Monday, September 14, 2009

Flea Markets in Italy

Does any one know of any flea markets in Italy. I love to look for local color.

Submit suggestions to

Naviglio Grande Antiques Market
On the last Sunday of each month but July, sellers line this mile-long canal-side stretch with pristine vintage clothing and accessories, from designer bags to leather gloves.
Where: Alzaia Naviglio Grande by the Porta Genova subway stop; dates and locations listed at the association's website
When: The last Sunday of every month but July

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How NOT to Kill Your Spouse on the Road!

1. Communicate "Find your own phrase to say to support your partner when you don't have the privacy you want or when life on the road is getting you down. For instance, a simple 'Good morning' can mean 'I love you.'
2. Stay amused "Play silly games. Like 'Which movie star does that driver we just passed look like?' Such pointless fun alleviates the kind of boredom that sooner or later leads to pointless arguments."
3. Indulge "While traveling cheaply through Italy, Larry decided we should experience Positano as it was meant to be enjoyed. We checked into a nice hotel and had a totally elegant dinner. That bit of luxury made everything else better."
4. Pace yourselves "Six places in eight days is not interesting. When you slow down, you discover where you need to work together. Travel can be the renewal of a relationship."
5. Go solo "You don't have to spend every minute together. Set aside an afternoon to shop on our own for jewelry and music. After a few hours of exploring alone, it's fun to regroup and share your adventures."
6. Do not disturb "Different sleeping patterns may not be a problem at home, but when you're in the relatively confined space of a hotel room, they can make life hard. Bring earphones for watching television and eye masks for the light."
7. Chill out "You have to learn to roll with the punches. If we're starving and driving each other crazy, and there's no restaurant for another 70 miles, we can either get a chocolate bar at a gas station, or we can stick it out." Or in my case always carry a snack. We make a habit of stocking up in the airport before we get our rental car. A bag of peanuts and a drink may be really handy when you haven't eaten for 12 hours and the hotel restaurant is closed..
8. Make special plans "Create surprising little gifts out of the mundane: 'Honey, I rented us a car with a stick shift!' or 'Guess what, we're flying direct!' Your partner will then feel as if you've taken his or her preferences into account."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara di Zucchine

Carbonara is a legendary Roman pasta dish. Here's a version that includes sautéed zucchini. It's meat-free yet every bit as delicious as the original version.

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more less as you like it..
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 pound medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (about 3 1/2 cups)
preferably fresh from the garden. I used Seeds from Italy and grew my own. But if you can't do this go to the local farmers market.

2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
12 ounces spaghetti

6 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces, divided

Preparation Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and sauté until beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; discard garlic if your wish.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and Parmesan in large bowl to blend. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; add to egg mixture and toss to coat (heat from pasta will cook eggs).

Add zucchini mixture and half of basil to pasta; stir gently to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining basil and serve.
yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Check out the perfect pasta bowl

Rare Peek at Riches of Past in Rome

The original Roman door at the Temple of Romulus. This and other archaeological sites, usually off limits, have been opened to the public.

A room from the House of Gryphons on the Palatine Hill.

A carving from the House of Gryphons.

A fresco that has been relocated to the Loggia Mattei on the Palatine.

Often, after the initial news media fanfare that usually accompanies such finds and their restoration, many of the ancient habitats have returned to the obscurity from which they emerged. There just aren’t enough custodians to monitor these important archaeological sites, and so they are off limits to the public.

But this summer — except in August, when it’s too hot — Rome’s archaeological authority has reallocated money so that it can provide staffs for five monuments in the ancient heart of Rome that are usually closed. The initiative will also allow nighttime visits to the Colosseum and offer free after-hours concerts in the museums that house the state’s collection of ancient Roman art.

Like art institutions elsewhere in a time of financial instability, Italy’s principal archaeological sites have had to cope with significant financial cuts that have affected accessibility and new excavations. The openings are the archaeological authority’s response to those budget woes.

“The shortage of guards is a huge problem that really must be resolved,” said Maria Antonietta Tomei, director of the Palatine and Roman Forum, as she strode purposefully around the site. On a good day, she said, only about a quarter of the approximately 80 security guards assigned to the area are on the job (holidays, illness and days off account for the absences), “and that’s just not enough.” But there’s no money to hire any more.

“Even when we restore buildings, we usually only manage to keep them open for a few days, even if the restorations have been long and complex and costly,” she said. “Then we only open them up to scholars.”

The chance to see previously closed sites is being made possible with state money that is usually set aside for staff bonuses and special projects, Ms. Tomei said. Normally cantankerous unions have also signed on.

