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Consider Italy for your Winter Destination Vacation

Winter can be a great time to visit Italy – Skiing the Italian Alps, uncrowded art cities, plenty of cultural events, Italian comfort foods, and leisurely tastings at wineries where the pace slows and becomes an intimate afternoon with a winemaker. Shoppers will find deep discounts in stores from January through March in every region […]

Winter can be a great time to visit Italy – Skiing the Italian Alps, uncrowded art cities, plenty of cultural events, Italian comfort foods, and leisurely tastings at wineries where the pace slows and becomes an intimate afternoon with a winemaker. Shoppers will find deep discounts in stores from January through March in every region of Italy.

Here are a few suggestions for a winter vacation in Italy:

Winter Sports

The Italian Alps offer the ultimate winter getaway. The Dolomites are a UNESCO Heritage Site and offer some of the best skiing in a majestic setting. Cortina d’Ampezzo was home to the 1956 Winter Olympics and will again be hosting in 2026. It is part of the Dolomiti Superski, one of the world’s largest ski circuits with over 450 miles of slopes across 12 ski regions and one ski pass. Cortina is one of Italy’s most charming villages. Trentino’s Val di Fassa also has excellent ski zones with incredible views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and the Sestriere resort in Piedmont’s region has 146 trails covering over 250. The nighttime skiing is an added bonus, becoming a magical trip down the mountain into the twinkling lights of the town below.

The Corno alle Scale in the region of Emilia Romano is perfect for families. With over 15 miles of ski slopes and the longest slope on the Apennines, uninterrupted for almost 2 miles. There are also two cross country ski loops, snowboarding, and snowshoeing trails, and a baby park where every Bolognese child has learned to ski.

For non-skiers, there is a lot to entertain on any mountain slope: Go for the outstanding views, including the beautiful jagged peaks of the Dolomites soaring above you and picturesque towns and ice-covered lakes tucked in the valleys below. Clear blue skies and dazzling sunshine frame the snow-covered mountains while cable cars and gondolas not only accommodate skiers and non-skiers but are also the only way to the many “rifugi” – the wooden chalet restaurants that dot the mountains. Here you can have a long leisurely lunch or warm up with a hot drink called a Bombardino, a mixture of Zabaglione and brandy. The villages are charming with Tyrolean architecture and cobbled streets, ideal for strolling, shopping, and dining.

The Art Cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice

The cities are less crowded, except of course for Venice’s Carnival. Italian cities are famous for lighting their buildings and monuments, and early winter sunsets give you more time to enjoy the cities in the dark. Evening walks on the quiet and picturesque streets, and squares are quite impressive without the crowds and something you won’t soon forget.

While Museums may have shorter hours, they won’t have the long lines or crowds, allowing you to move at your own pace. Theaters, concerts, and operas abound in the winter months, and outdoor skating rinks can be found in some of the cities. Italy’s high-speed trains connect most of the country’s major cities, making it easier to expand your itinerary.

Carnevale

The most famous “final party” before Ash Wednesday is held in Venice. But Carnevale is held in other cities across Italy. Some of the most well-known to Italians can be found in Tuscany, Verona, Apulia, Piedmont, and even Sardinia.

Carnevale di Viareggio in Tuscany takes place in the seaside village of Viareggio, located along the Tuscan Riviera. The highlight is the parade of floats with satirical caricatures of famous people, many political. It was first organized in 1873 to protest high taxes. Today it still keeps its satiric wit to vent their discontent.

Bacanal del Gnoco – Verona, Veneto region. This Carnival dates back 500 years when Verona was suffering from a food shortage. A local nobleman donated flour to every citizen so they can make gnocchi. From that time on, he mandated to donate gnocchi and wine every year on the last Friday of Carnival. Now the day is in his honor when housewives and restaurants all serve gnocchi. The parade is led by Papa de Gnocchio – the symbol of the generous nobleman who fed the entire population during the famine.

Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Piedmont. One of the most popular festivals in the world, it recalls the Battle of the Oranges of 1194 against the Barbarossa and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick of Swabia. Each year they ride large carts through town hurling oranges at each other. The ultimate and largest food fight.

Carnevale di Putignano – Apulia. Dating back to 1394, it is the longest celebration lasting from December 26 up until Mardi Gras ending with an all-day parade celebrating the Carnival’s end with large floats.

Carnevale Mamoiadino – Sardinia. This ancient pagan tradition features the Mamuthones, men in black masks and dark fur coats with cowbells on their backs dancing against the Issohadores, who are distinguished by white masks in red uniforms. They march through the village of 2500 performing traditional dances around bonfires.

Sicily

The winter months are pleasant, and the crowds are the gone making it an ideal destination in the winter.

Like the major art cities on the mainland, Sicily’s villages and cities are ideal for enjoying them alongside the Sicilians. The piazzas will be full sunny, streets will be free of tourists, solo walks on the beaches of seaside villages offer a new experience in an intimate way. Restaurants return to the natives and are serving seasonal dishes you won’t find on the menu in the summer. Agrigento’s annual Almond Blossom Festival and Siracusa’s Festival of Saint Lucia are celebrated each February.

