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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; ferrari.com
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; www.stanguellini.it

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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); museolamborghini.it

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; ducati.com

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; maserati.com

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, hotelviaemilia.it) For a more modern feel, try the Art Hotel Novecento, a boutique hotel in the heart of Bologna. (From about $140 per night, novecento.hotelsbologna.it)
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; ristorante-cavallino.it) Don’t miss Modena’s Osteria Francescana, the dining Mecca of northern Italy. (Via Stella, 22, Modena; osteriafrancescana.it)
Booking a Guide: Local agencies like Modenatur (modenatur.it) 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: http://www.parcocarabe.it/
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: http://carapina.it/
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: http://carapina.it/

3. Gelateria Badiani
Address: Viale dei Mille 20/r ; Website: http://www.buontalenti.it
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: http://www.lasorbettiera.com
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; gammarelli.com) 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;francomasino.it), for elegant suits. When it comes to more formal wear, they suggest Domenico Luzzi (Via del Babbuino 41; sartorialuzzi.com), who makes suits strictly for black-tie occasions.

Source: Departures magazine, http://www.departures.com/fashion/style/when-rome .

Hotel Splendido in Portofino

Posted by: Claudia | October 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

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IF YOU GO

Portofino…the best hotel on the Italian Riviera is the Hotel Splendido. Formerly a Benedictine monastery, the Hotel Splendido was converted into aluxurious hotel in 1922 and quickly became one of Europe’s hotspots. To this day, it is rated an one of the world’s best hideouts. As splendid as its name suggests, perched above Portofino’s yacht-filled harbour, its saltwater pool, exclusive spa, lovely rooms and terraces overlooking the Mediterranean will make you wish you could stay forever.

This Orient Express property is now part of the OX rebrand “Belmond”.

Click here: Hotel website

Burano, Jewel of Venetian Lagoon

Posted by: Giovanna | September 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

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It goes without saying that Venice is a must-visit place for any traveller within its proximity, but it would be unthinkable now to visit this unique place without taking a water bus over to the little island of Burano – the ‘jewel’ in the Venetian crown. A first visit to Burano and one realizes you are in for a treat. It is always exciting to experience new territory, but this isle has great photographic potential. When you reach the Fondamenta Nuove, on the northern border of Venice, facing the lagoon, you’ll find the water bus to Burano. The vaporetto takes just 40 minutes to arrive at the landing stage of the island. From the boat dock you can see the multi-colored terraced homes, which follow the gentle curves of the narrow canals.
The colors are not just beautiful in the distinct light of the region, but they are practical too. Each one marks the territorial boundary of a property and residents can see their homes from quite a distance, useful for fishermen returning with their catch in the misty morning. Get there on an early boat and you are almost certain to see the ladies of the island sweeping and wiping down their immaculate house fronts. Little brooms and polishing equipment ‘decorate’ many a façade along with ‘buntings’ of white linen which are draped neatly across homes and the little squares linking the narrow passages. The fogher or hooded fireplace gives interest to the outer shape of many of the walls, whose typical Venetian windows are ‘framed’ with a white band. From swamps to lace Archeological evidence has shown that early settlers have inhabited Burano since before the Roman colonization. They were fishermen, salt gatherers and farmers, all well versed in navigation. Burano’s naturally sheltered position and its detachment from the mainland meant these original lagoon dwellers were protected from invaders and plagues of malaria which were normal in the other islands. Inhabitants over the centuries raised the ground, dug canals and built bridges to transform a swamp into a hospitable place.

The island is approximately seven kilometres from Venice and has always been closely connected to it by its shared past in good and bad times. It was occupied by French and then Austrian troops and contributed its own heroes to the ill-fated 1848 revolution led by Daniele Manin. In 1866, it joined the kingdom of Italy together with the whole of Veneto and became a township of the Municipality of Venice in 1923. It has long been associated with lace, first produced by nuns in the 15th century, and then taken up by fishermen’s wives. Visit the museum and admire the intricate work of these nimble fingered lace-makers or you can browse the little stalls and small shops along the canal paths into the main square, Piazza B. Galuppi, dedicated to a famous Italian musician born in Burano named Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785). Tapestries, jewellery, linen and other quality items are on display, but there is no ‘hard sell’ and it is so relaxing to sit with a caffé latte in the one bustling thoroughfare that Burano possesses. Seafood is another good reason to visit Burano, as there are many excellent restaurants serving typical local dishes mostly centered around the main piazza.

