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The Best Spots on the Italian Riviera

Posted by: Giovanna | April 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita Ligure

Although the entire stretch of the Ligurian coastline known as the Italian Riviera is beautiful, there are some towns and locations within the region that merit special attention.

San Remo
The town closest to the French border at the western side of the Riviera is San Remo. High-rise free, this part of the coastline seems to uphold the image being projected by the Riviera and its magnificent albeit hedonistic way of life. Luxury villas lined with palm trees, long expansive beaches with cabana filled beach clubs and a large walk along the Mediterranean.
Flowers abound in pretty San Remo, a friendly reminder that this is the source of all the flowers needed to manufacture special scents.

Within San Remo, there is a large and lively old section known as Pigna, a medieval town where weekly flea markets are held every Saturday. There is also a huge indoor food market overflowing with local produce and wine. In Pigna there is a hill that tourists climb just to get a breathtaking view of the Levante and the Ponente. The Russian Orthodox Church, which was built for visiting Russian aristocrats, was also constructed in San Remo as specifically requested by the aristocrats who were attracted to the mild weather in the region.
The nightlife is alive and well in this region, with San Remo serving as the site of the glittering Casino Municipal. Just like in Monte Carlo, residents of San Remo are forbidden to play in the casino.

San Remo

San Remo

The port city of Genoa stands right at the center of the narrow stretch of the Ligurian coastline known as the Italian Riviera. The biggest commercial port of Italy, Genoa is the capital of Liguria and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. During the time of the Romans, it served as an important maritime center for the empire and, during the period of the Renaissance, was known as one of the richest cities of Renaissance Europe. An old port city, Genoa is a mixture of the old and the new, the elegant and the squalid, the historic and the modern. Remnants of the Roman Empire are still available within the town’s medieval walls right next to the tenement homes. Stretching for several miles from the hills to the coast, Genoa lives up to its reputation as the cultural capital of Europe, a title it won in 2004 and which it most likely will be able to continually hold via its theaters, museums, restaurants, cafes, shopping centers and Europe’s largest aquarium. Today, Genoa is alive and bustling at all times of the day and night with its steady influx of tourists and visitors, its restaurants, night clubs, museums and a lot of other colourful and exciting things happening around it.



One of the prettiest harbors in Italy, Portofino is known as Liguria’s jewel. Its multicoloured houses and stunning seaside scenery all contribute to give this tiny harbor town a picture-perfect milieu and make it one of the most visually appealing of all areas within the region of Liguria or the Italian Riviera. Although not as busy as its neighbouring towns, Portofino is nonetheless the best place to go to enjoy and marvel at the magnificence and serenity of the cliffs that surround and protect this once tiny fishing village as well as its magnificent coastline. First described by Pliny and given the name ‘Portus Delphini’, it was the wealthy Italians who discovered Portofino and developed it as a quiet getaway secluded and protected from the frenzy and hassle of city life. Luxury villas perch on the hills of Portofino overlooking the marina where yachts and private boats bob on the water below set against the vibrantly coloured dwellings of fishermen. There are very few beaches and hotels in the picture-perfect Portofino. What there are in abundance are bars, boutiques, nightclubs and fishing boats. Portofino is well known for its world-famous visitors like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, just to name a few.

Santa Margherita Ligure
One ferry ride from Portofino takes you to Santa Margherita Ligure, one of the main resorts of the Italian Riviera. It is also that one spot in the Riviera where vehicular traffic abounds in every corner of the town. One well-known and highly recommended hotel in this resort is the Splendido Hotel. Owned by the prestigious Orient Express Group that owns some of the world’s finest hotels, the Splendido Hotel is a grand hotel in every sense of the world. A favorite among British aristocracy who used the hotel for their discreet trysts with partners other than their spouse, Splendido Hotel was ‘discovered’ by well-known Hollywood stars as well as Europe’s leading politicians and industrialists. The vibrant and modern luxury stores at Santa Margherita Ligure which some people call a shopper’s haven, are wonderful shops to go to for a fine day of expensive shopping. One can pick up a painting or two by one of Italy’s painters Massimo Meda or purchase designer home furnishings, original Lacoste shirts, and designer clothes from brand-name shops. Choose from a wide variety of brands — Marina Yachting, D&G, Harmont & Blaine. If you are shopping for something bigger, like a yacht perhaps, then stop by the Ferreti Yachts office to place your order for your very own yacht.

Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre or region of the Five Lands, as it has been known since the 15th century, is a series of five small villages sitting on the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea. These tiny villages, which are accessible mainly by train or by foot using the paths that connect them with one another are brightly coloured and create a mountain cliff setting that is overwhelmingly beautiful.

