Search This Blog


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sorrento, Italy: learn while traveling

With great pleasure I shall be able to share a monthly feature from Sant'Anna Sorrento Lingue: Learn While Traveling

      I met the wonderful teachers and staff at Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue while on sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy.   They have stayed in touch with me over the years and always welcome my unannounced visits to the campus when I am Home to Italy.

     We will be posting wonderful photos of a magical place you will be sad to leave.   I asked many of the locals if they wanted to live anywhere else and the answer was always, perche? (why)  And I have to agree.  From the sea views, the nightly passaggiata in the center of town and the wonderful festivals I have not found another town to match Sorrento.    Be sure to sign up for new posts and welcome SASL to our stories on life in Italy.

"Paradise. Utopia.  These are words that you do not often use especially to explain a place you could choose to study.  But these are words that you will wisely choose to explain Sorrento and especially the study experience at Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue. 

The city of Sorrento is vibrant with the hustle of people, both the locals and tourists.  The smell of the oranges that grow on trees lining the streets mixes with the fresh salty air blowing off the Mediterranean.  It is truly a magical place.

The ability to study in such a place is, in itself, a gift.  When added in the experience that Sant’Anna contributes, it would seem daft to go anywhere else.  The professors, all native, are willing and enthusiastic to share their knowledge and to make all students practice the language, making the learning experience vibrant and captivating.
The staff at Sant’Anna make the time spent in the classroom well worth it, and then the excursions truly bring the experience together, letting you discover the surrounding area and the hidden treasures of the Peninsula."
written by a traveler who studied at Sant’Anna Institute in Summer 2014

On top of this are the locals. They are so open and excited to share their city and culture that it is difficult not to become fast friends and soon enough you will be introduced to things you didn’t know existed, such as a favorite swimming spot or the best place for a late night snack. Being such a small town, only in Sorrento you will be able to experience traditions and leave not as a tourist, because bigger locations like Salerno or Naples will not allow you to live the experience of a lifetime and become a Sorrentino!!

For example, only in Sorrento you can experience the harvesting of olives and grapes (in Sorrento they produce one of the best DOP olive oils of the country) and even Sant’Anna past students participated to the harvesting! The Grape Festival is organized in Sorrento every year at the beginning of October; but also, both in summer and in winter the Town Hall organizes “sagre contadine” , that would be festivals promoting the typical local products, to taste “zero kilometers” fruit and vegetables.

            Spending time in Sorrento will be the best decision that you could ever made.  As soon as you get back to your home town, you will notice that the sun is not as bright and the air not as sweet. You will be just looking forward to your next time in Sorrento.


Sorrento is a perfect destination for a language-study holiday, a vacation not as a tourist and for Italian Americans to experience the traditions of Southern Italy.    
Only Sorrento is capable of offering experiences close to Capri  and the Amalfi Coast.  less known to travelers, you can experience the harvesting of grapes and olives.   Few travelers know that Sorrento produces one of the best DOP olive oils in Italy.    And everyone knows about the famous 'lemons' in the area.  Come and enjoy the incredible foods and perhaps learn to prepare your favorite dishes.   
Contact SASL for opportunities to learn while traveling.
Explore being Italian! 
contact Olga Stinga at
Sant'Anna Institute
Italian courses:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Italian American In America

One Foot In America  One Foot in Italia

By Lee Laurino,

The viewpoint of an Italian American     

As an Italian American, do you feel that you have one foot in America and one foot in Italia?  

This is my Italian American dilemma…..  I have always thought of myself as Italian American, no less  an American but also an Italian.   

In New Jersey, where I grew up,  there was no Italian neighborhood  but we shopped at the Italian bakery, the Italian food store for cheese and meats that were part of every holiday or important Sunday dinner.     Stores were often identified by the owners last name:  Caputo’s or Fuggio’s.    Everyone knew where to find the  best pizza ‘pie’ and we all went to the same neighborhood church and even used a designated florist or funeral home.   This was just part of our daily life and we did not talk about being Italian.


In the USA I am rarely asked if I am of Italian heritage.  But while in Italy I am often asked if I have Italian “relatives”.       The concept of being Italian American is strange for most Italians I meet.   Once I establish where my grandfather was born,  there is a certain level of ‘acceptance’  but after years of returning Home to Italy I do not believe  Italians think I belong in Italy.   The few I have asked, do not understand an  interest to obtain dual citizenship and live part time in Italy.   Perhaps they prefer to keep their Italian heritage only for Italian born.


