Category Archives: Italy

TBTAM Does Italy – Part Last. Three Memorable Meals in Maratea

Il giardino di Epicuro

Il Giardino Di Epicuro is a family-owned restaurant in Massa de Maritea that serves food made from ingredients that, for the most part, the owners grow themselves. They also cure their own meats.

Fernando calls the restaurant “the Philosopher”. If so, the philosophy seems to be that of Horatius, whose famous quotation adorns the walls. (Translation – “Eat, drink…there is nothing else beyond that.)

The night we eat at the Philosopher is a quiet one, so the owner himself takes our orders, or rather tells us what to order, in a gruff but lovable way that adds to the ambiance of this find of a restaurant.

Best part of the meal? Hands down, the Chickpea noodles. I have to learn to make this…

Other highlights? Gnocci with truffles

the homemade grappa

and standing outside onto the vine covered patio looking at the moon while the kids play in the garden.

Ristorante Vincenzo a Mare
Located in Port Maratea, Ristorante Vincenzo a Mare has a lovely, vine-covered porch overlooking the port. Fernando tells us he chose it, “so we can look at Fabrizio’s boat”. He and Fabrizio have reason to be proud of that boat. They brought her back to life with a new motor in a two-day long adventure that at one point had them stranded on the sea a windless hot afternoon with no sunscreen.

The menu at Vincenzo a Mare is handwritten, a charming touch that only added to the ambiance of a wonderful meal. The food is fresh and delicious, especially the snapper up there, which though bony, is exceedingly flavorful and well-spiced.

But the best part of the meal? The lesson Fernando gives us in Italian table manners. Here, I’ll let him show you, as he explains how to do Scarpetta or “The little shoe”.

Double click on arrow to view video.

Beach Party Maratea

For our last night in Maratea, Fernando has the perfect dinner suggestion, this time a beach party. Fabrizio, Emily and I take the boat into the Porta for pizza as the setting sun shines through gathering evening clouds.

Fernando supplies the beer, and Diego brings his ipod and speakers. By the time we arrive with the pizza, it is growing dark, and the fire is blazing.

Party may not be the best word for what we are doing, for we don’t really drink much, and the families talk softly as we listen to the music and watch the Sea. I take a brief dip at the water’s edge, and come back to find everyone starting to fall asleep. Time to put out the fire and head back to our hotel.

There is no more perfect a way to end a perfect vacation.

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 7. Maratea

We spent the last part of our vacation in Maratea, a lovely town about 2 1/2 hours south of Naples at the southern end of the Campagna Region of Italy. The area is like the Amalfi Coast without the crowds, the prices or the tourists. Italian families come here year after year to summer, as do Wanja’s friends Fernando and Martina, who generously allowed us all to tag along their annual vacation.

Maratea is really three towns. First, there is Porta Maratea, which is at sea level.

Then there is the main town, or Centro Storico, nestled on the mountainside 1,000 ft above the Porta.

It has a square,

a mermaid fountain,

charming little alleys

filled with restaurants,


and galleries,

and a bakery called Iannini that sells the most amazing cookies I have ever eaten.

The old town is Maratea Superiore, which sits atop Mt San Biago above cliffs so steep that the road extends out from the rock walls to allow cars to make the climb. (Photo blatantly stolen from Europe for Visitors)

Overlooking the town is the Statua del Redentore, or Christ statue, seen up there on the left. Our kids did not want to visit the statue, being freaked out by the urban legend that the statue had the face of the dead young man in whose memory it had been built.

We three families split ourselves between 2 apartments at Pianeta Maratea, a Catskills-like resort in the hills, complete with pools and a nightly teen disco

and the rustic but lovely Hotel Illicini, a cluster of well-appointed but simple adobe huts along the Mediterranean Sea.

Here, we could choose to sit in the shade on the upper beach just outside our room

along with the salamanders,

or walk down a short path to the lower beach for a swim.

We could also join Fabrizio on his sailboat,

or take the shuttle bus to the larger public beach, which has two cafes, changing areas and kayaks to rent.

One afternoon, we took the kayaks out along the coast, and the bravest among us swam into a hidden grotto. This, my friends, was everything a vacation should be.

