Calabrian Cuisine, 5 Things You HAVE To Eat When You Arrive

Al Caminetto Ravioli
Home Made Ravioli at Al Caminetto

Ciao Belli!

First of all if you are new to our Super Savvy Blog Welcome and we are glad you are here.

Also thank you for reaching out to us. Our goal is to give you the information you really need and want, so your emails and comments on the Youtube channel really help us in that endeavor.

Please continue to write when you have a question and I will respond.

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes

OK, I know that you know that I am a truffle pig when it comes to finding the best eats. I will root them out anywhere I go and my job became a lot easier when we arrived in Calabria.

Calabrian food is a wonderful mix of amazingly good and fresh seafood, pork dishes, Chicken dishes, home made pastas, and so much more.

Everything is fresh. The vegetables are right out of someone’s garden. Some of the people in our village, like our friends Rosaria and Peppino raise EVERYTHING themselves including their mushrooms. Rosaria is an amazing chef and an invitation to lunch starts your mouth watering even if the lunch date  is days away.

So you can imagine how incredibly difficult it is to choose only 5 things that you HAVE to eat. By no means limit yourself to these 5 but definitely don’t leave without tasting them.

Pizza Talao
Pizza Talao
  1. Pizza at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

    This is the Italian snack staple. Pizzas are everywhere and they are all good. I have only once had a bad pizza but it was in Rome and really everything in that place was bad. The restaurant owners and staff were not even Italian.
    So you can love them all but the best pizza I have had was Michelle’s pizza at the Bella Vista. I know I harp on and on about Michelle’s cooking but it really is that good.

    Pacchieri
  2. Pacchieri Ala Gitana at La Perla Del Terreno, Scalea, Calabria

    I initially ordered this dish because LOVE pacchieri. they are wide, fat noodles that soak up the sauce and spread it all over your tongue. Then you bite and there is a little resistance and then it gives.  You can’t help it! Suddenly you start singing hymns to the Almighty!

    This pasta Is coated in a fine tomato based seafood sauce with lots of assorted shellfish and white fish.

    It comes with a bag of freshly baked Calabrian bread that you can use to sop up everything on your plate. It is serious, good eating. Pair this with a lovely white wine on a Summer day while you watch the sea birds play in the surf and listen to the waves lap the shore. It is one of the most pleasant things to do on a Summer day in Calabria. Then you have to go and nap.

    Zucchini Fritters
    Zucchini Fritters

    The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao
  3. Zucchini Fritters at The Bella Vista, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

    OK here is Michelle again. Let me describe the Bella Vista to you. It is a cafe at the corner of our village and is the first thing you see when you arrive. The owners have created a huge roof terrace on top where you can enjoy your dinner while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean and while the village behind you starts to glow gold in the evening light. It is a magical place far from anything that worries you and the best part is that you know a spectacular meal is coming.
    Michelle or one of her staff greet you and take your order. Shortly after that a little plate arrives with your zucchini fritter and a perfect bruschetta featuring sweet tomatoes, garlic and a drizzle of beautiful Calabrian olive oil. Honestly some day I will show up and Michelle’s and just asks for two or three plates of appetizers instead of dinner.

    Cannoli
    Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane
  4. Cannoli at Vulare Siciliane, Scalea, Calabria

    I know I also talk a lot about Ilenia but her food is unbelievable. Everything there is delicious but if you want something sooooo incredibly delicious that you actually go weak in the knees, you want one of her cannoli. She and her husband make the little pastry shells themselves and fill them with the lightest sweetest, milkiest, ricotta filling I have ever come across. I have had a LOT of cannoli and hers are seriously the best.

    Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
    Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
  5. Pasta Al Cinghiale at Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria

    One rainy June afternoon we met our great friend Giacomo in Tortora which is a stunning little hill town just north of us. Giacomo’s cousin and his wife Roseangela run a restaurant there Called Al Caminetto. Since it was our first time there, Giacomo ordered a sampling of many different Calabrian dishes including fried appetizers such as arancini. This is a ball or cone of rice stuffed with a meat and vegetable mixture and rolled in bread crumbs and fried. I know! That is about as good as it gets!

    Roseangela giving us a pasta making demonstration

    Everything was amazing but her Pasta Al Cinghiale was special. It is a truly gifted chef who knows instinctively how much of everything to put in to ensure that the balance between the flavors is perfect. Roseangela is such a chef. Don’t miss this dish! (Cinghiale is wild boar by the way.)

    Lunch!
    Lunch!

    Now I could go on and on for days and I would love to do that because these are just the things you need to eat when you arrive. Hopefully you intend to stay awhile and sample all of the amazing restaurants in the area. The Riviera Dei Cedri seems to have attracted the most talented chefs in Italy and you can hop from one great meal to the next easily and happily.

