Venice Proposes Noisy Luggage Ban for Tourists

Italy has always had some weird laws, but the latest one proposed seems over the top to me., so much so that I feel compelled to write about it today.

The city of Venice has just proposed a “noisy luggage ban,” a  ban on tourists from  bringing wheeled luggage across the more than 400  footbridges in the city. If passed, this would take effect in May of 2015 and the fine could be as high as €500. Interestingly, the law would not apply to local Venice residents. I think this law will be difficult to enforce, not to mention the fact that luggage with bicycle-style pneumatic wheels does not even exist.

Venice is a beautiful place and yes, it is inundated with tourists every single day.  According to the most recent study, 26,179 visitors per square kilometer are in Venice during peak hours.  Every day over 60,000 tourists visit historic Venice. So I understand why the local government opposes the large cruise ships in the lagoon, since they block views and upset the fragile ecosystem. Yet it is a fine balance to maintain, since tourists are vital to the economy of Venice.
These types of laws seem so ridiculous, when you realize that Italy allows and even encourages other situations that are not permitted in other places. For example, did you know beginning in May of 2015, that the Italian Army will begin to grow marijuana  in Florence for national healthcare system. The hope is to discourage medical marijuana users from buying the weed on the street.

For myself and others who plan to visit Venice, I hope this proposal  sponsored by Special Commissioner Vittorio Zappalorto does not become law, especially since I plan on returning to Venice in May of 2015, and you can be sure that I will be bringing my wheeled luggage too. I’ll be paying close attention to the news reports out of Italy on this one.
Do you have an opinion? What do you think of this? I’d love to hear your feedback and perspectives. Leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy News, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Take a Sculpture Course in Carrara

DSCF3330 (640x480)Carrara in Tuscany is not your typical tourist location, but it is the city known for its immense marble quarries. I loved visiting this city on my own and touring the impressive caves and marble quarries  was an eye-opener to me. 20110504-101151.jpg

 Carrara is the place where Michelangelo obtained the piece of marble to create the statue of David, one of his most well-known  masterpieces.DSCF5036_edited-1 (2) (427x640)
For anyone interested in learning the art of sculpting using this white marble, the opportunity is right here in Carrara at the Arco Arte Marble Sculpture School. Founded by Boutros Romhein, the school opened in 1990 and offers two-week courses in marble sculpture.

In a relaxed and pleasant environment, the courses are taught by Sculptor Boutros Romheim, who teaches sculpting techniques, both ancient and modern. The goal of this intensive course is for the sculpting student to acquire the skills needed to create art from a block of marble. Learning occurs in small groups of two or three, divided between those using hand manual techniques and those using power tools.DSCF3289 (640x479)

The school includes space for working, leisure, a kitchen, and sleeping accommodations. This arrangement affords the opportunity for the students to work and live in the same space. This experience allows them the opportunity to work late into the night hours, if desired, and encourages interaction.

Courses are held from mid-May until mid-October. Arrival and check-in is on a Sunday and the course begins on Monday. Check-out is the Sunday following the completion of the course.

A teacher is with the students from 9-12 in the mornings and from 2-5 in the afternoons. The students may work at any other hours they choose, but are limited to using hand tools during these times. The hand tools are provided by the studio. The studio also will provide pneumatic and electrical hammers, along with electro-mechanical hammers.

Included in the price of tuition is the marble itself, with a maximum weight of fifty kilograms. The students keep their finished marble works of art. Arco Arte will arrange to ship any pieces that are too large to be hand-carried or transported by car, for students who have vehicles.

Although I did not take a sculpting course myself, having no ability in that area, I interviewed Philip Obermarck who is a sculptor, visual artist, and postgraduate student. When he was working on his MFA degree at Edinburgh College of Art, part of University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland, he took the course at Arco Arte to learn the techniques of sculpting with stone. His experience at the school adds some first-hand feedback about the two-week course.

