Entries in ‘Italy’ Journal

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

Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the Galapagos Islands and Oregon’s Rogue River – What a Trip

Friday August 29, 2008 at 7:07 PM | 3 Comments

Samantha, Zanna and Cassie Zulch Visit Italy's Amalfi Coast

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

My recent article for the Contra Costa Times began on the streets of Italy's Amalfi coast, ventured to Quito, Equador and the Galapagos Islands, where a high school biology teacher introduced her student's to a living classroom and ended with the author jet boating up Oregon's wild Rogue River. 

The Tourist's Have Landed

With roller bags bumping along the cobblestone streets of Amalfi in the Campania region of Italy, Orinda’s Zulch family of five had American tourist stamped across their foreheads.

“The first couple of days we didn’t know what to do with ourselves,” reflects Zanna. “Eventually, we found the one woman in town who baked the bread and discovered where the locals shopped. We loved the farmer’s market with its beautiful fruit, fat plums and lemons for making Limoncello.”

The family traveled by water ferry to picturesque Positano and hired a boat to explore the caves and grottos. Known for its Italian pottery, the quiet town of Ravello was a highlight for dinner and drinks away from the crowds. The Zulches took a ferry to the Isle of Capri to ogle at the designer stores and high-end jewelry. “We had a nice lunch at Gemma’s with a great view of the island and water,” remembers Zanna. Her advice tip: “give yourself way more time at the airport. Everything is overbooked so you could loose your seat home!”

High School Students Learn  Environmental Science in Quito, Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands

Campolindo High School Students Visit Ecuador


Students and parents from Campolindo High School found their way home from Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with teachers Amanda and Tom Renno and Holly Thompson.

Biology Teacher Amanda Renno noted that her favorite place was Isla Floreana. “There were only about 60 people who lived on the island, yet they had a school,” remarked Renno. “The main road was dirt, yet they had streetlights.”

The group was also able to visit a pirate cove, see penguins and tortoises, and snorkel with sea lions.

“We were able to observe different ecosystems in a very small land area,” noted Renno.

The 45 minute drive from the airport to the town covered at least seven ecosystems. They even saw a cactus growing in the middle of a rain forest! Renno added that it was amazing to see students who wouldn't normally interact, do so willingly.

The group selected EF Tours, which came recommended by teachers from Acalanes who have traveled with the company for a decade.

“I think travel for students is invaluable," affirms Renno. “The practical skills they gained, as well as the science content, were something they would never get in the classroom. I hope that I sparked a traveling bug in each and every student!”

Travel Bug Takes Me To Coastal Oregon

Oregon's Tu Tu Tun Lodge on the scenic Rogue River

The travel bug brought me to Tu Tu Tun Lodge, located on Oregon’s scenic Rogue River outside of Gold Beach. Its name is taken from the area's first inhabitants, the Tu Tu’ Tunne Rogue Indians.

“This place has a soul of its own,” shares Owner Laurie Van Zante. “We get that it’s all about relationships.” Indeed, during dinner prepared by Chef Justin Wills, Van Zante showed each guest to their chair, thoughtfully matching dining companions.

There is a certain elegance, yet laid-back comfort at this family-owned lodge. Priced on the high-end, each of 16 rooms offers a river view, some with fireplace and outdoor soaking tubs. Family reunions, corporate retreats or girl/guy getaways are welcome in two suites or two guest houses. Full dining is offered May through October, while discerning travelers might consider a winter visit. Off-season, the lodge room rates are a good deal and feature winemaker dinners and cooking classes.

If you bring the kids along, a ride on Jerry’s Rogue Jets, is in order. A nature-based adventure trip, the boats run from May until mid-October and are suitable for multiple generations.

Lafayette’s Bonnie and Marty Sivesind took their grandkids to Grant’s Pass, Oregon where they boarded the Hellgate Jet boat  for a two hour scenic trip on the Rogue. They also visited Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center, an animal refuge park.

Yes, dear reader, summer has ended and the kid's are back in school.  What better time to pack your bags and travel?  I'm off to Carmel for the Labor Day weekend.  Are you headed anywhere interesting or are you one of those cutting edge Staycation trendsetters?