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You hardly feel like cooking on hot summer days and yet fish and shellfish seem so perfect for light summer meals. They are also very easy and fast to prepare. I have a husband who just didn’t like fish but would eat shellfish. I solved this problem by taking him to a cooking class in Italy where just about all the dishes we prepared were fish. There were 4 chefs from a 5 star restaurant and just the two of us. I didn’t expect this, as it was a class at a hotel that we had gone to many times and advertised as a class for a maximum of 6 people. Seems we signed up for the first class of the season that started the beginning of June. Along the Adriatic, this is not high season and we were the only ones to register. The chefs wanted to do the class in any case, probably to test it out, how lucky was that!
I wondered how my husband was going to deal with eating the meals we prepared, as he really hated fish. My husband is a diabetic and it was important for him to change his diet that consisted mostly of meat. This class was the cure and he totally enjoyed every dish we prepared. He still eats meat, but today we have fish at least two or three times a week. The message is that if there is something you don’t like, it is worthwhile to learn how to prepare it. Many times you can find recipes that you never knew existed and will satisfy your taste.
The following is an easy recipe that is great as it includes greens, shellfish and pasta, what is there not to like!
Strozzapreti con rucola, patate e cozze
Chef Franco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. strozzapreti, cavatelli or pasta of your choice
1 bunch arugula (rucola in Italian)
1/4 lb. of potatoes
1 lb. of mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mussels thoroughly and let them soak for about 1/2 hour in cold water, changing the water a few times. Remove the beard that is between the shells. Steam them in a small amount of boiling salted water. This will take 3-6 minutes; discard any that have not opened. Strain out all the liquid and reserve it for the sauce. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping about 5 per person for garnish.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small squares, par boil them in salted water. Set them aside.
In a skillet, sauté the oil and onions until they become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and pepperoncino and cook a few more minutes. Add the reserved mussel liquid and boil it down to about half. Add the cubed potatoes.
In a large saucepan, cook the strozzapreti in salted boiling water. Three minutes before the strozzapreti is cooked add the arugula in with the strozzapreti and cook until the strozzapreti are al dente. Drain them and toss them into the skillet blending them until they are completely covered with the sauce.
Some may think that cannoli is the ultimate Italian pastry, but for me it is sfogliatelle. I have traveled long and far to purchase them. When studying Italian in Bologna, there was a pasticceria across the street from the apartment I rented. Every morning they make them fresh, and I was there when they came out of the oven to enjoy a warm sfogliatelle for breakfast – I still dream of those mornings.
One Easter on our way to Genoa we stopped at an Agip highway restaurant for an espresso and they were giving them out free for Easter, what a wonderful surprise.
In Genoa they had stalls in the outdoor market selling them in huge quantities filled with variety of fillings. We bought several as I wanted to try all the assortments, but I still prefer the traditional sfogliatelle.
The Villa Crespi is a magnificent Middle Eastern style, 4 star luxury hotel with a 2 star Michelin rated restaurant overlooking Lago di Orta. A merchant who traded in Iraq built the Moorish style villa. You can have a massage in your huge room beautifully appointed with antiques or relax in the garden on lounge chairs with views of the lake. It is a short walk to the village where you can visit the shops or take a boat to the island. Visit the many vineyards of the Piedmonte region where you can taste wines such as Barbaresco, Baarolo, Muscato and Asti Spumante . Nebbiolo is the main grape grown here in the Piedmonte, which is one of Italy’s largest wine growing regions.
The chef, Antonio Cannavacciuolo runs the hotel and elegant restaurant serving creative, artistically presented cuisine that is a dream to eat. The chef made sfogliatelle every afternoon and served them with espresso for a late afternoon delight. They were smaller then the typical ones you find in the bakery and light. Filled with the traditional ricotta filling, I was there in the garden waiting every day during our relaxing visit.
Orta is a small picturesque village along the lake in the Piedmonte west of Lago Maggiore. It is one of the smallest and least known towns along the lakes. If you have spent your vacation visiting the Lakes region and want a few days of relaxation before returning home, spend them at the unique Villa Crespi. The hotel is only 45 minutes from Milan’s Malpensa International airport and a perfect hotel to wind down.
