The Tech Savvy Traveler

Posted by in Technology, Travel | September 05, 2012

Two Things Happened Last Week:

  1. I had a conversation with a client leaving for a Tuscany family vacation about a tech savvy way to learn some Italian words and sentences. Something that would be easy and help them navigate Italy with more confidence.
  1. I received the September Issue of Conde Naste Traveler, with Wendy Perrin’s Report of Travel Apps.

You can find Wendy’s full list on page 126 of the September Issue of Conde Naste Traveler, but since 26 Apps is way too many for me, here are my favorites:

Read more ›

Elaine’s Late Summer Crops

Posted by in Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle | September 01, 2012

Meet Elaine Trigiani, this month’s guest blogger here at Cives Urbe. A mutual friend recently introduced me to Elaine and I’m enchanted by her passion for food and her journey in discovering my countries’ quirky customs and “rules” around sitting together for a meal. An American living in Italy, her wit and evident enjoyment of living in the Italian countryside shines through her blog entries.  Enjoy Elaine’s garden end-of the summer bounty and look for her pasta all Norma recipes in the September 25th Blog!

The unbearable heat has ripened up the last push of summer crops. On the slopes of Pratomagno in Tuscany after a cool spring that forced us to plant our gardens late, a suffocating afa (heat with haze and humidity) hovers in the afternoons. For weeks now we’ve been sleeping in any spot with a cross-breeze, parking under olive trees to take advantage of the shade, eating cool foods like panzanella, vitello tonnato, rice salad…The gardens are offering up cucumbers to marinate into cool, thirst-quenching salads. There are tomatoes to eat with mozzarella, for an infinity of fresh pasta sauces, for canning, roasting, sun drying and for eating in chunks with salt, oregano and olive oil. Lettuce, garlic, onions, hot peppers, bell peppers, parsley, celery, basil, carrots, eggplant, fresh beans that will be hearty dried beans all winter long and loads of zucchini with their brilliant yellow flowers. With an anchovy inside and fried in a light and crispy batter Piero, who called them topi, the Italian word for mice , fried the flowers up special for me. He was my randy 80-year-old neighbor and my best Tuscan friend and he served them at his cool, shady refectory table where we huddled by the outsize fire in winter, and took refuge from the heat in summer. I serve them as an antipasto but for ole Piero they were a quick meal all to themselves with just some bread and a few lowball glasses of his inky black homemade wine. For dessert he’d zip outside to pick a few plums, bloomy pink on the outside, sweeter than sweet and crimson red on the inside.  (This bit about Piero and the zucchini could be a blog post unto itself slightly expanded.)
Read more ›

Strawberry Love: Crostata di Frutta (fresh fruit tart)

Posted by in Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle | August 29, 2012

Fresh Fruit TartIf you know me personally, and you know of my general dislike of fruit, you may be surprised to learn that crostata is one of my favorite things to make. Crostata reminds me of my maternal grandmother’s kitchen on Sunday afternoons when she would allow us grandchildren to help in preparing the afternoon snack (crostata of course!) for the family gathering. Since then I’ve simply adored the smell and taste of a crostata’s shortbread crust. This fresh fruit variation to the traditional recipe allows extreme creativity in choosing colorful, seasonal fruit.

Read more ›

Rooting for the Giraffe

Posted by in Travel | August 15, 2012

This week, on August 16th the Palio is run for the second time this year. Having half of my paternal family living in Sienna, I’m particularly fond of this event and have experienced it several times during my life.

Because of my ties to this city, I happen to know a lot about the Palio, but while preparing for this blog I did some research and found out that most travel companies describe it as “Most famous Italian horse race” .

And it is: to the visitor, the Palio is a horse race held twice a year (on July 2nd and August 16th) in Sienna’s main square – Piazza del Campo. Jockeys in bright outfits matching the colors of the “Contradas” (the neighborhoods in which the city is divided into) compete with each other riding half-blood horses bare back 3 times around Piazza del Campo while thousands of locals and tourists watch on and cheer.

Read more ›

What to Pack for Your Trip to Italy – Part 2

Posted by in Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle, Travel | August 09, 2012

Last week’s blog was about what to pack for your trip to Italy so you’re comfortable and feel appropriately dressed.

