A Moment Frozen In Time; Pompeii

Pompeii Vesuvius
Pompeii Vesuvius

 

 

Pompeii Street
Pompeii

Every so often one gets a snapshot of a moment in history; a faded photograph, a piece of nostalgia, everywhere we go there are glimpses of the past. 

Pompeii girl
Fresco at Pompeii

These little bits when stitched together can create an idea of what life was like in a certain time period. And in fact, many historians and archeologists spend their entire lives lovingly stitching together moments to create a pure line of history as carefully and patiently as grandma stitched her quilts. 

So imagine visiting a place frozen in time where no stitching necessary to see exactly how an ancient people lived almost 2,000 years ago. 

Such is Pompeii, a wealthy city located along the shores of Mediterranean Sea a short distance south of Naples in Campania, Italy. 

Pompeii Vesuvius
Pompeii Vesuvius

If you are unfamiliar with Pompeii, It is an ancient Roman city that was completely overwhelmed and mostly covered up by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Subsequent eruptions buried it further and it was not until the 1700’s that archeologists really understood what lay beneath the years and layers of dust and volcanic ash that preserved these ruins beautifully, until they were finally excavated.

Beautiful House in Pompeii
Beautiful Ruins in Pompeii

When they were, archeologists discovered a magnificent jewel of a city frozen in time more than 2000 years ago when all life suddenly stopped. 

The dust and ash that covered Pompeii had the effect of perfectly preserving everything it touched including frescoes, buildings and even food that was to be sold at the markets that day and consumed for the next meal that never arrived. 

rescue Pompeii
Fresco Pompeii

Preserved were the city streets, the tiled walkways and floors, the sidewalks. And as you walk these ancient streets, despite the crowds that normally flock to Pompeii in the high season, you can get a feeling of exactly how the people lived so long ago and how they died suddenly in the catastrophe that was the eruption of Vesuvius. 

It took many decades for Pompeii to be excavated to the extent it is currently, however today, the excavation site at Pompeii is huge.

Pompeii Map
Map of Pompeii

As you can see from the overhead view from Google Maps, the city of Pompeii spans four and a half miles. A shady, tree-lined walkway takes you into the park. The modern shops, stalls and restaurants are a stark contrast to the ancient city, but oddly only superficially. These modern shopkeepers need to make a living selling their products just as the ancient people of Pompeii did. 

Prior to the catastrophe, Pompeii was a thriving port town and an important trading hub. The excavation of amphorae revealed a busy trade in wine and olive oil.

Amphorae
Amphorae
Grapes
Grapes in Naples are fertilized by the volcanic soil

The farmlands surrounding Pompeii were rich in volcanic soil and created an abundance of agricultural crops including grapes, barley, wheat and millet. These were all grown for export to various parts of the Roman Empire. 

As you walk the streets, you see complete apartment buildings and shops. There are also a myriad of food stands that catered to customers, complete with menus frescoed on the walls. Walking in today is just like walking in in August AD 79. You almost expect the proprietor to wipe the counter in front of you and stand there waiting for your order.

The presence of beautiful villas with lavish wall decorations and gardens points to the fact that Pompeii housed many successful people. Nero himself visited Pompeii and was said to have performed there. 

Pompeii residences
A Typical Street In Pompeii

Life was rich and good in Pompeii, that is until August 24 AD 79 when everything changed.

(New evidences suggests that the date was actually later than August and was more likely as late as November. This is due to several factors such as the clothing worn by the victims, which was heavier and more Winter type clothing. Also important is the fact that the fruits and vegetables being sold at the market at that time were also Winter products and that there were chestnuts in the market which would not have been available in August. These facts all seem to point to a later date.)

 

Volcano
Pyroclastic Flow

The eruption that buried Pompeii took place over two days. Prior to that time, for at least 17 years, Pompeii had been subject to earthquakes. In fact some archeologists believe that parts of Pompeii were still being repaired from the previous destructive earthquake in 62 AD which had destroyed much of the city. Others disagree and state that much of the city had been repaired and new buildings had been added. 

