Golden Day 115: Reggio Emilia with Marilena Maioli

unnamedI’m so grateful to have connected with Marilena Maioli. She is a corporate lawyer who has traveled the world, loved all her experiences, but always comes back to her home town: Reggio Emilia. Marilena describes it as “A cozy place where everyone knows everybody and local dialect is still spoken.” We’re lucky to have her joining in to give insider’s advice for a town many tourists may miss. This is clearly a place to authentically experience a gem of Italy… So here is Marilena’s Golden Day in Reggio Emilia.

Reggio Emilia is a medieval town with a fantastic city center which offers churches, museums, shops and bars. To begin your day at a caffe, you have many great places to choose from, but my favorite is Pasticceria la Torinese (Via Fornaciari 3/A,0522 541729). It has a beautiful art nouveau interior, (it’s been around since 1910), and we all go there for Cannellini allo zabaione. You can also enjoy a fantastic brunch here.

image008 A highlight of the historical center is Piazza San Prospero  (Piàsa Cèca=which means little square in our local dialect). It’s the real heart of Reggio Emilia,where we like to spend some time every day,to meet friends for a coffee or to visit the local market (on Tuesdays and Fridays).paaaa Stop by the Basilica di San Prospero,to admire the marble lions and large frescos. From time to time there are special events here,like dinners or happenings under the stars. untitled Little Square is connected to Piazza Prampolini (Piàsa Granda=Big Square), by a street with porches (Il Broletto). posti-visitare-vedere-reggio-emilia-Piazza_duomo_mercato  Here you can visit the Duomo with the medieval Baptistery, and the City Hall with the Sala del Tricolore=Room of the The Three Colors.This hall is rich with history, known as the place where the Three Colors that symbolize Italy–gets its name. On December 27, 1796, the hall hosted the congress of delegates from Reggio, Modena, Bologna and Ferrara. After they proclaimed the Cispadana Republic, which was adopted on January 7, 1797, a horizontal three color symbol, of green, white and red (with red at the top), was created. This is considered to be Italy’s first national flag! EPSON DSC picture Another beautiful place to see is the Basilica della Ghiara. It was built in response to a miracle and locals are very devoted to it. A fair takes place around the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8). Inside, it is richly decorated in Late Renaissance style, with gold, marble, and large frescoes of the Carracci school covering the domes and the vaults. ghiara 4093_reggio_emilia_basilica_della_ghiara You’ll find the best place for shopping in the Via Emilia–for clothes, shoes, books and local products.Saturday is the best day to see the locals there, meeting each other and enjoying the relaxed and traditional atmosphere of the town.Alle-Flaggen-Italiens-in-den-Strassen-von-Reggio-Emilia For delicious places in the center, I definitely recommend Gelateria K2 (Via Guido da Castello 7/F,052243386). flower And you must try the local bake shop Forno Antica Bontà (Via dei due Gobbi 2,0522430780) FORNOANTICO For prosciutto, salumi, and excellent local products, go to Salumeria Piccola (Via Antonio Franzoni 3,0522436303) Capture   The best place for aperitivo is the Piazza Grande, where all the bars are good… Here are some suggestions for dinner: Ristorante Canossa (Via Roma 37/B,0522454196, lunch: 12.30 – 14.00 dinner 19.30 – 22.00, closed on Wednesdays). This is a simple restaurant, but offers fantastic food. It’s a must for people who visit the city center and want to taste the typical specialties. Order cappelletti (our local version of tortellini) and tortelli verdi e di zucca (ravioli stuffed with seasonal herbs and pumpkin) and then try the excellent meat trolley with boiled and roasted meats, served with traditional mash and side bowls of tasty and spicy condiments. image015
In the evening, see what’s playing at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli. It’s a stunning neoclassic style theater, where you can see concerts, operas and ballet. teatro-Valli For a place to stay in Reggio Emilia, I recommend: Hotel Posta (Piazza del Monte 2,0522432944). This 4 star in the ancient Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, overlooking Piazza Prampolini in the historic center,has romantic and cozy rooms. photogallery14 Or Hotel Astoria (Viale Leopoldo Nobili 2, 0522435245). This is also a 4 star hotel, of modern design, that is surrounded by a park, near the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli. Immagine2_ITA AND I must add… If you have time to visit the surroundings of Reggio, go to Albinea, a nearby village on the hills. Here you’ll discover a wonderful place with beautiful views…

albin02Photo credit:

where you can and taste one of the best gelatos you ever tried in Gelateria Pam Pam (Piazza E. Cavicchioni 4,0522599105) l Just a few hills away, is the village of Quattro Castella, where you can eat in Ristorante La Maddalena and visit the Bianello Castle, which is one of the castles of Matilde di Canossa. She was a noblewoman, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy. If you are in Reggio during the month of May, you must see Corteo Storico Matildico. It’s an event that usually takes place on the last Sunday in May, to honor the coronation of Matilde of Canossa at the hands of Emperor Henry V. corteo-matildico-2013-cavalieri If you want to spend a night in the country near Reggio Emilia, my favourite place is Agriturismo Cavazzone, just 15 minutes from the town center, on the hills over Albinea. This farmhouse hotel offers a typical restaurant and a “balsamery”, where balsamic vinegar is made, in more than 200 precious wooden barrels.The flavor of vinegar spreads all around, giving visitors unforgettable emotions.1391856802Una_delle_batterie_di_aceto_della_nostra_antica_Acetaia_del_Cavazone Grazie mille Marilena! I can feel your passion for Reggio Emilia and can’t wait to visit…soon!

