Tag Archives: Italy

Making My Way Around Naples

Let me start out by saying that I visited Naples on my own a few years’ back.  It was just a quick
stroll from the station and around the city for about two hours before heading back to Rome.  It was interesting but I really didn’t get a sense of the city.  Now we have a client that I know that would like to go to Naples but the rap on the city is that it has a lot of petty crime.  So off I went with my man bag in hand for a virgin overnight in Naples.

First of all, it’s only a 63-minute journey on the high-speed Frecciarossa from Rome to Naples.  The train is super fast. The Italians love their high-speed train links.  They’re really good at this stuff!  After a particularly dreadful on-train coffee served by a particularly disinterested on-train steward (the Italians are really good at this stuff too), we had arrived in Naples.  My mate had organized a taxi (booked) from the station and so far, so good.  We safely got to our hotel on a nice stretch of the promenade that sits opposite the island of Capri.  In between, there were the usual underground excavations for a project that would never be finished, but no matter, we were here.  The trip had been entirely uneventful, no muggings, no hassles and now with the light of the early evening, we decided to go for a walking tour.

Here’s the thing about Naples – it’s handy to know your way around, there are lots of hills, it’s a chaotic, and there are lots of different areas with very different characteristics.  The first stop was the Palazzo Mannajuolo which holds an incredible staircase; probably the most breathtaking internal staircase in all the world, la scala ellittica.   We strolled around the hilly Chiaia and stopped at an old-world candy store in San Ferdinando.  We came across a beautiful piazza with the pantheon-like structure of the church of San Ferdinando.  The piazza here is open and full of light with Vesuvius in the background.  The opera house, Teatro di San Carlo, was showing La Traviata.  There is a spectacular galleria, the Galleria Umberto I, close by as well.  It houses thousands of panes of glass sitting in a cross formation with a whole series of panels of Jewish stars that form part of the glass decoration.  The history of Naples is more or less the entire history of the our ancient civilization.  One thing’s for sure, it makes Rome look like a young lad.

The light was dropping so we wandered back to the harbor to prepare for dinner near the Castle Nuovo (not very nuovo actually).  That is where I had the most incredible spaghetti alle vongole I had ever eaten.  So, this was Naples and we had only been there a few hours.  More to come.  Wow.

Eataly in Italy

We drove out of Rome past the Protestant Cemetery and stopped to take a look at Eataly.

This is the biggest location worldwide of the chain and it is in a very cool building.

The building itself was constructed with public funds and opened in 1989 as the air terminal to handle the traffic from the 1990 World Cup.  It was designed by the Spanish architect, Julio Lafuente, and is a very retro building that easily could have been designed in 1960’s.  From the beginning, nobody could find taxis (in those days it was in the middle of nowhere) and it was not easy to cart luggage from the nearby Ostiense train station across to the air terminal.  Ultimately it was abandoned and remained empty for years until it was purchased for not a lot by the financiers of Eataly.  What luck that Eataly picked up on this slightly dilapidated post-modern structure!

I had been to the Eataly in Turin before but this one is huge and feels more like making a trip to an American mall than being in Rome.

For me, I would rather do my shopping in the Campo di Fiore but I shouldn’t knock it – Eataly is coming to Boston and opening in the next few weeks.  Just imagine, wheels of parmesan, hocks of prosciutto, pasta from every region, restaurants and shops galore, and all within walking distance of my house!  I’ll take that any day.

Eataly Pietro Place Peter Jones

Italian Coast

The drive down the Italian coast from Rome is a mixed bag.

After a scattering of fairly dull seaside places, we eventually got to Anzio where the allies landed in 1944.  It is a fairly unmemorable town but there is the haunting Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial there which we visited.

It is also the jumping off point if you want to go to the glitz and glamor of Rome’s chic island, Ponza.

This is the Martha’s Vineyard of the Roman World.  Ponza is one of six islands in an archipelago that sits a short distance from the Italian mainland.  We carried on our journey and the landscape brightened up quite a bit.

We eventually ran into a lovely town called Sperlonga only about one hour outside of Rome.  Sperlonga is probably the nicest, closest resort to Rome.  There are lots of stabilimenti, beachside restaurants and cafes, and the climb up to the top of the town is lovely.  It may not be a Greek village like Symi but after all, you are only an hour away from Rome.

