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Golden Day 110: Delicious Modena in Emilia Romagna

May 20, 2014

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.

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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.

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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).

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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)

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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.

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Barozzi Cake

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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!

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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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!

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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.

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The 3-star Hotel Estense , is a great place to stay, with simple, chic rooms and a great breakfast buffet.

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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 109: See the Riace Bronzes in Reggio Calabria

May 13, 2014

Calabria’s star art treasures are The Riace Bronzes: Two Greek bronze sculptures of warriors from the Fifth Century, BC.

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They are stunning glorifications of the ideal male form, with rippled muscles, majestic stances, exuding an air of mystery.

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Their discovery was simply miraculous: In 1972, a chemist from Rome was snorkeling off the coast of Riace. He caught sight of an arm emerging from the sand, that he first thought was a dead body. Moving closer, he realized he’d stumbled upon an ancient masterpiece…and then found another nearby! He called the police, the sculptures were dredged up, and found to be in excellent shape.

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Today the Riace Bronzes are the symbol of Reggio Calabria, the capital of the region of Calabria. They recently were restored and are displayed atop marble pedestals at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria,.(aka The National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria), open Monday to Sunday 9:10am- 7pm, Call (+39) 3207176148 for reservations.

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Photo Credit: http://www.madeinsouthitalytoday.com/

Be sure to reserve in advance for your visit–keeping in mind that it’s best to go in the early mornings, before the tour groups crowd in. You’ll be shown a video about the statues, taken to a filtering station, and then brought into the climate-controlled room for 20 minutes to admire these astonishing pieces.

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For a Golden Day in Reggio Calabria, have lunch at Ristorante Baylik (Vico Leone 1/3/5,0965 48624,Open for lunch and dinner) for traditional seafood dishes, such as spaghetti con bottarga di tonno or mixed grilled fish.

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Enjoy a walk along the Lungomare, and stop in at the city’s beloved gelateria, Cesare (Piazza Indipendenza, 01287.170805). If you’re there in the summer, you may even enjoy a show at the Arena dello Stretto, with stunning views of the sea.

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For dinner, reserve a table at Officina del Gusto (Via Placido Geraci 17/19, 0965.332830,Open only for Dinner), an elegant and friendly place with a fantastic wine list, that serves delicious traditional specialties, using organic products, including great beef selections.12948_731764170186860_2022530561_n

 If you’re spending the night, check into the sweet Possidonea B&B

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Be sure not to miss these astonishing treasures when you visit Calabria! Click Here for Tourist info...And if you are there this summer, Click Here for Info about the Special Exhibit welcoming back the Riace Bronzes…Buon Viaggio!

Golden Day 108: Monterosso with Grace Cleere of A House in Italy

May 8, 2014

gail in front of Casa SerenaWhen I stumbled upon the website: A House in Italy, I was intrigued to dig deeper. What were Americans doing in this remote mountain village? The search led me to Grace Cleere, and here’s how she explains it…

I was working with the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Navy in Washington DC, taking middle school students around the world on navy oceanographic ships. We did oceanography while at sea, along with history and culture touring while on land. One year the ship was based in Naples, and we took the students south to Calabria to see “the real Italy.”  We met Antonio Parisi as our guide, and that was the beginning.  Every time the ships were based in the Med in the years following, we went back to Monterosso with the kids.  After 9/11, when Antonio realized that such trips would now be an impossibility any longer, he said to me, “You’ll never come back here unless I convince you to buy a house.”  I scoffed and said  I am not a rich woman, but he showed me a small place for 12,000 Euro.  Heck, that was the price of a used car, so I put the house on a credit card!!  

Grace bought the 12th century house in 2003,here’s a look at the interior…

CasaSerenaGrace has since convinced her brother and sister-in-law, and several friends and colleagues to buy homes here too. The Monterossini look upon this small American community with great wonder, and all have become great friends… trading adventures, day trips, days at the beach, and of course food and recipes!