The five small villages — Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza — are individually lovely and possess a personality all its own. Corniglia is built in the higher part of the mountain, which allows it to offer magnificent views and an even more secluded beach. Manarola is a fishing village whose colourful houses are perched on a rock above the port. Monterosso al Mare was founded in 643 and boasts of the most famous beach in the region, a 16th century Capuchin monastery, and an ancient castle. Riomaggiore is a picturesque village with pastel coloured houses crawling down the cliff to the sea. Vernazza juts out over the sea and houses a medieval tower. Although the train only travels nine kilometers from the first village to the last, the most exhilarating and fulfilling way to visit these villages is to go by foot, following the paths that intertwine and connect the villages. The walk takes anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. While it may seem overwhelming at first, those who have walked through these tiny villages speak only of having an lovely time.

Milano Ristoranti- Four of the Best…

Posted by: Giovanna | March 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

Milan is full of wonderful and exciting places to eat out, with a wide choice of every kind of food imaginable. The many stylish locations in Milan and wide variety of superb, mouth-watering menus, often with an emphasis on fish, make Milan dining an enjoyable experience. Pasta, combined with excellent local produce, such as fresh tomatoes, olive oil and rich Italian cheeses, all combine to create the wonderful and delightful flavors associated with Italy. Whether you are looking for a romantic meal for two or trendy, lively Milan dining, the only problem is deciding where to go as there are so many restaurants in Milan to choose from!

Here are four of the best:

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> Cracco
Via Victor Hugo, 4; Tel#: 02-876774; W:
Credit cards accepted; Closed 3 wks in Aug. and last wk in Dec. Sept.–June: no lunch Sat. and Mon., closed Sun.
$$$. Tasting menus are a good way to savor many of chef Carlo Cracco’s delicate inventions at this crisply elegant restaurant, though an à la carte menu is also available. Specialties include Milanese classics revisited—Cracco’s take on saffron risotto and cotoletta (breaded veal cutlet) should not be missed. Delightful appetizers and desserts vary seasonally, but may include scampi cream with freshwater shrimp, a disk of “caramelized Russian salad,” and mango cream with mint gelatin.

> Centrale
Via Pertuso, 4; Tel#: 0372-28701;; Credit cards accepted. CLOSED: Thursdays and July.
Close to the cathedral, this old-style trattoria is a favorite among locals for traditional regional fare, such as succulent cotechino (pork sausage) and tortelli di zucca (a small pasta with pumpkin filling), at moderate prices. Centrale prides itself on its bolliti, boiled meats like veal tongue and cheek, which are served with salsa verde (a sauce of parsely and capers), as well as Cremona’s most famous condiment, mostarda, a spicy, candied fruit.

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> Giacomo Arengario
Via Guglielmo Marconi 1; Tel#: 02/7209-3814;;
OPEN: Seven days a week, 12pm-Midnight. (Next to Milan Duomo).
Adored by the fashion and finance set, Giacomo’s fish restaurant, bistro and patisserie are joined by this latest locale that’s equal parts swank positioning and exquisite food. Looming high above the majestic Piazza Duomo, Giacomo Arengario’s opulent belle-époque–style interiors are as dramatic as the view of the cathedral’s spires. What to eat: The combination of earthy spelt with plump mussels and clams creates an unforgettable spaghetti dish. When berries are in season, don’t skip the raspberry custard tart.

> Unico Milano
Viale Achille Papa,30; E: (Top floor of Skyscraper WJC); Tel#: 02/3926-1025.
With a Michelin star under his belt for a restaurant he helmed in Rome, Fabio Baldassarre is one of Italy’s talented new generation of chefs. Sitting atop a skyscraper on the edge of Milan, Unico Restaurant is his love note to high-end cuisine. What to eat: Beetroot gnocchi on potato mousse with smoked ricotta cheese and black truffle Note: Book the table inside the kitchen and watch the chefs chop, glaze and braise with finesse. Every Sunday, Unico Restaurant hosts a themed brunch, laying out a cornucopia of dishes based on a region of Italy or a decadent food pairing, such as early November’s not-to-be-missed feast of mollusks and Champagne.

For a complete list of A&B recommended Milano ristoranti, email: .

Lucca Ristoranti – 4 Great Dining Spots

Posted by: Claudia | February 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

BUCA DI SANT’ANTONIO - Most talked about ristorante in Lucca--Fodor's.

BUCA DI SANT’ANTONIO - Most talked about ristorante in Lucca--Fodor's.

Lucca, just 45 miles west of Florence, is often overlooked by American touristi. However, with its famous rampart one can ride a bike around, this enclosed Tuscan city is a gem. Thanks to Fodor’s here are four wonderful places to sate your Tuscan palate:

Via della Cervia 3; Tel #: 0583 558 81; Credit cards accepted; Closed Mondays.
Email:; Price: $$
The restaurant most talked about in Lucca. Have some farro soup, one of the oldest dishes in Italy and a favorite of Giacomo Puccini and Ezra Pound, according to the Restaurant’s web site. Fodor’s review: “The staying power of Buca di Sant’Antonio—it’s been around since 1782—is the result of superlative Tuscan food brought to the table by waitstaff who doesn’t miss a beat. The menu includes the simple but blissful, like tortelli lucchesi al sugo (meat-stuffed pasta with a tomato-and-meat sauce), and more daring dishes such as roast capretto(kid) with herbs. A white-wall interior hung with copper pots and brass musical instruments creates a classy but comfortable
dining space.

