surprise no one that I am making plans to return this fall. While I will most likely visit Amalfi, my home for those days will be another exquisite beach in Positano, where I hope to find inspiration to write.

Fornillo Beach in Positano - Photo by Margie MiklasVenturing into a different genre, I’ll be working on my first novel, which has been a work in progress for the past two years.

Stay tuned for more exciting details.

Do beaches inspire you to write or draw or paint or write music? I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Grazie  Ciao

In case you haven’t been to my Facebook page lately, please stop by and LIKE it. Lots of great posts and photos about Italy there

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Reservations, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Limoncello – Drink of the Amalfi Coast

Limoncello Photo by Margie MiklasAlmost synonymous with the Amalfi Coast is limoncello, the refreshing liqueur, aperitif, and digestivo made from the large lemons grown in Campania. While controversy exists regarding the origins of this popular drink, limoncello prevails as the drink of choice anywhere along the Amalfi Coast as well as Naples and Sorrento. Native Italians from Sorrento, Capri, and Amalfi all lay claim to limoncello’s  birthplace, and no clear evidence exists today to dispute the legends.

Recipes abound for those wishing to replicate this tart drink at home. The key ingredient is the peel from either the ovale di Sorrento, or large oval-shaped lemons grown in the Sorrento area, or the sfusato amalfitano lemon from the Amalfi area of Campania. For this reason, attempts to make limoncello at home are never quite the same as the limoncello for purchase in Campania.

Lemons on the Amalfi Coast, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasThe four basic ingredients in the aperitif include:

  •  the zest of 6 or or 7 large lemons
  • 1 quart pure grain alcohol or vodka
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar

Flavored by the zest of lemons, limoncello is a favorite among locals as well as tourists.

The words here are from a page in Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, my recently published photo book.

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast by Margie Miklas

If you like this post, you may be interested in my book, available either on Amazon.com, or directly through me. I’d be happy to send you an autographed copy for the same price ($24.99) plus shipping ($5.01). International shipping costs are higher. Contact me at margieeee@comcast.net

Have you ever had limoncello? Or tried a recipe yourself at home? I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Ciao and grazie.

If you haven’t been to my Instagram page, please check it out…Lots of photos from Italy there.

Posted in Italian lifestyle and culture, Italy Travel, Made in Italy, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments