Archive for August, 2009

Aug 28

Travel Guides France & Italy

Posted by Leslie in Escapes, France, Italy, Rome

Newstand RomeI have a small obsession with travel but I am just as obsessed with travel guides & books.  If I had the space, my apartment would be filled!

Here are a few recent discoveries and old favorites to consider…as travel books are not only a source of information, they are a source of enjoyment.


Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay French Bed & Breakfast 11th EditionAlastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay French Bed & Breakfast 11th Edition

An amazing, well researched guide on French B&B’s.   Other additions include Paris Hotels, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Mountains of Europe and French Holiday Homes


Patisseries of ParisPatisseries of Paris by Jamie Cahill

This small chic guidebook is essential for anyone who wants to experience Paris through its stylish cafes and mouth watering sweets.  Published by The Little Bookroom, this company does niche travel guides to the world’s best loved cities like no other.

Hungry for ParisHungry for Paris The Ultimate Guide To The City’s 102 Best Restaurants by Alexander Lobrano

Not only is this a great guide for restaurants it is a wonderful cultural guide to dining in Paris.


Footprint RomeFootprint Italia Rome

This guide may be hard to find in the US but it is a concise, well organized guide to Rome.  Their website is a feast of guidebooks categorized by destinations and activities.  Other additions include Madrid, Tuscany, Sicily and Venice.

Terroir Guide RomeThe Terroir Guide Food & Wine Rome

Another series published by The Little Bookroom.  This guide is a veritable reference to the local food, wine, markets, artisans and restaurants of Rome.   Other additions include Budapest and The Italian Riviera with more on the way.


This guide, a recent discovery, is not easy to find.  Written in English and Italian it is part of a series of guides to Italian cities that are published each summer.  The guide features shops, restaurants, hotels, bookstores, shopping services and new cultural activities that due to their quality and personality are all “extraordinary”.   A visit to their website will give you a taste for this unique series of guidebooks.

So whether you are preparing for a trip, need a gift or simply want a little escape to dream and drool about future adventures a travel book may be just what you need.



Aug 25

Eating in Italy

Posted by Leslie in Eating & Drinking, Italy

ProsciuttoMost Italians I know cook, even if they say they don’t they can always whip up something tasty, it’s in the genes.

My friend Stefy is no exception, she says she never learned to cook but meals at her table are not only delicious they are beautiful.

Stefy's Creation Pane

In Italy eating well could be qualified as a sport.  It is a constant topic of conversation and everything from pasta to gelato is consistently rated and compared.  Erbuono (it was good), era buonissimo (it was really good), era troppo buono (it was too good – I often use this when speaking about gelato), quello era meglio (that one was better).

Fiselle e Pomodoro

When times are tough in Italy, a negative economy, a corrupt government, a labyrinth of bureaucracy , the one certainty for Italians is mangiare (to eat) and of course mangiare bene (to eat well).  When you can slow down and enjoy a freshly prepared meal of simple ingredients it is medication for the soul.

Stefy at Work in the CucinaStefy is an expert, her shopping list is simple and always includes fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread and meat.  Her time in the kitchen seems effortless. Steaming spinaci (spinach) in the morning before starting her day or soaking ceci (chick peas) in the evening to be sautéed the next day.

Whether serving one or a group she is always ready to pull something together… fiselle topped with diced tomato and herbs, sautéed bell peppers, slightly bitter arugula seasoned with olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar, a plate of buttery prosciutto and bread fresh from the bakery (not a plastic bag).  Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner food is always enjoyed on a table setting of colorful placemats and napkins with a change of plates between every course to not mix flavors.

Ceci Arugula, Tonno e Maize

I think she needs to open her kitchen to share her secrets of her buona cucina (good cooking).  I will let you know when the courses start.

Fiselle e PomodoroBut until then take a few minutes to enjoy a few images of Stefy’s cooking and think about how you can slow down your next meal, bringing a few fresh Italian staples to the table or colorful placemats and maybe enjoying it just a little bit more.



