Ispirazione: Smitten with A Merry Feast

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There are some people whom you’ve never met in real life, yet you think you have. Does that happen with you?? Heather of a Merry Feast is one such example for me. Heather and I connected over our mutual Italy love many years ago and have been in touch through emails and Facebook messages ever since. Heather has a very interesting story as she and her family lived in Italy for about 3 years until 2015 before returning to their home in Idaho.

One of the best things about her moving back to the States is that she has kept Italy alive in Idaho in the best way. Heather has an online Italy themed goodie shop by the name of Smitten Italy. To have to have some fun splashes of Italy in her life, she designed “Italian” themed bold + cheeky designs and products! Whether you are a fellow Italophile or not, I guarantee you, you will simply love them! I think they make perfect gifts and am already waiting to place a huge order myself! Let’s welcome Heather on Italophilia and hear her story!

How did Italy happen?? What made you think of choosing it??

My husband Chris and I have been traveling to Italy for years and like many other travelers, secretly dreamed of living there someday when the kids were grown and on their own. We never imagined that we’d get the opportunity to move our entire family there when a job opportunity arose for Chris in Milan in late 2012. We didn’t hesitate, and soon we were eyeball deep in the details of relocating our family of 4 (plus 2 pups) to Italy.

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Heather and her beautiful family

Did you know any Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??
When we arrived in Milan, our Italian was limited to what I’d call “travelers Italian”. We knew enough to get around well by car or public transportation, ask questions and of course, order at restaurants! None of us had time to formally take lessons before the move, so we all dove into lessons headfirst soon after we arrived. I have to admit that I had no idea how unprepared I was until we moved into our house and started getting settled.

“Vacation Italy” is very different than everyday living in Italy, and I quickly realized I was in over my head when I had to shop for cleaning supplies and laundry detergent at first. So many unfamiliar words!
Those first few weeks I about lost my mind in the minute details of homemaking (like trying to understand the super lengthy instruction manual on trash and recycling in Italian, or learning how many appliances could run at the same time without blowing a fuse!) Piano, Piano… as they say. Little by little things became more familiar and easier to navigate.

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Pic Credits: Smitten Italy

What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??
I am so thankful for the entire experience of living in Italy, and of course looking back I would do many things differently. Mainly I’d tell myself not to worry so much about messing up when trying to speak and appreciate each day as a learning opportunity.

Some of the tips I’d recommend are:

● Scheduling time to study in whatever way you learn best (I do better with audio, for
instance)
● Watching movies in Italian or try a dual language book you are familiar with.
● Giving yourself a lot of grace, and remembering that each word and phrase you learn will deepen your travel experience even more.

Do check Smitten Italy- Heather’s online shop and if you want to order be sure to use the discount code “ITALOPHILIA20” to get a 20% off. (until 10th October!)

I also have an Instagram contest running until the 23rd September to win some amazing Smitten Italy merchandise! Grazie mille carissima per la tua ispirazione!

~INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY!!~👇👇🇮🇹🇮🇹 . . I am so excited to be partnering with @smittenitaly to bring you guys an amazing array of merchandise!! 😍😍 Whether you are an Italophilie or not, these beautiful "Smitten Italy" goodies will win you over!!🙋 Girls, are you ready for some tote bag love??👜 For all you stationery lovers we have a gorgeous set of pencils that you will swoon on!!✏️✏️ And who doesn't love their drink in a pretty mug??☕💫 One winner will win it all! . . Details are very simple: 1. Like this picture✔️ . . 2. Follow @Italophilia and @smittenitaly on Instagram✔️ . . 3. Tag 3 friends that would love this giveaway and basically spread the word✔️ . . That's it!! Thank you so much 🤗😘 **Bonus points if you do a repost or Instagram stories (make sure to tag us!!) . . The giveaway ends on 23rd September 19:00 IST, 15:30 CET and 9:30 EST 💖📩 . . **This Giveaway is in no way affiliated to Instagram

A post shared by Ishita. Italy. India. (@italophilia) on

Follow Heather on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as MerryFeast and SmittenItaly.

