Posts Tagged With: travel+photography

This is Castelluccio di Norcia

IMG_1259I tell ya.  There are some beautiful places on this planet.  Some of which look like belong to another planet.  I can think of some parts in south Utah like Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona that look like something you may see in science fiction movies.  The common theme is usually color.  And if you come at the right time to this part of Umbria you might just see every color imaginable.  If you come at the wrong time as we did, its spectacular, still.

Castelluccio is where beautiful mother nature meets cruel mother nature.  It is perched dramatically on a hill in the middle of a large plateau surrounded by the Sibillini mountains.  On October 30, 2016 Castelluccio was the epicenter of a 6.6 earthquake that decimated the village.  Eight months later the famous wild flowers that surround the village were back.  And once the roads opened about a year after that, the tourists started to come back as well.IMG_1276

So when is the best time you ask?  Sometime between end of May and beginning of July.  Its something that is not possible to time properly.  We came in the second week of June and the colors were not quite as robust as the pictures we’ve seen.  Notice the before and after of Castelluccio (Google it).  Although destroyed, its still stunning due to its position.  Today you can drive up, enjoy a meal, or do what we did.  A picnic of Salami e Pecorino overlooking the mesmerizing back plateau, following the herd of sheep.  The feeling of being in the middle of the devastation you heard about years ago, while surrounded by this landscape is indescribable.

You will most likely pass Norcia on the way, which also got severely damaged during the earthquake.  One of its main attractions, the Basilica of St. Benedict, totally destroyed.  What remain is the facade facing the statue of St. Benedict, still standing, all defiant in the middle of the square.  The city was a ghost town when we popped in.  Many stores, and restaurants closed, or relocated after the quake. IMG_1296

The Norcia pork butchers are so famous, they are called Norcino across Italy, and their shops are Norcinerias.  They are the Culatello of Pork butchers.  Inside a typical Norcineria you’ll find cured meats galore including Grandpas balls, Palle del Nonno.  The Italians call them like they see em, although Grandpas balls seem a lot larger than mules balls, Coglioni di Mulo for some reason.  Be careful when slicing them.

On the way to the flower fields, pass by Antica Norcineria F.lli Ansuini for some picnic supplies including bread.  Or better yet get it from the store with the same name inside Norcia.  Although same name, they dont seem related somehow.  Like twins that are not in speaking terms.  Then stop by at Cioccolateria Vetusta Nursia di Arianna Verucci for your chocolate needs and perhaps a tour of their facility as we did.  But if you prefer to sit down for lunch, reliable sources told me to head to Agriturismo il Casale degli Amici just outside Norcia.  A day trip to this area in the summer is memorable to say the least.

 

Advertisements
Categories: Italy, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Colle di Val d’Elsa

IMG_9318What is the perfect base?  Its not rocket science.  Put your destination stars on the map, and pick something in the middle.  The only decision is whether it will be a city, a town, village, or something in the countryside like a villa or Agriturismo.  You’ll find many advantages and disadvantages with all options.  Thats why mixing it up a little works for many.

Colle di Val d’Elsa is a town in central Tuscany, or “North” Tuscany when you look at it from the tourist or wine vantage point, with Val d’Orcia in the south and Chianti in the north.  Its perched on a hill on top of River Elsa and the Esla Valley, hence the name which took us a good three days to pronounce.  Its smack in between the “The Kings of the North”, Siena and San Gimignano.  That makes Chianti well within reach, and Florence less than an hour by car.

But what makes Colle even more unique is the town itself, and the lack of those pesky tourists.  Its not in the destination level of Lucca, Pisa, or Siena as its lacking the monuments and attractions.  But as a base, it offers just enough.  Colle has a picturesque old town (Colle Alta), a new town surrounding a beautiful square, and another “town” which is sort of something in between the old and the new.  The old town sits on top of the new town.  In fact the only modern structure you’ll see in the old town is the elevator connecting it to the new town below.  It looks and functions like a time machine.  I’m slightly influenced by a dark German series I’m watching now on Netflix called well, Dark.  Everything looks like a time machine to me these days.

