Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ciao!

If you're reading this, welcome to my little space in cyberland that honors all things Italian.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy is the brightest and most beautiful far and away country I've traveled to so I created this blog to make a permanent place for friends and fans to access and share information about the great place we call Italy (locals call it Italia).

I've been very lucky to have traveled to Italy seven times in a seven year span - my family of 2 humans and 2 Labs even relocated to Tuscany for 3 months to fully immerse ourselves in the Italian way of living.

The best advice I can give if you're "on the fence" about booking your trip to Italy is to stop waiting and start experiencing! I never met anyone who had a disappointing trip to Italy. For me, the history, the people, the food, and the views are what make Italy a truly unique and magical place! Through my adventures I've learned that Italy and Texas have more in common than you might think. You can learn a little bit more about the story behind that story on my "about" page.

How To Get The Most From This Site: Make sure and explore this site; it's built from my personal travels, which you'll see accessible via the right-hand navigation. If my energies were well-spent, you'll find some useful information here as I've helped folks build their travel itineraries from my experiences.

Blue highlighted words
(<--- except these ones) are hyperlinks to other sites with even more information, so don't be afraid to click and learn. Text that is purple is for the really important stuff. I've also birthed some Italian Frequently Asked Questions (I called them iFAQs) that should help you if you're an Italian novice. You can quick link to city posts using the side navigation at right. Click on images to enlarge them for close-up viewing. There are unexpected great finds (a.k.a. "Easter Eggs") on this site. See if you can find them all!

So grab a bottle of your favorite vino, start reading and have fun! Your reading experience will be heightened if listening to Bocelli. Before you leave this site you can bookmark our main site ForTheLoveOfItaly.com which will connect to our various online channels. Grazie!

~ Patrick

Connecting the two great lands of Italy and Texas


for the love of : italy


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ciao!

If you're reading this, welcome to my little space in cyberland that honors all things Italian.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy is the brightest and most beautiful far and away country I've traveled to so I created this blog to make a permanent place for friends and fans to access and share information about the great place we call Italy (locals call it Italia).

I've been very lucky to have traveled to Italy seven times in a seven year span - my family of 2 humans and 2 Labs even relocated to Tuscany for 3 months to fully immerse ourselves in the Italian way of living.

The best advice I can give if you're "on the fence" about booking your trip to Italy is to stop waiting and start experiencing! I never met anyone who had a disappointing trip to Italy. For me, the history, the people, the food, and the views are what make Italy a truly unique and magical place! Through my adventures I've learned that Italy and Texas have more in common than you might think. You can learn a little bit more about the story behind that story on my "about" page.

How To Get The Most From This Site: Make sure and explore this site; it's built from my personal travels, which you'll see accessible via the right-hand navigation. If my energies were well-spent, you'll find some useful information here as I've helped folks build their travel itineraries from my experiences.

Blue highlighted words
(<--- except these ones) are hyperlinks to other sites with even more information, so don't be afraid to click and learn. Text that is purple is for the really important stuff. I've also birthed some Italian Frequently Asked Questions (I called them iFAQs) that should help you if you're an Italian novice. You can quick link to city posts using the side navigation at right. Click on images to enlarge them for close-up viewing. There are unexpected great finds (a.k.a. "Easter Eggs") on this site. See if you can find them all!

So grab a bottle of your favorite vino, start reading and have fun! Your reading experience will be heightened if listening to Bocelli. Before you leave this site you can bookmark our main site ForTheLoveOfItaly.com which will connect to our various online channels. Grazie!

~ Patrick

Connecting the two great lands of Italy and Texas


for the love of : italy


Friday, July 17, 2015

Lucca

The Walls Of Lucca, Italy

The Walls Of Lucca


Many have heard of Lucca, Italy.

Sadly, not everyone can say they have been there.

On more than one trip to Italy we breezed by the exit signs for Lucca. It wasn't until 2013 when we finally made the journey during our 3-month stay in Italy. How nice it is to say we've visited this awesome village!

Lucca is a wonderfully walled Tuscan town that effortlessly fell into our hearts just like Montepulciano, Cortona and Florence. The winter day was sunny and bright and we had our two best friends with us - our Labs Boomer and Harley. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a day of fun. And it was.

We packed a picnic lunch and a light agenda that included nothing more advanced than walking the city. Somehow these simple ingredients created a super-special day that forever landed Lucca in our hearts.

Suggested Stay:

A day trip. Preferably longer.

A Map Of Lucca, Italy

Getting To Lucca:

We arrived to Lucca via car from our stay in Castiglion Fiorentino in eastern Tuscany. Our drive lasted just under 2 hours and was well-worth the journey. Situated near the Autostrada A11, Lucca's nearest and bigger city sister is Pisa which is only 17 kilometers away (about 30 minutes via car or train).

Must See & Do:

Lucca's City Walls - Lucca's signature feature is its long medieval city wall that surrounds the village. The wall originally sat just inside a moat that wrapped Lucca like a halo and you can still see evidence of the moat in the recessed grade adjacent to the various walls. A great way to see the perimeter of the original city is to enjoy a leisurely 360 degree "loop-de-loop" walk all around it ... then venture into the inner city streets for close-up adventures. A walk or run along the wall is about 3 miles and we enjoyed every step. You can see more of Lucca's walking routes here at Map My Walk.

Piazza dell'Anfiteatro - I needed a wider lens to capture all the beauty of this elliptical-shaped plaza. The origin of the piazza dates to the Middle Ages and it was built outside Lucca (now it looks to be a part of the city proper). The piazza has served in various forms over the years including an amphitheater for gladiators and "beasts," a city market and a meeting center for the residents of Lucca. Click the pic above for a larger view!

Basilica di San Frediano, Lucca, Italy

Basilica di San Frediano - The architecture of this Romanesque church will set your senses on an adventure of art, color and texture. We enjoyed the mosaic of The Ascension of Christ the Savior as the sun said "ciao" for the day and daylight and nightlight exchanged positions - this is when the mosaic reflections truly come to life.

Walking the walls of Lucca, ItalyTower Guinigi - Walking the city wall we eyed one of the few towers of Lucca - it had some trees that had sprouted on top. I later learned this was not an accidental sprouting - the Guinigi Tower has a rooftop garden tucked beneath large oak trees. A walk to the top will treat you to a birds-eye view of Lucca below.

Erbario Toscano - With two 80 pound Labs by our side we couldn't go in many places without one human doggie sitting streetside. One shop that was our exception was the extremely dog friendly Erbario Toscano where the shop attendant graciously invited our entire pack inside the well-appointed store. We enjoyed a long conversation while admiring the shops beautiful products which are truly suspended between art and beauty. Rose. Spicy Vanilla. Royal Grape. Black Pepper (for the men) and more. You'll surely find their fragrances for the heart, home, hair or body a delight! We left with many samples and a rose-scented candle for our new Italian foster Mom Flavia.