Among the attractions that await visitors is the House of Livia, once the home of the wife of the emperor Augustus. The two-story structure has been closed for more than two decades, but until October it will be open every Tuesday.

By later imperial standards, the house, with its panels of architectonic motifs and flowery festoons, might even be described as modest. “Augustus didn’t love waste,” Ms. Tomei said. “He lived in the same rooms for 40 years.”

(One Italian visitor said with a snort on Tuesday, “Unlike Italy’s current head of government,” referring to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose supposed antics in his palatial residence — complete with a model of an erupting volcano — on the island of Sardinia have fueled gossip magazines and mainstream newspapers here for weeks.)

The Colosseum, Palatine and Roman Forum, which can be visited with one ticket, are Italy’s biggest tourist draw, and in 2008 nearly five million visitors brought in more than $50 million. But the financial crisis has had an effect on tourism. Hotel occupancy was down about 8 percent in March from the year before, according to the most recent statistics available from Rome’s municipal tourist office. (It’s too soon to know whether the Colosseum numbers have changed.)

New monuments to visit might be one way to lure tourists. For example, buried under the ruins of the Domus Flavia, built by Nero and Domitian, are the remains of the so-called House of Gryphons, one of the most important residences of Republican Rome. Excavated in 1912, it is virtually unknown outside academic circles. It too is now open on Tuesdays.

Behind its massive original bronze doors, the misnamed Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum (it was probably the Temple of Jupiter Stator) shows evidence of the gradual merging of pagan religions with the Christian usurper. Like the so-called Oratory of the 40 Martyrs, decorated with eighth-century frescoes of soldiers who perished in frozen waters in Armenia, the temple is now open on Fridays.

One relatively modern attraction is the Loggia Mattei, which dates from the Renaissance, when some aristocratic families colonized the Palatine with landscaped gardens and small villas, often absorbing Roman ruins. Frescoes from a hall dedicated to the cult of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, have been brought here from another site on the Palatine. The loggia, built in the 16th century, was briefly open in 1997, Ms. Tomei said, “but even then we didn’t have enough custodians. Since then it’s fallen into oblivion.”

The ancient frescoes abut the newer loggia, which was painted by the workshop of Baldassare Peruzzi with mythological scenes. The decoration includes 12 roundels with signs of the Zodiac, panels that belong to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Published: July 3, 2009 , New York Times Online

Photo’s courtesy of the Photographic Archive Soprintendenza

Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcome to our Gift Registry

We would like to introduce a new service for our website. Now you can shop for all your favorite items and let all your friends and family know what you would like for your own special gift. It's easy just follow the instructions below.

Creating a New Gift Registry

It's easy to use! Just shop for your desired items like you were going to purchase them yourself. Add them to your shopping cart one at a time in the quantity that you desire. When you are finished with your selections, click CHECKOUT to submit your Registry.

Next, fill out the contact information, and choose "Registry" as your payment type.

You will receive your own customized registry link to send to your guests, family & friends, and to post on your wedding website or Facebook/MySpace.

You can also send your guests directly to our site and they can search for your registry.

We have created a quick list for you to use when setting up a more formal wedding registry.

Selecting your Dinnerware pattern should be an enjoyable experience. We’ll help you get there!
Take a moment to look inside yourself. What colors do you surround yourself in? Shades of Blue? Red? Green or Neutrals?
Your pottery should (and can) reflect your color preferences. Mixing patterns and adding trendy colors in accessories, salads or Chargers (they sit beneath your dinner plate) over the years will keep your table fresh and exciting, so don’t be afraid to play and have fun!

After color preference we’ll look at patterns classic, modern, floral or simple banded. A combination of designs can give your table that wow factor you thought might not have been possible!

Now we’ll move on to place settings. You’ll want a minimum of 12 five-piece place settings for your formal dinnerware. This will include a dinner plate, salad plate, bread & butter plate and a cup & saucer. The soup/pasta bowl is a separate piece. Remember; you can serve a pasta appetizer, salad or even dessert in your soup!
For your everyday dinnerware 8-10 place settings will do. The place setting in casual dinnerware will include; a dinner plate, salad plate, soup or cereal bowl and mug or cup & saucer.
Don’t forget to register for all your much needed accessories.

· A teapot and coffee pot (If you drink coffee and tea, register for both)

· 12 extra salad or dessert plates (this way no one will be in the kitchen washing salad plates to come back for dessert!)