This recipe was taken from one of the chef’s antique cookbooks and I translated it into English.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes @ 400º F, 15 minutes @ 350º F, 5-10 minutes @ 250º F
Yield: 16 large or 32 small pastries
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 cups suet or lard
1 3/4 cups cold water, more if needed
2 tablespoons fine salt
1/2 cup honey
2 cups semolina
1 3/4 cups whole milk ricotta
2 cups confectionary sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup candied fruit, chopped
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 pinches cinnamon
7 oz. distilled water, as needed
Salt to taste
1 egg, beaten with the water
1 tablespoons water
Other things needed
Melt the honey with water.
Put the flour into a food processor and add the suet, salt and mix until it crumbles. Add the honey/water mixture a little at a time until the dough forms into a ball. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
If making the dough by hand, put the flour in a large bowl or on a wooden board. Make a well in the middle and add the suet, salt, honey and water. Mix with your hands until you form a ball. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Roll out thin strips of the dough in the pasta machine. Make several equal strips in length of at least 40”. The strip should be the thickness of 1/16” or less.
With care, lightly but lavishly brush the suet onto each strip. In doing this, you must be very careful that the strips are not stretched or torn. Never use flour.
Place 3 of the greased strips on top of each other. Tightly roll up the strips toward you. You will find that the fat will begin to melt. Continue with this process until you have rolled up all the strips.
You will then have a coil of approximately 12” in length and 3” in diameter; you will find that the suet has melted somewhat. Cover the cylinder with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
If using a pasta machine your strips are not going to be the same size, they will be the width of the pasta machine. This is not a problem; just follow the recipe directions in the same way.
The following day proceed with filling and baking them. Remove the cylinder from the refrigerator. Cut the cylinders into slices the thickness of 1”.
You must transform the slice into sfogliatelle flakes. On the cut side, using your fingers, gently push in the folds from the center inwards. Making the inverse movement on the outside, from the edge towards the larger end. Gently spread the larger end outwards, so that it looks like a clamshell with grooves.
Continue with the same treatment for the other slices. Then, maneuvering delicately and flattening them to take the shape again working in the shape of a clamshell with a point on top and wide at the base creating what looks like a shell; finally the sfogliatelle is ready to be filled.
Another possibility is to take each 1” slice and sprinkle a little flour on a board and a little on the slice. With a rolling pin, roll from the center out to the right and the left. Again place the rolling pin in the middle of the oval and roll down forming an oval shape. Pick up the oval and fill with the filling in the middle. Seal the wide part of the oval and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
This process does not create the typical shell shape but is acceptable.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl except for the water. Beat by hand until you have blended all the ingredients. Begin to add a little water at a time beating it in until the filling is just a little fluid. This is a thick filling and you just want to add enough water to make it smooth.
Hold the shell in the hollow of your hand, put a spoon full of filling inside the center; seal the edges, but don’t pinch them together. Carefully lay them down on your cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each one with an egg wash or melted suet or lard whatever you choose to use.
Prepare all the sfogliatelle. Bake in a 400º F oven for 15 minutes. Brush with the lard and reduce the heat to 350º F and cook for another 15 minutes. Brush with an egg wash and cook for another 5-10 minutes at 250º F. When they are a beautifully golden in color, remove them from the oven.
Sprinkle them with a veil of powdered sugar when they are hot out of the oven, and serve them warm if possible.
NOTE: A special machine is used in bakeries to form the pastry and this can’t be effectively reproduced at home even when using a pasta machine. They are delicious even though the pastry isn’t as fine.
NOTE: Sfogliatelle do not stay well. It is best to make the dough and rolls the day before and the next day bake and serve them.
The Limmat Quai runs through the city flowing out of the Lake of Zürich. Lined with swimming areas and restaurants it is the playground of the city where people meet in beer gardens and cafes. The city is sophisticated, elegant, spotless and yet it seems like a beachfront with people sunbathing along the river and lake. Motorboats, sail boats and steamboats move along the lake in a frenzy of activity while people dinning in the restaurants enjoy their champagne brunch. During summer, the lake promenade is a relaxing way to spend the day or evening enjoying the beautiful views and feeding the swans that gather around the shore.