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The Holy Town of Loreto

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On the occasion of my birthday today, I bring you all the holy town of Loreto -one of the most important pilgrimage town in Italy. The town attracts over 4 million visitors each year and holds the Holy House of Mary of Nazareth believed to have flown from Palestine by four angels. Although I am neither a Catholic nor religious enough to know more than this, Loreto is the mecca for Catholics in simple terms.

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This town had more tourists than anywhere else in Marche

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Pretty details

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I’d like to go here next time

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The imposing Loreto basilica

The main site to see in Loreto is its basilica made in Gothic and Renaissance style. It will stop you dead in your tracks because it is simply breath-taking! The basilica has been designed by many notable architects such as Baccio Pontelli, Giuliano da Sangallo and Giovanni Ghioldi.

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Piazza della Madonna

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An evening stroll or Passeggiata

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The piazza is HUGE!

The piazza holding the basilica is enormous and equally beautiful! There are handicraft shops selling intricate woodwork and kitchen products and a few bars worth peeking into. A very old shop selling delicious pizza is right opposite the basilica and makes a great option for a quick lunch or dinner.

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Cappuccino with a view

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Tourist free after 6

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Fontana Maggiore

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Empty Loreto

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Dome inspired by Filippo Brunelleschi

Loreto is a historic city of Marche that should not be missed. That being said, the erratic nature of public transport and sometimes the lack of it altogether, makes it impossible to see Marche unless you must have a car. I say that in every post not to deter you but to make you aware of this shortcoming. Had it not been for DiscoverMarche I don’t know how I would have traveled across this region.

Of Jams, Jellies and Nature in Macerata

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SIGI Azienda Agricola is tucked away in a beautiful corner of Macerata province in Le Marche. SI.GI. is a producer of natural jam and jellies and the brainchild of Silvano Buccolini. He and his family bring together a variety of seasonal products to the market and have a no chemical approach. Their focus is to keep the aromas, taste and richness of the fruit and make outstanding products. And oh how well they do!

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My visit to the SI.GI. farm was nothing short of amazing. DiscoverMarche recommended me their jams and we happened to book a meeting with Silvano and his daughter in a few days time. The weather supported me fully, probably the first time since I had been in Marche. The whole area in and around the farm was in full bloom.

Permit me to get a little poetic, the colors of the spring and the wind added an inexplicable freshness to the day.

Silvano showed us his burgeoning orchards where there were all kinds of trees and plants imaginable. Cherries, mint, plum, blackberries and jujube and a fair many others whose names I can’t recall but have them vividly etched in memory.

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The succulent cherries on the tree were enough to give me a craving. And nothing really beats the experience of having a freshly plucked fruit. Does it?? They were so ripe and that I could probably make a meal of them. But on Silvano’s instructions I didn’t eat too many as they are too warm for the stomach. (Point noted for future)

We also got a sneak peek into the jam making process at SI.GI where everything is done manually. Silvano’s happy team were quietly working as he told me the different varieties of jam they made and sold in Italy and Europe. Apart from the strange flavors of onion, zucchini,, pepper and wine; strawberry, sapa, raspberry, black cherries, quinces and jujubes were also prevalent. I sampled many bottles back home.

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It was a day well spent at SI.GI, amidst nature and getting to taste it too. Their products are very unique and fresh and it makes you think long and hard about the “jams” we end up buying from the market.

If you would like to visit the farm please contact them on their Facebook page SI.GI. can be best reached by car.

PS-I really think you should try the onion jam!

The Colors of Sirolo Make Me Happy

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Just half an hour’s drive from Ancona is the beautiful coastal town of Sirolo. For over 2 decades, Sirolo’s beaches come under the European Blue Flag status -prisitine, clear, safe and gorgeous! Two of its most famous beaches, Spaggia Urbani and Due Sorelle, are most crowded in the summer and since I visited in May, summer season hadn’t officially started. So obviously I didn’t relish the waters up close but saw the beaches from the old town.