“But what”, I hear you asking, “do the Italians eat at the beach?”

I’ll tell you what they eat. They eat Friselle.

Friselle with Tomatoes, Olive oil and Capers

Friselle are hard, double-baked bread from Puglia. We soften the Friselle by dipping them into the sea and …

Wait. Let’s ask Wanja to explain it, she does it so much better than I.

Double-click on arrow to start video (Sorry it’s sideways…)

Caring for Our Aging Parents – Lessons from Italy

Our visit to Italy included a brief overnight at Fabrizio’s family home in Velletri, a town in the Alban Hills about an hour outside of Rome. Fabrizio, Wanja and the kids come every weekend to this lovely old villa, and not just because they want to escape the heat in Rome.

You see, Fabrizio’s Dad has Alzheimer’s disease. And though he has a nurse who stays with him during the week, Fabrizio comes to stay with him most weekends, a duty he shares with his sibs who live nearby. They feed, shave and bathe their Dad, and most importantly, watch to be sure he does not wander off, as he has done on more than one occasion.

I am moved, not just by Fabrizio’s personal attention to his Dad, but by the family’s acceptance of this lovely childlike man in their midst. His dad joined us at the dinner table, and although he did not speak, he smiled a lot. Like a small child, he was taken from the table when he was finished, and sat on the nearby sofa while we finished dinner. Then off to bed early, Fabrizio holding his hand as he led him upstairs to his room. No apologies were made to us, no complaints. My children did not skip a beat. Fabrizio’s Dad was simply part of the family, just the way he was.

This sort of loving acceptance is exactly what NY Times writer Denise Grady writes about this week in an article entitled, “Zen and the art of Coping with Alzeimers“.

If Dad wants to polish off the duck sauce in a Chinese restaurant like it’s a bowl of soup, why not? If Grandma wants to help out by washing the dishes but makes a mess of it, leave her to it and just rewash them later when she’s not looking. Pull out old family pictures to give the patient something to talk about. Learn the art of fragmented, irrational conversation and follow the patient’s lead instead of trying to control the dialogue.

Basically, just tango on. And hope somebody will do the same for you when your time comes. Unless the big breakthrough happens first.

Along with acceptance, my friends express an unquestioning belief that care of their parents is just another part of life. Wanja tells me stories of friends in similar circumstances doing much the same for their parents as Fabrizio does for his dad.

“We don’t have nursing homes here,” Wanja tells me. “This is just what we do.”

She’s right. Italy has few nursing homes, and in almost all families, care of aging parents happens in the home. Acccording to a 1997 survey of nursing home care in 10 countries:

Italy has a national heath care system with universal coverage, modelled on the UK’s National Health Service [20]. There is, however, a major difference, in that no provision was made for the long-term care of elderly people. There is no uniform policy and there are literally hundreds of local solutions to meet the needs of elderly people… in Italy the care of elderly people is almost exclusively the concern of families.

The need for good home care in Italy has created a huge market for caregivers in Italy, a need that apparently is being filled in large part by Ukranian caregivers. It’s a patchwork of a solution to a growing problem, as the average life expectancy in Italy rises and families with two working parents struggle to keep their parents at home.

And it speaks of a nation that still has the family at its center.

Though our stay in Villetri was brief, it has left an indelible impression upon me. As I watch my own parents aging, I can only pray that if the need ever arises, my sibs and I can care for them with the same grace that my dear Italian friends have shown in caring for their Dad.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog….

Olive trees, Rome
Sorry for the uncheduled blog break. I was catching up at the office (payback for vacation), unpacking (I moved my office 3 days prior to vacation), and dealing with Mom’s illness (she’s doing much better, thanks Dinosaur Doc for listening).

Now where was I? Oh, right – Rome. Of course, we did the tourist-thing. You know, the Mouth of Truth,

the Forum,

and the Colliseum (Fabulous tour by Steve of Angel Tours)

But by far, the best part of visiting ancient Rome was having a picnic under the olive trees on the Palatine Hill.

Wanja packed “turtle rolls”

onto which we piled fresh mozarella, tomatoes and basil, henceforth known as a “Palatine Sandwich”.

