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Golden Day 106: Civita Calabria with Anna Lebedeva of Green Holiday Italy

April 21, 2014

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, www.greenholidayitaly.com, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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 Photo Credit: Cherrye Moore

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

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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: pinoloricato1965@libero.it

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

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

April 14, 2014

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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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…

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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 luisa.ranieri@tin.it to arrange a tour.

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

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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 info@aspromontewild.it.

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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.

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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. 347.1687363 – info@gerace-enoteca.it .

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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- ristorante_asquella@live.it) .
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.

 

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

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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  : rosannaroe@yahoo.com

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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.
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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.

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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.

Feast of the Annunciation!

March 25, 2014

 

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Today, March 25, Catholics celebrate the day Mary receives a startling announcement: “The Divine is Within You!”

It comes from the Angel Gabriel, who swoops in to tell this virgin she is pregnant with the Son of God…nine months before Christmas.

Florentines felt so connected to Mary that they traditionally celebrated their New Year on March 25. And Venetians chose the day to officially establish their Republic.

Italian Renaissance painters loved interpreting the action packed scene, capturing a moment when a young woman’s life is forever changed…and Mary humbly accepts her destiny.

Fra Angelico’s painting above, from San Marco in Florence, is the most famous artistic interpretation of the event…

Here are some more favorites…Leonardo DaVinci’s painted when he was just 26…

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Sandro Botticelli’s…

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Filippo Lippi’s…

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Raphael’s…

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Antonella da Messina’s, who painted his without the angel, from Sicily’s Galleria Regionale…
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Titian’s…the Venetian Renaissance…

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If you’re in Florence today, there’s a big parade, music in the streets, and feasting, of course.

All of us are celebrating in some way these first days of spring…the possibilities…More Sun, More Light!
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Golden Day 104: Scigliano with Raffaele Ripoli of Bed and Breakfast Calabria

March 19, 2014

IMG_0212Grazie to my dear Roman friend Gioia, who introduced me to Raffaele Ripoli, an architect from Scigliano, Calabria. Although Raffaele has also lived in Cosenza, Florence, Amsterdam, and near Rome and Milan–it’s Scigliano, in the region of Cosenza, set perfectly in the hills, between the sea and the Sila National Park, that is closest to his heart.

His grandmother ran a bakery here, in a building from the 1800s, that sold bread to the whole village. Raffaele has now converted that building into Bed and Breakfast Calabria that’s beloved by travelers, where each room features an elegant, lovely design.

Travelers come here to experience the soul of Calabria , as Raffaele says: “It is the eternal region of romantic imagination. Here you can mingle with the country folk, avoiding common tourist locations and obvious beaten tracks.

I’m so grateful Raffaele has joined in to give his advice for A Golden Day in Scigliano:

The Calabria B&B, offers a breathtaking view over the valley and of a 15th century monastery. You can enjoy breakfast on our terrace…

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Then you can mountain bike around Scigliano, or if you would like to discover it on foot, we will give you directions for a walk, over a Roman Bridge that Hannibal crossed during the Punic Wars

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You can discover beautiful churches here, such as the Cattedrale di San Giuseppe…

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And further along, there is a forest and a waterfall..

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Stop by the Ice Bar in Scigliano for a gelato…

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You may want to go to the nearby beach at Amantea.

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Or take an hour’s train ride to Cosenza, through beautiful scenery.

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There, in Cosenza’s centro storico, you can enoy, Caffè Renzelli

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And have lunch or dinner at Calabria Bella (Piazza Duomo, 0984 793531). They serve an excellent pasta dish of Lagani (a thick ribbon pasta), that is a specialty of our region–with chickpeas and mushrooms.1017105_509340432472403_1928664918_n

Of course, if you’d like to stay and relax in the sunshine and beautiful natural setting at Scigliano, we can prepare a meal for you, using local specialties…

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309926_651705054845107_1673871663_npro_variGrazie Raffaele…looking forward to coming to your dreamy spot soon!

Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8, 2014

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

mimosa-feste-della-donne-per-GGblogAll over Italy this holiday is celebrated with mimosa flowers, given by men to the women in their life, or by women to their friends…

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It’s a global day to celebrate all female achievements–past, present, and future.
Courageous women began it in the early 1900s, holding demonstrations for the right to vote and for equal pay and working conditions.
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The Union of Italian Women officially declared March 8 Women’s Day in 1945.
The scent of mimosas is everywhere, reminding us that spring is near
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At night, girlfriends get together and have fun…and maybe get a little wild...
Happy friends at dinning table
At the Rome Observatory this year, there will be an event called Women Prefer the Stars:
An evening to talk about women, think of them and remember how they focused their eyes to the stars through the ages.
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Women have always had to fight doubly, they have always had to carry two weights, the private and social. Women are the backbone of society.”
Wishing All of you Happy Celebrations!

