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Friday, October 31, 2014

Have been away from wifi

Without wifi I have been 'out of the loop' for weeks.

But I shall return soon with many new photos from my trip Home to Italy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Italy's Friday the 13th

I should have know today was a special day.    Mercolode dice sette is the equivalent  to Friday the  13th in the USA.

Nothing seemed to go right:

1. found I had NO ticket for my flight to Brindisi due to an error in the spelling of my name on the reservation.  To correct this I had to call the airlines.
2.  no answer at the Vueling web site on any of their 3 telephone numbers:  Spain, London, Italy
3.  The web site clearly states "No one will be allowed to fly if the ID does not match your ticket"

I have no respect for Expedia who would NOT help since the ticket was purchased via British Air who was code sharing with Vueling.

Solution:  buy a second ticket at twice the cost of the first ticket!

So all is well………….no, no, no…………..that would be too easy

Staff at check in says ‘it should be no problem to use the ticket with the wrong name’ and issues me a boarding pass
Adding more horror to the events, they give me a middle seat and ‘cant change it becaue you checked in’ (with the ticket with the wrong name)

I have 3 or 4 more check points to test the ability to fly with a name NOT on your passport

Never got past checking my luggage before the name error is noted.
At this point I give up and ask to use the new ticket with the CORRECT name and get on with it.

With my new boarding pass with my old correct name I stand in line at security for 1/2 hour and set off the alarm when passing through..

At 5 foot 3 i ONLY have 1.5 inches before I hit the seat back

What else can and will go wrong?

Plane is delayed.
Water at the airport is $2.50 a bottle
Food on the plane and water are for sale
Plane is dirty and some strange stains on the wall i wont go near
My seat does not recline because it is broken but at least the plastic armrest is not torn and a hazard for cuts as are the other two seats in my row.
the leg room is LESS than Delta and I am short
How is the passenger in the middle to every get out of this small space

I have NO idea what the passenger left in the seat pocket but NO one cleaned the plane
But the Staff are very pretty woman with a pleasant attitude and the plane is not full

Can not wait to see what Friday the 17th will continue to give me

Friday, October 10, 2014

Desert Italian Style in Sorrento, Italy

 From Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue:   Let them eat cake!

The first thing most people think of when they think of desserts in Italy is gelato. Who wouldn’t? It has the cool, creamy sweet taste we all know and love in ice cream, but somehow it’s just better in Sorrento. Maybe it’s the scoop they use to place the delicious creation in a simple sugar cone or mini paper cup and how it looks nothing like the ice cream cones in the U.S. It could be that not only do you not feel strange asking for two flavors but in fact, they encourage it.   Pineapple and coconut? Delicious.   My personal favorite, mint and milk chocolate. It’s like a Junior Mint in ice cream form.    What could be better?

Or maybe what makes gelato so much better than ice cream is the fact that you can get gelato in Sorrento whenever you want. Eleven A.M? Sure. Two in the afternoon? Absolutely. Midnight? Why not? Whenever you have a hankering for it, there’s always somewhere right around the corner to grab a few scoops. Other delicious desserts in Sorrento include Tiramisu, cannolis, lemon cake and the delicious waffles served at David’s Gelateria. Nutella and whipped cream on a giant homemade waffle, what could be better? 

Autumn has fallen here in Sorrento. The wind has picked up, temperatures have dropped, and the humidity has finally broken. Though the leaves on the trees haven’t drastically changed color, there are only four short weeks left in the month of October. Starting in November and lasting throughout the winter months in Sorrento Torroncini is a popular dessert for natives and passersby.   Made with pure fresh ingredients:  honey, sugar egg whites and nuts, torroncini is made in two ways, hard and crunchy or soft and chewy. Some toroncini   is even covered in chocolate.  This treat is so popular it can be purchased online and delivered to your door!

With the holidays fast approaching tourists and locals alike are starting to think of how they will be celebrating in true Italian fashion, with food!
Being in the heart of historic Sorrento makes the options endless. If you’re in the mood for a light flaky pastry with a bit of chocolate added for some extra decadence, mustacciuoli is the way to go.

If you are looking for something with more of a salty, nutty taste, rococo would be a fabulous option as it is a pastry with almonds. It still gives that light texture of a traditional Italian pastry while giving just the right amount of salt and nutty taste with a little extra crunch!  For something a bit more adventurous try sapienza a dessert featuring biscuits, nuts, and oversized citrus fruits such as lemons.     Of course lemons, this is Sorrento after all!

Some Italian candy and dessert companies have recently made their way across the pond to grace to red white and blue with their scrumptious treats. Bindi is a dessert and pastry company that distributes their products from a plant in Italy as well as one in the United States. The company began in Milan in 1946 when founder Attilo Bindi opened his first location, a small storefront. Now more than sixty years later, Bindi is a worldwide distributor of some of the best sweet treats Italy has to offer.