Piazza de Giglio, 2; Tel#: 0583-494508
Closed: Wed; Credit cards accepted; Price: $$
Just off Piazza Napoleone. Good for lunch or dinner. Classic dish: Tacchoni con funghi. Fodor’s: “This place for all seasons, with a big fireplace for chilly weather and an outdoor terrace in summer, has quiet, late-19th-century charm and classic cuisine. If mushrooms are in season, try the tacchoni con funghi, a homemade pasta with mushrooms and a local herb called nepitella. A local favorite during winter is the coniglio con olive(rabbit stew with olives).

Piazza San Francisco, 4; Tel# 0583-469738; Website:; Closed Mon.–Tues. No lunch Wed.–Fri. Price: $
This lively, gaily colored little trattoria (the name means “black sheep”) with a high-vaulted ceiling is staffed by giovani disabili (both mentally challenged and learning-disabled young people), who wait tables under the supervision of a non-disabled companion. The food’s terrific, from the made-in-house tordelli lucchesi (meat-stuffed tortelli sauced with a fragrant meat ragù) to the tasty crostata. Great care is taken with sourcing, when possible, local organic ingredients, and such care translates into a lovely meal.

Via Tegrimi, 1; Tel#: 0583-492236 No credit cards. Closed: Sun (at lunch); Price: $
A noisy informal typical trattoria at corner of Via degli Asili. Fodor’s review: “A few short turns away from the facade of San Michele, this noisy, informal, traditional trattoria delivers cucina alla casalinga (home cooking) in the best sense. Try the typical minestra di farro to start or just go straight to secondi piatti (entrées); in addition to the usual roast meats, there’s excellent chicken with olives and a good cold dish of boiled meats served with a sauce of parsley and pine nuts. Save some room for a dessert, such as the rich, sweet, fig-and-walnut torte or the lemon sorbet brilliantly dotted with bits of sage, which tastes almost like mint, and is indescribably delicious. So, too, is the chestnut ice cream.


Bosa, Sardinia: ‘Europe’s Most Beautiful Villages’ by T&L

Posted by: Claudia | January 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

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Bosa, Sardinia:
“Far from the glitzy beach resorts that have many complaining about overdevelopment in Sardinia, Bosa remains an unspoiled gem on the island’s northwestern coast. The medieval town, on the banks of the Temo River, has an attractive riverfront lined with palm trees and palazzi painted in pastel hues. The historic center, crowned by a hilltop fortress from the 12th century, is all stone steps, shady piazzas, and houses with wrought-iron balconies.


What to Do in Milan, 2015 (NY Times)

Posted by: Lorenzo | January 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

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This article excerpted from NY Times, 01/05/2015:

“If it’s been a few years since you last visited Milan (our top choice for 52 Places to Go in 2015), you’re in for a pleasant shock. Yes, the preparations for the World Expo being held here this year (May through October) turned large swaths of the city into construction zones, many of which are still in progress. But alongside these urban development projects, a more organic wave of rejuvenation has swept through the city. Old structures of various stripes — among them a sawmill, a foundry, a bank and a farmhouse — have recently been repurposed as bars, shops, restaurants and cultural centers worthy of this most international of Italian cities. Put simply, there’s new energy coursing through cosmopolitan Milan, and it’s likely to last long after the Expo

1. Future of Fashion | 4 p.m.
Beyond the flashy downtown fashion district, a new hub of creative shops has sprouted in and around Zona Tortona, a former industrial district southwest of the city center. The area’s compelling coolness is best exemplified by Nonostante Marras, the spellbinding shop of the Sardinian designer Antonio Marras. Hidden from the street behind a residential building, past a locked gate and through an overgrown courtyard, the airy boutique has a mesmerizing interior: trees strung with fairy lights, artworks and antique furniture, a cylindrical wooden bookshelf with unusual titles, and a cluster of hanging lamps inside long white dresses painted with geometric patterns. Equally captivating is the clothing for sale, ranging from pleated lace skirts and prim pastel coats to statement-making runway dresses printed with howling wolves.

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2. Poolside Aperitivo | 6:30 p.m.
Aperitivo is a sacred rite in Milan, and there’s no finer place to carry on the tradition than around the rooftop pool of Ceresio 7, a new bar and restaurant that oozes sophistication. The elegant spot opened in the fall of 2013 on the top floor of a Fascist-era office building that’s the headquarters of the fashion house Dsquared2. The glamorous interior (blood-red lacquered tables, peacock-blue lounge chairs, Art Deco brass bar) is the work of the local Dimore Studio design firm. But there’s also substance beneath this beauty. For proof, order the Ceresio Spritz (sparkling wine, soda and Solerno, a Sicilian blood-orange liqueur; 15 euros, or about $18, at $1.20 to the euro), which will arrive with a series of snacks from flatbread stuffed with mortadella to a salad of prosciutto and pickled beets. Savor the spread from a poolside perch, where the dazzling view of blinking-light skyscrapers feels more like Tokyo than Italy.

