New Book! September Travel Journal Writing Workshop

 Coming in October…A New Book!


Women’s Travel, Italy Travel, Rome, Florence, Venice

Following the critically acclaimed 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Susan Van Allen adds new gems to her selection of the best spots for female travelers in Italy’s most popular cities, (Rome, Florence, and Venice), along with enticing Golden Day itineraries to make vacation dreams come true.

Like a savvy traveler girlfriend whispering in your ear, she guides readers to masterpieces where women are glorified — from Rome’s Pieta to Florence’s Birth of Venus, best spots for wine tasting, chocolate, and gelato, artisan shopping experiences to meet leather craftsmen or glass blowers, and places for adventures — from rolling pasta to rowing like a gondolier. Plus, there are fresh, practical tips, giving readers insider’s secrets for what to pack, the best places to get their hair styled, and how to bargain for souvenirs.

Whatever your mood or budget, whether it’s your first or 21st visit to Italy, 50 Places in Rome, Florence, and Venice Every Woman Should Go opens the door to extraordinary experiences that fully immerse travelers in the beautiful, fascinating, and delicious pleasures of the Bel Paese.
Click here to read an Excerpt and Pre-Order Now!



Travel Journal Workshop with Susan Van Allen


Saturday, September 6, 10am-1pm

Glendale Community College
Click HERE for Information and Registration

A blank travel journal can become the most treasured souvenir of your trip. You can fill it with emotional snapshots–from expectations, to first impressions, to surprising discoveries. When you pick it up years later, this journal transports you back years and across miles. It reveals the truth of your experience, with all its twists, turns, and intimate details.

This fun, interactive, workshop includes:

*Guidance to create a journal that suits your trip and unique style
*Writing exercises to get creative juices flowing
*Inspiration to focus your journal, so your trip becomes more personally fulfilling
*AND, if you want to travel write for publications, this is an essential first step

Writers and Travelers of all levels are welcome 


Buon Ferragosto!


August 15 is a Big Beautiful Holiday in Italy, that goes way back to the days of the Roman Empire, when it was the Festival Holidays of the Emperor AugustusThe Goddess Diana was at the center of the revels, symbolizing the cycle of fertility, and all were grateful for the summer days of sunshine and ripening…Here’s Diana in a Villa D’Este fountain…


Along came Catholocism, and the holiday switched to center around the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, a triumphant event that inspired masterpieces…

Titian’s in the Frari in Venice is my favorite, with Mary dancing skyward…


I also love Correggio’s in the ceiling of Parma’s cathedral...

And Parma il Vecchio’s…




As Mary is Star of the Sea, Ferragosto celebrations at Italy’s beaches are spectacular. Such as in Positano, a village on the Amalfi Coast, where festivities begin on August 14, and the statue from the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is paraded along the winding stairways…Image00001Image00002Image00005

The grand finale on the night of August 15 is a fabulous fireworks display…

My Jersey shore memories of August 15: This was the day when my mother would say, “All the waters are blessed!” So we’d be sure to take a swim in the ocean, bring bottles with us to the beach, fill them up with the blessed water, and carry them back to my Nana and Aunts, who would take their breaks from making eggplant parmesan and pour that water on their swelled up feet…


Wherever you are, we wish you Happy Celebrations of this Abundant, Ripe Summertime — Buon Ferragosto!

Golden Day 118: Faenza with Laura Silvagni of Ceramiche La Vecchia Faenza

LAURAI discovered the Superstar Ceramicist  Laura Silvagni while reading Laura Morelli’s  wonderful book, Made in Italya MUST READ for anyone interested in the backstage story of Italian artisans.

One of the many artisans Made in Italy features is Laura Silvagni, who is from the town of Faenza in Emilia-Romagna, a place that has been renowned for ceramics since the Renaissance.

14472_698720866811582_236498183_nOf  the many patterns Faenza is famous for, I love the Garofano (carnation style), that was inspired by French and Asian ceramics and became popular here in the 18th century.

GAROFANOLaura Silvagni brings a new interpretation of traditional Faenza designs to her work, that’s been praised internationally. Her hand painted ceramics have become part of prized private collections–including that of Pope John Paul II. She is well known for her hand painted Raffallesco pieces…


You can find creations of Laura’s and other Faenza artisans at La Vecchia Faenza (Via S. Ippolito 23/a), where there is an attached laboratory and tours are offered for free. And in the center of Faenza is the Laura Silvagni shop (Corso Garibaldi 12/A), where you can also see artisans at work, including Laura, painting ceramics.

