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

October 21, 2014

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

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



Here’s their advice:

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


Golden Day 120 with Author Lexa Dudley’s Advice for Cagliari, Sardinia

September 27, 2014

 untitled (2)We are moving on to the magical island of Sardinia. On my first visit there, I stayed in Cagliari, just in time for their amazing celebration that begins every May–the Feast of Sant’ Efisio. It’s one of the grandest and most colorful religious celebrations in the world–There was a 3 hour parade… gorgeous Sardinians in traditional costumes accented with gold jewelry, riding in carriages bedecked with flowers, pulled by bulls, accompanied by soulful music… a breathtaking experience.

I’m grateful to have connected with Lexa Dudley, an author who has a great passion for Sardinia, and has written a romance, “The Whispering Wind” that’s set on the island… and set on my reading list.

In the meantime, here is Lexa with her advivice for A Golden Day in Cagliari, City of the sun on the ‘Unknown Island’ of Sardinia.

First, I must confess that I fell in love with Sardinia over forty years ago, when it was well off the tourist beaten track; it became the home of my soul and Cagliari lives in my heart.

My golden day would see me heading off to Piazza Arsenale to see the National Museum of Archaeology (070684000) which houses some of the wonderfully crafted bronzetti from the bronze age of the Nuraghic people.




For the early birds the market at San Benedetto is wonderful to get the freshest fruit, veggies, and meat!



The dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria(Piazza Palazzo 4, 070663837)

cathedral-of-cagliari3cathedral-of-cagliari10Take the lift down again to Viale Regina Margherita to find Antico Caffe  (Piazza Costituzione 10, 070658206) which was opened in 1855 and was a favourite of Cagliari’s literati in the 19th and 20th century including D H Lawrence and Grazia Deledda.


The food is excellent and it is wonderful to just sit and soak up the atmosphere. It seems to be open all hours, so a visit for coffee in the morning or a final one late at night is a must.

The Botanical Gardens(Via Sant’Ignazio da Laconia) are great if you want a gentle stroll in the cool after lunch or a rest on a bench. 519f4676e17b7

 Of course a walk in Sardinia would not be complete without a gelato and wherever you find yourself in the city you are bound to find one to satisfy your taste

Cremeria Ritz (Via Sassari 70,3295409601) is known to  serve the creamiest, the freshest, and in a word, the finest ice-cream in town! Or there is L’Isola del Gelato(Piazza Yenne 35, 070 65 98 24). This is more than just an ice-cream parlour and has become a point of reference for locals and tourists


You could also take a bus with ‘P’on it and go to Poetto where you can enjoy the beach with its white sand and amazing little huts and kiosks where coffee or soft drinks can be bought. You can hire an umbrella and chair to enjoy the gentle sea breezes from crystal waters; this is a great favourite with the locals.


 The evening meal is something special in Sardinia and there are many restaurants throughout the city that serve traditional Sardinian food.

Il Buongustaio(Via Concezione 7, 070668124, Open 12:30 – 15:00, 20:00 – 23:00 Mon, Tue 12:30 – 15:00)This establishment specializes in anything fresh coming from the Mediterranean Sea and has a great list of local recipes. Their culurgiones(Sardinian dumplings, filled with potatoes and cheese, served with tomato sauce), fregola con arselle (a type of local pasta in the shape of small balls, served in a clam soup) and sebadas (two fried disks of pastry filled with cheese and topped with honey) are all home-made.



Opera Prima(Via Campidano 9, 070684619, Open 12:45 – 15:00, 19:30 – 23:00, Sun 12:45 – 15:00. Closed Mon.) A bright and spacious environment to enjoy typical Sardinian specialities but also innovative dishes presented with imagination. The atmosphere is elegant but at the same time it gives you a homely feeling and the staff is always ready to satisfy your every need.

45After a mouth-watering meal, a stroll along the Marina is a great way to finish off a day.