Each time you visit Burano, the local people play an important part in making the experience a very enjoyable one. A lady bustles past on one of the little wooden bridges and shouts over to a friend who is leaning out of the window, and their laughter resounds from the buildings. An old man passing by in his boat has a conversation with another old man sitting on a step. The voices are amplified by the narrow walls and waterways and it makes it all feel special. A monk in long brown robes passes the central church of San Martino, which has a tower leaning like the famous Pisa one. The church was constructed in the 16th century with three aisles, transept, major chapel and two side chapels with an arched ceiling supported by pillars. The most important work of art in the church is the 1727 Tiepolo’s Crocifissione. Even after capturing a couple of hundred images of Burano, it is impossible to stop.

Around 1921, there was a plan to link the mainland to Venice with an iron street going as far as the Fondamenta Nuove and then a separate causeway to S. Erasmo, S. Francesco del Deserto and on to Burano. Another project suggested a suspended railway could connect Mestre to the Cavallino, with branches to Murano and Burano. Even more incredible was the idea of connecting the islands with a sub-lagoon metro system! Fortunately none of the ideas got under or off the ground. Burano stands in pleasant isolation, a unique little gem of the Venetian lagoon and long may it remain so. The colors, leaning tower and the San Martino Cathedral fade into the distance, but you will have the memories of a wonderful day in Burano.
See more at: http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/jewel-venetian-lagoon-burano#sthash.akF8vhB0.dpuf

Source: Italy Magazine, http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/jewel-venetian-lagoon-burano

Toronto’s Best Italian Eateries

Posted by: Claudia | September 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Queen's Pasta Cafe - Toronto

Queen's Pasta Cafe - Toronto

Americans are mostly surprised to find that Canada’s Toronto actually has a “Little Italy” section in this fair city. In fact Toronto residents are lucky to have a healthy dose of the Cucina d’Italia in their neighborhoods.

The authoritative food critic Ten Best has helped here with its owned list compiled by Courtney Sunday, a local Toronto resident. Ranked by them here are ten of Toronto’s best Italian eateries…Mangia!

10 Grazie Ristorante
www.grazie.ca
2373 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P 2C8, Canada
+1 416-488-0822
Grazie claims that it “hasn’t been quiet since” opening in 1990. Their website is filled with photos of happy customers, stories of opening and odes to ingredients (like the anchovy or tomato). The place attracts crowds, couples and families and it has an energetic atmosphere. You can dress your pasta in cream sauce, tomato sauce, tomato cream sauce or extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Personal pizzas are quite large and could certainly be shared if appetizers are enjoyed to start. Pasta and pizza are prepared per order, and the freshness is reflected in each bite. All this for a price tag that is reasonably low for a night out in Toronto.

9 Queen’s Pasta Cafe
www.queenspastacafe.com
2263 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S 1N8, Canada
+1 416-766-0993
By the name of this restaurant, we are certain that you can easily tell it is not the place to order pizza. Queen’s Pasta does pasta spectacularly well. It is served perfectly cooked and handmade to perfection, from striped butternut squash agnolotti to exquisite cheesy tortellini hats. There over 15 pasta dishes and the dimly lit small restaurant in Bloor West Village invites an air of romance. During the summer, the space expands with a big open air patio that is great for nursing your glass of wine. If you are a fan of the pasta, consider buying some wholesale and keeping it in your freezer. Go on…embrace your inner carb lover.

8 Trattoria Giancarlo
http://www.giancarlotrattoria.com/
41 Clinton St, Toronto, ON M6J 2N9, Canada
+1 416-533-9619
We had to move our way over to Little Italy eventually when talking about the best Italian restaurants. Trattoria Giancarlo is an intimate restaurant that prepares exceptional menu items with care and precision. Wine bottles are displayed on the walls with price tags in full view which makes for a unique wine selection process. Menu items are often rich, such as gnocchi with lobster and leek pesto cream. Osso bucco melts in your mouth. Risotto is made fresh and will take half an hour from ordering. All the better to take the edge off with an appetizer or two, such as baked mushrooms with grilled polenta that will set the standards.

