The Italian town of Positano at the foot of cliffs

Positano, Italy – A Diamond in the Rough

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I had planned my vacation to Positano, Italy. From what I read online, it sounded like a beautiful place alongside the Mediterranean Sea where the people were friendly and the food was incredible. Upon arriving in this Amalfi Coast town, I quickly realized what all the hype was about.

The Italian town of Positano at the foot of cliffs

Italian Food

Some of the best food I have ever had in my life was prepared in Positano and was something my wife and I looked forward to each night. Many restaurants offer century old family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. They prepared everything from scratch including truffle oil pasta and classic spaghetti and meatballs. Regardless of what I ordered, I was never disappointed.

For the best and most unique pasta, dine at Ristorante Scirocco. It is here that I had the truffle oil pasta – a dish that was so good I had to come back for seconds. Located at the very top of the cliffs, the restaurant would send down a driver to pick up its guests.

Picturesque Setting

The town of Positano sits high above two vertical cliffs and overlooks the pristine water of the Mediterranean. No matter where you stay or where you dine at, the views could all be considered award winning.

The hotel where I stayed, Hotel Poseidon, is located near the top and has a pool which overlooks all of Positano. The views from the hotel were absolutely breathtaking, especially at night when the lights of the town would turn on one by one. These stunning views were what glued me to the pool or my hotel room’s terrace. I would spend hours gazing out at this beautiful scene and quickly fall into the most relaxing state of my life.

My hotel Poseidon

 

Location, Location, Location

Positano is conveniently located near many historic cities including Pompeii, Capri, and the neighboring Amalfi Coast towns. Nearly all can be reached via public transportation and the longest commute would only take about one hour.

One of my favorite day trips I took was to Capri. Taking just under an hour by boat, Capri was a laid back island with many great restaurants and boutique shops. One of the island’s most famous attractions, The Blue Grotto, is a cave which shines a bright blue when the sun hits the water just right. Daily tours are taken inside the grotto to experience this incredible reflection.

A Refreshing Glass of Limoncello

The region’s most famed drink is a lemon liqueur called limoncello. Served cold in a small two ounce glass, the drink can be found at every corner. Many Italians enjoy it as an after-dinner drink. Because of the customary practice in Positano, I quickly replaced my usual coffee drink with limoncello and found myself ending each dinner with a taste.

Relax by the pool

When it comes to Italian vacations, there are many historic cities competing for tourists. Among the most popular are Rome, Venice, Milan, and Naples but in my opinion, Positano deserves to be up there with the best. It has the charm and food we’ve come to expect from Italy but what makes it unique is the relaxing atmosphere. One week here and I was totally immersed in Positano and never wanted to leave. It would certainly be one of the best and most memorable honeymoon destinations for any newlywed to take.

Focaccia al formaggio

The Culinary Wonders of Northern Italy

Focaccia al formaggio

Italy is home to some of the most delicious food in the world, but what most people might not know is that Italian cuisine varies greatly from region to region.  Much like the myriad dialects found throughout the country, Italian cuisine is often so specific to a location that neighbouring small towns will offer surprisingly different menus.

While pasta dishes are popular throughout Italy, the Northern regions are known more for stuffed pasta dishes like ravioli, whereas flat pastas like linguini are virtually non-existent in this region’s cooking.  Dishes like risotto, polenta, osso buco and endless seafood offerings are extremely popular in the North, and rich hearty soups get these communities through the winter. No trip to Lake Garda in Northern Italy is complete without trying the food, and you can find holidays to Lake Garda at Inghams. Listed below are three examples of regional cuisine throughout Northern Italy that are as different as they are delicious.

Bacalà alla Vincentina

Bacalà alla Vincentina is a dish native to Vincenza, a city in northeastern Italy that features bacalà (salted cod)  simmered in milk slowly with a savory soffritto of anchovies,  garlic and onions for additional flavour. The fish is typically served with a portion of the white soft polenta, or polenta bianca, that is native to Veneto.