Visit Erbario Toscano online - they recently launched in the US and are offering free shipping for orders of $45 or more. What could be greater? Visiting one of their six Italy locations in person!

Even More Lucca:
We loved Lucca so much that when we adopted a Chesapeake Bay Retriever his new name was none other than Lucca. Now everyday we have a sweet, sweet reminder of this great city.

Cheers to you, Lucca!


This picture is from the July 2015 evening when he received his new name. We celebrated by making a batch of my spicy margaritas - you can get our home grown recipe here.

Want More Lucca?

Of course you do! Have a look at more pictures of Lucca here on FTLOI Flickr.

Our Next Stop?

Monterchi, Italy. Catch a visual preview here on Flickr.

for the love of : italy

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chiusi

Charming Chiusi

Chiusi is a quiet village. It's a great place to escape the hustle of the larger cities and enjoy a leisurely walk to take-in the beautiful architecture of this city.

There is also a well-respected museum here so if you're interested in learning more about the Etruscan way of life, you won't want to miss it!

Suggested Stay:

A day trip.

Getting To Chiusi:

We arrived via car from our villa stay in Sant'Albino. Chiusi is located very close to the A1 Autostrada about a 30 minute drive from beautiful Montepulciano and 45 minutes from Cortona.

Must See & Do:

The Etruscan Museum - Our visit to Chiusi was centered on a visit to this museum and we spent a couple of hours marveling at beautiful urns, pottery, sculptures, jewelry and mosaic works of art.

Want More Chiusi?

Of course you do! Have a look at more pictures of Chiusi here on FTLOI Flickr.

Our Next Stop?

Pienza. Twice is nice indeed when it's another trip to this favorite hilltop town. A return visit gave new views and a deeper understanding of Pienza. The newest post is coming soon and you can see my first here.

for the love of : italy

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lake Como

Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
Oh, Lake Como

Many have heard of Lake Como's beauty and I'm happy to be one of the lucky ones who have leisured in Lombardy, where Lake Como is located.

Here at Como there is much to see and do in one of my most favored Northern Italian getaways.

Suggested Stay:

A week or a lifetime ... you choose!

Getting To Lake Como:

You'll likely arrive to Lake Como by car or train. We arrived to Varenna via train from Milano Centrale (Milan). The brief 1-hour train ride into the mountains surrounding Lake Como was quite beautiful so try and arrive during daylight hours to best enjoy the views.

While the September weather was warm in our pre-Como stops Venice and Verona, the night we arrived in Varenna was a cold, wet one. Little did we know when the sun rose the next morning there would be snow in the upper mountains surrounding the lake. It was like the Gods had sprinkled powdered sugar on top of the mountains, which later made for some spectacular views heading into the Alps.

You can train from Milan to Varenna then boat to Bellagio, Mennagio and more. If you're planning on doing extensive touring of the area a rental car will help tremendously. Lucky for us our travel friends from Richardson, Texas had a car and while we didn't use it every day, it was nice to have - especially when foraging for food on a Sunday when the area is pretty tightly closed down; we found an Iperal megamarket in Piantedo, which is about 25 minutes from Varenna. We later dubbed Iperal "Wally World" for its vast assortment of food and assorted items (clothes, furniture, housewares, appliances and more) encompassing over 2 acres (that's right - acres) offering pretty much anything your traveler's heart desires.

About The Terrain:

Lake Como is one of the deepest lakes in all of Europe at 1,300 feet. In fact the bottom of Como is more than 650 feet below sea level. When you're visiting Lake Como don't picture sandy beaches that slowly slip into the water, picture majestic mountain tops that dramatically rise from the water. The Swiss Alps don't just live within the border of Switzerland (only 14% of the Alps' total area does), the smaller tops (aka pre-Alps) extend right into Lake Como.

Lake Como isn't just a lake named after Como, Italy, it's a tiny world uniquely its own. The expansive lake is shaped like an upside down "Y" with more villages than one can likely remember peppering its shoreline. This means you will have plenty to see and do!

You can leave your sand bucket and shovel at home and instead gear-up for ferry, watercraft or car ride adventures along the perimeter of this beautiful lake. Love to hike? The area offers you an abundance of options from which to choose for all activity levels of walkers/hikers.

I was easily intoxicated by the picturesque area; it will quickly impress you and make you feel like you're at an all-you-can-eat buffet of beauty. Three years after visiting Como when I close my eyes I still see sun, snow, mountains and the rippling waters of the lake. It's no wonder that celebrities like George Clooney, Madonna, Stalone and Versace have flocked here. 

Must See And Do:

A Photo Of Varenna Italy By For The Love Of Italy
Varenna ~ Our home base for a week-long stay at Lake Como, Varenna offers killer views of its nearest lakeside neighbors Bellagio and Mennagio. Our rental was perched above Varenna and featured a large, modern kitchen and a double-wide balcony overlooking the lake. Arrival to the rental on the summit required car, taxi or a bountiful love for vertical hikes. The views from above more than made up for the somewhat tricky method of arrival.

A ceramic dish from Il Fornio in Varenna, Italy (Lombardy) Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
Varenna has a beautiful waterfront walk that was fun to explore and it lead us to a part of Varenna we didn't even know existed! Tucked along one of the shoreline inlets we discovered Il Tornio and it quickly became one of my favorite ceramics shops in all of Italy.

Ceramics stores are to Italy as Country Western stores are to Texas - abundant - and my taste is what I'd consider "selective," so finding a store with a style I love was a great find! I would have purchased more if I could have safely fit my prized mementos into my luggage.

Inside Il Tornio we found unique handmade objects including Christmas ornaments, platters and small dishes (shown above) that are far too beautiful "as is" to put anything on. We left with several items for friends back home and made multiple trips back. Il Tornio's Varenna location is apparently a seasonal one that's set-up in what looked to be an ancient home; the mother ship where the ceramics are made is located about a 30 minute car ride away in Lecco. Hopefully if you visit the Varenna outlet it will be open.

A Picture of Villa Monastero in Varenna, Italy (Lombardy) Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
Undoubtedly the most amazing piece of Lake Como shoreline that we adventured were the grounds of Villa Monastero. There's a museum and a conference center (both of which we didn't tour) but instead we were showered with impressive views of the Villa's beautiful location from the expansive botanical gardens which extend almost 1.5 miles (2 kilometers) along the shoreline.

