Posts Tagged ‘Italy travel’

APRIL: Sacred Month of Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty

Buona Primavera = Happy Spring!

The Romans considered April the Sacred Month of Venus, Goddess of Love, Beauty, Fertility, and Sex…

Her presence is eternal…you see her all over Italy, in sculptures, paintings. You feel her spirit beckoning you to lighten up, enjoy all the flavors and pleasures…Here in the Uffizi in Florence is the Botticelli painting of her being born from the sea…Botticelli's Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, Florence

The Romans believed they were the chosen descendants of this beauty. As Virgil wrote in the Aeneid, it was Venus who seduced a Greek mortal and thus became the grandmother of Romulus and Remus, those twins suckled by a she-wolf on Rome’s Palatine Hill, who founded the Eternal City. Here she is in Rome’s Capitoline Museum, in her own private niche..

Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Women's Tours to Italy,Here she is in the Naples Archaeological Museum, as Venus of the Beautiful Buttocks…

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours to Italy, Italy Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoHere she is in The House of Venus, Pompeii — FINALLY opened after restoration, a Must-See!

Susan Van Allen, Women's Tours to Italy, Italy Travel, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoIt’s no wonder Italy brings us such happiness, with this Goddess in charge!

For more places where Venus, her sister Goddesses, Madonnas, and heroines are adored…check out 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go…

Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Women's Travel





NEW EDITION – 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go

susan-van-allen-Italy-Florence-100-Places-Every-Woman-Should-GoCiao Amici!
I’m so grateful that 2016 included the release of the Third Edition of “100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.” Wonderful surprises have come into my life since this book first hit the stands in 2009. It’s been thrilling to hear from travelers who enjoyed discovering new places and experiences through its pages, and that the book added so much fun to their Italian travels.

100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Susan Van Allen, Italy Travel, Women's Travel, Women Only Tours

Here’s a Sneak Preview/Excerpt…
It’s the Perfect Gift for the Italophile in your life…
AVAILABLE at your Local Bookstore, AMAZON, and BARNES & NOBLE


I fell in love with Italy at a dining room table in Newark, New Jersey. It was Nana and Papa’s dining room, my maternal grandparents—immigrants from Southern Italy. The walls were painted in a pale-rose stenciled pattern, the table spread with an ivory-colored lace cloth. On the mahogany sideboard sat a soccer-ball-sized jar of wild cherries marinating in syrup, next to a Capodimonte lamp, with porcelain figures of fancy ladies in flouncy dresses fanning themselves under the shade. A soprano on the hi-fi sang “Un Bel Di Vedremo”—“One Beautiful Day We’ll See Each Other.”

Nana, with her apron tied up under her marshmallow-baggie arms, lit the candles. My mother and aunts carried in platters heavy with mozzarella, roasted peppers, shiny black olives, steaming bowls of macaroni. I sat propped up on a telephone book, clinking my tumbler of half-red wine/half-water along with the grown-ups toasting, “Salute!” By the time the feasts were finished, the candles had burnt to their bottoms, dripping onto the lace cloth. Papa poured Strega, a golden liqueur, into curvy glasses, and sliced a dome-shaped, slathered-with-whipped-cream rum cake.

This was my first Italy: a big, delicious, loving heart.

Every August Papa would get on a ship to visit his sisters who still lived near Naples. He’d send back postcards of statues and churches. He’d return after Labor Day with beads from Venice, rosaries blessed by the Pope, rocks from Mount Vesuvius.

Italy became magical and mysterious, beckoning me—a billowy cartoon finger wafting out of a pot of bubbling tomato sauce.

When I got there for the first time in 1976, I arrived in Roma Termini with a pack on my back and a bursting anticipation. The trip was a sweltering August blur of standing awestruck in the Sistine Chapel, tasting my first gelato, getting my bottom pinched. Naturally there was romance: on the train I’d met a bel ragazzo named Luciano who’d sat across from me in the compartment. We fell madly in love for forty-eight hours and rendezvoused in the Forum: moonlight, a Chianti bottle with a straw-covered bottom, two nineteen-year-olds singing Beatles songs to each other.

Feeling transformed into a woman of the world, I headed to my Roman cousins where I was embraced with smothering-lovering and seated at their dining room table, coming full circle to my childhood Italy.

The spell was cast. Italy grabbed hold of my heart forever. Over these many years it’s drawn me back, again and again.

Tonight as I’m sitting here in an apartment on Rome’s Piazza Paradiso, way past bedtime, even for Italy, I’m realizing there’s been absolutely no logic to my times here. The trips started off with visits to the major sights in the big cities, but then out went the plans, and instinct flung me to such spots as a classroom near Rome’s Colosseum where I struggled to tackle the subjunctive, a quiet farm road in Puglia surrounded by old olive trees, dancing at the Excelsior in Florence with my husband one New Year’s Eve.