    Antipasti
    Antipasti

    Enjoy your trip to our beautiful area and Buon Appetito!

Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

Chris Olives
Olive Market
Chris Olives
Olive Market

Hi Everyone!

I am so excited!

But I have to divulge a BIG secret to you about myself.

I have spent a lot of time in Italy and done a lot of cooking and eating. In fact I am quite a foodie over there. I have a nose for the best restaurants and the amazing chefs that I seem to be able to find all over Calabria

And I love to cook. So I would spend mornings in the markets in Italy finding the best and freshest ingredients. I would have Nunzia save me fresh eggs just scooped from underneath an unsuspecting chicken. And I would find the sweetest fruits and tastiest vegetables all ready to be enjoyed.

Market day
Market day

I would gather all of my bootie and come home and cook.

And my dishes were fantastic! In Italy I am a great cook.

So it was a huge mystery to me as to why, when I came home I was a mediocre cook. I still looked for and purchased the best ingredients. I still took care to make things correctly. And don’t get me wrong, the dishes were good, they just weren’t Italian.

Now full disclosure here, I am not Italian by blood, I am in spirit and one thing I do know is great cooking.

So recently I started really looking into something that I knew was missing here and that I could somehow find and incorporate into my dishes to make them truly authentic. .

Beautiful olive tree
Beautiful olive tree

And then I figured it out!

It was the most basic and probably the oldest fresh ingredient in Italian cooking.  It is the one thing that no Italian table is ever without.

What was missing was a really good Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. That was it! I knew I was onto something!

But as soon as I started looking for true facts on the subject of olives and olive oil, I ran into so many contrary facts, ideas, and opinions that I could not figure any of it out!

Olive Oil Pouring
Olive oil

I knew I had to go to the source to get really good information and I found it in the most unlikely place!

In my travels I stumbled across a book written in 1900 in Spanish called “The Oil of the Olive” By Dr. Alejandro Bizzarri, probably the world’s first real OLIVE NERD.

And I knew I had found it.

So I translated Dr. Bizzarri’s book from start to finish, read it all and culled out the really useful information that would help us in this day and age. (I left out the bits about how many olives were exported from Argentina in 1899. We don’t need that particularly.)

And I was enchanted!

Dr. B's book
Dr. Bizzarri’s book

Dr. Bizzarri covered everything from the cultivation to the harvesting methods to the pressing including intimate details of how to clean the presses, and what to do if your olive oil comes out smelling like animals or tasting like worms. This man was a true nerd and I am quite proud that I found him.

In short, Dr. B gave me everything I needed to pen my olive video and ebook that I now proudly call “Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive OiI”.

slowfoodrenaissance.com
Foodies Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil

After completing that I had to jump head first into great olive oils so I ordered five of the top ranking Italian olive oils on Amazon.com.

We created several other really fantastic products including a video side by side comparison of the five Italian olive oils we bought. We were amazed at how different each one was and in short, I will NEVER go back to mass produced olive oil again. I have been spoiled for good!

On top of that we created special recipes for each olive oil we tried which was so much fun and way beyond delicious. We also made these available on video and in ebook form.

And, if that were not enough olive fun, I translated and notated Dr. Bizzarri’s book for you as well. Let me tell you, that was time consuming but with the annotations, it is really fun to read and honestly there is nothing that I can think of olive related that is not in that book.

You are going to love it.

Olives through the window
Olives through the window

I also included a couple of surprise bonuses but I will wait until my project is ready to launch before I tell you what they are.

All in all, Pete and I have been in Olive Wonderland for the last several weeks! I can’t wait to release this so you can join us there! I see many olive related happy moments in our future!

Chin-chin and I will see you in the piazza!

 

We Will Get Through This; Do These Things to Stay Happy and Healthy

San Nicola
San Nicola Arcella

 

Ciao Friends,

Well, we can all agree that things have been nothing short of crazy.  There has been so much change every day that it can leave us with heads spinning. And sometimes things can look pretty bleak.

We will get through this but we do need some strategies to keep ourselves healthy and to keep our spirits up. And keeping our spirits up and stress levels  down are vital to remaining physically healthy.

I know a bit about overcoming difficult times. I have had three hip replacements. I had one in 2013 to reduce intense pain upon walking. Two years later the pain had increased rather than decreased and I found out that the hip implant was in wrong.

So I had a hip revision surgery to fix it. I had to confront the pain, the disability and the healing all over again.

Shortly thereafter, my other hip tore and it had to be replaced too.

Hip replacement surgery is intensely painful and each time I had to confront going through it, it was beyond stressful.

So I have developed some strategies for dealing with hard times and I know they will help you get through this rough time.

Photo credit Oleg Magni

1. Think beyond the hard times

As I was wheeled into each surgery, I was afraid. I knew I would wake up in intense pain and because I do not do well with pain killers, I had only Tylenol to see me through. In short I had to confront weeks of intense pain.

