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Traveling back-roads looking for artisans who hand craft the best
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The Grand Tour Part 7We began the day at the Cusa quarries in Campobello di Mazara, the source of Selinunte's stonework. A beautiful new museum, totally empty of tourists, answered the question "just how did they manage to quarry those huge columns and get them to Selinunte?". There's also the Museum of Farm Work--tools, ...
The Grand Tour Part 6Our next destination was Sciacca. We simply had to visit the Enchanted Castle, not really a castle and not really enchanted, but the work of outsider artist Filippo Bentivenga. We wandered the cobblestone paths winding through the hillside, admiring heads sculpted of stone and carved into olive trees in a ...
The Grand Tour Part 5The scenery on the way to Licata was uninspiring, fields of plastic greenhouses and a huge refinery outside Gela, which has to be the ugliest city in Sicily. But there was an archeological museum, a worthwhile detour. We strolled through rooms without any tourists and learned about Gela, an important ...
The Grand Tour Part 4We drove through countryside near Vittoria to visit COS, one of my favorite Sicilian wineries and agriturismo farms, with owners Titta Cilia and the appropriately named Giusto (correct, just) Occhipinti, the "C" and "O" of COS. More about the "S" later.COS is part of a natural wine movement that's been ...
The Grand Tour Part 3My friend Caterina was excited about a mushroom market and fair in Buccheri. We met her in the main piazza, but the mushroom market--a guy with a crate of dirty mushrooms, and the fair, far smaller than the one in Palazzuolo Acreide, wasn't exactly a morning activity so we detoured ...
The Grand Tour Part 2With Vito Santoro behind the wheel, my sister Suzanne and I headed for Sortino. I'd heard about a Sicilian marionette museum and a local specialty, pizzoli, that I had to try. We passed a favorite truck stop, PANE CONDITO, (big sign, big parking lot, on the right hand side of ...
The Grand Tour Part 1I was inspired by a museum in Palazzuolo Acreide about the Grand Tour--young, upper-class Europeans, traveling for months in search of art, culture and the roots of western civilization, mingling with nobles. Only the most adventurous made it to Sicily. Times have changed but travel still isn't easy, and Sicily ...
Superstar Chef LunchIt's a tradition that started a few years ago, with lots of chef friends in town for the presentation of the Espresso restaurant and wine guides. Raffaele Alajmo reserved two places at my table, brought magnums of Champagne, invited a few friends, I made lunch, and everyone had a good ...
Shakerato!It makes sense that the Italians would invent most exquisite coffee drink for the summer, a shaken-over-ice, slightly sweetened espresso called "shakerato", served in a stemmed glass, prepared in bars all over the country. The shaking process yields a thick "crema" that floats on the espresso. In Italy, ice is ...
Pino's Muffoletti"La Madia" is my favorite restaurant in Sicily, located in the village of Lictata, on the southern coast. Chef-owner Pino Cuttaia works with the best fish and seafood from local waters, vegetables from his father-in-law's garden, amazing Sicilian ingredients like sheep's milk ricotta, wild fennel greens, squash tendrils, citrus fruits, ...
a visit to PaestumI love to visit Paestum. Great Greek temples, fantastic museum, terrific restaurant Nonna Sceppa, and the world's greatest mozzarella from Vannulo, sold onsite only, never shipped. On a recent visit owner Tonino Palmieri showed me his latest technological advance--specially modified machinery, so his buffalo are milked on demand, when they ...
Best New Product at TASTEI love the event Taste, a gastronomic fair with quality food, wine and table products, held in the beautiful "Stazione Leopolda", ex-railway station, with off-site events at restaurants, shops and wine-bars throughout the city of Florence. The fair is small enough to walk through in few hours, and there's a ...
MesaliIn the local dialect of Irpinia, east of Naples in the region of Campania, mesali literally means "tablecloths", a sign of hospitality. It's also the name of a fantastic association of 10 area restaurants, all committed to native ingredients. Traditions are individually interpreted; you might find new-wave cooking at one ...
The Perfect NeapolitanL'Europeo has always been my favorite restaurant in Naples. The ambience is pure trattoria--fish tank in entryway, plates, diplomas, awards, Neapolitan paintings, photos and copper pots covering the walls. Owners Alfonso Mattozzi, his wife Annamaria, and daughter Fabiana welcome diners like old friends--surely they know someone you know, and therefore ...
Biscottificio MatteiThe most famous cookies in Tuscany are called "cantucci" or "cantuccini", golden, crisp, studded with whole almonds, most often served with a glass of Vin Santo dessert wine for sipping or dipping. In the Florence area they're known as "biscotti di Prato", probably since the greatest version of this cookie ...
MassimoMassimiliano Alajmo, of the formal restaurant Le Calandre and casual dining space Il Calandrino, in Sarmeola di Rubano, outside Padova, is my favorite chef in Italy. His brother Raffaele is my favorite host, running the restaurants with style and a sense of fun. Massimiliano utilizes new-wave techniques and instruments-sous vide, ...
Agriturismo La PetraiaLa Petraia is one of the most beautiful agriturismo farms in Italy, tucked away in an unspoiled corner of Tuscany in the Chianti Classico area. The stone farm house dates from the 11th century (check out the archival prints in the living room documenting the history of this ancient property) ...
'inoI'm wild about 'ino, a gastronomic gem--gourmet grocery meets sandwich shop, in Florence, between the Uffizi gallery and the Arno river. Owner Alessandro Frassica has selected some of Italy's greatest artisanal products. The display case in the front room is packed with choice Italian cheese (many raw milk) including 36-month ...
Florentine Gelato CrawlBeginning with Bernardo Buontalenti, Mannerist architect, military engineer, theatrical set designer and supposed inventor of churned-over-ice milk-based gelato for the court of Francesco de' Medici in 1565, Florentines have always taken gelato seriously. But there are many inferior shops, with signs declaring "produzione propria" or "produzione artigianale", where gelato is ...
Fattoria CampiglioneI confess. I've got a thing for butchers. So when I met Michele Sgamato (from a family of butchers) and Gerardo Buono at a wine tasting, and they invited me to their restaurant, Fattoria di Campiglione, in Pozzuoli, outside Napoli, I saw no reason to resist. The specialty, of course, ...
The Emperor's New ClothesFabio Picchi has always been my favorite chef-restaurateur in Florence and he's created an empire in the Sant'Ambrogio area. His restaurant Cibreo, trattoria Cibreino, bar, and private club, Teatro del Sale serve some the city's best food, at prices that range from expensive (Cibreo) to bargain (Teatro del Sale). Membership ...