Golden Day 114: Pleasures of Parma

I loved being in Parma, one of Italy’s most elegant small towns. Its name conjures up images of some of Italy’s most beloved foods, which are produced in this province:

Parmigiano Reggiano…


Proscuitto di Parma…

parma addobbo se 001

In fact, Parma’s specialty foods are so revered, that on the outskirts of town you’ll discover the Musei del Cibo (Piazzale della Pace, 0521821139) , which includes the Museo del Proscuitto di Parma, Museo del Parmigiano Reggiano, Museo del Salame, Museo del Pomodoro, and in May, a Museo della Pasta was added to the mix! You can visit each to get a bit of culinary history, and of course, have a taste.


Add to the delicious tastes, the lovely atmosphere of the town’s historic center, for a Golden Day in Parma:

Begin at the Pasticceria Torino (61 Strada Garibaldi Giuseppe, 0521235689), where you’ll elbow in with the locals for buon cappuccino and a choice of scrumptious pastries…


Head to the Piazza Duomo, home to some of Italy’s most glorious medieval architecture: the Romanesque Duomo…


and the pink marbled Baptistery.640px-Battistero

 Inside the Duomo is an amazing fresco in its cupola: Correggio’s Assumption of Mary. It’s a dramatic Renaissance wonder!


 You’ll enjoy strolling through the historic center, flanked by cyclists, as most of the area is pedestrian only…

 PARMACYCLISTSA great place to stop for lunch is Salumeria Garibaldi (Via Garibaldi 42, 0521235606), where you can choose from a top selection of cheeses and cured meats, and sit at a wooden table with a tumbler of local wine…


 You may also wish to visit the Camera di San Paolo, where you’ll find beautiful mythological scenes by Correggio, painted on the walls and ceilings. Always looking for the female angle, I love this place because it was once the reception area of a rich abbess, Giovanna da Piacenza, who hired Correggio to decorate her place so splendidly!


An afternoon activity I loved was a cooking class with Micaela Sini Scarpato. Micaela’s a young, energetic signorina, who I found through The International Kitchen ,a Chicago-based company that offers classes all over Italy.


The class takes place in Micaela’s cozy apartment kitchen, where she taught me how to make tortellini stuffed with spinach and ricotta, just as she learned from her grandmother.


We also made Rosa di Parma, braised beef stuffed with proscuitto, and enjoyed the whole meal at her elegantly set dining table.


That was all I could eat that day, but if you stay around, here are some more recommendations:

For extraordinary gelato and sorbets, go to Ciacco (Viale Mentana 91/A, 0521 570208). It’s run by two young guys who are dedicated to using the highest quality ingredients. Their pistachio is out of this world!


For aperitivo, Via Farini is lined with places where university students spill out to the sidewalks. Check out Le Malve (Via Farini,0521230260) for pizza,cocktails, wine, and a great selection of cured meats.


 Restaurants to try are:

 La Greppia (39/A Strada Garibaldi, 0521233686), Parma’s legendary place for elegant dining and refined cuisine. They have a great wine list, and do a wonderful job with the specialties, and secondi such as veal with balsamic vinegar. Save room for fabulous desserts from the trolley!


For something more casual, go to La Forchetta, for homemade pastas, such as tortelli d’erbetta.  


 I enjoyed staying at Hotel Torino (Borgo Angelo Mazza 7,0521281046), a simple, modern place, in a great location…


But going fancier, right near the Duomo, is the beautiful Palazzo dall Rosa Prati (Strada al Duomo 7,0521386429)…for next time…


To have the full Parma experience, I also recommend you check out the schedule for Teatro Regio (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 16/a,0521039393) a jewel box of a theater that has an excellent season of opera and concerts.6345519262_82f887eae6_z


Buon Viaggio!

Forza Italia!!!


Our wonderful Golden Days in Italy intern, Whitney Hickey , has a passion for Italian soccer (futbol), and is counting the moments until the game on Saturday, June 14, when Italy takes on England in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s 6:00 p.m. EST in the USA.







Here is Whitney’s Report…

At last the moment futbol fans across the world have waited for: The FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament! Thursday, June 12th marked the start, with 32 countries attending. The games began with the host country Brazil taking on Croatia(3-1). Over the next month millions of futbol fans worldwide will tune in to cheer for their favorite teams.

Here’s mine…Gli Azzurri! The name and the color of the uniforms comes from “Azzurro Savoia”(Savoy Blue)–the color inspired by Italy’s former rulers, the Royal House of Savoy.


Italy is among the best of the competing teams, ranking second behind Brazil. Gli Azzurri have won the title four times — in 1934, 1938, 1982, and most recently in 2006.