Angolotti al Plin

Angolotti al Plin is a regional speciality that comes from the Langhe region in the Cuneo province of Piedmont.  This ravioli dish is filled with an assortment of noce moscato (nutmeg), spinach,Arrosto Vitello (roasted veal),   egg, Parmigiano cheese, Coscia di Miale (pork leg) and of course salt and black pepper. Unlike other ravioli, the Ravioli al Plin are rolled together by hand.  The ravioli are typically served in a sauce of butter and sage leaves which give the dish a fantastic aroma and delicious taste.

Focaccia al formaggio

Focaccia al formaggio is a cheesy variation on the focaccia found in many parts of Liguria. It’s made by extending a thin sheet of dough, adding a splash of creamy cheese to it, covering the cheese with another layer of dough and baking it. What you get is a mouth-watering regional treat. The original variation of this food is native to the small town of Recco just south of Genova.  In the days of carriages, Genovese people would take day trips to this small town to enjoy this delicious dish.

This region of Italy is a must for any traveller, but not only for its incredible cuisine.  If you’re considering traveling to Northern Italy, to the Italian Alps or even to Tuscany, holidays to Lake Garda and the surrounding area will put you in the center of it all.  A Northern Italian holiday is an incredible trip for anyone who loves warm people, stunning scenery and delicious food.

For more information about the regional cuisine of Northern Italy and Lake Garda, click here.

Picture credit: Lucadea

Beautiful Murano glass as paperwight

Murano Glass of Venice – How to buy the genuine article

Beautiful Murano glass as paperwight

There is only one place to go and buy genuine Murano glass -Venice. A bit like buying an authentic Melton Mowbray pork pie, theislandofMuranois the only place to go in order to buy some of the most gorgeous and well-made glass in the world. Artistic Glass Murano is a registered trademark and a sign of true quality. Indeed the glassmakers once had elevated status inItaly, they were immune from being prosecuted in the 1300s and married into wealthy families. Over the centuries, respect for the glassmakers hasn’t diminished.

The glass itself is recognisable by the vivid colours; deep blues made by using copper and bright reds made by using gold in the melting process. The glass is handmade using a truly diverse range of techniques including filigree and submersion – the method used to create layers of different colours one by one.

Buying quality glass

One of the best ways to find glasswork that is perfect for you is to go and visit the factory itself. Most of the glass factoriesMurano glass furnace on Murano offer a free tour. On the tours you can see the craftsmen and glass blowers at work – the workshops are open, allowing everyone to see the skill that is involved in making a beautiful piece of Murano glass. It’s worth taking the kids as well, it’s fascinating for children to watch the swirling hot bubbles of glass being shaped and moulded. Some of the pieces are so delicate it’s difficult to believe that they have been created with heavy tongs. The techniques of creating the ornaments and sculptures haven’t really changed over the centuries. You will see no generic factory products. You can view pictures of the manufacture process here.

Steer clear of the tourist shops inVeniceif you are looking to buy a genuine piece. Although there are many that stock the real thing, however there are plenty of shops that sell machine-made reproductions for the tourist market. The internet is also notorious for this. Real Murano glass is perfection, but with the little imperfections you will only find through handmade techniques – tiny bubbles.

Getting to and staying in Murano

The islandof Muranois accessible by public boat – the Vaporettas, straight from Venice. It’s not a glamorous way to travel, but it’s as good a way to see the harbour and bay as any.  The island itself looks a lot like the mainland, but is much quieter. Aside from visitors that have come to see the glass, it is almost tourism-free and very charming. Alternatively you can book yourself onto one of the many tours that also take you across to the colourful islandof Burano, famous for its lacemaking and quaint coloured houses. When it comes to Venice apartments, you’ll find plenty to choose from; I chose an apartment in San Marco, Venice from here for my stay.

Here is the official tourism website of Venice to plan your stay and visits:

http://www.turismovenezia.it/

The fountains of Piazza Navona in Rome

Italy’s 5 most memorable piazzas

Italy’s piazzas – or public squares – form a key part in the lives of locals and holidaymakers to the breathtaking country alike. Not only do they make for a convenient meeting point for exploring the rest of a city, but are also where you will come across stunning architecture and some wonderful landmarks.