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

March 5, 2014

Travel Journal Writing Workshop
with author Susan Van Allen

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Monday, March 10
7 PM to 9 PM
Distant Lands
20 S. Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
$39.00
To reserve write to: 100placesinitaly@gmail.com
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: 100placesinitaly@gmail.com

From Traveler’s Bookcase, Los Angeles:

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

Delightful!–Gerseli

I loved this journal workshop and I’m excited to implement Susan’s many wonderful tips and inspirations.  — Ellen

Contact:100placesinitaly@gmail.com to sign up for this upcoming workshop, or to arrange for a class in your area

Golden Day 103: Pizzo with Susanne Crosetto of Palazzo Pizzo

February 25, 2014

BLACKANDWHITEThrough the miracles of the blogosphere, I have found a true adventurer: Susanne Crosetto. She is German born and married to an Italian, who is from Pizzo, Calabria. They lived in Beijing and now reside in Bangkok, but spend spring and summer in Pizzo. Susanne’s passions are writing, painting, and photography–she has beautiful photographs of Pizzo on her entertaining blog,  that documents the renovation she and her husband did of a 200 year old palazzo,transforming it into Palazzo Pizzo Residence.

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The residence is a gem of an accommodation, a one bedroom, beautifully designed, set on the edge of a cliff, with spectacular sunset views from its terrace. 

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I am so grateful that Susanne has joined in to share advice for a Golden Day in Pizzo

In Pizzo, life is slow here. You will find time to relax and enjoy the good things in life: food, wine and conversations.

The day starts with a  cappuccino at Bar Belvedere. Piazza della Repubblica, 44, Phone: 0963 531423.

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I always bring my visitors first to the Piazza Repubblica of Pizzo. It is the main piazza and Pizzitani call it the living room of Pizzo. If you want to meet someone, you sit down in the piazza and wait until the person you were looking for passes by.

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Pizzo has ten churches–many for a small fishing village. The most famous is the church Piedigrotta carved into stone on a beach outside Pizzo. But there are equally interesting and beautiful churches in the historic center.

Golden Days in Pizzo Chiesa Piedigrotta

Next, the beach! It’s a 5 minute walk from the piazza down the alleys to the Marina. The 70 km Calabrian Coast between Pizzo and Nicotera deserves is divine name,Coast of Gods”, la Costa degli Dei . The crystal clear, turquoise coloured sea is amazing! So activities are swimming, diving, snorkling, boating and fishing. If you visit our residence, we can arrange a trip with our own gozzo type boat, a bit Capri style. 

Golden Days in Pizzo Marina

While swimming in crystal clear waters, you will know it is noon when the church bells ring and “Ave Gloria” music blasts through loud speakers. It feels like heaven, no matter where you are, you know you have arrived in paradise.

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About 30 minutes later the natives pack their swim things and leave the beach to prepare lunch at home. Then comes the afternoon nap. 9652034547_fc0784a664_z

In the late afternoon you might walk to the piazza again. The best way to discover the centro storico is by strolling the narrow and picturesque alleys.Pizzo 5

One activity is to taste Pizzo’s famous tartufo ice cream. It is a ball of chocolate and hazelnut ice cream filled with liquid chocolate and rolled in chocolate powder. There are about 14 to 20 ice cream parlours that sell it–try Bar Gelateria Belvedere (Piazza della Repubblica, 44, 0963531423) and Bar Gelaterie Ercole (Piazza della Repubblica, 18, 0963531149) both in the piazza.

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Then you choose among one of the many little restaurants. A very good small one is  San Domenico (Via Colapesce,3491390255), located above la Seggiola. They do not have a menu as the chef cooks the catch of the day and what he found at the local market. It’s slightly more pricey than the usual restaurants in Pizzo, as you will order at least two courses, and only serves dinner, starting around 9 pm. Service is not fast, but dishes creative and tasty. 

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We also like La Lampara (Via Marcello Salomone 128, 09631950378), the food is good and I really like the interior decorating. .

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If you are looking for something simple and casual, SPQR (Piazza della Repubblica 33, 3279445702) does great pizzas and pastas. 

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After dinner, in summer there is entertainment in the piazza until late at night, and you can mingle with the friendly Pizzitani and maybe even try some more tartufo!

Pizzo by night

As far as a place to stay, besides Palazzo Pizzo Residence, there is only one hotel in the centro storic, Piccolo Grand Hotel. They were named one of the top 10 romantic hotels in Italy by Trip Advisor in 2012!

Palazzo Pizzo Residence collage

Grazie mille Susanne! Please save me a place on that terrace!

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