This year Italy is in Group D, with Uruguay, Costa Rica, and England, one of the  tougher groups. While there are several names to watch for, Mario Balotelli (Striker) is one to know.  Mario was born in Palermo, Sicily but was put into foster care at age 3. Balotelli officially gained citizenship in Concesio in August 2008. After the ceremony he released the following statement: ” I am Italian, I feel Italian, I will forever play with the Italy national team”- Mario Balotelli. The true pride of Italians.  In the games ahead, Mario hopes to achieve the title as the “Worlds Best Striker”. Andrea Pirlo, the 35-year-old midfielder with 13 goals on 109 international caps is another name to watch out for in the World Cup games.

This occasion calls for a Bierra—and why not Peroni!


I’ll be watching in Cleveland, but if anybody out there happens to be in Rome, here are a couple of suggestions to join in on the excitement…

  • Scholars Lounge(Via del Plebisito 101) The lounge has 19 screens to watch all your favorite teams play and has english commentary for travelers.
  •  Feria c/o Lanificio, (Via di Pietralata 159) Rooftop screens to watch the world cups game at one of Rome’s popular discos.
  • Eutropia, (Piazza Orazio Giustiniani) This bar prepares meals to of the countries competing. For example, On June 16th you will be able to try food from Iran and Nigeria! A special that you won’t find everywhere!


To keep up to date with all the matches, click on Official Website of FIFA

Grazie Whitney! We’ll keep watching your reports on Twitter.


Golden Day 113: Bologna with Carmelita Caruana of Cook Italy

unnamedMy dear friend, the wonderful writer Ellen Sandler, raved to me about her time in Bologna. She and her daughter Molly signed up for Carmelita Caruana’s Cook Italy class, and had in Ellen’s words, “The most AMAZING EXPERIENCE!” Ellen joins lots of fans on Trip Advisor who have loved taking Carmelita’s classes.

Carmelita is originally from Malta, and has been passionate about cooking since an early age. She fell in love with the beautiful city of Bologna, acknowledged food capital of Italy, aka La Grassa=the Fat, which is shorthand for the abundance, fertility, and generosity that characterizes Bologna. In 1999, she set up her cooking school here, Cook Italy, offering fun hands-on classes for very small groups or individuals. She is also a food writer, has taught internationally, and collaborated on fund raising events with British and US chefs.

I love the motto on her blog: “Nothing I like more than feeding people, except perhaps teaching people to cook great Italian food!” 

Carmelita’s passion and knowledge of Italian food history really shines on this Cook Italy blog, where she offers great stories and recipes. Click here for panna cotta.




I am so grateful Carmelita has joined in to give her expert advice for A Golden Day in Bologna…with a culinary focus, of course!

The day begins with caffe. There are many good places, but the absolute tops is Caffè Terzi (Via Oberdan,0510344819). I highly recommend their Caffè Pistachio, a beautiful little treat,everyone snaps a photo of it before drinking it.

image (1)

Photo Credit: Zacqary Adam Xeper

Nearby, the gastronomic temple to marvel and worship at is La Salumeria (Via Oberdan, 051 233692). All Bologna’s culinary pride and joy is here: the very best cured pork products, the very best hand rolled egg pastas, a range of excellent cheeses including an award winning 30 month old Parmigiano-Reggiano, the best Mortadella di Bologna I.G.P. and Mortadella’s older brother, Salame Rosa. Like Mortadella, Salame Rosa is a highly prized cooked pork product, made in Bologna since at least the middle ages, which is unfortunately at risk of dying out, as it is so little known outside the city limits. At La Salumeria you get wonderfully courteous smiling service to all customers, old and new, by a staff of 6 led by the friendly expert owner Franco Macchiavelli who willingly hands out tasting samples.


Related to this, is the plaque near the corner between Via delle Pescherie and Vicolo Ranocchi, in the area of Bologna’s oldest food market, dating back at least 1,000( yes one thousand!) years known as il Mercato di Mezzo. The plaque, placed on an impressively large Gothic building, states that the Guild of the Salt Curers occupied the building from 1242 to 1798. So Bologna did not become a Foodie Capital yesterday!

My Cook Italy Market-to-Table Classbegins at 8:45 with a market tour, where we shop for the best ingredients of the season and have tastings of Bologna’s special products.



Then back in the kitchen of my apartment, we have a  hands-on class, with me demonstrating techniques when necessary.

We focus on cooking traditional italian food, with an eye on attractive plating and presentation.


 Guests can choose what they would like to make and eat—so perhaps we’ll make egg pasta from scratch or a contemporary style Italian lunch, or a specialty from another region of Italy.


 Of course, it ends with a great meal, and a very good bottle of wine, selected by a sommelier to match what we make.


 You are unlikely to want to eat dinner on the evening of the cooking class! But here are some suggestions if you stay on…

My favorite Gelateria is Cremeria Funivia (Piazza Cavour, 1/d, Closed Monday,0516569365), but I am also very partial to the salted pistachio sold at Cremeria Santo Stefano (Via Santo Stefano 70/C, 051 227045) too.


For Aperitivo, my favorite is Gamberini (Via Ugo Bassi, 051 2960467). They serve gorgeous little canapès, freshly prepared for the antipasto buffet. There are two outside seating areas but I prefer to stay inside, to see what fresh little snacks are coming out of the kitchen. Everything here is delicious! The breakfast croissants, the little cakes for mid-afternoon, the lunches and of course the aperitivo drinks and buffet.

