What is the Deep, Dark Secret To Great Italian Cooking?

Olive Oil Pouring
Olive oil

Lunch!

Ciao friends!

If you have followed me even a little bit you know that Pete and I are HUGE foodies! We honestly would go to the ends of the earth for a great meal.

That was one of the reasons we purchased our home in Calabria, Italy ten years ago. Obviously there are a million reasons, but the food in Calabria is the very best in the world (in my humble opinion).

And in Calabria, I am a great cook. I wow myself with almost every meal I make and I get wowed by every meal I eat there no matter who makes it.

So I knew that there had to be a SECRET to great Italian cooking.  And there is!

I looked long and hard and finally found it! And it was so simple!

Calabrian Cuisine
Calabrian Cuisine

Even the best and freshest ingredients will fall flat in your dish if you don’t start with a really good basic ingredient and in Italian cooking the most basic ingredient is the super high quality, Italian olive oil.

Once I stumbled on that bit of brilliance, I started looking in my kitchen in California at the olive oil I had been cooking with. I thought to myself, Hmmmmmm, I bet that is not the best I can find.

And that, my friends, started me on a quest to research and find the BEST olive oils in the world and learn everything I could about them.

As I researched, I ran into so much false data and contrary facts. Everyone it seems has an opinion that they defend to the death even when it conflicts with everyone else’s opinions.

Chris Olives
Olive Market

I had to go back really far into the past before all this weirdness began to find the correct data. And again I found it, this time in an obscure little book written by a Spanish olive nerd living and working in Italy in 1900 by the name of Dr. Alejandro Bizzarri.

Dr. Bizzarri wrote down in almost excruciating detail EVERYTHING that had to do with the cultivation, the harvesting, the pressing, the storing, and the transporting and selling of olives.

His book is part chemistry, part physics and part agriculture. I got it and translated it, pulling out the parts that I knew we all needed to know here in 2020 to understand, use and cook well with any olive oil.

And I took these golden nuggets of information and compiled them all in an easy to read and entertaining FREE Ebook so that you can have fun and learn about EVERYTHING OLIVE at the same time.

Foodie’s Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil Ebook

Since we understand that many people learn more visually, we created an online course of seven high quality videos, each one packed with vital information from Dr.  Bizzarri’s book. Here is where we debunked the myths and dispelled the mysteries of everything olive.  We also picked out a bunch of frequently asked questions to answer that I know you want to know because so many people have been asking them.

slowfoodrenaissance.com
Foodies Guide to Decoding Italian Olive Oil Video

By then I had REALLY been bitten by the olive bug and I had to learn more!

So Pete and I ordered five of the top ranking Italian olive oils on Amazon.com. It was like Christmas when they arrived! We then researched the best way to taste them and compare them.

Video Comparison 5 High Quality Italian Olive Oils

Then we created a video, side by side comparison of these five top ranking Italian olive oils and we were blown away by what we found! Each one was so different but so delicious! We loved the unfiltered ones for salads and pestos. Learning this was like opening a huge door to a completely different world of food and cooking. Who knew that one of the the oldest and most basic ingredients on the planet could create such a change in our every day lives?

So having tasted all of these magnificent olive oils, we decided to create a new and original recipe for each one of them.

5 Best Mediterranean Recipes Video Series

We created a video series of cooking classes, one for each recipe featuring one of our Italian olive oils. These recipes were amazing as they each were created with a high quality Italian olive oil in mind.

Italian olive oils
5 Best Mediterranean Recipes Ebook

In order to make it easier to purchase the other ingredients and follow the recipes, we then created an Ebook containing these recipes.

And, since we know that once you start in on this path, like us, you will be transported to true olive nerddom, I added Dr Bizzarri’s book from 1900, translated and annotated by me so that you can understand everything he was saying.

Dr. B's book
The Oil Of The Olive

Pete and I had so much fun creating this package of Olive Mastery for you and we are so excited to make it available.

To start on your journey go get your FREE EBOOK right now. And welcome to a new life of great cooking and eating!

XO Chris

 

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!

 

Why is this Corona Virus Making us so Unhappy and What Can We Do?

View fro Santa Domenica Talao
View from Santa Domenica Talao

Ciao friends,

I have to say that I woke up sad today.  It is very unlike me to wake up sad so it took awhile for me to really analyze why I was feeling this way and once I identified it, I felt a lot better.

