Day Tripping – Amalfi Coast to Paestum

Temple of Neptune, Paestum, Italy, 2013
Temple of Ceres, Paestum, Italy, 2013

Spending time on the Amalfi Coast is as close to what I imagine heaven being like.  While it may be hard to pull yourself away from the beautiful seaside towns of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello there are many wonderful places in the surrounding area that I would recommend visiting if you have time – Pompeii and Paestum being two of these.

Paestum located in the Campania region of southern Italy is about 120 km to the southeast of Naples near the Amalfi Coast.   Several ways to get to Pasteum from the Amalfi Coast (Solarno, Positano, Amalfi) – By car (recommended), by bus, or by train.  All require some planning but I assure you the reward is worth it.

Buses run on the SITA line and trains via Trentitalia.  More information can be found by visiting Rick Steve’s website, Rick Steves Europe.

Pasteum, 2013
Temple of Neptune (foreground) and Basilica, Pasteum, 2013

Paestum originally the ancient city of Poseidonia was founded by the greeks in 600 B.C. and later became a colony of the Roman Empire in 210 B.C.  I have discovered that there are more intact and well preserved temples in Italy than there are in Greece and Paestum will not disappoint on that score.  In addition to the temples and ancient ruins which include remains of residential homes, forum, amphitheater, swimming pools, etc. there is a wonderful Museum founded in 1952, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which displays some of the artifacts found in the nearby burial grounds including sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, terracotta, and actual tombs with beautifully painted details. The most famous of these tombs from the 4th century B.C. is the tomb of the diver which has recently been restored.

Pasteum, 2013Roman Road, Via Sacra, Pasteum, 2013

On this particular trip we drove from Positano down the coast through Amalfi, they should hand out awards, to Salerno and then inland across beautiful plains to Paestum.  Parking is easy and inexpensive (2 euros) and there are plenty of quaint places for lunch and many souvenir shops some selling quite beautiful reproductions of Paestan Ceramics.  Truly a bargain when compared to the same items in Rome or Naples.   While I recommend visiting Pompeii, Paestum is much less crowded and we often had no one in sight when walking through the ruins – you truly feel like you have been transported in time.  Make sure you bring your camera.   Buon Viaggio!

Cooking Roman Style – Peperonata (Stewed Sweet Peppers)

Ingredients for Peporanata, 2013
Main Ingredient for Peporanata – Cubanelle and Yellow Peppers, 2013

This recipe is one of my favorites.  Their sweet and sour flavor makes them perfect for pairing with – pork roast, sandwiches, as part of your antipasto, and they are perfect all by themselves on top of a crusty baguette.   You can serve them warm right out of the pan or at room temperature.  Easy to prepare filling your house with a wonderful aroma they last for a long long time in the refrigerator – I usually double the recipe.

While most any pepper will do and bell peppers seem to be the staple at the grocery store try to experiment with different types of peppers – the sweeter the better.  At the farmer’s markets I look for the Cubanelle Peppers (typically long slender red peppers) which are especially sweet.

Thinly Sliced Garlic, 2013
Sautee Garlic and Onions for a few Minutes before adding Peppers, 2013
While most recipes don’t call for roasting the peppers this extra step imparts a rich flavor and if you have the time go ahead and try it.  You will look like a pro at the very least roasting peppers over the flame on your stovetop.  (instructions for roasting peppers-4 easy methods)
 
Pepper Strips, 2013
Peppers, Garlic, Onions, Olive Oil, Water, Salt and Pepper – Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes, 2013
Peperonatta (Stewed Sweet Peppers)
Ingredients (makes 2 cups) 
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 assorted red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (or other variety of sweet pepper), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4″ to 1/2″ strips – don’t worry about being exact
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise – the thinner the better
  • ½ medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Instructions (total prep time 15 minutes, total cook time 45 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat.  When you begin to smell the olive oil
  • Add garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes
  • Add peppers and ½ cup water and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft, about 1 hour.  About 20 minutes if you have roasted the peppers first.
  • Stir in vinegar, turn off the heat, and mix together
  • Transfer to a serving bowl if you will be serving right away or let cool in the pan before transferring to a storage container
  • As is the case with most italian food I always find these better the next day or several days later.   Easily made in advance and have on hand for later.  Buon Appetito!

 

Almost finished, 2013
Almost finished, 2013

Italy by Train – Centovalli Railway, Lombardy

I can’t speak for everyone but I surely enjoy traveling by train especially in Italy.  The highspeed, “Alta Velocità”, trains move you from one major city to another quickly and comfortably.  I often wonder why we can’t develop the same hightech railway system in the States? More about the Alta Velocità, Freccia – Argento, Rossa, and Bianco in another post.

In addition to the high speed trains there are many regional railways that offer service to some spectacular locations.  One such regional railway is the Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi (founded 1898) in the Lombardy region of Italy near Milan and the Lake District.

Centovalli Railway, Italy, 2012
Joe Checking The Train Schedule, Centovalli Railway, Italy, 2012

I can say unequivocally that the scenic train ride between Domodossola, Italy and Locarno, Switzerland traveling through the breathtaking “Hundred Valleys” was one of the most visually thrilling train rides in my life – so far!  We took this train in the late fall, November 2012, and the views were unimpeded by leaves allowing us to see things most likely hidden in the late Spring and Summer.