Three words about the Villa: Go. See. It. You will thank me later, I'm certain. Visit Villa Monastero's online site to get your heart beating in advance of your physical arrival. You can also click this little link to visit my Flickr page with a few photos of what you'll likely see here. Don't miss it when at Lake Como!

Our greatest meal in Varenna was at Ristorante Borgovino and my journal tasting notes describe it as "the motherload of all meals." We met two groups of Texans here and polished off a wide assortment of food that left me yearning for my Texas-sized stretchy pants: insalata mista (mixed salad), vino, butter and sage gnocchi, beef filetto, linguini with ham, risotto and cheese, pork scallopini with lemon sauce, giant prawns, creme caramel (you get the drift).

In Varenna you may stumble on a Coop Supermarketbut we never made it inside the store due to wacky, unposted store hours.

A Photo Of Bellagio Italy By For The Love Of Italy
Bellagio ~ Considered the most beautiful city in Italy by many, this village is the perfect union of Heaven and Earth. Bellagio's nickname? The pearl of Lake Como. 

Strolling the stair-lined streets of Bellagio gave us a good workout so we decided to recover by enjoying some delicious gelato at Trattoria San Giacomo and enjoy the decadent views.
A picture of Menaggio, Italy (Lombardy) Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy

Mennagio
 ~ Whether you lunch or linger here, make a plan to visit Mennagio after touring Varenna and Bellagio to complete a trifecta view of the Y-shaped lake's central region.

A Picture of the Garden of Villa Carlotta, Lake Como (Lombardy), Italy Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
Around the bend from Mennagio in Tremezzo is Villa Carlotta. This impressive villa dates back to 1690 and it's now a museum housing beautiful art all surrounded by a 20-acre botanical garden that's open to the public. Villa Carlotta is located along Lake Como's waterfront in a majestic, enviable location that's perfect for keeping a watchful eye on its across-the-lake friend, Bellagio. Make sure and check out the Villa's website, it will give you great insight on what to expect here since no photography is allowed inside the Villa (bummer).

If you'd like to read a bit more about who the villa was named for, this post has some surprising information.

Gelato From Sotto Zero In Cernobbio, Italy Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
Cernobbio ~ When Texans with several trips to Italy under their belts agree the best Italian gelato was found here, you better make sure and have a "lick-see-do" in Cernnobio. Two cones for me in a single afternoon! I could have made it three but a wardrobe malfunction would have ensued.

Make sure and visit the gelateria Sotto Zero located in the heart of Cernobbio and enjoy an Ace-flavored cone. Packed with vitamins A, C and E thanks to orange, carrot and lemon, this isn't just good for you it's great for you!

Cernobbio is an easy-to-walk village and we packed a picnic lunch to enjoy after a leisurely tour of Il Giardino della Valle - a quiet community garden that will delight the senses.

The St. Moritz Railway Station © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
St. Moritz ~ A day trip into the Alps from Varenna, Italy to Switzerland was an absolute Top 10 Life Moment for me forever. All aboard the Bernina Express and you'll see what I mean!

For this trip I had done some presearch and learned that this line is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it's a pretty honorable experience. It didn't take much convincing my traveling 4-pack to devote a day for a unique adventure into the Alps.

Views Of The Swiss Alps Along The Bernina Express © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
After a short train ride from Lake Como's Varenna station bound for Tirano, Italy you can transfer onto the Bernina Express and head to St. Moritz, Switzerland for a day of gazing at a totally unique culture set among awesome landscape, architecture and a colorful mixture of food, language and fashion. Along the way you'll enjoy amazing views set amidst numerous tunnels and bridges all connected by impressive loop-de-loop (zig zag) switchbacks.

Views Of The Swiss Alps Along The Bernina Express © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
We must have hit the trip on a magical day because in higher elevations above tree line the September snow was simply amazing. Gazing at the white-and-green marbled landscape and sea foam green colored lakes was amazing and we toured wearing short sleeves in the surprisingly mild weather. Waterfalls birthed by the fresh snow's runoff were abound as well as amazing views of dogs herding sheep, mountain trekkers and village views from above. A day to remember.

A Picture of a Panoramic Car on the Bernina Express Mountain Train Lake Como, Italy © 2014 For The Love Of Italy
My Best Advice ~ For an extra $60 USD roundtrip per person we nervously upgraded to 1st class to enjoy the panoramic train only to find 20 minutes later that the experience was worth it ten fold! The panoramic car had Texas-sized windows that made drinking in the views as enjoyable and easy as drinking a fine glass of Brunello (see the pic above). We surprisingly had the entire car to ourselves roundtrip and while we can't expect such fine luck again, we leveraged ours to the fullest; for the entire adventure the four of us simultaneously darted freely to the left and right sides of the train car depending on which side had the best valley view at that moment in time.

Taking crisp photos is a bit tricky from inside the train due to the reflection from all the glass, but nonetheless you'll be left with impressionable and unforgettable vistas. Best of all enjoy the "double feature" as you enjoy your return trip back to the Lake Como area; from palms to glaciers to palms all in the same day! Choo! Choo! Enjoy more pics from our train ride adventure.

Want Even More Photos?

Have a lower altitude look-see of pictures from the beautiful Lake Como region at my Flickr Photostream.

Our Next Stop?

Lake Como concluded our September 2011 Italian adventure and we returned back to our home base in Dallas, Texas with many great memories and almost 3,000 photos. Little did we know our next visit to Italy in 2012 would be for a once-in-a-lifetime stay for 3 months!

You can learn more about our longer-term stay beginning with this post that sets the stage for our 2012-2013 Tuscan adventure ... with our dogs!

Ciao for now!

~ Patrick

for the love of : italy

Friday, October 3, 2014

Verona

Verona, Italy

The Walls Of Verona

Enchanted by Verona's lore we actually opted for a day trip in Verona from our stay in Venice. Verona - in Italy's Veneto region - is a northern Italy city tucked alongside the Adige River. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with about 700,000 residents. While Verona is one of Italy's Top 10 largest cities (I prefer the smaller towns) we found Verona sprinkled with charm everywhere our eyes rested.

Operas. Art. Architecture. Shopping. If you like Florence, chances are you'll find Verona its lovely "Romeo-meets-Juliet" Italian sister-city.

Suggested Stay:

Anything less than a full day in Verona will be like short-changing yourself! Verona is best consumed like a fine Italian wine ... s l o w l y . We left Verona wanting more time there - so if your watch and wallet allow, try for at least 2-3 days to really drink-in the city.

Piazza Erbe In Verona, Italy


Getting To Verona:


Verona is located between Milan and Venice. In about an hour and a half we arrived in Verona via train from Venice's Santa Lucia train station.