Here it is:

Easter has been cancelled this year for all intents and purpose. We are all on lock down and there are no big meals prepared with and for our loved ones.

There are no Easter egg hunts, no beautiful Easter dresses on the ladies at Easter mass.

There are no flowers and no music. There is no feeling of renewed life that we can share with each other.

There is no thanking God with all of our loved ones present that Winter is over and a new beginning has arrived in all its glory.

I know enforced isolation is necessary in these highly unusual circumstances but it can be very damaging to us spiritually if we do not know how to combat it.

People are all different but two of the most important things we have in common are communication with each other, with life, with the world around us, and aesthetics, a love of all things beautiful.

And everyone I know who travels does so for these two reasons.

Think about it. When we travel somewhere to see the brightly colored markets in Turkey or when we head to Italy to taste the amazing cuisine, we are looking forward to communication to this new (to us) world around us.

When we walk in the evening Passegiatta we look at each other and smile. We are communicating. When we order our dinner in faulty Italian and laugh at our pronunciation and grammar mistakes, we are communicating. When we study history, we are communicating with the past. It is all about communication.

We also look to the aesthetics, the stunning buildings, the amazing art work, and the cultural rituals and practices that we find beautiful. We pay more in hotels for a room with a beautiful view. Again, it is all about communication and aesthetics; communication and beauty.

So it is no surprise that we become edgy and upset when we are denied communication with each other and the world. We also get upset when we are denied the opportunity to see or even create beauty.

So cancelling a holiday such as Easter can give us this reaction of sadness and upset.

So what do we do about it?

Create something beautiful

One of my favorite ways of fighting the blues is to create something beautiful. In my case I have spent a lot of time creating our new Facebook group “All About Italy” which is a group of people who love Italy. It is a great group who freely share beautiful photos and videos, recipes, thoughts and ideas.

For this reason the page itself is very aesthetic and the group is in really nice communication with each other.

If you love Italy feel free to go and join.

Really work to stay in communication with your friends and family.

When  we start to feel down, we tend to with draw. This just makes the problem worse. Pick up the phone or better yet, schedule a FaceTime session with your kids. Write letters and emails just to stay in touch. Check on your relatives. You will feel better.

Plan something great for the future

Our village in Italy is in lock down right now but soon Summer will come and the sharp sunlight will creep through our windows in the morning, waking us up with the promise of so many fun and exciting things.

There will be coffees and cornetti  in the piazza with friends.

There will be parties on the roof terraces overlooking the sea where we laugh together and share stories while sipping perfect Prosecco and munching on Italian snacks.

There will be exciting days spent designing and starting on our new BNB in the piazza.

There will be endless opportunities to discover new treasures. I hear that there is a specialty farm that creates the most perfect ricotta near our village. We need to explore this!

I also found that there is an olive farm below us turning out highly crafted olive oil for us to explore and enjoy.

Pete and I have so many projects in the works and it does make us feel happy and excited to talk to each other about them and create them day after day.

If you need some ideas go check out the Super Savvy Youtube channel. We have some very cool content there and I am sure you will find some ideas to jump start your creative flows.

I know this is a tough time but I also hear great news for the coming weeks. This will not last forever and we will come out of it stronger with a renewed love of the things we might have taken for granted at some point.

Meanwhile Hang On! and work to create opportunities for beauty and more communication. This will make you feel better and it also helps those around you more than you can possibly imagine.

Sending all my best! See you in the piazza!

XO Chris

 

 

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.

 

 

More Reasons Why Calabria is the Perfect Retirement Destination

Perfect coffee and cakes
Perfect coffee and cakes

Ciao again!

First off I want to thank you all for your interest in my article “Living in Paradise: Why Calabria, Italy is the Perfect Retirement Destination”  .

Of all the articles, this one has generated the most interest and motivated you to put pencil to paper and send me a note and I love that.

Since I wrote that article a lot has happened in our little corner of the Gulf of Policastro and Riviera de Cedri in Calabria (Cedro is a citrus fruit only found in Calabria)

Last Summer while I was there I was privileged to be invited to attend and speak at an event presented by our mayor with all the other local mayors in attendance.

This forum was designed to pull everyone together from the various villages and towns and to coordinate efforts to really promote the beauty and the products of Calabria.

After all Calabria has EVERYTHING!