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Cute little store fronts

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A view of Sirolo

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Moody Blues

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These rooms were for rent

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View of Riviera Conero

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Lot of locals and few tourists

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Imagine it on a clear day

Sirolo as a town has a very beachy vibe with its piazza alive and kicking among colorful back streets. Walking around in the town and seeing it’s 11th century walls is really walking back in time. There are plenty of bars where a drink or caffe can be enjoyed with a view. Sirolo has a vibrant feel to it, even on a cloudy day!

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These colors make me happy!

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Have some Olive Ascolane

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Sirolo can be best reached by car

It is one of the places I would implore everyone to visit in Le Marche as it gives a break from the historic sites of Loreto and Recanati. Personally, Sirolo stands to be my favorite in Le Marche so far! Did you love it too??

Numana, Le Marche: A Jewel of the Adriatic

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I am completely blown away by the eastern region of Le Marche in Italy. After years of my Italian sojourns, I finally made it there thanks to the lovely ladies from DiscoverMarche. They not only gave me the initial push to plan a trip but also showed me around the best places in the region.

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Postcard perfect

Numana was the first place I visited, a town hard not to miss and easy to fall in love with. A popular summer destination, the history of Numana goes as far as the times of the Romans. The town is now divided into Numana Alta (upper) and Numana Bassa (lower) and is small enough to walk in about 30 minutes.

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Late afternoon in Piazza Santurio

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Palazzo Communale

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An empty street in Numana Alta

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Getting a view of the Adriatic

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The colors of Numana

There are various vantage points from where you can get the most spectacular views of the Adriatic! Numana is all about that vibrant beachy vibe that you are looking for.

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Breathtaking!

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Port of Numana

There are several bars and boutiques in Numana alta and many homes with signs of “affittacamere o affittare una stanza” (room(s) to rent). However, most stores were closed and there were hardly any people around even until 7 p.m.

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One of the most picturesque streets: Costarella. Can you spot anyone??

The only place open on Numana alta was Gelateria Morelli where I fancied myself with a good old chocolate gelato that I can still taste. Buonissimo!!

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Gelato from one of the oldest makers in Marche

Numana must be much more crowded and fun this time of the year as opposed to mid May when I had visited. But I had the whole town to myself and that was another kind of fun!

Important Info:

-There are no trains to this part of Italy and erratic bus connectivity so hiring a car is the best way to travel.

-Best time to visit is June- Sept when the beaches are in full swing and there are more people on the streets.

-For further information and reading I found Numana Toursim very useful.

Ispirazione: Story of The Beehive in Rome

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I met Linda of The Beehive in April 2016 after being online friends with her since a few years. Linda and her husband Steve run “The Beehive” in Rome – an environmental friendly hostel with a passion for community building. They use ecological goods and recycled paper in their hostel and support all things organic. The Beehive is a place made with a lot of love and that shows in Linda. She has dedicated evenings for storytelling sessions and cooking classes often. The whole foundation of The Beehive rests on its unique concept of friendliness and warmth.

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Last year on a one day visit to Rome I booked a night at The Beehive just to meet Linda because I was so inspired by her. Let’s read what she has to say about her life in Italy, learning the language and about The Beehive:

How The Beehive started:

My husband Steve and I got married in September 1998 after a long and tumultuous relationship. Part of our “master plan” had always been to leave the US and live internationally, but we just didn’t know how we would go about doing it or what we would do and so we came up with a lot of half-baked ideas. We spent part of our honeymoon in Rome and stayed at a hotel/hostel that Steve used to work at a few years before. That’s when the idea came to us of creating our own hostel in Rome and 8 months later we opened the doors to The Beehive on 11 May 1999.

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Did you know Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??

I had taken Italian for 2 semesters at Santa Monica Community College a few years before we moved to Italy, but sadly had not retained any of it. However, my family is Puertorican and Spanish was my first language. Since Italian and Spanish are very similar, I felt comfortable in Italy despite not knowing the language.