Sometimes the easiest go-to gift after going on an exotic trip is a gift basket. It embodies the essence of your experience in the simplest yet elegant way. Walking the streets of Sorrento it is clear that gift baskets are just as popular here as they are around the world. As a town with an influx of tourists from June until the end of October shopkeepers know what their clients look for when shopping for souvenirs. They create gift baskets filled with cheese, wine, limoncello and sometimes dried fruit, pastries, crackers or breads.

Traveling to Sorrento is a magical experience filled with some of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever try, especially during the fall and winter months. Bringing gifts home can be the perfect way to remember the magic of your Italian adventure while bringing it home to share with others. Hopefully, once you share the food and stories with loved ones back home, they’ll want to come with you on your next trip!

by Shannon Devaney 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sorrento: The grape festival


  The festival of Grapes is a cultural event that takes place in the early fall just a thirty-minute shuttle ride from Piazza Laro in Sorrento. A completely outdoor festival complete with wine tasting,
Italian festival foods and of course, live music make it a season staple for locals as well as tourists.

Two new stories from Santa Anna Sorrento Lingue 
by Shannon Devaney

Grape Festival in Sorrento

           The light display which I realized seems to be used at all local festivals lit the way from the drop off point up the path to the festival entrance. It was there that long tables filled with candy, cheese, meat and other festival goodies were laid out for sale. A small table distributed samples of red wine from a plastic jug, and a small group of young Italian children stomped on piles of grapes that would later be used for making white wine, giggling the whole time.

            Food was also available. Up above the hustle and bustle of the festival grounds a catering staff prepared one of two Panini’s for festival goers who bought a meal ticket for 4 euros. Sandwich options included either a pork or sausage sandwich with sauteed broccoli on top all on a think Italian roll. Though the line was long, it was well worth it for the warm sandwich on such a chilly October night.

            Neapolitan folk music was the highlight of the night for most guests. The excitement from the band emanated through the audience as they played. The upbeat songs and interactive band members who went into the audience brought a personal lively twist to the show. 

           Fall is certainly overtaking Sorrento and everyone in town is loving it. Free festivals, delicious food, great music, what else could you ask for? Fall in Sorrento truly is wonderful!

I’ve been told more than once that late summer/early autumn in Sorrento is the height of tourist season. The small side streets as well as the main street are constantly cluttered with tourists and the occasional local. When spending the day shopping in Sorrento there was one very important thing I realized. No one knows exactly where he or she is going or exactly what he or she or she is looking for. Everyone is content to wander the small side streets looking at scarves, oils, toys, fruits and vegetables and so on, spending their morning/afternoon going into tiny shops, try free samples of food and drink, and really living in the southern Italian culture.

Shops are filled with souvenirs such as paintings, wine, ceramics, clothing, Italian leather bags and other accessories. Most shops are packed with these items and therefore can keep you busy all afternoon going from one to the next. Prices also vary depending on where you buy things and how much of something you buy. 

My personal favorite thing that is sold in many small shops on the small side streets of Sorrento are the oils. Olive oil, balsamic oil, lemon or citrus oil, garlic oil, the list goes on and on. 

One small shop I found on my shopping adventure yesterday was soaps and candles. Lemon scented ones seemed to be the most popular while there were other citrus scents available. These candles and soaps would be the perfect take home gift. They are solid (no need to worry about the liquid constrictions when flying back home, they are light so they won’t weigh down your suitcase very much, and they are small, so they won’t take up much space in your bag. 

All of these are positive aspects of bringing home candles, soaps or other body care products sold and made in Sorrento that can truly embody the essence of being here and experiencing the lively atmosphere of life in Sorrento.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Embarrassed in Italy

Do you ever promise people you meet " I will call".  At one time we promised to write!  Now a quick email is all you will likely see.

Back in Florence today I had that moment when you are reluctant to visit a store or a restaurant because you had promised to do a service and did NOT produce.   How a year had passed and I still had not posted the story on a coop I found on a street behind the Duomo (cathedral).

After searching 4 long streets for the this very interesting location I found it and hesitated to enter in the event the kind woman I spoke with asked 'what happened to that article'.

In addition to a wide selection of items crafted by local artisans, the shop has a self service lunch and dinner menu in the wine section of the store.    What a GREAT place for a solo diner.  Since it had taken me an hour and 1 gelato to find the store, I was too late for lunch.   But I shall try again tomorrow.

Here is the embarrassing part:  I walk in the store and first person I meet, you guess right.   This year she has longer hair but is just as kind as last year.  AND SHE REMEMBERED ME!   I must be the most annoying tourist that ever visits Florence.

How can you remember someone you met for 5 minutes a year ago?  Now that I think of it, I remember all the people I meet on the road.   No they do not all become friends, but i remember the location and the encounter.  The day before I stopped in at the former "American Desert' store that now has a new name, and was not remembered.....must have been less annoying that day.

When you fail to full fill a promise what do you do?

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?