I became the “girlfriend with the lists”—scribbling down places I’d loved visiting and passing them along to my traveling pals. If I was back in the States counting the days till my next trip, I lived in Italy vicariously—knowing that Babs was in Rome seeing all those provocative Bernini sculptures with my notes in hand, Sheila at a glove shop in Florence, Louise drinking wine at my favorite bacaro in Venice.

When the opportunity to write this book came along, so did elation, gratitude, and then a freezing panic. How could I choose 100 out of the infinite pleasures I’d experienced in Bell’Italia? So let’s just get the most obvious fact out of the way: there are more places than any one book could hold. I’ve even left out some of the most obvious—such as the Sistine Chapel, Pisa, and Michelangelo’s David—things well covered in other guidebooks.

In these pages, I’m sharing with you some places from my list of favorites, along with those my savvy Italian and American friends have raved to me about. I’ve put a spotlight on goddesses, the Madonna, female saints, beauties who’ve inspired masterpieces, women who’ve taken power. After all, isn’t the fact that women have been worshipped here for thousands of years one of the reasons we love Italy so much? Though in modern times females haven’t yet triumphed as far as business and political realms go, as Luigi Barzini in The Italians says: “Men run the country, but women run men.” Here where la famiglia is the power source, women are at the core of it.

What about your male traveling partners? They’re likely to enjoy a lot of these places, too, whether it’s a museum, beach, or spots for adventure and learning. Okay, the guys probably won’t be into buying lace in Rapallo, but they’ll certainly enjoy Venus of the Beautiful Buttocks in Naples!

Italy seduces both sexes, with irresistibly feminine appeals. Shaped like a boot we’d love to strut around in, she transforms herself as she transforms travelers. She’s the nurturing mama, the drop-dead-gorgeous vixen, the compassionate spirit. She’s even the unreliable girlfriend who exasperates you with travel snafus, but you forgive her because she’s so darn charming. She’s constantly coaxing, “Come on, lighten up and enjoy my beauties and flavors.”

Treat this book like a cookbook. What do you want a taste of? Botticelli’s Birth of Venus? The best chocolate in Rome? A ceramic painting class in Deruta? A wine therapy spa treatment in the Veneto? Allow your mood to be your guide, savoring the experience Italian style, letting it unfold with an unhurried Old World pace.

To make a full meal of it, I’ve included suggestions for Golden Days—matching a place to a nearby restaurant, just like I do when I send out lists to girlfriends. These are only suggestions, because each of us has our own deeply personal experience of encountering Italy.

But as unique as each encounter is, I’m amazed at always hearing, even from travelers without a drop of Italian blood in them, the same words: “It felt like home.” Home, in the sweeping sense of a place that brings peace and comfort, a place that stirs the soul.

For me, Italy brings back that childhood dining room table feeling. It sneaks up on me now, looking out the window of this apartment in late-night Rome. There’s a light shining on a little Madonna altar across the way, her robe the same rose as those dining room walls. Out of the shadows, from a nearby restaurant, comes a dark-haired signorina, walking as if she absolutely knows she’s a descendant of Venus, with her Adonis—a bel ragazzo in a leather jacket—linked to her side. They stop for a smooch under the Madonna, pressing up against each other as if this was their last night on earth.

Italy, once again, playing an endless beautiful song.

My wish for you is to enjoy her many places of pleasure, wherever your desires lead you to go.

—Susan Van Allen



Golden Day 129: Bosa, Sardinia with Gaveena, Your Mate in Sardinia

Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should GoI’m grateful to have found a Sardinia Travel Company, called Gaveena, Your Mate in Sardinia. On the island of Sardinia, Gaveena is the most typical female name, and since I’m drawn to all the ways the feminine is celebrated in Italy, I’m drawn to this company. They offer a great range of tours in Sardinia, from excursions on the seasides to culinary and archaeological packages, and trips that bring visitors to the interior wilderness areas.

manuel_cazzanigaManuel Cazzaniga is a travel specialist who founded Gaveena. He moved to Sardinia, from Monza, in the Lombardy region, about two years ago, and this company was inspired by, in his words, “My passion to introduce curious travellers to the hidden beauties of Sardinia together with smiley local fellows.”

Here is Manuel, with advice for a Golden Day in Bosa, a colourful town in Northwest Sardinia.