On Sunday, we rented bikes at the train station and rode out along the Appian Way, (which is closed to traffice on Sundays) to the Catacombs. Highly recommended, and a new bike path within the city made it even easier. Then to the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain. Sorry, no photos, but here’s a little clip of the Trevi Fountain scene from La Dolce Vita…

As much as we loved touring Rome, my favorite times there were when we hung out with the locals in Trastevere. Like the hour or so we spent sitting at a bar at the Piazza San Cosimato, a favorite neighborhood gathering place.

The Piazza has long been home to a local vegetable market, but until recently was also Trastevere’s unoffical parking lot and home to drug dealers. That all changed when the Piazza was redesigned by Lorenzo Pignatti as a modern gathering place for the residents of Trastevere and their families.

Although the Piazza is a bit of an anachronism in this ancient part of Rome, it works. The market is thriving and children play safely in the playground while their parents sit and drink coffee or wine at the nearby bars. Which is exactly what we did.

Now if we had had this at our neighborhood playgound in NYC, my kids would have been there every evening. Heck, I’d be swinging on those swings myself..

The market in Piazza San Cosamo is a bit quiet these hot summer days, but that doesn’t mean the fruits and vegatables are not just as gorgeous as in the high season.

If, like us, you are in Rome in late July, you will be just in time for Festa de’Noantri. The festival starts with the procession of the statue of Vergen del Carmine, who is taken from her home in church of Sant’Agata and paraded through the streets of Trastevere to San Crisogono, where she will be on display for eight days while Trastevere parties.

Unfortunately, we will miss the rest of the Festival, because we are heading to the beach, with a stop in Villetri along the way.

TBTAM Does Italy, Part 6 – Vinci and Lucca


We sleep late yet again (When will we recover from our jet lag?) and hit the road hours later than we had planned. Today’s road trip will take us first to Vinci, the home of Italy’s favorite son – Leonardo da Vinci. Until this day, we never realized that Leonardo’s last name means “from Vinci” – Duh!

Natalie wonders: “Does that mean everyone in this town has the same last name? Or is it just the famous ones? And if I ever get famous, will I be called ‘Natalie from New York City’?”

These are very good questions that I cannot answer. Fortunately, Wikipedia can.

The illegitimate son of a notary, Messer Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense, “da Vinci” simply meaning “of Vinci”: his full birth name was “Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, meaning “Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.”

Leonardo’s birthplace is a small town surrounded by olive groves and rolling hills not very far from Florence. The centerpiece of the original Renaissance town is the castle, which has been transformed into il Museo de Leonardo da Vinci.

The museum is dedicated not to Leonardo’s art, but to his machines – construction machines, optic instruments, fabric looms. They’ve built quite a number of Leonardo’s machines to his exact specifications, including his bicycle and flying machine. This is just a great little museum!

The kids are actually interested, and we learn how a rack and pinion works, how simple machines can be used to lift large stones with little effort, and how ball bearings reduce friction. This is the physics of everyday life, the stuff I love to explain to the kids. And to see daVinci’s actual notebooks and drawings is magical.

A short hike to the top of the tower is mandatory and we are rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.

A quick sandwich in town and we hit the road again. Next stop, Lucca.


The walled town of Lucca is a moderate sized city-within-a-city located not too far from Pisa. Earthen ramparts surround the entire inner city, and auto traffic is limited within its walls. No longer necessary for protection, the ramparts are essentially a 3 mile long city park, filled with tourists and locals of all ages bicycling, running or just strolling hand in hand.

We decide to rent bikes and join in the fun.

After about an hour of riding, the views of the town from the ramparts begin to tempt Mr TBTAM and I, who want to head down into the town to explore.

But the kids are enjoying the ramparts too much to come down, and we give in to them and take a break from touring. Emily starts a watercolor of this scene…

but before she is finished, a nearby church chimes the hour, and she must put away her paints so we can get the bikes back by 8 pm.

We have planned things wrong – Lucca deserves more than a day, and now we must leave it unseen except for these wonderful walls. We debate staying over, but have train tickets back to Rome tomorrow, so it is not possible. And so we head back to Florence, once again promising to return to Italy and see all the things we have missed on this trip.