· Salt & Pepper shakers

Caring for your majolica is easier today than ever before. Manufacturers know that contemporary couples lead busy lives and demand the ease of machine washing. * Most pottery is dishwasher safe. Newer dishwashers have a fine china setting use it. If yours does not, be sure to use a minimum of non-abrasive and non-acidic detergent, being sure to space your pieces. When the wash & dry cycle is complete, always let your pieces cool completely before putting it away.
*Be sure to speak with your La Tavola Bella bridal registry consultant about the best ways to give your pottery the care it deserves.

If you have any problems you can just call us at (540) 270-4502 or email us at and we will set it up for you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Olive Oil from Umbria

For a precious few weeks after crushing, olive oil has a wonderful pungent, hot-peppery, and intensely fruity quality. This is called olio nuovo, literally "new oil."
One of the great pleasures of being in Italy in November and December is tasting the oil just as it comes from the press. A great tradition in Umbria and Tuscany is to venture into the countryside and attend the new oil festa at the local frantoio (olive press/factory) where they serve bruschetta, crusty bread grilled, rubbed with garlic, and doused with the olio nuovo, then sprinkled with sea salt. All of Italy celebrates the olio nuovo with bottles of the intense nectar in every restaurant. Read the Olio Nuovo Newsletter with highlights of this year's harvest:

Olivestri produces exquisite Gold Medal winning olive oil from select hand-picked olives. Located on the Tuscan border not far from Cortona and the famous wine producing town of Montepulciano, Petrignano imbues the best of Tuscany and Umbria in its oil. If you are not familiar with Olivestri, you can read about them here.
All of there olio nuovo is completely unfiltered so that you can enjoy it the way they do in Italy.
If you have questions about sediment and age expectancy of olio nuovo, you can read abut it here: The Gunk

Check out our selection of oil bottles to keep your favorite oil fresh. Protect fresh oil from light and excess heat by keeping a selection on the counter for cooking and the rest in a safe cool cabinet. No use wasting the precious oil.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How not to Kill Your Spouse While Traveling

Sometimes a little Humor goes a long ways...

1. Communicate "Find your own phrase to say to support your partner when you don't have the privacy you want or when life on the road is getting you down. For instance, a simple 'Good morning' can mean 'I love you.'

2. Stay amused "Play silly games. Like 'Which movie star does that driver we just passed look like?' Such pointless fun alleviates the kind of boredom that sooner or later leads to pointless arguments."

3. Indulge "While traveling cheaply through Italy, we decided we should experience Positano as it was meant to be enjoyed. We checked into a nice hotel and had a totally elegant dinner. That bit of luxury made everything else better."

4. Pace yourselves "Six places in eight days is not interesting. When you slow down, you discover where you need to work together. Travel can be the renewal of a relationship."

5. Go solo "You don't have to spend every minute together. Set aside an afternoon to shop on our own for jewelry and music. After a few hours of exploring alone, it's fun to regroup and share your adventures."

6. Do not disturb "Different sleeping patterns may not be a problem at home, but when you're in the relatively confined space of a hotel room, they can make life hard. Bring earphones for watching television and eye masks for the light."

7. Chill out "You have to learn to roll with the punches. If we're starving and driving each other crazy, and there's no restaurant for another 70 miles, we can either get a chocolate bar at a gas station, or we can stick it out." Or in my case always carry a snack. We make a habit of stocking up in the airport before we get our rental car. A bag of peanuts and a drink may be really handy when you haven't eaten for 12 hours and the hotel restaurant is closed..

8. Make special plans "Create surprising little gifts out of the mundane: 'Honey, I rented us a car with a stick shift!' or 'Guess what, we're flying direct!' Your partner will then feel as if you've taken his or her preferences into account."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Barboursville Vineyards & Palladio Restaurant

Well if you can't make it to Italy right now, try a weekend getaway at Barboursville Vineyards.
As the birthplace of American viticulture, Virginia has been cultivating and producing wine grapes for more than four centuries and now has about 140 wineries. To witness where some of the state's finest wines are made, head to Barboursville Vineyards, just 20 minutes outside of Charlottesville. Tour the winery, taste its award-winning varietals, enjoy a gourmet meal at its Palladio Restaurant, and walk the grounds to see ruins of a home designed by Thomas Jefferson. As a bonus, the drive there passes through some of the state's most beautiful farmland.

Tasting & Tours
Let us welcome you to our TASTING ROOM, the centerpiece of many a visit to Barboursville Vineyards. In the style of a Northern Italian farmhouse we greet you with a roaring fire in our double-sided fireplace in winter, and covered loggias in the warm season. Here you can sample more than 15 of our award winning wines, select wine books and accessories in our gift shop, or just relax at a table or on lawns overlooking the vineyards and the Blue Ridge, with your favorite wine.