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There are so many restaurants to choose from! Here are two of my favorites…

Trattoria di Via Serra (Via Luigi Serra, 9/B,0516312330 Open 12-2 p.m. and 8-10 p.m.) is a short walk beyond the train station. It’s a very charming little trattoria, with simple rooms where you get a warm welcome and attentive service. The menu is short and focuses on quality ingredients, with the name of the breed and the farmer listed in the menu description. While everything is good, perhaps the pasta and meat dishes are best. Vegetarians can eat here, but the choice is limited..



 Photo Credit: A Pranzo con Bea

 Teresina(Via Oberdan Gugliemo 4, 051228985)remains a favorite of mine nearly twenty years on, I love its pretty courtyard, too. I usually go for the fish side of the menu, though the beef Tagliata is exquisite. For dessert, I recommend sharing one of their super cannoli – just a simple, very light well whipped ricotta cream filling without any candied fruit or chocolate – with the crispest crust.


Here are places I recommend for you to stay in Bologna:

The Corona D’Oro, (Via Oberdan 12, 0517457611). It’s beautiful, with a great staff and centrally located–very close to me should you want to come and take a Cook Italy class while you are here.



Also, the Hotel Roma (Via D’ Azeglio, 9,051226322) is good value for money. It too has great staff and its location is hard to beat!



And there is Villa Benni’ s 2 extremely spacious double rooms (plus use of a period sitting room, incredible dining room and even more amazing spacious, cool and quiet gardens all round). It’s pricey for a Bed and Breakfast, but in fact a great value, since you will feel like royalty staying in this gorgeous neoclassical Palazzo just outside the city centre with the very frequent number 20 bus to the centre stopping just outside.

 CapturePhoto Credit: Villa Benni

Grazie mille Carmelita, for this delicious advice! I’ll be sure to stop by Cook Italy  next time I’m in Bologna…


Golden Day 112: Bologna with Audrey Burke of Ciao Bologna

unnamedIt was delightful to discover Ciao Bologna, the blog of an American expat couple, Audrey and Luke, who have been living in Bologna for two years.  In Audrey’s words: “I left my corporate job in the networking industry to follow a handsome biomedical engineer to Italy, where he was sent for a work assignment.  Living in Italy has kindled my passion for good food and its power to build community and healthy food cultures.  In my free time, I volunteer with Slow Food Bologna, work on organic farms through WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), linger in Bologna’s farmers’ markets, and enjoy traveling Italy to try each region’s unique cuisine.  I’ve also been exploring my family’s Italian roots (my great-grandma is from Molise and my great-grandpa from Calabria) and I’m in the process of applying for Italian dual citizenship.

Ciao Bologna showcases Audrey’s passion for discovery, including beautiful photos and such great posts as Best Gelaterias in Bologna and a Day in Modena. I’m thrilled she’s joined in to share her advice for A Golden Day in Bologna:

I feel lucky to have landed in Bologna, often named as one of the most livable cities in Italy. Bologna is a medieval city, home to monumental dishes like tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini in brodo, and lasagna alla bolognese.

lasagne-alla-bolognese-HEM1Photo from

It’s also a modern and progressive city with a gastronomic revolution in full swing. Here I offer up a Golden Day in Bologna that offers up a mix of old and new; one that includes options for lighter fare, takes you outdoors, and gives you a sense of Bologna’s fresh flair.

Start out at Fram Cafè (via Rialto, 22/c, 3334355545 – Closed Sat morning and Sun), a cozy cafe owned by mother-daughter duo Elena and Nicole.


Next, walk to Piazza Santo Stefanomy favorite piazza in the city.  Find a sunny spot to sit along one of the ledges and take in the scene.

Piazza Santo Stefano

Check out the Basilica di Santo Stefano, also known as Sette Chiese (seven churches) because it was seven churches connected; four remain today.  Legend goes that Dante spent time here in 1287 and characters in his Divine Comedy were inspired by the capitals in the cloister courtyard.


Next, stroll the city’s famous historic market quarter, the Quadrilatero, to oogle at fresh produce, prosciutto, and cheese.  Check out famous shops: Atti, Tamburini, and Simoni and the grocery and cookbook sections of Eataly.  Stock up on souvenirs: I like the 10 year-old slightly sweet balsamic from Gilberto (they do tastings on request).


Here are some ideas for lunch:

La Baita (Via Pescherie Vecchie 3a – Closed Sun,051223940) where they serve meat and cheese plates by region: Emilia, Romagna, Toscana, and more.


Prima della Pioggia (Via de’ Falegnami, 14 ,051271296), a bright bistro where Mediterranean flavors meet modern English influences.

Primadellapioggia 2

After lunch, enjoy an outdoor spot, such as Giardini Margherita, just outside Porta Castiglione.  Walk the mile loop around the park, plant yourself in the grass, or grab a bench for some people watching.


Or there is Parco Villa Ghighi, a tranquil park in the hills with a great view of Bologna’s city center.  Walk to Porta San Mamolo, cross the boulevard, continue to the second branch street called San Mamolo (you’ll see bus stop 29-Villa Ghigi; you can pick up the 29-B bus on Via Rizzoli).  The branch street takes you into the park.  Walk up hill until you find a good view.