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I’m so grateful to have met adventurous Grace, and that she’s joined in to give us advice for a Golden Day in Monterosso:

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Monterosso Calabro dates to a time of crusaders and sultans, peasants and adventurers. Tucked into a fold in the hilly peaks of the narrowest part of Italy’s ‘toe,’ about 40 minutes from Lamezia airport to the north and Tropea to the south, it clings to one of the many hills that tumble in great waves down to the sea, straddling both sides of the peninsula.  This is the area where Crusaders landed in order to cross the peninsula on their way to the Holy Land. Richard the Lionhearted tramped near here many times!

The oldest part of town is a jumble of ancient houses and mostly abandoned palazzo, winding around themselves like an ancient Saracen souk.

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Take a walk here to get a sense of what it was like in medieval times.  Find – or have the expert local, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), take you to  the old Norman tower, built as a defensive lookout by distant relations the likes of William the Conqueror, most likely in the early 12th century. 

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Work your way down the narrow streets to the Museum (open on request), a former mill, and the town’s lovely main church (always open) filled with 18th and 19th century saints and madonnas.  church front

A second church is found in a small piazzetta, and features a ceiling painting of the Battle of Lepanto.Then take a hike up to the Monastero part of town where there is a third church (with a particularly realistic arrow-filled St. Sebastian), and high above it, the ruins of a Camaldolese Monastery. From here you’ll get a spectacular view of the town and out to the Mediterranean.

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 If the day is clear, you will see the Stromboli volcano floating surprisingly high on the sea!

Monterosso gastronomy is an intriguing mix of Italian and sometimes Arab ingredients(Sultanas, Almonds). Be prepared to “go local” – very little English is spoken, and menus in five languages are not to be found!  The village boasts several very good established restaurants (and new ones popping up), and superb kitchens in local agriturismi.  (Think tortellini stuffed with local funghi (mushrooms) and cinghiale (boar’s meat)! Yum!)

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Both Il Ghiottone (literally the glutton, but also the gourmand) and Il Melograno (the pomegranate) are on Via Roma leading out of town towards the north, and are family-run restaurants with views over a valley of olive trees with the lovely ancient skyline of Monterosso in the background.

 Il Ghiottone (+39 0963 326022) does exceedingly good fresh fish and meats as well as delicious pizza, and has both local and bottled wines as well as a full bar.

 Il  Melograno (+39 333.9082953), where Graziella and her husband Ottaviano do the cooking (and bake their own bread), specializes in delectable antipasti dishes, and pastas and lasagna with whatever is in season, especially forest mushrooms.  Ask what Graziella is preparing in the kitchen, while Ottaviano and his daughters fetch their wine.  Don’t forget the fresh desserts in either place.

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If you’re looking for a place to stay, I recommend, Villa Velia, above town on Mount Copari. It has wine and olive oil presses, a teaching kitchen, an observation tower, six well-appointed rooms (soon to be eight), and a large beautiful dining room. Stanza Letto

The villa’s owner, is my friend and tour guide, Antonio Parisi (+39 347 6233680), who speaks excellent English, having been a former tour manager and history and culture guide for American Express and Grand Circle Tours. He is available for tours of the village, and throughout Calabria and Sicily.  He is entertaining, cultured, and highly adaptable to whatever interests you have.

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 Antonio’s  wife Velia is the extraordinary cook at the Villa (you must call Antonio for a reservation first), known for her delicious meats, vegetables, and grilled fishes.  Her torta di alici is a specialty – fresh anchovies are something we can’t get in the States. 

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Another good accommodation in the old part of town is B&B Palazzetto Dell’orologio.

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Monterosso, like so many other towns in Calabria, brings visitors to “real Italy”. So that means along with history and beauty are sections built in the 1930s (cement block buildings), and trash and recyclables put out by the doors nearly every day. Despite this, it’s a lovely place, where you’ll enjoy friendly people, excellent food, and spectacular nature and views.

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Grazie Mille Grace—you’ve tempted me to come over and look at what’s for sale…To check out the offerings, Click Here!

Golden Day 107: Cosenza with LuLu Bianco of Calabrisella Mia

April 28, 2014

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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 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.

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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.

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 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 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.

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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…

titian's annunciation

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!
021annun

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