Tomorrow – A litle more of Rome

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 5, Road Trip to Siena

Our Italian hosts head back to Rome, leaving us on our own for a few days. Although we will miss them, we are excited about tackling this country ourselves. We decide to drive to Siena for the day.

Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart, or for those who can’t drive stick. Thankfully, we are neither. We rent a cute Alfa Romeo, grab a map and go.

Unfortunately, few of the Italian roads have names or rte numbers, so getting anywhere is a challenge. We get lost, and find ourselves on the Autostrade to Pisa. This is actually fortunate, since we will become detoured tomorrow in this very area and will know how to get back to Florence because we were lost here today.

We decide to take rte 22, that green road up there that looks like a straight shot between Florence and Siena. We figure that the 40 kilometer or so drive will take at most 2 hours.

Boy were we ever wrong. The road, which starts out flat and straight, is soon winding its way up into the mountains. The views are breathtaking, but so are the turns. Natalie, the Carsick Kid, does beautifully, but that is because we are driving so slowly, which for some odd reason seems to annoy those in the cars behind us. We only stall on a hill twice, leaving the Italian drivers behind us laughing hysterically. Oh, well…

Panzano in Chianti

We stop in Panzano in Chianti, a small town about halfway to Siena, hoping to visit Mario Cecchini, the famous Butcher. But his shop is closed today, the young boy mopping the floors tells us. So we decide to have lunch at Oltre il Giarndino, a lovely restaurant in a stone house just a few steps away from the small town square.

We sit on a large terrace shaded by Wisteria and other vines, overlooking the valley. The ravioli ricotta e spinaci al burro e salvia (ravioli in sage butter) is the best I have ever had in my life – how do they make it so light?

A quick gelato for the kids, then back to the road. We take a wrong turn out of town, and find ourselves up amidst the vineyards. A roadside shrine provides a good spot to turn around and head back to the highway towards Siena.

As we make the turn, an old lady glares out at us from between her curtains. I can almost hear her muttering, “Touristsi…”

Siena is a medieval city built on a mountaintop in the heart of Tuscany. The heart of the city is restricted to pedestrians, giving it almost a Disneyworld kind of feel. But this is a real town populated year-round and having a vibrant shopping district, a strong arts culture, and a twice-yearly horse race around the Piazza del Campo.

We stop for a drink on this sweltering hot day. Looks like the birds in the Fonte Gaia (“Fountain of Joy”) had the same idea…

Mr TBTAM and Emily climb the Tower of the Pallazzo Publico while Nats and I tour the rooms inside. The frescoes there are amazing, and we are quite taken with Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s enormous fresco “Allegory of Good and Bad Government”, which encompasses an entire room.

We lean in close to look at the detail on the strangely prophetic Bad Government frescoe….

There is a jazz school in Siena, and they are recruiting students at the Pallazzo. I check out the brochure, but there is no course in scat singing. Too bad, I might have stayed on for that. But students of jazz are everywhere in this town.

(Double-Click player for a little Siena Street music.)

We stroll and shop, the it’s on to the Duomo, which goes on record as my favorite church in Europe.

I love everything about it – the zebra striped columns,

the floors

and the ceilings.

But the Duomo is closing, and the sun is setting. We need to get back on the road to make it to Florence before it is too dark to read the poorly lit road signs on the autostrade. So we head back down to the car, strolling a little more slowly than we should, vowing to return someday soon for a longer visit to this lovely town.

Frescoe images from Web Gallery of Art

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 4

After gorging oursleves on prosciutto and ham and scomorza, we headed out to visit Tempio Maggiore, the only Synagogue in Florence. Definitely worth the trip, and far from the tourist crowds. Moorish design, gorgeous. Security was tight, and they gave the girls shawls to cover their shoulders for the tour. Sorry they forbade cameras inside, but here is a web site with good pics. We learned the fascinating history of the Jews in Florence and met a nice man from Crown Heights who thought Diego was Jewish and offered him his Tallis.

Beautiful Oleander growing on a wall across from the Synagogue, and everywhere we went throughout this country. Given how oleander grows here in this hot sunny climate, I am wondering if it would do well on my rooftop, and consider sneaking some cuttings through customs, but reconsider and plan to check it out when I get home…

On to the Iffizi. As with the Metropolitan in New York, I think the best time to visit the Iffizi is the end of the day. We got our tickets for 6:00 pm, which left us plenty of time to see the galleries, catch a gorgous sunset…

and close the rooftop cafe with drinks.