Amazing piazzas can be found all over the nation – there is at least one in every city and large town – but the following are five of the most memorable.

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa

If you’ve booked your car hire in Pisa as a way of getting around the stunning Tuscan city, make sure you stop by the Piazza del Duomo. Not only is this public square among the most beautiful in the country, it also contains Pisa’s most stunning landmarks.

What’ll really capture your interest here is the 11th-century Pisa Cathedral which the square is named after (duomo is Italian for cathedral), and the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The square is also home to the stunning Baptistry of St John and the Camposanto Monumentale, a 12th-century cemetery that features ornate frescos, so it is little wonder it is also known as Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Square of Miracles.

Piazza Navona, Rome

The fountains of Piazza Navona in Rome

Situated in the centre of the Italian capital, Rome’s Piazza Navona is a historic spot that you must not go without seeing.

Located to the west of the Pantheon, the public space was built on top of Roman emperor Domitian’s stadium and, as such, stands out due its long, oval shape. Remains of the old arena can still be seen to this day, while you should also keep an eye out for the numerous fountains. These include the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, aka the Fountain of the Four Rivers, while you’ll see the Fontana di Nettuno and Fontana del Moro at the northern and southern ends of the piazza respectively.

It’s hard to miss the Sant’Agnese in Agone while you’re here. This church is a stunning example of Baroque architecture and was commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1652.

Piazza Colonna, Rome

Elsewhere in Rome is the Piazza Colonna, another public space you ought to make time to visit. The landmark’s name comes from the Colonna di Marco Aurelio – a stunning column built in tribute to the military success of Marcus Aurelius that stands 30 m tall.

Here, you’ll also find Palazzo Chigi, a stunning 16th-century building that has served as the official residence for the Italian prime minister since the 1960s.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

As the largest public square in Venice, Piazza San Marco (or St Mark’s Square in English) is hard to miss. In fact, many people just call it “the Piazza”, such is its status.

It is at the piazza you will find Doge’s Palace – a 14th-century Gothic building that was once the residence of the city’s doge – and the San Marco clocktower. While you’re here, stop by the Caffe Florian – the country’s oldest cafe – where you can indulge in a spot of people-watching and an espresso, while taking in the historic architecture.

Piazza del Duomo, Milan

Not to be confused with the square in Pisa of the same name, Milan’s Piazza del Duomo is dominated by Milan Cathedral, which is one of the biggest churches in the world and took nearly 600 years to build.

Other attractions you’ll see here are the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), which contains the Duomo Cathedral Museum and Contemporary Art Museum, and the Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall which features an ornate glass ceiling.

Have you been any of these piazzas or are set to go to Italy soon? Leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Cathedral of Milan

A brief Milan travel guide

Cathedral of Milan

When one hears “Milan” they might be likely to think “Fashion”, and with good reason. Milan is the most financially important city in Italy and the second most populated. The city is also home to such fashion icons as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Armani, Prada, Gucci, Pucci and many other designer labels. Milan is a very desirable destination whether one is a model, designer, photographer, fashion student or a fashion enthusiast. Milan is not only home to many a runway, but also designer boutiques, outlets with last season’s finds and concept shops for new and emerging designers’ works. All of these street novelties combined make Milan a prime shopping hot spot. What better way is there to get what you want than to purchase it from the source?

City dressed-up to the nines

While Milan is known for its fashionable side, not many would think this to extend farther than the cosmetic quality of the people in it. The city itself is also dressed up as though ready for a “night on the town”. Together with the bright colors of the buildings and shops, the seaside boardwalks, cathedrals, statues and fountains, the city of Milan boasts architecture completely unique in its artistry and mixing the old with the new. The Duomo di Milano, for example, is Milan’s own gothic-style cathedral. Complete with shard-like spires, it is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. The Piazza della Scala, a central square in Milan, is home to a monument to Leonardo da Vinci and built in front of the Teatro alla Scala, one of the world’s most famous live theaters.

