Entries in ‘Italy’ Journal

Wild Zone Bed & Surfing

Wednesday November 5, 2014 at 10:10 AM | 0 Comments

The adorable bungalow at Wild Zone Bed & Surfing in Bracciano, Italy.

The adorable bungalow at Wild Zone Bed & Surfing in Bracciano, Italy.

For anyone who thinks surfing in Italy is an oxymoron, think again.

On my visit to Italy last summer, my family and I were invited to spend our last night in the amazing city of Bracciano at Wild Zone Bed & Surfing, a tidy, little bungalow that seemed much more likely to be found in Santa Cruz than 30 minutes north of Rome.

A hidden waterfall in Lazio, Italy.

A hidden waterfall in Lazio, Italy.

Barbara Minotti and Sacha Marziali, who own Wild Zone, an adventure company and surf school, recently made the bungalow on their stunning property available to travelers.

They also took us on an amazing off-road excursion in the “Surfari” to romp beneath hidden waterfalls deep in the backroads of Lazio, inaccessible by most vehicles.

Wild Zone offers surf lessons, surf school and camps, stand-up paddleboard instruction, kite surfing, and yoga in an airy,  bright, new  studio. The studio has great vibes and made me want to organize a yoga retreat!

The bungalow is nestled among lush gardens, with stone sculptures, privat nooks for quiet reflection, and welcoming patios to enjoy a meal or kick back with a cool drink.

Barbara and Sacha are consummate hosts — picking up our crew from the beach, hoisting our luggage in and out of the jeep, bringing us freshly baked pastries in the morning, and even driving us to the train.

When you’re weary from the museums, churches and sites of Rome, head to Wild Zone Bed & Surfing in Bracciano for a completely different type of Italian adventure. This place is a true gem.



The yoga studio has great feng shui.

The yoga studio has great feng shui.

Lisa Crovo Dion was a guest of Wild Zone Bed & Surfing. Photos by Dan Dion.

Wild Zone Bed & Surfing

For info and reservations: +39 392880522, +39 3491032684


Private nooks dot the gardens at Wild Zone Bed & Surfing.

Private nooks dot the gardens at Wild Zone Bed & Surfing.


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 | 1 Comment

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.