I took a two week course at Torre di Babele at its former location on Via Bixio in Rome, but the course was frustrating as it was filled with a group of students who had no interest in learning the language (have no idea why they were there!) and they were very disruptive. After that course, I came into contact with an Italian language tutor, and now good friend, Andrea Viviani, who tutored me privately for a while. At that point though, I was a new mother and so my Italian language learning took a backseat. I’ve learned the rest of my Italian on my own which I have to say, probably isn’t the most effective way to learn a language.

What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??

Find a method that works for you whether it’s in a group if you are an extroverted sort or privately by tutor if you prefer one on one. Both have their pros and cons and you might want to try both initially to see which works best for you. Stick with whichever method works and keep with it and keep learning!

That was my problem, I reached a certain level of fluency and comfort and then stopped. This was a mistake because while I have a grasp of the language, I am by no means at a high level of proficiency in Italian and I make a lot of mistakes, basic mistakes too. It’s difficult to go back, but I do have a friend who has a wonderful YouTube channel –Lucrezia Oddone – Learn Italian with Lucrezia and she has inspired me to want to hire a private Italian language tutor again to expand my vocabulary and improve my grammar. It’s never too late!

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Grazie mille carissima per la tua ispirazione! In the comments please let me and Linda know how this post inspired you whether you are in Italy or not and even more so if you are learner of the Italian language.

Follow Linda as @thebeehiverome on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

#ItalophiliaPostcards

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In the past 3-4 years of blogging and social media, I have fostered many online friendships and am truly grateful for that. Some of them have turned into real life meetings in Italy/India and that is a testament to the amazing journey that blogging has given me.

Improving online relationships and getting to know my followers/friends has been a lot of fun. So keeping it alive, I have merged the old and new traditions with #ItalophiliaPostcards.

I send postcards to anyone anywhere across the world (willing to share their personal details) and once the postcard is received by the person, he/she shares it on Instagram with #ItalophiliaPostcards. It is a really fun way to get to know people and take out time to choose a postcard for that particular person. The point is to bring back the dying tradition of sending out postcards and make social media more fun and less repetitive!!

If any of you are interested to receive a postcard from me or even send one to me, please follow me on Instagram (linked above) and reach out to me via email ishitatravel@gmail.com with the subject Postcards or simply drop an Instagram DM. For privacy reasons, it is best not putting your addresses under the comment section here.

PS-If you are not on Instagram, don’t sweat. You can always share on any other social media or even your blog!

Some More Favorite Books on Italy

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Literature is a wonderful way to know another culture. Don’t you think?? In the past few years, having read several books based in Italy and/or by Italian authors, I have managed to make a list of 15 best books so far. But the thirst to learn more doesn’t satiate. Here is another list of books that easily fall under the essential Italy reading category:

Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani:

Translated as “the beautiful centre”, Michelle Damiani’s book is about her journey living as an expat in Spello, Umbria. Il Bel Centro is not only a travel memoir but is a journey of self discovery. Michelle’s writing is beautiful and takes the reader to the ancient town making them part of her struggles, frustrations and victories. One not only gets to know about life in a small Italian town (with no frills) but also understand the traditions that become a part of Michelle’s life in that year. Il Bel Centro is a must read for travel enthusiasts in general and also for anyone looking to move to Italy.

Region: Umbria

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Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon:

It is difficult to mention books based in Venice and not think of Donna Leon. An American living in Venice for over two decades, Donna Leon is a lover of Venice and her vivid descriptions of the city show that. The main character of her books, Commissario Brunetti, keeps the readers on toes with his tumultuous Venetian life and thinking. While I have read only a few out of the 25 or so odd novels, Death at La Fenice stands to be my favorite. Donna Leon takes her readers to the back alleys of Venice in the home and life of Brunetti. The fabled city’s charm with hints of Venetian food and old canals gets far more interesting than you can imagine. A must read for crime fiction lovers! The books have been made into a German TV series.