We were halfway to Naples and after a delightful spaghetti alle vongole everything went downhill fast.  Trash started to pop up everywhere.  The trash collection services in most of these southern coastal towns gave up long ago.  We were in Mafia country now.  There are 4,000 deaths every year around this part of the world.

It’s like the Wild West – row upon row of crumbling tenement buildings and Vesuvius sticking out with its ominous cone top rumbling.

The traffic was starting to build up as we moved into Naples proper and we had some time to get off and head into the center.  Many people get nervous about Naples but I actually love it.  It has great restaurants, beautiful architecture, and with its location facing the island of Ischia and only 45 minutes’ drive from Sorrento, it becomes a tempting place to stay.  However, you have to be careful and mindful of all of the usual city stuff in the evening.  We were moving on pretty quickly and picked up the small road that takes you literally through the Bay of Naples and into the town of Sorrento.  We were nearly there.

 

Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones

Positano and the Island of Capri

So if you had to choose a place in all of Italy to hang out for a few days in super-luxury, relatively car-free, and using a boat to access restaurants and islands nearby, where would you choose?

I would choose Positano in late September.

Positano is one of those rare places that you find that has just about everything with some gorgeous hotels (Le Sirenuse and Hotel Covo dei Saraceni) and some very cool restaurants that you either have to walk along the cliffs to or rent a private boat to access.  Positano has a constant flow of ferry traffic as it serves all the way through the end of September as a main jumping off point for tourists from Sorrento and a jumping on point for tourists to get to the island of Capri.  The beach is typical of this area – stony with plenty of stabilimenti. The water is clear although it is good to stay inside of the swimming lanes because of the boat traffic.

I had not been to Capri for more than 30 years so we rented a boat and sailed clear around the island.  We landed at the Marina Grande and went to the Marina Piccola for a swim.

Capri is good for a day; no more, and maybe a bit less.

It was good to go but it was crowded and the wait on the funicular was not worth it.  The cab drivers all seemed to be satiated for business.  To make it worse, the water was choppy so the famous Blue Grotto was not available.  One thing’s for sure, Capri is beautiful but no Greek island.

Positano is spectacular and has almost the enchantment of a Greek island.

The colorful houses as they sit along the horseshoe cliff face are like no other in the world.  The smell of lemons in the lemon groves pervade this place.  The fact that you can buy fresh mozzarella di bufala makes this one of the great wonderlands of Italian cuisine.  It’s expensive, it’s trendy, it’s glitzy, and it’s a bit of a hassle to get to, but honestly, for three or four days at least once in your life, you should give yourself up to Positano.  Tom Brady did while he was sitting out his four games for Deflategate.  My only regret was that I didn’t bump into Gisele while taking my morning cappuccino.  We were there at the same time!

Capri Positano Pietro Place Peter JonesCapri Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones Capri Positano Pietro Place Peter Jones

 

Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones

Getting Lost in Corsica

It’s tough to find a place in the Mediterranean that is not overrun by tourists, especially the hordes from the north who populate and destroy the character of places in Spain and Portugal.

But there are times to visit the Mediterranean and there are places during those times that remain relatively untouched by the scourge of modern tourism.

Corsica is one of them.

One hour from Paris by plane or a slow boat from Marseilles will get you to this magical island that sits just off of the coast of southern France, west of the Italian peninsula, and north of the island of Sardinia.  I made the most delightful wrong turn upon arrival in the airport and what should have been a 35-minute drive to the picturesque town of Saint-Florent, turned out with my GPS to be a two-and-a-half-hour journey through the hinterland, climbing mountain tops, and going through several weather changes, on my way back to, as it turns out, the airport!

As I discovered, Google Maps has bouts of unreliability nevermore than when you need it most.

But we covered mountain passes, pig farms, delightful stone villages, and oodles of bougainvillea that acted as hedge rose.

Driving was a little dicey but with my stick shift knowledge I was able to navigate some treacherous climbs and take a few stops to grab some time to take in the scenery.  The scenery in this mountainous island was spectacular.  Even in June there were 8,500 foot peaks of snowcapped mountains peering down across the turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

I had been to Sardinia some 30 years ago but this landscape was altogether different.

Eventually we picked up the road that we had ought to have picked up on the drive from the airport and started all over again.  As it turns out, the confusion was because the sign for Saint-Florent had been crossed out by some angry Corsican separatists which left only the sign in Corsican that looked completely different.