This week’s focus is really learning about some basic differences between how Americans & Italians choose to dress.

I asked my clients why they wanted to “fit in and dress as similarly to Italians as they can”. They identified it as not only a way to fully immerse themselves in the local culture but also a way to blend in better and not stick out too much as a tourist. So smart!

So, let’s review a few general observations:

Read more ›

What to Pack for Your Trip to Italy

Posted by in Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle, Travel | July 31, 2012

What should I pack?” Not sure why, but come summer, I get this question from almost 100% of my clients.

Yes, Italy has a leading reputation in the fashion industry, and we ‘locals’ are known for our fashion sense. Yet, I’m always surprised about how much my clients worry about clothing and dressing appropriately when visiting Italy.

So I asked. Here’s What I Learned:

They want to be comfortable and appropriate – the majority of my clients are looking for comfort, especially during sightseeing, but they also want to makesure their packing choices will not prevent them from any of the experiences they’ve planned.

They want to fit with the “Italian style” – a good portion of my clients also wants to dress as similarly to Italians as they can. This is not only a way to fully immerse yourself in the local culture but also a way to blend in better and not stick out too much as a tourist (which is always a very smart thing to do while traveling anywhere in the world).

Read more ›

Driving in Italy

Posted by in Travel | July 17, 2012

I have a 50-50 split of clients who would never drive in Italy under any type of torture and clients who can’t wait to try the thrill of contending on the road with the “crazy” Italians. It is definitely true, my fellow citizens tend to be quite “creative” when driving (of course not me!), but driving in Italy is not as scary as it may sound.

If you are on the “let’s drive there” side, here are the answers to the most common questions on driving I get from my clients:

Directions/Speed limits:

No North or South (or East/West) indications in Italy – road signs indicate the next big town in a specific direction (i.e. in Rome the Northbound highway will say “Florence”).

Also, distances are shown in kilometers, not miles (1 mile= 1.5 kilometers). Speed limits are usually 130Km/h on highways; 110 km/h on major roads and 50km/h in towns. There will be road signs indicating the specific speed limit on each road or portion thereof.

Read more ›


Posted by in Food and Restaurants, Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle | July 12, 2012

I had lunch with a dear friend on Sunday and I was surprised to see a “panzanella salad” on the menu. My friend ordered it and was quite pleased with her choice.

It made me remember my maternal grandmother, who was fond of panzanella – a very simple, peasant style summer dish. She would often make it for my brothers and I during hot summer afternoons as a snack.

The recipe in itself is very simple and it’s a great way to use stale bread, but there are two secrets to make this a fantastic dish:

Read more ›

An unforgettable family reunion

Posted by in Tips, Trends, Custom & Lifestyle | July 01, 2012

The Cardosis’ are not only wonderful clients but also dear friends, so supporting their desire to enjoy a two-week dream family vacation was one of the highlights of my year.

Antoinette, her 5 children, a lot of her grandchildren, her brother and part of his family and Sister Lawrence, a close family friend, gathered in two beautiful Tuscan Villas at the end of June.  There they enjoyed creating memories in an unforgettable location.

Here are what some members of the Cardosis’ clan have to share about their trip.

1.     Could you give us the highlights of your most recent trip to Italy this past June?

Read more ›

Indulge Your Inner Princess

Posted by in Travel | June 29, 2012

I learned to read at age 5 and I have been an avid reader ever since. I graduated from fairy tales to more adult books early on but the dream of becoming a Princess was ever present. How can it not, living in a country with more castles and medieval city walls than any other in the world?

A recent census completed by counts over 3000 Castles in Italy. I dare say, there are probably many more that have not been recorded, but statistics aside, turrets and defense walls are very much part of the Italian landscape.

For American visitors, this is a unique opportunity to experience a historical period that is missing from American History and a type of architecture that is impossible to find on US soil.

If you decide to satisfy your inner “Princess” or “Prince” in your next trip to Italy, here’s my personal TOP 3 Off the beaten path places to play “Lady of the Castle”:

Read more ›