If you want to stay in a hotel, then the Hotel Regina Margherita(Viale Regina Margherita 44) in the street of the same name is the place to be. It is in the centre of Cagliari and the top rooms have a wonderful view of the city. Breakfast is as big or small as you want it and just about all you could wish for.


Sometimes I stay in a Bed and Breakfast up in the Casteddu’e Susu area. With a voucher for breakfast you can share your morning coffee with the locals.


Grazie Mille Lexa!

Golden Day 119: With Monia Magalotti, Rimini Tour Guide

September 8, 2014

unnamedIt has been great to connect with Monia Magalotti, whose passion for her hometown of Rimini is infectious. Monia is a Rimini tour guide who loves showing travelers all the pleasures of this place.

I’ve been intrigued by Rimini ever since I saw the Federico Fellini Oscar Award Winning Masterpiece, Amarcord, which was inspired by his childhood here. The town has named their airport in his honor!

AmarcordPoster472I’m so grateful Monia has joined in to share with us her advice for a Golden Day in Rimini: .

 Rimini is known worldwide as a seaside resort and as the hometown of the movie director Federico Fellini, but it is also a very ancient town, founded by the Romans in 268 b.C., boasting beautiful and interesting monuments, dating back to different times.


There are many good cafés to choose from. In the center is Caffe Cavour (Piazza Cavour 12), or if you are close to the beach, go to Caffé Pascucci, in Marina Centro (Via Circonvallazione 16/A), that serves a lot of different coffee combinations.


 See the town: The Malatesta Temple (Via Quattro Novembre), now the Cathedral of Rimini, is an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture. It was commissioned by Sigismondo Malatesta, the magnificent and powerful Lord of Rimini from 1432 to 1468, who brought on the architect Leon Battista Alberti to wrap the 13th century Gothic church into a new shell of white marble, so it would become a mausoleum for him and his lover and later his wife, Isotta degli Atti. Though the work was never entirely completed, it’s still a beautiful place to see. Inside is a wooden Crucifix by Giotto, a fresco by Piero della Francesca and bas-reliefs and sculptures by Agostino di Duccio.


The Tiberius’ bridge-Ponte di Tiberio (Via Aemilia), is an imposing structure from the days of Ancient Rome, built between the years 14 and 21 AD. In 2014, we’re celebrating the 2000 Year Anniversary of this bridge!


Other treasures from the Roman period include The Arch of Augustus,the ancient Roman city gate..


 And the “Domus del chirurgo” (the surgeon’s house), a complex where archaeologists found the largest set of ancient Roman surgical instruments, dating from about 250 AD.


In the central Piazza Cavour, you’ll find medieval buildings and the fish market, that’s been around since 1747.


A favorite place for gelato there is Gelateria il Castello(Via Dario Campana 1 and Piazza Cavour 11) where flavours of the month vary depending on the season.


 For aperitivo, I would suggest Antica Drogheria Spazi (5, p. Cavour, 054123439), a place frequented by locals and tourists. Of if you are by the beachfront, a popular bar/restaurant for aperitivo, with a friendly atmosphere, is Barrumba(Lungomare Murri 79, 3297275812 )


There are lots of great restaurants in Rimini.

When I feel like eating meat, I go to Osteria Tiresia, a typical country restaurant where of corse you can eat tasty homemade pasta, but I always have a piada, plain grilled Tagliata di Manzo (finely-cut beef fillet) with grilled vegetables and piadina, our typical flat unleavened bread.



If you’re looking for fresh fish, caught off the coast, you can choose  Osteria Il Pescato del Canevone. There is no regular menu here: you can read the daily specials, completely based on the catch of the day, written on  a black board! Even the place is unusual: the building was a medieval two-story house, changed into a proper warehouse (canevone!) in the XV century.


Stay at I-Suite(Viale Regina Elena 28) the first all-suite design hotel of the Rimini Riviera.


Grazie Mille Monia, I look forward to you showing me around Rimini soon!


