Friday, September 6, 2019

BOLOGNA



Bologna, in the Regione Emilia Romagna, is a marvelous and fascinating city. It is well-known for its fabulous cuisine, and I am pleased to say, that on my many visits there I have had the pleasure of tasting a great deal of it. There is no question that it is one of the best "foodie" places in the world. The famous Bolognese sauce was created here and remains one of Bologna's signature dishes. The original recipe can be found in the archives of the University of Bologna. The mortadella with pistachios is also an original product of Bologna. There are many fine ristoranti and trattorie in Bologna, but one of my favorites is Trattoria Gianni, with great menu choices in all of the courses. If you don't get there, don't be concerned because it is hard to find bad food in Bologna or in the rest of Emilia Romagna. Casual dining is very popular. There are a number of "deli" style eateries throughout Bologna serving the best cold cuts, breads, wine and sides you will ever eat.  Don't miss "Eataly" a multi-level store with ongoing pasta and cooking demonstrations, restaurants, Italian products of all kinds, books, art  and much more!

There is, of course, more to Bologna than its cuisine. It is the home of the oldest university in Europe, so it is a vibrant and alive city. Any time of year you will find events and activities outdoors, everywhere. It is definitely a must see in Northern Italy. The Bolognese people are wonderful hosts and will assure you of a great experience in their City.

The sidewalks of many of the streets of Bologna are covered with porticoes, and that feature along with the city's layout, makes it an easy city to walk around and enjoy. It is also known as the City of Towers as you will see as you stroll the city.
From Bologna you can easily access the cities of Parma, Modena, Ferrara, and the coastal cities of Rimini, Ravenna, and  others, along the Adriatic Sea. Enjoy a walking tour on your first day which helps to acclimate you to the layout, history and culture of the city. Then you can enjoy Bologna on your own at your own pace.

Buon Viaggio!



                                                            Piazza e Fontana de Tritone



Typical Portico
                                                                       Classic narrow street
 
                                                       Polpette (meatballs) Bologna style


The Two Towers



Saturday, June 22, 2019

Rosa dei Venti-Cortona, Italy

Italian Journeys says:
When travelling to Tuscany.....


Italian Journeys is happy to announce exclusive non-hotel accommodations at Rosa dei Venti properties in Tuscany, when you book your trip with us. You can choose this luxurious apartment within walking distance to the lovely Tuscan town of Foiano Della Chiana, and close to Cortona, Arezzo and all the wine area towns. Below is a first hand review and description of "Diamante" which I did when my wife and I were the very first occupants of the apartment. We have been staying here for nearly 20 years and clients will tell you they were never disappointed in any of the property owned/managed by the Micheli Family.



Living Room

Dining Room

Wraparound Balcony

Bedroom

A "Gem" from the Rosa dei Venti Family
Diamante is a three bedroom, two bath apartment located outside the historic center of Foiano della Chiana, in Tuscany. It is six km from the farmhouse property in the countryside. My wife and I are fortunate to be the first occupants of this totally remodeled apartment. The kitchen is fully equipped with modern appliances and kitchenware. There is a dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, double sinks, and all the pans, dishes, etc., to cook and entertain.
From the apartment you can walk to town and shop and dine as local residents do. There are fresh pasta shops, butchers, delis, bakeries, and fresh fruit and vegetables every day. There are family restaurants and pizzerias and, an open air market every Monday.
You have complete access to the farmhouse activities and events such as cooking classes and and guided tours. The location is ideal for visiting the many historical hill and walled towns in Tuscany and Umbria. There is a train station nearby for trips to Arezzo and Florence or even Rome. It is a great place to stay for a long term as a base for touring the area and other parts of Italy. The apartment rental period is a minimum of one week. There is a significant savings for longer rentals, particularly for one month.
This is a great alternative to the farmhouse property for long term stays.
It can be viewed and booked by Italian Journeys. Email to Volareinitalia@gmail.com for more information and details. Remember my booking services are free. We can also escort, drive, interpret, etc.
This is a five out of five rating all around.
Michael Miccich̬ РCalifornia
If you prefer country living in a beautiful villa/farmhouse property, you can choose from the apartments shown below. There are sizes for all. Most of the apartments are two bedrooms, two full baths, full kitchen, appliances, tableware, etc.,  and living room. There is a three bedroom with two baths, and a cottage with one bedroom.

Aerial view of Rosa Dei Venti

All these apartments are owned and operated by the Micheli Family which has owned the property since 1900 (4 Generations).
As the properties are first class, so is the family. They are friendly, helpful and very accommodating.  They can arrange delightful wine tours, cooking classes, etc. during your stay. The family produces wine, olive oil, fruit, and sunflowers. It is very much a working farm. You can buy the wine and olive oil and their cookbooks, which you will want after you participate in the cooking class and enjoy the cuisine!
View from Maestrale Apartment
Landscaped grounds
Cooking Class

The pasta maker


Friday, March 15, 2019

Bell'Italia

Bell’Italia


Ciao Amici.  Most often in writing these articles, I have selected a particular region to write about. It is often a difficult decision because, the truth is, I have no favorite. In fact I love each and every region due to  its “uniqueness”. Because of how Italy developed over its history, the areas, from North to South, and East to West, are unique in character, cuisine, appearances, customs, etc.