Bosa is quite popular with locals, but not well known to foreign travelers. It’s wonderful to visit all year round, because of the mild climate, but it’s  especially beautiful in springtime, when nature is flowering and spreading intense scents.


One of Bosa’s top sites is Malaspina castle, a medieval fortress built on top of the hill offering a breathtaking view on the town.


You can also enjoy a romantic walk in the riverside docks, amidst colorful architecture and a Roman bridge.


The old town of Bosa is enchanting, with a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets connecting the fortress to the banks of river Temo.


You will also enjoy Bosa Marina, a long sandy beach, about 3 km from the town, where the river meets the Mediterranean sea.


Not to be missed is  a stop at a  caffe or gelateria in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the charming main street in the old town.


Also, plan your day for an aperitivo at sunset in the tiny terrace of a hilltop bar close to the fortress or at the marina.


For a great meal of fresh fish, caught that day and cooked with Sardinia’s famous Malvasia wine, go to Ristorante Al Galeone at Bosa Marina, that is right on the beach.


Or, on the river docks, in a cool antique warehouse, with a great view of the colorful old town, you’ll find Ristorante Ponte Vecchio , serving traditional Sardinian food, mainly seafood.


Where to Stay? Bosa has two wonderful “albergo diffuso”, a special type of hotel where the rooms are spread out among different antique buildings in the old town. I recommend Albergo Diffuso Corte Fiorita


and Albergo diffuso Aghinas



There are also two cool B&Bs in town. B&B Blu


and B&B La Torre di Alice.


No matter where you stay or what you do, be sure to taste Malvasia in Bosa, which is traditional fortified white wine produced in local seafront wineyards. It comes in both dry and sweet versions, and is perfect as a dessert and meditation wine. One of the best Malvasia is produced by Columbu.

MALVASIA BOSAThe best places to taste Malvasia are in the cellars in the old town, which offer a unique atmosphere.

Grazie Manuel!

For more info about all the company’s offerings, CLICK HERE FOR GAVEENA, YOUR MATE IN SARDINIA


Golden Day 123: Cagliari, Sardinia with Maria Paola Loi

maria-paola-loi-in-olienaIt’s wonderful to have Maria Paola Loi of Sardinia Tours and co-author of the app Sardinia Inside Out, (who joined Martha Bakerjian to give us advice about a Golden Day in Alghero),  come back to give her advice for A Golden Day in Cagliari. Maria and our other Cagliari friend and expert, Lexa Dudley, from Golden Day 120, agree on some of the same places in Sardinia’s capital city–so with two thumbs up, take their advice when traveling there.

Here’s Maria:

In Cagliari, the Capital City of Sardinia, it is worth seeing the old Medieval  part of town —Castello.

torre_di_san_pancrazio_IMG_9551_bis Take a lovely stroll along the narrow, and admire many monuments like the Towers of San Pancrazio (from 1305) and the Elephant (from 1307) — symbol of the ancient city.

Another city highlight is the Cathedral of Santa Maria with a blend of styles that go from early Romanesque to Neoclassic and the Bastione di San Remy and Bastione Santa Croce, which have huge panoramic terraces with breathtaking views of Cagliari city.



The food market “Mercato di San Benedetto” can not be missed! It is a two floor indoor market where all the fresh seasonal Sardinian products are displayed in a lively and colorful way–vegetables, bread, hundreds of different types of pecorino sheep cheese, meat and salami, and fresh fish. It is a great experience and a lot of fun to be around the fishmongers–who with loud, entertaining enthusiasm show off and sell their fresh catch of the day from the Mediterranean Sea around Cagliari bay.

CaptureAntico Cafè (Piazza Costituzione 10/11)dating back to 1855, is the oldest cafè in Cagliari. Here you’ll find a very sophisticated atmosphere and great bar/restaurant. It is situated near the monumental rampart of the Bastione di San Remy in the shopping street called Via. Garibaldi.


 l’isola del gelato(Piazza Yenne 35) is a great ice cream shop with an outstanding variety of ice cream, milk shakes, frullati and semifreddi!

10418151_10152808756024160_8725157892950151507_nYou may want to spend the afternoon at the beach, called il Poetto, just 10 minutes away from the city centre, to enjoy a swim or stroll along the 10 kilometer stretch of fine sand. The locals hang out here even in winter, as Cagliari has a mild climate and many sunny days. Kiosk bars and clubs offer live music and entertainments on the beach at night time from June to Mid September.


For your aperitivo, I highly recommend the Cafè Libarium, situated on the panoramic terrace in the Bastione di Santa Croce, a lounge bar with view on the terrace of an historic rampart overlooking a medieval tower . Settle into the stylishly furnished sofas and tables or the elegant indoor caffè.