A combination of Corsican separatists and Google Maps had conspired to give me an incredible introduction to this magical island!

Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones Corsica Pietro Place Peter Jones

Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

A Tale of Two Museums – Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

What to do on a beautiful spring morning in Milan?

In light of the fact that we had a long day ahead of us with a soccer game that would stretch until midnight, what better compliment to il calcio than a bit of culture and fashion.

I had never seen The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.  We had figured out a way to jump onto a sightseeing tour without doing the sightseeing (always handy to avoid mediocre guides) and thus gain entrance to the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  In an airtight salon, with strict procedures by group, I got to see something that had been on my to-do list for years.  The room that The Last Supper is in is austere and simple.  At the far end of the chapel is a crucifixion scene by Giovanni Donato. It faces Leonardo’s Last Supper where Jesus announces his betrayer.  Someone always lets the team down!  This is one of his greatest works, badly deteriorated and suffering the ravages of time and vandalism, but it still provides an experience unique and spiritual.

What better way to compliment a 15th century mural by one of the world’s greatest ever painters than a visit to the ultra-chic Giorgio Armani’s Armani/Silos that was opened in 2015?

Housed in what was a granary, Armani captures his passion for fashion in a place whose central force was all about the beginnings of food.  There are more than 600 outfits and around 200 handbags and accessories from 1980 to the present.  There is a fabulous little café outside with great sandwiches and incredible olive oil for dipping.  The whole experience capped with an espresso and an Armani sugar cube.  Made me want to rush out, grab an Armani jacket somewhere, and wear it for a day.

If only to know that Armani’s designs are as timeless as the painting that preceded it in the morning.

Artists are artists.  Lucky to get a glimpse into a Renaissance mind in the year 2016.

Leonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

The Revitalization of Milan’s Canals

When most people think of Milan, they think of the Duomo, La Scala, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and The Last Supper.

These are the “iconic” parts of Milan that are on every sightseeing tour if you happen to be passing this way.  Let’s face it; Rome compared to Milan is pretty much a non-issue.  Rome has the lot – the history, the museums, the beautiful evening light, and of course the weather.  But Milan is a city of the north; closer to its German neighbors and a stone’s throw to France.  Milan has a certain atmosphere about it.  It’s a young city, a city famous for its fashion houses and beautiful people, and a nighttime scene that can rival Spain.  Furthermore, with the advent of the high-speed train network, notably the Frecciarossa, Milan to Rome is a cool 3.5 hours.  Two cities that were so diametrically opposed have been brought closer together through modern transportation. And who would have thought that Milan has a touch of Venice to it as well!

Milan boasts a neighborhood of canals that had been forgotten about and then resurrected to create a vibrant restaurant and bar scene that for most people is one of the best kept secrets in Europe.

The Navigli is situated southwest of the historic center.  In its heyday, the canals formed a 150 km network that connected the city with the main rivers and the large lakes to the north.  They were used for irrigation and more importantly transportation.  The earliest known construction was in the 12th century.  Because of this ingenious way to transport goods and irrigate farm lands, Milan became the country’s largest inland port despite the absence of a main river.  This “little Venice” thrived but then with the advent of roads, it fell into decline.  What consisted of five canals has now been reduced down to three.  But a renaissance of sorts took place around the main canal, the Naviglio Grande.  It is a trendy locale with high house prices but it is a cool urban neighborhood that represents an edgy Milan.  This is really where everything happens with cruise boats, restaurants, bars, and a fabulous antique market.  I got to eat in one of the great restaurants called Fiaschetteria Il Montalcino on the Via Valenza #17.  We took a couple of beers in one of the bars, walked over a beautiful iron bridge, and gazed in wonder at the shimmering lights on an ancient canal.  I could not believe this was my first time here.  I could not believe this was Milan.  Travel is a wonder.

Navigli canal Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

Rome

I love Rome.

From the moment I jump in the cab, there is a sense of gradual transition as you journey into this incredibly beautiful city filled with dust, cracks, and occasional garbage bags. It’s all here.

For me it begins as we pass the Sheraton Hotel.  Out in the distance is Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), a 1930’s modernist vision community of how Rome should be in the new world.  It didn’t really work out that well but it left us some interesting buildings and now a trendy neighborhood with parks and metro access to both the beach and the center of town.  That’s the other thing about Rome – it’s a beach city.  The Roman port of Ostia is connectible by metro from the beach resort through Acilia and trendy living areas of Rome to the Colosseum.