Ascari Enoteca

Ascari Enoteca

7 Ascari Enoteca
www.ascarienoteca.ca
1111 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1K7, Canada
+1 416-792-4157
“We love food. We love wine. We love racing.” So declares the website of Ascari Enoteca, named after 1950s racing legend Alberto Ascari. Pastas are made fresh in house every single day and the menu changes both seasonally and locally. There are a nice variety of red and white wine by the bottle or the glass, but you can also pamper yourself with a flight and have 2oz pours of some fine selections. Appetizers are simple but executed beautifully, such as warm lemons dusted with lemon zest. The pasta sauces complement the fresh noodles, with ingredients from homemade sausage to pork shoulder with cream sauce. Flawless food in reasonable portions; this is a neighbourhood restaurant that shines.

6 Tutti Matti
tuttimatti.com; 364 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1R7, Canada
+1 416-597-8839
Some people have been to Italy and fondly remember the flavours. For others, the closest they have come is watching Under the Tuscan Sun on the W Network. In either case, going to Tutti Matti is a flavour experience that is rare in downtown Toronto. Chef Alida Solomon trained in Tuscany and her succinct menu celebrates Tuscan flavours. Her kitchen is open concept in the middle of the restaurant. Meals are robust, like wild boar ragu that will make your eyes roll back in your head in pleasure. The appetizers are equally luscious and well proportioned, like the toscano board that comes with gooey cheese, salumi and house made terrine. You may not want to stuff yourself, but it will be hard not to try to cram as much of this perfectly balanced food into your mouth.

5 Luci
http://www.lucirestaurant.com/
664 The Queensway, Etobicoke, Ontario
+1.416-519-1355
People in Toronto don’t like traveling outside of the neighbourhoods, especially during the winter months. However, it is well worth making the trek to Etobicoke for a special evening out. Luci is Godfather fantastic. The servers are well versed in the menu and enthusiastic about voracious appetites. The ambience is romantic and the food is stunningly presented. From mushroom risotto to al dente pasta to fall off the bone lamb, meals do not disappoint. The owner, Fernando, will often visit tables to reflect on your experience. Try to refrain from kissing your fingers in stereotypical Italian fashion. Words will do.

Pizzeria Libretto

Pizzeria Libretto

4 Pizzeria Libretto
pizzerialibretto.com
221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z8, Canada
+1 416-532-8000
This is the real deal kind of pizza. You may find yourself enthusiastically affirming the taste of real Neopolitan Pizza at Pizzeria Libretto in Italian. Or, if words fail you, “Mmmm” works well in most languages. This pizza has a soft chewy crust that is beautifully blistered by the piping hot oven. Each pizza is made as a single serving and is not overwhelmed with toppings. Cheese and toppings such as duck confit or house made sausage merely accent the pie, allowing it to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The result is a meal that feels lighter than it looks. Even people who are convinced they will just have a slice may find themselves downing a whole pizza. Perfect to eat and then take a nap.

3 Buca
www.buca.ca
HOURS OF OPERATION Monday to Wednesday | 11:30 a.m – 3:00 p.m | 5:00 p.m – 10:00 p.m. Thursday to Friday | 11:30 a.m – 3:00 p.m | 5:00 p.m – 11:00 p.m
604 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, Canada
+1 416-865-1600
Buca is right in the heart of downtown Toronto, and it earns every loonie it receives. Dimly lit with brick walls, the ambience is charmingly rustic. The menu changes daily and utilizes ingredients that capitalize on flavour profile more so than popularity of ingredients. Lamb brains might be wrapped in prosciutto as an appetizer. Don’t question it and your tongue will ultimately decide that it is a very good idea indeed. Extravagantly rich dishes include duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, or pork braised in 34 year old wine vinegar and then strewn across a pizza. The final result is lavish, memorable and upscale Italian food.