Tracing my Italian Roots:

On each visit I come closer to my Italian roots.     After several years of research  I was finally able to visit the village my grandfather emigrated from when he was 7 years old.     Driving up the narrow road to the top of the small mountain where Petina is located, I tried to think how difficult the ride to the port of Napoli was for this family.  The cart that took them and their limited possessions to a country they had never visited, could not speak the language and may have had only a few relatives or friends.  The steep road must have been packed dirt, the horse or mule pulling the wagon must have taken more than a day to make the hour(by car) drive to Napoli.    Even today the 
Bus only goes to the village once a day and does not always return the same day


Petina, Italy

My visit to this rural town was the reverse of my great grandfathers.  I had taken a ship to Italy and although I did not use a wagon, I approached the small village with some wonder.    The elderly village women were waiting on a bench when we arrived.  But not waiting for the daily bus.  They waited for the weekly visit from the fish monger.   Today he arrives in a refrigerated van.     The village was silent in the middle of the day.   Fortunately we arrived before the closing hour for the city hall.  Once I had requested the documents I needed to apply for Italian dual citizenship, the clerk was absent for a very long time.  Finally she returned with a large, old book.

 There were some 1980 desk top computers in the office, but the birth records are ALL kept in hand written ledgers.   They were beautiful.   You could trace the birth of everyone in the town and the house they were born in.   I began to feel more connected.    Unfortunately the village priest was out of town that day or we would have also found the baptismal record for Edwardo.    The kind clerk suggested we visit the next town to search for any relatives.   The next town was over the mountains through endless fields of chestnut trees.   After just mentioning a name the town hall clerk made a phone call and a short time later my second or third cousin arrived!     A lovely surprise.    Tracing your roots on a trip home to Italy is truly a moving experience.    Over the years I have found some wonderful locals who will help Italian Americans in the process.   

Life in an Italian Town

While on a sabbatical in Sorrento, Italy a few years ago I daily observed lifestyle trends that were Italian.   At the Tuesday market local housewives shopped with a vendor their mother may have used.  There was the daily passegiata where the entire town came out EVERY night and greeted neighbors, family and friends.   The main street was closed to turn an 8 block area into an ‘Italian living room’    It was explained to me by an Italian living in the USA that most apartments are very small and the entire family might live together.   So Italians spend time socializing in the piazza or main street of a town as well as over a meal in a café or restaurant.      In the USA it would not have been unusual  to be invited to ‘stop by the house’ even by a casual acquaintance.  During one visit I was invited to lunch at a colleagues home.  It meant a great deal to me to be included with the family for a meal.

Death notices you will find in each town
Living in Italy vs spending a vacation in Italy allows time to try to understand  daily life in Italy.   I watched many weddings from the countless church fronts, saw fresh manifesto (death notices) posted on walls or announcement billboards, watched the entire town close shop doors during a funeral procession, Sundays spent visiting the immaculately tended graves of relatives, daily wash hung on balconies on every apartment building, visiting multiple stores daily to buy bread, vegetables or a housewares,  receiving a greeting from complete strangers on the streets.  All of this were charming events.   If I had to conduct business I may have had a different attitude:  the crowds for the post office and bank………no concept of a line, slow is the only speed on the street the opposite on a motorini, the men’s clubs that no women ever entered, the TV shows that even without a full understanding of Italian, were totally senseless, the  lack of a dishwasher or having all the lights go out if you plugged in too many appliances.        But I loved every minute of it and look forward to going Home to Italy.









Tuesday, September 9, 2014

American Expat Teaches Cooking from life in Umbria

              Today I add a new contributor, expat  
 Anne Robichaud

I hope to make Anne's posts a feature in our blog.   Anne gives us the perspective from Italy on daily life, cooking, food and my favorite the neighbors and friends she treasures. 

 Anne Robichaud - An Umbrian tour guide in Italy most of the year, Anne also teaches Umbrian rural cuisine in private homes in the U.S. in February and March lectures.
 Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970's and rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for Anne. She writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. S
ee for more on her tours, cooking classes, lectures – and her blog! Do see for news on the Assisi apartment she and Pino now rent out!