Because we accidentally bolted for the first train station bearing Verona's name (Verona Porta Vescovo) we de-trained too early and wound up walking 30 minutes to the city center. If you're eager to enjoy Verona proper make sure and depart at Verona's much larger "city center" station called Porta Nuova.

You can also arrive to Verona via plane or car.

Must See & Do:

The Arena In Verona, Italy


Arena di Verona
 ~ Verona's impressive arena is located in Piazza Bra and was built in the 1st century. The highly-regarded area is the stage for large-scale opera and musical performances. The arena is large and could hold 30,000 in ancient times, which is really something to sing about. :) You can visit the Verona Arena website for some great information, pictures and details for upcoming performances.

Juliet's Balcony In Verona Italy

Juliet's House (La Casa di Giulietta)
 ~ Perhaps one of the most visited alleyways in Italy, this balcony lives in the minds and hearts of people around the world.

Set in Verona and penned in the 1590s William Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet's memorable balcony love scene is an inspiration for all. Sadly, Juliet's balcony shown above was not built until the 1930s - hundreds of years after the play. Fact or fiction aside, the courtyard underneath the balcony is truly worth seeing for the graffiti works of art and the beautiful statue of Juliet that has been graced of thousands of hands. You'll also find lots of padlocks here bearing the names of love-sworn couples. Nothing quite says "love" like a padlock. :)

The Bronze Statue Of Juliet In Verona, Italy
The Juliet statue you see at left is actually the original since 1972 but due to countless thousands of hands rubbing on the bronze beauty (there's no doubt where she was rubbed most often from the picture) she has been retired to a museum and a replica has been commissioned. More about that story here.

The Berto Barbarani Statue In Verona Italy



Piazza delle Erbe
 ~ You could spend a day here just gazing at passersby, architecture and enjoying the sights and sounds of what used to be the city's Market Square. Here we rested at an outside cafe and enjoyed lunch. In Piazza Erbe you'll see a great statue of Italian poet Berto Barbarani that reminded me of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue back home in Austin, Texas. Also in the Piazza is a magnificent water fountain built in 1368 topped by a statue of the Madonna Verona that you won't want to miss!

Want More Verona Views?

Have a look at more pictures here on FTLOI Flickr.

Our Next Stop?

A week in Lake Como. We're still pinching ourselves!

~ Patrick

for the love of : italy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Recipe ~ Fusilli with Eggplant Caponata

An Eggplant Caponata Recipe From For The Love Of Italy
In order to get into the Italian state of mind, one has to eat like an Italian!

This recipe came from our very own copy of "Recipes from an Italian Summer." It's a "must have" in the kitchen as it's filled with 380 recipes to delight the tastebuds of lovers of Italian food. 

Ingredients:

5 Tablespoons  
|  Olive Oil
2  |  Eggplants, Peeled and Diced
2  
|  Onions, Sliced
3  
|  Plum Tomatoes, Peeled, Seeded and Diced
1 Tablespoon  |  Capers, Rinsed and Drained
6  |  Black Olives, Pitted and Halved
6  |  Basil Leaves, Torn by Hand
11 Ounces  |  Fusilli Pasta
To Taste  |  Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

What To Do: 

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Add the eggplants and cook them over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10  minutes, until they are softened and golden brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

2. Heat the remaining oil in a shallow pan. Add the onion and cook them over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Add the capers, olives, and eggplants and cook for a few minutes, then remove the pan for the heat and add the basil leaves.

3. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or according to package directions. Cook pasta until tender, but still al dente. Drain and turn pasta into a salad bowl. Drizzle with more olive oil, season with pepper and stir. Add the eggplant caponata and stir again.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Mangia! : Mangia!

More of our favorite recipes here
.



for the love of : italy

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe ~ Bruschetta with Sautéed Mushrooms

Bruschetta With Sautéed Mushrooms ~ A Recipe From For The Love Of Italy
In order to get into the Italian state of mind, one has to eat like an Italian!

Be the life of the party when you serve the life of the party ... this bruschetta and mushroom recipe celebrates the delicious simplicity that is the tasty best of Italy. 

Ingredients:

12 - 16 Slices  
|  Italian Bread (I prefer ciabatta, ¼" thick)
3-4 Tablespoons + A Splash  | Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves  
|  Garlic, Chopped
1 Pound  
|  Your Favorite Mushrooms, Chopped (Portobello, Crimini, Shittake)
To Taste  |  Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
To Taste  |  Gray Sea Salt
Handful  |  Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped
1-2 Tablespoons  |  Fresh Thyme, Chopped

What To Do: 

0. Set your oven to broil. Or set your wood-burning fireplace to medium-high heat.  :)

1. Place slices of your favorite bread on a foil-lined pan or cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for a few minutes (don't overcook, per favore). Remove and set the toasted bread aside.

2. In a large pan over medium-high heat 3-4 tablespoons of the the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and an additional splash of olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste your mushroom mixture and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Add the parsley and thyme and cook for up to 5 minutes.

5. Place a few spoonfuls of the mushroom mixture on top of each toasted bread slice. Serve "as is" or return the bruschetta to the oven for 1-2 minutes to warm.

Serve and take a bow!

Foodie Tips ~
 

  You can use a single mushroom variety or mix varieties together to create your own unique blend.

  Want A Double "Standing O"?: Add some finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese on top of your bruschetta before returning to the oven for an extra-tasty texture. 

Mangia! : Mangia!

More of our favorite recipes here
.



for the love of : italy

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recipe ~ Orange Fennel Salad Recipe

An Orange Fennel Salad Recipe by For The Love Of Italy

In order to get into the Italian state of mind, one has to eat like an Italian!

Wrapped in smoked salmon, this simple recipe was shared with us by our Italian host "Laura" during our recent trip to Tuscany. I'm a fan of anything FRESH ... probably why this is one of my new favorites. Best of all there's no cooking involved!

Ingredients:

1 Medium  
|  Orange, Cut Into Wedges
1  
|  Fresh Fennel Bulb, Sliced with Layers Broken Apart
6 - 12 Ounce Package  
|  Smoked Salmon
To Serve  
|  High Quality Olive Oil
To Taste  
|  Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper

What To Do: 

1. First peel the orange and trim off the ends. Then cut the orange along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and let them fall into a bowl or plate. Discard the orange remnants.

2. Place some of the fennel and an orange wedge on top of a salmon slice and wrap.

3. Arrange on a serving plate and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Mangia! : Mangia!

More of our favorite recipes here
.



for the love of : italy

Friday, July 12, 2013

Recipe ~ Lemon Spaghetti

A Tasty Lemon Spaghetti Recipe
In order to get into the Italian state of mind, one has to eat like an Italian!