Philip indicated that he was able to complete his work of art in the two weeks allotted, and so were most of the other students in his class of five. All teaching is provided by Sculptor Boutros Romheim. At times other sculptors, who are previous students, may be inside the studio, working on long-term projects. Signor Romheim has two stonemason journeymen who assist him at times, although the teaching is by the master sculptor, Romheim, who provides personalized instruction to each student.

Accommodations are conveniently located next to the work area. Shared rooms with one or two beds are provided and single rooms are available at an additional cost. Shared facilities include bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen, where students can bring food to prepare their own meals. Meals are not provided. According to Philip, Arco Arte “is a family run operation and Boutros and his family live onsite. They have converted several buildings into rentals. There is a main kitchen in one of the buildings which all the guests (whose suites don’t have a kitchen) share. This promotes a family-like atmosphere.”


Philip continued to explain that the family-like atmosphere is enhanced by one of Boutros’s rituals. “Every day at 10am and 3pm, all work stops for coffee. Each day one of the guests will be in charge of the coffee and make espresso at these times. Everyone gathers in the kitchen to have a cup or two and take a break. It is very relaxing and also promotes that family atmosphere.” In the evenings anyone who wishes is invited to relax on the patio with Boutros and his assistants as they enjoy some beer. “Everyone at the school made me feel welcome and I would love to return there.”

Each student is expected to assist on a daily basis with the cleaning of the community space, and also their rooms at the end of the course. Each student is to provide his own insurance.

For more details about Philip’s experience and to see various photos of his marble sculpture, check out his blog, Tropes and Idiotropes. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Posted in Art, Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Made in Italy, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Meet the Author – An Interview with Victoria De Maio

IMG_3728In the past two years, since I published my first book, I have had the honor to be featured and interviewed on other authors’  blogs and websites. I remember how exciting it felt. I know that my books are doing as well as they are today because of the strong support I’ve felt  from other writers, bloggers, and authors.

That’s why I am especially pleased  to be able to feature a new author on my blog today. Not only is Victoria De Maio passionate about Italy, but she is also a
travel consultant, blogger, writer, tour leader & now,  a published author. Congratulations, Victoria!

Welcome, Victoria De Maio!

Please tell us a little about yourself.
When I reflect I feel so grateful to have been raised in a small town; Napa, California. I’m second generation Italian (my maternal grandparents came from Tuscany and my paternal from Sicily). We were a small tight knit family and upon reflection, my pretty wonderful childhood seems very innocent and sweet.

I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a writer. As a matter of fact, I was actually first “published” in my early elementary years. I wrote a little story about my stuffed bunny that appeared in the weekly children’s section of the local newspaper.

In junior high school my English teacher was a strong influence. His comments and encouragement had an indelible impact on my dream of being a journalist and traveling the world. I even declared English as my college major but, when I received the recommended reading list, I was so intimidated (Beowulf? Chaucer? Shakespeare?) that I changed to a social science major and English minor.

Fast forward past finishing college in southern California, teaching, marriage, divorce, career transitions, corporate life, and a few “mid life” crises! I was compelled to re-evaluate and do a lot of soul searching and I made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue what I felt was my true calling, teaching; not in the classroom but teaching yoga.

VictoriaDeMaio - Photo for Ebook copy for Interview 480Several years ago, to supplement my income, I had the opportunity to be a travel consultant. It was a natural fit and I began learning the travel business. I started a newsletter and utilized a lot of the writing skills I had honed in my corporate life (business letters, marketing plans, proposals, etc.). It also afforded me the opportunity to do more traveling.
All of this time I was journaling and writing about writing a book! I kept hoping I would reconnect with my creative voice. Then, a little more than two years ago when I was going back to Italy for a month, I decided I wanted to start a blog. However, I was still on my flip phone and 10 year old 1-gig Mac! A coffee meeting with a friend (who happens to be a social media guru) ended up being a 6-hour life-changing afternoon. In a nutshell, I realized that I needed to take the technological/social media plunge…

By the time I left for Italy two months later I had a new iPhone, a blog site and a used Apple laptop. So, off I went to Italy to begin the next chapter. I managed to blog (learn as you go!) and when I returned I summoned the courage to submit my first article to a daily email newsletter, Italian Notebook, and it was published! Not only that, it was well received! I was over the moon!