Maratea borgo

And the Italian government is now making a concerted effort to open the area up for tourism, not only for the Europeans who tend to descend on Calabria every Summer and enjoy her beautiful beaches, but to the world at large.

For far too long, Calabria has been Europe’s best kept secret and the secret is out.

So aside from the points in my first post, what other possible reasons could there be to retire in Calabria?

I gatti
I gatti

There is an amazing group of people there

During the event last Summer, our mayor got up and spoke about how proud he and the entire village was that so many people of different nationalities called Santa Domenica Talao home. We have Americans, English, Irish, Russian, Swedes and Finns in our village. And our village has embraced every last one of us.

Summer is a blast. My friend Bonnie gets everyone together for parties. Occasionally we get invited to Peppino and Rosaria’s for Sunday lunch (Which is an occasion to die for. (Read about our epic meal here!)

Festival
Photo credit Oleg Magni

The festivals!

Honestly Calabria needs no excuse to put on a festival. And why not? The Pepperoncino Festival in Diamante is a massive hit every September.

One of my favorites is the pastry festival in Santa Maria Del Cedro, featuring the knee weakening delights of Pasticceria Arrone (Here is yet another blog post all about their pastries to die for.)

Add to that, festivals for wild mushrooms, pasta, sausages, swordfish, chocolate, red onions and a seemingly endless parade of religions festivals which are so fun and amazing, and you have something going on all the time.

Fried chilis
Crunchy fried chilis with sale and olive oil. AMAZING!

Every day I find another amazing restaurant.

When I am in San Jose, California there are one or two really good restaurants near me and you have to look for them. Most of the restaurants I have visited in California have been ok but not stellar.

Where we are in Calabria we have some really top notch chefs who get up every day and cook for the masses possibly without realizing how spectacularly talented they are.

In previous posts I have sung the praises of The Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao, Al Caminetto in Tortora, and Ristorante di Aliga in Maeira.

Ristorante di Aliga
Ristorante Di Aliga

But last Summer,  Bonnie and I grabbed our friends Sarah and Andy and we headed down to Scalea to La Perla del Terreno.

La Perla is a lovely restaurant on a gorgeous stretch of beach in Scalea. You can sit outside and let the sea breezes caress you while dining on amazing seafood pasta, Freshly caught and grilled sea bream, fries, gorgeous grilled vegetables and fruity white wine.

An afternoon spent gazing at the endless, deep blue sea, laughing with friends and eating heavenly food is the best reason to retire in Calabria.

For a Siciilian twist, head into the down town area of Scalea and visit Vulare Sicilane. 

This family owned restaurant boasts a compete menu ranging from swordfish served in a crust of pistachios to the Il Completo sandwich, served on a twisted home made roll topped with nuts and stuffed with sweet sausage, onion relish and delicious friend fries. It is my favorite sandwich ever created and as soon as I arrive in Calabria I head directly to Vulare for an Il Completo.

The first time my son visited us, he ordered the hambugerazzo at Vulare. Be prepared, this thing is massive. I saw the waiter emerge from the kitchen, his knees buckling and his muscles and sinews straining under the weight of the plate he was carrying.

I swear it was so big that  it blocked out the sun for a moment and my son with his back to the kitchen had no idea what was in store for him.

The waiter shoveled it onto the table and backed away saying over and over “piano piano!” Urging my son to take his time or he could hurt himself.

As it was, my son ate part of it and we all ate the rest of it for dinner that night. It was great both times.

After lunch you HAVE to have a canollo. Vulare makes their own and they are like milky heaven. Fresh ricotta is perfectly sweetened and sprinkled with choclolate chips then pressed into perfectly crafted pastry horn. No matter how much you have eaten, you will find that you still have room for a canollo and a cafe.

And unlike some restaurants in Italy, Vulare will give you a doggie bag!

Castle in Calabria
Castle in Calabria

There are secret treasures!

Word on the Strada, mostly from my friend Sarah, is that there is a little farm down the hill from us where the ladies craft their own ricotta cheese. I understand you can go and see how it is done. I have net yet been but plan to soon.

Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao
Fresh mushrooms in Santa Domenica Talao

In addition there is a thrift type store where you can buy anything second hand. Due to the many renovations happening in Calabria, you can find some amazing hardware, furniture and light fixtures that you would never find anywhere else.