This is the center of Switzerland’s famous financial services, an important international business hub. It looks more like a resort then a business center. But then you walk down the Bahnhofstrasse and you are in another world. Banks, insurance companies, trading companies stand side by side with exclusive shops.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and offers the traveler more then 2,000 restaurants and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. People stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse window-shopping at spectacular jewelry, art galleries and elegant boutiques. Smartly dressed people stop at Sprüngli’s for an espresso and decadent desserts. Sweets are not just for special occasions here, they are an important part of the lifestyle and you cannot pass by without experiencing some of the luscious chocolates beautifully displayed to excite your taste buds. My internal navigation system is permanently set to take me to the Paradeplatz; if not to indulge myself in chocolate truffles, griotte, and tarts, but to also take in the visual experience of Sprüngli’s and Teuschers’ chocolate concoctions. It is said that the average Swiss eats approximately 22 pounds of chocolate per year.
Zürich has the biggest techno parade in Europe, and has the Züri Fäscht, a fest with spectacular fireworks to music that sprawls along the entire harbor side and held every 3 years. Zürcher Theater Spetakel, an outdoor cinema and live musical programs fill the summer schedule with entertainment.
Many political refugees lived in Zürich shortly before and during the two world wars of the last century. They gathered in the Odeon Café at the Bellevue, among them Trotsky, Lenin before the Russian revolution and many artists and writers during the Nazi period, such as Berthold Brecht. Even today it is a place where intellectuals gather.
Visit the Grossmünster, a Romanesque church and the Fraumünster. The old Gothic church has windows created by Marc Chagall. Kunsthaus, one of the major Swiss art museums and many more are mostly free entry.
This civilized city somehow seems to be in slow motion and still in high gear at the same time. It is like everyone’s back yard yet there is serious business going on in the majestic buildings. The intermingling of young smartly dressed business people in suits lunching at the many ultra modern bars and the serious looking bank buildings are a stark contrast to all the activity surrounding them.
The Niederdorf can’t be forgotten. This is the Old Town, and here like in many cities it coexists with jazz clubs, exotic shows, small theaters, restaurants, clubs, galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques. This is the place to go at night and during the day for a bit to eat in one of the many restaurants. Here you find people elegantly dressed on their way to the Opera or pre-opera dinning or enjoying jazz at the many clubs. This is not the typical seedy part of town, but the entertainment district for all to enjoy. It is buzzing from late afternoon into the early morning hours. Fourteenth century buildings and small cobblestone streets offer apartment living and city getaways for people living in the suburbs.
Switzerland has a fantastic transport system, not only can you tour the city by tram, but you can also take restaurant trams enjoying lunch as you go. In a very short time you can be in the Pre-alps or even in the Alps. Steamboats take you on slow lazy cruises along the villa-lined lake with the alps looming in the background, and during the Föhn (warm air coming from over the alps from the south) seem to be touchable. The contrast of the countryside is stunning as you very quickly go from this alluring city to the peaceful awesome views of the green rolling hills to the alps. Travel by train along transparent blue glass like waters of the many lakes. Buy tickets at ticket machine before boarding or from one of the kiosks. Tickets are sold for the day or multiple trips, or tickets that offer you all forms of transportation.
Zürich is as complex as the Swiss themselves – a reflexion of the Swiss personality. Complex, reserved, conservative, hesitant, precise and even reluctant and yet there is an underlying energy, bursts of excitement and curiosity. These traits create an innovative and courteous place that typifies the city and the people who live here. It is stunningly beautiful.
The pebble-paved streets wind through Haut-de-Cagnes’ narrow alleyways past stone houses, artist’s studios, restaurants and a few shops. The Chateau Grimaldi, a fort built around the 1300 dominates the village overlooking the sea. Replicas of canvases by well-known artists who painted this romantic place are stationed at the locations of the scene. The clay colors of the roof tiles, grays of stone walls, colorful vines creeping up the sides of the ancient buildings seem to be growing where ever they can find a little earth. Haut-de-Cagnes is a heritage site, classified as a “Monument of France”.
When I first walked up the pebble streets some 30 years ago, I thought I was stepping into a Renior canvas. Brush strokes and pallet knives created this village from the imagination of a genius painter I thought. Of course it must be, because Renoir lived and worked in Les Colette just around the corner from Haut-de-Cagnes. The panorama over the hills and blue Mediterranean gave him inspiration and his canvases reflect the colors and vegetation of the region. So this must be where I am, in one of his paintings. Then, when I came back to reality, I saw that Haut-de-Cagnes was a real place, with real people, and real stone buildings and flowers and I was going to stay here forever. Well I almost did and have visited it many times.
