Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Golden Times Driving in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

View from our window in San Quirico d’Orcia…

Susan Van Allen's Italy, Val d'Orcia, Women's Tours ItalyOUR meaning me and my two sisters. We’d not traveled together since our days as Jersey Girls when Daddy would be at the wheel of the Country Squire Station Wagon and we’d go from West Long Branch, New Jersey to the beach at Cape May where the sand was LIKE AN ASHTRAY!
MANY years later, we rendezvoused at the Rome airport and picked up the keys to a gem-of-a- White Volkswagen from Auto Europe. What I love about this company is that they are partnered with the best car rental places all over Italy, so you get a range of choices for models, the best prices, and always great customer service. As we headed south to our home base of San Quirico Val d’Orcia, I started out driving–
20151013_103145190_iOSBut soon our roles became clear:
Older sister Pam, Driver. Younger Sister Patti, navigator, sometimes driver. Susan Van Allen, Auto EuropeAnd ME in back seat gasping and making sure we pulled over plenty to stop, get out, and take it all in.

Susan Van Allen, Auto EuropeSusan Van Allen, Auto Europe

Having a car is key to discovering the Val d’Orcia, an area so beautiful it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Close to our San Quirico base, was the spa town of Bagno Vignoni, beloved by Romans in Imperial Days–AND it is said Saint Catherine herself took the waters there…
Susan Van Allen, Auto EuropeWe soaked nearby the main square at the Hotel Posta Marcucci==PERFECT stop for a morning of bliss…
Susan Van Allen, Auto EuropeA half hour drive away, we had decliciousness at the revered Osteria La Porta in Montichiello, where Daria Capelli reigns over one of Italy’s best restaurants. The ravioli, garnished with black truffle shavings is legendary.
Susan Van Allen, Osteria Porta, Auto EuropeWe drove over to the hamlet of Montefollonico to take a delightful class at Tuscan Women Cook, where we learned the art of making traditional pici=thick spaghetti from a local signora.
20151012_104802760_iOSWe visited the award-winning Casato Prime Donne winery in Montalcino. It’s entirely run by women and besides the fabulous Brunello wine, there is stunning artwork in the vineyards.
Susan Van AllenOf the many highlights, there was hearing the monk’s chant at Sant’Antimo abbey
20151013_110543370_iOSBuying the best pecorino cheese in Pienza…
20151016_143638787_iOSAnd joining in on the sunset passeggiata along the edge of Pienza’s wall:
THE BALCONY OF VAL D’ORCIA! Where those roads below beckoned us…


For More…
Auto Europe, Susan Van Allen





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 


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 106: Civita Calabria with Anna Lebedeva of Green Holiday Italy

I’m grateful to have met Anna Lebedeva, of Green Holiday Italy. She’s a freelance journalist and passionate follower of the Slow Travel  movement, who lives in the region of Abruzzo, and travels up and down the boot in search of the best traditional food and hidden corners. Anna has a beautiful blog,, where she writes about such fascinating things as Birdwatching in Rome and the village of Cerchiara, Calabria, which was recognized by the Slow Founnamedod Movement in 2012 as having The Best Bread in Italy.


I’m so glad Anna is joining in to give her advice for a Golden Day in Civita, Calabria.


Civita is one of the prettiest villages in northern Calabria. In the 15th century a group of Albanian refugees fleeing from the Ottoman invasion settled here. The locals still speak the Albanian (arbëreshë) language and are proud of their ancient traditions.


Just outside the village you’ll see the spectacular Devil’s Bridge.The local legend has it that a clever villager struck a deal with the Devil, who promised to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first creature who crosses it. When the bridge was erected the villager pushed a dog which ran to the other side, saving his own soul.

Civita tourism destinations

The local church of Santa Maria Assunta has stunning Byzantine mosaics.


Take a walk around the village to see traditional Kodra houses that look like human faces. The village is also known for its beautiful old chimneys, each of them is different.



Civita is situated in the Pollino National park, the largest in Italy, and has many natural trails for hiking. I had a fantastic experience canyoning with a small group in the Raganello river gorges–great choice for a hot summer day. For canyoning trips in the Raganello Gorges call Roberto at 0039 3471776569


 Photo Credit: Cherrye Moore

Or, for adventurous travelers looking for off-road trips in the area, call a small company  Raganello Tour,  3409096436.


You can also explore a remote area called the Grande Porta del Pollino to see rare Bosnian pines that grow only here and in a small area in the Balkans. One of the best guides for that trip is Nino Larocca Tel. 0039 3497966734, email:


As far as restaurants, Kamastra is a fantastic place to sample local specialties. The owner, Enzo, is a lawyer, but he also writes music for traditional arbëreshë songs. He will tell stories and recipes for his tasty dishes such as slow-cooked goat meat with laurel leaves, marinated onions, the scrambled eggs with peppers (called “the shepherd’s breakfast”). The home-made pasta dishes here are absolutely to die for!


