Joy of Keeping A Journal

Variety of Journals Kept While in Rome, 2012
Variety of Journals Kept While in Rome, 2012

This morning I walked out on the deck. The air was cool and the cloud streaked sky reminded me of a morning in Rome.  On days like this I find myself walking to the bookshelf and choosing one of the many journals I kept while living in Italy.  Randomly reading through the daily entries brings me great joy and allows me to re-experience a trip now almost two years in the past.

Whether you’re going for a week or staying for an extended time I urge you to take a few minutes every day to jot down an impression of your visit.   Noting a place you’ve visited, a person you’ve met, a meal you’ve experienced is something you will be thankful for when you get home.

Choosing a journal is also a great way to get out and about.  Visiting the shops that sell amazing varieties of paper, beautiful pens, leather bound journals can be a fun way to create your own walking tour and usually will take you to neighborhoods you may overlook. From higher end stores like Fabriano to the creative and colorful options at the larger bookstores such as Feltrinelli there is something for everyone.

Keeping a journal is one of the best gifts you can give yourself!!!!!

Excerpts from my Travel Journals – Italy 2012

Writing a Travel Journal – Finding Your Voice by Mo Redman

Living the Dream

Joe and I are many months home from our Roman journey.  Just this morning I saw an online article in TIME about the benefits of studying/working/living abroad.  “Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative, and complex thinkers.”  Not sure I am smarter but I am definitely more flexible and creative.   Thinking about the article prompted me to share briefly an update about how our experience opened our minds to creating a new future.  We will be opening a cafe and coffee bar in Baltimore in about 3 months.  More on the nitty gritty of that journey and experience in an article in the Good Men Project.  “Under the Tuscan Sun, guy version”

On this rainy Wednesday in Baltimore it is important to note simply that our experience living abroad motivated us to create a new future, with ups and downs for sure, that we own from beginning to end.   We have embraced wholeheartedly one of my favorite quotations, “The worst regrets in life are the risks not taken.” – Anonymous

For more insight on our experiences in Rome visit http://www.dreaminginitalian.org or to watch our progress with the cafe visit our Facebook page or our website.

Soon to be Park Cafe & Coffee Bar

Down to the bare walls and studs, May 2014Down to the bare walls and studs, May 2014

A blank canvas - post demolition, pre-construction - October 2014
A blank canvas – post demolition, pre-construction – October 2014

Architectural rendering of new space, 2014Architectural rendering of new space, 2014

 

Day Tripping – Rome to Gubbio

Gubbio, Italy, 2012
Gubbio, Italy, 2012

Known for its Maiolica, Italian tin glazed pottery, and the Corsa di Ceri, St. Ubaldo’s Day every May 15th, Gubbio is a hill town and comune located on the slopes of Mt. Ingino, a small mountain of the Apenninines, in the far northeastern part of the Italian province of Umbria.

Well worth the effort to reach by train or bus from Rome and definitely worth renting a car and driving northeast from Rome.  The trip really becomes beautiful once you exit the Autostrada and wind your way through the hills toward Gubbio.  We happened to go in late October and while chilly it was nice to have the town mostly to ourselves.

Roman Amphitheter - 1st Century BC, Gubbio, Italy, 2012
Roman Amphitheter – 1st Century BC, Gubbio, Italy, 2012

The historical center of the town definitely has a medieval feel and at times seemed desolate because of the enormous amount of stone, narrow streets, and Gothic architecture that surrounds you.  Many of the houses in the town, built by a wealthy merchant class, date to the 14th and 15th centuries.  Walking around the town you will find most every kind of shop to walk into and I strongly encourage you to stop in the local wine shops.  We stopped at Enoteca Calzuola and met Corrado Angel who helped us pick out some fantastic wines, Sangrito di Montefalco, to ship home for friends and family.

Palazzo dei Consoli, Gubbio, Italy, 2012
Palazzo dei Consoli, Gubbio, Italy, 2012

When visiting a hill town expect to climb a lot of stairs.  Gubbio has the distinction of a rather unique way to get to the top of Mt. Ingino.  Residents and visitors can use the Funivia Colle Eletto, an open air birdcage attached to a cable, to go from town to the sanctuary of Sant’Ubaldo.   Opened in 1960 and carrying passengers ever since.

Joe riding the Funivia to Vasilica di Sant'Ubaldo, Gubbio, 2012
Joe riding the Funivia to Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, Gubbio, 2012

One of the best day trips we have had and definitely a place I hope to return to in the future!  Buon Viaggio!

Related Information

 

 

The Year in Pictures – Italy

Thinking back on the past year having spent quite a bit of it in Italy I am grateful for the many opportunities and experiences that I have had and especially for the friendships I continue.   Some of my favorite photos are those that capture colors – sounds – smells I remember, special moments, and places I enjoyed the most.  They are not always the best photographs but they bring back the best memories.

Via dei Fori Imperali - Early Morning
Via dei Fori Imperali – Early Morning
"I love you from here to the end of the world again indefinitely", Graffiti, Tiber Embankment, Rome
Graffiti, “I love you from here to the end of the world again indefinitely”, Tiber Embankment, Rome
Joe, Steps of Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
Joe, Steps of Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
My favorite view - Blue Sky from our Apartment Window
My favorite view – Blue Sky and Clouds from our Apartment Window, Piazza Capo di Ferro, Rome
Detail, City Ordinance, Rome
Detail, City Ordinance “Forbidden to Post”, Rome
Detail, Fountain, Piazza Farnese, Rome
Detail, Fountain, Piazza Farnese, Rome
Preparing for Wreath Laying, Campidoglio, Rome
Carabinieri Preparing for Wreath Laying, Campidoglio, Rome
Appian Way, Rome
Appian Way, Rome

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

Italy – A Photographer’s Dream

Italy is many things – food, history, color, texture.