The one thing that got me through it was concentrating my attention on how I was going to feel the first day I noticed a decrease of pain. I thought about walking without pain again. I thought about my next Summer in Italy and who I would see and what I would do. I concentrated on the future happy times.

Sometimes I would just think about how I would feel as I left the hospital full of relief that it was all over.

Take some time and concentrate your attention on how happy we will feel when this is over. Think of how unified we will feel and how much smarter we will be.

Think of the plans you will make for the Summer, who you will see and what you will do.

This will keep you from feeling stuck an unable to move.

Photo credit Aleksandr Balandin

2. Turn off the news!

The news media makes its paycheck by holding your attention hostage. It does this by creating panic and chaos. They make you think that you NEED to watch to find out all threats to your survival and then they spin it to make it as scary as possible.

Turn it off! Get your news from a trusted source that has no agenda other than informing you.

Decumano Massimo, Ostia's Main Street
Decumano Massimo, Ostia Antica

3. Find and spread GOOD NEWS.

There is so much good news. The Italian singing in their balconies, communities coming together, babies being born and neighbors caring for neighbors.  Spread this far and wide and help others see beyond this situation.

Photo credit Andrea Piacquadio

4. Take this time to reconnect

I know we are not supposed to leave our houses but we have phones and Skype. Being home can make us feel isolated and alone. Connecting with people will bring your spirits up and help us all feel like we are in this together.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

5. Join my new Facebook group.

I created a Facebook page called “All About Italy”. The purpose is to unite those of us who love all things Italian, and my Italian friends. If we are cooped up in our homes, we can connect with others with similar interests and stay connected through this time of isolation.

If you are not in love with Italy, find and join groups that are interesting to you.

View from the terrace
Sun

6. Go out in the sun

If you have a balcony or patio, go outside and get some sun. Vitamin D is important for health and getting a feeling of space is vital for mental health.

You can also look around and get out of your head where your worries reside. It is a welcome relief to escape for a time.

Sandals Royal Bahamian
Sandals Royal Bahamian

7. Make art!

It doesn’t matter one jot if you are a terrible artist. Make something! You may be surprised at how fast you become proficient! In any case, it will give you something creative to focus on and creative focus is the best remedy for boredom and upset.

If you are not into art, reorganize something, rearrange your furniture, make some great food.

cruisers
Cruising sights

For entertaining videos, go to the Super Savvy Travelers Youtube channel.

8. Help someone else

Of all the points listed above this is by far the most powerful to make you feel in control. Elderly neighbors need groceries or other things and leaving their houses can be more dangerous for them. See what you can do to help them.

We are a strong and powerful people all across the world. United we can come through anything. And soon we will walk in the sun saying how glad we are that this is over and how much we appreciate our friends and neighbors.

Love you guys. Take care.

 

 

5 Reasons Why Ostia Antica Beats the Roman Forum!

Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica

When most people think of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum usually comes to mind as the top place to see what life was like in ancient Roman times. There, you’ll find yourself immersed in the grandeur of an ancient city center surrounded by large monuments, stately buildings, and ancient temples and churches.

The Roman Forum

But there’s actually a lesser known place, just outside of Rome, that beats the Roman Forum for providing a more closer, intimate view of what life was really like in ancient Roman times. That place is Ostia Antica.  Here are five reasons why Ostia Antica beats the Roman Forum for giving you a much closer look into what day-to-day life was like in Roman times.

1. Ostia is in Better Shape

Ostia Antica is Rome’s original Port city. Founded around 600 BC near the mouth (ostium) of the Tiber river, it developed into the headquarters for one of the commanders the Roman Fleet around 267 BC. Ostia started to become an important grain storage area for the military, and from there developed into a major commercial trading center.

Artist's Depiction of Ostia Antica
Artist’s Depiction of Ostia Antica

Because of the booming commercial trade in Ostia, the city soon ran out of capacity to dock ships. In 98 AD Emperor Trajan started work on a new harbor about 3km north of Ostia to provide extra ship capacity. As the urban center around this new harbor (Portus) developed and at the same time Rome’s population started declining, Ostia faded in importance, and around 800 AD it was finally abandoned, hastened by repeated Saracen pirate attacks.

Most of Ostia was gradually covered by silt from repeated flooding of the Tiber and by its changing course.  All of the silt accumulation helped to preserve the remaining structures until excavation of the site started in the early 1800’s, resulting in the really well-preserved ancient city that you can see today.