At the restaurant da Luigi Pomata(Viale Regina Margherita 14), you’ll find fantastic and delicious combinations of sea food dishes, fusion cuisine where Sardinian traditional recipes and Japanese style cuisine are blended in a very unique way.Tuna is one of the products that Luigi offers as it comes from the Sardinian island of San Pietro, where tuna is very special!




Or go to La mola Sarda(Viale Trento 84,), a family run charming trattoria where it is possible to taste the very traditional Sardinian cuisine, in a warm atmosphere. You’ll find lovely sea food dishes on the menu with a great variety of antipasti di mare typical of the Cagliari area. A delicious specialty is fregola con arselle — it’s similar to cous cous, but thicker, cooked with local clams. 

Sardinia, Italy, Travel, Susan Van Allen

Spend the night at Hotel Regina Margherita(Viale Regina Margherita 44). It’s centrally located and very elegant.


Or there is Hotel Miramare (Via Roma 59), a stylish, vintage style, historic palace with Liberty style rooms, along the arcades of the water front street Via Roma.



Grazie mille for the insider tips Maria!

Golden Day 121: Alghero with Maria Paola Loi and Martha Bakerjian

How lucky we are to have two savvy traveling women here to give their advice for a Golden Day in Alghero, on the island of Sardinia…

Maria Paola Loi is a Sardinia native and licensed English-speaking tour guide who gives tours on all parts of the island. She co­authored the app, Sardinia Inside Out , where you’ll find lots of good information about where to go and tips for visiting the island. Martha Bakerjian writes the Italy Travel site on Her first experiences in Italy were on the island of Sardinia, where she spent 5 summers doing the shopping and cooking for a group of archeologists from the US. Sardinia still remains one of her favorite parts of Italy.



Here’s their advice:

Alghero is a picturesque seaside town on Sardinia’s west coast whose Catalan heritage is still reflected in its food, architecture, and even the language as it’s the only place on the island where Catalan is still spoken.


Start your Golden day in Alghero with a walk on Bastioni Marco Polo, the seaside promenade that’s on the wall of the old town, where you’ll see remnants of medieval towers and even a canon. Then head into the historic center for a stroll through the town on the narrow, winding pedestrian streets lined with shops and cafes. Alghero is known for its coral and you’ll find many shops selling good quality coral jewelry.


Pick your favorite square and stop at a cafe for a coffee or a glass of Torbato, the local sparkling wine.


For lunch, get one of the special sandwiches at Bar Focacceria Milese(Via Garabaldi 11, 079 952419) a favorite of both tourists and locals.


After a filling lunch I would recommend visiting Grotta di Nettuno(Neptune’s Cave) which offers a delightful 2.5 hour boat ride leaving from the Alghero’s port and takes you inside the caves to see the stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Or if you have a car and want to get some exercise, you can drive to Capo Caccia and take the Escala del Cabirol, or “Goat’s steps”, 656 steps down to the Grotto entrance.

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If you are looking for a relaxing afternoon after lunch, head down to the beach right by the harbor.


 If you are lookingto catch up with the locals, a short bus ride will bring you to Le Bombarde Beach, a favorite of the locals. The white sandy beach stretches along the sea in front of a pine forest and is a great spot for swimming.


In the evening, head back to the seaside promenade for the evening’s lively passeggiata.

For dinner go to Ristorante Il Pavone(Piazza Sulis 3,079979584)


or the Michelin-starred Andreini (Via Ardoino 45, 079982098). Alghero is known for its lobsters, in season in summer and late winter, and also sea urchins from January through early spring, but there’s plenty of great seafood year round. Accompany your dinner with a local wine from Sella e Mosca and end your meal with a glass of Anghelu Ruju, the local after­dinner drink or “meditation wine” similar to Port, named for the nearby archeological site.

If you’re staying at Villa Las Tronas(Lungomare Valencia 1) our recommended hotel, leave some time to enjoy the spa facilities that include a large heated seawater swimming pool with hydro massage jets, Turkish bath and sauna, and lounge chairs facing windows with views of the sea and city. Or you can lounge in the garden and enjoy the outdoor pool in summer. Villa Las Tronas sits on a small promontory facing Alghero and it’s just a short walk from the center.

hotel-villa-las-tronas_1hotel-villa-las-tronas_3Grazie Maria and Martha!
We must get that Sardinia Inside Out App before our travels to this amazing island…

And check out Golden Day 91 for some more exciting travel tips from Martha about Puglia…


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!

2013-01-05 13_18_582013-10-26 11_22_38

 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!