The first 18 hours consisted of a rainfall of tapilli, small volcanic particles that rained down on the city. This warning was enough for some residents to leave to city taking whatever valuables they could. Since there have only been about 1,150 bodies recovered out of an original  population of about 20,000, we can surmise that most people actually did leave the city either after the first earthquake in 62 AD, years earlier or just before the eruptions turned into the deadly pyroclastic flows, the “Walls of Death “ that ended up entombing the city and annihilating any inhabitants left. 

Volcano2
Volcano Eruption

A pyroclastic flow is a billowing cloud of 700C gas, ash and rock that scientists now believe flowed from Vesuvius on a cushion of air allowing the flows to reach speeds of 750 km per hour. 

While initially it was believed  that the victims were overcome with ash that caused their demise, it is now believed that the heat of the pyroclastic flows killed them instantly upon its arrival even if they were inside buildings or other structures. 

Victim
Victim of Vesuvius

Discoveries of mass casualties in a cave near the sea reveal that even those who took refuge succumbed in the same fashion. The cave discovery, near Herculaneum revealed that several of these people had gathered up their most precious belongings, gold bracelets and earrings and coins, and sought shelter thinking that the cave would save them. Sadly this did not occur and they succumbed with the others in Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum.

Sculpture at Pompeii
Sculpture At Pompeii

Pliny the Younger, who lived during that period was across the Bay of Naples at Misenium when the eruptions occurred and gave a first hand account of what he saw. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was admiral of the fleet and died while rescuing victims as he had ordered his ships to travel across the Bay of Naples to assist. 

Bay of Naples
Bay of Naples

At that time volcanic ash covered Pompeii to a height of almost 20 feet.

And she lay there for centuries until she was found.

On a peaceful Spring or Summer day you can explore Pompeii although it takes more than a day to see it all. 

There are three separate entrances as the park is so big. 

Pompeii has many noteworthy sights however here is a short list of a few of them:

Temple of Apollo
Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

This temple features Etruscan architecture and is thought to be the oldest structure in Pompeii having come up through history from Etruscan occupation, through the Greeks and finally the Romans.

House of the Faun
House of the Faun

The House of the Faun

This particular villa is one of the most famous sights in Pompeii. As a villa it covers an entire block and was home to the Alexander Mosaic which depicts Alexander the Great fighting the Persians. Intact are the geometric floors, however many artifacts have been recovered there as well. Named for a statue of a faun that was found there, this house depicts the lavish lifestyle and success of some of the people in Pompeii. 

Forum Pompeii
The Forum at Pompeii

The Forum At Pompeii

Like the Forum in Rome, the Forum of Pompeii was the center of life in this ancient city. Government activities were carried out there and nearby, one found shops, markets and baths. 

As you wander through this formerly buzzing space, you can still feel the activities as though they were still occurring despite their 2000 year hiatus. 

Sabian Baths
Sabian Baths

The Sabian Baths

Ancient Rome was big on bathing and no wealthy Roman city would be without its luxurious baths. Hot, cold and tepid baths were provided for those looking for a day out and a little cleanliness. 

Annaliseart
Photo Credit Annalisart

A visit to Pompeii seems to always end up with lines of tourists waiting to see the Lupanare or the brothel ruins. In fact, there were several brothels in Pompeii and curious tourist minds want to know. 

All through Pompeii there are various houses identified as to who owned them. The house of the lonely poet, the house of the surgeon, The house of Pansa all giving a snapshot frozen in time of a vibrant city that suddenly stopped like a broken clock. 

Getting to Pompeii by train is relatively easy. From Naples you can either take the Circumvesuviano which takes about 35 minutes to cover the Pompeii-Naples route or you can take the Metropolitano which will get you to Pompeii In 38 minutes, Please be wary while on these trains and in Naples in general as there are pick pockets much like in any big city. However they do seem to haunt the train routes to the attractions so extra care should be taken. An over the shoulder bag that zips up and with straps that cannot be cut through is perfect for both men and women for carrying valuables. Never carry your wallet in your pockets. 