And as I have previously discussed, the market in Scalea is way too much fun. You can purchase anything from freshly made cheeses, to housewares to jewelry and clothing. It is never the same market twice and I always spend however much money I bring with me.

Market day
Market day

Each village has its own market day. Some are better than others. In Santa Domenica we have a smallish one but Tony from Morocco always has beautiful things for sale.

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.

The mountains

I know we have the sea and we all love our sea views but the mountains rising up along the spine of Southern Italy are truly spectacular.

The first time we visited, I looked out the window of the plane and saw the magnificent jutting mountains rising up out of the clear blue sea and I could not contain my awe.

Of all the places God created, I think he must be proudest of Calabria. There is no other place like it.

And when you live there you get to experience these and so many other wonders every day.

Honestly, there are so many reasons to love Calabria. These are just a few. The best way to discover them is to come and see them for yourself.

Come to Santa Domenica Talao and look for us in the piazza. We will be having a gelato on a bench next to the church. We will look for you.

Scalea stair case
Scalea, Staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

VITAL INFORMATION for First Time Cruisers!

Cruise to Venice on Azamara or Royal Caribbean

Ciao everyone!

As you know, Pete, Andy and I here at Super Savvy Travelers, are masters and booking cruises and finding the best travel deals and experiences.

Whether you are interested in rock bottom pricing or loading up as many amenities as you can for a fair price, we are the truffle pigs of the cruising world and we can root out the best of the best for you.

That said, I spend a lot of time with first time cruisers explaining some basics about what to expect when you are cruising. Here are some points that you will want to remember when you call to book your first cruise.

cruisers
Cruising sights

The price you see on almost any website is not what you will be paying

The price you see on pretty much all web sites that offer cruises is called the lead in price. This is only the base price for the cabin per person. This DOES NOT include taxes and port fees which depending on the sailing can vary. Call us and we will get you the real price for comparison purposes.

Gratuities ARE NOT included 

Gratuities in cruising lingo are basically tips and they cover everything from waiters and waitresses, to cabin stewards to bar tenders. In short it covers anyone you would normally tip. Gratuities vary based on cruise line and cabin type. They are normally around $13.50-$17.50 per person per day.

You can pay the gratuities up front or pay them on the last day of your cruise.

If you had fantastic service from someone, please feel free to tip them in addition. On Azamara and Royal Caribbean Pete and I had amazing service from our cabin stewards so we gave them an extra tip. You don’t have to tip extra but you can.

Map
Photo credit Element 5 digital

Travel documents and your cruise account

Things have changed a lot since the early days of travel. We used to receive tickets and boarding passes in the mail or via Fed Ex.

This is no longer the case. Most cruise lines have websites set up to make it easy for you to check in (provide vital information the cruise line will need), down load your travel documents and purchase dining and beverage packages and shore excursions.

The websites are well set up and easy to manage. Pete, Andy and I are always ready to assist you to negotiate these sites if you need help.

The check in process requires that you enter credit card information. The reason for this is that when you board, you will receive a cruising card. With this card you will purchase everything that you purchase onboard the ship.

The cruise card is also vital as you will need it to get on and off the ship. The cruise lines keep close track of everyone so they don’t lose you. Make sure you keep your card in a safe place!

At the end of your cruise you will visit accounts on the ship and settle up for any extras you purchased while on the cruise. It is wise to keep track of what you are spending on board so that you are not surprised with a big bill at the end of you cruise.

Map
Photo credit Element5 Digital

Passports

Many closed loop cruise itineraries (Closed loop means it begins and ends in the same cruise port) do not require passports but you will need accurate travel documentation when you travel so it is best to check, check, double check before sailing and passports are the best documentation.

Your passport must valid for 6 months beyond your travel dates. Make sure you don’t need to renew before traveling.

Allianz who we use for travel insurance has a great blog post that goes over this. However if you are in doubt check with your travel professional. It would be extremely disappointing to arrive at your cruise port and not be allowed to board because your travel documents are not in order.

In addition, if you are not a US citizen, there may be certain visa requirements. Check with your embassy to ensure that you have what you need to travel.

Traveling With Children

If you are traveling with children or minors who are not your own, you will need special documentation (normally a notarized letter of authorization form the parents) stating that they are allowing you to take the child with you on the cruise. This is true even if you are the grand parent. Check with your travel pro again to ensure that you have everything you need to travel with the littles.