About a year ago, inspired by other terrific bloggers and writers, I decided to write an ebook. Ideas were scribbled and filed, edited, refiled! Around the same time, through more wonderful social media connections, I partnered with a local tour expert in Puglia and, after two successful trips this year, became a tour leader.
Victoria's Travel TipZ Italian StyleOrganizing and promoting the tours overshadowed the ebook…until this spring when the idea for my ebook distilled and became obvious – and, of course, the main character would be Italy!

After hundreds of hours, lots of coffee and hand wringing, my labor of love, Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style, was just published on Amazon. I have to say it’s a surreal moment. I only wish my parents were here …

When did you go to Italy for the first time and how many times have you been there total?
If I tell you the year, then some people are going to start doing the math so let’s just say it was back in those $5.00 /day days! I was a school teacher and went to Europe for a good part of a summer with three fellow teachers. Of course, our itinerary included Italy.

I remember coming home with fantasies of returning and teaching English in Italy (yes, I met a cute Italian) but “life” intervened and it actually took me over 20 years to get back! I went solo and joined a tour and it was marvelous. I remember thinking, “why did you wait so long to return?

Since then I’ve returned six times, twice this year with my groups and additional independent travel. As soon as I get home, I’m homesick for Italy!

What is your favorite location in Italy and why?
This could very well be the most difficult question to answer because I love Italy so much and there are so many more regions I want to experience. If I had to choose one city, it would be Venice. For me, it is pure magic.

As a writer of your first book, do have any advice for aspiring writers?
Just start. Start today.

After many years of procrastinating and false starts, I decided I had to tap back into what I was passionate about and find my creative voice again. I was introduced to “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and it was exactly what I needed! It gave me permission to be imperfect. I could stop feeling guilty about that drawer full of beautiful journals that I had started and were filled with “good intentions” and to get a 99 cent spiral notebook and just WRITE! No editing, no rewording, not even rereading, just put it all down on paper.

I also struggled for years with that need to be perfect and the fear of rejection. When I started to blog, I read lots of other blogs and I realized that I could definitely write as well and in many cases, a lot better than what was out there. It was also an opportunity to risk rejection on a small tolerable scale! (Every day, I still have to let go of that need to be perfect and fire the internal judge!)

The beauty of a blog is that you are encouraged to have and express your own voice. It’s pretty much free to start and it’s all yours. And when you write from your own voice, it’s authentic, real and appealing. It’s like having a conversation and allows you to share what you’re passionate about. And you connect with others on the same path…(The other beauty is that you can edit, change, and delete anything at any time!) And I love that you can connect with an amazing community.

There’s no better time than now! Start, step out, tap into your passion, share it, find others who share it…enjoy the journey!

How long did it take for this book to come to fruition? (From concept, writing, editing to published)
For over a year I was toying with the idea of writing a series of travel tip ebooks. I had outlines and ideas. And there it sat while I worked on the other projects I’ve mentioned.
While preparing for my 6-week trip to Italy last spring, I also planned to write lots of notes for future posts/articles. One idea was to take notes (and photos) of what you will and won’t find when you travel to Italy. At some point I had my “lightbulb, aha!” moment to expand that concept into travel tips strictly about Italy.

When I returned, I made the ebook a top priority with the goal of publishing before the year was over. What started as a few thousand words grew and fleshed out over the next six month into 16,000 words. It’s was a rolIer coaster of ups and downs – excitement, inspiration, self-doubt, creative spells, writers block…the gamut!! But, once I knew what I wanted to do, I persevered. I was also fortunate to have the encouragement of supportive friends and, in particular, two fellow blogger/writers that I highly respect, Margie Miklas and Rick Zullo.

Over the months and hundreds of hours, it evolved. New ideas were integrated and my vision of how I wanted it to look and read took shape. I started counting the number of “editions” and drafts – there were over 30! I had connected with someone who professionally designs ebooks and when it was ready we started the nitty gritty of cover design, formatting, etc. More tweaking, editing, proofing.