New Book! September Travel Journal Writing Workshop

August 26, 2014

 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 


Buon Ferragosto!

August 15, 2014


August 15 is a Big Beautiful Holiday in Italy, that goes way back to the days of the Roman Empire, when it was the Festival Holidays of the Emperor AugustusThe Goddess Diana was at the center of the revels, symbolizing the cycle of fertility, and all were grateful for the summer days of sunshine and ripening…Here’s Diana in a Villa D’Este fountain…


Along came Catholocism, and the holiday switched to center around the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, a triumphant event that inspired masterpieces…

Titian’s in the Frari in Venice is my favorite, with Mary dancing skyward…


I also love Correggio’s in the ceiling of Parma’s cathedral...

And Parma il Vecchio’s…




As Mary is Star of the Sea, Ferragosto celebrations at Italy’s beaches are spectacular. Such as in Positano, a village on the Amalfi Coast, where festivities begin on August 14, and the statue from the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is paraded along the winding stairways…Image00001Image00002Image00005

The grand finale on the night of August 15 is a fabulous fireworks display…

My Jersey shore memories of August 15: This was the day when my mother would say, “All the waters are blessed!” So we’d be sure to take a swim in the ocean, bring bottles with us to the beach, fill them up with the blessed water, and carry them back to my Nana and Aunts, who would take their breaks from making eggplant parmesan and pour that water on their swelled up feet…


Wherever you are, we wish you Happy Celebrations of this Abundant, Ripe Summertime — Buon Ferragosto!

Golden Day 118: Faenza with Laura Silvagni of Ceramiche La Vecchia Faenza

August 5, 2014

LAURAI discovered the Superstar Ceramicist  Laura Silvagni while reading Laura Morelli’s  wonderful book, Made in Italya MUST READ for anyone interested in the backstage story of Italian artisans.

One of the many artisans Made in Italy features is Laura Silvagni, who is from the town of Faenza in Emilia-Romagna, a place that has been renowned for ceramics since the Renaissance.

14472_698720866811582_236498183_nOf  the many patterns Faenza is famous for, I love the Garofano (carnation style), that was inspired by French and Asian ceramics and became popular here in the 18th century.

GAROFANOLaura Silvagni brings a new interpretation of traditional Faenza designs to her work, that’s been praised internationally. Her hand painted ceramics have become part of prized private collections–including that of Pope John Paul II. She is well known for her hand painted Raffallesco pieces…


You can find creations of Laura’s and other Faenza artisans at La Vecchia Faenza (Via S. Ippolito 23/a), where there is an attached laboratory and tours are offered for free. And in the center of Faenza is the Laura Silvagni shop (Corso Garibaldi 12/A), where you can also see artisans at work, including Laura, painting ceramics.

LAURAPAINTINGI’m so very grateful Laura has joined in to give us her advice for a Golden Day in Faenza

Faenza has a beautiful historical city center, so the best thing to start with is a nice sightseeing walk. As it’s largely pedestrian only, walking is pleasant, or you may wish to rent a bike, which most of the hotels provide. The historical part of the town within the city walls includes many medieval, renaissance, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings and monuments: Piazza del Popolo, the Cathedral, the Monumental Fountain, the Theater, the Chiesa della Commenda. Faenza-Historye88316b4338cfc62c5794dbe2e22f7a3la_cattedrale-di-faenza_e_fontana-monumentaleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchiesa-commenda-foto-r

If you like the neoclassical style and architecture you should not miss the Palazzo Milzetti National Museum of Neoclassical Art (Via Tonducci 15 48018,054626493) with its beautiful frescoes. interno-milzetti

