Thursday, October 22, 2015

Azamara Nice to Athens Autumn Cruise



colorful fruit stand, Livorno market
 
 
 
 
 
 
What a perfect way to end the summer:  with a cruise  aboard the luxurious  Azamara Quest  from Nice  to Athens.  It was a working holiday for I was aboard to give  a series of enrichment lectures about  the  ancient civilizations  that once thrived  in the Mediterranean.
 

sculptures adorn Livorno market
At the first port, Livorno,  most passengers  travel to Pisa and Florence since it is their first time in Italy. We enjoyed staying in Livorno for a   canal boat tour  and  a visit to  the Art Decò market, one of Italy's largest . Write "Livorno" in the search box at the top of the page  to find the many   articles about Livorno and what to visit there.
art dèco architecture of Livorno market
  
sign in Livorno market
Rain kept us aboard the ship in Civitavecchia but many  passengers  went off  to Rome and some spent the day cooking  at Fontana del Papa,  atop the nearby hill at  Tolfa. 
 The situation at  Civitavecchia  has become ugly  with local police  being called in to stop harassing  of  visitors at the  cage like “visitors’ center”.     Cruisers and crews are fed up with the  exploitation  and paying for the unnecessary  bussing in order  to take the train to Rome.  
No wonder  the port has such a bad reputation and is  considered  one  of the most "tourist unfriendly"  in the Mediterranean.  For more  articles about the  problems at Civitavecchia,  use the search bar. If you have experiences and comments  please leave them at the bottom of the page and use the icons to share  on social media .  
Our classic Mediterranean  itinerary  continued  on to a sunny  Sorrento  and then to  Messina where  we visited  a lovely  ceramics shop near the port and  munched freshly made  cannoli at the pasticceria   near the Duomo.
I Particolari, ceramics shop, Messina

The  Azamazing Evening  went as scheduled but instead of transferring everyone  to Taormina, the  singers  and orchestra  braved  the weather and drove from Catania to perform aboard for the passengers .  
arriving in Chania port, Crete
 
tourist carriage, Chania port
 

selling honey  at the  Saturday  market,Chania


   

 
Chania and  Santorini offered sunshine, markets,  folk dancers  and a night time marathon.
Late departures and overnights in ports makes it possible to see  how people  live in the different countries after the sun goes down.




On Santorini the cable car brought us up the cliff to visit the town of Fira and its  Prehistory Museum where frescoes and pottery date from before the  volcanic explosion that created the caldera where our ship was  anchored.


Arriving at Santorini  and the  zig zag trail up to Fira town
the cable car wheel
plaster casts of 3000 BC furniture


blue monkey frescoes (3000 BC) at Thera Prehistoric Museum



buskers at the Orthodox Cathedral, Santorini  


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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Finding Italy in New England


typical New England lunch: clam chowder & lobster roll at Fishbones, Chelmsford
  
Every once in a while during my  50 years in Italy I get a chance to  return to  USA . This  time  my trip coincided  with that of Papa Francesco and while he was having  meetings with VIPs and  prisoners  I  visited New England  relatives and attended  my 50th college reunion in Buffalo, N.Y.  

 

 

Roberta Witts at her  art and framing gallery, Chelmsford, MA
  With  my brother and sister-in-law  I visited  numerous small towns  in the rolling hills  between Massachusetts and New Hampshire where they live.
We  stopped  at  farm stalls and antique shops,  ate in local Italian (and non) restaurants and  enjoyed   the first  signs of fall foliage, when the trees turn  bright red and gold.
their first visit to neighboring vineyard

Since my brother and his wife have no intention of coming to visit me in Italy,  one of the things I wanted to do was find some Italian style food and places for them to enjoy  right in their own backyard. I must say that my mission turned out quite successfully. 

Al Fuchino's winery   offers  dinners and opera as well as wine
Things have changed  since I was growing up in New England, now   Italian wine and handmade pasta  are readily  available  as we discovered during our day trips around   the  picturesque countryside which  resembles  Tuscany and my local area -Tuscia, 60 kms north of Rome.
Within  10 miles  of their home we found the  Fulchino vineyard   in Hollis , N.H. and tasted some of their wonderful wines  along with excellent Wisconsin cheeses. 

This lovely Tuscan style villa houses the Fulchino Vineyard

 Owner Al Fulchino told us about the  special dinners with opera singers that are held at the Winery  which are a great way  to  enjoy Italian lifestyle without flying over to Italy. The next one is October  17th so check their website and book your table.

For those who live in central Italy  Opera Extravaganza’s  house concerts and musical events can be enjoyed here in Vetralla . Next one  is   on October  11th.  (www.operaextravaganza.com )

pasta and wine now available in New England small towns

Valicenti organic pasta sauces


cheeses from all over the world including  fresh mozzarella
Young owner at Valicenti Pasta Farm
Also in Hollis, N.H. we found  the Valicenti  Pasta Farm where an  Italian-Irish couple produce  wonderful pasta, ravioli  and pasta sauces  in many different varieties. Valicenti Pasta Farm sell from their big yellow barn where the perfumes  of pasta sauces  fill the air.  They sell their wares at numerous  farmers markets and deliver to the top restaurants in the  area and in Boston.   Check their website www.gimmiespaghetti.com



chrysanthemums are a seasonal flower in both US and Italy

 beautiful tomatoes at Kimball and Lull farms near Pepperell, MA
Other  farm stands  along the road  sell huge varieties of tomatoes and  pumpkins  as well as  mums which are used to  decorate cemeteries  in Italy  in November.    

Since   the Carrabba's restaurant group had  filmed a  commercial in Vetralla  about a  year ago,  I was curious to see what their  food  and restaurants were  like so one evening we drove over there for dinner.   At  7p.m. on a Monday  the parking lot was full, lots of people at the bar and getting “takeaway” and  people waiting to be seated  but when we left  at 8:30 pm  the place was empty! 
 
8:30 p.m.  and the place is empty

When I went up to the kitchen area  to  take a few photos of the chefs preparing salads (as shown in their TV commercials) the manager   told me  that company policy  forbade photo taking except  of the clients who might be celebrating at their table. 
sideways dipping  at fake marble table  
 
 
fettuccine Carrabba

 

 A few cultural differences that annoyed me after a lifetime here in Italy :  waiting in line to be seated, being stuffed into a narrow booth (we changed for a  round table), a fakey/ friendly loud waitress, a bowl of generic olive oil and bread  for dipping before the meal, the price of wine and the  tipping.  The food was good  and since  portions  are so large, doggy bags are a necessity. 
 
Does anyone else  get reverse culture shock when returning to their home country?
Coming soon: antiques and collectibles in New England.
Hope  you will  share with friends and leave comments.
Check  the website Presentations page  for my next  conferences and  presentations.