Another good restaurant is Agora. It might lack in the atmosphere but the food is excellent here too. I loved their Agora starter, which is a mix of local meats and cheeses, and home-made pasta tumàce with chickpeas.


Here are some good options to stay: B&B La Magara is a mix of beautifully restored old interiors with a modern touch. Views of Civita from some rooms are amazing! Antonella is a bubbly and friendly host. She serves a big breakfast of local specialties. Check out the chimney on their roof: it is one of the oldest in town.



Another lovely B&B is Il comignolo di Sofia. Stefania is a real expert of all things local and knows the area very well. She can organize tours and cookery classes for you. There are only two rooms but the atmosphere is beautiful. You will find many books on the arbëreshë traditions in the house.



Grazie mille Anna, I’m hungry for Civita–Hope to get there soon!





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

Share Your Golden Moment In Italy, Past or Future…And Win A Book!

As we approach Thanksgiving, there is much to be grateful for!
To Celebrate,  We’re Giving
To Commenters,  Selected in a RANDOM DRAWING  


Complete This Sentence In The Comment Section Below:
One Golden Moment in Italy for me was __________
One Golden Moment in Italy for me will be _________

Write the first thing that comes to your mind,  for example:
–Tasting that panino–prosciutto and ripe fig–that morning in the Campo dei Fiori
–Seeing Titian’s Assumption for the first time
–Soaking in that outdoor thermal tub in Bormio, surrounded by the  snow-covered Dolomites, that my friend Sara keeps raving about!



(From Yours Truly and the  Wonderful Authors
Who’ve Shared their Golden Days In Italy On This Blog)


Marcus of Umbria:
What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl About Love,
   by Justine van der Leun,
(Golden Day 36: Todi and Surroundings) 


My Adventures In The Land of Tomatoes, by Meagan Brown,
(Golden Day 19: Florence)


Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen,
A Cookbook by Judy Witts-Francini,
(Golden Day 16: Florence) 


 Cafe Life Venice:
A Guide to the Cafes and Bacari of La Serenissima
by Joe Wolff, photographs by Roger Paperno were seen in
(Golden Day 22: Venice)

Dream of Italy, Newsletter Subscription for 2011,
edited by Kathy McCabe,
(Golden Day 31: Umbria)


They all make lovely gifts


Random Drawing and Winner Announcements will be on BLACK FRIDAY, November 26
You may win a book  to give to an  Italophile in your life
Or it may be your first present of the season!

We look forward to reading your Golden Moments In Italy—
 Grazie for playing!
 Open to commenters worldwide,
One comment per person, per favore
To Add Your Golden Moment, Look Below and Click on ##Comments…


Golden Day Two: Roaming Around Rome

When I put away the guidebook, Rome unfolds… Church doors open to masterpieces. Open the door of Sant’Ivo della Sapienza (Corso di Rinascimento 40, around the corner from Piazza Navona) and there’s this snowflake of a dome, designed by the Renaissance superstar Borromini. This is open ONLY on Sunday mornings, when there’s a folk mass–guitars and kids singing.


Mass is usually at 9:30, but check in case they’ve changed the schedules. It’s  a small church that fills up with the locals, which means you get to be amidst another Italian masterpiece: beautiful faces.

It could set you off on a Golden Sunday morning of Church Door Opening. Free art. Cool in the summer, warm in winter. Candles. Peaceful feeling.

As long as you’re in the Sant’Ivo della Sapienza area, wander over to…

San Luigi dei Francesi ( Via Di S. Giovanna D’Arco, 5–Closed Thursday afternoons). Open the door with the star on it. Go to your left for 3 Caravaggio masterpieces–the Inspiration of Saint Matthew is breathtaking.

There’s another stunning Caravaggio at  nearby Sant’Agostino (Piazza Agostino): Madonna di Loreto.

Wind your way through Piazza Navona, past Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers–a scene that will be crowded on Sunday.

It’s time fora long lunch in the narrow streets tucked behind the Piazza: Virginiae Cucina Romana, Via di Parione 41 (06 6875 150), where mamma cooks lasagna.

Best Caffe around: Caffe della Pace, Via della Pace 3

In the evening, if the timing is right, there may be a classical music concert happening at the Baroque Borromini Sacristy in Piazza Navona or in the courtyard that fronts Sant’Ivo. Check out In Rome Now for listings:

At the Borromini Sacristy, the 12 euro ticket price includes a free post-concert glass of prosecco at Cul de Sac, one of Rome’s most beloved wine bars.