The Colorful Sicilian Island, Ustica

September 2, 2011

More than anything, the island of Ustica evokes images of colors: bright intense colors, muted pastel colors. First of all the blues, the greens: The translucent acquamarine and emerald brilliance of the surrounding sea are highlighted by the black volcanic rock of this wondrous island, just off the northwestern coast of Sicily. Maritime pines, the pungent wild fennel, fig trees, date palms and caper vines crawling the lava-rock stone walls blend in varied shades of green. rear more...

Sicilian Thirst-Quencher: La Granita

August 30, 2011

Arab influences are strong in Sicily, from the architecture to the sweets, from the underground Arab acqueducts of Palermo to the granulated-ice dessert, la granita. The Arabs brought their sherbert to Sicily, an iced drink flavored with fruit juices or rosewater. In the Middle Ages, the nevaroli - "ice-gatherers" - had the important task of conserving the snow of Mt. Etna and other mountain ranges in stone depositories built over grottoes, natural ones and man-made ones. The nobility bought the mounds of ice during the sizzling summer months, mixing in the juice of the island's lemons with grated ice to make a perfect thirst-quencher - and thus the granita was born... read more...

Il Nonno di Ustica

August 29, 2011

"A blood relative or not, he's my relative. Pasquale's everybody's relative: he's "il nonno di Ustica." Nonno Pasquale's blue eyes - the same color as Ustica's sea - twinkle at friend Gaetano's affectionate words. A smile spreads ear-to-ear across his gentle face, pink cheeks still smooth with only a suggestion of wrinkles. Pasquale Palmisano will be a hundred next May. read more...

How to Choose a Great Gelato

August 24, 2011

On a hot day, at the end of an Umbrian tour - after taking in the art and history of our medieval hilltown gems - I'll often say to my tour guests, "Now I have to share with you some very important information: how to choose the best gelato." Seems to me essential information for anyone touring in Italy in the warmer months. Thankfully, most of my tour guests agree... Read more...

Our New Italians

August 13, 2011

Italians relax under umbrellas on sandy Adriatic beaches in the hot summer months. Under blistering sun, Moroccans, Tunisians, Indians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Senegalese, Bangladeshi - to name a few of the immigrant vendors - trudge for hours in the sand, toting their wares, hoping to make a sale. read more...

Umbria’s Last Castle-village?

August 10, 2011

Maybe not the last of the many castle-villages in Umbria, but certainly one of the most picturesque, pink limestone gem, Collepino, slumbers on a mountainside above Spello in almost monastic quiet. Befitting: Collepino has an ancient link to a monastery, for medieval Collepino was once a defensive stronghold, protecting a nearby eleventh-century Benedictine abbey, San Silvestero.. Embrasures in the outer walls - slit-like openings for the shooting of crossbows - and the crumbling remnants of a medieval guard tower give testament to a bellicose era. read more...

Arrivederci, Umbria Jazz, 2011

July 18, 2011

"Three Ladies of Blues" had all rockin' at the jazz aperitif last night at Hotel Brufani, one of the last events of the stupendo 10-day Umbria Jazz festival in Perugia. read more...

Floral Passione Takes Over Spello

July 15, 2011

"Bello Spello, vero?", an elderly woman asks me as she polishes her brass doorknob to a gleam. Above her head, fiery red geraniums and hot pink petunias overflow in chromatic profusion from terracotta flower pots on the stone wall of her house. I thought she might win the "Finestre,Balconi e Vie Fioriti" ("Windows, balconies and alleyways") contest - until I saw Attilio's courtyard. Each day, stonemason, Attilio, returns hot and sweaty from work and after a quick shower, spends hours in his courtyard tending the 120 flower pots hanging on the pink limestone wall of his courtyard. read more...

Eating Flowers in Spello

July 14, 2011

Spello - che bello! - is becoming world famous for its magnificent flower petal tapestries - Infiorate - carpeting medieval alleyways and piazzas for Corpus Cristi. Prior to the wonders, the Spellani compete in a contest of flowering balconies, windowboxes and alleyways, try out the rose and lavender flavors featured in the main piazza gelateria - and even eat flowers... read more...