Golden Day 105: Gerace with Domenico Russumanno of Made in South Italy Today

144AASES_150I’m grateful to have connected with Domenico Russumanno, a native of Vallefiorita, (Flowering Valley), a beautiful village in the province of Catanzaro, Calabria. Domenico is part of the team who created the Made in South Italy Today website, that’s full of insider’s information about Italy’s southern regions–including fascinating history, natural landscapes, and companies that sell artisinal products–such as olive oil, sweets, pastas, and fine textiles. I’m intrigued by what I found there about Calabria, such as the clip from the 1959 movie, The Forgotten Ones, that gives new meaning to “Off the Beaten Path”–showing the rituals of a remote mountain town–from hauling up supplies over craggy mountains on horseback, to feasting and dancing at their spring festival. 

Here’s Domenico, sharing advice for a Golden Day in the medieval town of Gerace:

Gerace is a charming town, set on a magnificent plateau, less then two hours drive from Lamezia Terme airport, in the hinterland of the Ionian side of Calabria, in the province of Reggio Calabria.




It is well known for its wine, since the days of Ancient Greece.imagesCAP0CZQ6

It is called the “Florence of Southern Italy” because of its rich historical past and the numbers of churches dotting its maze of medieval streets, where you’ll find Renaissance palaces, beautiful piazzas, and views of inspiring landscapes. Gerace is also included on the list of the I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia–the most beautiful villages in Italy.

Walking through the town, visitors can admire the castle and the cathedral, both dating back to the Norman times, the architecture is characterized by multiple styles including Byzantine, Gothic and Roman.




Among the many churches, the one topping the list should be The Cathedral Of Gerace.
It was built on the remains of a pre-existing sacred structure devoted to Aghìa Kyriakì (Saint Ciriaca) dating back to the eighth century, between 1085 and 1120, under Norman domination.


The church, dedicated to the Madonna of the Assumption, is the most representative monument of Byzantine-Romanesque-Norman style in Calabria and is impressive both inside and outside


Second on the list is the church of San Francesco (Square of the three churches), containing a precious Baroque altar. The altar represents the synthesis of artistic experiences in Europe, occupying a central position in southern baroque art. The foundation dates back to 1296. The portal is a triple archway decorated with Arabic-Swabian geometric friezes.unname2d


Next is a stroll to the Porta del Sole (Sun Gate) one of the few remaining doors once used as part of the defensive system protecting the town…


If you’re Italian is up to it, contact Marisa Ranieri, a local professor of ancient history, who can take you around to show you this place she loves so much. You can write to her at to arrange a tour.



If you’re interested in organized activities or tours, contact Mr Giuseppe Piazzese, the owner of Ancient Paths, (Sentieri Antichi) a local travel consultant (

Abruzzo Promozione Turismo

If you’re up for a more active adventure, to discover the rugged Aspromonte mountain (and experience this beautiful area via kayak,mountain bike, or canoeing), contact Beppe and Demi (Aspromonte Wild) at


There are many places to taste delicious Calabrian specialties. Near the Cathedral, In Piazza del Tocco you will find Bar del Tocco, a heaven for ice cream lovers.

Nearby (Via Cesare Battisti) is the enoteca Cantina del Barone, owned by Francesco and Rocco, featuring traditional products from the area, such as salami and wine. (ask for the ‘fettata casareccia”, a mix of sliced cheeses and salami) Tel. .


For those who prefer a more traditional setting, A Squella, owned by Zio Franco (uncle Frank) is the place to visit.
The restaurant is located in an old olive mill on Via V. Della Resistenza (tel: 0964 356086- .
It offers a typical Calabrian cuisine with appetizers, pasta and home-made cakes, grilled meat and grilled dishes as well as fish in the summer season.




A specialty of the area is the Stockfish which is offered at most of the restaurants in Gerace.


A beautiful place to stay is Villarosa, located a few miles from Gerace, among old olive trees, with a terrace for you to enjoy breathtaking views. It has 3 large bedrooms, and Rosanna, the owner , a native of Gerace now living in the  USA, can be contacted at the following e-mail address  :


Or there is B&B Giardino di Gerace . It’s uniquely positioned on the slopes of Gerace with five terraced gardens all facing the beautiful Ionian sea. It is owned by Professor Scaglione who also speaks fluently English, and you can take language and cooking classes there.

For shopping, you’ll find a beautiful display of locally made ceramics at Condo’ Ceramiche, by Giovanni, in Via Sottoprefettura, not far from the Cathedral.