3. Supper at the Sawmill | 9 p.m.
Arrive early to Carlo e Camilla, a restaurant that opened last year in a former sawmill, and you may think you have entered a large-scale art installation. That’s how dramatic the atmosphere is within the cavernous space, where spotlights illuminate ornate crystal chandeliers and one long white table arranged in the shape of a cross. This vivid attention to detail extends to the kitchen, as it should, given that one owner is the well-regarded Italian chef Carlo Cracco. Highlights of a recent meal included an artful plate of tartare adorned with edible flowers, and an inventive pasta dish of paccheri tossed with turnip greens, mussels and smoked pig’s trotters. Dinner for two, about 100 euros.

4. Drink Decisions | Midnight
Three excellent new night spots, all opened in 2013, mean that diverse drinking options await the eager night owl. At the end of a dark alley in an old foundry is Fonderie Milanesi, a lively bar filled with Negroni-sipping, in-the-know locals. Craft-beer drinkers searching for rare Italian microbrews should try the friendly pub Lambiczoon, specializing in sour ales and lambics. Looking for a scene suited to showing off sparkly skin-tight pants? Then slip into Dry, a dimly lighted bar with a concept (cocktails and pizza) that attracts crowds of aspiring fashionistas late into the night.

5. Bank Holdings | 10 a.m.
Italian banks apparently have diversified holdings that extend far beyond euros. The evidence is on display at the Gallerie d’Italia Piazza Scala, a trio of grand palazzi that is now an exhibition space for artworks held by the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group. A wing that opened in 2012 displays masterpieces from 20th-century Italian artists like Emilio Vedova and Lucio Fontana in opulent halls that once served as the seat of the Banca Commerciale Italiana. And two adjoining palazzi contain beautiful bas-reliefs by Antonio Canova and dreamy paintings by Giorgio Belloni, among many others. Free admission.

6. Lunch on the Farm | 12:30 p.m.
For a break from the bustle without leaving the city, head to Cascina Cuccagna, a formerly abandoned 17th-century farmhouse that has been transformed into a lively cultural center hosting everything from creative writing courses and yoga classes to film nights and farmers’ markets. In 2012, the project expanded to include a restaurant, Un Posto a Milano, that’s ideal for lunch. The seasonal menu places “Portlandia”-level emphasis on carefully sourced ingredients; an autumnal meal included pumpkin-stuffed tortelli in a sage-and-butter sauce (15 euros) and a slow-cooked egg in potato cream with black truffles (9 euros).

7. Beyond the Duomo | 3 p.m.
Spend the afternoon touring some fascinating yet often overlooked churches, the ones without a grand Gothic facade or masterpiece by da Vinci. Start at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, where the skeletal remains of Milan’s patron saint can be seen (fittingly, in exquisite dress) in the crypt. A few blocks away is Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, a church attached to a former Benedictine convent (now an archaeological museum) that contains a cycle of glorious 16th-century frescoes. Don’t miss the area once reserved for nuns on the other side of the center partition, where paintings include a depiction of Noah’s Ark with unicorns ascending the gangplank. Finish at the Chiesa di Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro, an architectural gem hidden amid chain stores. Inside, marvel at the illusory apse of Donato Bramante, a spectacular example of forced perspective.

8. Secondhand Shopping | 6 p.m.
When Milan’s fashionable denizens clean out closets, their gently used designer treasures turn up in the best vintage shops, like Cavalli e Nastri. The refined selection at this vintage emporium, which is spread over three locations, includes only pristine pieces from the 1920s to last season. Browse the men’s store to find wool topcoats, dapper hats and loads of leather briefcases. Then cross the street to the women’s shop, where a recent visit unearthed a silk Christian Dior skirt and a cool, neo-grunge Marni jacket. For the newest fashions, try your luck at the boutique in Brera, where dresses from Kenzo and Pucci share space with silk scarves from Hermès and Gucci.

9. Navigli Night | 8:30 p.m.
The Navigli district surrounding the city’s historic canals is a prime one-stop destination for evening entertainment. Start the night with dinner at Taglio, a casual restaurant, bar and food shop that opened in 2013. The menu changes often, but the light tempura zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta that arrive atop broccoli gazpacho (14 euros) ought to be a permanent fixture. Then sample the risotto alla Milanese, a traditional saffron-infused dish that gets a delicious update with the addition of rich roasted marrow and crunchy toasted almonds and pine nuts (14 euros). Afterward head to Mag Cafè, a classy cocktail bar pouring expertly prepared concoctions, like 10 Gennaio, named after a historic date and made with Hendrick’s gin, basil syrup, lemon peel, bitters and vermouth (9 euros).