This dish was recommended to us by our Facebook follower, Ezio. We have to admit that we had never eaten lemon spaghetti before but thanks to Ezio we enjoyed it twice in the same week!

This tangy dish features simple ingredients and it's really easy to prepare. We included a tip below to add grilled chicken to this dish in case you want a little protein. Either way, this dish is tops!

~ ~ ~  LEMON SPAGHETTI ~ ~ ~

Ingredients:

The Pasta:
  Splash | Olive Oil (Use The Good Stuff)
  Pinch or 2 | Salt
  1 Pound | Spaghetti

The Sauce:
  2/3 Cup | Olive Oil
  1 Cup | Parmigiano Reggiano, Grated
  1/2 Cup | Fresh Lemon Juice
  To Taste | Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

To Serve:
  2 Tablespoons | Fresh Lemon Zest
  1/3 Cup | Fresh Basil, Torn By Hand

What To Do:

A Tasty Lemon Spaghetti Recipe
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. Add the spaghetti.

2. While the spaghetti is cooking al dente, let's prepare the lemon sauce. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk olive oil, cheese and lemon juice until well blended. Set aside.

3. When done, remove the pasta from heat, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta into a colander. Return the pasta to the pot.

4. Top the pasta with the lemon sauce, add the reserved pasta water and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring a little bit more.

5. Serve onto plates or into bowls and garnish with lemon zest and basil and a slice of lemon or two.

Yields: 4-6 Servings
Lemon Spaghetti with Chicken
Foodie Tips ~ 

 To Add Chicken: Warm a medium-sized skillet and coat with olive oil. Add 2-4 boneless, Italian or seasoned bread crumb-coated chicken breasts, cooking on each side until done. Set breasts aside on paper towels to drain. Cut into 1/2 inch strips lengthwise and place on top of the pasta.

  To Garnish: Add 1-2 slices of fresh lemon on top of the pasta.

  Love Lemon? So do we! Try these Chicken Piccata and Limoncello recipes.

Mangia! : Mangia!

More of our favorite recipes here
.


for the love of : italy

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Recipe ~ Eggplant and Mozzarella Rounds

A Recipe for Eggplant and Mozzarella Rounds from For The Love Of Italy
In order to get into the Italian state of mind, one has to eat like an Italian!

This dish is amazingly tasty. Probably because of the fresh and few ingredients - a sign of a simple pleasure. While great as an appetizer, these rounds hold their own and can be a main course when accompanied with a salad or bruschetta.

~ ~ ~  EGGPLANT and MOZZARELLA ROUNDS ~ ~ ~

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
  9 Ounces | Canned, Chopped Tomatoes
  Pinch | Sugar
  2 Cloves | Garlic, "Whacked" and Peeled
  2 Tablespoons | Olive Oil
  To Taste | Salt

For the Base:

  3 | Eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  5 Tablespoons | Olive Oil (use the good stuff)
  Up To 1 Pound | Fresh Mozzarella, Sliced
  To Taste | Salt

What To Do:

1. Let's make the tomato sauce. Put the tomatoes, sugar and garlic into a pan and season with salt. Cover and cook over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.

2. Mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon (or use an immersion blender on the sauce while the sauce is in the pan). Heat sauce for another 15 minutes.

3. While the sauce is cooking place the eggplant slices into a colander. Sprinkle them with salt and let drain for 30 minutes (the salt will draw out some moisture). Rinse the slices then pat dry with paper towels.

4. Remove the pan of tomato sauce from the heat and let cool then stir in the olive oil.

5. Preheat the oven oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the eggplant slices, in batches, and fry turning once for 10 minutes or until they are a light golden brown.

6. Remove the eggplant slices with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Transfer the eggplant slices to the baking sheet. Place a slice of mozzarella on top of each eggplant slice then top with a teaspoon of tomato sauce.

Eggplant And Mozzarella Rounds Hot From The Oven7. Bake the rounds for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

8. Serve warm or cold. The leftover sauce may be frozen and used for future feasting.

Serves 4

Mangia! : Mangia!

Keep On Cookin' : This recipe is compliments of our favorite Italian cookbook "Recipes from an Italian Summer." Learn more about this favorite eating and reading essential here. Treat your kitchen, family and friends by adding this cookbook to your collection. Click. Get. Eat! Your tummy will reward you with a "Standing O!" 

More of our favorite recipes here
.


for the love of : italy

Friday, May 31, 2013

Recipe ~ No Bake Lemonberry Cups

No Bake Lemonberry Cups Made With Fresh Berries and Italian Mascarpone

Field Of Berries

Watch your guests' eyes grow wide when you present these Lemonberry Cups. They are super-easy to make and feature fresh fruit atop Mascarpone Italian cream cheese which originated in Italy's Lombardy region in the 16th century.

Served chilled, these delicious bite-sized treats make hot Texas days oh, so sweet!

~ ~ ~  NO BAKE LEMONBERRY CUPS ~ ~ ~

Ingredients:

8 ounce container | mascarpone, sweet Italian cream cheese
4 tablespoons | lemon curd
4 tablespoons | powdered sugar
15-25 miniature | mini fillo (phyllo) shells
to garnish | fresh berries
to dust | powdered sugar

What To Do:

1. In a medium-sized bowl blend well the Italian cream cheese, lemon curd and the powdered sugar.

2. On a serving plate arrange the empty fillo shells/cups. Fill the cups with the cream cheese mixture and top each with fresh berries of your choosing.

3. Place the Lemonberry Cups in the refrigerator for a 30-minute chill before serving.

4. Before the tasty unveiling, give the Lemonberry Cups a light dusting of powered sugar. This step is optional but creates a pretty topping for the fruit.

Serve chilled

Foodie Tips:

1. You can find the mini fillo shells in the freezer section of grocery stores like HEB and Kroger. No baking necessary! Jars of lemon curd will most likely be waiting for you on a shelf by the jams and jellies.

2. Berries that work well for this recipe include raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and sliced strawberries.

3. For a quick way to get the mascarpone into the shells you can use or make your own icing tube. To make your own tube simply fill one end of a clean plastic or "Ziploc" bag with the mascarpone mix. Flatten and remove the air space above the icing and cut a small piece of the bag's corner away. Holding the bag in your palm you can squeeze out the desired amount of mascarpone!

4. Hint: Red and blue-colored berries make a patriotic splash for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays. Use red and green fruits, like kiwi, for a tricolore taste symbolic of the Italian flag.