The average temperature is in the 60’s but also promises good skiing in the northern areas of Etna and the Palermo mountains. The food festivals, or Sagro, shift to chestnuts, citrus fruits, mulled wine, sweet and savory fried dumplings.

And of course, each city holds their own Carnevale with colorful floats and parties.

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Let’s go drink a shadow, Venetian style Cicheti – A fabulous Venetian tradition

When a Venetian invites you for a drink, they’ll say  Andemo bever un’ombra   –  “Let’s go drink a shadow”  Venetians have a lovely tradition of meeting friends after work in their neighborhood wine bars for a quick glass of wine and some savory bite-sized snacks before heading home for dinner. This tradition dates back to […]

When a Venetian invites you for a drink, they’ll say  Andemo bever un’ombra   –  “Let’s go drink a shadow”  Venetians have a lovely tradition of meeting friends after work in their neighborhood wine bars for a quick glass of wine and some savory bite-sized snacks before heading home for dinner.

This tradition dates back to the 12th century when ships unloaded their wine cargo at the Riva degli Schiavoni. Some savvy entrepreneurs set up wine stands under the shaded base of the nearby Bell Tower in Piazza San Marco.  To keep the wine cool, the stands moved around the base of the tower as the shadows (Ombra) shifted. Following the shadow kept the wine as cool as possible on a sunny day.  This tradition of stopping to drink a shadow has existed among Venetians ever since.

Eventually, the stands moved inside, and the wine bar “ bacaro” was born.  For centuries, the wine bar was the place for Venetians to stop for a drink before heading home after work.  Barkeepers soon realized their clients needed something to ‘absorb’ the alcohol and started offering little finger foods called cicheti.

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The small wine bars I visit today remind me of when my Venetian relatives took me to my first bacaro in 1979. I can still remember walking over the threshold into a cozy, small, dark bar.  There were no chairs, only a long wooden bar with a glass front that showcased the many savory offerings on a long line of white plates –   grilled polenta topped with creamy cod, mozzarella fried in a bread ‘boat’, baby squid stuffed with olives, fried zucchini flowers, the tiniest sandwich of Venetian crab, Crostini were skewered with toothpicks that secured a pickled onion to an anchovy topped with a tart berry, or a thick slab of mortadella pinched between a pistachio and sweet pickle.  Toothpicks let you know you are about to experience a burst of flavor from the many ingredients it was holding together.  Since there was no seating, if you were lingering a little longer than normal, you could rest your plates or glass on a wood shelf that ran the length of the wall, or if you were lucky on the top of the bar itself.

The baccari haven’t changed much since my first visit. The back bar still holds as many plump demijohns it can hold, each one with a different wine from the Veneto and the walls are lined with more wine bottles.

The aroma is still intoxicating – the bouquets of red and white wines past and present mingled with the heavenly scents of cured meats, salty seafood, sweet and sour from the popular Venetian dish Sarde in Saor, cheeses and fried vegetables, herbs and olive oil.  It is culinary nirvana.

Venice’s secret has now become popular with tourists. So much so that you can find many tour operators offering a cicheti wine tour. If you want to see the authentic side of this Venetian secret, I’ve included a list of our favorite bacari in order of sequence.  If you prefer to be in the company of a Venetian Papavero Villa Rentals can arrange one of their friends who will take you to the wine bars where the locals hang out.

Many bacari are open during the lunch hour as well.  If you want to mingle with the locals, make sure you are off the beaten path as most are hidden on quiet streets, and stop in right before noon or between 6 and 8 in the evening. Cicheti are meant for a quick snack before dinner, but it’s a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy a meal and ideal if you don’t have much time between museums.

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Wines and foods found in a Venetian Wine Bar

The Veneto is the largest wine-producing region in Italy. It has 28 DOC’s and 14 DOCG’s some sharing territory with bordering regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. Millions of bottles are shipped around the world, but they say the largest consumers are the locals.  So, try something you may be unfamiliar with when visiting a Venetian bacari and embrace the local ‘table’ wines. The best way to sample Venice’s authentic cuisine is by visiting a few bacari as that  bacari will have their own specialties as well as some of these favorites,  some bacari will specialize in seafood, cheeses, meats, etc. so make sure to stop in more than once during your stay in one of our  Venice apartment vacation rentals.

These are some of Venice’s most popular cicheti

  • Crostini: slices of bread with various toppings
  • Polpette: meat, fish or vegetable fritters
  • Baccalà mantecato: creamed cod served on chargrilled planks of polenta
  • Folpetti: boiled baby octopus sliced in half and dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper
  • Sarde fritte: fried sardines
  • Sarde in saor: fried sardines marinated in white onion, wine vinegar, raisins and pine nuts
  • Mezzo uovo: half-boiled egg topped with capers, pickles or anchovies
  • Insalata di piovra: octopus salad with extra virgin olive oil, herbs
  • Mortadella e peperone: a thick slice of mortadella with a pickled sweet pepper
  • Fetta di salame: thick slice of salami
  • Cipolline con l’acciuga: pickled onion with an anchovy
  • Seppioline fritte: fried baby squid (only when in season and quite expensive)
  • Seppie o calamari all griglia: grilled squid or calamari
  • Cappesante al Forno – oven baked sea scallops on the half shell

 

How to order

 Cicheti are generally charged by piece or by portion. In most places, the price tag is placed just in front of the relative nibble, but other times… well, it’s just missing! In such cases, don’t hesitate to ask the barkeeper.  More or less, in each bacari, you will spend on average from 3 to 7 euros per person.