A not so well known product, exclusively to this area is the Bergamotto. The fruit (a citrus look like) is not edible and is cultivated for production of its essential oil which is extracted from the ripe fruit peel and is used extensively in perfumery for its sweet freshness. The oil can be found at Antichi Sapori di Calabria, Via Zaleuco 23.

frutti_di_bergamottoCome visit in late spring, up until June, and September to October, when the weather is ideal!

Grazie mille Domenico, for turning us on to this undiscovered treasure of Calabria! I hope to get there soon…

For details about a special Calabria Tour offered by Made in Southern Italy today, Click Here.

Golden Day Ninety-Nine: Lecce with Cinzia Rascazzo

cinzia_Rascazzo(1) I’m happy to have connected with Cinzia Rascazzo, a native of Lecce, who with her sister Marika founded the Stile Mediterraneo Cooking School. The school celebrates southern Italian cuisine, that’s been handed down in their family from mother to daughter for generations (As Cinzia says: “No Italian men were ever admitted into the home kitchen!”).

Cinzia has a beautiful blog, with great travel advice for the area and also recipes, for such classics as Orecchiette with Cime di Rapa , that was featured in La Cucina Italia magazine. And check out the ebook they wrote: The Cuisine of Southern Italian Women: Mediterranean Secrets for a Happy and Healthy Life.orechiette with cime di rapaI’m so grateful she’s joined in to give advice for a Golden Day in Lecce: 

When friends come to visit me in Lecce and ask what to do, I always answer: “Follow the locals’ schedule and have fun! And mostly importantly, do not skip naps!”

 Yes there are many beautiful baroque monuments in the old town of Lecce, but what I think really makes it special is the general lifestyle–a relaxed way of life, partly due to the sunny weather, but also to the way people are, eat, and live.puglia lecce lifestyle

Leccese are very proud of our beautiful town and if you come here you will notice that we “live” our town fully. We spend most of our day in the old town, going for coffee, buying food, meeting friends (and working!). In the evening we go out for food and drinks and stroll around until late. You will never feel unsafe. Moreover, we love foreigners so everybody will be super friendly.

 To have a day like a local start with caffe at Alvino bar, (Piazza Sant Oronzo, 30)


Here you should try our typical coffee (we call it espressino) and pasticciotto (this is a pastry with custard cream). At Alvino, you should sit in one of the outdoor tables and read the local newspaper (Quotidiano) where you will find information about local events. Or if you don’t read Italian, have fun watching the locals.

Next, spend the morning strolling around the beautiful old, baroque town.

First, go to the Roman Amphitheatre in the Sant’Oronzo Square.


From there head to the Santa Croce Church (Via Basilicata), that is the best example of Baroque architecture in Southern Italy.

Lecce Santa Croce ChurchThen visit the Duomo (Piazza del Duomo).
*Note that all churches close at 12:30pm.

santo oronzo square-sun rise

From the Duomo, you can walk all the way up to Porta Rudiae, which is the ancient gate to access the old town.

Now it’s time to eat!

Lunch is the most important meal for locals. Most go home, and then take a rest from 1 till 4:30pm, when all shops and activities close.

You can get delicious snacks from gourmet coffee and pastry places in the Sant’Oronzo square. Try a rustico (savory and round dough filled with mozzarella and cheese) from Alvino caffe, or a stuffed focaccia from the little bakery, Il Fornaio, in the Piazza Sant’Oronzo. Don’t miss a gelato from Natale Pasticceria, Via Tevere. My favorite flavors are nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio.


You can also visit the shops in the morning and buy good things to bring home, such as Puglia’s red wine (look for primitivo or negroamaro grapes), excellent extra virgin olive oil, or the taralli bread.

After your afternoon nap, it’s time for activities…

Of course, I recommend a cooking class at the Stile Mediterraneo Cooking SchoolMy sister Marika and I run it from a beautiful ancient olive oil press that we turned into an elegant cooking school. A driver can meet you in Lecce, and then drive you from the old town to Squinzano.

CinziaIn class, you will learn how to taste extra virgin olive oil with me (I’m a certified extra virgin olive oil taster) and make Puglieses classics, such as home made orecchiette pasta (taught by my mamma), the famous Rascazzo’s  fresh tomato sauce, and almond cake that my grandmother invented. I’m also a wine sommelier and will teach you about the best local wines. 


The mission of our school is to improve people’s quality of life through the Southern Italian’s Mediterranean cuisine, so we do not just teach traditional recipes. Marika (a cardiologist) and I promote a way of eating, cooking and living that can contribute to the improvement of people’s health and wellbeing–not just through the healthy ingredients (extra virgin olive oil, seafood, etc), but also partly due to our specific cooking methods.

Class will be followed by a nice seated dinner on the outdoor patio.