IMG_3612

But lack of tourists can sometimes feel that, lacking, if you dont find a thriving local life.  Thats not a problem with Colle.  Plenty of bakeries, restaurants, markets, atmospheric squares and even a glass museum.  Colle di Val d’Elsa produces 15% of the world’s crystal, and roughly 95% of Italy’s production.  Its the birthplace of the famous artist Arnolfo di Cambio.  One of the most famous restaurants in Tuscany, and the only Michelin star establishment in Colle, took his name.

Stay – Palazzo San Lorenzo.  A former hospital turned into a serviceable, modern hotel.  Easy to get in and out with a car.  Ample parking within 5 minute walk outside the only gate remaining.  Comfortable huge rooms, decent breakfast, with a restaurant and spa.

Eat – L’oste di Borgo.  A  young couple running what looks like one of the more popular restaurants in town.   More to come on this gem very soon

See – The mentioned glass museum, old town and the palazzos lining the main road on top, the new town at night, and more vistas than you can count.  Well, on two hands at least.

 

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa

IMG_E0441Caterina Campodonico was a peasant that worked hard selling necklaces made of nuts and loafs of breads.  Before she died in 1882, she was determined to show her legacy by hiring the most expensive sculptor around, Lorenzo Orengo, and a poet to build her monument.  In order to do that she had to sell a lot of nut necklaces and save all her profits.  So its easy to see why the “Peanut Seller” in the magnificent Staglieno cemetery in Genoa, became a symbol for the hard working people of Genoa.  In the pictures below you can see her proudly wearing one of her necklaces.

Caterina is one of many stories in this outdoor museum.  I’ve seen plenty of interesting cemeteries, but not with so much expression and emotion.  Its worth checking it out just for a handful of angels, like the one we called the William H Macy angel (below), and possibly the sexiest angel in the world.  Around the same time Caterina Campodonico died in 1882, Giulio Monteverde designed this most sensual angel (top picture and one more below) to guard the tomb of of the Oneto family.  No wonder Macy looks grumpy.  He’s nowhere near her.

IMG_0496

There’s also the grave of the Genoa born Giuseppe Mazzini who helped free and unify Italy.  His life and efforts read like a binge worthy Netflix series.  He’s so important to Genoa, that they celebrate him twice, June 22 when he was born, and March 10 when he died.  And then there’s the grave of the estranged wife of Oscar Wilde’s, Constance Lloyd, which I couldnt find.  Not sure how she would feel knowing that her descendants added “Wife of Oscar Wilde” on her stone.  All the info out there suggests she did not want that association.

Genoa gets often shortchanged and overlooked by Italy tourists. The striking Staglieno is perhaps the #1 reason why you should not only visit this city, but stay a while.  And there’s a lot More Than This (the Genoa slogan you see everywhere these days).  I didnt know they were such big fans of Brian Ferry.  Click on the pictures below for a closer look

Categories: Italy, Liguria | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Val d’Orcia – Blame it on Her Juice

IMG_0943One of the joys of road tripping in Italy’s countryside for us is listening to the local radio.  While we try to catch some Italian tunes that match the mood, we often find catchy American songs that we either never get at our local stations for some reason, or  they sound a little different (ie explicit to us).  It started years ago when we discovered that Bruno Mars actually wanted to be a Billionaire “So fuckin bad”.  Who knew?

And so during each trip there’s a point where a particular song emerges as the theme song of the trip.  Unlike the previous clear winner (LP – Lost on You) in Sicily, this one required some growing.  But by the time we got to our last leg in Umbria, we were all going “Gotta blame it on the Goose (the Grey kind), Gotta blame it on my juice, baby”, until we almost ran into a ditch when I (driver) got carried away a little.

Driving the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany can be dangerous.  Its shockingly beautiful.  The colors change seasonally, but the gentle rolling hills are fixed and unlike anywhere else in the world.  Driving between Pienza and San Quirico especially feels like a National Park, Cypress-Land if you will.  Baby Fiats stopping in the middle of the road, wedding shoots, drones flying everywhere.  For the landscape freaks, there’s plenty of “Juice”.  Pictures below taken with iphone, shaking hands, and deteriorating eyesight.  Heck, you can see the difference from 6 years ago.  I just dont feel like carrying the big boy camera with me anymore.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge

 

 

 

 

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Segesta (And Erice)

img_0435The picture of my daughters and I laboring up an Erice alley is exactly what it looks like.  We are not checking for dog poop.  This was the tail end of a brutally hot day that involved hiking to the majestic Segesta temple.  I thought I could handle the Sicilian July heat everybody warned me about, but this was hot.  To give you an indication, when it was time to take a food break in Erice, we had no other choice but go to a tourist trap.  We were seated on a touristy terrace with other tourists, given overpriced tourist menus (Caprese salad!), and then gave them our money and soul.