5. On my next "go" of this recipe I'll be adding a small shot of homemade limoncello to the mascarpone mixture for that extra "oompf!"

Make your tummy smile. More of our favorite recipes here.

for the love of : italy

Monday, April 22, 2013

iFAQs

Stumped? I'll try and answer some of the questions about Italy that we had, too. If you have questions not answered here, get in touch with me at ForTheLoveOfItaly@att.net... I'll get back to you!

Knowing the answers to italian Frequently Asked Questions (iFAQs) makes you a better traveler!

Q: Will I need a passport?

You betcha! I highly encourage all people to have a passport ~ even if they aren't considering international travel. I once missed out on a last-minute business trip to London because I didn't have a passport so the following week I got the ball rolling to get mine. Also know that unless you pay a lot of money, you cannot get your passport at the drop of a cowboy hat. So allow a few weeks to get yours. The single official passport office in Texas is located in Houston, so if you're in a time-squeeze and have to travel to get an expedited passport, book your next meal in Houston.

Another tip is to keep your passport updated! If you have less than a year left on your passport, get it renewed in advance. Did you know there are actually some countries that require you've had your passport a certain amount of time in your hands BEFORE you leave for travel and some countries that require you have a certain amount of time on your passport BEYOND your return travel date? I didn't. These rules are loosely referred to as "entrance requirements" for countries. Don't assume your U.S. expiration date shown on your passport means you can travel at will across the globe up to - and including - that date.

Fun Fact: I had a big scare in '08 when my passport was expiring 9/1/08 and my return travel was 7/14/08. The Houston Passport Agency told me I'd need to get my passport renewed for travel to Italy because my passport was expiring within 90 days of my return travel date. This sent me into a complete tailspin as I heard of this knowledge nugget just two days before I was leaving for Italy!

Still true
to this day:
Phone calls from the Italian Embassy in D.C. and the Italian Consulate in Dallas went unreturned, so I resorted to prayer beads, trouble dolls, garlic and insane amounts of wine to work my issues out. Subsequently, I interrogated US Airways and called the Passport agency multiple times and was reassured this was not correct according to their information. Misinformation is out there so always recheck your sources if it doesn't feel right! Despite reading posts that argued the expiration matter back and forth, I am telling you from personal experience I traveled without issue.

Regardless, raise your right hand, cross your heart and repeat after me: "I promise to keep my passport updated at least a year in advance of return travel and I'll enjoy life free and clear." Passport renewal costs about $75 plus the mental olympics associated with successfully completing the renewal form. I promptly renewed after my '08 close-call and surprisingly received the new passport 10 days from when I sent it in. But don't assume only 10 days! Online Renewal Information Here. Enough said!

Q: I don't speak Italian. Should I be concerned?

Only if you don't try to speak Italian! Italians are incredibly forgiving of foreigners who attempt to speak the language. If you just yammer to them in English, be prepared for the same to be returned. But in Italian.

If you know Spanish, you're halfway there, as the Italian language resembles a fine blend of Spanish and French and seasoned with lots of hand gesturing.

The best book we found is the Rick Steve's Italian phrase book. It's compact and well-organized. We later took two semesters of Italian at SMU and this helped make our most recent trip much easier (less fumbling with the book).

Q: When's the best time of year to travel to Italy?

If you're doing things in or around water, you'll want to plan on summer travel. It'll be hot, but who wants to swim in cold water? I've been 4 times in June thru September and the weather is typically hot, like Texas. Inland cities like Rome, Florence and Milan were really hot. If you're around coastal cities, the wind will treat you to breezy breaks from the heat. My travels to Liguria were in April and it was like San Francisco weather ~ chilly at night (sweater weather) and shorts during the day.

Spring was my favorite time to go because I wasn't so pre-occupied with the heat.

Q: What travel agent did you use?

Me! All six times.

There are several online resources and websites that will make planning and customizing your trip an easy thing to do. When booking online, be cautious to allow enough time for connecting flights - especially if clearing customs in Italy with a connection thereafter. We lost luggage twice on two separate trips in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport because of tight connections and the "French Factor".

A Rule of Thumb: I learned that hotels can be nice, but B&Bs offer more intimate service and a short- or long-term rental can be a very cost effective, authentic way to stay. For recent travels, we booked a villa rental using the ParkerVillas.com and I'd recommend them to you in a snap.

So don't be afraid to book your own trip! It's during this experience you'll learn more about what you want to do and in the process, how easy it is to do it yourself! If you're time-starved or nervous, email me @ ForTheLoveOfItaly@ATT.net as I'm happy to help outside all the tips on this site for a reasonable price and custom service from me to you.

Q: Where and when did you go?

Here's a list of the places we visited. The blue links will take you to individual posts where you can read more about that location. I have many more posts to complete (a good sign)?

2006 ~ NaplesCapriPompeiiRomeFlorence


2008 ~ Naples (Part II), HerculaneumCapri (Part II), IschiaProcidaSorrentoConca dei MariniAmalfiPositano and the awesome village of Ravello.

2009 ~ More beautiful Italy!


2011 ~ We tipped our hats to MilanVeniceMuranoBurano, Verona, Lake Como (Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna, Cernnobio)... even St. Moritz, Switzerland!

2012 - 2013 ~ This adventure was a life-changing long-term stay that brought rich insight on Italian living. You can read the posts entitled "A Tuscan Holiday" for more detail ... and more posts are still coming!

Q: What about tour groups? Do you suggest them?

Personally, I'm not a fan of organized tour packages where you spend your entire trip with a group of people visiting a pre-set list of things to do... maybe if I reach my golden years, where strength in numbers will be important when traveling.

In the meantime, I am a fan of "a la carte tour grouping" where you pick and choose when to use tour groups. Tour groups help you leverage the Italian smarts of a tour guide as well as prioritized line position, but only for a limited portion of your trip, when you decide it's right for you. See my post on Rome where I mention how tour grouping expedited seeing The Coliseum and The Vatican Museum.

Q: OK, I've booked my trip. Got any packing tips?

Take what you need and need what you take. There's nothing worse than carting around pounds of unused items. Our first year we were advised by a friend to dress up not down and we spent most of our trip wishing we had packed more shorts. So unless you're going to the Vatican, inside a church or fancy restaurants, plan on shorts for the summer and jeans/sweaters for the winter. For the Amalfi trip in Summer 2008, I took one pair of jeans and never wore them. Sweet!

Must-take items include: Your itinerary, passport, toiletry essentials and any medications. Your favorite translation book. A journal for writing down the wonderful things you experience. Also after being separated in customs one year, we now activate our phones for international calling emergencies or just to help with ease of use (See the FAQ "What About Phones?" below).