Then for me the real transition begins.  The first sight of any significance is the white marble Pyramid of Cestius outside Porta San Paolo gate. Then you make that turn up the Aventine Hill with the Palatine Hill facing you.  Residential palaces in pink Roman stone look down on the vast field of grass that is the Circus Maximus, one of the largest arenas in the world during roman times.

It becomes frenetic and exhausting at this point with ancient fragments popping up every second it seems.  The right turn at the bottom of the hill takes you by the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth).  Opposite from that there is a Greek temple then a Roman temple and as the roads start to move around, you start to see what looks like the Colosseum but in fact is Marcello’s amphitheater, the Teatro di Marcello. Behind that is Octavia’s portal and the Jewish ghetto.  On the right side lies the most glorious juxtaposition of stairways anywhere.  There is the very subtle Capitoline Hill Stairs, the Cordonata, right next to the severe and steep medieval stairway that leads to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli.  On the right hand side beyond the stairways is the slightly incongruous, but ever faithful tourist site for lost travelers, the 19th century wedding cake built to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1870 named the Vittorio Emanuele monument.

We are now in the Renaissance period with the Piazza Venezia with Trajan’s Forum on the right and I have disappeared into Rome before even my first cappuccino.

Rome Pietro Place Peter Jones Rome Steps Pietro Place Peter Jones

Roman Ways

Roman Ways

I confess – I love Rome.  Not so much the Colosseum and St. Peter’s (and I ADORE those places) but rather just walking around through the piazzas and the tiny streets that connect them all together like an ancient necklace. This is my take on the many ways to enjoy Roman Ways.

There is that famous adage: “Roma non basta una vita” which means “A lifetime is not enough,” but I will assume that most people have about three hours for a brief walk through time. Usually I and my companions start my walk in the piazza in Santa Maria in Trastevere and end up at the Piazza del Popolo. It is a walk that spans every conceivable period of Roman history with stops on the way for shopping, cappuccino, and gelato. It is a walk crammed with fountains, a Roman arena here and there, and ancient pillars. It is the story of Rome – it is the story of a city we have come to adore.

The main piazza in Trastevere is where we find one of the oldest churches in Rome, Santa Maria, which has walls dating back to around 300 A.D. It is not a bad place to start. Across the Ponte Sisto bridge, which connects Trastevere with the beautiful Via Giulia, we see Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s in the nearby distance. We are heading to the Piazza Farnese to see the Farnese Palace, designed by Michelangelo, and now home to the French Embassy.  On an evening stroll you can often see the magnificent frescos inside, designed by the famous painters, Annibale and Agostino Carracci.

This square is dripping with history. The two bathtubs in the fountains were pulled from the baths of Caracalla. Caravaggio, the painter who had a terrible temper, had a bad argument there with somebody after a tennis game, and argument that resulted in a death. As a result, he fled Rome. I guess you would!

Right next door is the Campo de Fiori. The best slab pizza in town is at the Forno. The fountain–one of many we will see today–is stuck at the end of the square, because what looks like Darth Vader is taking up the center space. His name is Giordano Bruno and he was unceremoniously burned alive here in 1600 for outrageously suggesting that the Earth was not the center of the universe.  Shame on you Giordi!

Campo de Fiori is abuzz with a local market most days and cafés and restaurants surround the outside of the square. It is a real hangout at night. At the bottom of the square is where Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Yeah, it is a wild square the Campo de Fiori.

Across the busy street, passing the biggest mortadella (real healthy) in the world, we pass a Renaissance palace, the Cancelleria, and we wind ourselves into the fabulous Piazza Navona.  Here we have a formal introduction to Bernini, the cool and iconic Baroque master of the Pope, and Borromini, the brilliant and very depressed foil to the master himself. This place is loaded.  Inside of this square, there is: a medieval church, a beautiful Renaissance church, a Roman statue (the Pasquino – the original Talking Head), the ancient Domitian stadium 20 feet below ground (and still visible in some places), an Egyptian obelisk, a Baroque fountain (The Fountain of the Four Rivers), and the beautiful St. Agnes in Agone by Borromini. In between all of these landmarks, it is not a bad idea to grab a gelato at Tre Scalini. The tartufo is crazy good!