Once the “finished product” was ready, then the technical business of getting onto Amazon and ordering my print proof. I have to say that getting the proof copy only two weeks ago was an incredible moment! Just pure “WOW!”

Earlier this month the final versions were uploaded and as of November 13th everything is “live” on Amazon! I’m now a published author! It’s an incredible milestone for me.

Where else can we find your writing in addition to your blog and your book?
In addition to a e-newsletter I am thrilled and honored to be a contributing writer for Italian Notebook, Italian Talks, and L’Italo-Americano. I also contribute to Beautiful Puglia and I also write guest blog/articles. You can Find Me anytime on my blog.

Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
Next spring (and fall), I’m returning to Italy. I have small group tours to Puglia and Umbria. I will also do some “before and after” independent travel. Venice is definitely on the itinerary for next spring and Torino, Bologna and the Amalfi are possibilities. Stay tuned on my blog for updates!

What one travel accessory can you not live without?
My tech devices have become indispensable – primarily my iPhone. I love the Mophie battery pack/cover made for it as well. Since I use my iPhone for photos, the Mophie doubles my battery life so I can virtually take photos all day long and not run out of juice.

What is a favorite travel moment?
Oh dear, this is very difficult so I’m going to cheat and share a few. Many involve my attempts to speak Italian -Italians are just so patient and I embrace and love trying. One incident was when I was slowly greeting and asking a question in a shop in Florence. When I finished, the mother and son shop owners both smiled and said “bravissima!”

OK, one more…I love taking photos of people I meet – shop owners, merchants, artisans, waiters and servers, etc. I always ask their permission and they are always so surprised and flattered. Also, I always ask their names and thank them. Wonderful, special moments and memories!

How has travel changed you?
I don’t know how you can travel and not be changed. It has certainly changed me in a myriad of ways; it shifts my whole perspective and my priorities. The experience of traveling solo, what I call exercising my “courage muscles” and navigating my fears, has been especially rewarding and empowering.

There’s a great quote from Ibn Battuta that sums up how travel has changed me: “Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m usually researching and planning my next trip to Italy! Staying in close touch with my friends and social media communities is a priority and I do spend a great deal of time planning, marketing and sharing about my Italy tours and now, about my book.

I still teach yoga, love taking walks and find living and walking near the ocean nurturing. I am still trying to improve my Italian and love watching vintage and contemporary Italian films while hanging out in my pjs with a glass of wine and my Lulu kitty.

What is your favorite travel quote?
As a quote collector, I have so many but I have to go with Browning: “Open my heart and you will see Graved inside of it, Italy.”

Grazie, Margie, for the privilege and opportunity to be interviewed on your blog!

Posted in Author Interview, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Luxury in Venice at Luna Hotel Baglioni

DSCN5652 (640x480)As many of you may or may not know, I manage the Twitter account and the blog for Italian Talks, whose parent company is Baglioni Hotels. I was privileged to spend one night as a guest in the Luna Hotel Baglioni, the 5-star luxury accommodation near Piazza san Marco. What a treat for me from the moment I set foot inside the oldest hotel in Venice. This elegant 12th-century palazzo was originally a convent, a shelter for the Knights Templar during the Crusades, and later became an aristocratic Venetian palace. Today the Luna Hotel Baglioni is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and Fine Hotels & Resorts, and was named on Conde’ Nast Traveler’s Gold List for 2013.

DSCN5631 (640x480) (2)With an elegant entrance on a small canal,  the Luna was a short walk from St. Mark’s Square. A private landing allows for hotel guests to arrive by gondola or water taxi. The lovely Carolina Giudice, Room Division Manager, could not have been more accommodating and offered to give me a tour of the hotel. Beginning with the magnificent lobby, I knew that I was in for a treat. Tall ceilings and marble floors and columns punctuated this open space with a warm welcome. A fireplace and Murano glass chandeliers added to the opulence.DSCN5654 (480x640)Many of the original features are in evidence such as ornate stucco walls and Murano chandeliers, but every detail has been attended to so that the hotel with its 91 rooms and suites is very modern. DSCN5651 (640x480)Almost like a museum of art, watercolor paintings, period furniture, and gold fixtures can be found throughout. The stunning Marco Polo Salone, where I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast, is one of the most beautiful rooms I have seen, and entire ceiling is frescoed with original works from pupils of Tiepolo, the famous 18th century Venetian painter. Photo Oct 17, 9 21 37 PM (640x480)I learned that in the 16th century the Luna Hotel Baglioni had been called Locanda della Luna, which means ‘inn of the moon.’