One of the special qualities about Italy is the endless juxtaposition of scenery, color, the old and the new.  Every time I arrive in this country, face pressed against the window of the plane, I look forward to the opportunity to capture some of these beautiful juxtapositions with my camera.

Whether you are using an iPhone, a small digital point and shoot, or a sophisticated professional camera take the time and opportunity to “see” Italy through photography.  Often I get up early in the morning and go for a walk with my camera photographing whatever interests me.   Going alone affords you the space and time to focus and enjoy the creative experience.

Below are some of my photographs which remind me of the many wonderful friends and experiences that are Italy.

Rome, 2012
Detail, Santi Luca e Martina, Forum, Rome, 2012
Rome, 2012
Rowing on the Tiber, Early Morning, Rome, 2012
Detail, Il Vittoriano Monument
Detail, Il Vittoriano Monument, Rome, 2012

I love looking through vintage photographs and books about photography related to Italy. Below are links to some of my favorite books and photographers I admire.

Day Tripping – Rome to Frascati

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of Frascati from belevedere at Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati, Italy, 2012

Just south of Rome, in the Alban Hills, lies a string of hilltowns, villages, and vineyards called the Castelli Romani.  One of my favorites is Frascati the largest and best known for it’s wines and beautiful villas.   Amazingly many of these towns survived the heavy bombing of World War ll.  More than 50% of Frascati was destroyed in the war.

Located a short 12 miles (20km) southeast of Rome, Frascati is easily reached by train, car, or taxi.  I recommend taking the train from Roma Termini station.  Depending on the specific train It takes between 30 and 40 minutes. The regional trains cost about 2 euros one way and it is best to buy a round trip ticket at Termini as sometimes the ticket counter in Frascati is closed for lunch or coffee breaks and you don’t want to miss a train or get on a train without a ticket.

Home to many well preserved villas including Villa Aldobrandini, Villa Falconieri, Villa Parisi, Villa Grazioli, Villa Lancellotti, Villa Muti built by Popes, cardinals, and roman nobles, Frascati is easy on the eyes.  Not all the villas are open to the public but many allow access to the gardens.

We were fortunate to visit in the Fall and the weather was beautiful.  The day was as crisp as a bottle of the well known wine.   I will tell you that you do a lot of walking and stair climbing in this town.  I am not telling you this to discourage you but to ensure that you are mentally prepared.  The effort is worth the amazing views of Rome and surrounding area which you will have many opportunities to photograph.  The city center is easily walked and there are many good restaurants to choose from.

If you have unlimited energy I would recommend a walk up past Villa Aldobrandini along Via Cardinale Guglielmo Massaia to the church of San Francesco d’Assisi part of the Monastery of the Cappuccini.  It is a beautiful walk and the monastery and church at the summit are charming.

Convent of Saint Francesco, Frascati, Italy, 2012Entrance to the small church of San Francesco d’Assisi (1575), Frascati, Italy, 2012

After exerting yourself enjoy lunch and of course some Frascati wine at one of the many cantinas, osterias, and trattorias in the town.  Make sure you bring your camera and your appetite.  Buon Viaggio!!

Tree Covered Trail, Frascati, Italy, 2012Tree lined walk, Frascati, Italy, 2012  

Other Recommended Day Trips

Cooking Roman Style – Papacelle Ripene di Carne (Stuffed Peppers with Meat)

Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013Chef Andrea, Cooking Classes in Rome, Trestevere, 2013

One of the most rewarding experiences you can have in Rome is takeing a cooking class.   Meeting liked minded foodies from around the globe and preparing and sharing a meal is enormous fun and hopefully an adventure that you will bring home and share with your friends.   WARNING: It can be addictive!

On my fourth class with Chef Andrea we prepared a menu of stuffed figs, homemade cavatelli with pesto, stuffed peppers, sauteed cauliflower, and a pear torte.   My favorite recipe from this particular class is below and fairly easy to make.

Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013
Papacelle ripene di carne (Stuffed peppers with meat)

Ingredients to serve four people:
  • 1 lb ground meat (70% beef and 30% pork, ground and minced) Use prosciutto sausages if you can find them, if not use plain unseasoned sausages (casings removed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup/100g parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/2 cup/50g edamer cheese grated
  • freshly chopped parsley
  • 3oz leftover bread soaked in milk (crusts removed)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 to 6 peppers depending on size (in class we used papacelle which are smaller and flatter than the bell peppers we most often use in the states.  Try to use peppers such as this or other peppers that are in season where you live – Note: smaller sized peppers are better)
Instructions
  • Heat oven to 350°F / 180°C
  • To prepare the filling mix sausage, parmesan cheese, eggs, grated cheese, leftover bread soaked into milk, salt and pepper.  Mix all the ingredients well and set aside for a good half an hour to let the flavors meld.
  • Wash the peppers and cut a small hole in the top around the stem, saving the piece you cut out.  Clean out the seeds, rinse and set aside
  • Stuff the peppers one by one and place onto a baking dish, replacing the small piece you cut from each pepper on top.  Add a little bit of water and extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of the pan to avoid burning the peppers.
  • Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the peppers, until cooked all the way through.  Turn the pan carefully in the oven once or twice to ensure even cooking all the way through the peppers.  Serve hot.   Buon Appetito!

Stuffed Peppers, Cooking Classes in Rome, 2013