Element5digital
Thank you Element5 Digital

Traveling While Pregnant

If you are pregnant or planning to be while you cruise, be aware that certain airlines will not allow you to fly if you are in the final stages of your pregnancy. If there is a chance that you will get pregnant and your cruise is booked many months out, ensure that you get refundable deposits and trip insurance that will cover this if it occurs.

DUI’s and Felonies

If you have a DUI or a felony you may not be able to cruise to certain places. Canada has strict rules against allowing people with certain infractions into the country. Always check with your travel professional if you have DUI or felony on your record.

Pixabay
Photo credit Pixabay

Travel Insurance

I know that many people do not elect to purchase travel insurance as they have not factored that in as an expense.

I always carry travel insurance when I travel. Even if you are a lucky person or do not have many health issues, if something comes up in terms of accident or illness, it is INSANELY expensive to be air lifted off a ship. In addition the airlines may insist that you have a full time nurse with you if they fly you home. These costs can add up very rapidly and end you up with a huge bill.

I had a friend who went for a few days long cruise and ended up with a $10,000 bill because something happened. In addition he had to cut his trip short and was not compensated for this either.

Food Allergies and Mobility Impaired

Almost all cruise ships in this day and age have facilities for mobility impaired passengers. The staterooms are specially equipped so you should book in advance if you need one to ensure that you get what you need.

In addition, food preferences and allergies can also be accomodated.

Last year I had a family cruise for the first time. Their son had some severe allergies, so severe that they had to bring all of his food onboard.

The cruise line not only allowed them to bring the food onboard but they also had their chefs thaw and heat it for them so that they could all have family dinners together. they were so happy because this was the first vacation they had ever taken as a family and now it opened the door to more wonderful family memories for them.

Chris in Ostia Antica, Rome

Get a Taste of Where You Want to Spend More Time

Cruising is such a great option for travelers. I love it because while you don’t get a lot of time in the ports, you can get a taste of which areas and cities you might want to spend more time in.

Pete and I cruised to the Greek Islands last September and we fell in love with Corfu and decided to plan a trip there for a week. The other areas were nice but Corfu was extra special. Had we not cruised, we would not have known where we would like to spend more time.

Fish plate ceramics
Gorgeous ceramic fish plate

Cruising is Great Value

Pete and I are constantly amazed at some of the cruising values we can find. Our hosting agency, Avoya, reserves group space on selected sailings and we as independent agents get to sell them for the group price and with all the amenities. Essentially we are leveraging buying power when we do this and we get to pass the savings on to you.

You can cruise for less (and sometimes way less) than $200 per night. And when you consider that this includes all of your food and all of your travel from place to place, most of your entertainment and the fact that you only have to unpack once and you do not waste valuable vacation time traveling from place to place, you can see the cruising is a spectacular deal.

Check out our Youtube videos on our favorite ships and itineraries here and here.

Pete, Andy and I have access to the best booking engines ever and the best rates through Avoya. We can also sometimes sweeten the deal in other ways as well.

Give us a call and let’s book our first cruise!

Southern Italy’s Most Instagrammable Places

Beach in Maratea
Beach in Maratea

Ciao!

Who doesn’t love Instagram? If you are dreaming of travel or just adding to your bucket list, Instagram is a great place to go to escape even for a short while.

It is lovely to take out your computer on a cold and rainy Sunday, and look at photos of bright sunshine, blue skies and fabulous crystal blue seas.

And for all of the above, there is no place better than Southern Italy for snap after snap of impossibly beautiful images whether in your mind or in your camera.

Diamante
Diamante, Calabria

Diamante, Calabria

Diamante means “diamond” in Italian and a diamond it is.

Diamante rides atop a point that juts out into the Mediterranean and curves inland creating white sand beaches and gorgeous seascapes.

The historic center of Diamante (Centro Storico) is a beautiful blend of ancient Italian houses and tiny cobbled vias interspersed with spectacular views of the sea.

Diamante promenade
The lungomare (promenade) in Diamante

Diamante is also known for its murals which present themselves around corners and tucked into alleyways. A morning spent on a hunt for each mural is so fun as you wind your way through the town taking picture after picture to put on Instagram.

