I could write non-stop about all the things to do in Italy. Now that I’ve can safely say that I’m “settling in” living in Italy, I’ll be putting on my more adventure-worthy shoes and heading out to provide views and insights that hopefully are well off the beaten path.

Three Magical Days in Budapest

Danube, Budapest

Cruising along the Danube in Budapest, Hungary.

Getting to Budapest from Italy is a piece of cake.

Our recent trip to Budapest is just one example of just how easy, and inexpensive it is to hop around Europe. Even better, since we live just north of Venice, we’re that much closer. The Venice airport continues to expand, and it offers multiple options for getting to destinations such as Budapest. We took easyJet for 60 euro a piece. That’s roundtrip, including one checked bag for the two of us (you don’t need much for three days). The flight there, from Venice, is a mere fifty minutes from takeoff to landing. Not bad, wouldn’t you say?

Get thee to Budapest before the old world charm is overrun with tourism.

I strongly urge you to make a beeline for Budapest. We all know what happens when a destination is “discovered”, don’t we?

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Bologna is One of Italy’s Finest Treasures

Bologna, Italywise

Elegant arches.

I’ve been making all sorts of wonderful new friends here in Italy. And one, Chris Cutler, is a delightful woman I met through my contacts (thanks to our mutual friend Novelia Giannantonio) in Sulmona, Abruzzo. Chris has been leading tours in Sulmona, but she also leads tours in Bologna. She is passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about both places. We first developed a relationship via email, and then I had

Bologna, Italywise

Chris Cutler knows Bologna like the back of her hand.

the good fortune to spend a day with her in Bologna, and to be shown around and given great insight into this wonderful city – one that is rich in history, architecture, art, education AND food! I’m amazed, and saddened, that so many people overlook Bologna when planning their Italian itineraries.

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Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo Will Take Your Breath Away

Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo, Italywise

A window to the drama of the Apennines

I’ve returned recently from my second trip to Abruzzo. If you read my previous post on Sulmona, you’ll know that i’ve been chomping at the bit to return and explore further. Tops on my list was a visit to Rocca Calascio.

Rocca Calascio, which sits at 4,790 ft, is the highest fortress in the Apennines.

I made the journey with my friend David, who was kind enough to play tour guide and navigator. Having him along was a real treat, because he clearly loves these mountains and the treasures they contain. As we departed Sulmona early in the morning David lamented the overcast and rainy weather that seemed to have rolled in overnight. I, too, was feeling like the day would be a bust. After all, I’d been told Rocca Calascio is one of the most stunning places in all of Italy. Why else would the movies Lady Hawke and The Name of the Rose have featured it so prominently?

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Folegandros – Let Your Soul Breathe and Your Spirit Soar

 

Folegandros, Greece

Yes, this was my daily view at Anemomilos Apartments, Folegandros, Greece.

I’m launching a new category for blog posts entitled “Italy’s Neighbors.” While the benefits of living in Italy are plentiful, one HUGE one is how easily I can hop around to neighboring countries.

I’ve spent the last several years tackling the logistics of moving to Italy and setting up my home. So, I had neglected returning to one of my favorite places on earth – Folegandros, in the Cycladic Islands of Greece. I’ve been there six times now, and we’re already making plans to return next year. I promise you, this island is THAT incredible and well worth your efforts to get there.

Why do I love Folegandros so much?

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The Opportunities in Boredom.

Beauty, Italywise

Sometimes we label the ordinary as boring, and we miss the beauty and opportunities in front of us.

Becoming bored is one of my biggest fears. I resist it like the plague, and instead I jump into an activity, or a diversion…and most assuredly my thoughts get ramped up like a loud radio station. Anything to avoid that dreaded “non-activity”, silence, or a sense of empty space. I’m afraid of living an ordinary life.

Why do I run from boredom? Why do I judge it as being bad, lazy and unproductive?