Let us offer you a tour of our modern winery on Saturday and Sunday, free, including an introduction to the history of Barboursville. Or take a self-guided tour of the Historic Ruins of Governor Barbour's Mansion, a short stroll from the winery.

A Virginia historic landmark, the Ruins overlook an expansive, classic estate park framed in ancient boxwoods, a beautiful area for picnics, strolling, or simply listening to the stream flowing past, imparting the serenity of centuries in this place.

We are open for wine tasting Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm. The $4 tasting fee includes an inscribed glass and entitles you to a tasting of 16-20 wines, several offered only at the winery. On your next visit, bring your souvenir glass and there is no charge for tasting.

Tasting Room
Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 11am-5pm

Arianne Wojcik
Carole Martin
(540) 832-3824
bvvy@barboursvillewine.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Winery Tours
Saturday and Sunday : Noon-4pm or by appt.

Tour Historic Landmarks
Self-guided tours are permitted.
Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: 11am-5

Stay at:
The 1804 Inn

Reservations & Rates For more information about The 1804 Inn call (540) 832-5384 and ask for Lynn Russenberger
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The 1804 Inn and Vineyard Cottage are open seven days a week, year 'round.

To make reservations, please contact us: The 1804 Inn ReservationsThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

We invite you to stay at The 1804 Inn to recuperate from 2008 or to start 2009 with a fresh outlook, with a Special Rate for Suites this February. For all stays of any one or more nights, Friday through Sunday in February, we offer the weekday rate every night of your stay (saving $100.00 each night).

Don't forget to make reservations at the Palladio Restaurant to further enjoy your stay.
Reservations Fill out our online Reservation Form

Please note on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, we serve lunch but not dinner.

Please do not not consider your reservation confirmed until we contact you by telephone. If we have not confirmed your e-mail reservation request within 24 hours, please contact us by telephone at (540) 832-7848 between the hours of 11:00am and 3:00pm, Monday through Saturday.

Reservations requested less than 24 hours in advance should be made by telephone to (540) 832-7848.

A credit card will be required for confirmation of a dinner reservation, and for a lunch reservation for 4 or more.

Gentlemen and Ladies are respectfully requested to adopt appropriate attire, "business casual" or better at lunch and at dinner. Jacket for gentlemen at dinner, please.

Growing Season
April 8-July 31
August 1-Nov 15
Nov 16-April 7
Nebbiolo-Cottage $240
$240 $240 $240 $240 $240
Barbera-Cottage $240
$240 $240 $240 $240 $240
Phileo Suite $425
Malvaxia Suite $450
Octagon Suite

* Please Inquire about Weekly Rental and Private Functions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Limoncello Trifle

4 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1-1 1/2 cups limoncello liqueur
30-36 lady fingers
Additional 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 pint fresh berries

In a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest, and beat until mixture is light yellow in color and has reached 140 degrees F. Remove mixture from heat and pour in a large bowl. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese until smooth and let cool for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the egg mixture, set aside. Pour limoncello into a flat serving dish and dip the ladyfingers in the liquid. Don’t over soak to the point of sogginess. In a 12 to 14 inch oval or rectangle serving dish, spread a thin layer of cream mixture. Arrange ladyfingers on a layer of cream, breaking pieces to make a uniform fit. Add another layer of cream, then another layer of ladyfingers. Top with remaining cream and smooth with back side of butter knife. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 to 6 hours ( the longer the better). Before serving sprinkle additional zest on top and add berries to top.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Step Closer

One Step Closer was created for those who don’t have the time, the patience or the contacts to organize their own trip to Italy. We specialize in Florence & Tuscany, Rome, Naples & the Amalfi coast, Venice but have contacts also in several other minor but not less interesting centers such as Ravenna, Padova, Verona, Bologna, Palermo.

After almost 10 years of business we are proud to say that we have strengthened our skills in customizing tours and offering unique experiences in Italy to our clients. Our efforts have been rewarded by having been mentioned on several publications throughout the years: Wine Spectator, Forbes, Travel and Leisure just to mention the most famous. We have also been listed in the well known Andrew Harper Collection and Hideaway Report now for 4 years.

Our company can also arrange special events: from weddings to small conferences or corporate events, as well as a simple birthday party. We always offer the maximum degree of flexibility in helping our clients: from just providing flowers for a wedding to arranging the whole event.
Customized itineraries

Nowadays the notion of “customized itinerary” is abused and everyone seems to offer this service. Nevertheless, there is a large difference between selling a customized itinerary and carefully arranging one. In order to arrange a customized tour one needs the synergy of two knowledge: of the country (city, region etc) and of the client.