After dinner (and wine!) the driver will drive you back and you can enjoy the evening passeggiata in the Lecce old town. There will be people walking around and chatting until very late.

Grazie Cinzia, for the delicious day in Lecce!

AND for more Lecce advice, check out the Lecce post by Country Walker’s Guide Marcello Polignano–he’s also a Caffe Alvino fan!


JULY 30, 2014: THIS TRIP IS SOLD OUT! Sign on to the mailing list on Susan Van Allen’s website to get news about Golden Weeks in Italy in 2015!


How about joining author Susan Van Allen for a Beautiful Italian Adventure this fall?

2014 will be her Third Annual Golden Week in Italy...

Raves are in for the last two:


“A wonderful Italian experience of a lifetime for all of us!!”–Gayle, from Chandler,
Arizona, Golden Week guest 2013

This year we’ll discover Southern Italy, aka The Mezzogiorno...


“Susan’s humor, knowledge, and surprises really made this vacation one of my very favorites!”–Lynda, Boston

It will be an inspiring week, where the elegant soul of Bell’Italia bursts forth with stunning sights,


delicious flavors,

IMG_2106and soulful songs.

IMG_7990Discover marvels of Capri,
capri (52)vibrant Naples,

fascinating Pompeii,
POMPEIIand the blissful thermal springs of Ischia.

giardini-poseidon_TopShop for artisan treasures,
IMG_8196take a cooking class with a local nonna,

IMG_1415toast with robust local wine, and enjoy the world’s best pizza.


“Italians really know how to enjoy life. I would love to do this once a year!”–Cynthia, Madison, Mississippi, Golden Week 2013 guest

The tour is based in the seaside town of Sorrento, at the legendary Imperial Hotel Tramontano, where the famous song, “Come Back to Sorrento” was composed.
Each day Susan will lead you to discover treasures and pleasures of this region that has enchanted travelers for centuries, and was a Jackie Favorite!




IMG_3515 (1)

For Inspiration, CLICK HERE…Come Back to Sorrento on You Tube..

Dates: October 11-18, 2014
Space is limited to 14

Prices: $3700 per person for double occupancy/$4150 single occupancy

In Collaboration with Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy

Golden Day Ninety-Eight: Martina Franca with Catherine Faris of Nuovastoria

MARTINAFRANCA-CATHERINEIt’s a pleasure to connect with Catherine Faris, who turned a dream of living in Italy into a reality. Eighteen years ago she visited Puglia with her husband Brian and three children and they fell in love with it. Today the children have grown, Catherine and Brian have quit their jobs, moved to Italy, and immersed themselves into life in Martina Franca. Catherine beautifully chronicles their experiences on her Nuovastoria blog, bringing us an insider’s experience of the place, with posts such as a recent one about making a traditional Pugliese condiment: Plic e Plac. 

MARTINAFRANCA-PASCAROSAIn 2013, Catherine and Brian delved deeper into joining in with Puglia’s traditions, launching the Pascarosa company, that exports a prized product of the region–extra virgin olive oil, produced by small farms that use traditional harvesting methods. Their company also offers one day culinary tours, olive harvest and culinary weeks, for travelers to have an authentic and delicious experience of Puglia.

I’m so grateful Catherine is joining in to give her advice for
a Golden Day in Martina Franca:

Martina Franca is a jewel in Puglia’s Valle d’Itria, 30 kilometers from the Adriactic, set on a hill with stunning Baroque architecture. Stop by the tourist office to pick up a walking tour map so that you can discover Martina’s treasures, keeping in mind that many close for a long afternoon lunch break. 

MARTINAFRANCA-FIRSTPAGEMARTINAFRANCA-VILLAGIOINStay at Villaggio In, which offers beautifully furnished self-catering apartments in the historic center=centro storico.

MARTINAFRANCA-MASSERIAFOr if you prefer a more rural experience, close by is Masseria Fumarola, a family farm complete with trulli=cone-shaped roof dwellings for which the Valle d’Itria is famous.

Plan to arrive on Wednesday so you can visit the outdoor market in Piazza d’Anjou and its surrounding streets. Walk to the market through the old town, stopping for a morning cappuccino and bocconotto at Caffe Tripoli, Puglia’s historic cafe famous for its ethereal bocconotti, a breakfast pastry filled with sweetened ricotta and pear marmalade (Via Garibaldi, 35; 080-4805260).

MARTINAFRANCA-CAFFETRIPOLIAfter the market, stop in at l’Acropoli di Puglia (Via Votano, 5; 080-4303302) the only olive mill in the city center. There you can learn how olives become olive oil, a centuries-old tradition for which Puglia is famous. You can taste many varieties available and purchase some to take with you.