Painters lived in this region of France such as Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Erté, Rodin, Bonnard, Matisse and Modigliani who spent time with Renoir – just to name a few. All conspired and enjoyed each other’s company in this medieval world. The village reflects the romanticism of the past and you wander through the streets appreciating the beauty that they saw. Today you can visit Renoir’s home, now a museum where you can see why he was in love with Cagnes-sur-Mer.
In recent years there has been a revitalization of Cagnes-sur-Mer and in many ways it has improved along the sea. A boardwalk goes on for miles all the way to Nice. Restoration of the beaches and buildings has brought new life with little seaside restaurants that serve both French and Italian specialties. The city is charming in the area of the market place where people seem to be stationed all the time in the café’s. Maybe they are really sculptures by Renior who probably joined in this typically French pastime of café life. Sometimes I feel they are purposely placed there so visitors think that relaxing and drinking espresso or a glass of wine is all people do here. There are many new apartments in the center of the city, which I suppose is to be expected, and in some ways nicer architecture then some other towns. The town has all the shopping you need with outdoor markets and excellent boulangeries. Years ago it was possible to find small boulangeries and boucherie (butcher shops) in Haut-de- Cagnes, but they are long gone. Many foreigners have bought apartments and live part-time here making it difficult for small shops to survive. But they have also renovated the apartments and have played a role in keeping the village alive and free from commercialism.
There is a parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer, a paid parking garage in Haute-de-Cagnes and parking along the streets, but the chances of finding parking is slim. The public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer is a quarter the price of the parking garage and with very good bus service to Haute-de-Cagnes. The shuttle bus leaves every 15 minutes from June to September from the Castle and can be taken from several places along the route to Cagnes-sur-Mer. From here you can catch buses to other destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The shuttle is free and the bus service is inexpensive and a good alternative considering the lack of parking in Nice or Cannes.
By some stroke of luck Haut-de-Cagnes has survived tourism. You quickly appreciate this when you visit St. Paul de Vance. It hurts to think that such a beautiful village that inspired so many famous artists is now a big commercial mess. The people of Haut-de-Cagnes and all those who settled there saved this magical place from the sickness that takes over when people only see dollar signs. This could have easily happened here, but instead it has stayed the same and you feel like you are going home every time you visit. This is the village where I could easily see myself getting lost in forever and many new residents have. It’s simplicity and charm just carry you through life as though you have nothing else to worry about except stepping around the palate knife and paint strokes that created it.
Vance and St Jennet are easily reached and are a nice side trip. Vance has done a lot of restoration and in fact has replaced its fountains with ones dating back to its origins. Many guests visit the perfume factories in Grasse. Collectors search for perfume bottles that are now collectables at some of the weekly outdoor markets.
I will only mention two restaurants in the village and one in Cagnes-sur-Mer that we found worth visiting. Le Fleur de Sel we did not visit because it was closed for vacation, we have dined here in the past and I was told that it was good and under new management.
You won’t find many restaurants in the village but a few stand out. Chef Stephane Francolino, owner of Entre Cour et Jardin, told us that many Italians fled to France during WWII and settled in the region mostly in Grasse to work at the perfume factories. Since we had just come from Dolceacqua, Italy, his hometown, it was an interesting connection for us. The region’s culture is intermingled with Italy and its cuisine reflects this. Entre Cour et Jardin is a lovely little restaurant decorated in the style of the village with paintings adorning its walls and in one corner a typical French fireplace. The chef’s menu reflects his love of travel and his creativeness in combining his roots with his cooking. He is the cook, waiter and owner and takes pride in his relationships with his customers, who he calls his family. Stephane and his restaurant are as enchanting as the village and exactly what one would expect to find here.
Thank you Stephane for this lovely recipe.
Entre Cour et Jardin
102 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 04 93 20 72 27
Fax: 04 93 20 61 01
Crème de foie gras et fruits
(Cream of goose liver and fruits)
Yield: 40 glasses
Bake: 15 minutes @ 212ºF
250 g (9 oz.) of stuffed goose liver terrine
1 egg yoke
90 cl. (3 1/4 oz.) cream
Pimient d’esplette (Basque chili pepper)
Mix all the ingredients.
Put a raspberry and some raspberry coulis (puréed and strained raspberries) at the bottom of the glass, and then add the preparation.
Bake approximately 15 minutes in the oven at 100º C (212º F)
Put them in a cool place for 2 hours. They can be refrigerated for a few days.