All of us at One Step Closer were born and raised in Florence (from a partly American family): we know our city, our region and our country and everything we suggest stems from our direct experiences. We never sell a tour without knowing personally the guide, the itinerary and each place our client will be visiting.

The contact with our clients is very careful: asking about their interests, listening to their comments on our ideas and taking into consideration all the aspects of their trip. That’s why we need to work with a bit of notice, in order to have the time to impeccably plan everything making sure that no small detail passes unseen.

Our guides are experts in each field (art historians, landscape designers, wine consultants etc.), are fluent in several languages, have experience in sharing their knowledge and are pleasant people to be with. We like to think of ourselves and whoever works with us as your friends in Italy. We try to combine as closely as possible expert, client and activity and in order to do this we tend to ask many personal questions to our clients such as age, kind of group (family, friends, business etc), disabilities, personal interests.

We will also be on call for the duration of their stay for any last minute changes, requests or emergencies.

Throughout the years we have specialized in planning trips for families with children of different ages. The concept of children’s museums and activities that are specifically created for kids is still not that common in Italy but we have seen that children can have fun sightseeing . It’s all a question of “selling” it to them in the right way. We have had many happy families that were amazed at how much their kids got out of the visits and actually asked for more (gelato is an excellent resource for instance). You can’t obviously put them through 5 hours in a museum but they usually hold out better than their parents. Many parents have confessed that they have learned more from a tour with their kids than in other occasions.


HOTELS: We will be glad to provide a list of recommended hotels which you can book directly or we can do this for you and include this in the price of the tours.

VILLAS: We do not arrange holiday rentals but we will be glad to give you contacts of companies that specialize on this and whose properties we feel are up to our clientele’s standards.

The only property we manage directly is located in Camporsevoli, a village in the southern countryside of Tuscany, an hour drive from the most important Tuscan cities as Siena, Arezzo, Montalcino etc. The property is an ancient hamlet and there are two available villas for rent. You can see the website

Special Events

We can arrange small conferences, single social events for bigger conventions, weddings and anniversaries, birthdays and any event that needs celebration. Each event deserves its own venue: a medieval castle… a museum after closing hours… or what about a former train station? We work with selected catering services, photographers, musicians, conference service agencies and even tailors, hairdressers and florists.

Our assistance will cover the first stages of the organization by escorting the clients to visit the venues, as well as the smallest details as helping to decide the right color of the tablecloth that will match the flowers previously chosen! Our job ends taking part in fist person to the event to make sure that everything will go smoothly.

We work on a planning fee basis which depends on our degree of involvement in the organization of the event, so that each price of the various services is clear and net to the clients.

We have worked with alumni groups and board members of the most important universities in the United States (Yale, Cornell, William and Mary, Loyola Marymount), planned events for important corporations (Boeing, Citigroup, Renault), arranged trips and visits for museums (Huston Museum of Natural Science, the National Museum of Women in Art, Washington)

Some examples …

We have just said that every tour we arrange is unique and personalized according our clients’ requests… nevertheless sometimes you may need to know what we organize in practice to have some ideas of the activities in each city!

Guided tours in the art cities: in Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo, but also Rome, Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Naples, Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, Venice, Verona, Padua…and many others! Our guides can spend a half day or full day with you.
Price depends on the city – consider an average of 300 euros for a half day and 600 euros for a full day.

Cooking classes: our cooking teachers are not professional chefs but simply Florentine ladies who like to share their passion for cooking with their guests. For this reasons the class takes place at their home in Florence. Clients can meet the teacher in the morning, go shopping with her to a local market to buy all the necessary ingredients to prepare a typical Tuscan lunch! The lesson will end eating their creations together with the teacher at lunch. Price 500 euros up to 4 persons including shopping.

Art Class: This is usually fun for families with children! Our clients will have the opportunity to learn the different art techniques once used by Florentine artists to create their masterpieces. Water coloring and sketching will take place around Florence to give them the opportunity to learn live techniques. We pick a spot that is particularly suitable for the season (i.e. shade in the summer and sun in winter). It is interesting to join the learning of a technique (ex. Fresco painting) with seeing some of its highest moments in the monuments around town.
Gelato Tasting: one of the most famous “gelaterie” in Florence will open its secret doors to our clients. The owner will explain how gelato is made, how it was started and – most importantly – guide you through a tasting of their wonderful gelato. All of this held in the backstage “kitchen”. Price: 40 euros per person

Artisans and workshops: If you are interested not just in shopping but also in learning the process and the history behind the creation of an object explained by the artisan himself inside his “bottega” (workshop), we can arrange paper making and pottery making and many other interesting experiences. Price to be determined according to the activity and number of persons.