Gelato done, there is no time to lose. Out of the square and passing the senate building we wander into the spectacular Piazza della Rotunda. It is a breathtaking moment. The Pantheon is staring us down. This is the most perfectly preserved Roman building in the world. It is an extraordinary site as you spill out from the narrow street. There is a steady flow of tourists and Romans walking back and forth and around this magical building with a hole in the top. It is the basis for the great Brunelleschi dome in Florence and Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s. The building, now a church, is also home to Rafael and the kings of Italy…and it is free to get in.

It is a short walk from here through the back streets of Rome, past the Palazzo Chigi, before you spill out onto the craziness of the Via del Corso and up to the Spanish Steps along the Via dei Condotti. There are more designer shops on this tiny street than there are in all of Manhattan, it seems! Here I enjoy heading to the Café Greco to grab an espresso and a tiny sandwich. At the base of the Spanish Steps, there is another fountain, this time by Bernini’s father.

We are getting close to the end of the walk. What better way than a stroll down the very chic Via Babuino to the Piazza del Popolo. To the right are the Villa Borghese gardens, and at the Piazza del Popolo, you can see clearly down the Via del Corso to the Piazza Venezia and the slightly awkward looking “wedding cake building”, Altare della Patria, designed to symbolize the unification of Italy in the 19th century. Beyond the wedding cake is the Forum, Michelangelo’s Capitoline Hill, the Jewish ghetto, and in the distance, the Palatine and the Colosseum.But that is another day.

 

Roman Ways ≈ Rome_Peter_Spanish_Steps 100815 Roman Ways Peter Jones Pietro Place

Risi e Bici

Risi e Bici


Out in Western Mass, the pea shoots are just popping out and it’s time for peas in a pod. The season lasts about three weeks and it evokes memories of my childhood sitting on the steps of the caravan, shucking peas so that mum could overcook them for dinner!


There is a delicacy in Italy at this time of year called “Risi e Bic,i” a speciality of the Veneto region but cooked all over Italy. It’s a celebration of the peas (world peas! Peas to the world!) and it is a totally fantastic dish, dead easy to prepare. But you have to follow a slightly alternative road from the risotto.


First the broth – you have to use every part of the pea growing process – the pea shoots, the pea pods, add some fresh early spring garlic and a little onion which will form the broth that make the risotto. Prepare the risotto as you would any risotto: finely chopped onion, coat the rice with olive oil, add a dash of white wine and then begin the process of moving the rice around for about 20 minutes, constantly adding the delicious stock. At about 5 minutes to go throw in the peas, working them around the rice; chop in a few more pea shoots and throw those in and keep adding the stock.


Here’s the difference between a typical risotto and the risi e bici. You want it slightly soupier, when the rice feels good and there’s enough liquid to literally spoon a little bit out, that’s when you chop some fresh early mint, sprinkle that across the dish and finish it with some freshly grated reggiano parmegiano, shouting “Peas on Earth.” for the added effect.  I ‘m not saying this is good. It’s beyond good. And it takes 20 minutes, and costs next to nothing. Frozen peas can be substituted but this is the time of the year when you have to use the real deal. It’s easy peasy.

Alitalia – Rome Miami

Alitalia – Rome Miami

Flying business from Rome to Miami on Alitalia should be a treat. But really the service, the good, and the comfort of the seats on the 10+ hour journey,  is a joke. They have a casual approach, I guess, to the whole experience.

The movie selection was grimmer than flying TAM.  There was an awful film called La Grande Bellezza, about an aging movie star in Rome who smokes a lot of cigarettes and seemed to get off with young woman. It was pure and absolute misogyny and dreadful to boot.

And I never expect to eat anything other than appalling food on an airplane, but frankly eating something is a way to fill in the hours.  If you’re on BA or any number of half decent carriers, the food is OK – not brilliant, but OK. On Italia it is at the highest level of inedibility. The land of pizza, pasta and gelato – you would think, could rustle up something that resembles something edible. The land of prosciutto and parmesan – surely there must be somebody in charge of the kitchen of Alitalia that could make my 10 hours a bit more interesting!  How they managed to get awards for their meals, is beyond me. Perhaps the reviewer was promised an antidote in exchange for a good review?