I hope you have enjoyed our little trip through Pompeii. You definitely have to experience it in person. And when you are there come a little further south and visit us in Calabria. We will look for you there.

Ciao!

Credits:

Wikipedia
Science mag
Pixabay
Pexel

Updates On Travel To Italy

Volterra
Volterra
Volterra
Volterra

Ciao Amici!

While we continue to wait for Italy and all of Europe to open up, we do get dribs and drabs of information.  Someone on the “Living in Italy” Facebook page posted this update and I thought you would find it helpful. It is from the Minister of External Affairs and International Cooperation.

I basically copied and translated it for you here. You can see the website in Italian at the above link.

“06/15/2020 COVID-19: WHO has classified COVID-19 as a “pandemic” since 11 March. To limit their spread, restrictive measures have been gradually adopted on a global scale since January 2020 (suspension of air traffic, ban on entry, refoulement* at the border, compulsory quarantine, health checks). Based on art. 6 of the Prime Ministerial Decree of 11 June 2020, travel to / from EU Member States, Schengen States Parties, the United Kingdom, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are not subject to restrictions. Travel to these countries is therefore also allowed for tourism. Before departure, it is always necessary to check any restrictions on entry in force in the country where you want to go. This information is available on the country sheets of Viaggiare Sicuri and on the websites of the Italian embassies and / or consulates of the countries of interest. The return to Italy from the listed countries is allowed without limitations, without prejudice to any restrictive measures provided for specific areas of the national territory.

Until 30 June, 2020, travel to/from States and territories other than those listed is FORBIDDEN, except for proven work, absolute urgency or health needs. In any case, it is allowed to return to your home or residence.

Those who return to Italy from States and territories other than those listed, or who have stayed there in the 14 days prior to arrival in Italy, must still complete a specific SELF-CERTIFICATION ON THE REASONS FOR THE TRIP,  must undergo fiduciary isolation for 14 days and CANNOT use public transport other than that used to enter Italy (for example, on arrival to Fiumicino by plane you cannot take the train to the center of Rome or to any other destination).

Airport transit is allowed: those who enter Italy by air can take another plane to any national or international destination. Car rental and the use of taxis or rental with driver is allowed. “

Truthfully we won’t know when Italy opens for other than the countries listed above until they do. Until then we wait…

Pete and I will keep you as updated as possible.

I hope this helps!

*non-refoulement refers to the generic repatriation of people, including refugees into war zones and other disaster locales.

When can we go back to Italy?

 

                          Photo credit Pexel.com

 

Ciao friends!

If you are like me, you have been watching news reports like a hawk to get some idea as to when we can all head back to Italy.

We are all hoping that sometime this Summer Italy will open up and be back to some form of normal even if it is with social distancing, masks and other paraphernalia.

Happily someone sent me a link to the Italian Ministry of External Affairs website which gives a pretty complete rundown of the rules as they apply now during phase 2.

In short, you can travel to Italy under some circumstances but the country is not open to tourism yet, at least for those outside the EU.

That said, here are the restrictions as outlined on the website. I copied and pasted them.