Perfumes making: You will be visiting the atelier of one of the most famous perfumes creator in the world who “customizes” the essence for his clients by a long interview with them to understand their “soul”. The place itself is worthwhile the visit and you will be introduced to all the secrets of perfume and essence making. Price will be given upon request

Private collections and private openings: we can arrange a private visits to the Vatican museums after its closing hours. Our clients will have the opportunity to be the only visitors of one of the most famous museums in the World. We can also arrange private openings of collections, palaces or gardens which are normally closed to the public. Prices will be given upon request.

Shopping tours: A personal shopper will spend the day with our clients showing them the best places to purchase local artisans’ products (pottery, leather, linens, paintings …). This can be combined with the above mentioned tour of the artisans and workshops.
If you are a “fashion victim” we can arrange daytrips to the nearest Outlets center where you can buy Prada, Armani, Valentino and Ferragamo at discounted prices.
Price depends on the number of persons.

Wine tours: We have special access to wineries located in the Tuscan countryside which are usually closed to the public and open their doors exclusively to our clients and friends. Our wine consultants will introduce you to the uniqueness of the different wines and their particular flavors. The areas of Tuscany where we usually arrange these activities are Chianti and Montalcino. The tour can include visits to little towns or places of particular interest in the neighborhood. The tour can be also food oriented (oil and cheese producers, butcheries, vinegar producers, herbs shops..) or shopping oriented (pottery, ceramic, leather etc).Price depends on number of persons – itinerary – and distances.

Camporsevoli, Casa Del Neri

The ancient hamlet of Camporsevoli dates its origins from etruscan times. It is situated in the heart of a peaceful and shaded counrtyside on the slopes of Mount Cetona.

Geographically it is placed in the southernmost section of the region of Siena, a few miles from the Tuscan borders with Umbria (the region of Assisi and Perugia) and Latium (the region of Rome), thus within an hours’ drive from Siena, Pienza, Montalcino, Arezzo, Cortona, Perugia, and one and a half hours away from Florence, Rome or Assisi.

Being guests in Camporsevoli will introduce you and your family or friends to the still unspoilt and quite unknown beauty of this serene and mind resting country. You will be offered the possibility to unwind while learning at your own leisure about the Tuscan way of cooking, drinking and generally enjoying life. The vicinity of all the major centers of art and culture will also enable you to take trips in search of the origins and evolution of Italian art though repairing to more quiet surroundings at the end of the day, thus avoiding the confusion of mass tourism.

The nearby spa of San Casciano dei Bagni and its state of the art beauty and fitness center makes Camporsevoli also a perfect spot to enjoy the lovely relaxing treatments of San Casciano.

Casa del Neri is one of the farmhouses within the hamlet of Camporsevoli. It has been restored and redecorated maintaining its old farmhouse character while at the same time providing all those comforts that we have learned to use daily and are not willing to give up while on holiday.

The main entrance has been maintained as the original one, via a covered stone staircase on the side of the building. This means that one enters on the first floor. Here you will find a large dining room with a big open fireplace and the kitchen, which has gas burning rings, an electric oven, a fridge and freezer, dishwasher, microwave oven, American coffee machine.

On this same floor there and two bedrooms (one twin, one double) with two bathrooms (one is en suite to the double bedroom and has a shower, the other has a bathtub) .

On the ground floor you will find the sitting room with wet bar and television as well as the master bedroom with its characteristic rounded stone wall (one of the few remains of the mediaeval castle) and en suite bathroom with shower and a twin bedroom with its bathroom (with shower).

The ground floor opens up from the living room directly into a flagstoned patio and is linked to the top floor by means of an internal staircase. On the patio there is a dining table, lounge chairs and barbecue.

The laundry room is in a separate room and has a washing machine but no dryer.

The house is equipped with free wireless DSL internet connection.
Bedroom windows have screens to keep out un-invited flying and creeping guests !

Each bedroom has a fan, most of these have never been used because the house, as all old-world country houses, has a very natural, cheap and efficient air conditioning system provided by the neighbouring trees and wide stone walls.

The pool is a short walk away (500 mts) up a lovely cypress-lined path. At the pool there is a changing room where guests are welcome to leave their pool things, a separate bathroom and fridge for drinks. The distance of the pool to the house makes it 100% safe for children as well as very quiet.

The pool is shared at times with the owners of the hamlet who use it only as a holiday weekend house therefore are very seldom there and usually the times of “use” of the pool of owners and guests do not coincide. The owners are partly American and are always happy to have a chat and get to know their guests, making pool side moments very enjoyable to all.