But this was still a good day.  Segesta blew us away with its beauty and setting.  Once a Greek powerhouse, one of many in Sicily, whose pride and overconfidence left it badly defeated.  Now whats left is a roofless temple, and a Greek theater with that classic Greek theater style setting.  The best I’ve seen.

Meanwhile Erice, perched on a mountain, not a hill, was surprisingly quiet for such a major tourist attraction.  Its home to the famous Pasticceria Maria Grammatico, Sicily’s sweets jewel founded by a nun who grew up in an orphanage in Erice.  Nuns are responsible for much of the desserts found all over Sicily.   img_0411 img_0416 img_0440 img_0442 img_0444 img_0446 img_0450 img_0456 img_0460 img_0495 img_0506 img_0508 img_0511 img_0521 img_0526 img_0545 img_0552 img_0553 img_0559 img_0461

Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Modica

IMG_9525IMG_9513IMG_9839 IMG_9844 IMG_9868 IMG_9883 IMG_9511 IMG_9798 IMG_9812 IMG_9837 IMG_9790 IMG_9782 IMG_9774 IMG_9755

s

s

IMG_9747 IMG_9514 IMG_9874

Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Montreal Random

IMG_1637IMG_1382 FullSizeRender IMG_1720 IMG_1706 IMG_1695 IMG_1731 IMG_1688 IMG_1666 IMG_1659 IMG_1628 IMG_1640 IMG_1623 IMG_1566 IMG_1561 IMG_1558 IMG_1554 IMG_1530 IMG_1527 IMG_1525 IMG_1509 IMG_1489 IMG_1471 IMG_1467 IMG_1419 IMG_1399 IMG_1506 IMG_1391 IMG_1738

Categories: Montreal | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

This is Palermo

IMG_1007Even my Google Maps app was in a confused state as my taxi raced through traffic, seemingly going the wrong way.  Our female driver just smiled and said “Welcome to Palermo”.  The only time she slowed down was when we passed Giovanni Falcone’s monument for me to take a quick picture.  The site of perhaps the most famous mafia assassination in history, which changed Palermo forever.  Falcone’s friend and fellow judge Paolo Borsellino who spoke at the funeral, was killed in similar fashion 57 days after his friend’s death.  The airport is named after both heroes.

Palermo is misunderstood.  Just like most of Sicily pretty much.  Its old, its gritty, its congested, and its old!  The same can be said to much of metropolitan Europa, but it feels different here.  Emphasis on different, which is essentially why we travel.  This blogger compares it to India, and I can understand why.  Strangely, some of my favorite moments in Palermo came from the times when my daughters were slightly terrified.  Like when we witnessed the scene at Mercato Vucciria at night – an intestine, seafood, clubby, smoky BBQ orgy extravaganza.  A scene we only see in movies, never in Italy.  Different!  Like our neighbor restaurant Il Pipino Rosso (the red penis) and its slightly disturbing logo.  This heat made me only imagine that when the Pipino committee met to discuss the name, someone showed up with a horrific heat rash.IMG_1063

On this post, I will touch on some of the obvious (markets, churches), and some of the not so (fountain, dog droppings, red penises, etc).  You probably already heard about Palermo’s legendary street food and market scene.  Panelle, the Sicilian falafel, alone with a drizzle of lemon, or as a sandwich (Pane E Panelle), or with fried potato croquettes (Pane E Panelle Con Croquette Di Patate) quickly became our snack of choice.  It sounds and looks bland, but yet another example of “Dont judge a food by its cover”.  It also holds true for peaches.  The uglier the better, while the most beautiful often come without substance (AKA The Paris Hilton syndrome).