To help us to better understand the history of Ostia and everything there is to see there, we signed up for the “Daily Life in Ostia Antica” private tour through tripadvisor, which was hosted by Maria from viator. Maria is a trained archaeologist who actually lives in the present-day city of Ostia. Maria’s knowledge of the history and background of Ostia Antica was amazing, and we learned so much from her on our 3-hour tour with her. Here she is pointing out some details of the necropolis, a burial site near the park entrance, to Chris:

Chris and our tour guide Maria
Chris and our tour guide Maria

According to ancient law, burial places had to be located outside of the city walls.  Here we could see elaborate tombs for people of upper social classes.

Raised Tomb in the Necropolis
Raised Tomb in the Necropolis
Tomb of the Little Arches
Tomb of the Little Arches

The entrance to the city, the Porta Romana, is marked by the remnants of an elaborate marble entrance.

Porta Romana
Porta Romana

Inside Ostia Antica itself, we were amazed by the excellent condition of many of the areas we saw. For example, in a shop near the Roman Baths you can clearly see a beautiful marble bar counter with shelves and basins for washing dishes, along with a built-in stove!

Shop Near the Forum Baths
Shop Near the Forum Baths

There are also plenty of well-preserved murals and paintings still visible in their original locations including a mural showing items you could purchase in the shop.

Mural
Mural Showing Shop Offerings

Even some of the mosaic tile floors are still in great condition!

Tile Floor in the Baths of Neptune
Tile Floor in the Baths of Neptune

2. Ostia Isn’t Crowded

Because Ostia is outside of Rome’s historical district and is somewhat off the beaten path, fewer people venture out to see it. We visited Ostia twice, in June and also in September, and on both occasions we never encountered more than 20 people in the entire 84-acre site. You can practically have the place to yourself when you visit!

Decumano Massimo, Ostia's Main Street
Decumano Massimo, Ostia’s Main Street

3. Ostia is Cooler in the Summer

Because Ostia is only 2km away from the sea, it’s cooler in the summer compared to the Roman Forum where you can bake in the noonday sun. There’s quite a bit of shade from the many pine trees on the site. That said, especially during July and August, I’d suggest you visit either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it’s cooler and when the lighting is more subdued compared to the middle of the day.

Lots of Shady Pines!
Lots of Shady Pines!

4. Ostia Gives You a Better View into Roman Life

A visit to Ostia lets you get a good idea of what day-to-day life must have been like for Romans living and working in a large commercial center.

You can see how people lived in apartments at the House of Diana.

House of Diana
House of Diana

For daily entertainment for the city’s residents, the city had an impressive theatre.

Theatre Entrance
Theatre Entrance
Amphitheatre
Amphitheatre

The city had two bath complexes, with the much of the original structure of the Forum Baths still visible.

Forum Baths
Forum Baths
Form Baths
Form Baths

You can even see the remnants of a complex system of hollow pipes that ran warm water through the floors and walls in the  Forum Baths.

Forum Baths Plumbing
Forum Baths Plumbing

There’s also a museum onsite that houses many artifacts found in Ostia.

Clay Pots Outside of the Museum
Clay Amphorae Outside of the Museum

5. Ostia is Close to the Airport

Ostia is a great place to visit if you’re at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for an overnight stay or even for a short layover, since it’s only about a 15-min. taxi ride away.

Directions for Fiumicino to Ostia Antica
Fiumicino to Ostia Antica

If you are in Rome for an overnight visit, I’d recommend you stay at the Best Western Hotel Rome Airport; it’s a nice basic hotel with a good restaurant, it has a regular shuttle service to take you to the airport terminals (5 min. away), and it avoids you from having to go into Rome itself for an overnight stay (a 60-euro, 45-minute  taxi ride).

Ostia Antica is located at Viale dei Romagnoli, 717, 00119 Roma RM. Information on tickets and opening hours is at the Ostia Antica website.

Contact us if you’d like more details about visiting Ostia Antica or any of the other exiting destinations in Italy!

Paestum; The Magic and Magnificence of the Magna Grecia.

Temple of Neptune
Interior of the magnificent Temple of Neptune
Guide book at the ready! We bought these fab hats at the gift shop! Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

 

You have been to Rome and seen the ruins and remnants of ancient Roman civilizations piled bit by bit on top of each other until they sometimes seem to blur into a vague category in your consciousness entitled “Ancient Roman History”.

As you whiz through Rome amongst the crazy traffic and high speed buzzing scooters, you can get lost in a world dating back to before Christ when gladiators were rock stars and Roman emperors and their courts were living, breathing reality shows.

You love history but it gets a bit crazed and overwhelming at times doesn’t it?

Chris at the Temple of Athena
Chris at the Temple of Athena. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

This is why you need to visit Paestum.

Nestled along the coast among farmlands sprouting olives, artichokes and the famous buffalo (mothers of the creamy delightful mozzarella da bufala that gracefully crowns the best pizzas on the planet) you will find an ancient archeological treasure containing the best preserved Greek ruins in the world.