Certainly, Faenza’s most important museum is the International Museum of Ceramics(Viale Alfredo Baccarini 19,0546697311) with its huge collection of works of art from all ages and from all continents. It also hosts many important temporary exhibitions.  collezioni_1 As you enjoy your morning in Faenza, you have lots of choices of caffes in the cente, including Nove 100 (Corso Mazzini 69,054668704), which has a pretty outdoor patio… 100 My favorite places for gelato are Puro& Bio (Viale Roberto Valturio 39, 3299331476) or Linus Jazz (Corso Aurelio Saffi 42,054621576) 10151994_781180081906210_7292439646169238147_n

When aperitivo time comes, a short walk from the Ceramics Museum there is Clan Destino (Viale Baccarini, 21/A, 0546681327, Open 3:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. daily), where you’re also likely to find live music.   230984_10150180369691379_2131440_n For a delicious lunch or dinner, in the city center, not far from the main square is Trattoria Marianaza  (Via E.Torricelli 21,0546681461) where you should order tortelloni (stuffed pasta) or grilled steaks. Or you may enjoy La Baita (Via Naviglio 25c, 054621584) where you can find a good selection of typical products and wines.


A great place to stay is Hotel Vittoria (Corso Garibaldi 23), a historical hotel near the main square. It has beautiful art nouveau frescoes and furniture which create a unique atmospheare. The bar and restaurant are also very nice! The hotel also exhibits a selection of works from many ceramists from Faenza. vittoria-hotel-faenza_STD hotel-vit2toria And be sure to stop by the Pro Loco Faenza; a Tourist Information Center(Voltone della Molinella 2, 054625231) located in the main square, where they will give you all the needed information and tips, and tell you about events while you’re there. 1422366_199432026909231_1466013458_n

Grazie mille Laura! I look forward to visiting beautiful Faenza this fall…

Meanwhile, you can buy ceramics from La Vecchia Faenza online, CLICK HERE…

AND enjoy more of Laura Morelli’s books, including her first fiction book, THE GONDOLA MAKER, where she masterfully immerses you in Renaissance Venice:

LAURA2Click here for author Laura Morelli’s WEBSITE

Golden Day 117: The Ravenna Seaside with Pierpaolo Zoffoli of the DiRavenna Project

July 22, 2014

unnamedI’m so grateful Pierpaolo Zoffoli of the DiRavenna project  is back to give us more of his advice for exploring the Ravenna coast. Here’s his insider’s tips for a Golden Day on the Seaside of Ravenna





Start out with an adventure! Take a boat trip to Spinaroni Island. This is an amazing tour in the Pialassa, the lagoon outside Ravenna, including a World War II itinerary, where you’ll learn about Partisan Brigades, those brave ones who formed an underground Italian resistance group, fighting Nazis and fascists. Click here for more info. (2 hour trip, 15 euros).


Or, if you’d prefer to bike in the area, you can explore Ravenna’s wonderful Pine Forest=Classe di Pineta that’s also a paradise for birdwatching (flamingos, herons, shelducks, and many more!) Click here for guided bike tours…For more info (Length:2-1/2 hours, 10 euro for bike rental and guide).


Spend the rest of the day in Marina di Ravenna, that has a harbor and lots of beach clubs…


A great place for lunch is Molo Tre Zero — with creative cuisine by Chef Luca, featuring the local seafood!


Relax on a beach in the afternoon… …


For aperitivo and/or dinner, go to Mowa (Viale delle Nazioni 177, 0544530234 ), for great cocktails, pizza, and fresh seafood platters..


crudo-7-1024x764 Here are some places to have fun after dark:

Taverna Bukowski for good music and a lively atmosphere…


And Hana-Bi


Which is also a great aperitivo stop…3

and they have great concerts, (outdoors May to September), featuring indie rock and experimental music.


Here are some good places to stay, back in the historical center of Ravenna:

Hotel Diana,(Via Girolamo Rossi 47), where you’ll find airy, modern décor, a great staff, and wonderful breakfast buffet.



B&B Capannetti (Vicolo Capannetti 19), a charming place with a garden. 



Grazie Pierapolo! Looks like a great place for a lively summer beach scene…

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