Optional items you'll want to consider taking include: headphones for the transatlantic stretch (airlines are now charging ~$5 for these). Noise-canceling headphones are a plus! Suntan lotion (if you're picky about what you use).

Common items we've forgotten include: A corkscrew, the iPod, our international power converter and portions of our itinerary. One year we didn't take a charger and we stocked-up on lithium batteries. But if you're going to be activating your phone internationally, you'll need a way to recharge it, unless it's being turned on for emergencies only.

Perhaps my greatest of tips is for you to read my Pisa post where you'll learn a very valuable lesson about international travel.

Q: What about phones?

There are several options to fulfill your need for a telefono. You'll want to balance cost with convenience when making your choice.

#1. Calling Cards: These are easy to purchase at local "bars" and a great option if you don't need to be reached, but plan on calling others when you're ready to talk. You can get cards in small amounts like 5 Euro, so this is probably the cheapest option.

#2. Rent or Purchase A Throw-Away: You can purchase a phone in Italy that is pre-loaded with minutes and use it as you need to. Don't expect fancy features but it's probably cheaper than option #3 below. Again you'll need to let your friends know your new number.

#3. Activate Your Phone: This is a great option if you want to make it seamlessly easy for folks back home to find you. They would simply call you as they usually do.

To activate, our carrier (AT&T) offers an international plan that is about $6/month to turn-on plus a per-minute usage (about $1 per minute). You can turn off the plan when you return from your trip. You'll need to ensure your phone is able to handle the international wireless network. We have internationally-friendly Blackberrys, so this wasn't a problem for us. If your phone isn't already pre-wired to accept the international network, you can also purchase an International SIM Card.

Before you leave, make sure and get the "4-1-1" from your carrier on your "new" European phone number. AT&T told us we'd had a new number and our friends said they were able to reach us from Dallas simply by calling our regular, 10-digit Texas-based number. Go figure.

Q: What's the best way to get Euro cash?


We avoid money-changing stations. For us, the most convenient way is to let your credit card do the work for you. You can obtain Euros from "bancomats" (Italian ATMs) and the conversion rate in effect for that day will automatically post to your bank account. Your bank can let you know if there are any conversion fees involved, which is likely. This is huge: Make sure you call your bank before your trip and give them the dates (and countries) of your travel. Regardless, one year, my credit union turned off my credit card "for my protection," which almost ruined the trip. That credit union is now my former credit union! Always have a "Plan B" especially when it comes to money!

Q: What's up with these city names? Roma? Firenze? Napoli?


Most cities and villages in Italy have two names: 1) Their original, given, Italian name and 2) The name foreigners give them (I think it's because we "dumb" 'em down).

So when in Italy, "Rome" is really called "Roma." "Florence" is "Firenze." And "Naples" is "Napoli." There are exceptions, like "Capri" is still "Capri," so just be on the alert. I had a melt-down at the train ticket kiosk in Naples when I was looking for a ticket to Florence and only saw Firenze. At first I thought I was going to miss my train until I poked my own finger to head. "Duh, I get it... now!"

Q: What are common ways to get around within Italy?

Airplane: You might need to transfer from one international city (Milan) to your final destination city (Naples), depending on your itinerary. Flying direct rocks, but it's pricey.

Train: If you haven't heard the 4-1-1 about the European train system, it rocks! Trains will help connect you from large cities to quaint villages. Check out Rail Europe for maps and ticket reservations. You can get an a la carte ticket for one destination, or a pass valid for several days. Train Tip: Avoid the train pain ~ remember to validate your tickets before boarding the train or else you could get fined! Tickets are not usually dated when purchased so must be validated by you prior to boarding.

Bus: Very common in larger cities. These are great ways to get around at an affordable price. When my luggage was delayed from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, I spent 3 € getting back to the Genoa airport via bus. On the way back via taxi? $40 €. The difference? Ouch!

Car: In the Italian countryside, a car rental will make total sense. But I'd avoid driving in big cities, like Naples or Rome. The Italians are very aggressive behind the wheel. You'll notice several missing side-view mirrors because of how close to each other they drive... and fast! The Italians use their horns as frequently as we say y'all.

Taxi: Yeah, they have those, too! Great for shorter distances when you're on the run and maybe traveling with luggage (like to and from the airport).

Vaporetto: A "water bus" will be your most affordable way of travel in Venice and its surrounding waterworlds. As you board the floating platform for the next arrival, don't expect it to be *the* boat, like I did. It's a safe haven until the buoyant bus approaches. Next stop? Adventure!

Hydrofoil: This isn't something you cook with, folks. It's a boat that rises up on the water when it reaches fast speeds. We took a hydrofoil between Naples and Capri.

Funicular: Think of a funicular as a slow-moving train that goes up or downhill.

You'll find funiculars in the "steep" parts of Italy and they are a form of public transportation you'll want to acquaint yourself with (unless you enjoy walking up and down hills).

Tip: Watch-out though for the folks issuing funicular tickets while on Capri ~ I've been there twice and short-changed twice. Make sure and count your money before leaving the ticket counter!

Lo Scooter: Believe it or not, I learned to scooter on the Amalfi Coast... which is not suggested for first-timers, unless you're a joy-seeker.

Scooters are a great option if you like to stop on the fly at scenic spots, traveling in hilly inclines too challenging for mere mortal walking or for jet-setting on small distance trips. Check out my post on Conca dei Marini where I mention how a scooter rental saved my life... and made the trip awesome!

Q: What about the gypsies? Are they a problem?

We read about the gypsies and it was pretty much all false. In all our travels to Italy, we've only encountered gypsies one time: in Florence, standing in line outside the Duomo. Personally, I think Italy is safer than walking to my corner liquor store. But it doesn't hurt to take reasonable precautions, like keeping your wallet in your front pocket to prevent any pick-pocketing.

One other place we encountered unsolicited folks was in our recent trip through Milan's central train station where two strangers literally pushed me away from the kiosk so they could help me purchase my tickets (for money, of course).

Never fear. I prevailed.

Q: How's the pizza?

Um, it's really good. And not like "meat lovers pan pizza from Pizza Hut good!" Italian pizza is simple. Thin crust. Basic and good toppings. Less is more. And you'll love it.

Italians don't usually slice their pizza unless you're buying it solely by the slice, which is something I think they do solely for clapping tourists. So make sure if you take a pizza to go, you ask your server to slice it for you before you leave. Molto bene!

Q: Bidet, Mate!? (a.k.a. What's a bidet?")

Every hotel, B&B and rental we've been to in Italy has a bidet. It's like a European toilet's side car. You'll see. I don't understand them, but just go with the flow; stick to the toilet and you'll feel almost at home, on your familiar throne away from home.