MARTINAFRANCA-OLIVEOILMartina Franca is also famous for its delicious capocollo, a salume made from dry-cured whole pork shoulder or neck.  Stop by Romanelli Macelleria (Via Valle d’Itria, 8/12; 080-4805385) and ask Nino for a taste—you’ll be treated to great food and exceptional hospitality—and will leave having made new friends.

MARTINAFRANCA-MACELLERIATo learn more about Martina Franca’s storied wine industry and its D.O.C. (Denominazione Origine Controllata) zones, visit Cantine Miali, a fourth generation winery now making some of the best wine in the region (Via Madonnina, 11; 080-4303222). Call ahead for a visit and tasting, which are also conducted in English.

MARTINAFRANCA-WINEFor lunch, there is La Tavernetta, a small, subterranean trattoria that gets the classics just right–including orecchiette al ragu (handmade ear-shaped pasta with tomato sauce; fave e cicoria, pureed fava beans with sautéed chicory; and braciole, thinly sliced veal stuffed with parsley, cheese and garlic then long-cooked in fresh tomato sauce). Trust yourself to waiter Cesare, along with the husband and wife chef team of Pino and Daniela. (Via Vittorio Emmanuele, 30; 0804306323).

MARTINAFRANCA-LATAVERNETTAAnother great option is La Tana di Nicola, located in a corner of Martina Franca’s Ducal Palace (Via Mascagni, 2/6; 080-4805320), where classics are reinterpreted with sophistication and the wine list is exceptional.

MARTINAFRANCA-LATANAWhen you finish your espresso and perhaps a thimbleful of liquore d’alloro (bay leaf liquor), explore Martina Franca’s historic center. Must-see highlights include: the Basilica di San Martino (Via Masaniello, 1; 080-4306536), a Unesco World Heritage site and a breathtaking example of Baroque and Rococò architecture;

MARTINAFRANCA-SANMARTINODAYthe Palazzo Ducale (Piazza Roma), built in the second half of the 17th century and home to the 18th century tempera wall paintings of Domenico Carella; MARTINAFRANCA-DUCALPALACeand the site of the first Martina Franca settlement dating from the 13th century, Montedoro (Vico Montedoro).

After your walk, you might feel like you’re falling in love with Martina Franca, so stop by the studio of Vincenzo Milazzo (Via Garibaldi, 13; 080-4831330), a naïf artist who captures Martinese life in his paintings with whimsy and heart. The painter is often on hand to talk with you about his inspiration.

MARTINAFRANCA-VINCENZOMILAZZOMartina Franca’s famous passeggiata starts around 8, from Piazza XX Settembre,

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAalong the meandering Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, and into Piazza Santa Maria Immocolata, which looks like an opera stage set. The passeggiata offers superb people watching, so stop for an aperitivo at Super Bar in Piazza Roma, that’s famous for its panzerotti, heavenly little pockets of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes encased in fluffy pizza dough and deep-fried in olive oil.

panzerotti-frittiFor dinner, experience Martina Franca’s justifiably famous meat by dining at a fornello pronto establishment. Many of Martina’s butcher shops operate as restaurants in the evening, roasting local meat in wood-burning ovens and serving you inside or outside, weather permitting. Traditional specialties include bombette (thin slices of veal stuffed with provolone, caciocavallo or gorgonzola), local sausages and tiny lamb chops. The best is Macelleria Granaldi (Via Bellini, 108; 328-3218371) located just on the edge of the old town center. In the summer, you can eat outside, but call ahead to reserve, because Granaldi is very popular with the locals.

MARTINAFRANCA-MACELLERIAGRANALDIFor something lighter, try Convivum, a wine bar that features small plates, salads and samples of local meats and cheeses (Via Pietro Barnaba, 7; 368-561630). Located on a little alleyway just off Piazza XX Settembre in the ground floor of the Ducal Palace, this is the place to be during the summer when you can eat outside—the people watching is unparalleled here since the clientele tends to be young and chic Martina residents.

MARTINAFRANCA-CONVIVIUMOr, for the best pizza, go to Al Dolce Morso (Via Giannone, 3; 080-4801315). The pizza menu is endless and the prices are excellent.

End your golden day in Martina Franca with a leisurely stroll or short drive back to your hotel, reveling in the luminous nighttime glow of Martina’s limestone-paved streets and stately, Baroque palaces.


Grazie mille Catherine–you have me looking forward to my next visit to Martina Franca…

AND I’ll check out that EVO from Puglia for wonderful holiday gifts:

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