If you’re in the mood for gelato, go to La Sorbetteria (Via Castiglione 44, Closed Monday, 051233257). Or try the Cavour, made with bits of pastry crust and Amalfi lemons, at Cremeria Funivia (Piazza Cavour, 1/d, Closed Monday,0516569365). Their pink grapefruit (pompelmo rosa) and almond (mandorla) granita are also excellent choices.


If the afternoon is young, check out Bologna’s gorgeous history museum in Palazzo Pepoli (Via Castiglione 8, Closed Mon). The displays are in Italian but English audio guides are available. I recommend the second floor, which covers more recent history.

Museo_Palazzo_Pepoli_by_Peter_Zullo_04-592x393Photo by Peter Zullo

Now you have a choice of wonderful places for aperitivo…

Camera a Sud (Via Valdonica 5, 051 0951448 ), a bar with a hipster-vintage vibe serving food and drink in the ex-Jewish Ghetto. Go early or reserve a table.



Enoteca Italiana (Via Marsala 2b, 051 235989), a wine shop/bar where you can grab vino with a plate of meat and cheese. I recommend local favorites pignoletto frizzante (a sparkling white wine) or Sangiovese (red wine).


Here are some ideas for dinner:

For meat eaters and traditional Bolognese cuisine: Go to Vicolo Colombina (Vicolo Colombina 5/b, 051233919 ), just steps from the main piazza, Piazza Maggiore. People rave about their lasagne alla bolognese and torta di riso.



For seafood and vegetarian: Head to Sale Grosso (Vicolo De’ Facchini 4, 051 231721 -Closed Sun-Mon)



Stay at Hotel Touring (Via De’ Mattuiani 1/2, 051 584305). They have a rooftop terrace with a 360° view of Bologna’s skyline of red roofs. In the spring and summer, you can have breakfast or aperitvo on the terrace; there’s also a jacuzzi!



Here are some other tips:

From June 20 – August 14, there’s free outdoor movies at night in the city’s main piazza, Piazza Maggiore.

On weekends and holidays the city shuts down two perpendicular streets in the heart of the city center (via Rizzoli and via Indipendenza) allowing pedestrians to enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Don’t forget to take a gander at the Due Torri, Bologna’s twin towers–they are hard to miss!



Grazie mille Audrey! I hope to meet you when I return to Bologna….soon!

Click here for the Bologna Tourism Site

Golden Day 111: Ferrara with Gabriele Monti of Emilia Delizia

2009_august-bongotrip 121It was great to discover Emilia Delizia, a website that offers travelers a wide range of experiences to discover the delights of Emilia Romagna–from Gourmet Food Tours and Pasta Making Classes to tours of the Ferrari and Lamborghini car factories. Gabriele Monti is a writer and tour guide on the website team, who loves to welcome visitors to his homeland.

 I’m grateful he’s joined in to give his advice for a Golden Day in Ferrara:

Located on the Po River, the city of Ferrara is abundant with ancient churches, royal castles and medieval fortresses. The unique combination of modern environment and antique buildings has created a thriving cultural and historical centre, where tourists can enjoy a memorable vacation: from classical Ferrarese Salama da Sugo  to fine art exhibitions. Start out at the Ducal Palace Castello Estense (Via Largo Castello, 1,0532 299233), that was the fortress of the noble Este family from the 14th to 16th centuries. The castle is surrounded by a moat; two of its floors – the ground and the first floor – are divided into large chambers with painted ceilings, dungeons where prisoners were held, and areas such as the ducal kitchens and chapels. Besides the galleries, the fortress has four towers, built to defend its residents from different viewpoints. A panoramic view of the city of Ferrara can be reached from the Lion Tower. Piazza-castello-Foto-NicolaBisi-distribuita-in-licenza-CC

Photo Credit: Citta D’Arte Emilia Romagna

Another beautiful place is the Palazzo dei Diamanti. The distinctive Renaissance architecture of this building resembles diamonds with pinkish, pyramid-shaped stones. 2009_august-bongotrip 110 Built in the beginning of the 16th century, now the palace serves as a National Art Gallery, displaying works from its permanent collection on the ground floor, mainly from the 14th to 18th centuries, including Mantegna’s Cristo con l’animula della Madonna and hosting international art exhibitions, featuring such masters as Matisse.Mantegna,_cristo_con_l'animula_della_vergine,_ferrara Indulge in the local cuisine at Antica Trattoria Volano,  (Viale Volano 20, 0532.761421), a fifteen minute walk from the city centre, where you can enjoy such delicious Ferrarese specialties such as cappellacci di zucca, in a cozy atmosphere.  cappellacci-di-zucca-senza-glutine-4 If you’d like to experience Ferrara’s splendid natural surroundings, go to the Po River Delta Park, alternatively known as the European Capital of Birdwatching. It’s an ideal spot for water sports activities, from self-drive boat rentals to organized excursions and fishing tours, with gourmet meals and guided tours that introduce travelers to the history and culture of Emilia Romagna. 1170697_510551629026853_210413609_n

Photo Credit: FerraraFoto

Birdwatching is a major attraction in the park–you can see the Great Crested Grebe, the Collared Pratincole, Cormorants and even pink flamingoes. 1209384_519644838117532_97519837_n A great place to stay is the welcoming Alchimia B&B (Via Borgo Dei Leoni, 122, 05321864656), a medieval building, with spacious guest rooms that have been designed in modern style. c102_03 Grazie mille Gabriele–I’m looking forward to returning to this beautiful spot! _MG_7326R

Photo Credit: FerraraFoto

Golden Day 110: Delicious Modena in Emilia Romagna

We’re moving up to the northern region of Emilia Romagna: A gourmet mecca, that foodies believe has Italy’s finest cuisine.emilia

We’ll begin in the town of Modena, home to beloved Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

balsamic vin.