Q: Is it true what they say - "A Gelato A Day...?"

Yes, it's true. Have gelato
*at least once* each and every day.

You will be better for it, look Italian, smile while having the lick of your life AND lose weight. If you don't have a gelato each and every a day, you'll probably gain weight and lose your popularity.

Seriously.
; )

Proof: I ate 2 gelatos a day in 2008 and lost 8 pounds on my trip. Shazam!

You'll find gelaterias (the place you get the tasty stuff) a-plently while in Italy. Indulge in the presentation of fruit atop the creamy stuff. Want a bigger gelato? Click the pic up above and enjoy!

Q: I want to look Italian on the beach. What do I do?

Have a tan, for the love of Italy!

If you're thin and a minimalist, you'll fit in, "just like flin." Satellite-sized sunglasses a plus.

Searching for an Italian mankini or the female derivative while in Italy? I purchased my Colmar mankini in Ravello and wore it with pride, despite the fact I have >10% body fat.

When in doubt, suck it in, patriots!

Q: What are some important phrases to remember in Italian?

1. Parla inglese? (means "do you speak English?").
2. Scusi, parlo l'italiano un puo.
("Excuse me, I speak little Italian").
3. Accetate carte di credito?
("Do you take credit card?")
4. Ho i fianchi larghi! ("I have large hips!")
5. Metterò una gonna aderente per l'occasione. ("I'll wear a tight skirt for the occasion.")
6. Sono indignato! ("I'm outraged!")
7. Con o senza ghiaccio? ("With or without ice?")
8. Scherzavo! ("I was kidding!")
9. Che giornata! ("What a day!")
10. Devo fare un prelievo, c'è un Bancomat?
("I have to withdraw money, is there an ATM?")
11. Grazie per l'aiuto.
("Thanks for your help.")
12. Con affetto. ("With love.")
13. Ho bisogno di un antidolorifico. ("I need a painkiller!")

Q: If I live in Dallas, what can I do to bring Italy closer?

Eat like an Italian!
Nothing in Texas is truly Italian, but there are some great Italian-inspired restaurants around the city. My favorite casual Italian hot-spots include Terilli's on Greenville Avenue and Patrizio - a restaurant named after me, of course! Angelo's pizza is perhaps my favorite and out-of-towners love Campisi's. Nonna's crab ravioli is molto bene, so give it a try. Also, there's Daniele Osteria on Oak Lawn. A cheese lover? Molto Formaggio is a recent add to the foodie scene and you'll find some unique flavors here.

Cook like an Italian!
There's a New York-style Italian market near downtown called Jimmy's Food Store that offers a great assortment of Italian goods. Jimmy's fresh-made sandwiches are great. Good wine selection. Need an artful appetizer? Top bread with their olive salad and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes for an easy, tasty appetizer guests will think you had brought in. And for the love of Italy, don't forget to top it with fresh parmigiano reggiano! My crostini recipe is located here.

Shop like an Italian!
Explore and shop local markets around the city. My favorites? I just recently visited Dallas' Mozzarella Company down in Deep Ellum and left with an arm full of cheeses including scamorza, mozzarella with green olive and mozzarella with pesto. You can also sign-up for classes for cheese making or artful wine or beer pairings for cheese. The Mozzarella Company's neighbor Rudolph's Market & Sausage Factory has amazing meats that will remind you of an Italian macelleria, and they also sell fresh artisan breads from Empire Bread Company. My favorite is the Pane Paisano (shown at right).

Speak Like An Italian!
Learn the beauty of the Italian language! We did, and it helped make our last Italian adventure much easier on the communication efforts. We enrolled in SMU's beginning Italian and took two semesters of it from an Italian native named Damiano. He's hilarious. Best of all we've met some great people in our class ~ one who let us stay on her and her husband's yacht for free during our '08 adventure. I know! Big Texas props to you, Jeanie and David! So you never know who you're going to meet in the classes. Enroll today!

Damiano said a great best way to orient yourself to the language is by quite literally listening to it all the time. Immerse yourself as much as possible. So pop-in your favorite Italian flick and leave the TV on as "white noise" during your daily chores. Let your ears adapt to the Italian language.

Check with your programming provider about adding International Programming for your listening and viewing pleasure. Our provider (DirecTV) doesn't offer the network we liked when in Italy, so we haven't taken the plunge... yet.

There's also an Italian Club of Dallas that has ongoing events and things to do. They're based in Addison. We've not participated yet, but there were folks in our class who did. More information here.

Read Like An Italian!
(or at least read a good book written by one). I stumbled upon Too Much Tuscan Sun surfing Amazon and quickly ordered it. Written by Dario Castagno, you'll gain great insight into the heart of Tuscany's Chianti region through easy to digest, short chapters. This one's a page turner and I spent many weekends slowly reading this as it made me feel like I had been whisked away to Italy for an insider's view of Tuscany - and the tourists who flock there. Just like a fine wine, you'll lose yourself in the rich, bold insight. Ironically titled, however, there could never truly be "too much" Tuscan sun!

Sing Like An Italian!
Since you're online, you can listen to our favorite radio station for "very normal people" here. Just click the 102.5 FM link at left and let the love of Italian music tickle your ear drums.

Need A Quick Fix?
Rent (or preferably buy)
Under The Tuscan Sun. While this movie may be over-the-top sunrise peachy-happy, it brings to life the beauty of Italy. The laughter. And the hope we all have for our preferred "home away from home."

Q: Do you have a useless tips for me?

You betcha!


Useless Fact #1: I took two semesters of Italian but never knew this - the Italian alphabet is ~20% shorter than our Anglo version because there are no J, K, W, X, or Y characters found in the language. So how, then, do we spell "Texas" or "y'all," y'all?

How big is Italy compared to Texas? You're looking at it!
Useless Fact #2: Scared about going to a big, unknown country far, far, away? Tackle this on for size ~ while going to Italy is a huge event, don't let the thought of traveling there intimidate you. Italy is just 1/2 as large as Texas, in size. Italy is 116,305 square miles in size vs. its parter Texas, which weighs-in at a beefy 266,807 square miles.

Taking a closer look, Italy is comprised of about 20 regions compared to the 254 counties in Texas. That means the Italian regions can roughly "hold" about 25 Texas counties, on average. Suddenly Italy doesn't seem so small, right?

You'll find just like within Texas as well as the U.S. Italy offers varied and unique dialects, traditions - even pasta dishes! Size aside the regions of Italy pack a ton of grandeur within the country's version of the Texas "boot," proving size doesn't matter - quality does!

for the love of : italy