Paestum not only features miraculously preserved Greek temples (The temples of Hera, Athena and Neptune) but is an entire ancient Greek city laid out exactly as it was 500 years before Christ.

Ancient Road
Ancient Road in Paestum. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

As you wander this ancient city looking at the temples, the marketplace, the gymnasium with its grand pool, and the houses still containing the mosaic tiled floors, you can blink and suddenly find yourself back in that time period.

You can see the columns and loggia (columned walkways) bordering the government buildings and marketplace. You can hear the voices of the vendors in the market selling wine, fruits and vegetables cultivated nearby, and fish just pulled from the sea. You can smell the food being cooked to purchase and take away and the bread baked in the early morning hours in time to be sold fresh at the market later in the day.

Ancient loggia
Ancient columns. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

It is a perfect snapshot of history still fresh although it existed almost 2,500 years ago.

Bonnie Chris and Barbara
A perfect morning walk through Paestum. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Paestum was founded at the mouth of the Sele River by the Achaeans (from Achaea in the area of the Peloponnese in Greece) who had originally landed in Sybaris  (across the Italian boot on the coast of the Ionian Sea) but fled from there in about 600 B.C and found their way here. *

Before the Roman Empire took over the vast majority of Europe and ultimately parts of Africa and Egypt, the Magna Grecia was in full flower.

The Magna Grecia started in the 8th and 7th centuries BC and covered much of the southern areas of Italy’s famous boot including areas in Campania, Baslilcata, Calabria, Apulia and Sicily.

Wild flowers
Spring flowers and Greek temples. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Settlers from Greece began arriving on these coasts bringing with them the Hellenic culture, philosophies, agriculture and the basics of Greek civilization.

And Paestum was one of the beautiful Magna Grecian cities that was born at that time nestled within its defensive stone walls running along the banks of the Sele River and the crystal blue Tyrrhenian Sea.

A visit to Paestum today is a short and beautiful train ride south from Naples or north from Reggio Calabria.

Swimming pool
The community swimming pool at Paestum. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

From our village of Santa Domenica Talao, it is an hour and a half of gorgeous scenery as you wind your way along the glorious coast to the shady avenue that leads you directly from the Paestum train station into the archeological park.

Trip hazards
Watch for falling Chrises! Beware trip hazards! Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

As soon as you arrive within the walls that protected this ancient Greek city, you can see outlines of walkways and buildings and in one glorious sweep you take in the magnificent temple of Neptune (or Poseidon if you are an ancient Roman) rising up and glowing pinkish gold in the Tyrrhenian sunshine.

Temple of Neptune
Interior of the magnificent Temple of Neptune. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

How to Best Explore Paestum

Most visitors see Paestum in Spring, Summer or Fall. At any of these times the weather can be quite hot and humid making it challenging to see all of the park and the museum.

Paestum museum
Paestum museum with Bonnie, Chris and Barbara. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

The best way to see Paestum is to arrive as early in the morning as you can and explore the city before the heat of the afternoon sun chases you inside.

Delle Rose
Ristorante Delle Rose. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Take a break at lunch and have a fantastic meal at the Ristorante Pizzeria Delle Rose which is on the corner of the tree lined street filled with gift shops that runs the length of the park.

Normally I do not recommend eating anywhere near monuments and attractions but Ristorante Pizzeria Delle Rose seems to be an exception to that rule. We had an amazing meal with fresh pasta and fish dishes at a great price. The service despite the busy lunch crowd, was warm and efficient.

artifact lion bowl
Lion miniature Paestum Museum. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

After your refreshing lunch, head over to the air conditioned museum to see the myriad of artifacts that have been unearthed and put on display.

It is amazing that these every day items are so perfectly preserved giving us a glimpse of a long ago civilization as though we were looking in the shop windows alongside the people who lived there at that time.

rain gutter Paestum
Ancient Greek rain gutter. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Beyond the miraculously preserved Greek temples and the historical snapshot of a bustling city, Paestum is a place that has a very special feel. It is a place of unrivaled aesthetic and spiritual expansion that mortal words cannot really describe.

In short, Paestum has to be experienced to fully understand the inherent beauty, not only of the remnants of a magnificent civilization but of the very civilization that sired it.

Chris Paestum
Chris on the road to ruins. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Southern Italy, the home of the Magna Grecia is a treasure chest of Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan civilizations and artifacts. It is also home to some of the most magnificent beaches and glorious stretches of coastline on the planet.

Super Savvy Travelers are Southern Italy experts. We have a home here and spend our waking hours exploring and learning about all aspects of this spectacular region that has been completely ignored by travel guidebooks and is only now being discovered by Savvy Travelers and culinary experts.

The diver
Paestum The Diver. Photo credit: Pete Sobolev

Call us if you want to visit this dazzling region. We will set up a trip that you will never forget.