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Fall into the Warm Embrace of Sulmona, Abruzzo

Sulmona, Italywise

Sulmona is set amongst the majestic Morrone mountains.

Just a week ago I made my first journey to Abruzzo and the wonderful town of Sulmona. Boy, did I get lucky. You see, Abruzzo, hadn’t really been on my radar, with the exception of sadly noting the devastating earthquake in Aquila in 2009.

The universe works in mysterious ways, and my new mantra is allowing the river of life to take me to new places and experiences. Trying to overly orchestrate life if for the birds. Serendipity is my friend, and I’m discovering magic, indeed, can happen in our lives if we just get out of the way.

Sulmona, Italywise

Sulmona’s finest ambassador, Novelia Giannantonio

So, the universe brought me Novelia Giannantonio. She found me through my blog and began writing me and weaving her magic spell to coax me to come to discover the warmth and beauty of Sulmona, which is in the heart of Abruzzo. My busy schedule was threatening to delay a trip there indefinitely. But, thanks to Novelia’s kind persistence, a small window of opportunity presented itself, and I seized the moment, and booked train tickets for a two-day stay in Sulmona.

In typical fashion, as I quickly learned, Novelia sprang into action, helping me to secure a beautiful place to stay in a 16th century structure (next time, with more notice, I’m booking Novelia’s beautiful penthouse!). She and her kind husband Peppe insisted on meeting me at the Pescara train station. She also informed me, quite proudly, that she had included me in a very special guest list for a private concert by an amazing soprano singer who was coming from Modena (more on that later in this post).

I could not have been welcomed more enthusiastically to Sulmona. What did I do to deserve this kind of good fortune? Novelia and Peppe were my loving shepherds for the two days of my visit. Feeding me (quite deliciously, I might add – Novelia is an AMAZING cook), giving me a guided tour and history of the town, and introducing me to their circle of friends, which included a delightful community of expats (from New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, the U.S. etc.). Incidentally, several of the expats were a tad afraid of my exposing their hidden treasure in this remote corner of Italy.

If you read no further in this post, I encourage you to reach out to Novelia through her website about her sweet penthouse, the “House of the Heart”, which contains her full contact information. I can vouch for her enthusiasm and desire to welcome everyone with open arms. Novelia clearly loves her Sulmona!

I hope you find this post compelling and informative – without being cumbersome. My challenge is the abundance Sulmona offers – which is ironic since my stay was so brief. Novelia and I agreed that this “maiden voyage” was simply my antipasto, and a return trip in early autumn, is in order.

So, now I endeavor to hit the high notes of things to do and experience in Sulmona. Again, my thanks to Novelia for providing me so much information to share. If you wisely decide to include Sulmona in your explorations, you will not find a better guide.

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A Dream Tuscany Cycling Trip – Women’s Quest

Tuscany Cycling Trip

Twice I have been given special dispensation to hang with the gals, get an amazing workout, and eat sinfully, all while soaking in the Tuscan countryside as part of the Women’s Quest Tuscany Cycling Retreat. I’ve been one lucky fellow.

This year’s Women’s Quest Tuscany Cycling Retreat is September 11-18

I love getting the word out on special resources available to people considering coming to Italy and doing something extraordinary. This Women’s Quest Cycling Trip certainly fits the bill. Sorry guys, this year’s trip IS a women’s trip. BUT, in 2017 the schedule includes a Tuscany Retreat that is Co-ed! Woohoo!!!

I know Women’s Quest pretty intimately because, as part of my former job in California, I participated in doing a story about Women’s Quest and the numerous life-affirming trips they offer. The Founder and Leader of Women’s Quest is the inspiring Colleen Cannon, World Champion Triathlete (1984) and two-time US. National Champion Triathlete (1988 and 1990).

Don’t think about being intimidated by Colleen’s rock star status in the triathlete world – though she, and her incredible staff, will help you explore and push your boundaries. In my opinion, the universe sprinkled fairy dust on Colleen, and you will feel the magic of her guidance and mentoring.