10. Breakfast Breads | 10 a.m.

When a cafe greets its customers with a prominent sign proclaiming “Bread or Death,” you know you can expect breakfast to include some high-quality gluten. So it is at Pavè , a Pinterest-perfect cafe and pasticceria with glass cases filled with a remarkable range of freshly baked goods, like apple-and-almond frangipane tartlets, raisin-studded slices of panettone, brioche filled with hazelnut cream. Devour your chosen treat at a cozy communal table while your hip Milanese neighbors recap their nights over extra-large cappuccini.

11. Great Exhibitions | Noon
No other museum or institution in Italy has lately packed its calendar with as many world-class art exhibitions as the Palazzo Reale, a sprawling palace on the main Piazza Duomo. Two shows currently winding down are “Segantini. Il Ritorno a Milano” with more than 100 works from the 19th-century Italian painter (through Jan. 18), and an expansive Marc Chagall retrospective featuring more than 200 works by the artist (through Feb. 1). But you’ll also find a van Gogh exhibition packed with paintings from private collections typically inaccessible to the public (through March 8). And in April, the palazzo will mount a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that promises to be the largest ever in Italy. Take it slow, see it all, and when you’re done, you’ll find the resplendent Duomo waiting mere steps away.

In a former perfume factory in Zona Tortona, the Magna Pars Suites Milano (Via Forcella 6) is a boutique hotel that opened in 2013 with 28 suites encircling a lush courtyard garden. Decorated with calming, neutral hues, the rooms, starting at 243 euros per night, also feature furnishings from local designers and paintings by artists from the Brera Academy.

Two other new lodgings illustrate the range of options available in Milan. Near the chic Brera neighborhood, Palazzo Parigi (Corso di Porta Nuova 1) is an opulent hotel with 98 luxurious rooms starting at 450 euros. On the other end of the price spectrum is the guesthouse that recently opened at Cascina Cuccagna (Via Cuccagna 2) with 16 beds in hostel-style shared rooms starting at 25 euros.

Washingtonian Magazine’s Top Italian Restaurants – 2014

Posted by: Lorenzo | January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »

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Washingtonian Magazine is out with its year-end rankings of DC restaurants and Italian cuisine is made the cut with 13 restaurants of the 2014 Top 100.

First among the Italian restaurants listed is Fiola Mare (ranked #4) a new addition by Chef Fabio Trabocchi. Washingtonian refers to this special occasion restaurant as “a rarefied realm of luxury and indulgence”. Chef Trabocchi also was recognized as Washingtonian’s “Restaurateur of the Year” since three of his dining spots made the top 50!

Three 2013 Top 100 restaurants that are notably absent this year from the list include Roberto Donna’s AU area trattoria Al Dente, as well as Menomale, one of our favorite Neapolitan certified pizzerias in Brookland, and the downtown’s Tosca, the area standard for corporate luncheons.

The List
The metro area Italian restaurants – thirteen all together – making the 2014 Top 100 DC Restaurant list are found below:

4. Fiola Mare / / 3050 K St NW Ste 101, Washington, DC 20007/(202) 628-0065
7. The Red Hen /www. / 1822 1st St NW, Washington, DC 20001 / (202) 525-3021
8. Fiola / / 601 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC/ (202) 628-2888
13. Casa Luca / New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001 / (202) 628-1099
28. Obelisk/2029 P St NW, Washington, DC 20036 /(202) 872-1180
31. Two Amy’s (pizza)/ 3715 Macomb St Nw, Washington, DC/ (202) 885-5700
33. Osteria Morini/ 301 Water St SE, Washington, DC/ (202) 484-0660
41. Graffiato/ 707 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001/ (202) 289-3600
48. Etto/ 1541 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 / (202) 232-0920
55. Aggio/ 5335 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20015 /(202) 803-8020
57. Lupa Verde/ / 1401 T St NW, Washington, DC 20009 /(202) 827-4726
59. G by Mike Isabella/ / 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003 / (202) 640-2000
79. Ghibellina / / 1610 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 / 202) 803-2389

Cefalu’, the town that King Roger built

Posted by: Giovanna | January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »

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Just one hour’s drive east of Palermo, sitting serenely between its natural bay and the towering rocky granite mass of La Rocca, is Cefalù.

For a small town, Cefalù offers a great deal, including sandy beaches, winding Mediaeval streets flanked with all manner of shops, excellent restaurants serving the freshest of fish and last but probably first, its unique Norman cathedral.