  • Which rules apply to persons travelling to Italy from March 28?
  1. Before boarding, the carrier’s staff is required to check the self-certification (to download the form) setting out the following detailed information: the reasons for travelling to Italy (health needs, work requirements, reasons of absolute necessity), the place of self-isolation for 14 days, own or otherwise private means of transportation used to get to the place of self-isolation and a mobile/land phone number. The reasons of “absolute necessity” are as specified in the FAQs previously posted on the website.
  2. All persons entering Italy, whether at an airport, ferry port or railway station, must avoid using public transport and must therefore make arrangements to be picked up, take a taxi, if and as allowed, or hire a car, with or without a driver.For airport transits and for the rules that apply to pickups at the airport, port or station, please consult the specific faq.
  3. All persons entering Italy are required to self-isolate, including persons with their own transport. Persons travelling to Italy for work may postpone the start of the self-isolation period by 72 hours (which can be extended for a further 48 hours), albeit only if strictly necessary.
  4. All persons entering Italy, including persons with their own transport, are required to report to the local health authorities on arrival at their destination.
  5. All persons entering Italy may self-isolate either at home or other place of their choice.
  6. If a person entering Italy has no place for self-isolation, or is unable to travel to their place of self-isolation (if they have no-one to pick them up, if there are no available hotel rooms, etc.), they will be required to self-isolate at a location established by the Civil Protection Service, at the interested person’s expense.
  7. The above rules do not apply to the following persons: cross-border workers, health services personnel, passenger/freight transport crews.

Phase two is still pretty strict but the statements I have seen from Italy’s culture and tourism minister, Dario Franceschini, indicate that he and his team are looking at opening the country up for tourists and are in conversations with other EU countries to see how they can safely make that happen.

While they are only looking at EU countries right now, I am sure other countries will be evaluated soon and we will have the answer to our question, “When can we book?”

Right now, there is no answer to that question but as we get information and sift through the facts versus the fakes, we will know more.

I have also asked our mayor in Santa Domenica Talao to keep me informed and he said he would let me know as soon as he hears something.

It is clear that Italy is picking its way right now after being blindsided by this vicious virus and they want to ensure that they don’t lose any more citizens. Their population tends to be on the older side so they want to take every precaution.

Still, it is our hope that by August we can all go back. We can’t wait. There is so much happening there.

Stay tuned here and I will share whatever information I get.

Meanwhile stay safe and keep making plans!

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

How to Navigate Tricky Venice and Bathe Yourself in Beauty

Little Bridges
Little Bridges

 

Venice is magic!
Venice is Magic!

Ciao Everyone!

Wow! Pete and I just returned from an incredible cruise on Azamara to the Greek Islands, ending up in Venice.

I was unfamiliar with Venice, all of my knowledge being stories I have read and beautiful photos in travel magazines. Seeing Venice up close and personal was a gift that I hope you all receive. In short Venice is spectacular .

That said, Venice, being built on stilts in a swampy lagoon and being a spot that tourists are drawn to like Winnie the Pooh to honey pots,  has her challenges. Pete and I very sneakily discovered some ways to get around them and to have a beautiful time in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Water taxis and busses are the only way to get around
Water taxis and water busses are the only way to get around.
  1. Make sure your hotel is close to the water taxis

If you have never been to Venice, be aware that it is not a city for the severely mobility impaired. Venice is a series of islands close together with canals running betwixt and between them. They are held together by beautiful little bridges that connect each island to the ones next to it forming a an interconnected archipelago.

There are no cars in the center of Venice so no taxis to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.  The water buses are great but let me tell you that if you have walking, standing or balance issues they can be intimidating.

There are no cars in the old town, Venice

I have had three hip replacements so in big cities, I walk with a cane and have some balance issues. I had to use great care getting on and off these boats and sometimes the only way on and off was over a skinny plank.

In addition we had luggage. We pack pretty light but those who do not will have the massive task of heaving a huge suitcase onto and off of a water taxi then dragging all their luggage to whatever accommodations they are planning to use while there.

When you look at it, it can be a long walk to your hotel if it is far from the  Grand Canal.

Tiny vias in Venice
Tiny vias in Venice

While in Venice we stayed at the Hotel Lux. It is close to the water taxi stations, close to the Piazza San Marco and had some stellar restaurants nearby. Hotel Lux is a three star hotel. The room was small but it was inexpensive and clean and you get breakfast. We would definitely stay there again, especially since hotels in Venice can be extremely pricey.