But the food, this was business or as they call it Magnfica. Even the picture on their website looks like the food stylist took the day off.  Two kinds of putrefied pasta and a risotto you wouldn’t give to your dog. Fearful for my life when I saw the meat dish, I opted for the fish as the follow-up. One bite into the branzino and I realized that this baby had been cooked up a storm and probably should’ve been taken out of the oven several days before, along with the congealed sauce it sat in. Still there was always a chunk of cheese at the end of the meal that I could look forward to. But no luck, the parmesan packets where nowhere to be seen!

Alitalia has nice enough people as crew, but they spend most of their time practicing the art of conversation (with each other!)  and seem absolutely disinterested in the people they’re supposed to be serving. In fact you feel awkward about interrupting their conversation for a glass of water – and they seem to have it figured out because they have set up a self-serve station. Not Magnifica, not at all. I hate to think about what was happening in Economy. Miami was but a few hours away and I was headed off to warmer climates, and hopefully warmer customer service.

The Traffic Cop’s Symphony

I could not resist stopping the car and asking the guy standing in the middle of the traffic circle a question.

I wasn’t really lost but honestly it was like I had rediscovered an old friend.

There he was with his gloves on, conducting traffic, no traffic lights to bother him, and the cars, even in this chaotic country, obeyed his every move. There was a guy, whom I recall with fond memories, that stood on a podium at the end of the Via del Corso and the start of the Piazza Venezia in Rome. He wore white gloves, a very white uniform, and conducted the traffic as if it were a symphony.

The Vespa’s and motorbikes would stop at his every whim. Then a glance and a finger pointed and in one fell swoop he would start the traffic flow from one street and stop the flow from another. I always imagined that the cars and scooters were parts of his orchestra. Everybody would obey. A tilt of the head, a look away, a hand to halt an ongoing flow of traffic, and all in constant movement, exhausting, artistic, and beautiful. The Traffic Cop’s Symphony.

I do not see him anymore but in Turin that day, I saw a glimmer of hope.

Merano and the Sud Tyrol

It is one of those wonderful Italian moments that you pick up in Northern Italy.

You are driving along the Autostrade, stopping at an auto grill here or an auto grill there, the bathrooms are okay but not brilliant, but the further north that you go, you start to see the signage change.

If you trace the River Adige to its source high up in the Alps, you suddenly uncover a different Italy — Austrian Italy. The signs are in German, the bathrooms are perfectly spotless, and everything is organized. Plus you even get a few Alps thrown into the scene so you know that you are close to Switzerland.

At Bolzano, which is home to the now famous 5,000 year old man, named Ötzi, I chose to take the Autostrade to Merano situated in the Italian Alps and specifically not in the Dolomites which are on the other side of the ridge near Bressanone and Ortisei.

What an incredible place Merano is. First of all, it is the apple capital of Europe. I have never seen so many apples in my life. There are fantastic wines around here as well, notably the white wines. Because of the thermal springs in the area, it has become a world-famous spa resort made famous by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria during the great Hapsburg reign. Nowadays there is a large, modern spa (not offensive) near the center of town on the Passer River. It is great fun with the kids or on a rainy day as there are a series of huge hot baths both indoor and outdoor.

Everything is terribly well organized as it would be in the Sud Tyrol. From the baths, you can stroll through the lanes along the river front to the castle. There are also the most famous botanical gardens in all of Europe just outside of town.
The town itself boasts several fabulous restaurants. Scattered in the hills around the town are standout resorts – some of them with Michelin-starred chefs. My hotel, the Castel Fragsburg, had amazing food, a brilliant chef, and I could not resist the spremuta of apples and celery with olive oil for breakfast in the morning.

About a 10 minute drive from the hotel is where you can pick up the cable car called the Merano 2000. It takes you up to around 10,000 feet and from there you can bike or hike with views across the Alps and the Dolomites in the distance.

This place is amazing. It is an hour and a half from Innsbruck, Austria and three hours from Munich, Germany. You can visit Ötzi in Bolzano or discover the Dolomites on the other side of the valley. It takes an easy three hours from Venice. All you do is take the Autostrade all the way to Verona and then head north.

For my two cents, during the heat of an Italian summer, you cannot beat the diversity and openness of the Italian Alps and Dolomites. There is plenty of sunshine, clean air, fabulous food, and everything works. The Italy of dreams, Merano and the Sud Tyrol!