Dinner is a pizza with anchovies.

More strolling. gelato for the kids, then home to Boga Pinte.

The grafitti catches my eye tonight, and I find myself thinking that it is much more artistic here than in Rome. Or perhaps it is just that the Iffiizi has me seeing art everywhere….

Tomorrow – On our own in Sienna and Vinci

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 3. Mercato Centrale, Firenze

The Mercato Centrale (Central Market) in Florence is filled with a seemingly endless array of vinegars, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, all stunningly gorgeous, fresh and wonderful, in surroundings a bit prettier and a little more self-conscious that I’d expected.

But I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

Vinegar tasting bar

These were the best sun dried tomatoes I have ever had.

Here’s what we made with what we bought.

Ricotta, arugula and sundried tomato sandwiches

Ricotta cheese
Sundried tomatoes
Salt (only if tomatoes are not salted)
Good bread
Olive oil

Cut bread into clices. Spread ricotta on bread. Top with tomatoes and arugula. Drizzle olive oil. Salt only if tomatoes are not salted already.

Figs wrapped with Proscuitto

Fresh figs
Prosciutto Crudo

Cut figs in half. Wrap with Prosciutto. Eat.

Cooked Scamorza Cheese

Cut the scamorza cheese in half lengthwise. Place in a preheated pan for a few minutes till soft, warm and bubbly. Eat immediately.

When do you eat scamorza? Well, it could be a second course at dinner. Or, according to Wanja, you keep it around at all times, “And when you get home late on Sunday night and you’re hungry and too tired to cook anything, then you make yourself a scamorza.”

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 2


The high speed train from Rome to Florence takes under 2 hours, and Wanja packed us sandwiches for the ride. We walked from the train station in sweltering heat down the narrow, treeless streets of Central Florence to our apartment on Borga Pinte.

Tucked away behind the tall stone walls are apartments, gardens, schools, hotels, you name it. It all seems so very secret. So it should come as no surprise to you that behind the unassuming door of our building was this entryway…

Go through that gate and down the hallway…

And you are in the main garden!

Our apartment is a modern renovation on the ground floor…

and has a small private garden.

We rented the partment through a European site called Hidden Italy. I highly recommend it.

The best part about staying in an apartment vs. a hotel is discovering the little things that make life abroad different from home. For example, the Italians dry their dishes in a cupboard above the sink lined with open-grated shelves. Now you see ‘em…

Now you don’t!

But enough domesticity – on to Florence.

This is the Duomo. It was closed by the time we arrived, but open for Mass, so we decided to attend the Mass in order to see the place. We were a rather motley crew – one ex-Catholic, one Jew, 2 Quakers, and 2 kids raised without a formal religion. No one seemed to mind.

We liked the Fake-David in the Piazza near the Iffizi Galleries. The lines were too long to see the real one.

We strolled the streets, stopping to buy sandals, watercolors and other small things.

Dinner was at a rather touristy place near the Ponte Vecchio, a meal during which the waitress ran out of the kitchen screaming when a large bird flew in. The food itself was non-descript, save for a single dish – Pecorino cheese served with honey and pears. We decided then and there to make it ourselves the next day. (recipe below)

We stumbled upon a concert by the Santa Barbara Choral Society in the Chiesa San Stephano al Ponte Vecchio.

The entire first half of the concert was accompanied by a solo bird singing along somewhere in the eaves of the church! The highlight of the concert was Lux Aeterna, a modern choral piece by Morten Lauridsen that I had never heard before.

To get a little sense of the experience do this – Close your eyes, imagine you are in a church in Italy and listen to this excerpt. (Requires real player, give it a second to load.) You will understand why my face was covered in tears by the end of the piece.

After the concert, it was gelato and a leisurely walk home. At night, many of the stores outside the tourist areas shutter up, giving the place a bit of an eerie feeling.