La Goutte d’Eau
108 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes
Phone: 04 93 20 81 23
La Goutte d’Eau has contributed a wonderful typically French “tarte au citron”. I will test the recipe and post it at a later date. I loved it because it has a light citron flavor, not overwhelming, with an Italian meringue topping. The little outdoor eating area is very pleasant in the evening and owners run back and forth to the restaurant to serve its guests outdoors. They are fun and it is a casual restaurant with an atmosphere so typically French.
23, Place Sainte Luce
06800 Cagnes Sur Mer
The restaurant is located next to the left of public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-mer. Its contemporary setting is a surprise, as the outside looks quite old with a small outdoor terrace seating area. The food was very good and even on what one would have considered an off night; it was completely booked with locals.
Le Cagnard Hotel
Rue Sous Barri
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes, France
Le Cagnard Hotel, our choice for many years has come upon some difficult times. Still beautiful, it’s one time one star Michelin restaurant has been closed. But I remember my first encounter with Madam Barel showing me each of the 4 rooms and 2 apartments so that I could choose my favorite room (They have many more rooms now). There were huge tulips on top of the antique chest and on stools placed around the hotel. It had a small elevator that never seemed to stop at the right floor and has a beautiful restaurant with its painted ceiling tiles (now opens to view the stars). I remember the New Years Eve we spent here with a fire glowing in the large fireplace and the huge selection of chèvre for dessert. This is where I was introduced to chèvre. On our 10th anniversary of visiting Le Cagnard, Madam came into the dinning room as we were having breakfast and insisted that we join her for a bottle of champagne to celebrate our 10 years of visiting her. We never made it back to Switzerland that day and she has remained in our memories of Haut-de-Cagnes. This year we opted to rent an apartment which we find a more interactive and interesting way to enjoy a place that is a home away from home.
I search for the small hotels that are owner operated and the service is focused on your return. The place where you say, I would come back. Where the chef comes to your table to make sure that everything is to your satisfaction and they are willing to spend time talking with you as though you have gone there many times before.
In S. Mamete village in Valsolda, Italy is the small hotel of Stella d’Italia. On the Italian side of Lake Lugano, it is about 2 miles from the Swiss border, 6 miles from the city of Lugano and an hour from Como.
Mr. & Mrs. Ortelli have owned and run the family owned hotel for many years. It has been in their family for 4 generations. They are very welcoming and speak English fluently. There are 34 rooms tastefully decorated with French doors, balconies and beautiful views of Lake Lugano.
Guests can enjoy breakfast; lunch or dinner under the rose covered terraced garden boarding the lake. The gardens also have small tables where you can enjoy drinks or lounge and take up the sun and beauty of the lake. It has a very small beach and a dock where boats can pull up and moor until guests have finished their meal.
The restaurant is very good and stopping by just for a meal on our way back from Como is a must. I suggest if you decide to stay there, that you make a reservation for dinner as you won’t be disappointed in the food, and there are few other places to eat in the village.
The village is very small and does not offer much interest. There is a ferry that links the village to the city of Lugano and Porlezza, Switzerland where ferries can be taken to other points in the Lake Region. It is a fantastic location to visit Gandria, Monte Bre, Lugano and the Lake Region with rooms at a reasonable price compared to Lugano. If you are a golfer the Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club is one of Eruope oldest and most prestiges clubs and is about 15 minutes away (http://www.menaggio.it/). If you want a small, friendly and well-appointed hotel while traveling from the Ticino, Switzerland to Italy it is a perfect place to stay. Be sure to make a reservation, the hotel is fully booked in the summer months. Spring and Autumn are beautiful in this region and the hotel opens on Easter weekend.
Salsa crema e zucchini was inspired by a dish I had at Stella d’Italia.
Zucchini Cream Sauce for pasta
Salsa crema e zucchini
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large fresh zucchini
4 tablespoons cream (half & half or heavy cream)
1 small anchovy (optional)
Salt to taste
Peel one zucchini. Half both zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds. Put the peels and seeds into the broth. Cut both into 1/2” cubes. Put half of the peeled cubes and half of the unpeeled cubes into the broth. Reserve the 2 remaining halves for the steamer.