The bar/ counter is usually at the entrance, so choose what you want, pay, and try to find a spot for yourself. Most bacari place a wooden shelf or wine barrels just outside so that clients can put down their glass and have free hands.  Some now even have tables outside where you can sit.  In general, when it comes to cicheti walks, during the day the experience is more about the food, whereas in the evening the main focus is the drinking and socializing!   When time is tight, you can always make a meal out of grazing through the abundant cicheti that are offered.

 

You own Cicheti Walk

If you want to experience Venice like a Venetian, take this independent cicheti walk, through some of Venice’s most picturesque streets.   Most of the wine bars are in the Cannaregio and San Polo districts, the less touristy areas of Venice and home to most working-class Venetians.

This itinerary starts at the train station but jump in anywhere and visit as many as you like.  Considering a leisurely walk, and some time to enjoy each wine bar, this itinerary will take from   4 to 5 hours to complete.

With the train station to your back, take the busy street Lista di Spagna on your right and immediately charge your batteries with a quick stop at:

 

Al Cicheto

Address: Cannaregio, Calle de la Misericordia 367/A, 30121

Our first destination, a small wine bar managed by two brothers, with a carefully selected wine list and a really excellent baccalà mantecato. The interior is in dark wood and the atmosphere friendly.

 

Vecia Carbonera

Address: Canneregio 2329, Venezia 30100

Proceed along Strada Nuova, the main street, until you reach Vecia Carbonera. This is one of my favorite locations as, differently from most osterie, it has a spacious interior, and it’s possible to sit down. There is no table service (thus, no extra cost), so you order at the counter, pay, and relax. The counter is at the right of the entrance and has a very rich window with a wide variety of crostini, fish skewers, gratin veg and individual portions of dishes like aubergines parmigiana. I suggest trying the crostini with chicken livers and the ones with ricotta and zucchini.

 

Paradiso Perduto
Address: Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia 2540, 30121

Located in Fondamenta della Misericordia, Paradiso has been open for ages. It’s colorful, it’s lively and always very busy. I usually have an ombra and a small portion of octopus salad, but you should also try the grilled polenta with baccalà mantecato and the fried sardines.

 

Vino Vero
Address: Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia 2497, 30121

Only a few metres away, Vino Vero is specialized in natural wine (thus, they don’t serve ombre) and quality crostini. In the display window, you will only see the crostini, but it’s also possible to ask for a small salad or a selection of cured meats and cheese, which is prepared at the moment. Among the crostini, my favorites are the ones with seppie in nero (squid in ink) and the ones with spicy chicory, anchovies and cheese.

 

Trattoria alla Vedova
Address: Cannaregio, Ramo Ca’ d’Oro 3912, 30121

Located in a side calle of Strada Nuova, it is one of the oldest osterie in Venice and is renowned for its garlicky polpette. The tables are reserved for the restaurant (also very good), and there isn’t a lot of space inside, so we normally order at the counter and the step outside. If the situation is quite, I suggest trying the boiled latti di seppia (boiled squid eggs) and the fondi di carciofo (heart of the artichoke).

 

Promessi Sposi
Address: Cannaregio, Calle dell’Oca 4367, 30121

Slightly hidden, this place has become very popular. The tables are reserved for the restaurant and those enjoying wine and cicheti stand either at the counter or in the street. Promessi Sposi is known for the skewers with three small fried meatballs, but I also recommend the sarde in saor and the sardines in beccafico style, thus rolled and stuffed with a trite of breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, raisins, pine nuts and vinegar. They also have a good offer of vegetables!

 

Sepa
Address: San Marco, Calle de la Bissa 5482, 30124

Before crossing the Rialto Bridge, consider stopping at Sepa. Although it’s not exactly an osteria, this recently opened take away is specialized in traditional Venetian cuisine. In addition to the various cicheti, every day at 1 pm, they prepare a risotto, which I highly recommend trying! Besides being delicious, I find it has a very good value for money (3 euros for half a portion and 5 euros for a full portion).

 

Gislon
Address: San Marco, Calle de la Bissa 5424/a, 30124

At one minute from Sepa, Gislon is the reference stop for mozzarella in carrozza, a local treat made by frying two slices of white bread previously into whipped eggs and stuffed with mozzarella and either prosciutto or anchovies.

 

Bancogiro
Address: San Polo, Campo San Giacometto 122, 30125

This wine bar was the first to open after the vegetable whole market was moved to the Tronchetto area. The location itself is stunning. From the late XVI century to the fall of the Republic it used to be a bank, then it changed function and currently hosts this fancy wine bar and restaurant. The selection of wine is of excellent quality (no ombre here) and the cicheti on offer really inviting. I suggest trying a variety of crostini and their sarde in saor.

 

Al Merca’
Address: Campo Bella Vienna 213, 30125

A few meters away, in campo Bella Vienna, Al Marca’ offers small panini with different fillings and meat, fish and aubergine fritters. My favourite sandwich is tuna and radicchio.

