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
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


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


Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Especially when it involves ITALY!

Ponte Vecchio-Florence


                                                                      Blog Update

Let's remind ourselves why we want to go to Italy!! Browse through previous Inferno articles and I think you will remember why you want the experience that is "ITALY".
To jog our memories somewhat, remember the food, the wine, the art, the scenery, the culture, the sea, the mountains, the islands,the history and the modern. All of these attributes are why people from all over the world travel to Italy and have for many years.
I am going to include some photos to rekindle the urge. Remember, a picture is suppose to be worth a thousand words!!!
This is only a small taste of what awaits you in Italy. Come in May to hear about the itinerary possibilities as the Dante Club goes to Italy. I will try to answer your questions, show more of Italy, and talk specifically about the many ways to see and enjoy the country for less than you may think.

Lake Como

Juliet's Balcony-Verona





Tellaro-Italian Riviera

Linguini alle Vongole-Genoa

Bay of Poets- Tellaro

San Gimignano

Spanish Steps-Roma

Roman Colosseum

Amalfi Coast

Sunset in Sicily

Sunset on Italian Riviera

Wine from Chianti

Statue of David-Florence

Nero d'Avola Grapes-Sicily

Canal in Venice
Flower Garden-Ravello
Alba in Piemonte
View from Ravello, Almalfi Coast
Winery and Castle-Chianti Region

Sunset in Riposto, Sicily