Mediterranean Near Praia A Mare
Mediterranean Near Praia a Mare

Praia a Mare, Calabria

Pete and I just love Praia a Mare. On a Summer afternoon, Praia’s shady, tree lined promenade down the center of town is a treasure chest of Instagrammable snapshots.

Gulf of Policastro
Gulf of Policastro

Praia a Mare is so spectacular that Pete and I recently purchased a property that we are now renting out on Air BNB

View from Casa Gorasole
View from the wraparound terrace of Casa Girasole
Tortora Calabria
The beautiful hill town of Tortora, Calabria Italy

Tortora, Calabria

Calabria is studded with gorgeous little hill towns that take your breath away. each one has its own personality and charm however Tortora is one of our all time favorites for billions of Instagrammable views and sights.

Another reason to love Tortora is that our great friend Giacomo and his family live there and they have introduced us to their friends and family.

Roseangela PAsta demo
Roseangela pasta making demo

Any trip to Tortora must include lunch at Al Caminetto, a restaurant in the Centro Storico that is run by the extremely talented Roseangela and her family.

Roseangela is royalty in terms of Calabrian cooking. A meal with her is a feast of traditional Calabrian appetizers, freshly made pasta dishes featuring Chinguale or local wild boar, and freshly made ravioli with ricotta from the local farms.

Pasta with Wild Boar at Al Caminetto in Tortora, Italy
Pasta with Wild Boar at A; Caminetto in Tortora, Italy

While we were there, Roseangela gave us a pasta making demo which you can see here. Enjoy watching me mangle a fusilli. It is quite entertaining how she whips them out perfectly while I struggle trying to make something that might pass for a fusilli noodle if it is buried at the bottom of the dish.

Fusilli at Al Caminetto
Fusilli at Al Caminetto, Tortora, Calabria, Italy

I recommend visiting Al Caminetto with a big group and ordering a selection of traditional Calabrian dishes. You wil be amazed at the variety and how delicious it all is.

Ancient Greek vase Tortora
Ancient Greek vase in the museum in Tortora

Tortora also has a beautiful museum where you can see artifacts that have been dug up in recent local excavations, including Etruscan and Ancient Greek artifacts that date back to the era of the Magna Grecia which encompassed Southern Italy.

Tortora is also one of those villages packed to the brim with Instagrammable images. Everywhere you look is something beautiful.

Maratea_coast
Sweeping Mediterranean views from Maratea

Maratea, Basilicata

There is portion of Italy where you can see three different regions, Calabria, Compania and Basilicata. You can see them all from our Air BNB apartment on the terrace.  In fact the sunsets from our balcony are all Instagrammable and they are different every night.

View from the terrace
View from the wraparound terrace I Casa Girasole

Maratea is just north of Calabria along the coast. Maratea is known for the giant white marble statue of Christ the Redeemer similar to the one in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

This statue is perched high atop the hill in Maratea. A drive up there affords you the most spectacular views of the Mediterranean found anywhere.

Cristo Redentore, Maratea
Cristo Redentore, Maratea, Calabria. Christ the Redeemer of Maratea, at 21 meters high, is the third-tallest statue of Jesus in Europe. The statue was built of pure Carrara marble in 1965 by Bruno Innocenti, a sculptor from Florence.

The beaches in Maratea are also stunning as are most beaches in Southern Italy. The Mediterranean turns crystal blue as you journey down South.

Beach Near Maratea
Beach near Maratea

Matera, Basilicata

Matera used to be called the Shame of Italy. Back in the 1950’s starvation was rampant as was malaria. Many of the people in Matera lived in caves in the rock walls bringing their animals inside with them in Winter for warmth. Carlo Levy, in his book,  “Christ Stopped at Eboli” was the first to shine the light on the deplorable conditions in Matera and this caused the Italian government to come in, repatriate the people in better housing and to care for them.

Matera Morning
Matera Morning

In recent years however, Matera has become an artist’s Mecca with art and music schools popping up, and festivals in Summer. When we visited, we heard music around every corner from opera to jazz to pop. It was quite extraordinary.

Aside from the art aspect however, Matera is, itself a work of art. Made from the local white stone, Matera gleams in the sunlight and glows in the evening as the golden town lights come up.

Matera evening
Matera evening

Most recently, Matera has been the perfect location for movies. The new James Bond movie “A Time to Die” was partially filmed in Matera. (Click here for some awesome footage.)

