Entries in ‘Italy’ Journal

Taste&Travel Tours — Food, wine, and culture in the Roman countryside

Wednesday October 1, 2014 at 2:02 PM | 5 Comments

Castle by the Tyrrhenian Sea on our Taste&Travel tour.

The Santa Severa castle by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Taste&Travel tour.

On my trip to Italy last summer, my friend Milos, a native of Bracciano, (a beautiful medieval city 30 km north of Rome and my new favorite place), took me on one of his Taste&Travel food, wine, and culture tours.

Hmmmm… a tour through the Roman countryside to meet purveyors of local, artisanal foods and wine, discover medieval fortresses and castles, wander among the ancient ruins of an Etruscan city of the dead, and take a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ummm, ya, count me in.

An Etruscan urn.

An Etruscan urn.

Milos picked us up in his dusty red Honda and we set out on the road. Several miles outside the city, pavement dwindled into a gravel road lined with olive groves, mountains looming in the distance, sun-kissed grasses swaying in the light summer breeze. So, this was the countryside of Lazio. It was gentle and pastoral, reminiscent of Sonoma County, another favorite place.

As we turned into Formaggi Valleluterana, the “slow food” pecorino cheesemaker, we were hit with the rich, musky aroma of sheep’s milk. We were greeted by Giancarlo Gentili, the third generation owner of the tidy farm. I was told he’s also a fan of Bukowski. Random.

 Giancarlo Gentili, is a Slow Food purveyor who makes pecorino cheese.

Giancarlo Gentili, is a Slow Food purveyor who makes pecorino cheese.

At Gentili’s command, the herd of 600 bleating sheep that produce 250 liters of milk per day, filed in an orderly procession to be milked. After the work was done, Giancarlo sat with us sipping a dry red as we sampled three types of house made pecorino. He surveyed the  beautiful landscape with his eyes, lifted a glass and smiled, “Siamo in grazia di Dio.” We are in God’s grace.


How do you follow that? You move on to the gates of heaven, of couse! We arrived at Tenuta Tre Cancelli next, an elegant winery at the foot of a volcano, with coastal breezes coming in from the eastern sea. The “tre cancelli” or “three gates,” refer to the moon, sun, and heaven. Here, on another divinely-inspired swath of land, Liborio De Rinaldis and Silvio Pulcinelli continue the Estruscan tradition of eating and drinking with gusto and refinement. Their luxurious ruby red Pacha is a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Merlot, named for the deity identified with Dionysus and Bacchus, the Greek and Roman gods of wine.

The ancient interior of one of the Etruscan cities of the dead.

The interior of an ancient Etruscan necropolis — city of the dead.

After walking among the vines and sipping delightful wines, it was time to make a pilgrimage to the Etruscan ruins — the “cities of the dead.” Here I learned about a civilization my American, public school education never mentioned, the sophisticated pre-Roman civilization that existed from 700 BC until it was assimilated by the Roman Republic in the late 4th century BC. One of the many things the Etruscans are known for was the unique way they honored their departed. We visited the archeological museum as well as the fascinating necropolis, permanent homes for the dead — little houses where tombs are carved to resemble residential interiors, lavishly designed with stone couches and chairs, sculptures and frescoes.


Our custom tour finished with a bottle of rose on the beah beside the Santa Severa castle (that was also a shelter for cats, much to the delight of my nine-year-old daughter) and a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Taste&Travel offers three organized tours — Etruscan Coast, Ghost Towns, and Lakeside Villages each with a gourmet lunch at a local restaurant. Or, you can customize a tour based on your interests.

Abbondanza i miei amici!


Taste&Travel tour hosts Milos Zadrahdka and Lune

Taste&Travel tour hosts Milos Zadrahdka and Lune Fe Magrini.




Milos Zadradka and Lune Fe Magrini

Villa delle Grotte, 15 00062, Bracciano (RM)






This post was contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com and BraccianoandBeyond. Photos by Dan Dion.

Palazzo del Governatore, Bracciano, Italy

Wednesday August 20, 2014 at 10:10 AM | 0 Comments

The Palazzo del Governatore B&B, Bracciono, Italy

The Palazzo del Governatore B&B, Bracciano, Italy

My friend Milos invited me to visit the magical little town in Italy where he grew up. He promised to introduce me to the locals, show me around, and help me find places to stay while I produced a travel website about the area. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Everything Milos told me about Lake Bracciano, Italy, was completely true. If you’re looking for authentic Italia, the Lake Bracciano area is the place. I barely heard English or any other language beside Italian spoken during the 10 days I was there. The people are warm, the food outstanding, and the beauty staggering.

Thirty miles north of Rome, (an easy train ride from the Eternal City), lies the gorgeous, clear, azure Lake Bracciano, surrounded by three small cities—Bracciano, Anguillara, and Trevignano each 11 miles apart around the lake. The area is surrounded by “slow food” farms, vineyards, and family artisans. I was fortunate to meet some of these fine folks including Giancarlo Gentili, a pecorino cheesemaker and the winemaker from the beautiful Tenuta Tre Cancelli vineyard.

The city of Bracciano is built around the majestic 15th century Orsini-Odescalchi castle, an amazing and formidable presence and one of the most well preserved feudal castles in Europe. It’s open for public tours and I highly recommend wandering through this architectural masterpiece with a storied history. The ghost of Isabella de Medici who disposed her “low-born” lovers via a trap door in her bedroom is said to haunt the halls draped in white veils. It’s also the location of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding.