While we were on board the Azamara ship, Pete had overheard an unfortunate young woman who had reservations at a hotel in Venice. Her mother was confined to a wheelchair and she had no idea how she was going to get her mom, their luggage and herself to her hotel and around Venice. I felt bad for her. It was a thorny problem.

Venice cistern
Venice had cisterns to gather water and provide It to the residents

2. Buy quality luggage and pack as lightly as you can.

I have found recently that quality luggage is the difference between breezing through airports and over cobbled historical centers, and dragging, sweating and possibly even swearing (under your breath of course) trying to get your stuff from one location to the next.

Prior to leaving for this trip, I went and bought a rolly bag made by Swiss Gear. I paid more but after rolling all the bags around the store I decided it was worth is and it really was! This thing is a dream. I walk through the airport barely pushing it. It is light and easy to hoist onto trains. Even over cobble stones it was great.

Venetian Canal
Venetian Canal

3. Check to see what floor you will be staying on because there are very few lifts in Venice.

The only drawback to the Hotel Lux was that it was a tall and skinny hotel. We were on the “third” floor (really the fourth because that is how they are counted in Europe) and there was a stair case that you had to climb to get to reception. Happily we packed relatively light but we still had to schlepp all our bags up the stairs to our room and back down again when we left.

I had a conversation with the hotel manager and he advised me that the building codes are very strict in Venice to the point where inside or outside, you cannot move the ancient walls or take them down. This severely limits building owners and as there are few locations that can actually accommodate a lift, there are very few.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge

4. Don’t spend all your time at the main attractions.

Sure St. Mark’s Square is stunningly beautiful and you should see it. Go at night, most of the tourists are gone and several restaurants feature beautiful orchestras playing classical music. Sitting at a table in a square surrounded by some of the most beautiful architecture ever created  drinking a Prosecco while listening to Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s favored son, is a treat you won’t want to miss.

St, Mark’s during the day is choked with people as is the Rialto Bridge. See these places after dark.

Venice at night
Venice at night

Meanwhile Pete and I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day running around Venice with our cameras looking for the prettiest corners, the most interesting reflections and watching the beautifully crafted gondolas glide soundlessly through the tiny waters with their passengers.

Venice is one of those rare cities that is beautiful through and through. Around every corner is another amazing sight. From the mask maker’s shops to the glass shops, there is so much to delight your eyes that is not shown in guide books.

Little Bridges
Little Bridges

5. Understand that most of the bridges have stairs.

Again if you are in a wheelchair, you will not see a lot of Venice. Along the Grand  Canal the city has provided ramps for those with mobility issues but that is the only place I saw them. The rest of the lanes are held together with little arched bridges with stairs.

Murano Glassworks
Murano Glass Works

6. DO go see the glass works in Murano

While we were there Pete and I took a boat tour to Murano and Burano.

Murano is the island where Venetian glass is made. Since glassmaking is an inherently dangerous activity due to the high temperature fires needed to melt silica and make glass, all of the glassmaking has been restricted to the island of Murano.

Once we alighted on the island, we were treated to a short glass making demonstration during which we watched in fascination as a master glass craftsman took a bubble of glass and create a rearing horse in seconds.

After the demonstration we toured the showroom. We were not allowed to take photos and it is unfortunate because I cannot describe how beautiful these works were.

 Check out this website however for some idea. The picture may or may not due them all justice. The works were nothing short of specatacular.

Burano umbrellas
Pretty umbrellas in Burano

7.  Take a guided tour

Our tour of Murano and Burano was with City Wonders. Our tour guide is a Venice resident and had an incredibly rich knowledge of the city’s history. She answered every question we threw at her including the significances of certain statues, what a normal Venetian would have for dinner and what products we should order this season in the restaurants. On top of that she was immensely entertaining and funny. Her name was Francesca A and we highly recommend her.

Seeing any city with a tour guide is the best way to go. The experience is so much richer when you know what you are looking at.