 

I Compari
Address: San Polo, Campo de la Pescaria, 255/A, 30125

A recent acquisition, I Compari is managed by a kind man from Padova called Simone. Located right in front of the fruit and veg market, this is the place for folpetti, boiled baby octopus dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. In addition to the octopus, the baccalà in red is superb and at lunch time it’s also possible to have express dishes. Excellent value for money and friendly and attentive service.

 

All’ Arco
Address: San Polo 436, 30125

Probably the most written about Venetian osteria, All’Arco has maintained quality through the years. A family business made of passionate people that pay great attention to ingredient sourcing. When you step in, you will find yourself in front of a rich window filled with crostini, fried baccalà (a must-have), francobolli (tiny squared tramezzini sandwiches), boiled fish, and more. Choose, order, and hope to find a free chair!

 

Cantina Do Mori
Address: San Polo 429, 30125

The ambiance is completely different, wider, and darker. The food? Delicious! My favorite is the pickled baby onion with anchovy, but if you are into milder flavors don’t worry, you will still be spoilt by choice. From crostini with marinated fish to veg spreads (try the asparagus or the artichoke ones), from revisited tramezzini to boiled baby octopus, from half-boiled eggs to rolled grilled and marinated aubergine topped with dried tomato and -obviously- lots and lots of wine.

Before continuing with our endeavors, we’re going to leave Rialto and head towards Dorsoduro for our final stop.

 

Cantinone del Vino già Schiavi
Address: Dorsoduro 992, F.ta Nani, 30123

Another historical wine bar, where it’s possible to taste an incredible variety of crostini with an endless assortment of toppings (my favorite: nettle sauce and brie cheese). Easy going and friendly atmosphere, it’s nice to order and then step outside and enjoy the drinks along the canal. Only a few meters away, one of the oldest squeri (shipyard for gondolas) in Venice.

If for some reason you are still hungry, stop in at the Bar Toletta for a Tramezzino.  Or save it for another day. 

 

Bar Toletta
Address: Dorsoduro 1191, 30123

Here you won’t find cicheti, but… another renowned local specialty called tramezzino. Tramezzini are triangular sandwiches made with white bread (with the crust removed), mayo and stuffed with different fillings, a quintessential Venetian street food experience in Venice, usually one of the first things Venetians do when they return home after a vacation. Bites of pure pleasure, perfect to end your walk.

  

Patrice Salezze is the owner of Papavero Villa Rentals, offering villa and apartment rentals throughout Italy.

You can reach her at Patrice@PapveroRentals.com or call her at 610 224  1004

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Why You Should Consider Rome This Winter

Rome’s weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Temperate due to it being located between the sea and the Apennine mountains. Its location offers what Italians call January and February ‘the freshest months” where the temperature averages 55°F. It rarely gets below freezing, with little or no rainfall. The low angle sun warms the day. […]

Rome’s weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Temperate due to it being located between the sea and the Apennine mountains. Its location offers what Italians call January and February ‘the freshest months” where the temperature averages 55°F. It rarely gets below freezing, with little or no rainfall. The low angle sun warms the day.
At this writing, direct round-trip flights out of Newark NJ start at $241.00 for coach and 546.00 for business class, making it an even more tempting reason to head to Rome this winter. Even luxury apartments with butler and concierge service are at their lowest prices this time of year, not to mention there are smaller crowds wherever you go.
It is the best time to visit the Vatican Museums. You actually have time to linger at the Sistine Chapel and soak it all in. Skip the line; tickets are best ordered through the Vatican Museum’s own website. You can also reserve a multitude of guided tours by those employed by the Vatican and see areas that are normally impossible to visit during the high season. You will have plenty of elbow room at the Papal Audience where during the summer months the crowd surges to 80,000. Should the weather turn on you, the weekly Papal Audience is held in the Papal Auditorium, said to have better acoustics that the Basilica of St. Peter’s.
Rome is sweltering in the summer months and more difficult than touring in winter. Warmer than most European cities, it is comfortable for outdoor sites such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum and wandering the through the ancient district of Trastevere where the cobblestones first laid in Roman times still stand.
This year, the Colosseum was named one of the new seven wonders of the world. It will be possible to visit the two newly opened areas with restricted access. The past two years, the Colosseum underground level and third level have been open to the public. It’s near impossible to get tickets during the summer as it is strictly limited. Your chances of visiting the upper third level offering a bird’s eye view of Rome in the ‘cheap seats’ for ancient Romans and the underground chambers are all but guaranteed.
Here you will get to experience what few tourists can, retracing the footsteps of the Gladiators. This area even then was only for Gladiators and wild animals. You will walk the same path they did in 80 AD, walking directly under the stage and see a model of the trap door used to raise them to the Arena’s floor. For the first time since 1975, a limited number of tickets to climb the 3rd, 4th and 5th rings allow you an extraordinary viewpoint from the top of the Cavea, sweeping down to the Arena below and the city of Rome beyond.
The Roman Catacombs hold their temperature year round, and you can walk into the Borghese Gallery without advanced tickets. Rome’s best exhibitions are during the winter months.
Take time to see museums off the beaten path, like the National Pasta Museum or the Doria Pamphili Gallery, The Jewish Museum and the National Museum of 21st Century Art. There is an interesting museum of horse-drawn carriages perfect if you’re bringing the kids.
Winter allows you to enjoy the city at a slower pace; relax in the warmth of a family trattoria, enjoy a wine tasting at Roscioli, go ice skating under the iconic umbrella pines surrounding a temporary rink set up at Castel San ‘ Angelo. Have Panettone with a cup of hot chocolate. Stop into Coromandel for a change from the typical croissant and cappuccino breakfast and enjoy a belly-warming hot breakfast or Antica Fabbrica del Cioccolato, a restaurant converted from a chocolate factory where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinners or a little bit of chocolate. Visit the three churches where Caravaggio’s paintings are ‘in situ,’ the actual churches he painted them for. Take time as Audrey and Gregory did, to visit La Bocca Della Verita. Legend still holds that if you tell a lie while your hand is inserted in this icon’s mouth, he bites it off. After a foodie trek to the Testaccio district, visit the Protestant Cemetery for some of the most beautiful statues honoring some of the most famous and important graves anywhere in the world. Spend a morning at Eatly, an incredible food emporium of 18 restaurants and food stalls from all 20 regions of Italy.
The city seems to be cozier in winter; Romans thrive in sun and sand, and during the cooler months spend more times indoors at their favorite trattorias and bars eating simple comfort foods you won’t find on the menus in warmer months. Just strolling past them will indicate the best places to eat like a Roman and you’ll find the staff is more relaxed allowing a true Roman experience.
And while there is so much to do in this eternal city, the Frecciarossa train now allows you to be in Renaissance city of Florence or the quaint Umbrian town of Orvieto in ninety minutes, making for an enjoyable day trip.