Pila, Umbria (see map) - According to some scholars, the late Etruscan life-sized bronze sculptural masterpiece, “the Orator” (now in the Museo Nazionale Arcaelogico di Firenze) was found near Tuoro on Lake Trasimeno. But the townspeople of Pila (near Perugia) know better: as you enter the Parco dell’Arringatore, a sign next to the wrought iron gate affirms that the Arringatore was found in 1566 by a farmer, Costanzo, while plowing the Mansuetti villa vineyards outside Pila. The Etruscan presence is confirmed in the village name, “Pila” from pilae, the Latin word for stone mounds, i.e., the shape of Etruscan burial sites. The Parco encompasses the lands and gardens surrounding Villa Umbra built on the ruins of a 14th-c castle and shaded by the towering Mediterranean pines, popularly called “umbrella pines.”


What a site for one of Umbria’s most delightful sagre, Picantissima, Festival del Peperoncino. While the other area sagre fete local Umbrian specialties, Pila’s festival showcases not only favorite Umbrian dishes but also those of southern Italian regions where peperoncino reigns, each region starring for two nights of the festival. Sicilian spicy dishes lead off for the first two nights, followed by Calabria, then Puglia with Basilicata next and Campania wrapping up.

We caught one of the two Campania nights with Pino opting for a mild dish – the famous mozzarella di buffala campana – while I chose fusilli tricolori di Amalfi all’ortolana con limone e pepperoncino. A buonissimo medley of summer vegetables, Amalfi coast lemons and peperoncino made this pasta dish a festival favorite.

At an adjacent table, a more “conservative” (culinarily speaking) Perugia couple opted for a local dish, stinco di maiale con patate (pork shank with roasted potatoes). Animated groups of families and chatting young couples filled the tables around us and a magician wandered about entertaining open-mouthed children (and their mystified parents).
As at any sagra, ballroom dancing draws diners towards the music of a live band after dinner. At this sagra, exhibitions from local dance schools preceded the dancing: first belly-dancers and then a hip-hop group. The local dancing teacher closed her students’ performances with a dance pertinent to the Picantissimo Festival: she writhed and leaped her way across the dance floor to the music of a pugliese folk dance, la pizzica (“the bite”) - a dance of the “tarantella” group – rooted in the therapeutic rituals for the cure of bites of scorpions or tarantulas.
And speaking of bites: at Pila, savor the bite of peperoncino in countless tasty dishes. Picantissimo!
- Image of the Orator kindly provided by Cornelia Graco, (Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0). Many thanks!
More great photos to today's note on the website!


See for more on her tours, cooking classes, lectures – and her blog! Do see for news on the Assisi apartment she and Pino now rent out!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rome cafe with naked bodies

       Rome café with
Naked Bodies.....

While shadowing Kelly Medford on a painting adventure in Rome in December we decided we needed a café to warm up.   Kelly suggested one just a few streets away.
The crowds of Christmas shoppers had not clogged the streets yet so we arrived at the bar in no time and before it was crowded.

Caffè Canova Tadolini
 Via del Babuino 150A

       Before I could even ogle the pastry I was taken aback by the statures and pieces of sculpture.  They were EVERYWHERE, on the walls, as free standing statures on the floor, suspended from the ceilings.

The other patrons did not seem to notice!  But I suppose they had visited the café before.
Kelly and I ordered beverages and a dolce.  

My warm pear tart was superb.  Kelly was more modest and had something that did not call out to me.   Of course the cappuccino was good and had it’s own signature froth design. And the flat ware was gold!

The bar area was small so we drank quickly to give room to the next wave of patrons….   I may never come to appreciate drinking coffee quickly.  I enjoy sitting and sipping for 15 min or more, but that is not the WAY in Italia.  The warm and dark interior was a perfect backdrop for row upon row of sculpture and carvings.


Sculptor Antonio Canova's workshop, in what was the artists' quarter of the Tridente back in the 19th century, is now a popular place for a cocktail and a bite to eat.   " the magnificent sculptures have remained, allowing you to enjoy your drink and admire the artwork at the same time"

 Sculptor Antonio Canova's workshop, in what was the artists' quarter of the Tridente back in the 19th century, is now a popular place for a cocktail and a bite to eat.

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!  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Burano, Italy: The Colors that capture your attention

Living with such wonderful color in your life,

has to have an impact
It is just like a box of crayons

I wonder who selects the colors allowed there a master color plan?