Don’t just take my word for it, read the testimonials!

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The Stories We Tell – Our Playground or Our Prison?

The Stories We Tell, Italywise

A dear friend recently complimented me on my patience and thoroughness in planning for and making the move to Italy. The grand re-envisioning and re-building of my life wasn’t something I could have approached without research and a plan. My vision served me well, and though there were course corrections as new information came to light, I could not have completed the journey without having a “North Star”.

In the process of following my dream I created a story of how it was “supposed” to all unfold and look. Being in my fourth year of residency here, now I can tell you that becoming fixated and insistent on MY preconceived story was the least helpful and most anxiety producing posture or mindset. When I metaphorically set down my pen, and began to allow the story to write itself, and to evolve and change (often significantly) I found myself in a much better place.

Things happen differently for different people. For some, things just flow and fall into place, and they have a natural ability to go with the flow of life. I suspect these folks are the exception rather than the rule.

The stories we tell are a manifestation of an evolutionary, conditioned need to explain life and the world around us.

The earth is densely populated with 7.4 billion individual brains looking outward at the world, and interpreting events through unique filters and conditioning. That means 7.4 billion variations on the story we call our world and universe. Yes, we may agree on some things, but every person is a unique story-teller. Our interpretive left brains, through the evolutionary process, rule all too often, how we respond to the world. Looking through the metaphorical periscope at life, and surveying the landscape for potential dangers, indeed have served us well when we were in danger of becoming some creature’s next meal. Yet, I believe this interpretive function has run amuck, dominating our lives, and telling us stories about everything. We then take these stories to be true, and our psyches and physiologies get thrown out of whack.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE storytelling. I love how stories can approach or hint at truths that never can be contained or articulated with our small human brains. I love how changeable and creative we can be with our stories – as long as we approach them lightly and as long as we don’t make them hard, fixed and literal. If we do, judgment can rear its ugly head determining how to respond, and then we tell ourselves further stories about what everything means. I believe this marriage to our stories can create a prison – one that isn’t “out there” but in our minds.

We never really know what everything means.

Personally speaking, I’ve spent far too much of my life insisting on have an explanation, or at least an answer, NOW. That’s pretty demanding and pardon my expression, rather ballsy. Like most of my fellow Earth inhabitants, I feel God or the Universe owes me an explanation. But, in my life, I’m finding that is a complete trip into futility. While some of my stories are playful, creative and exciting, too many of my other stories are judgments or indictments of the events around me that do not fall in line with my vision of how things “should” be. My imagination is a potent force. But, it can get a bit out of control, and can start trying to create a story or non-stop commentary about everything happening around me. I share this not as a dramatic confession, but as a breakthrough of understanding how my mental circuits get fried on occasion. It’s like the interpretive, storytelling throttle gets stuck in high gear.

All too often, we have a thought, and then we create a story and decide, because these thoughts and stories have appeared in our heads, they must be real…they must be true. They must be dealt with. We’re saying “I know better.” Consequently, when we find ourselves under the sway of dark emotions, often it’s because of the story we’re telling ourselves as to the “truth” of a situation.

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10 Reasons You’ll Fall in Love with Treviso

Treviso, Italywise

Maybe I’m biased, since we now live in Treviso most of the time, but I believe Treviso is one of these best cities in Italy. You won’t find it listed on the hot lists of most tourist itineraries. However, if you carve out time in your schedule to come to Treviso, or to make it your base of operations while in Veneto, you won’t be disappointed. I quickly became enamored with Venice’s northern cousin. This post is to tempt you to do the same!

prosecco, Treviso, ItalywiseProsecco. You’re in the bullseye of its production (and mastery).