For a Golden Day in Modena, begin in the Medieval town’s pedestrian only historic center,  which fans out from the Piazza Grande, the 12th century Romanesque Duomo and Tower–a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Nearby, is the covered daily Mercato Albinelli, a football-field sized paradise of tidy stalls stocked with tempting greens, fruit, cured and fresh meats and baked goodies, graced by a lovely bronze statue in the center. Stop for a panini at Vino e Panini (Via Albinelli, #13).


Cobblestone streets in the Medieval historic center are lined with shops that sell luscious homemade chocolates, fresh pasta, and countless bottles of their “black gold” — balsamic vinegar.  A great stop to buy local products is Enogastronomia Giuseppe Giusti Srl(Via Farini, 75059222533)


If you’re in the mood for something sweet, slip into Pasticceria San Biagio( Via Emilia Centro,77059217284)  , that’s been famous for over a hundred years for its outstanding Marrons Glacèes and typical Modenese sweets such as the Barozzi Cake and the Amaretti of St. Geminiano.


Barozzi Cake


Amaretti of St. Geminiano

My most memorable time in Modena was a visit to tour the Acetaia di Giorgio. The acetaia is in the attic of the home of a charming couple–Giorgio Barbieri and his wife Giovanna. The moment Giorgio opened the door I was hit with the eye-watering aroma of fermenting vinegar!


“One conducts an acetaia, a person doesn’t own it… it’s a living thing,” Giorgio told me, as took me up three flights of stairs and showed me around his vinegar loft. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, the genteel, slim retired national volleyball player is a master conductor. Using a giant glass dropper, he meticulously decanted vinegar from one antique barrel to another, while explaining the vinegar-making process he learned from his grandmother, which involves judiciously transferring grape must from year to year to barrels made of different woods, so a variety of flavors is absorbed into the liquid.


Barbieri is one of fifty-five producers approved by a government run consortium to make what is considered  “real” balsamic, labeled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, and stamped DOP, which stands for Denomination of Protected Origin. A rigorous testing process must be undergone to meet the consortium’s standards. Barbieri’s vinegars, which he ages from twelve to twenty-five years, have always passed inspection.


“I’ve never had real balsamic vinegar before,” I said, amazed, when I tasted a demitasse spoonful he offered me. The thick, syrupy condiment burst with a balance of sweet and sour flavors that didn’t come close to what’s called balsamic in the states. After seeing the meticulous production process, and the daily dedication this tradition takes, I’ll never balk at paying for the real thing again.



saladGiovanna made lunch in their downstairs dining room that opens to a garden. Aceto balsamico was featured in every delicious dish, including pumpkin tortellini with sage butter and an arugula and apple salad. This lunch remains up there with one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Italy!


We had a light dinner that night at Trattoria del Giardinetto (Piazzale Boschetti 1, 059234448),  where you can enjoy such classics as Gnocco Fritto di Modena (fried pasta pillows) or housemade tigelle (small savory flatbreads) with cured meats.


For Modena Tourist Info, click here. And you can also experience real balsamic in the town of Reggio Emilia, also consorzium controlled–Click here for info.

For more on the Modena Market, click here for Travels with Tricia’s beautiful Blog Post



Golden Day 109: See the Riace Bronzes in Reggio Calabria

Calabria’s star art treasures are The Riace Bronzes: Two Greek bronze sculptures of warriors from the Fifth Century, BC.


They are stunning glorifications of the ideal male form, with rippled muscles, majestic stances, exuding an air of mystery.


Their discovery was simply miraculous: In 1972, a chemist from Rome was snorkeling off the coast of Riace. He caught sight of an arm emerging from the sand, that he first thought was a dead body. Moving closer, he realized he’d stumbled upon an ancient masterpiece…and then found another nearby! He called the police, the sculptures were dredged up, and found to be in excellent shape.


Today the Riace Bronzes are the symbol of Reggio Calabria, the capital of the region of Calabria. They recently were restored and are displayed atop marble pedestals at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria,.(aka The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria), open Monday to Sunday 9:10am- 7pm, Call (+39) 3207176148 for reservations.


Photo Credit:

Be sure to reserve in advance for your visit–keeping in mind that it’s best to go in the early mornings, before the tour groups crowd in. You’ll be shown a video about the statues, taken to a filtering station, and then brought into the climate-controlled room for 20 minutes to admire these astonishing pieces.



For a Golden Day in Reggio Calabria, have lunch at Ristorante Baylik (Vico Leone 1/3/5,0965 48624,Open for lunch and dinner) for traditional seafood dishes, such as spaghetti con bottarga di tonno or mixed grilled fish.


