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When Italo Calvino Taught Me About Fairy Tales

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I’m currently reading Italo Calvino’s “Fiabe per le bambine” and when I say I’m reading, I’m probably flipping through. Why?? Because it is a very tough read. At least for me, at least for now.

I have been ignoring my Italian practice since weeks and definitely feel the need to push myself. (Tips??) My main aim is to jot down new words and update my slow paced Italian dictionary every day.

Here are a few new words I loved from this well illustrated book:

Maga: sorceress

Finché: as long as

Barbarie: brutality or lack of civilization

Scaltro: shrewd

Ribaltare: tip or topple

Fermo: firm or steady

Saltare: Jump or leap

Scodella: bowl

Invidia: envy/jealousy

Provvista: supply

Rosicchiare: nibble

Also, what are you reading??

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#BooksOnItaly: Contemporary and Travel

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Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson:

Believe it or not, even after many trips to Italy, I haven’t been to Naples. After reading this book (and the Elena Ferrante series) I realize how much the city has to offer. Only in Naples is an honest account of the author’s journey and how she embraces life in a new place. Having a strong connection to Italy like many Italophiles, Ms. Wilson describes her love life and Neopolitan mother in law in a cheeky and fun way that makes it a light beach read. She explains small acts of kindness that people do for her to make her settle in the new city and the glorious food she eats which genuinely made me fall in love with the story. The characters, mainly the mother-in-law, are also obvious choices. As in most memoirs, there are some things I didn’t relate to at all, so I’d just suggest to keep an open mind. Just let the city of Naples charm you with its people and forgot the author’s constant mention of her upper class status for a while.

Region: Campania

Venetian Blood by Christine Evelyn Volker: This was a recent find thanks to ItalyBookTours. It is very evident from the beginning that the author is fond of Venice and Italian culture as she has used the Italian language more than moderately in titles and sentences of the book. She explains Venice as a historic city close to her heart with a ton of cultural and architectural references. It is important to read the book at a leisurely pace because the book is unrushed. You have to wait almost at the end to know even a hint of the killer. Apart from that, the reader is really shown Venice through the author’s descriptions. Reading Venetian Blood was akin to experiencing the murder story in Venice myself as the author talks about how everyone knows everyone else in the city, how food is given paramount importance whether it is a bite of spezzatino or cicchetti or a glass of caffè or prosecco and how the church bells make you fall in love with the the dreamy city. Overall, a welcome change from the many romantic titles based in Venice. Personally, it should be read more for the cultural and historic aspects than the story. I really applaud the author for the effort and research gone into this book as she has made Venice seem more alive than ever.

Region: Veneto

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt: If you are looking to delve into history and read about Italy 100 years back, this is the book to pick. I took ages to finish it (seriously!!) and almost gave up in the middle but kept going for some reason. The writing isn’t easy, well.. because this book was written aeons ago. The author takes the reader back in time and tells everything possible on the Italian Renaissance in relation to Italian history, culture, art and science. He describes it by understanding the people and political hierarchy during those days. Although it might sound very historic and boring but once you pick the book, it is interesting especially if you are into art and culture. The only downside is that it is written for his fellows so Burckhardt makes a lot of generalizations in the copy that are not understandable.

Region: Italy

I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti: I am amazed by the different themes in Italian literature and this book speaks immensely of a coming of age theme. Not to give any spoilers, this novel is about the loss of childhood innocence. With beautiful descriptions of Southern Italy and it’s countryside, the narration of the story is done by a 9 year old child. This immediately encapsulated me even though the book is set in the year 1978. There are parts that are slow but the book is short and can be finished in two sittings. I love the simple style of writing and applaud the translator for doing such a great job. I hear this book was made into a popular movie too. Now excited to watch!

Region: Southern Italy

Let's try something new today, shall we?? Currently reading a few books 😜 but Italian literature never ceases to amaze me. It always stands out. . . I think authors from a particular culture/country have a similar style of expression. What do you think?? Obviously, one tends to notice that after reading a fair few from that group. In Italian literature there are varied themes but the style is easy to sense eventually. Whether it is story with the background of a city, analytical human tales of loneliness, historical connections, stories with the suffering of women, corruption of the government or simply the Italian mafia, they are definitely very culturally driven📚 . . While some authors are clear in their writing style to the readers, there are others who make it hard to comprehend in the first go (Italo Calvino for instance) Italian literature really takes you in a deep world of thinking🤔 On a side note, this is very interesting read😊

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More Charming Towns in Italy

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In the past, I have added many towns to your Italian kitty (Check under the Travel Tips section). Here are a few more to the ever expanding list.

Alba:

Alba is nestled in the region of Piemonte and is a perfect getaway from city life. An elegant town full of quaint shops selling a varieties of truffles and wine, Alba is surrounded by vineyards. Apart from regional specialities of food, Alba has a small old town that is walkable enough in 15 minutes. The colorful town is filled with many cafes that will completely charm you! Although Alba is quite touristy, you will still find a spot for yourself to sit in and enjoy.

How to reach: Take an early morning direct train from Turin’s Porta Susa station and spend the day in Alba. If you are traveling from Milan, spend the night in Alba as it is too hectic for a day trip.

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The colorful town of Alba

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Piazza Risorgimento

Fermo:

The whole of Le Marche is a dream and if you check the map of Italy, you will realize it boasts a pretty strong coastline. However, that does not mean Marche is devoid of pretty hilltop towns. Fermo is one such town with a gorgeous piazza and a lovely old world charm. The town was unfortunately hit by earthquake in 2016 so most of the cultural aspects are in restoration. But you can still take a walk or relax by an old Bar. La dolce vita!

How to reach: A hired car is the best way to navigate in the region of Le Marche.

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Piazza del Popolo

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An empty Bar

Orta San Giulio:

When I say, Orta San Giulio, I am talking about narrow paths leading to views, cobbled streets filled with small stores, splendid lakeside and a medieval atmosphere. Orta San Giulio is a characteristic small town that I would happily settle in! It’s surroundings beseech me to pen down my thoughts and write a poem. Orta has indescribable beauty and atmosphere and is one of the few towns that I regret not staying in for the night.

How to reach: Although hiring a car is the best way to reach till the town of Orta, there is a train station at Orta Miasino with a train change at Novara. From Orta Miasino take a cab or walk if you are brave enoough.

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Piazza Motta

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Island of San Giulio

Numana:

Another charming little town in Marche is the beach town of Numana. Its’ old historic side is stunning and colorful and it has many vantage points for spectacular views of the Adriatic! Numana is a laid back beach town where you probably want to book in a few nights and relax. There are boutiques for your shopping needs and alleyways to fill your growing wanderlust.

How to reach: A hired car is the best way to navigate in the region of Le Marche.

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Views of Adriatic

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Numana alta

I’d love more suggestions as always!

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

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

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 at SIGI Azienda Agricola

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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!