Modern Milan

All of its old structures aside, Milan is the most modern of the Italian cities. Milanese culture thrives on the concept of pushing art to its very outer edges and then a bit further to the near-impossible. Certainly this is exemplified in the clothing and architecture, but believe it or not, the inventiveness does not stop there. Beside the famous paintings and inventive theaters are Milan’s less glamorous, slightly overlooked accomplishments: Home wares, food and sport. The beanbag, for example, was invented in Milan.

Milanese food is unexpectedly simple and after many fashionable transitions from Chinese food to Indian food to African food to Japanese and Middle Eastern food, has finally returned popularity to the original idea of enjoying hearty, delicious meals after a long, hard day. There are now hotels, cafés, and restaurants that cater to this old world Italian ideal. Milan is also home to two of Italy’s top football (futbol or calcio) teams which share the San Siro stadium and play for thousands of roaring fans every Sunday during the season.

While fashion tends to be considered a shallow endeavor by some, and the world’s fashion capitals shallow by extension, Milan has far more to offer than simple prettiness. Milan is fashionable with a drive and purpose that is exceptionally modern and unique. Milan holds true to the Italian ideal of doing everything passionately and with full commitment to the experience itself.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Italy

Italy is famed for its culture, its cities, its glorious food and drink and its iconic family values. The list of positives for visiting this Mediterranean country is almost endless, but if you’re thinking of exploring Italy, these are ten of the best reasons.



 

1. Mediterranean Food

If you’ve ever enjoyed a pizza, a cappuccino or an ice cream then you’ll know of the wonders of Italian food. Italy provides you with a first hand experience of how true Italian cuisine should be. The Mediterranean diet is rich with fish, herbs and olive oil, and can be very healthy. Meanwhile gelato, Italy’s healthier version of ice cream, is creamy and comes in all manner of flavours to enjoy.

 

2. Italian Wine

Any wine connoisseur will know of the fantastic drinks created by the vineyard industry in Italy. Tuscany’s Chianti, grown in Castello Vicchiomaggio, is a fantastic wine. And with both red and white wines coming in exceptional quality, enjoying some of Italy’s finest beverages is a must.

 

3. Shopping

Italy is famed for its shopping, and is home to many iconic designer names. Even though you may not be able to afford it, window shopping can be a huge pleasure as high streets always go out of their way to create as beautiful displays as possible. You’ll find Fendi, Armani, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana as just a few top high-end shops to explore. Milan is its fashion capital.

 

4. Fountains

If you love water and fountains then Rome is a number one spot as it boasts 280 fountains. Including the iconic Trevi Fountain, La Barcaccia and the Fountain of Triton are two great fountains to see.

 

5. Cities

Italy has no shortage of stunning cities to explore, and if you’re using the cheapest car rental deals to get around then there’s nothing to stop you discovering lots of different locations. Rome is of course a number one spot to explore for its history. Meanwhile Florence has beautiful art, and Venice will offer a city like none ever visited before.

 

6. History

Rome has some magnificent historical remains to explore, including The Colosseum, The Forum and Palantine Hill. Elsewhere, Pisa will offer the iconic view of its leaning tower.

 

7. Walking Tours

The beautiful region of Cinque Terre has been kept free of cars and motorcycles. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains five villages, and its ideal for exploring on foot.

 

8. Family Values

If you ever wanted to visit a nation where family values are held as a priority, then Italy is it. You’ll notice families enjoying life together as you travel around, adding inspiration for your own life.

 

9. Exploring by Scooter

Whilst Italy is known for its fantastic car brands, exploring places like Rome by scooter or moped offer a great alternative. And with beautiful countryside also awaiting discovery, you can enjoy walking and cycling through the hills.

 

10. Sports

Italy is a great country for sports, and as well as cycling’s Giro d’Italia, skiing, winter sports, football and motorsports can be enjoyed.