Aug 20

Rome on a Vespa

Posted by Leslie in Escapes, Italy, Rome

Vintage VespaI bought a Vespa in 2006, partly due to an allergy to public transportation (Mon-Fri only) and partly because who doesn’t want to own a Vespa.

Stefy!My friend Stefania (Stefy) took me on my first motorino (scooter) ride in Rome and I have been hooked ever since.  Just seeing a Vespa makes me happy, it is an immediate escape to all things Italian.

People always ask me if driving a Vespa in New York is dangerous…well it isn’t for everyone but in some cities motorini (scooters) are a necessity.

Young, old, with or without a passenger, talking on the telefonino (phone) or my personal favorite driving with one hand on cobblestones, in Rome everyone rides motorini.

Driver and Vespa Driver Roma

Vintage VespaI am hoping they become a necessity in New York.  I am certain the more Vespas I see, the happier I will be.

In Rome the city center is almost always closed to cars but always open to motorini.  Driving or parking a car in the historic center requires a special pass.  Public transportation is an option but as most things Roman, it is incredibly slow.

A motorino is the only way to quickly circulate and manage the city’s stifling traffic.

Driving in Rome, I wouldn’t dare…plus as a passenger I can film and snap photos.

If you have never been on a Vespa or have never visited Rome, what would be better than a quick escape to experience both – no insurance needed.

Click play on the video below and vai (go)!!!!!!  Sorry no English subtitles.



Aug 20

Rome in August

Posted by Leslie in Escapes, Italy, Language Lessons, Rome

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola I don’t recommend visiting Rome in the summer, especially August.  Many businesses are closed, the Romans have fled to the seaside to work on their tans and it is simply troppo caldo (too hot).

But if you do come a few things you can enjoy are less traffic, a reduced chance of being sideswiped by a car or scooter, unlimited amounts of gelato, beautiful parks that offer a cool refuge from the city center and lots of cultural events.

Gelato Gelato Villa Doria Pamphili

Another benefit is free water.  There are more than 2,000 nasones (water fountains or literally big noses) pouring fresh water from the Apennine Mountains to water drinkers throughout the city.  Pure as a mineral water and high in calcium, some consider this water the best in Italy, so fill up a bottle and enjoy anytime.

Nasone Nasone Trastevere Nasone Trastevere Water

GelatoFor a little Roman summer escape of your own you can enjoy these images but if you live in New York and want a small taste of summer in Rome fly yourself down to il laboratorio del gelato.  You may not have the animated scene of a Roman gelateria but you will have some of the tastiest gelato outside of Rome.

And if you are lucky enough to be in Paris don’t miss the gelato chain Amorino, bringing a love of Italian gelato straight to the hearts of Parisians.  Amorino’s gelato not only tastes great but a beautiful floral presentation makes every bite even more inviting.

GelatoIf you have a favorite gelato destination feel free to share your recommendation by submitting a comment, so we can all enjoy a taste of summer in Rome.



Aug 17

Caffè Italiano

Posted by Leslie in Eating & Drinking, Escapes, Italy, Rome

Caffe e CornettoWhen I arrive in Italy (apart from seeing friends) the first thing I want to do is enjoy a caffè (coffee or espresso) and if it is breakfast I want un cappuccino e un cornetto con la marmellata (a cappuccino and sweet croissant like pastry filled with jam)…yum!

In Italy having a caffè is a piacere (pleasure) and a ritual, whether with friends or by yourself.

Bar Cornetto con la marmellata

It is less about the caffeine recharge and more about human contact with the world, as most caffè in Italy is enjoyed outside the home at a bar (an everything destination for coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks, an aperitivo, even phone cards and last minute gifts).

Whether standing at the bar, sitting down, reading the paper or having an argument over the Prime Minister’s personal life, bars are an epicenter of Italian life.

Caffe Il Giornale TramezzinoCaffe

I love watching the action, listening to the spirited ordering and animated conversations while enjoying un bel caffè (a good coffee) and yummy snack.

CaffeYou may not be able to get to a bar in Italy anytime soon but finding your local stop for a coffee or drink, alone or with friends, can create an enjoyable ritual to help slow life’s crazy pace just a little.

Or maybe these photos will transport you there for a few minutes…