You’ve hit the jackpot if you are a fan of this sparkling Italian wine. Yes, in Treviso, you’ll find yourself smack dab in the thick of Prosecco production. I’m blown away by the prolific displays of this wine at the local markets, and finding a tasty prosecco for under 5 euro a bottle is pretty easy. And, this wine is abundantly available on-tap in most restaurants. People in the Veneto are known for their love of drink (and ability to hold it) and drinking prosecco, whether alone, or as part of a spritz, seems encoded in the genes of the locals.

My adoration of prosecco is reason alone to be in love with Treviso. Pair it up with cicchetti and the love affair deepens.

Cicchetti

Cicchetti, Italywise

Cicchetti with bacalà

Many people refer to cicchetti as the Italian version of tapas, or small bites, which are served in  “bàcari”, cicchetti bars. These places abound, making it easy to have a quick lunch or dinner. Mainly this tradition is fueled by a love of communing and socializing, and starting mid-day it isn’t unusual to see people with drinks and small plates in hand, spilling outside these establishments into the alleyways.

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Coming to Treviso? Head to Hostaria dai Naneti for a Quick Bite with the Locals

Trevsio, Naneti, Italywise

Our “snack” was a board of sliced prosciutto crudo, a basket of bread and two glasses of wine – only 10 euro!

Treviso is chock-full of reasons (too numerous to list here, but coming in a subsequent post) to make it a stop on your tour of Veneto. It’s easy to leave the hordes of tourists in Venice and head to this incredibly civilized and elegant town, just 20 minutes north. With its river and canals running in and around the city center, Treviso, like Venice, is an ancient city. And, it’s the home of Prosecco. I joke that the waterway encircling the city surely must be made entirely of prosecco.

Recently we’ve latched onto one of Treviso’s prized gems – Hostaria dai Naneti. Dedicated locals flock here daily to queue up, and grab quick bites (cicchetti) and glasses of wine from a generous listing on the main board. On TripAdvisor, Hostaria dai Naneti currently is rated #2 out of 333 Treviso restaurants. I’d say that’s a pretty hearty endorsement. We found this place on our own one day, when strolling the city center. We spotted it, tucked in a small alley adjacent to the large Benetton store (headquartered in Treviso). People were spilling out of the Hostaria, drinks and cicchetti in hand, into the alleyway, where they were communing happily.

Treviso, Naneti, Italywise

Locals queue up for panini, boards of sliced meats, and glasses of wine (or a Spritz!)

Hostaria dai Naneti, dates back to the 900s and is reportedly the second oldest institution in Treviso. The name itself reflects the local dialect. Hostaria is a local variation on “osteria” which traditionally refers to a place of simple wine and local food. Some people might call it an Italian “pub” or “public house” (I call it a really cool, down to earth wine bar). “Naneti” is a local variation on “nanetti” which means dwarves. I’ll have to dig further to understand how dwarves inspired this Treviso institution.

Tons of locals choose Hostaria dai Naneti for a quick lunch, and often they return for “happy hour” later in the day, when they can wind down and linger. If you arrive during peak business, be patient, and be prepared to queue up – though understanding who is next in line can be a bit confusing. Fortunately this is mitigated by the incredible kindness and civility of the Treviso people. In other words, it may feel like you’re stepping into a bit of madness, but it’s a happy madness. The people running the hostaria are agile food and beverage artisans. A large wine “board” lists an ample selection of yummy wine, and a case of cicchetti (prepared small bites) and cured meats and cheeses make ordering easy.

Treviso, Naneti, Italywise

The Wine Board at Hostaria dai Naneti

Simone kindly volunteered to order for us. Two glasses of wine, a board of sliced prosciutto crudo, and a basket of bread, only set us back 10 euro. Hard to beat, right? A similar offering in California would have been at least $30. While this didn’t become our lunch for the day, it nicely sated our appetites, and quenched our thirsts after a morning strolling and shopping trip in Treviso’s city center. Life IS good!

 

Hostaria dai Naneti

Via Broli, 2, Treviso, Italia

Tel: 3403783158

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