If you don’t want to do that check out some of the Great Courses. Either way your experience will be much richer when you know the stories behind the magnificent things you are seeing.

Venice is a city full of challenges but also full to the brim of wonder. She is a challenge to negotiate but when you do you will be treated to an experience like no other.

This beautiful little island built on a lagoon to thwart invaders ended up dominating all the cities in terms of trade and drew to herself, architectural and artistic elements from everywhere.

She is a sparkling jewel in a stunning Byzantine jewel box just waiting to be explored,

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

How to Make Your Trip to Italy Surpass All Expectations

Pieta
Pieta
The Colosseum In Rome

Ciao!

So you are heading off to Italy! You researched flights online and got the best deal or you went with a travel agent. You have your hotels, your trains, your cars all figured out. It is going to be GREAT! 

And it will be. You almost cannot go to Italy and have it be anything other than great.

But Italy, with all its beautiful cities, amazing structures and fabulous art can be a bit overwhelming. Everywhere you look there is something spectacular to see. Italy is a giant art bath and it literally takes your breath away. 

So how do you somehow get everything in order in your mind so that you don’t see it all in a giant blur and then not remember any of it? 

My husband and I are avid Italophiles. We have a place in Calabria and get over there whenever we can. We always stop over in Rome and many times Florence before taking the train down south and every time we go we see new and exciting things. 

Florence is a very special city and the birth place of the Renaissance. 

Medieval Italian Home
Medieval Italian Home

But Rome and Florence can also be a giant blur unless you know the history and at least have an idea of the chronology of the events and the personalities that have shaped these cities and made them bright stars in Italy’s crown. 

Since we first realized that we needed proper context in order to really enjoy these cities on a deeper level, my husband and I started purchasing courses through The Great Courses. 

In addition we found  a great series on YouTube that anyone can view for free. There is so much available that it is difficult to pick out a few favorites. 

Roma
Roma

1) “The Rise of Rome” by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete Ph.D. (The Great Courses Plus)

In his course The Rise of Rome, Dr. Aldrete explains in entertaining detail how from the 8th century BC, Rome rose to a massive civilization that controlled the entire Mediterranean basin and beyond. 

Dr. Aldrete not only goes over the chronology of the rise of Rome but puts in perspective all of the main events and characters that shaped Rome as she rose and then started her demise. 

Dr Aldrete is as entertaining as he is brilliant sometimes giving his lecture in a Roman toga and inserting anecdotes that enlighten and add color. 

Many of the Great Courses lectures are offered in DVD format or you can stream them. They come with an accompanying text with pictures and important information but even if you simply watch the lectures you will gather tons of great data that will put the entire city in perspective for you. 

Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica, Roma

2) “Meet the Romans” series by Dame Mary Beard  (YouTube)

Dame Mary Beard is a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge as well a a fellow of Newnham College and the Royal Academy of Arts. Honestly she has so many achievements that it would take pages to list them all, however despite her amazing depth of knowledge of all things Roman, Dame Mary Beard has managed to create a series that is intimate and understandable. 

The most fascinating part of her series is that she follows the steps of the Roman Empire and on the way, translates various monuments and grave stones from Latin to English and gives historical context to each one. 

Apparently back in ancient Rome, when someone died, a lot of information about them was written on their grave markers. Since these are in Latin, we pass them by in the streets, in alleyways and lining the Via Appia, and never know what secret treasures they contain. 

Dame Mary opens up this treasure trove of intimate information so we see how the inhabitants of Ancient Rome lived, from the emperors to the men and women in the streets. 

Happy Travels
Goofy Tourists in the Piazza Navona

3) “The Prince” by Professor William Landon (The Great Courses Plus) 

The Prince is a lecture series that follows the life and downfall of Niccolo Machiavelli and the impact his book “The Prince” has had on society up to and including present day. 

Machiavelli lived in Florence during the Renaissance and is a contemporary of Michelangelo, Lorenzo De’ Medici, Rafael, Leonardo Da Vinci and the insane Franciscan monk, Savonarola. 