2 Enoteca Sociale
sociale.ca
1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1X7, Canada
+1 416-534-1200
Enoteca Sociale is built around the idea of wine bars in Rome. Enoteca Sociale manages to take basic ingredients and elevate them. The pasta is made in house, as are many other dishes, included the freshly baked bread that tempts on each table. If you like the experience of eating off of your date’s plate, a la Lady and the Tramp, sharing dishes under the menu column “Piatti Sociale” are all unique and delectable.The wine list has over 80 selections from Italy but also includes fine Ontario reds and whites. Normally you have to splurge in a bottle in order to sample the good stuff, but Enoteca offers tastes, glasses, quartinos (a carafe that can hold a quarter of a litre of wine) or bottles. You won’t forget this dinner.

1 Pizza e Pazzi
pizzaepazzi.ca
1182 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6E 1B4, Canada
+1 647-352-7882
Toronto is crazy for Neapolitan style pizza. This is a strict standard that is determined by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, a non-profit founded in Naples by people who really, really care about their pizza. Once you get a mouthful, you will be convinced of the standards. Pizzas are topped with the freshest of ingredients, from mozzerella di bufala to 24 year old parma proscuitto. White pizzas are drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil. Appetizers and pasta dishes are also delicious, but you really want to save your appetite for the pizza. Give your respect to that hard working wood burning oven.

Source: http://www.10best.com/

“Marvelous Maremma: A Historical Gem”

Posted by: Claudia | August 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 2.33.06 PMA wonderful description of Maremma the overlooked part of Tuscany…thanks to the insights found at siciclando.com’s blog:

Marvelous Maremma; A Historical Gem
“Tuscany is known for its beauty and etched-in-time scenic scapes. This glorious Italian place, also known as “a nation within a nation” due to it’s strong cultural identity is a place that leaves an imprint on any visitor

Behold Maremma
Tuscany has an undiscovered and quieter side when you visit its southwestern side; you find a jewel in Maremma. Away from the bright lights of Florence, the Maremma is not inundated by a heavy ratio of tourists to locals. Instead, this quiet region that borders the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas is one of the few Italian territories left that remains true to its quaint ancient peasant roots, untouched by the tourist explosion. These towns are full of Medieval and Renaissance history, that transport you back in time to a place that set the tone for Italian life.

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Architecture

Step into the revered magnificence of the several old, grand churches and cathedral that seem to whisper the prayers of those gone before. The cathedral in Grosseto maintains original Gothic-style features, remaining untouched for centuries. Or, meander around the impressive and grand Medicean Walls in Grosetto (considered the capital of Maremma), constructed in the Middle Ages. These rare defensive walls in Italy are one of a kind, bearing witness of the many historical conflicts that ensued on Italian soil. Built in 1574 by Francesco I de Medici as part of policy to protect the southern border, the remarkable structure still stands- waiting for you to come and behold this edifice of protection.

Terrain
The dolce vita can be truly experienced as one meanders from village town to town. The expansive region of Maremma can change from sandy beaches to pine tree forests. The natural beauty of untouched forests can mesmerize any nature-lover in the many nation parks. The white sand coves beckons beach lovers as they look like they are straight out of a movie set. The crystal turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea are a charming destination as one visits ports, marinas and fishing villages. You can take a soak in the natural hot thermal spas in Maremma, Tuscany, enjoyed by Etruscans and ancient Romans alike. A free soak will be one that lingers with you, most likely for the rest of your life

Aragon Fortess

Aragon Fortess

There are so many wonderful features to Italy, Tuscany and more specifically, sweet Maremma. You will fall in love with the original historical charm, leaving you breathless as you take in the many sights.

Crystal clear waters and coasts that are still partly wild; inviting countryside for those looking for relaxation away from the busy pace of the city; villages nestled on ancient castles and a rich cuisine where you can find, unchanged, traditional, local food and wine. These are the things that make the Maremma so dear to Italian and foreign visitors. An ideal place for nature lovers, the Maremma is a place to discover on foot, by bike, or even better, on horseback.

