Posts Tagged ‘Susan Van Allen’

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 130: Maratea, in Basilicata=My Fatherland!

We’ll continue our Golden Days in the southern region of Basilicata.


My first visit to this beautiful under-touristed region was random. I had plans to visit my friend Tania of In Italy Tours in Calabria, and found I had a few days gap in my traveling schedule. Sitting with my laptop in Rome, musing over the train route,  inspiration came: Go To Your Pappa Land! My grandfather was born in Basilicata, on a farm in Vaglio, near Potenza, then worked in a pasticceria in Naples before boarding a ship for the American Dream. I have letters he wrote when he’d go back to visit, and a necklace from his sister, my great Aunt Teresa…


I needed a place to relax, and wanted to be near a beach, so Maratea, Basilicata’s coastal town beckoned. I booked a room at B&B Laino ,set off on the train for Golden Days, and was kindly met at the station by Giovanni, who drove me through town to the enchanting spot…


I loved breakfasts there under the blue umbrellas, looking out to the sea…


Overlooking the village, set on a hilltop is a stunning marble statue of Christ, ala Rio de Janeiro…


I strolled along the beach in the morning…


And then followed a winding road and zig-zag paths for a walk–the village is oddly spread out, next time I’ll rent a scooter…
Maratea02After an hour, I landed in Maratea’s centro storico, an enchanting place, centered by the Fountain of Sirens…

FontanaSirenaMarateaI had pizza at Bussola, (Via Conte Stefano Rivetti 09 738 6863), which also serves great antipasti.
MARATEA - PIZZERIA BUSSOLABut the best meal of all, right in the central piazza, was at Marianna Pezzulo’s Antichi Sapori, (Via Alessandro Mandarini 29, 33 917 94102), where I met the charming chef in charge…

Antichi Sapori - Marianna Pezzullo

Felt at home with faces at neighboring tables,  matches with kids I went to grade school with in New Jersey…


AND the Sunday dinner was extraordinary, including homemade cavatelli…

20160216_053753651_iOSAfter the long walk back home, came this sunset view…

InfreschidamarateaI dream of returning before too long… AND though I loved B&B Laino, if you’re looking for a more luxurious accommodation, that’s right in line with my female-centric Italy focus, check out La Locanda delle Donne Monache


Click Here for a story I wrote for Tastes of Italia Magazine about my Maratea experience, including recipes…I hope you get there to taste this delicious place!

Stay tuned for more Golden Days in Basilicata…

Posted in Basilicata | Comments Off on Golden Day 130: Maratea, in Basilicata=My Fatherland!

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 128: Pietro Navarra in Porto Cervo, Sardinia

Pietros italyA few year’s back, I had the pleasure of meeting Pietro Navarra in Los Angeles. He’d been in a bookstore, found 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, and liked it so much (I love that Men enjoy it too!), that he wrote to me and said we should meet so I could sign his copy. A delicious dinner at Terroni followed, where I found out about Pietro’s Italy — his wonderful Italian travel company that combines his passions for Italy and the USA. Having grown up in Bologna and traveled in Italy extensively, Pietro creates customized itineraries for travelers, bringing to each one his unique personal touch. His fans call him Mr. Italy, and have come to rely on Pietro’s Italy for their exclusive business trips, personal journeys, or honeymoons, which are unanimously praised as luxurious experiences that immerse travelers in the Wonders of Italy.

I’m so grateful Pietro has joined in to give advice for a Golden Day in Porto Cervo, one of the most exquixite places on the Costa Smerelda (northern Emerald Coast) of Sardinia:

One of the best beaches in Porto Cervo is Romazzino Beach, located towards the north-east of Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. If you want to relax or engage in water activities like diving and snorkeling, you can do it here. Like most of the coastline, the sand here is fine and white, and the water is green and blue. The beach is quite safe, so even families with children can enjoy this beach. For a perfect beach picnic, get some cheese, bread and a delightful bottle of Sardinian wine, and simply relax in these beautiful surroundings.

c4de3ca81cd6992e0622df886154073cOne of the must-visits in the area is the small town of Santa Teresa di Gallura. This is a small town and quiet spot, perfect for those who want to get away from the crowds of Porto Cervo. Most of the town’s attractions can be reached on foot. The beaches are beautiful and ideal for swimming. A short walk will bring visitors to Capo Testa, where there are beaches full of beautiful rock formations. For a more spectacular view, visitors should walk to the edge of Santa Teresa di Gallura, which overlooks the sea and town.c8baa3347480d00193e84f5cdaf0bc57For those who want a fun night out, partying at the Phi Beach is a must! Located in front of Porto Cervo’s 18th century naval fortress, this is one of the best places to enjoy great music, refreshing drinks and delicious food. This is an open-air club that has outdoor bars, making it unique and exciting. During the day, the space is used as a beach club for the hotel nearby. But when the sun sets, it is turns into a free form dance floor where some of the best DJs spin their tracks. Phi Beach Club also has a restaurant that serves Mediterranean dishes and grilled seafood.imagesAn important landmark in Porto Cervo is Capo Ferro. This is a high section of rocky terrain that projects from the sea. It also has a lighthouse on top, ensuring that the rocks are visible during the day or night. Capo Ferro is the first indication that visitors are reaching the town, and this makes it a must-visit attraction in Porto Cervo. Visitors should hire a boat and take it to Capo Ferro. Capo Ferro provides a wonderful view of the sea, along with a glorious view of the town and surrounding areas.ec65e571a5c3324a02bb0b3243ca7b39Stop by Stella Maris Church, This is one of the few historical and architectural sites in Porto Cervo. The church is built in a panoramic area, and is an excellent example of Porto Cervo’s architecture. The interior and exterior of the Stella Maris Church capture the best spirit of Mediterranean art. The church plays host to many classical music concerts, which visitors should experience if they get the chance.Porto-Cervo_Church
If you love dining in an open space with a superb view and excellent food, go to Aqua Bar and Restaurant (Porto Cervo Marina, 07891832033). It’s popular among locals for its magnificent location, where you can admire the Porto Cervo harbor. Customers love to sit by the terrace while sipping their favorite drinks. The beauituful interiors of the restaurant complement the natural background of the sea. It is open daily until 2:00a.m.