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Dining out in Italy

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities. In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are […]

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities.

In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are celebrating by listing our favorite restaurants in Italy that are perfect for any type of celebration.   Whether you are planning a short trip or a longer vacation to Italy there are some important things to know about dining in Italy that is different from here in the states.

Up until a few years ago, restaurant etiquette included ordering multiple courses that included an antipasto, primo (pasta or soup), secondo (meat or fish), cortono (vegetable side) followed by a salad and dessert.  Coffee is served after dessert, not with it.  Dinner is an event, intentionally taking a few hours to complete.  Italians feel that the meal is to be an experience and to spend valuable time with their family or friends.  While the courses are small, it still can be too much for most visitors, and even the younger generation of Italians is making a shift from the traditional style of dining.

You will no longer see a raised eyebrow from your waiter if you don’t follow these old-world traditions, but the crucial rule of restaurant dining is that you should order at least two courses.  That waiter will still expect to order a primo and a secondo or an antipasto followed by a primo or secondo, or a secondo with dessert. Traditionally, a secondo is not a “main course” that would serve as a full meal. It’s a common mistake for tourists to order only a secondo, thinking they’re getting a “main course” complete with side dishes. What they wind up with is one lonely piece of meat.

Gone too are the days when a type of restaurant told you what type of menu it offered. An Osteria used to be a very casual place, similar to a British tavern. It was a place where you could get a quick, inexpensive meal from a limited menu with the option of renting a small room for the night, where the children hung out after school and departed when the men came in after work.    A Trattoria meant you were in a family run eatery, the mother usually was cooking, and the family members served your food.

The simple hearty food was available served on wooden tables without tablecloths. The Ristorante was reserved for special occasions; jacketed waiters served meals from a professional chef in the kitchen offering an extensive menu and table-side cooking.   Now the lines are blurred and include Pizzeria, Enoteca, Baccaro, Café, Pasticceria and Tavola Calda, so it’s important to look at the menu posted outside the entrance.

Eateries are quite used to diners who order courses to split; but, if you’re not so hungry, you might head for a pizzeria or baccaro to sample some quick bites.  There are no ‘doggy bags’ in Italian restaurants.  Italians don’t like leftovers, preferring to cook each meal from scratch.  Only in the past few years have Italians started taking out food from restaurants, pizzerias or grocery stores, but the doggy bag is still a difficult idea for them to grasp.

The most frequent question we get from our villa renters is on tipping.  There are still differences of opinions throughout the travel community, but we asked our people on the ground that included our Italian relatives, owners of villas, tour guides, drivers and restaurant owners and they all came up with the same response:  Italians expect a tip from Americans because it has always been our custom to tip, it has become the barometer of their quality of service. They don’t expect it from Italians or other Nationalities. We tell our guests it is not mandatory, but if you feel you must tip, no more than 10% of the bill.   Before you do tip, check the bottom of your menu for the words servizio incluso that means the service tip is included, and you can then leave a little loose change as an expression of gratitude. Note that it servizio incluso most likely not be on the bill, so you must look for it on the menu.

TIPS = To Insure Proper Service started in 17th-century Taverns of Britain and was embraced by Americans shortly after with much resistance.
Waiter!  The check, please!  It is considered rude for a waiter to give you a check without asking for it.  Many Americans will become frustrated by not getting the check, ruining a perfectly wonderful meal and blaming it on the waiter.  Most restaurants seat only once, your table is yours for the night.

Italians consider it rude to chase you out of their establishment by presenting a check.  When you are ready for your check, just ask the waiter, Il Conto, per favore.  (ill CONto Pear FA vor eh).