Enjoy a walk along the Lungomare, and stop in at the city’s beloved gelateria, Cesare (Piazza Indipendenza, 01287.170805). If you’re there in the summer, you may even enjoy a show at the Arena dello Stretto, with stunning views of the sea.


For dinner, reserve a table at Officina del Gusto (Via Placido Geraci 17/19, 0965.332830,Open only for Dinner), an elegant and friendly place with a fantastic wine list, that serves delicious traditional specialties, using organic products, including great beef selections.12948_731764170186860_2022530561_n

 If you’re spending the night, check into the sweet Possidonea B&B



Be sure not to miss these astonishing treasures when you visit Calabria! Click Here for Tourist info...And if you are there this summer, Click Here for Info about the Special Exhibit welcoming back the Riace Bronzes…Buon Viaggio!

Golden Day 108: Monterosso with Grace Cleere of A House in Italy

gail in front of Casa SerenaWhen I stumbled upon the website: A House in Italy, I was intrigued to dig deeper. What were Americans doing in this remote mountain village? The search led me to Grace Cleere, and here’s how she explains it…

I was working with the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Navy in Washington DC, taking middle school students around the world on navy oceanographic ships. We did oceanography while at sea, along with history and culture touring while on land. One year the ship was based in Naples, and we took the students south to Calabria to see “the real Italy.”  We met Antonio Parisi as our guide, and that was the beginning.  Every time the ships were based in the Med in the years following, we went back to Monterosso with the kids.  After 9/11, when Antonio realized that such trips would now be an impossibility any longer, he said to me, “You’ll never come back here unless I convince you to buy a house.”  I scoffed and said  I am not a rich woman, but he showed me a small place for 12,000 Euro.  Heck, that was the price of a used car, so I put the house on a credit card!!  

Grace bought the 12th century house in 2003,here’s a look at the interior…

CasaSerenaGrace has since convinced her brother and sister-in-law, and several friends and colleagues to buy homes here too. The Monterossini look upon this small American community with great wonder, and all have become great friends… trading adventures, day trips, days at the beach, and of course food and recipes!


I’m so grateful to have met adventurous Grace, and that she’s joined in to give us advice for a Golden Day in Monterosso:

Copy of view to sea

Monterosso Calabro dates to a time of crusaders and sultans, peasants and adventurers. Tucked into a fold in the hilly peaks of the narrowest part of Italy’s ‘toe,’ about 40 minutes from Lamezia airport to the north and Tropea to the south, it clings to one of the many hills that tumble in great waves down to the sea, straddling both sides of the peninsula.  This is the area where Crusaders landed in order to cross the peninsula on their way to the Holy Land. Richard the Lionhearted tramped near here many times!

The oldest part of town is a jumble of ancient houses and mostly abandoned palazzo, winding around themselves like an ancient Saracen souk.


Take a walk here to get a sense of what it was like in medieval times.  Find – or have the expert local, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), take you to  the old Norman tower, built as a defensive lookout by distant relations the likes of William the Conqueror, most likely in the early 12th century. 


Work your way down the narrow streets to the Museum (open on request), a former mill, and the town’s lovely main church (always open) filled with 18th and 19th century saints and madonnas.  church front

A second church is found in a small piazzetta, and features a ceiling painting of the Battle of Lepanto.Then take a hike up to the Monastero part of town where there is a third church (with a particularly realistic arrow-filled St. Sebastian), and high above it, the ruins of a Camaldolese Monastery. From here you’ll get a spectacular view of the town and out to the Mediterranean.

 If the day is clear, you will see the Stromboli volcano floating surprisingly high on the sea!

Monterosso gastronomy is an intriguing mix of Italian and sometimes Arab ingredients(Sultanas, Almonds). Be prepared to “go local” – very little English is spoken, and menus in five languages are not to be found!  The village boasts several very good established restaurants (and new ones popping up), and superb kitchens in local agriturismi.  (Think tortellini stuffed with local funghi (mushrooms) and cinghiale (boar’s meat)! Yum!)



Both Il Ghiottone (literally the glutton, but also the gourmand) and Il Melograno (the pomegranate) are on Via Roma leading out of town towards the north, and are family-run restaurants with views over a valley of olive trees with the lovely ancient skyline of Monterosso in the background.

 Il Ghiottone (+39 0963 326022) does exceedingly good fresh fish and meats as well as delicious pizza, and has both local and bottled wines as well as a full bar.

 Il  Melograno (+39 333.9082953), where Graziella and her husband Ottaviano do the cooking (and bake their own bread), specializes in delectable antipasti dishes, and pastas and lasagna with whatever is in season, especially forest mushrooms.  Ask what Graziella is preparing in the kitchen, while Ottaviano and his daughters fetch their wine.  Don’t forget the fresh desserts in either place.

in the kitchen at il melograno

If you’re looking for a place to stay, I recommend, Villa Velia, above town on Mount Copari. It has wine and olive oil presses, a teaching kitchen, an observation tower, six well-appointed rooms (soon to be eight), and a large beautiful dining room. Stanza Letto

The villa’s owner, is my friend and tour guide, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), who speaks excellent English, having been a former tour manager and history and culture guide for American Express and Grand Circle Tours. He is available for tours of the village, and throughout Calabria and Sicily.  He is entertaining, cultured, and highly adaptable to whatever interests you have.

antonio parisi

 Antonio’s  wife Velia is the extraordinary cook at the Villa (you must call Antonio for a reservation first), known for her delicious meats, vegetables, and grilled fishes.  Her torta di alici is a specialty – fresh anchovies are something we can’t get in the States. 