Church in Matera
Church of the Purgatory in Matera

Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria

Of all of the Instagrammable places I have presented here, my heart belongs to Santa Domenica Talao which is my home.

The Piazza
Our Piazza

When Pete and I first looked for property in Calabria, we saw Santa Domenica Talao and that was it. We knew this was where we belonged.

Every day that I walk around the village I see new and beautiful instagrammable views, from the sweeping views of the sea and the mountains to the fruit laid out at my friend Nunzia’s store and the kids playing soccer in the parking lot. There is so much to take in.

Nunzia's store
Nunzia’s store

We love Santa Domenica Talao so much that Pete and I have purchased a ruin just up from the piazza and a few steps from Nunzia’s store. It is a ruin and we are renovating it and turning it into a BNB so that others can come and enjoy our beautiful village. Check out our renovation project and follow us as we complete it.  Then make sure you are there for the grand opening!

Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao, our beatiful home.

Santa Domenica is infinitely Instagrammable but beyond that, when you come you will fall in love with the people. We have so many warm friends there and have been welcomed from the beginning.

As you can see, Southern Italy is a photographer’s paradise. Start planning your trip down. Pete and I are experts in the region and can help you plan the perfect visit. Contact us and we can get you started.

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

 

 

 

 

Port of Call: Civitavecchia – A Home Away from Rome!

Civitavecchia Port

Civitavecchia is Rome’s main cruise ship and ferry port, and was one of the stops on a Royal Caribbean cruise last month that Chris and I took from Barcelona.  I had first imagined Civitavecchia to be just another busy, grimy port that would just be stopover for other places to visit.  But after noticing a medieval fort right at the end of the port, we thought the city might be interesting enough to see on its own. Instead of joining the busloads of cruise ship passengers bound for Rome on their day-excursions, Chris and I decided to spend the day at Civitavecchia to check it out.

The city has quite an interesting history. The present city sits atop an ancient Etruscan settlement. After the Romans occupied the city around 100A.D., Emperor Trajan built the port, and it has  remained Rome’s main port for the last 2000 years.

The city runs a very well-organized system of free shuttle buses that connect between the cruise ships and a small bus terminal just outside of the city center.  It’s easy to connect from the bus terminal to trains to take you directly to Rome or to other destinations.

Signage at the bus terminal

The bus terminal is to the left of city center on the map. We made our way to the historical city center toward the center of the map.

Civitavecchia Map

Along the way, we noticed lots of signage throughout the city making it easy for us to find our way around. We didn’t need any guides and didn’t have to contend with large crowds of tourists crowding the sidewalks!

Sign to historical center

Soon we ran into one of the largest local traditional markets that I’ve seen in any Italian city.  The market occupies the entire Piazza Regina Margherita. Vendors were selling everything from vegetables, household goods, clothing, and meats.

Along one side of the market we walked into a building that was a dedicated fish market. We both noticed the market didn’t smell “fishy” at all, a testament to the freshness of the fish that’s sold there!

Just a block away from the bustling market, we noticed how peaceful the residential areas of the historical center were, with no crowded tourist shops or expensive handbag stores to be seen anywhere!

Civitavecchia Residential Area

We had a tasty seafood lunch at an L’Acqua Salata and enjoyed sitting outside along a quiet pedestrian-only street.

Continuing our walk toward the other end of the historical center, we found ourselves on a terrace overlooking the Forte Michelangelo and the adjoining harbor.  Our Oasis of the Seas ship on the right looks close, but it’s about a 20-minute walk away from the fortress.

This fortress was commissioned by Pope Giulio II early in the 16th century, and was completed in 1535 when Michelangelo finished its construction after designing and building its central tower.

The fortress is surrounded by lots of grassy areas and walkways, and is now used mostly for exhibitions and cultural events.

Walking back to the bus terminal along the port, we noticed some remnants of the original ancient Roman port, including what is left of “Il Lazzaretto”, a contagious-diseases hospital.

Right behind this building, we saw a reconstruction of the bow portion of a second-century Roman warship.

We made our way back to the bus terminal and had no wait at all to get on a bus to take us directly back to our cruise ship.

Chris sums up our visit in this video:

Next time you’re in Civitavecchia, either to begin a cruise or on a cruise stopover, consider taking some time to enjoy the peaceful, traditional Italian town. We found it to be a great “home away from Rome”!

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!