If you find you can’t honor reservations, please call so they can offer it to another guest.  Their livelihood depends on it.

The following restaurants range from small family run inexpensive places to elegant 5-star dining, all suitable for celebrating a special occasion.

ROME
Il Bacaro – this is one of Rome’s most romantic restaurants, small and cozy located on a little alleyway.  A creative menu will make it one of your not to be missed places. On a beautiful summer night, opt for the vine covered terrace, candle lit in and out.  Via degli Spagnoli, 27 +39 06 687 2554
La Pergola – the best restaurant in Rome, by the famous German chef Heinz Beck. Elegant and extraordinary it is located in the Cavalieri hotel offering the most incredible view of the city.

Antico Arco offers the best dishes from around the 20 regions of Italy with a contemporary flair. They have an extensive wine list and always changing by the restaurant’s own sommelier.  Piazzale Aurelio 7, this restaurant is in the quiet residential area called Gianocola.    Reservations a must +39 06 581 5274

Baby –   the ‘offspring’ of the famous Amalfi coast Dal Alfonso 1890 holds up to the expectations of this world-renowned restaurant as well as the steep prices.  Chef/owner Alfonso and his son Ernesto comes up from the Amalfi coast at least one day a week to plan menus and overseeing the restaurant.    Vial Uiisee Aldrovandi, 15

FLORENCE
Trattoria Sostanza – One of Florence’s best, this trattoria has been around since 1869 before Italy was unified.  You will be sitting among Florentines any day of the week.  They serve the perfect Bistecca Fiorentina the right way. Or try the chicken with butter and the artichoke tart.  Via del Porcellana, 25 +39 055 212691

Ristorante Cibréo and Trattoria Cibréo – choose from the elegant and more expensive ristorante or the casual trattoria.  The food comes out of the trattoria’s kitchen and walked over to the ristorante. The difference is the menu at the trattoria is smaller and less expensive.  One of Italy’s best restaurants.  Ristorante via dei Macci 118r, Trattoria Via de Macci 112r +39 055 234 1100

Enotecca Pinchiorri has the highest Michelin star rating, and is fit for a king down to the Renaissance palace dining room. They offer the best of Florence, Tuscan and Italian cuisine and the largest wine list in Italy.  Via Ghibellina 87,   +39 055 242 777

VENICE
Ristorante Quadri – two stories above the famous coffee house on the Piazza San Marco, book far in advance to reserve one of the couple of tables that look down over what Napoleon called Europe’s living room. The owner of the famed Le Calandre restaurant is in charge of the kitchen, serving food that has a complexity not normally associated with the simplicity of Italian cuisine.  For more traditional Venetian cuisine and lower prices, the abcQuadri on the ground floor is also a special treat. No matter you dine at one of their restaurants, make sure you end your first night at the café tables outside with a nightcap while you listen to the orchestra.   Piazza san Marco 121

Osteria Boccadoro – in a quiet neighborhood with little foot traffic you will find this charming, elegant restaurant right on the edge of a campo (piazza in Venetian).  Request an outside table in the warmer months for a beautiful and romantic setting. Campo Widman, Cannaregio district +39 041 521 1021

Trattoria alla Rivetta –  For years it was the lunch spot for neighboring merchants and gondoliers before reaching all the guide books.  For an exceptional experience call Patrice at Papavero Villa Rentals for the name of her favorite waiter who will make you feel like a native.  Salizada San Provol, +39 041 528 7302

MODENA
In 2016 Osteria Francescana was named the number one restaurant in the world.   In 2017 it came in second but still holds the number one position as the best restaurant in Europe.   This Michelin three-star osteria is in the culinary capital of Italy, the Emilia Romagna region, known for Bolognese sauce (just call it ragu in Bologna), Prosciutto, parmagiano cheese, and the true balsamic vinegar.  The Getting a table here is harder than getting tickets to Hamilton, the reservation book opens three months out and you can reserve on line.  Via Stella, 22 Modena

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Summer on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility. A […]

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility.

A UNESCO world heritage site, this road is nestled between walls of rock on one side and the sparkling blue sea on the other.   Full of white-knuckle hairpin bends, sharp curves, and cliffs jutting 650 meters above the azure blue sea for centuries it was a mule path and today the width is still the same. This coastal road connects the famous and other less known fishing villages that locals considered to be more like neighborhoods than separate towns.  You can have breakfast in Ravello, lunch in Amalfi and dinner in Positano on the same day, yet this area is best to appreciate at a slow pace.

It’s easy to unwind here. The constant soft breezes scented with lemon blossoms, and a vast array of Mediterranean flowers all mingled with the salty sea; the brilliant colors of the Majolica domes, bright pink and fuchsia bougainvillea climbing against whitewashed houses, and the expanse of a shimmering sea, all under the warming yellow rays of the sun is pure bliss.