While Cefalù’s origins go back to at least Greek times (the name derives from the ancient Greek word for “Cape”), the town we now know and love was built at the behest of the Norman King, Roger II. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1131 and is an exquisite example of what has been termed “Sicilian Romanesque”. Thanks to the splendid mosaic of Christ Pantocrator above the altar, it is twinned with the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Duomo in Monreale. Seeing all three on a trip to Sicily is strongly recommended.
Also of interest is the Medieval wash house – “lavatoio” – which is fed by a natural spring and the Osterio Magno which, according to tradition was King Roger’s very own residence. It now houses art exhibitions.
An ascent of La Rocca presents quite a challenge (especially in the hot summer months) but is an absolute must: the views are spectacular, while the walls of the old Saracen stronghold and the remains of a Temple of Diana (which supposedly dates back to Sicilian-Greek times) are of no little interest.

Directly south of Cefalù is the wonderful Madonie National Park with its charming villages and towns, such as Castelbuono, its delightful scenery, its impressive mountains and some wonderful walking.
It is no coincidence then, that after Taormina and Palermo, Cefalù is probably the most popular tourist town in Sicily, offering, as it does, something for everyone.

Source: Think Sicily

Valley of the Car Kings (Modena)

Posted by: Lorenzo | November 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

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From The Wall Street Journal:

“At his farm in the rural outskirts of Modena, Italy, Umberto Panini produces about 4,300 wheels each year of the finest Parmigiano-Reggiano you will ever the busted air conditioning in my rented diesel, I am confused and in no mood for cheese. Mr. Panini, I have been told, runs a museum of extremely rare Italian cars, the collection that originally belonged to the Maserati brothers, who launched their famed racing company in Modena in 1914. Yet there is no sign of a museum at this farm, which was exceedingly difficult to find. I see no exotic wheels anywhere—unless you count the rounds of Parmigiano.
“Automobili?” I say to the woman in the farm’s cheese shop.
She guides me to an office where a man is hunched over a desk. Mr. Panini, I presume. He gets on a bike, rides about 100 yards to a box of a building and unlocks the door. Then he disappears without a word. Inside, millions of euros worth of vintage Maseratis from the 1930s to the 1980s are lined up on the tiled mosaic floor. I am alone with the most important collection of Maseratis in the world. In the sunlight beaming through the windows, paint gleams and chrome glows. Every one of these automobiles is a piece of hand-built Italian sculpture, and every one is an embodiment of modernity’s defining ambition: to harness power. On the second floor, vintage motorcycles stand side by side like the most expensive row of dominoes on earth.

There is no security guard, nor was I required to buy a ticket (though I was, apparently, supposed to make an appointment). Only in Italia.

Mr. Panini’s farm is one stop on my trip through Italy’s Motor Valley, the small slice of Emilia-Romagna that contains Modena and Bologna and the hamlets between. This region is known for its eminent cuisine—famed cheeses, prosciutto di Parma, tortellini and zampone (salty pig’s feet). The greatest chef in the world, as ranked by France’s International Academy of Gastronomy this year, is here in Modena—Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. But it’s the song of engines that lures visitors from all corners of the globe.

Motor Valley is the home of the greatest names in exotic motoring: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, De Tomaso, Stanguellini and Pagani, maker of the new $1 million-plus, 230-mile-per-hour Huayra. The tradition of hand-building beautiful vehicles in Italy goes back to the days of Roman chariots. Today, the streets of Motor Valley, carved out during the Middle Ages, swarm with supercars old and new.

As the curator of Bologna’s Ducati Museum told me: “This is Silicon Valley for the need for speed. If you don’t like to drive 55, this is heaven on earth.”

Most of these firms have museums and factories a tourist can visit (some by appointment only). The collections are about more than cars; they trace the history of the 20th century through works of mechanized art that were owned by celebrities and royalty. As the Italian film director Roberto Rossellini put it in the 1960s: “There is no finer thrill in the world than driving a Ferrari flat out.”
During my stay, I see as many women as men touring Motor Valley. Yet for couples who want to go their separate ways for a day or two, the quaint piazzas of Bologna beckon. You can brave the area with a GPS and a prayer, or you can book a customized guided tour. You can travel in a standard rental car, but even better is a classic Fiat 500 (about $700 a day) or a sparkling new Ferrari (about $700 for two hours).

If the journey is well planned, all of the following can be conquered in two days. You will have to drive fast—but on these roads, that’s the name of the game anyway.

Aerial View of Ferrari Museo

Aerial View of Ferrari Museo

Ferrari Museum
Down the street from the imperious gates of Enzo Ferrari’s factory in the Modena suburb of Maranello stands the Museo Ferrari. Priceless racing and sports cars abound, but the pièce de résistance is Mr. Ferrari’s simple office from the 1960s, recreated behind Plexiglas. From this worn-leather chair next to a vintage telephone, “the Magician of Maranello” conquered the world’s roads and racetracks in the postwar years. About $18, Via Dino Ferrari 43, 41053 Maranello;
Francesco Stanguellini is considered Motor Valley’s Godfather of Speed. He started building racing cars in the early 20th century and his progeny continued until the company went belly-up in the 1970s. The ultimate treasure in this industrial space is Mr. Stanguellini’s 1900 Fiat, the first car registered in Modena, with license plate Mo 1. Legend has it that Enzo Ferrari learned to drive in this very car. Free, appointment necessary. Via Emilia Est, 756, Modena;