* Historical data gleaned from Guide Arte”m Paestum The archaeological park, the museum/temple of Hera Argiva” and Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

Love and Renovation Italian Style!

Our lady's generous back side
Our lady's generous back side

 

Our grand old lady
Our grand old lady

Ciao Everyone!

Who hasn’t wanted to rescue an ancient house that was once filled with families, honor, fine food and love?

Millions of us have watched “Under the Tuscan Sun”, some of us many times (that would be me!) and as we did so we dreamed of perhaps one day, finding a house that speaks to us and begs us to give it a second chance at glory.

As you may know, my husband and I purchased a house in the Calabrian hill town of Santa Domenica Talao, Italy.  Our village, like so many others in the area, has a lot of abandoned ruins.

Ruined grand house
Ruined grand house

Back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s many Italians fled Italy to America looking for a better life. Most of them were from Calabria and, although they have made great contributions to us in America in terms of food, family and culture, they left holes in their villages.  As a result the abandoned homes have been left to degenerate into a sad state of disrepair.

As you wander through our village you see these empty old beauties and you can’t help but think about how they might look all done up like new. But many of them have been salvaged and brought back to life, once again filled with love and family.

Houses lining the street leading to the piazza
Houses lining the street leading to the piazza

The street leading to the piazza is lined with beautifully renovated houses, all except for the ancient beauty that rises up over the street like a grand old lady, the only house on the block that needs a redo.

And, ever since my husband and I looked at her when we were in the market for our current house, we have never gotten free of her mysterious pull and finally after 9 years, we decided to purchase her and turn her into a BNB.

This lovely lady standing at Via XXIV Maggio, is ours at last.

Not the new one, the pink building next to it
Not the new one, the pink one next to it.

This was not a simple Italian property transaction. My husband and I decided to use some retirement money to set up a self directed IRA and purchase, renovate and run the BNB through this company. This means that we had to set up a separate company and deal with all of the tax and bureaucratic infrastructure that goes along with it.

Add to that the trouble we ran into getting the tax ID number and some other assorted bits of trouble and, well it took a bit to get it done.

View from the roof terrace
View from the roof terrace

Happily we had some big hitters and “get it done” people on our side. I want to take the opportunity to send out massive kudos to Antonello Lucchesi, our architect and Ivan De Luca, our estate agent and all around get it done guy. These two ran into so many obstacles and found ways around them all. It was really epic!

OMG! Where do we start?
OMG! Where do we start?

I also have to thank our seller Anne for being to gosh darned patient with our bits of trouble and hanging in with it all.

At Last it is Time to Renovate!

Ok, lots to do
OK, lots to do.

While Pete and I were in Santa Domenica last time, we had the opportunity to sit down with Antonello and his staff and go over the layout of all the rooms.

From the front, the house looks a lot smaller than it is. She has a ground floor and another floor above it however her generous backside rolls down the hill giving two more good sized floors that can be turned into accommodations.

Our lady's generous back side
Our lady’s generous back side

In the end we will have four “studiette” apartments with ensuite bath and coffee and fridge facilities and a full sized, one bedroom apartment.

Most of the apartments will have views of the mountains and the sea and one will have a balcony overlooking the street. We also have a large roof terrace where residents can enjoy sweeping views of the mountains and the sea from high above the village.

Balcony view
Balcony View of the mountains and sea

We have decided that we wanted a communal kitchen and eating area where breakfast will be served daily and where we can have events and classes.

And the best news we received while we were there? The cooking school that our mayor has been wooing is finally going to arrive!

As our renovations progress we plan to be in conversations with the cooking school to see about putting together vacation packages for those who want to learn real Calabrian cooking from the masters. In addition we will have ladies from our village teaching classes on everything from pasta making to meats to all of the seemingly millions of appetizers that one finds here.

We will have morning field trips down to the world famous Pasticceria Arrone for coffee and to die for cakes, beach trips, photography tours and whatever else we can think of.

So with the final signatures on all the documents and the money having changed hands, we are ready to start phase 2, renovations!

And a one bedroom apartment
And a one bedroom apartment

Stay with us along the way and watch as this beauty regains her past glory and takes her rightful place as one of Santa Domenica’s leading ladies of the piazza.

The Piazza
Our Piazza

 

 

 

 

 

Pasticceria Arrone, Calabrian Pastries to Die For.

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes
Pasticceria Arrone
Chris and Bonnie at Pasticceria Arrone

Ciao,

Ok so you have arrived in Italy and by some great good fortune you have found your way south.

You wake up hungry and decide that nothing would be quite so perfect as light, crispy, sweet Italian pastry and a perfect cappuccino as you soak in the bright Calabrian sun just as the day is warming up around you.

Down the Mediterranean coast, halfway to Reggio from Naples you come to where we live.