2 double bedrooms and 2 twin bedrooms
Highchair and baby cot available at no extra charge
Pets welcome with an extra security deposit
Dining room
Sitting room with TV
Wet bar
Outdoor barbecue
Outdoor dining area

Friday, January 30, 2009

Saint Valentine Basilica- Terni, Umbria

Saint Valentine Basilica

Saint Valentine, Terni's first Bishop, died in 273 on the orders of the Roman prefect Placidus Furius during the persecutions ordered by the Emperor Aurelius.

The history and the Legend

His life, given to the apostolate and enobled by his matyrdom, induced the citizens of Terni in 1644 to proclaim him the Patron Saint of the City and the Patron Saint of Lovers.

But the fame of Saint Valentine all over the world is due to the legend which originated in the anglo-saxon countries, that he used to make the present of a flower from his own garden to his young visitors. Two of these young people fell in love; and this love resulted in a union so happy that many other couples followed their example. Because of this Saint the church was induced to dedicate one day of the year to a general benediction of the state of matrimony. The present Basilica was built in 1605 on the ruins of precedent temples, and contains works of art of a certain interest, in particular in the crypt.

Every year in the February month Terni celebrates Saint Valentine, the patron saint of town, with a series of cultural and religious meetings.

For a current list of events:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Seeds From Italy

Some of you may know, one of my other hobbies is growing things. It doesn't really matter what, so it would stand to reason that after digging thorough lots of hardware stores in Italy. I would have to find a local source for those seeds from Italy. As every gardener knows it is the gentics that provide the taste we all crave in our cooking I personally have purchased a batch of seeds this year and will post stories and insights as I try and adapt my seeds from Italy to the Northern Virginia heat and humidity.

I would like introduce to you "Seeds from Italy". They are the U.S. mail order distributor for Franchi Sementi spa of Bergamo, Italy, Italian seedsmen since 1783. Their Italian Vegetable seeds are traditional Italian varieties, chosen by discriminating Italian cooks over the years.

Offering more than 350 varieties of traditional Italian vegetable, herb & flower seeds.
They also have detailed instructions & tips on how to grow Italian vegetables and, Italian recipes and tips on how to cook our vegetables the Italian way.
The 2008 Catalog is available on line. You can download it & the cover which has all the pictures of the seed varieties. Just click here: 2009 Catalog. It is in adobe format so you need an adobe reader to view it.

He also publishs a quarterly newsletter filled with growing tips, trial garden results, recipes, new items, etc.
Visit the Newsletter here: Newsletters
To subscribe to Growitalian News, click here: Subscribe
There are more than 20 new varieties including peppers, tomatoes, escarole, zucchini, beans & cardoon.
Mail: Seeds from Italy, PO Box 149, Winchester, MA 01890 Email: or TEL: 781 721 5904 FAX: 612 435 4020

Venice For Carnival

This offer came in the other day and I have to say the Carnival and Venice are made for each other. If you can make it, this would be a wonderful Valentines present for anyone.

Escape to the fabulous city of Venice, where you can join the magic of its Carnival. You can visit a historical Venetian atelier of Carnival costumes and masks and take part to a guided tour through Venice squares and alleys, walking together with 18th century dames and noblemen, goblins, pierrots and harlequins.The charm of Boscolo Dei Dogi, will welcome you offering a special promotion for this event.

The offer, valid from 13 to 24 February, includes all taxes and the following benefits:
2 nights per 2 persons;
breakfast 2 Dinners at hotel’s restaurant Giardino di Luca (3 courses, drinks not included)
Venice guided tour (2 hours) with pick up at the hotel
visit of a historical Venetian atelier of Carnival costumes and masks
complimentary extra-bed for child under the age of 12 sharing the room with their parents. Discount of 50% offered to children under the age of 12 for meals at the hotel’s restaurant.
Rates starting from 673,00 euros at current Euro rae of 1.3 that is $875.00 For 2 nights in Boscolo Experience room, all benefits included
Information and booking:Boscolo Dei Dogi -

Their website takes a while to load but it is like a breath of Italy in your screen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

La Segreta Villa Rental- Umbria

Your Own Private Villa in Umbria, Italy:

Looking for a special place to celebrate your birthday or anniversary with family or a close group of friends? Then consider Bike Riders' exclusive Villa La Segreta, a newly restored luxury villa outside of Todi, Italy. Set on 70 acres of green Umbrian countryside, the historic stone villa is a wonderful blend of old and new. Terracotta floors, high oak beams, wrought iron chandeliers and large stone fireplaces are balanced with modern luxuries such as air conditioning, washer/dryer, flat screen television and a beautiful infinity pool. Perfect for up to 8 people, the property is close to the villages of Todi, Deruta, Assisi, Montefalco and Perugia. Walking trails, biking and golfing are all nearby. Set in a nature reserve amidst olive groves, chestnut trees and cypress-lined lanes, we invite you to see more by visiting or contact Eileen at for details and availability.