But don’t be frightened. Madonna is there on almost every corner watching out for you…

The restaurants are still open…

And there is plenty going on behind those walls. One evening, we walked past an open door, and looking in, saw that the whole neighborhood was in a large coutyard watching an old movie being projected on the walls!

Tomorrow – More Florence (and more recipes)…

Pecorino Cheese with Honey and Pears

1 wedge good pecorino cheese – Goat’s (oops I mean sheep’s) milk is best
1 pear, not too soft
1 Tiny sundried tomato (Or a small piece of dried pepper if you are daring)

Place honey in a small bowl for dipping, Garnish with a small sundried tomato or pepper.
Cut cheese into small wedges. Core and slice pear. Dip cheese or pear into honey and eat. Hmm…

TBTAM Does Italy – Part 1

To see Italy through the eyes of those who live there is to truly experience that country.

It is the difference between standing in a café stranded by the lack of language and knowing that you order one way when sitting at a table and another when standing at the bar, and never cappuccino after noon. The difference between getting lost on the Autostrade and knowing that the road you are driving on took years to build because each kilometer had to be contracted separately with the Mafia family assigned to it. The difference between wandering around the Palatine Hill with a tourbook in the sweltering heat and having a picnic there. Between feeling like an outsider and belonging.

And so first, I want to thank our dear friends Wanja and Fabrizio for hosting us during this trip and our new friends Martina and Federico for making us feel as if we belonged in their wonderful country.

Now on to your visual trip through Italy, complete with a recipe or two. First stop…


Our friends live in Trastevere, which means “Across the Tiber”. Trastevere is Rome’s Left Bank, and is a vibrant neighborhood that has been gentrified from its seedier predecessor. Graffiti still abounds, but the area is safe and like New York, there are people out till the late hours. Visitors tend to stick to the same main streets, which can be very crowded at night. But just stray off the beaten path by a single block, and it is peaceful. Needless to say, we felt right at home.

For this one night stay we split up between Wanja’s apartment and that of their friends in Monte Verde, which is on one of Rome’s seven hills. The apartment came complete with terrace garden, great views of the city and a four flight walk up. There was an air conditioner, but we did not discover it until the next morning. Oh well, what’s another bath or two when the tubs are deep enough that the water covers your shoulders while you read.

Now that we’re settled, how about a walking tour through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere? (Since I am contemplating painting my living room orange, you will see a lot of orange buildings in these photos…)

The Piazza Santa Maria Trastevere is the heart of the neighborhood, and until recently, it was where all the school kids hung out at night, till the cops had them move on to another Piazza.

Check out the floors in the Church of Santa Maria Trastevere…

Even though I no longer am a practicing Catholic, I light a candle for my Mom whenever I visit a church. Here, we also wrote a request to St Anthony to take away Mom’s post-herpetic neuralgia. We tucked our paper in near the top, hoping this would get her priority attention.

Piazza Navona. They used to fill it with water and reenaact naval battles there.

Speaking of water, there are freely flowing fountains everywhere. The Romans are very proud of their water, which rivals New York’s in terms of taste. You can cup your hands under to get a drink,

or do as the Romans do, plug the bottom and and lean in for a sip from the top.

We all share a few bites of a pizza Blanca (pizza dough without sauce), sandwiching a few slices of meat.

The gelato looks delicious,

as does the apricot torte…

But it’s too hot to eat anything else but fruit.

The Pantheon was not really as crowded as this photo makes it appear. We strolled right in.

The top of the Pantheon is open, but the floors are slanted so the water runs away from the center when it rains.

Wanja’s daughter’s school is across the street from the Pantheon. Can you imagine looking out your window during class and getting an eyeful of ancient Roman History every single day?

Speaking of school, Italian kids get real food at lunch. There is no institutional food. Only fresh pasta, meat, salad or veggies and fruit, home made by the school cooks. Apparently the best school food in Italy is in Modena.

Back for a nap and a bath (loving that tub…), then out for dinner to Corallo, a restaurant in Centro (the center) near Piazza Navona.

Tables from the restaurants flow out into the narrow cobblestone streets on these hot nights, and we eat bathed by street lamps and serenaded by passing vespas. We had pastas and a delicious fennel-orange-peach salad with shrimp.