LAURAPAINTINGI’m so very grateful Laura has joined in to give us her advice for a Golden Day in Faenza

Faenza has a beautiful historical city center, so the best thing to start with is a nice sightseeing walk. As it’s largely pedestrian only, walking is pleasant, or you may wish to rent a bike, which most of the hotels provide. The historical part of the town within the city walls includes many medieval, renaissance, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings and monuments: Piazza del Popolo, the Cathedral, the Monumental Fountain, the Theater, the Chiesa della Commenda. Faenza-Historye88316b4338cfc62c5794dbe2e22f7a3la_cattedrale-di-faenza_e_fontana-monumentaleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchiesa-commenda-foto-r

If you like the neoclassical style and architecture you should not miss the Palazzo Milzetti National Museum of Neoclassical Art (Via Tonducci 15 48018,054626493) with its beautiful frescoes. interno-milzetti

Certainly, Faenza’s most important museum is the International Museum of Ceramics(Viale Alfredo Baccarini 19,0546697311) with its huge collection of works of art from all ages and from all continents. It also hosts many important temporary exhibitions.  collezioni_1 As you enjoy your morning in Faenza, you have lots of choices of caffes in the cente, including Nove 100 (Corso Mazzini 69,054668704), which has a pretty outdoor patio… 100 My favorite places for gelato are Puro& Bio (Viale Roberto Valturio 39, 3299331476) or Linus Jazz (Corso Aurelio Saffi 42,054621576) 10151994_781180081906210_7292439646169238147_n

When aperitivo time comes, a short walk from the Ceramics Museum there is Clan Destino (Viale Baccarini, 21/A, 0546681327, Open 3:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. daily), where you’re also likely to find live music.   230984_10150180369691379_2131440_n For a delicious lunch or dinner, in the city center, not far from the main square is Trattoria Marianaza  (Via E.Torricelli 21,0546681461) where you should order tortelloni (stuffed pasta) or grilled steaks. Or you may enjoy La Baita (Via Naviglio 25c, 054621584) where you can find a good selection of typical products and wines.


A great place to stay is Hotel Vittoria (Corso Garibaldi 23), a historical hotel near the main square. It has beautiful art nouveau frescoes and furniture which create a unique atmospheare. The bar and restaurant are also very nice! The hotel also exhibits a selection of works from many ceramists from Faenza. vittoria-hotel-faenza_STD hotel-vit2toria And be sure to stop by the Pro Loco Faenza; a Tourist Information Center(Voltone della Molinella 2, 054625231) located in the main square, where they will give you all the needed information and tips, and tell you about events while you’re there. 1422366_199432026909231_1466013458_n

Grazie mille Laura! I look forward to visiting beautiful Faenza this fall…

Meanwhile, you can buy ceramics from La Vecchia Faenza online, CLICK HERE…

AND enjoy more of Laura Morelli’s books, including her first fiction book, THE GONDOLA MAKER, where she masterfully immerses you in Renaissance Venice:

LAURA2Click here for author Laura Morelli’s WEBSITE

Golden Day 117: The Ravenna Seaside with Pierpaolo Zoffoli of the DiRavenna Project

unnamedI’m so grateful Pierpaolo Zoffoli of the DiRavenna project  is back to give us more of his advice for exploring the Ravenna coast. Here’s his insider’s tips for a Golden Day on the Seaside of Ravenna





Start out with an adventure! Take a boat trip to Spinaroni Island. This is an amazing tour in the Pialassa, the lagoon outside Ravenna, including a World War II itinerary, where you’ll learn about Partisan Brigades, those brave ones who formed an underground Italian resistance group, fighting Nazis and fascists. Click here for more info. (2 hour trip, 15 euros).


Or, if you’d prefer to bike in the area, you can explore Ravenna’s wonderful Pine Forest=Classe di Pineta that’s also a paradise for birdwatching (flamingos, herons, shelducks, and many more!) Click here for guided bike tours…For more info (Length:2-1/2 hours, 10 euro for bike rental and guide).


Spend the rest of the day in Marina di Ravenna, that has a harbor and lots of beach clubs…


A great place for lunch is Molo Tre Zero — with creative cuisine by Chef Luca, featuring the local seafood!