Add water, garlic (whole), peppercorn and anchovy into broth. Put the steamer with the remaining half of the cubes on top of the pan and cover. Boil down at medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the steamer and reserve the steamed zucchini. Remove and put aside the zucchini cubes from the broth. Strain the broth and reduce to half, approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Put the reserved zucchini from the broth back into the broth. Puree with a hand emulsifier until smooth. Add the cream (heavy cream will make the sauce thicker; I prefer half & half). Just before serving the pasta add the reserved zucchini from the steamer to the cream sauce. Taste for salt and spoon it over the pasta.
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When we think of Venice the first thing that comes to mind is St. Marco’s Square and the Grand Canal. It is hard to imagine that people actually live and work there. The photo’s I’ve uploaded here are of the back streets of Venice where people live and work.
What is Agriturismo? It is an Italian term for a farm holiday or agricultural tourism, but mainly it’s a concept. The idea is to better apprehend farmers’ life and rural traditions. It is taking in the culture, art, food and the countryside of Italy. It is not about working on a farm or even necessarily staying at a farm.
Many agriturismi (the plural of agriturismo) offer guests cooking and/or painting classes, horseback and bike riding, language lessons, guided tours or wine tasting – none of which you are required to do. Some farms do have programs where you can participate in various tasks. Italy does a fantastic job of educating and promoting their products and they do it with passion because they believe they have the very best.
The advantage of agriturismo is to experience a tranquil vacation and come in contact with the local population and nature. Enjoy biking for example through olive groves, or hiking in a National Park. Some areas have thermal baths and most have cathedrals and architecture rich in history and art. You can enjoy local food grown either on the farm or from the local area. Meals are often served family style by people from the farm or village. One small castle we visited in the Assisi area was located down a long dirt road surrounded by olive groves. There were only 6 rooms, all occupied by people of different nationalities. We ate at a long table in the dinning room served family style by local women from the village. Large dishes of pasta and roasted chicken held by one woman and served by another filled our dishes as we tried to discover what languages we all could communicate in. The conversation was translated into French, German, English and Italian and we managed to have a lively and fun discussion. All of the ingredients were farmed in the local area and the olive oil was made from olives grown in the surrounding orchards.
We took an apartment at a farmhouse in Montepulciano where we had a kitchen and shopped at the local markets and prepared some of our own meals. The owner of the farm helped us out by recommending where to go and what the specialties were of the area. The farm also had a pool and taking a swim late at night after a day of activities with views of the town of Montepulciano lit up at night was enchanting – we were in another world. We sat outside under an awning-covered patio overlooking the gentle hills and patchwork of colors created by the terra cotta buildings and farmland as we enjoyed a breakfast of fresh melon and prosciutto, fresh breads and pastry from the local pasticceria. Breakfast is a good meal to prepare yourself as the local markets have wonderful fruits, salumi and cheeses. Italians tend to eat a very simple breakfast of croissant and cappuccino. Speaking a little Italian in this case helps and is a great opportunity to practice. Italians are very understanding about language so no need to be embarrassed if you don’t speak well. They are truly happy if you make the effort. There are many free Italian lessons on-line if you want to learn some helpful phrases.
Many towns have revived traditions and costumes such as old games, plays and sports performed in traditional costumes that characterized the midlevel life of the area. Having your own transportation is important, as you are in the countryside where public transportation is not readily available. If you don’t have a car, then look for locations that are serviced by public transportation or where proprietors are willing to pick you up at the train station. Possibly a portable bike would work if you want to use public transportation but still have some freedom of movement. It all depends on how much your willing to invest in getting to and around your destination. Many farms will have bikes for you to use but be sure to inquire, as you will want to explore the area at your leisure. Most regions offer Argriturismo vacations. It always pays to do research before booking a region or farm.
You can find websites on the Internet but keep in mind the activities you enjoy the most and make sure that you will be able to experience them in your chosen area. Also inquire about major local events. Most of these places are small and sometimes prices increase and reservations during major holidays/events are difficult. Argriturismo vacations are often but not always the least expensive way to travel, this is a concept that brings together a way of life and nature.
Two agriturismi that I visited this summer in Veneto are “Col Delle Rane” in Caetano, S. Marco (Treviso) Italy http://www.coldellerane.it/en/home.asp and “Nicobresola” in Custoza, Verona http://www.nicobresaola.it/. Located in Veneto both offer wonderful accommodations at reasonable prices. If you are visiting Verona, Lake Garda, the Prosecco wine route are in a good location. Venice is only an hour train ride from both locations and the train is very inexpensive. Look for my articles on Veneto which will be posted here in the near future.