CaptureAnother delightful place to eat, a stone’s throw from Porto Cervo, is the Spinnaker Restaurant (07021 Liscia di Vacca, 0789 91226). For thirty years the Spinnaker is a historic meeting place for the Costa Smeralda. You’ll find a convivial place in the restaurant area, where you can sit in the garden terrace or in the cozy dining room overlooking the sea. Here you can enjoy fresh seafood, meats of the best cuts, homemade pasta of Emilian tradition and delicious pizzas cooked in a wood oven. The caffe is a also a popular meeting point, and here you will find the most famous breakfast of the coast.y9e0314-editA wonderful place to stay is Hotel Pitrizza,  an intimate luxurious property, overlooking yet another beautiful view of white sand beaches and turquoise water.Hotel-Pitrizza-Sardinia


 GRAZIE MILLE, Mr. Italy! As these cold winter days approach, Porto Cervo is a beautiful place to be dreaming about…and planning to visit!

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 


Susan Van Allen’s Travel Writing Workshop: Monday, March 10

Travel Journal Writing Workshop
with author Susan Van Allen


Monday, March 10
7 PM to 9 PM
Distant Lands
20 S. Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
To reserve write to:
Limited to 12, so register early!

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

Price: $39.00/Cash or Check only
Class size is limited, so sign up early to get a space!
To Register and For More Info:

From Traveler’s Bookcase, Los Angeles:

Wonderful tips and creative-inducing exercises!  Our upcoming vacation will be more memorable for sure. — Cheri


I loved this journal workshop and I’m excited to implement Susan’s many wonderful tips and inspirations.  — Ellen to sign up for this upcoming workshop, or to arrange for a class in your area


VF1_1753Last November, Susan Van Allen, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, took a group of women to experience a Golden Week in Tuscany

It was Glorious!

“This trip was clearly designed by an artist–everything flowed along beautifully–a delicious, transformational experience of La Dolce Vita!”–Helen, San Francisco, California

GoldenTuscany (7)

We stayed at Il Borgo di Villa Bossi Pucci, a half hour south from Florence…


Every morning a breakfast basket arrived for us to enjoy the view…

GoldenTuscany (9)

Then we set out for adventures:


The Arezzo Antique Market, where the whole town is transformed with vendors filling the vias of the Medieval town…


Shop-Arezzo (5)

And saw amazing Piero della Francesca frescos


We toured, tasted, and had lunch at a winery in Chianti…

Golden Tuscany (2)

Food-WineTasting (2)

And since it was just in time for the harvest, we visited a frantoio to experience olives freshly pressed



We indulged for a day of bliss at the luxurious Grotta Giusti Spa, bathing in the thermal springs,  treating ourselves to relaxing massages, and steaming in the natural grotta…

1155 grottagiusti

We had an amazing time in Florence

“Fantastic! An great combination of busy and relaxing.”–Lisa, Chatham, Illinois


With masterpieces…


The Mercato Centrale



Shop-Ceramics (5)

Shop-Ceramics (2)

Il  Ponte Vecchio…


We fell in love with Lucca,

Site-Lucca (3)

And in Pisa,


we discovered it’s not just about The Tower


Steps away are amazing frescos in the Campo Santo


The Food and Wine=Extraordinary!


Food-Restaurant (12)

Food-Restaurant (2)


We even had a Cooking Class, where we learned how to make pasta…


“Amazing…All my passions were enlightened at each breathtaking stop…I recommend it highly.”–Rita, Estero, Florida

The Golden Week in Tuscany is custom designed for Women to have an Insider’s Experience of Tuscany, with Susan Van Allen leading, sharing her passion for this country she adores,  introducing you to her dear friends, and helping you discover Italy’s feminine appeals every step of the way…

It’s happening again: November 2-9, 2013

Trip Includes: 7 nights’ in lovely countryside accommodations, delicious meals, daily adventures, and more…

Price: From $3595 per person

Limited to 14 participants

Click Here for more details…

And Here for Susan Van Allen’s “Why Women Love Italy” You Tube