The Amalfi Coast is not for those with walking difficulties. The villages are built on a vertical terrain. It’s common to take 500 to 1,000 steps to reach a restaurant, hotel, or villa but you are always rewarded with breathtaking views. Let’s not forget the food – buffalo mozzarella made that very day from farms outside of Paestum, the birthplace of limoncello made from the Sfusato lemons found only in this area, and guarantees that the fish you had for lunch was swimming in the sea that morning.  There are surprisingly good wines from the surrounding vineyards of Ravello and owners welcome you to visit.   Don’t forget Naples, where they say pizza was created, and you can find a handful of small pizzerias in the Old Town center that make claim to this invention.  It’s worth a trip to Old Town where you are also witness to the authentic life of the Neapolitan’s day, and the person next to you lives nearby.

Besides the three well-known villages of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, there are 10 other fishing villages that are delightful to visit – each one offering something special in addition to great restaurants, good shopping and many with beaches or quiet coves ideal for a mid-day break.   Take the hydrofoil to Capri or Ischia for the day, rent a boat with captain and have lunch at a restaurant reached only from the water followed by a swim off the boat in a small empty cove.  Visit the ruins of the Greek city of Paestum and afterward visit a buffalo farm to see how buffalo mozzarella is made, stay for lunch.   Visit the Palace in Caserta before heading inland to the small town of Caiazzo, for truly the finest pizza you will ever eat.

Patrice Salezze was co-owner of Appennino Ristorante and now Papavero Villa Rentals, offering a portfolio of villas throughout Italy.  For our list of favorite restaurants on the Amalfi Coast, please call her at 610 224 1004 or email her at patrice@PapaveroRentals.com

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What’s really in your Olive Oil Bottle?

November marks the beginning of the Olive oil production through central and southern Italy. While Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil, there is an ongoing debate that over 60% of the extra virgin and virgin olive oils found in US grocery stores are fraudulent. Producers are either mixing poor quality olive and […]

November marks the beginning of the Olive oil production through central and southern Italy. While Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil, there is an ongoing debate that over 60% of the extra virgin and virgin olive oils found in US grocery stores are fraudulent. Producers are either mixing poor quality olive and blended oils with extra virgin or taking odorless, flavorless oil such as sunflower and adding chlorophyll for aroma and beta carotene for flavor and labeling them as EVOO.   The Italian government has been investigating seven large producers for fraud and misleading labeling. Many of these companies, while located in Italy are owned by foreign companies, and they are sitting in most American supermarkets.

Today, olive oil only has to be made in Italy to be considered Italian. Many large companies are now buying olives from Tunisia, Greece, and Turkey and pressing them in Italy. While this is allowed, the biggest problem is that olives can become rancid during transportation.   Small producers and families with trees in their backyards take their crops directly to the cooperative as soon as the olives are picked.   The cooperative weighs them and then adds them to the daily delivery and at the end of the day they are pressed.  Boutique farms grow, pick and press their olives right on the farm.  Many small farmers grow and press varietal olives separately with the characteristics of the particular type of olive.  Varietals such as Moraiolo and Razzo differ in taste just as a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

How do you make sure you are getting the real olive oil? If you can’t make a trip to Italy and watch your olives being harvested and pressed, purchase from a reliable olive oil store or online directly from the farmer.
No matter where you buy your olive oil, these steps will help you avoid fraudulently adulterated olive oils: Read the label – olive trees evergreens related to the cherry family.      An exceptional olive oil farmer will have a harvest date and an expiration date on the bottle.  Olive oil will start to turn rancid after 18 months, forming free radicals and depleting some B vitamins and antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and viable polyphenols removing all healthy benefits.

Make sure the olives come only from Italy and note the city it was pressed in, making sure it is a city in the olive growing region.

Taste it.  Use a clear glass and hold against a white background to see gold to green color. Swirl the glass to warm up the olive oil and breathe in the bouquet. It should have a grassy and intense nose.  As you sip, aerate as you would a fine wine. It should taste a little peppery, fruity and have a slight burn on the back of the tongue and throat.  If tasting more than one, cleanse the palate with water and a slice of apple before continuing to the next olive oil.  If it doesn’t meet the standards, take it back to where you bought it.

Consider California olive oil.  Grown in similar climate conditions, these olive oils are very good.  Make sure it is approved by the UC Davis Olive Center which tests for the authenticity of the product.  You can also go online to buy directly from them.

October and November are the times to order your olive oil and will be shipped to you in time for the Holidays.  If you happen to be in Italy during the harvest season, try the Olio Nuovo, the first EVVO meant to be enjoyed as soon as it comes out of the centrifuge.   The intense flavor must be enjoyed between October and November, so it’s impossible to ship stateside. For a list of small Italian growers who press and bottle right on their farm, please contact me directly at patrice@PapaveroRentals.com

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Chianti Wine Tour

Traveling through Chianti’s Wine Region Tuscany has always been the most sought after destination in Italy and remains so today. Besides exploring the cradle of the Renaissance and the picturesque countryside, food and wine are also big motivators for planning a vacation here.  There are the large wine estates we all know about such as; […]

Traveling through Chianti’s Wine Region

Tuscany has always been the most sought after destination in Italy and remains so today. Besides exploring the cradle of the Renaissance and the picturesque countryside, food and wine are also big motivators for planning a vacation here.  There are the large wine estates we all know about such as; Banfi, Avignonesi and Antinori but most of Italy’s wine is produced by smaller vineyards.  Some are so small they don’t produce enough to export to the United States.   A visit to either style winery is a nice way to spend a day in Tuscany and you can manage both in a day.  Best to hire a driver so everyone in the group can enjoy the tastings.