Italy is really like a country made up of a collection of “states”, or a collection of independent small territories! This is what makes Italy special. There is a feel sometimes of being in different countries as you travel the whole boot. We must remember that, as a unified republic, Italy is younger than California! We don’t think of it that way because of the area’s long and diverse history and foreign occupation. For a very long time each independent region had to defend itself from the region next to it. That is why there are so many walled and hilltop regions and cities.
Of course, the topography of Italy lends to different looks, lifestyles, cuisine and foreign influences. Much of Italy has similar topography to California with the exception of the California desert. Below are some stark examples, and some pictures from North to South.
Starting in the north, from east to west, across the Italian Alps and Dolomites, we see mountainous regions with cold and snowy winters. The multiple languages, cuisines, architecture, and feel of the area, are due to the proximity of Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia. In fact, many border communities speak two to three languages.
Moving from the area below the Dolomites to central Italy as far as Naples, we see the largest influence of the Roman Empire, Etruscan culture, and the Renaissance Era. A great many of the walled and hill towns are found in Piemonte, Lombardia, Toscana, Umbria, Emiglia Romagna, Marche, Veneto, Lazio, Abruzzo, and Campania. As you know these regions produce lots of great wine and fabulous food. I have spoken previously about the food of Bologna and all of Emigila Romagna, but all these regions have great food and their own particular dishes. Of course, there is no place like Rome anywhere in the world if you have an interest in Italy’s early history and its influence on much of the world’s languages, customs, architecture, and government.
The countrysides of these region are known for their rolling hills, agriculture, wines, and food production. There are beautiful coastlines on both the east and west sides of the boot. Campania, of course, is famous for the breathtaking Amalfi Coast. The east coast consists of Adriatic coastal towns from Venice to Puglia.
As we move further south of Naples, there are still non tourist areas that are unspoiled. Beaches and small villages are wonderful. Much of the cuisine revolves around seafood from both seas. Place like Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria.
Continuing south, of course we move toward Sicily, and Sardinia. Both are beautiful islands but different in many ways. Sardinia has a small population and resembles a resort island with lots of open space. It is a quiet lifestyle with lots of clear water beaches, lots of fishing and boating activities, and lots of seafood based cuisine.
Sicily, on the other hand, is the largest of all the Mediterranean islands. It is a food lovers paradise, having been influenced by many cuisines during their many occupations over the course of history. A few influences are seen in the varied architecture, churches, temple ruins and the food. They include Arabic, Norman, Spanish, Greek, and French.
The climate is great pretty much year round. Palermo is a great city to start your trip and sample the food. It is a big island which can not be seen in just a few days. Ten days to two weeks would be perfect if you have the time. The people are warm and friendly and go all out for tourists. Great wines are in abundance here to go with the diverse cuisine.


Of course, I have only scratched the surface of the country and give a cursory look at the regions. It certainly will take more than one trip to see the highlights of Italy, but you will never regret the trip. It will provide memories of a lifetime. After all, we are visiting the
“homeland”.


The Dante Club wants to see the County, State and eventually the Federal Government recognize our Italian Heritage and contributions, with a designated day and month. We will be pursuing this with the partnership of other Italian organizations, and all of you.
Let’s be prepared to argue why this is important to do by getting familiar with what our ancestors have given to society.














Sunday, November 18, 2018

A "Bucket List" Trip to Italy


This is an account of a one month adventure in Italy by friends, that I had the pleasure of escorting, at the request of my client. Of course, I can't include every activity, but I will highlight, often in the words of my client and her friends, their favorite experiences.
The trip started at an apartment in the Lake Como area which was the base for the month. Thisprovided lots of room, privacy, a kitchen, balconies, and other amenities.

Some of areas visited during the month included the following:
Lake Como, and surrounding communities; the Dolomites and Lake Garda; the Alba area in Piemonte; the Italian Riviera, including Cinque Terre, Rapallo, and Portofino; the Cities of Bologna, Venice, Verona; and Milan. 
Transportation was primarily by car, driven by me throughout northern Italy. Boats were  used for transport on Lake Como to lake villages, and trains were used to Milan and between Cinque Terre towns. Accomodations outside of Lake Como included hotels and a bed and breakfast on a vineyard property in Piemonte
We ate only in non-tourist restaurants that I know personally, and others recommended by those whose judgement I trust. We looked for small villages and "off the beaten path" sights. My experienced has taught me to always ask local residents where they and their families eat. As everyone knows, good food and wine for a good value, are very important to Italians. I made a point to acquaint the group with the local area of the apartment, and the people operating restaurants and shops in the village. (Montano Lucino). This allows visitors to live somewhat like locals and be recognized when they patronize shops and restaurants.
Some comments voiced by the group: "best pizza and pasta I have ever eaten"; "nicest people I ever met";  "most interesting and beautiful landscapes and vistas ever!"; "the only way to visit, with someone who knows the language, the geography, the restaurants, sites, etc., and does all the driving."
They wanted lots of free time and so we did not overplan activities. This allowed them to make some decisions while there, particularly day trips. They didn't need guides because I served that purpose for them, except for specialized sites which needed local experts.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am including as many as space will allow.