During our stay we enjoyed the market at Marsciano, the largest town near the villa has a market on Monday mornings. Markets are in the mornings only. They start winding down by 12 noon and an earlier visit is better! Cooking lessons in Perugia, for the ladies while the men played golf.

Allow about 2 hours to the villa from Rome. Orvieto is a nice stop en route for is about 1 hour North of Rome. You might like to visit the town and have lunch, and then drive another hour to the house. Graziano the caretaker will have the house open and show you how things work. He will also review the telephone and electric meters with you--at the end of the stay he will do the same and note your consumption--this amount will be deducted from your security deposit.

Graziano is a dear friend of the owners and is also in charge of the running of the property. You will see him on the tractor or in the fields and he will bring Nela to the house for the housekeeping. He will be happy to assit you with any questions in regard to the house or pool.

We reccomend you order the dinner they offer for an additional charge to be delivered to the house on Saturday evening. They also provided a welcome basket with essentials--milk, jam, crackers, water, coffee, etc. If you prefer to stop before the house, you can stop at "Andreani" in the village of Collepepe (see driving directions ---but they do not open until after 5:00 pm.) BUT, Andreani is also open again on Sunday morning until noon--there is also a pasta shop in Collepepe that is open on Sunday morning.

The villa has a complete water filtering system installed. The water is perfectly fine for bathing, cooking and brushing your teeth. We still prefer the taste and quality of bottled water for consumption. There will be some flat and sparkling water at the house--if you think you need a lot you can always pick up more at the "AutoGrill" shops on the highway, or at Andreani.

If you want to use the pizza oven please just explain to Graziano--he can need to allow a couple of hours for the wood to burn and to heat the oven up before you can use it. Also, please be sure that the fire is safely extinguished by the end of the night.

(FYI, there is also a Weber charcoal grill and a great farm store nearby that sells it's own Florentine steaks, sausages, veal ,etc--they are open Wed-Sunday))

Upon arrival, there is a book of information at the villa, plus a welcome basket...we supply basics to get you started such as milk, juice, water, coffee and fruit, as well as paper towels and toilet paper. These are enough to get you through the night and for breakfast the next morning. Andreani is a very nice small market in Collepepe that is open on Sundays until 12 noon. They have all staples, plus a nice selection of cheeses, salumi and wine. You might like to run down to this store on Sunday am ...

On Monday, the A&O Supermarket is open in Deruta..This is a larger market and a good choice for re-stocking your paper towels/napkins/toilet paper and also has a large selection of foodstuffs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Foti's Restaurant Culpeper, Va

If you're ready for a new fine-dining experience, it's time to visit Foti's Restaurant in Culpeper, Virginia. The superb service, delicate flavors, and extraordinary wines rival those of the finest restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area. Indeed, owners Frank and Sue Maragos refined their talents at the world-famous Inn at Little Washington prior to opening Foti's in 2005. Yet the friendly atmosphere and small-town hospitality are uniquely Foti's, which is why the establishment bears Frank's childhood nickname. "It's like we're family, like we've known each other forever," he says.An hour's drive from Fairfax to rural Culpeper carries you to a world where fresh, all-natural produce are as close as next door. Whether you're seeking a casual lunch or an elegant evening, it's worth the trip!In season, Foti's menu revolves around the finest local products, including grass-fed beef and lamb, handmade cheeses, and heirloom vegetables and herbs. Or if you prefer, seafood barely a day out of the water arrives by air three times a week. Savor tuna from Hawaii, salmon from Alaska, lobster from Maine, or sea scallops from Massachusetts.Chef Maragos says guests often ask for his secret to the restaurant's delectable dishes. "Mother Nature makes the flavor," he answers. "We just take care of it and bring it to you."So enjoy an evening drive down scenic country roads. Or, better yet, make a day of it and explore Culpeper and all that Virginia's Piedmont has to offer. Whenever you're ready, settle down at Foti's for an enchanting meal that combines all-natural ingredients, delightful presentations, outstanding wines, impeccable service, and the leisure to enjoy it all. What you'll experience is pure magic.

Foti's Restaurant - 219 East Davis Street - Culpeper - Virginia
For reservations call 540/829-8400