The Sicilian peaches in July are outrageously aromatic and sweet.  At the bustling Capo market while I was busy admiring the fishy creatures from Mazara for too long, my family would simply hold a peach 5 meters out to the direction of where I’m supposed to go.  But just like with the Oritgia Market, one needs to spend some quality time (alone preferred) with the Rialto-like seafood displays.  Make sure to come to Capo early, Ballaro before 13:00, and Vucciria at night for the party.  If you’ve seen markets and “shuks” like in Israel and Barcelona, these markets may not exactly shock, but interesting nonetheless.IMG_0820

The usual suspects in Palermo… the magnificent, jaw dropping, slap your sister Cathedral.  The awe inspiring, splendid, slap your other sister Cappella Palatina.  And the only in Palermo, elegant Oratorios, are reasons enough to spend a few days.  The recently Unescoed Cefalu and Monreale nearby means make it 4 days.  You will pass by the cathedral a few times, and get mesmerized by its majestic magnificence as if you are seeing it for the very first time each and every time.. staring, admiring, selfying… until you step on dog poop.

Ziggy’s Palermo Dog Poop Survival Guide:

Do not despair.  The Palermian dog poop, perhaps due to the seafood and Panelle diet doesn’t smell too harsh.  Think 3 week old asparagus meets Bengay.  Pick a nice looking square with pretty cobble stones and a place to rest.  Chance are there’s some water on the ground there.  Have someone in your family pick up little spoons off the ground, the spoons used for granitas and ice crea, they are everywhere.  Gently remove the poop with the spoons.  Use that bottle of water you are carrying if you have to.  The square may have a different meaning to you when you next pass by as it loses its charm a bit, but thats the small price you payIMG_0840

The summer heat also means discovering things you may otherwise overlook.  Like the Orto Botanico di Palermo with its ancient trees (including oldest in Europe), and Zucchini shape trees (Maybe I was just hungry).  Its location near the train station also means discovering the Palermo Chinese wholesale district, just in case you need to buy handheld fans for 100 of your closest friends.  You can also cool off at the Fontana Pretoria, where up close it transforms into one of the most photogenic fountains in Italy.  There’s even a “Costanza Pose”.  When I posed in similar fashion on one of the fountain steps, Mrs Z said a policeman watching from the corner whistled to get off.  Or was he just admiring?  We’ll never know.

Our entire Sicilian schedule centered around one particular event, the Santa Rosalia Festino.  This is arguably Sicily’s biggest festival, with concerts, fireworks, races, and various parades throughout the week.  And the grand finale, July 14, where the entire town, and 1000’s of tourists come out to see Rosalia slowly parade down Vittorio Emanuele.  The energy, the anticipation, the emotion was heart felt.  I hope my rabbi will understand

When you take a close look at the history of Palermo, it may seem like everyone and their mother invaded Palermo at some point.  Arab influence is more evident here than anywhere else especially when it comes to the wonderful cuisine.  They brought in the citrus fruits, raisins, fennel, sugar, and introduced the Arab “Shuks” (markets).  You may see some sort of an Arab influence in almost every dish in Palermo and elsewhere.IMG_1111

At Ferro Di Cavallo we started our Panelle relationship, and enjoyed Spaghetti with seafood and a fine spaghetti with squid ink, among other less memorable dishes.

The father and son team of A’Cuncuma dazzled us with colorful flavors, while mom was home with fever.  This is Haute Palermo, a playful homage to Palermo classics.  We enjoyed more raw Gamberoni, and fresh fish which we couldnt get enough of in Sicily.  A duller, lighter version of Pasta Con la Sarde was missing its oomph, but everything else worked ].  In particular, the perfectly cooked Fassone beef from Piedmont.  You can’t get this stuff in NYC.   The closest is Fassone-like cattle from MontanaIMG_1071IMG_1079

Turns out there’s also good pizza in Palermo, like at Ciccio Passami l’Olio.  Unlike the rest of Sicily’s notables, here its a lighter, airier fare with cleverly assembled ingredients.  Out of the three we tasted, the mortadella with pistachio, tomato and various cheeses stood out.  Our favorite Pizza in sicily