Note that larger wineries are open year round, 5 to 6 days a week with fully staffed tasting rooms and tour guides proficient in many languages. Many will accept tours on demand but to enjoy it fully with lunch afterwards, reservations are suggested. Smaller wineries most definitely need an advanced request of at least two or three days as the tour guide may be the owner and arriving unannounced may find him working in the vineyard and unable to give you a tour. Normally lunch is not offered but some cheese and salumi compliment the tastings.

When choosing a vineyard tour, many visit the vineyards of the wines they love drinking at home but there are many great small vineyards that you may have never heard of.   For a list of Tuscany’s famous chianti wines, stop at the Chianti wine consortium Consorzio vino Chianti Classico, Via Scopeti, 155 – Sant Andrea in Percussina  for maps of vineyards along the Chianti Wine Road, www.chianticlassico.com  ( in Italian only).  A lovely little place for a lunch or dinner break is Taverna Machiavelli, via Scopeti 175.  It is the same tavern frequented nightly by Machiavelli when he was exiled from Florence in 1512.  It’s still possible to tour the house. On my visit, the waiter at the Taverna just gave me the keys and told me to lock the door on my way out.

If you want to peruse a list of small vineyards prior to your trip, visit www.florencewine.it, there you can search any vineyard small or large that belongs to the consorzio with contact information and links to their website.   If your journey takes you to Greve in Chianti, the local butcher opened a small wine museum dedicated to the history and culture of wine making Museo del Vino www.museovino.it. Admission includes a self-guided audio guide and a tasting from over 200 wines to choose from.   Currently closed for renovations but due to open in 2016 for the 300 anniversary of the classification of Chianti wine, please confirm before you go.

For a day on your own, you can start in Panzano in Chianti and visit the small vineyard of Casaloste where Sig. Battista d’orsi produces only 60,000 bottles a year, www.casaloste.com. Every detail is overseen by him directly, from the plantings, care, harvest and winemaking.  From there, take the small and partial dirt roads towards Montefioralle where Amerigo Vespucci’s family moved to during Florence’s plague.

Continue on for lunch at Ristorante La Scuderia via di Passignano, 17, Tavarnelle val di Pesa, www.ristorolanticascuderia.com located across from the ancient monastery of Bada a Passignano. After lunch continue on to Castellina in Chianti to a small family vineyard, Setriolo, The Sig. Soderi and his family will offer a warm welcome. www.setriolo.com.

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How to Choose the Perfect Vacation Villa in Any Country

Back in the 80’s renting a vacation house meant booking a week at the Jersey shore. Today 50% of Americans are choosing villa rentals worldwide instead of the traditional hotels. The reason this trend is growing is the same regardless if you are vacationing in Venice Florida or Venice Italy.  A villa rental offers more […]

Back in the 80’s renting a vacation house meant booking a week at the Jersey shore. Today 50% of Americans are choosing villa rentals worldwide instead of the traditional hotels. The reason this trend is growing is the same regardless if you are vacationing in Venice Florida or Venice Italy.  A villa rental offers more space, providing families and friends to spend more time together.  It also offers privacy, flexibility and the opportunity to experience life like a local.

The most difficult part of planning a villa vacation is choosing the right villa to meet everyone’s needs. It requires advance research or a consultation with a villa rental professional.  You will also need to understand each person’s expectations of the perfect villa.  Realize it will be nearly impossible to get everyone to agree on all points, but with a little compromise you can have an amazing villa experience.

To prevent the stress caused by multiple opinions, choose one or two persons to narrow down the choices to three.  Ask the group to list one or two things that are on their must see list and send the compilation back to the group for a vote.  The most votes will be placed on the itinerary.  From this information, you can determine the best villa location that will be central to a majority of the day trips you are planning.  This is important to minimize your travel time.

Understand each person’s expectations. Some are happy to stay close to home enjoying the villa and surrounding areas.  Others are more on the go.  Does the villa need to be within walking distance to a town in case some want to stay behind while the others take a day trip?

Separate the essential versus the desired.  You may not be able to live without air conditioning and Wi-Fi, but can you give up walking distance to a village for an extraordinary villa that meets all other criteria?

Calculate the needs of your group.  How many couples, singles, kids, and teenagers? This will determine the configuration of the bedrooms.  Must everyone have their own bathroom, or are they willing to share? Must there be an en suite or a hall bathroom is sufficient?  Do you need everyone to be under one roof, or are the teenagers or grandparents willing to stay in the adjacent cottage?  Do you desire activities such as croquet, bocce, or bat mitten for home entertainment?

Now it seems everything is classified as a villa.  You need to know there are multiple types of rental homes:  farmhouses and cottages; independent or part of a resort, rustic or elegant.  They also can be fully staffed, self-catering or staffed on request.

As the industry grows, there are more and more villas available with many more booking options in the past.  If you cannot visit the property yourself, it’s wise to use a professional villa agent who has inspected the villa, knows the area and suggest the right villa to meet your standards.  If you do rent on line, make sure to speak to someone directly to avoid fraud and disappointment.

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