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Ferruccio Lamborghini Museum
From the outside, the building that holds the Lamborghini family museum, founded in 1995, is as banal as an old Fiat. Inside it’s like a Willy Wonka factory for gear heads. There are vintage tractors, a helicopter used by the Rome fire department, a custom golf cart in which Pope John Paul II was chauffeured about Vatican City, all branded with the Taurus logo. Numerous one-of-a-kind Lamborghinis are on display, including the first ever built, from 1963. It all sprang from the fertile mind of Ferruccio Lamborghini (1916-93). Today, his nephew Fabio runs the museum. About $18, appointment necessary, Via Statale, 342, Dosso (Ferrara);

Ducati Museum
“In Italy, we don’t make cars or bikes,” says Livio Lodi, curator of the Ducati Museum, located at the factory in Bologna where Ducati motorcycles are hand-built. “We make emotion.” The collection follows Ducati production from the post-war years to present-day racing and road bikes—muscular two-wheeled athletes, each a rolling monument to testosterone. Make an appointment and you can tour the assembly lines. About $14, Via Antonio Cavalieri Ducati, 3, Bologna;

Maserati Factory and Showroom
Only owners of a Maserati or Ferrari can tour the Maserati factory, and only by appointment. But if you’re in Modena, a stop by the corporate headquarters’ showroom is definitely worthwhile. Every Maserati that rolls off the assembly line here is test-driven on the city’s ancient thoroughfares. Viale Ciro Menotti, 322, Modena;

The Lowdown: Motor Valley
How To Get There: You can fly into Bologna or Milan. The latter requires a 90-minute drive southeast on the A1.
Where to Stay: Modena’s Hotel Real was the spot for Grand Prix drivers and their paramours in the ’50s and ’60s. The Real Fini (renamed for the family that bought it) is still old-school—elegant and clean, with no extras. (From about $80 per night, For a more modern feel, try the Art Hotel Novecento, a boutique hotel in the heart of Bologna. (From about $140 per night,
Where to Eat: Ristorante Cavallino—across from the Ferrari factory—is where Enzo Ferrari dined with his Grand Prix drivers in the Golden Age of Speed. The tortellini and Lambrusco are supreme. (Via Abetone Inferiore, 1, Maranello; Don’t miss Modena’s Osteria Francescana, the dining Mecca of northern Italy. (Via Stella, 22, Modena;
Booking a Guide: Local agencies like Modenatur ( can create custom itineraries that include factory tours, exotic car rentals and meetings with the likes of Fabio Lamborghini, director of his family’s car museum, as well as tours of Modena’s balsamic vinegar industry.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Five of Firenze’s Best Gelato Shops…

Posted by: Giovanna | November 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

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“Gelato is to Florence like Starbucks is to Seattle- there is a strong gelato culture with a shop nearly every 20 meters! Florence is a tiny city- a village I like to say. You can walk from one end of the historic center to the other in 30 minutes tops!
In just the small quarter of Sant’Ambrogio spanning no more than 200 meters, there are at least 5 gelato shops within that neighborhood. Imagine how many are in the historical center from Piazza della Repubblica to Santa Croce- loads!

So how do you go about going to the good gelato shops in Florence if you are only in town for a few days or you just arrived on an extended trip and overwhelmed by the array of choices? There are also a few parameters in keep in mind when gelato hunting:
> Anything in “mound” form is not natural and is not artisanal.
> If it has a neon color, chances are it’s not going to be gourmet.
> Avoid gelato shops that also serve pizza inside. This communicates “fast food”.

Here are five of the best gelato shops in Florence you can’t miss:

1. Carabe’
Address: Via Ricasoli, 60R; Website:
A Sicilian style gelato shop in stone’s throw from the Academia where the David is on display, has a strict motto for “quality without compromise.” All products are 100% natural and artisan made daily.
Here you can enjoy Sicilian granite which are a type of slush-ice dessert made from seasonal fruit and sometimes nuts like almond and pistachio, where they grow deliciously in Sicily. If you are a fan of citrus fruit gelato and sorbets, try the “Spirito Siciliano” which is a fragrant sorbet made with Sicilian sourced citrus fruits like mandarins and lemons.