But our favorite meal in Palermo came courtesy of La Cambusa. Originally recommended by a trusted waitress from Mercato (NYC) who grew up in Palermo.  Being in the center, it does attracts a fair number of tourists, and evidently… clowns.  A misunderstanding led to double the house white we wanted (bigger than a bottle) which turned out to be a fun challenge.  The previous day in Trapani I ordered a fish sandwich instead of peach juice in a cafe, but my Menu Italian is getting better.  As a result of all the drinking, I was desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the clown.  Pasta con le Sarde here was outstanding.  Same dish featured in the last Travel and Leisure issue (as of this writing).  The raisins, fennel, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sardines resulted in this sweet richness we’ve never tasted in pasta before.  Vongole was one of the better Vongoles of a Vongole filled trip.  Rabbit loin was tender and juicy, but the branzino baked with potato stole the show among the secondisIMG_1345 IMG_0808IMG_0678 IMG_0796 IMG_0692 IMG_0694 IMG_0697 IMG_0743 IMG_0784 IMG_0789 IMG_1217 IMG_1167 IMG_1160 IMG_1128 IMG_1109 IMG_1085 IMG_1016 IMG_0992 IMG_0976 IMG_0823 IMG_0831 IMG_0846 IMG_0817 IMG_1064

 

Categories: Italy, Sicily | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting the Egadi Islands

IMG_0345This was confusing to research, but turned into one of our favorite days.  Allow me to help the confused in the future.

You are faced with several options.  Which of the three islands?  how long in each?  By a boat excursion or on my own?  Should I pre-purchase boat tickets?  Of course we are all different, and we all travel differently, but this plan worked wonders for us.

The boat excursions sounded like a fun, stress free way of visiting the islands.  But the more I looked into this, exploring the islands on our own sounded superior in many levels.  The islands are just too beautiful for a quick timed stop.  We opted to visit Favignana and Levanzo.

First order of business, purchase the tickets at Liberty Lines in advance.  Recently two companies merged to make this purchase a lot more convenient, and tickets do sell out sometimes.  Arrive at the port, present your vouchers, and you get your tickets.  They ask you to pick up your tickets 30 minutes prior, but I dont think its a hard rule.  We opted for the 8:30 boat from Trapani to Favignana (30 mins), 14:00 From Favignana to Levanzo (10 mins), and 17:00 from Levanzo to Trapani (45 mins through Favignana).  The one caution:  When taking the ferry from Favignana to Levanzo, once  you arrive, you may naturally feel like waiting for some green light, or someone to tell you you may leave.  That will not come.  You need to get up and leave, otherwise, you leave with the rest of the passengers to Trapani.  You may be the only one getting off.  Get off!

IMG_0311

Five hours in Favignana, and three hours in Levanzo seemed about right.  In Favignana, the closest and most visited island, biking is king.  Rent bikes and explore.  And by explore I mean make sure to make it to the stunning Cala Rossa.  Or you can try to hire a taxi as we did, and for about 60 euros, give you a tour of the island, drop you off at Cala Rossa, and pick you up at a designated time.  We spent 90 minutes which felt about right, maybe another 30 would have been perfect.  He took us to see other beaches, coves and a very curious Cave Bianche Hotel, essentially a resort inside a giant hole.  Other than that you can visit the beach near the port (walk right), The Tonnara (tuna factory), and the charming little town where you can grab a bite.

On Levanzo, you have Egadi’s biggest, and most important attraction, the cave paintings of Grotta del Genovese.  You can try to schedule it in advance or just ask for some info at the bar, or the popup info desk (just a girl greets and helps new arrivals) when you arrive.  We opted against doing it, and instead take the 20 or so minute trek to the Cala Minnula.  This is another rocky cove with crystal clear water and the added bonus of a forest and picnic tables right there.  Just walk right (there’s only one way), until you see the sign at about the half way point.  The other big attraction in Levanzo is the picturesque little village you’ll see as soon as you get off the boat.  In a way, with only 400 inhabitants, and no hotels, this is the more memorable island.

IMG_0287 IMG_0335 IMG_0301 IMG_0299 IMG_0296 IMG_0293 IMG_0290 IMG_0362 IMG_0364 IMG_0367 copy

Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Provo Random

IMG_8361 IMG_8267 IMG_8309 IMG_8343 IMG_8338 IMG_8441 IMG_8424 IMG_8365 IMG_8327 IMG_8330 IMG_8336 IMG_8269 IMG_8440 IMG_8449 IMG_8246 IMG_8402 IMG_8345 IMG_8352 IMG_8285 IMG_8254 IMG_8387 IMG_8437 IMG_8237 IMG_8445

Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.