In closing I am including a quote from a note my client sent me.: " You so love Italy and now I do too." Italy is infectious!!
Lake Como

The Dolomites

The Dolomites

Clients at the Dolomites
My barber, Giancarlo, in Montano Lucino, Como
Vilage of Varenna on Lake Como
Paolo Manzone,  our host and winemaker in Piemonte
Clients on Gondola ride in Venice
Dining, what else, in Como!
wine tasting at our B&B in Piemonte
enice
Our B&B, Vineyard and winery in Piemonte
The Roman style arena in Verona

The Balcony of Romeo and Juliett in Verona
Clients outside of historical arena in Verona
Grand Canal in Venice from our hotel


Rapallo on the Italian Riviera, our view from hotel



Friday, September 14, 2018

Regione della Toscana

Regione della Toscana (Tuscany)

Tuscany is everything that is representative of Etruscan and Medieval Italy! Every hill town and walled city has amazing history. The walls and hilltop locations are reminders of how Italy was before Italy was unified. Each area of Italy had its own government, army and institutions. There were natural enemies which required cities to construct walls and towers. Cities were constructed on hills to make them easier to defend. Today the "rivalries" are about cuisines, wines, traditions, and re-enactments of historic battles. These modern times are about festivities, parades and honors.

There are so many things to see and do that it is difficult to mention all of the cities and towns, and their highlights.  I can mention a few of the most popular, but I always recommend spending enough time in Tuscany to "wander" around and find your own favorites. In fact, don't be afraid to get a little lost and off the beaten path. Every turn has its own charm. A week is good but you will want to spend even more time, or return soon.

These are some of my favorites which I have visited many times because there is so much to see and do and eat and drink!
Cortona: Lots of history, Etruscan influences, fantastic views, great trattorie, enoteche, mercati, etc. You can roam the streets and alleyways for hours.
Arezzo: A fully functioning working city, two cities really, modern and commercial outside the walls and lots of history, art, and architecture inside the walls. Arezzo also has great restaurants and shops. It is also the gold center of Italy.
Montepulciano, Pienza and Montalcino: I put these together because they are a perfect threesome for a day/evening trip. First the wines in Montepulciano: Vino Nobile and Rosso Montepulciano, are consistently great wines, and the wines in Montalcino: Brunello and Rosso Montalcino, are excellent wines as well. Pienza, designed as the perfect plan for a city by Pope Pio, whose name it bears,  is one main street with side streets and alleys opening up to great vistas of rolling hillsides and valleys. Pienza is known for its cheeses, and meats. 
Siena: Second in size only to Florence, it is a remarkable but it is a large spread out city with lots of history, and home to world famous Palio, which is a horse race held in the main piazza twice in the Summer. Every "neighborhood" is represented in the race sporting their traditional colors. It is a remarkable thing to watch particularly forom the vantage point of a hotel on the square.
San Gimignano: Built to defend itself at all times, the city once boasted 20+ towers. There are seven remaining and one can be climbed to the top for spectacular views. Great shops, restaurants, also present here.

There are so many more to see, including, of course, Firenze.  Fiesole, San Sepolcro, Anghiari, Luca, Pisa, Viareggio and Follonica, on the coast, Montecatini Terme, Montecatini Alto, and so many more, deserve a visit.
My advice is to get lost and the road will take you to wonderful places and you will meet warm, friendly people proud of their towns, their food and their wines.
Enjoy it all!!



The Bell Ringer of Montepulciano





The famous towers of San Gimignano

Our favorite agriturismo in Tuscany




                                         

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


SICILY



Sicilian sunset


Nero d'Avola grapes
Sicily (Sicilia) is one of my favorite regions of Italy, but in all honesty, I am bias. This is my father's birthplace and still home to many members of my extended family. I had the pleasure of finding my roots and relatives after my father passed on my first of many trips to Italy. The trip was driven by wanting to meet the relatives and see the village and home where my father and his siblings were born and lived before emigrating to the USA.
My father's village, Santa Caterina Villarmosa, is in the Province of Caltanissetta, located in the heart of Sicily. It is very rural and very small. By the way, the village is not far form "Corleone".
Tracing and finding about our Italian heritage is educational, exciting and emotional. For me the experience brought be back to Italy many, many times. I felt very close to the country as a whole and very comfortable there. It felt liked I belonged there! To some degree it feels like a second home.
If you have an opportuinty to visit Italy, make time to see and connect to your roots. It is very rewarding. You will be welcomed with opened arms, not just by family members, if you are luck enough to locate some, but by the entire village, neighborhood, or city.

Those of you in the Dante Club and friends and family, who are planning a trip in the near future, take the time to gather whatever documentation you have and make time on the trip to check out your family's heritage.
I am including a few pictures of Sicily, in general, and my father's village.
Mt. Etna, near Catania

Santa Caterina Villarmosa

The Meditrranean Sea
My Father, Giuseppe Miccichè
Neighbors

Siracusa