Region: Veneto

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The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed by Mary McCarthy:

Well written and poignant, this book is an underrated gem and a great commemoration to the cities of Florence and Venice. It is an honest recollection of McCarthy’s intense travels and includes large explanations about the people and art of both the cities. She makes the reader feel the intensity and crowd of a piazza and then effortlessly takes them to the quietness of a small alley. The research behind this small book is worth mentioning and noteworthy. Of course it is an the icing on the cake if you have visited either or both the cities. Must read for all Italophilies!

Region: Tuscany and Veneto

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Italianissimo by Louise Fili and Lise Apatoff:

Anyone looking to know more about the Italian culture should get their hands on this handy 6 inch of a book. From art, architecture, food, fashion and family to smaller details such as vespas, fiat 500s, aperitivo, gardens, markets, bars and festivals, Italianissimo is a peek into the Italian life that you might not know. A great effort by the two authors, the book shows a lot more than you already think you know. There are one page chapters on an aspect of Italian life that also makes it an easy read to flip on your ride back from work. Louise Fili is a popular name in the graphic media world and this book is a testament to that. You should definitely check her caligraphy and designs that will astound you.

Region: Italy

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Have you read any of these?? Do share this post among fellow Italy/book/travel lovers!

The Sound of Music: A Photo Story

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“The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years…..”

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The Sound of Music Tour

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Hohensalzburg Castle: a stunning sight

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Nonnberg Abbey: where the real-life Maria married Georg von Trapp (Credits: Shuttersandsunflowers)

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Leopoldskron Palace: where the children “supposedly” fall. Now a private property

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Hellbrunn Palace: Another song location

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The famous gazebo from “I am 16, going on 17” In the movie, the dance was done on a set.

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Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang: panoramic places from the movie

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St. Michael’s Church, Mondsee: where Maria gets married.

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The Pegasus Horse Fountain: from the song “Doe a deer a female deer….”

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Mirabell Gardens: Used as a backdrop several times

Good to know:

-The real life Maria and the von Trapps family have been shown differently in the movie. For instance the Baron wasn’t cold hearted at all.

-The movie shows several locations that are different from the ones they pretend to show.

-Maria and Julie Andrews met in real life after the success of the movie.

-The locals in Salzburg aren’t amused by the film and many haven’t even seen it because they think it spoils the sanctity of their town.

For more info:

Panorama Tours & Travel

Cost: EUR 42 p.p.

A Day in the Baroque Town of Salzburg

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Salzburg, the picture perfect town that most people connect with the movie The Sound of Music, literally means”salt fortress”. Its old world vibe and baroque architecture with the ever imposing Alps makes for a great vacation spot.

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Hello Salzburg!

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I also say hello with a bookstore!

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…..and Bialetti!

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These charming streets

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I love the greys

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Yummy Mozart chocolates!

Salzburg is well known because Mozart was born here. And Mozart is everywhere in this town. You can see his orange colored home turned into a museum along with plenty of other things such as Mozart Cafe, a Mozart festival, a Mozart Library….Not to forget the Mozart chocolates! They are quite something and worth sampling for the flight  back home.

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Salzburg is an artist’s dream

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Traveled back in time

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Local food?? Not so much

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Grab a seat

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Goldgasse- the main shopping street

The town is also loaded with several bars and restaurants like any European town. There are many over priced ones with extensive menu of local wines and schnitzel. But I had my reasonably priced share at Cafe Mozart. Delicious food in a quiet place.

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Delicious schnitzel!

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Cafe Mozart

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EUR15 (return) on the funicular

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But worth it for the views!

Salzburg is best seen on foot but to get sweeping views of the town going to the top of the Hohensalzburg Fortress via a funicular is a must!! It is a well worth the money and also a breathtaking sight to see the town from above. There are many photographers lined up to get shots from that 900 year old fortress.

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Empty this side

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Imagine owning one of those villas by the river

While this baroque town might be ancient and historic, there is a trendy side to it too and that includes impressive modern art on the streets!

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Salzburg is a doable day trip from Vienna but long-ish (about 2 hours, 40 mins one side). However, if you leave Vienna early morning you can take the last train back that leaves from Salzburg around 20:00. Check the latest schedule at WestBahn.