2. Carapina
Address: Via Lambertesca, 18; Website:
This gelato shop is owned and operated by one of Italy’s most caring modern gastronomy purveyors, Simone Bonini. Celebrated by the nation’s most revered gastronomic journals like Gambero Rosso, Bonini has started a new kind of gelato shop which focuses on fine, raw ingredients and distinct flavors while celebrating regional traditions like a gelato flavored after Vin Santo, Tuscany’s most traditional dessert wine.
Address: Via Lambertesca, 18; Website:

3. Gelateria Badiani
Address: Viale dei Mille 20/r ; Website:
In the very off-the-beaten-path residential neighborhood of Campo de’ Marte, lies one of Florence’s most famous gelato shops among native Florentines. During the warmer months, it is not uncommon to find locals perched outside till midnight with friends socializing over authentic Florentine flavors. It is said that the “Buontalenti” is the best in town at Badiani. Buontalenti and Crema Fiorentina are two of the oldest gelato recipes in Florentine history and dates back to the renaissance. They are simple flavors in a base of sweet cream, vanilla and a dash of dessert wine but have cultural significance in the world of Florentine gelato.

4. Il Procopio
Address: Via Pietrapiana 60r
Eccentric concoctions like La Follia (the madness) and high quality raw ingredients (like alpine fresh milk) define the characteristics of the completely handmade gelato production at Il Procopio. Classic flavors like dark chocolate and coffee gelato are not to be missed however this gelato shop is ideal for those with a curious appetite.
Creative mixes like Apple Pie and Sacher Torte or Il Procopio: a blend of dried citrus peel, caramelized fig and Sicilian almond, is award winning from the annual Gelato Festival in Florence. These gelato servings are to be highly considered.

5. La Sorbetteria
Address: Piazza Torquato Tasso 11R; Website:
This is more like a gelato stand than a shop as there is no inside seating or store to take a cool off from Florence’s unforgiving heat. However, there is a little bench seating area in front of the stand where locals of the neighborhood slurp down their flavorful gelato before it melts away. Located in the Oltrarno near Piazza Santo Spirito in Piazza Tasso, this gelato stand is really good for more modern flavors like salted caramel, dark chocolate sorbet named “Tar” as well as a selection of refreshing citrus sorbets blended with Italian herbs like sage or mint. All gelato and sorbets are made from whole fruits and pure ingredients.

Source: Italy magazine.

When in Rome: Where Stylish Men Shop…

Posted by: Claudia | October 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.48.49 AMAccording to Departures Magazine, here’s some shopping advice for stylish men, when in Rome…

Watch Straps: While the watch is widely regarded as a symbol of a man’s worldliness, perhaps not enough attention is paid to the taste displayed by the strap. At Marco Pelle and Mario Di Clemente’s family-run Artigiani e Pellettieri in the backstreets of Rome, old gentlemen spend years treating and refining strap leather. “I love changing my straps,” says Carlos Souza, of Valentino, an ardent watch collector who makes regular trips to the atelier. Bring a watch face, and they will fit it with the leather, goose or alligator strap you choose. Straps start at $50; 15 Via Vittoria; 39-06/361-3402.

Vintage Jewelry: It’s no secret that Italians love jewelry—men included—but some of their most prized pieces aren’t shiny and new. “I love looking for vintage items, but the real finds aren’t on Via Condotti; they’re on little side streets, like Via dei Coronari,” says Francesca Leoni, worldwide communications director for Valentino and a former director at Bulgari. On that very street, Leoni found M. di M., a tiny estate-jewelry shop curated by Angelica Magaldi that holds plenty of male-friendly pieces from iconic Italian jewelers, like Bulgari ancient Roman coin pendants from the 1960s and ’70s, Buccellati gold and diamond rings and carved skull rings from Venetian jeweler Attilio Codognato. At 54 Via dei Coronari; 39-06/687-1605.

Ties: Getting creative with ties takes delicate skill; going too far with patterns or colors can be tacky, but even the nicest blue silk tie can look boring. For more adventurous options, our Rome-based contributing editor, Lee Marshall, recommends the menswear shop of Alberto Valentini, in the city’s Centro Storico district. The shop specializes in vintage fabrics from the 1920s to the ’60s, and owner (and Salvador Dalí doppelgänger) Valentini’s designs have just the right amount of eccentricity. Ties start at $100; Vicolo delle Vacche 21; 39-06/6476-0682.

Papal Socks: Rome’s pontiffs have a long and bejeweled history in the shock-and-awe approach to fashion, from the gilded Papal Mitre to vivid scarlet and purple socks. Vatican cardinals have visited the cobblestoned streets behind the Pantheon, where haberdasheries like Gammarelli (Via S. Chiara 34; have been tailoring ecclesiastical robes for six generations—that is, since 1789. For those contemporary gentlemen not sworn to the cloth, like Carlos Souza, the global brand ambassador of Valentino, a pair of cardinal purple or red wool socks from Gammarelli or from nearby De Ritis (Via de’ Cestari 48; 39-06/686-5843) adds a splash of rich color to any ensemble.

Smart Tailoring: When in Rome, Valentino creative directors Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri recommend their favorite tailor, Franco Masino (Via Belsiana 60;, for elegant suits. When it comes to more formal wear, they suggest Domenico Luzzi (Via del Babbuino 41;, who makes suits strictly for black-tie occasions.

Source: Departures magazine, .