Political situations were volatile back then and one could be in a cushy government job one minute and hanging upside down in a bonfire in the piazza the next. 

This lecture series gives a close up look not only at the political situation and surrounding events during that incredibly active time, but also how the crucible of political upheaval helped create Machiavelli’s brilliant work and how his ideas have permeated our culture today. 

Walking the streets of Florence, you can’t help but understand better everything around you and to see the city in its ancient context bringing the Renaissance to life. 

Roman ruins
Roman ruins

4)  “The Genius of Michelangelo” by Professor William E. Wallace.  (The Great Courses Plus) 

Of all the courses my husband and I have studied, this is my favorite because I have a deep love and respect for the genius that is Michelangelo. 

Professor Wallace shares that love and respect and takes you through the journey of Michelangelo’s life from his relatively ignoble birth to his rise in Florence and to the associations with various popes who commissioned him to create some of the most beautiful art works ever created anywhere. 

Florence is a treasure trove of Michelangelo’s works and one of the homes he owned is now a museum dedicated to him where you can see up close and personal his early works like “The Madonna of the Stairs” and “The Battle of the Centaurs”. 

Walk in Michelangelo’s footsteps in both Florence and Rome and see where they cross those of Machiavelli and Leonard Da Vinci. Glimpse of the personality of the artist and understand the barriers he had to overcome to create everything he created in one short life time. 

This lecture series more than any other take both Rome and Florence from one dimensional tourist destinations to multi dimensional story tellers with every street, palace or museum contributing to the tale. 

5) “Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City” by Professor Steven L. Tuck (The Great Courses Plus)

In the days of the Roman Empire, Pompeii was a thriving port city and a playground for the rich. That all changed in 79 AD when an explosion blew the entire top off the mountain of Vesuvius and created a pyroclastic flow that killed everything in its path and enshrouded the entire city and all its inhabitant in volcanic ash where they lay for centuries.

It was not until the 1700’s that Pompeii was properly discovered and excavations began uncovering a city almost perfectly preserved as if in amber right down to a loaf of bread that was cooking in a bakery as the eruption began. 

Walk with professor Tuck through the ancient city and get a taste of life on the Mediterranean in ancient times. 

6) The Life and Operas of Verdi” by Dr. Robert Greenberg (The Great Courses Plus) 

In addition to being an Italophile and Renaissance addict I am also a musician. I have purchased and studied many of Dr. Greenberg’s lectures and find him uniquely understandable and highly entertaining. 

Travel with him through the life and the operas of Italy’s favorite musical son up through the Italian Risorgimento. 

Verdi’s operas are beautifully constructed and anyone who loves opera has seen one or more of them. 

Dr. Greenberg gives us a glimpse of Verdi’s character, his trials and tribulations as well as his resounding successes. This is all presented within a rich historical context giving us a unique slice of life in Verdi’s beloved Italy. 

If you love music, you will love this set of lectures. On another topic, Dr. Greenberg has similar lectures exploring the life and works of Beethoven and an all around favorite “How to Listen to and Understand great Music”

These lectures and other similar studies have deepened our understanding of these unique beautiful Italian cities and of Italy itself. 

Italy has the deepest and richest history of any European country. It boasts of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and gave birth to the most compelling and greatest artists, architects and statesmen the world has ever seen.

If you study even one on the above lecture series, you will have a depth of understanding that will allow you to remember your trip long after you return home and will also you to reignite your memories when you rewatch them. 

The Great Courses offers the courses we referenced above and much more through the Great Courses Plus video-on-demand service  offering over 8,000 engaging video courses taught by university professors from top schools. We have viewed many of their courses and recommend them without hesitation. The Great Courses Plus has a free 30-day trial that you can take advantage of by clicking on the banner link below. We do receive a commission from signups through this link, but it’s at no extra cost to you and helps us fund additional content for this site.