Another good accommodation in the old part of town is B&B Palazzetto Dell’orologio.


Monterosso, like so many other towns in Calabria, brings visitors to “real Italy”. So that means along with history and beauty are sections built in the 1930s (cement block buildings), and trash and recyclables put out by the doors nearly every day. Despite this, it’s a lovely place, where you’ll enjoy friendly people, excellent food, and spectacular nature and views.


Grazie Mille Grace—you’ve tempted me to come over and look at what’s for sale…To check out the offerings, Click Here!

Golden Day 107: Cosenza with LuLu Bianco of Calabrisella Mia

lu_calabrisellamiaI was immediately charmed when I found Lulu Bianco’s Calabrisella Mia blog. Lulu is a native of Toronto, Canada, and her dear father, who passed away five years ago, was Italian, instilling in her a love for the Bel Paese and its traditions. She picked up and moved to Cosenza a few years ago, and now writes a blog that’s a beautiful mix of her personal journey and a fascinating insider’s look at the town, including such fun things as the We Are Happy…from Cosenza You Tube video that was shot all over Cosenza and went viral!

We’re so glad she’s come along with us to spread the joys of her town, with advice for a Golden Day in Cosenza.

It doesn’t matter where you are in Italy; the best way to start any Golden Day in Italy is with a typical Italian “colazione” (breakfast) of caffé (coffee) and cornetto (croissant).  You not only get to have great coffee and a yummy sugar boost of energy to get you through the day, but you also get to participate in one of Italy’s oldest traditions.  The bar is where most Italians start their day and you will encounter all types of people there.


I suggest heading to Gran Caffe Renzelli (Corso B. Telesio), in operation since 1805, located in the historical centre.  For a real treat, order a “Varchiglia alla monacale a sweet invented in the 1300s by nuns who at the time had their convent in Cosenza. It has since been handed down through the generations and is this café’s signature sweet.

Now that we’ve got our sugar boost, let’s head for a walk starting with Piazza 15 Marzo.  In the centre of the Piazza stands a statue of Bernardino Telesio (Italian philosopher) and behind him you’ll find the beautiful Rendano Theatre, which was built in 1887 and named after Cosenza-born Alfonso Rendano, inventor of the “third pedal” on the piano.  Look familiar?  If you’re an Italophile it might because it was made to resemble the world famous La Scala in Milano.


As you make your way back to the city centre, don’t forget to climb the steps of the Duomo, originally built in the 7th century and visit this remarkable building.  Here you will find a painting of Madonna Del Pilerio (patron saint of Cosenza).  It is believed that she freed Cosenza from the plague in 1576 by taking on the disease herself (which appeared as the stain on her cheek).  The amount of history in this building definitely makes it worth a visit.


In Southern Italy “si mangia bene” (you eat well) and Cosenza is no exception.  For a traditional Cosentino plate of “lagane e ceci” (pasta with chick peas) go to “Al Vicoletto” (Traversa Francesco Gioia 9-11) a small restaurant tucked away in a side street.  It`s a place frequented by locals and a definite treat for tourists in the know. You can enjoy many local dishes without the inflated prices.


After all that delicious food, it`s time to walk it off and what better way to do that then on Corso Mazzini.  It’s a large pedestrian area and the `meeting place` for the people of Cosenza.   It is also home to MAB -“Museo all’aperto Bilotti, an open-air museum.  As you walk along Corso Mazzini you can gaze upon the many beautiful art sculptures including “St. George and the Dragon” by Salvador Dali. 


Usually shops close mid-day during lunch however you can find many shops on Corso Mazzini open if you’d like to do some shopping.  Don’t forget to “pop” into “POP Gelateria” for some delicious gelato.  You will always see people coming in and out of this long-standing establishment!

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 Cosenza is situated near the Sila Mountains, which is a perfect way to escape the heat and get some fresh air. A great place to visit in particular is Camigliatello Silano with its main hub located inside the Sila National Park.  You can take a ski lift up to the top of Monte Curcio for a spectacular view of the rolling mountains and Lake Cecita, a man-made lake.  This mountain resort village also has a wide range of small local craft shops where you can buy local products created by Calabrian artisans.  You can also purchase many of the Sila regions specialties like its cheeses, porcini mushrooms, potatoes and cold cuts.


Head back to Cosenza for an evening stroll on Corso Mazzini to get a feel for what the traditional “passeggiata” (evening stroll) is all about before heading to Galliano Industrial Bistrot (Via Galliano, 8 tel: 0984 23894) for a light dinner, great wine and music.


 Looking for a place to stay in Cosenza?  I would suggest Home Club Suite Hotel (Viale Giacomo Mancini, 28 tel: 0984 76833), situated close to the historic centre as well as the main city streets.

Grazie mille Lulu, I hope to meet you in Cosenza before too long!




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