The Redentore Festival

I had never been to Venice during the sildenafil citrate 100mg viagra generika Festa del Redentore. It is quite a spectacle. Historically, the Redentore Festival is a celebration of the end of the 16th century plague when 50,000 Venetians died. The Santissimo Redentore Church, on the Giudecca Island, was designed by Andrea Palladio as a mark of thanks by the survivors of the plague. It is a remarkable sight from across the bay. The celebration takes place on the third Sunday in July. As with all ceremonies in Italy, it has taken on a festive air in spite of its melancholy origins. It is basically a party. Venice Redentore collage 2 080714 On the day that I was there, the weather was beautiful and warm and Venice already was bustling with its fair share of tourists. Add all of the locals to this mix as well, along with colored garlands, balloons, and makeshift restaurants around the waterfront, and you have a fun atmosphere. There literally are hundreds and hundreds of boats that come into the water that separates Santa Maria della Salute from the Redentore Church. A pontoon bridge is created to connect one island to another as it has been the way for hundreds of pharmacy online viagra years. At the magic hour of 7:00 pm on the Saturday evening, the bridge is opened. The bridge remains open until the fireworks at 11:00 pm which incidentally last a full hour and are shot into the night air from a string of pontoon boats which sit equidistant from San Marco and the Giudecca. It is semi-casual. People probably get too close to the firework pontoons and goodness knows where the rockets end up landing but no one gets hurt and everyone has fun. Venice Redentore fireworks 1 080714 There is an absolute festival atmosphere both on sildenafil 20 mg tablet the water and in the restaurants and bars that dot the perimeter of the Giudecca and the boardwalk beyond San Marco and down towards the Arsenal. At the end of the fireworks, a siren blows, the boats all free cialis coupon head back to their homes (probably at the Lido or beyond), and the bridge is open again until sunset of the following day. The Lido becomes party-central and restaurants and bars stay open until the sildenafil 100mg chile dawn. The magical 24 hour bridge that connects the Giudecca for a single day in the year is taken down and on Monday the steady stream of traffic flows along the canal once more. It is ironic that the Santa Maria della Salute, a beautiful Baroque church that sits facing Piazza San Marco, was also built to celebrate the end of another plague in nearby Mantova. A ceremony celebrating this church takes place in November and is also symbolized by the joining of the Campo Santa Maria del Giglio to La Salute by a pontoon bridge. Sometimes there is nothing like a plague to inspire great architecture and a fantastic party.

Arma Dei Carabinieri

I confess to not having much to do with the Arma Dei Carabinieri but I have always been slightly curious what role they play versus the polizia in Italy.

Recently, I read an article that helped explain it. As it turns out, the carabinieri are celebrating their 200th birthday this year. In other words, they are older than the Republic of Italy itself which was unified in 1861.

They were founded by Victor Emmanuel I who was the Duke of Savoy and the King of Sardinia. In those days, Italy was a series of regional dynasties each with its own language/dialect and each with its own police force. The name carabinieri actually comes from the rifles they carried — the carabina. When Italy was unified, the royal court became the nationwide military presence and functioned as a duplicate police force in part because of the need to have some unified police presence in a country that was still much divided with towns and regions that saw themselves as more powerful than this entity called Italia.

Not much has changed today. If you are desperate for help, it is not always clear who will show up at your door. In Italy you dial either 112 or 113 whereas in the USA we dial 911. One thing for sure is that two men or women will show up. In Italy, the cops always ride in pairs. This is a change from several years ago when the cops rode in threes and that was in a two-door car!

What is fascinating about the carabinieri is that they are set up a little bit like a military operation. To apply to be a carabinieri, you have to commit to eight years working outside of the province that you live in. Hence the number of southerners that end up working in the north in those carabinieri staziones. Seventy-percent of the entire force comes from four regions in particular – Sicily, Campania, Calabria, and Puglia. These are the same four regions that are the mafia strongholds.

The carabinieri are everywhere. I remember bumping into two of them on a recent ski trip at the top of a station in Cervinia. They were all decked out looking like a couple of Armani models in state-of-the-art ski gear with the words “Carabinieri” plastered all over them. They were keeping an eye on the vigilantes in the mountains no doubt!

They are the butt of many jokes in Italy but the fact is that they represent more than anything the difficulties of integrating all of these diverse regions with different accents, different languages, and different codes of honor under one umbrella. They are not frightening and seem free of corruption. If you ask me who I would rather bump into on the highway, a state cop or a carabinieri, I think that I would choose the carabinieri. Let’s face it – I am less likely to get a speeding ticket that way. It is Italy after all!