History

The Maremma is a large coastal area that is mainly flat, situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea between Tuscany and Lazio. More precisely, it lies between Tarquinia and Cecina, in the province of Livorno, Dante noted in the 13th canto of The Inferno. The first historical records date, however, to the Etruscan and Roman periods, when from the Maremma soil arose the cities of Tarquinia, Populonia, Cosa and Vetulonia, of which traces of archaeological significance still remain.

A Natural Paradise

Part of the look of the Maremma is the result of the reclamation work that occurred in the 1930s. Today, natural areas, once marshes, are protected by long stretches of natural parks (currently, the province of Grossetto alone has 13 nature reserves, as well as various WWF oases), filled with an endless variety of flora and fauna and glimpses of magnificent beauty.
Among the stops that are particularly significant are the wide bay of the Gulf of Follonica, the beautiful beaches of Cala Martina and Cala Violina Punta Ala, the beaches of Castiglione della Pescaia, an ancient fishing village located at the foot of the ancient fortress of Aragon (hence the “fishy” name), and those of Marina di Grosseto and Talamone, a charming village overlooking the sea.
Do not miss the magic lagoon of Orbetello, famous for its golden sand, the Feniglia and Giannella beaches. In front of the sea the green Argentario promontory stands out, with the exclusive holiday destinations of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano, where ferries depart for the island of Giglio and the Giannutri. 
Further south, 12 kilometers from the border with Lazio, the wild coast of Capalbio is found, known and appreciated by nobles, wealthy landowners, and emperors since ancient Rome. Even today, Capalbio, with its perfectly preserved medieval village and walls where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the valley, is a exclusive holiday destination that allows visitors to be thrown back into the past. Just beyond the regional border are, finally, the Archaeological Natural Park of Vulci and Tarquinia, the necropolis of which has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.



What to do

With its 160 kilometers, the Maremma coast also offers a wide range of possibilities for lovers of active tourism. It is possible to rent boats, enjoy wind-surfing, water skiing and SCUBA diving. There are many schools for sailing, motor boating and SCUBA, where you can discover a colorful slice of life underwater. 
The wonderful promontory of Monte Argentario with its coves and bays, some reachable only by boat, is considered by the lovers of the underwater world of one of the most interesting Italian coastal areas for fishing and for the wealth of the seabed. 
Those who visit the Maremma can see shows of the Butteri shepherds, riding Maremma horses, who perform at fairs, festivals and other national and international events. 
The Maremma, with Saturnia, is also a destination of choice for lovers of spas and well-being.

Rome ‘Insider-only’ restaurants by Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta

Posted by: Claudia | August 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

Michelin one star, Acquolina

Michelin one star, Acquolina

Departures recently spoke to Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta about her Rome ‘insider- only’ spots that are unfailingly to die for. She is the culinary force behind, and owner of, Manhattan’s teeny little East Village trattoria/enoteca II Posto Accanto, the Rome-born Tosti di Valminuta grew up frequently visiting the city’s chic Parioli district, rubbing elbows with aristos both ancient and nouveau. But it’s Rome’s down-home, no-frills spots that came to most excite her palate:

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II Bar Sotto II Mare
[A:Via Tunisi 27; T:39-06/3972-84131]
A seafood-focused spot in Prati that does “the best vermicelli alla pescatora [long, thin seafood pasta], the best crudi, the best rigatoni with octopus. And it’s a fraction of the cost of places where the food is half as good.” It takes reservations, but, cautions Tosti di Valminuta, it’s a Roman booking, so you may still wait, and people who arrive after you may be seated before you; reserve early in the evening.

If you love pizza, grilled artichokes and arancini”—deep-fried balls of meat- and cheese-stuffed risotto— then go to Osteria da Tesone….
[A:Via Dardanelli 5; T:39-06/372-5860], also in Prati, and sit outside.”

Acquolina
[A: Via Antonio Serra 60; T:39-06/333-7192; acquolinahostaria.it]…Where young chef Giulio Terrinoni turns out his own take on modern Roman seafood. Recent favorites from the frequently changing menu include mixed fried fish with sour red-pepper sorbet and a seafood carbonara.