Just south of the Gulf of Policastro and a short hop from the border from Basilicata you enter Calabria and her gorgeous stretches of azure coastline, magnificent beaches, dramatic jutting mountains and a culture deep and rich as the Magne Grecia from which it was born.

Maratea and the Gulf of Policastro
Maratea and the Gulf of Policastro

Little train stops dot the coastline, Maratea, Praia a Mare/Aieta, Scalea/Santa Domenica Talao, And Santa Maria Del Cedro. And here is where you will get off.

Pasticceria Arrone is located in Santa Maria del Cedro just along the train line heading down to Reggio Calabria. It is perfectly located to provide you with the perfect coffee and treat before or after your journey. But we have found that Pasticceria Arrone is a destination unto itself.

One early morning, my husband and I gathered our friends around us and made a  pilgrimage.

Heaven
Heaven! (Chris, Carolyn Oliver, Barbara Oliver and Bonnie Gale Oliver)

Happily our friends Bonnie and Carolyn Oliver had their other sister, Barbara visiting for Summer so we all headed down licking our lips along the way.

Those little red ones, tiny cakes covered with the lightest crispy sugar coating. Give me a moment.
Those little red ones, tiny cakes covered with the lightest crispy sugar coating. Give me a moment.

Pasticceria Arrone is the labor of love of two master confectioners, Adolfo Arrone and Luigi Barone. Together with a team which they consider more of a family, they are dedicated to creating master confections mostly with the local citrus, the cedro (which is like a Bergamo or a very delicately flavored lime.)

Treats Arrone
A selection of deliciousness at Arrone, pistachio creams, cedro creams, little tiramisu rectangles, each one a word of art.

Their dedication to quality transcends any wish to save money by using inferior ingredients and when you see, smell and taste the magnificent creations, you can tell that they have found their calling.

The best way to enjoy the creations is to go in the morning with friends, order a perfect cafe and a selection of cakes. Share them all so you get a variety of different flavors, fragrances and textures.

More treats at Arrone
Cakes and more treats, each one a bite of heaven.

Although everything you try there is amazing, my favorite was the light crunchy phyllo type pastry filled with pistachio cream. It is knee weakeningly delicious and you have to close your eyes and “have a moment” with every bite.

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and delicate cakes

Pasticceria Arrone makes cakes to order and every dinner that ends with a Pasticceria Arrone package coming out, suddenly becomes epic.

Pasticceria Arrone can be found at Via Orso Marso 3, Santa Maria Del Cedro. +39 0985 42577

 

 

 

 

The Best Time to See Rome is After Dark!

With all of the art, architecture, and history to see in Rome, you could spend years looking at it 24-7 and still just scratch the surface of what’s there. But when to see Rome is just as important as what to see. Here are three reasons why after the best time to see Rome is after dark:

1. The Light

As the sun starts setting over Rome, ancient buildings and structures begin to glow, first from the orange rays of the setting sun, and then from artificial lighting.

Temple of Venus Genetrix and Church of Saints Luca and Martina
Temple of Venus Genetrix and Church of Saints Luca and Martina

Objects that might have appeared dull and lifeless during the day suddenly pop out in front of you under dramatic lighting.

Forum of Augustus
Forum of Augustus

The combination of white and warm yellow lighting in some areas of the Roman Forum creates some surreal views that you would never see during the day.

Forum of Trajan
Forum of Trajan
Forum of Trajan
Forum of Trajan

Small works of art that you may miss during the day reveal themselves to you under directed light.

A Mural at Piazza Farnese
A Mural at Piazza Farnese

After dark, most of Ancient Rome is bathed in the warm glow from sodium-vapor lights. This lighting has been designed to mimic the glow from torches that originally lit the ancient parts of the city.  You can really imagine yourself in ancient times walking through the narrow cobblestone streets!

Street in Ancient Rome
Street in Ancient Rome

Many of the large ancient structures such as the Colosseum and the Castel Sant’Angelo dramatically come to life at night.

The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Castel Sant'Angelo
The Castel Sant’Angelo

2. The Cooler Temperatures

Many sights, especially with tour groups, can only be seen during the day, such as the Palatine Hill.  But being out in the hot sun, especially in the afternoon during the summer months, can be exhausting.

Palantine Hill Tour
Palantine Hill Tour

If you have a choice, why roast under the hot sun when you can experience most of Rome’s iconic sights under more comfortable conditions?

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps

In general, the crowds will be smaller at night, so you can more intimately enjoy works of art like the Trevi Fountain or the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona.

The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain
The Fountain of the Four Rivers
The Fountain of the Four Rivers

In fact, during the winter months, you can enjoy many of Rome’s most popular sights without the large throngs of tourists that you might encounter during the summer.

Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo

3 . The Life

Rome really comes to life after dark. Because the lighting is more intimate, and the crowds are smaller, and you don’t have to constantly shade yourself from the hot glare of the summer sun, life becomes more enjoyable. You can be around people in a more relaxed setting, and also relax al fresco over dinner with your friends and family.

Street Near Campo dei Fiorii
Street Near Campo dei Fiorii
The Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto

Contact us for help and advice in planning your trip to Rome after dark!

How Travel Will Save the World

Casa Cielo
Pieta
Pieta

The news today is off the charts. Man’s inhumanity to man is blasted from the front pages and TV headlines.

Every day we hear about things happening “over there” that are so atrocious, we can’t even believe someone would actually do them to another living being and yet, they seem to happen more and more.

And the same newspapers and tv anchors are desperately trying to make  us believe that this is all the “new normal”, that it is somehow understandable that someone kidnaps another living being and uses them for sex slavery or beheads them in front of their family or sends bombers to their villages to bomb them into eternity.

Pizzo
Aragonese castle in Pizzo

Looking at all this, one could easily start to think that there is no hope for mankind and that it is only a matter of time until we all end up like characters in a Greek tragedy, just one big, red lump on the stage when the curtain comes down.

If you believe the news, this is where we are headed and there is nothing you or anyone can do about it.

However for every problem, no matter how thorny, there is at least one solution.

And when the problem comes down to international relations, the only thing that resolves anything is communication.

Morocco
Morocco

Why travel will save the world

Before my husband and I bought our place in Southern Italy, I had no idea who the people were who populated those regions.

I never noticed their disasters, their troubles, their upsets as I had no idea who they were.

But now I have been there many times and have grown to know and love my Italian neighbors.

Santa Domenica Talao City Wall
Santa Domenica Talao City Wall

Their loves are my loves.
Their losses are my losses.
And their hopes and dreams for a great life are mine as well.

I feel this way about all of the places in the world I have visited. One cannot go to a place and submerge into the beauty of its culture without falling in love with the people who have created it.

And this is why travel will save us.

Santa Domenica Talao Kitties 2
Resident of Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria.

Suddenly we are not ok with some politician dropping bombs on our friends. When someone threatens them, we cannot turn our backs.

And the more places we visit, the more we must be involved in the care and handling of these places by our governments.

We the people of our countries have all the power. Our politicians only have what we give them.

Ostia Antica, Roma

When enough people befriend each other from other countries and cultures, our politicians and the bad news, lapdog media will be brought to heel and atrocities will end.

So if I have not yet convinced you that it is your duty as a citizen of our planet to go out and visit all the other citizens of our planet, let this article gently guilt you into planning a trip.

If you don’t know where to start contact me. We can plan your dream trip.

Tortora – A Hidden Jewel High Above the Tyrrhenian Sea

Tortora
Tortora, Calabria, Italy. #tortora #calabria #southernitaly #chasinglabellavitanow

Italy is studded with many small towns and villages that are like hidden jewels, waiting to be discovered by the intrepid traveler. One of those gems is the village of Tortora, the north-westernmost village in Calabria.

The village is divided into two main sections: The Marina, and the much more interesting Centro Storico (historic center), nestled in the mountains above the  Marina, about a 15 km drive from the sea.

Tortora
Tortora

It was the Centro Storico that our friend Giacomo, whom we met in the neighboring village of Aieta, introduced us to when he invited us for lunch with his wonderful family at the Ristorante Al Caminetto.

Ristorante Al Caminetto
At the Ristorante Al Caminetto

Al Caminetto serves delicious local Calabrian dishes, authentically prepared by Roseangela. We enjoyed our experience there so much that we end up returning to Al Caminetto with Giacomo and his family every time we visit Calabria. During one of our visits, Roseangela showed us how she prepares her superb ravioli and fusilli:

Tortora has a very rich history,  having been occupied since prehistoric times. Excavations that took place nearby revealed stone tools dating back to 35,000 years ago.

Since then, the area has been occupied by the Enotri (the early people of Italy) up through the 6th century BC, as well as by the Greeks, Romans, Lombards, and Burbons thereafter.

You can view a collection of local Enotri and Greek artifacts at the Museum of Blanda. The English-speaking guide did a wonderful job of revealing the history of the Tortora region to us:

In the Museum of Blanda
Greek pottery

Wander the narrow, winding streets and you’ll encounter a number of small shops and galleries. We met Giuseppe, a local ceramics artist, at a small art gallery, and he then took us to his ceramics shop a short distance away.

Chris and Giuseppe at a local art gallery
Giuseppe at his ceramics shop

Although a bit off the beaten path, the short drive up to the Tortora Centro Storico will reward you with beautiful mountain views, excellent restaurants, interesting shops, and a superb museum. Be sure to make it your first stop on your trip down to Southern Italy!

Beautiful Tortora
Beautiful Tortora