Trontano, Italy, 2012
Trontano, Italy, 2012

Not only is this region of Italy one of my favorites it is also one of the most naturally beautiful in the world.  Along the route the train climbs into the mountains along steep gorges, through tunnels (34), across stone bridges (83), and past picture postcard towns with centuries old churches.   Wildlife, chestnut groves, waterfalls, vineyards, and snowy peaks are some of the beautiful views you have along the 2 hour journey from Italy into Switzerland.

View of the Alps, Centovalli Railway, Domodosolla to Locarno
View of the Alps, Centovalli Railway, Domodossola to Locarno, 2012

Once you arrive in Locarno, Switzerland you have many options and you are able to see quite a bit in several hours before heading back.   A walk along the lake, or a visit to one of numerous churches, or a ride on the Funicular (highly recommended) for a spectacular view are some of your choices.   NOTE:  Remember you are in Switzerland which is not part of the European Union.  You should plan to visit an ATM for some Swiss Francs as not all places will accept the Euro and those that do charge a premium.  The upside – Swiss Francs are beautiful.

Camedo Station, Centovalli Railway, Italy, 2012
Camedo Station, Switzerland, Centovalli Railway, 2012

Before getting on the train to return to Domodossola be sure to stop for a sweet if not lunch at one of the many wonderful restaurants in downtown Locarno.  Swiss food while rich is certainly delicious and if you are a chocolate or cheese aficionado you can indulge to your heart’s content.

Chiesa Madonna del Sasso, Locarno, Switzerland, 2012
Chiesa Madonna del Sasso, Locarno, Switzerland, 2012

Sicily – Agrigento, Palermo, Syracuse

The best way to describe Sicily is to start throwing out adjectives – beautiful, turbulent, mysterious, fascinating, rugged, lush, diverse to name but a very few.  The Sicilian natives carry the blood of 13 occupying powers in their veins which sets the stage for the variety of food, architecture, culture, and history you will experience.

The reality of visiting Sicily far and away surpassed my imagination and many preconceived stereotypes.  I have been back several times and I hope I will have the good fortune to go back again – this time for a much longer visit.

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, 2010
Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, 2010

Sicily is fairly easy to traverse via car and you can see a lot in a few days depending on where you are located.   Both the Palermo and the Catania Airports are easily reached (1.5 hour flight time) by daily flights from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.  I highly recommend visiting Palermo for a few days and visiting nearby towns – Cefalu, Misilmere, Monreale OR spending a week along the southeastern coast – Noto, Ragusa, Syracuse.  Agrigento and Taormina are also high on the list but are more out of the way and require some logistical planning if you do not have access to a car – well worth the effort!

Palermo Cathedral, Sicily, 2010
Palermo Cathedral, Sicily, 2010

For fans of bestselling Inspector Montalbano novels and short stories now a long running cult Italian TV Series a trip to Sicily will allow you to visit many of recognizable locations which have been used as a backdrop over the years.

View of Syracuse from Aranella, Sicily, 2012
View of Syracuse from Aranella, Sicily, 2012

One of Sicily’s best natural features is the beautiful Mediterranean Sea which offers great swimming, seafood, and scenery.  Definitely try to spend some time walking along the water or relaxing in the water at one of the many beaches.

I have included several links which will give you further insight into this magical diverse universe situated on the largest island in the Mediterranean and hope you are inspired.  Buon Viaggio!

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My Favorite Italian Products

Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, Rome, 2013
Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio, Rome, 2013 (Exceptional Chocolates and Candies)

One of the most common questions my friends ask me is where did you get that?  Often my answer is “In Italy”.  Italian craftsman and artisans make everything you can think of and often these products are considered the best of the best.  Paper, Wine, Bedding, Shoes, Fountain Pens, Perfume, Chocolate, Clothing, Jewelry, Cars, etc. etc. etc. etc…………………..!!!

Ditta G. Poggi - Belle Arti dal 1825, Rome, 2013
Ditta G. Poggi – Belle Arti dal 1825, Rome, 2013 (Fountain Pens, Art Supplies, Beautifully Pressed Italian Papers)

I have created a permanent page on this blog where I continue to add links to some of my favorite products and stores where you can find them both in Italy and the United States.   Divertiti!!

Related Information

Celebrating Friends & Shared Experiences

A year ago we were happily living in Rome enjoying new experiences.  One of the highlights of living abroad is having friends and family come visit.   I particularly enjoyed seeing Rome through the eyes of my friends and family who always managed to show me something new.Shaun, Maggie, David, Denny and Bob, Spanish Steps, Rome, 2013Sean, Maggie, David, Denny and Bob, Spanish Steps, Rome, 2012

Shared experiences take on a collective life of their own especially in the retelling or reminiscing which only gets better with time – like a fine bottle of Chianti. Grating Nutmeg, 2013Chef Bob Grating Nutmeg for Ravoli, Maryland, 2013

This past weekend we celebrated the anniversary of a shared week in Rome with  friends Denny, Bob, Maggie, and Sean in the best way possible – drinking, cooking, remembering, and laughing.Making Pasta, 2013T, Denny, and Joe Whisking the Flour and Eggs for Fresh Pasta, 2013

We included T and Barry who are headed to Italy in the near future.  Hopefully our cooking, tales of visiting catacombs, villas, ancient ruins and enjoying the Dolce Vita inspired them. Rolling Pasta, 2013Joe, Sean, and Maggie Rolling Paper Thin Dough for Ravoli, 2013

As we sat down to dinner I was grateful for many things most especially that all of us shared a common bond – great memories of being global citizens.  Fruits of our Collective Labor, 2013Fruits of our Collective Labor, 2013

Safe travels to all the vespa chasers – keep dreaming!!!!!!!!