After dinner, or during a hot afternoon, it’s all about Gelateria Duse
[A: Via Eleonora Duse 1; T:39 06/807-9300], in Parioli, or da Giovanni, as the regulars call it. Owner Giovanni makes small batches of artisanal flavors (bitter chocolate and zabaione are tops), and one should al- ways ask for doppio panna. “That way,” says Tosti di Valminuta, “the gelataio will put the panna—whipped cream—both underneath and on top of your gelato.”

Source: Departures magazine, September, 2014.

Coppola Touts Basilicata

Posted by: Laurena | August 21st, 2014 | No Comments »

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Francis Ford Coppola has become something of a spokesman for Basilicata, a poor region located on the “arch” of boot-shaped Italy. In a promotional video for the area, he reminisced about his grandfather’s tales about Bernalda and extolled Basilicata’s unspoiled — and largely unknown — beauty and culture.

Matera is on UNESCO’s world heritage list, prized as an example of a traditional human settlement that dates from Palaeolithic times. The famous sassi, caves dug into the soft tufa rock that gives Matera the look of ancient Jerusalem, were used as primitive, one-room homes and remain a tourist draw today. Some have been renovated and turned into trendy hotels, but the area remains so ancient- looking that Mel Gibson shot much of “The Passion of the Christ” there.

Matera @ Sunset

Matera @ Sunset

Four Seasons – Firenze

Posted by: Claudia | August 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Four-Seasons-Florence1

What Makes This Hotel Special:

Experience one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful cities from the quiet garden sanctuary, flanked by historic buildings and lush with modern amenities at this luxury hotel in Florence, Italy. Be near the best Florence has to offer while enjoying the rest and relaxation of a modern urban resort at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

Rooms/Suites:

The Four Seasons Florence has 72 guest rooms and 44 suites.

Location:

The Four Season Florence is located just a short 10-minute walk to the city centre where you will find dining, shopping, and bars.

Florence Room

Dining:

IL PALAGIO

Located on the ground floor of the Palazzo della Gherardesca, Il Palagio, awarded one Michelin star, features vaulted ceilings, elegant décor and lovely views of the inner gardens. Large French doors open to a terrace that offers al fresco dining during clement weather. A seasonal menu features regional cuisine prepared with a contemporary twist, accompanied by exceptional Italian wines.

LA MAGNOLIA

On the ground floor of the Conventino, La Magnolia offers an intimate venue that serves breakfast for guests staying in this section of the Hotel. As in Il Palagio, the delectable à la carte menu is wide-ranging, from freshly baked pastries to egg specialties, smoked fish and cold meats.

AL FRESCO

Set in the beautiful Giardino della Gherardesca, adjacent to the swimming pool and spa, Al Fresco enjoys an enviable location under a majestic tree that provides shade on hot summer days. Offering a wide selection of dishes in a completely revisited formula, Chef Vito Mollica features typical Italian trattoria at lunchtime, pizzeria and barbecue grilled on the new Josper grill for dinner, and invigorating libations at the poolside bar.

WINERY

A separate space located in the centre of Il Palagio, the Winery features open displays of close to 400 bottles of wine. A virtual temple of exceptional gastronomy, the Winery’s intriguing menu features a mix of traditional and contemporary local dishes served in small assaggini portions, accompanied by an abundant selection of wines, including vintage wines that can be tasted by the glass. As Florence’s most convivial meeting place, it appeals to connoisseurs and newcomers to wine alike.

ATRIUM BAR

Beneath a skylight in the Palazzo della Gherardesca, the Atrium Bar offers an elegant setting for guests to enjoy light meals, coffee specialties, cocktails throughout the day and scrumptious afternoon teas. As the primary spot for people to meet in the Hotel, the Atrium Bar is the place to see and be seen in Florence. In the evenings, live piano music adds a soothing tone.

Spa:

Find your personal oasis in the only hotel spa in the heart of Florence, Italy. Ten spa treatment rooms, including one double room and one double VIP suite, and signature services such as our Chianti Wine Massage and Iris Sensations treatment, are just the beginning.

Services, Treatments & Amenities:

Outdoor pool
Whirlpool
Steam room
Relaxation lounge
Spa restaurant

Contact:

Four Seasons Florence

Borgo Pinti, 99, 50121 Firenze, Italy

Website: www.fourseasons.com/florence

Tel#: 39-055-26261