Again fortune smiled on us and we were invited to stay right beyond the castle wall at the Palazzo del Governatore B&B. The location could not be better. Our suite looked across at the castle garden and the medieval cobblestone streets. Church bells around the corner chimed the hours. It was a fairytale. Our hosts Vittoria and Ennio were incredibly gracious (Ennio even took my suitcase up the hill with him on his motorbike) and we were served breakfast in the great room with prints of ancient Roman maps and early Papal contest documents on the walls. It was like  something out of a dream.

This post was contributed by Lisa Dion of FriscoMama.com. I was a guest of the Palazzo del Governatore.


Things to See and Do in Florence, Italy

Friday January 20, 2012 at 12:12 AM | 1 Comment

"palazzo vecchio"

The Palazzo Vecchio holds plenty of Florence, Italy’s history and culture.

Florence – a must see in Italy

My Italian sojourn in October of 2011 included a “mandatory” visit to the city of Florence, or Firenze in la lingua Italiano.  It is the cultural capital of Italy because it is home to many museums and renaissance structures. In fact, it is where the Renaissance actually began.   My family, which included my mother, father, and older brother, traveled, quite comfortably, by train from Venice to Firenze. Train travel in Italy is on-time, clean, and quick.  We traveled 1st class which allowed us a private seating area with reclining seats, internet hook-up, and a spacious table for four.  In a little under 2 hours we were pulling in to the train station called Santa Maria Novella.  I love the Italian language.  It just seems so….musical.

"Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco"

The centrally located Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco was in walking distance of the train station and main attractions of Florence, Italy

Hotel location is key in Florence, Italy

Our hotel was within walking distance from the train station.  The hotel Il Guelfo Bianco was centrally located in Florence, which was a great plus because, walking or taking a cab, would have been too much of a hassle.  The rooms were typically European; a tiny bathroom with uncomfortable beds, and overpriced. However, it did afford us a great starting point to see the city.  We were there for only two days so location was the key to this visit.

"Michelangelo’s David"

Visit Michelangelo’s statue of David on a visit to Florence, Italy.

A stroll through Florence Flea Market

Our day started with a stroll through a vibrant flea market where “hucksters” hawked everything from scarves to leather jackets.  We did buy some cool looking scarves for only $5 bucks, and it was fun haggling with those guys. Next stop was the epicenter of Florence, the piazza San Giovanni.  Here is where the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is located.  This is an ornate, huge Catholic Cathedral completed in 1436 and built from green and pink marble bordered by white marble.  It is an imposing and magnificent structure.  It was done in the Gothic style replete with gargoyles, spires, and buttresses – a masterpiece of renaissance architecture.

"Santa Maria Del Fiore"

Allow plenty of time to stroll and take in the grandeur of Florence, Italy’s Santa Maria Del Fiore

Piazza della Signoria

From there, it was just a short stroll to another famous piazza, or square, called the Piazza della Signoria.  The piazzas are areas in Italy’s towns and cities where people mingle and share a glass of wine, or a cappuccino while people watching or discussing the day’s events.  It is quite a departure from the hustle and bustle of daily life in America.   Italians seem to savor the day more than we do in the states.  This piazza may be recognized by Jersey Shore fans because it was featured in the opening credits during the season the Jersey Shore cast was visiting Florence. This piazza featured a famous museum called the Uffizi Gallery. We had the distinct pleasure of visiting this museum where we gazed open-mouthed at the works of Leonardo da Vinci (The Adoration of the Magi), Sandro Botticelli (spring and the Birth of Venus), Rembrandt (self portrait) Michelangelo (Don Tordi) as well as others like Giotto, Raphaelo, and Caravaggio.  It is a special treat to actually see the portraits and statuary made famous in books movies and television up close.  There is nothing like it.  In another museum called the Accademia Gallery, one can visit Michelangelo’s famous statue of David.

"Ponte Vecchio" "Arno River, Florence"

One of the oldest bridges in Europe, the Ponte Vecchio spans the River Arno in Florence, Italy.

Ponte Vecchio spans Italy’s Arno River

On the second day, we woke early and ate breakfast in the hotel.  As is typical in Italy, most hotels  include breakfast with the room rate.  Breakfast in the hotel saves money and time, even if the fare was just adequate.  In all fairness, the croissants were fresh, warm, and plentiful. After breakfast, we meandered toward another famous attraction called the Ponte Vecchio. This is one of the oldest bridges in Europe.  It spans the River Arno, where we saw spirited boat races, which seem to be a pastime many Florentians enjoy judging by the crowd cheering from the bridge.  The bridge is home to may gold artisans.  we window shopped extensively and marveled at the intricate and creative designs crafted by Italian masters whose families have been working in gold for centuries.  The bridge is rimmed by charming tratorrias and quaint arts and craft shops.  These are endless and one can take literally days to visit all of them.  Each little boutique offers its own special take on what Florence has to offer. My mother wants to go back just to shop.

Happiness and a latte in Florence, Italy

Happiness in Florence, Italy

We returned to the hotel after a rather tasty meal of risotto and pizza at a nearby trattoria.  Sleeping was a challenge, because the bed was like a slab of concrete, and the street noise was incessant.  Did I mention this was all included for the paltry sum of $225 per night?  The price of happiness in Florence, I guess.

Florence was great and remains a “must see” in any visit to Italy! What are your favorite places to visit in Italy?

This is a guest post by Shane McCormick of National RV Parks. Photos courtesy of Shane McCormick. Hotel photo courtesy of their website. In his late 20’s, Shane enjoys travel and offers tips and hints about travel destinations. You many follow Shane on Twitter For all things travel-related, follow travel expert Nancy D. Brown on Twitter.

Florence Things To Do on raveable