Italians care very much where their food comes from, and eat it in season. They are suspicious if they are offered food that they know is out of season or not grown in the region. So, when we were offered artichokes, which are in season near Rome in June and August, our friends knew they were not local. Indeed the waiter admitted that they were from Brittany.

After dinner, we wandered back to Trastevere, stopping at Tre Scalini for gelato (supposedly one of the best places for gelato in Rome), and strolling along the banks of the Tiber for the Estate Romana (Roman Summer) Festival.

This is one of the many summer evening activities around the city for visitors and those poor Romans who haven’t yet gone to the seaside to escape the heat.

What we did not do, and should have, was go to Isola Tiberina, where you can have a drink or eat while reclining Roman style on pillows or rugs on the inclines.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Fierenze (Florence)

Fennel, Orange and Peach Salad
Here’s a recipe we came up with and made the following night.

Fresh fennel
1 Blood orange
1 peach
Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Shave the fennel thinly (It should look like a thinly sliced onion). Place into a large bowl. Peel and section the orange; core and section the peach. Add both to bowl. Make sure you get any extruded juice, it serves as the “vinegar” for your salad. Scatter fresh basil on top. Add a small amount olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of pesto on the side.

Greetings from Italy!

Just a little something to tempt you…..

No internet access all week, and now just for a few minutes. Promise to post much, much more sometime soon. Ciao!

Passport Help!

Okay, so we are leaving for Italy on Saturday night. We applied for our passport renewals in MARCH. My youngest daughter’s passport is still in process.

We have done everything we know to do. We had to wait until 14 days prior to our travel date to begin the rush process. Since then, we have called daily. We cannot get an appointment at any of the passport offices within 200 miles. We called the office of Carol Maloney, our state rep,and her guy in her office has been on the phone with the passort processing center in New Hamphshire on a daily basis for us every day this week. Every time he calls us back, it is the same news “Not ready yet. But they have moved your request up to urgent”.

So I am putting it out to the blogosphere…

I’m praying that someone in the passport office in New Hamphire reads my blog and can see it in their heart to help us.

Or someone reading this blog knows someone in the passport processing center in New Hampshire. Or knows someone at the state department. Or is someone really, really important who can get my daughter’s passport processed for us tomorrow.

In the meantime, we are heading up to Norwalk Connecticut so that we can get online at 5 am tomorrow in hopes that we can get an appointment and get a passport. I will be checking me email continually, so if you can help, please email me at

THANKS, whoever you are!

UPDATE: 9am We are in line at the passport office in Norwalk. They could not be nicer. We got here at 6am and were 2nd in line. However, it is clear that they are triaging by urgency of travel and passport status, so we are hopeful. The mantra seems to be “We will help you”. Here’s hoping…

We have a passport!

Thanks to all of you for your great suggestions, you are so wonderful. And thanks most of all to the wonderful folks at the Norwalk Passport Center, who treated everyone there like human beings, always had a smile and a kind word, and know how to handle a crowd, triage and move the work. Everyone of them embodies what a civil servant should be.


Help Me Plan My Trip to Italy

We are heading to Italy in July, and all I’ve done so far is make our plane reservations. We are flying into Rome and visiting friends there, but the rest of the trip is up for grabs. We are thinking it would go something like this –

  1. Rome for a few days
  2. Train to Florence
  3. Stay in Florence as a base, take day trips by trian or car to Pisa, Siena, San giomani (where else?)
  4. Back to Rome for another few days? (We fly back from Rome) To the beach maybe? Someplace else near Rome that is worth seeing?

I’m hoping some of you have done this trip before and can help me out. I don’t trust the rest of those people out there on the web..

Any suggestions? Hotels you loved in Florence? (I need to move on this one yesterday..) Restaurants in Rome or Florence or Tuscany? Places to see (and avoid)? Great web sites that you used for your trip? ?

You should know that I HATE being a tourist and I know that I will have to deal with this in Florence, which, from what I read is like Disneyworld. So any suggestions as to places off the beaten track or how to avoid the crowds will be appreciated. In that vein, are we nuts to even go to Tuscany? Should we head to some other region or city within striking distance of Rome?

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

I promise I will be blogging the trip so I can “pay it back” to the blogsophere.