Relax on a beach in the afternoon… …


For aperitivo and/or dinner, go to Mowa (Viale delle Nazioni 177, 0544530234 ), for great cocktails, pizza, and fresh seafood platters..


crudo-7-1024x764 Here are some places to have fun after dark:

Taverna Bukowski for good music and a lively atmosphere…


And Hana-Bi


Which is also a great aperitivo stop…3

and they have great concerts, (outdoors May to September), featuring indie rock and experimental music.


Here are some good places to stay, back in the historical center of Ravenna:

Hotel Diana,(Via Girolamo Rossi 47), where you’ll find airy, modern décor, a great staff, and wonderful breakfast buffet.



B&B Capannetti (Vicolo Capannetti 19), a charming place with a garden. 



Grazie Pierapolo! Looks like a great place for a lively summer beach scene…

Golden Day 116: The Historical Center of Ravenna with the DiRavenna Project

10313341_1495213700708447_1663139561085139147_nIt was a delight to discover the DiRavenna project, created by a group of passionate bloggers, photographers, and videographers who tell stories about the amazing Emilia Romgna town that they live in. Ravenna is a stunning spot, that was capital of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, and then a center of the Byzantine Empire in Italy from the 6th to the 8th centuries. What remains from that glorious time are beautiful mosaics, in 8 buildings that have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ravenna historic center is largely pedestrian only, and a wonder to explore.

Monuments paléochrétiens de Ravenne

The DiRavenna project shows off the many treasures of Ravenna, beyond the major sites, with fascinating stories, such as a recent one called Storia di Un Menu di Pesce, telling in photos and videos how a fish dinner comes from the sea to the table.

I’m grateful to two DiRavenna project creators, Davide Bertozzi and Pierpaolo Zoffoli have joined in to give us advice for a Golden Day in Ravenna’s Historic Center: 

A great start to the day in Ravenna is a stop by the Caffe Letterario (Via Armando Diaz 26), a charming, friendly place, with delicious pastries, that’s a favorite for the locals in the center…

Or the Pasticceria Ferrari (Via M. Gordoni 11/13), for extraordinary sweets…


You’ll find the most impressive display of mosaics in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (Via Giuliano Argentario 22), which looks plain on the outside, 



and will dazzle you when you walk inside!



 Right next to it is the amazing Basilica di San Vitale


And you can also enjoy the Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra–House of the Stone Carpets (Via Barbiani). It was a palace, discovered under the Church of Sant Euphemia, and opened to the public after renovation in 2002, where you’ll discover Roman mosaics.


For a traditional lunch, go to Ristorante La Gardela (Via Ponte Marino 3, 05442171470, closed Thursdays, reservations recommended for outside tables). Here you can order Ravenna’s signature pasta: Cappelletti or Passatelli in brodo – during winter….


Or for excellent fish, including crudo, go to L’Acciuga Osteria (Viale Francesco Baracca,0544212713).




Keep wandering around the Centro Storico, perhaps stopping at the Provincia Palace, from the early 20th century, that mixes Neoclassical style with touches of Byzantine, in its Rasponi Crypt, where you’ll find MORE beautiful mosaics!


And while you’re there enjoy the Giardini Pensili–Gardens on the Roof..



Take a gelato break, right near the lively Piazza del Popolo, at Sorbetteria degli Esarchi (Via IV Novembre 11).


Or for the chic, all-natural-ingredients-gelato-experience, have something wonderful, (Pierpaolo recommends the Bianco con Zenzero), at Milk:


Don’t miss the Tomba di Dante (Via Dante Alighieri 9, free admission), where Italy’s beloved Renaissance poet is buried.


When aperitivo time comes, slip into the cozy Alex & Paul wine bar (Via Alcide de Gasperi 11, 054434713)…


Or the Tazza d’Oro that’s great for people watching–right in the Piazza del Popolo.


Or check out the scene at the hip, intimate, Fargo (Vicolo Padenna,3332097141), named after the Coen brother’s movie, that has nice outside tables…


Here are some great options for dinner:

Osteria del Tempo Perso, (Via Gamba 12, 0544215393, reservations essential), a small, romantic place, that serves excellent fish and has a great wine list…


Or the traditional Ca’ de Ven (Via Corrado Ricci 24, 054430163, reservations recommended) where you can also enjoy local wines at the bar…


Then at night enjoy a stroll in the Rocca Brancaleone (Via Rocca Brancaleone).


Stay over at Albergo Cappello (Via IV Novembre 41,0544219813) , a gorgeous former 16th century palace…


Grazie mille Davide and Pierpaolo for this beautiful advice! And I look forward to exploring Ravenna beyond the centro storico with your recommendations in our next post…

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

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