Although the hotel was fully booked, the recently opened San Giorgio Terrace Suite was vacant, so I was able to see this luxurious suite, which is priced at six thousand euros a night.Photo Oct 17, 3 53 01 AM 640 Carolina assured me that it is booked most of the time. I could only envision what a dream it would be to stay in such a luxurious space which even had its own kitchen with chef. Photo Oct 17, 3 49 33 AM 640The best part, though, was the huge furnished terrace, which overlooked the lagoon and and the island of San Giorgio. I thought I was in heaven.Photo Oct 17, 3 49 58 AM (640x479)My deluxe room was total luxury, with its marble bath and silk fabrics. I could get easily used to this fantasy, but for one night, I enjoyed the reality of opulence, glamour, and luxury.

A tempting plate of Venetian dolce awaited me as a surprise welcome. The balcony and very modern bathroom spoiled me forever.

The quiet and pleasant Caffè Baglioni was the perfect spot for me to wait for my friends, Angela and Alessandro. Maria Teresa, the maitre d and head sommelier, was happy to offer me a Spritz, the traditional Venetian drink. A small patio with a few tables extends outside and I decided to sit there and enjoy the view of the canal. A complimentary triple set of bowls filled with cashews, peanuts, and chips tempted me and I felt relaxed here.

I enjoyed conversing with Maria Teresa, who speaks perfect English. Not long afterward, Signor Gianmatteo Zampieri came out to the balcony and introduced himself as the general manager of the Luna Hotel Baglioni. His passion for Venice and his hotel was unmistakable. He could not have been more accommodating to me, and I felt like some kind of VIP. Although he was busy, he made himself accessible to me, inviting me to contact him anytime for any information I might need.

While I did not dine in the famous Canova Restaurant, I could see that it would make for a very romantic experience, just by the ambience itself. DSCN5655 (640x480)Perhaps on another visit I will be able to enjoy the fine dining experience provided by the world-renowned Chef Cosimo.

Grazie mille Signor Zampieri, for a wonderful and unforgettable experience at your beautiful hotel.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, Reservations, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Photo Snapshots from Molise

DSCN5245 (640x480)When I went to Molise I stayed at the only accommodation in Colle d’Anchise, the small village of my grandparents. La Piana Dei Mulini is one of the most peaceful and relaxing places to stay in Italy. This was my fourth time here and I would highly recommend it. formerly an old woolen mill, this “albergo diffuso” is a welcome reprieve from the frenzy of larger cities like Naples, Rome, or Venice. Here are a few snapshots from La Piana dei Mulini.

DSCN5254 (640x480)DSCN5251 (640x480)DSCN5243The lovely Serena and Vittoria

Photo Oct 08, 4 26 47 AM

DSCN5239 (640x480) Serena, who speaks perfect English offered to take me to some ancient ruins nearby. Stay tuned for more of the adventure.


Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Reservations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Borghese Park – Rome’s Central Park

Borghese Park in Rome

Borghese Park in Rome

In a city of almost three million people, I always enjoy finding a place to get away from it all. When I needed a break from the fast pace of sightseeing in Rome, I made my way over to Borghese Park, also known as Villa Borghese, located north of the Spanish Steps. Roughly one-fifth the size of New York City’s Central Park, Borghese Park is a welcome respite for tired feet after a few busy days in Rome. The park has two main entrances, one at Piazza del Popolo and the Porta Pinciana entrance off via Veneto.

Men playing Bocce Ball

Men playing Bocce Ball

What was originally a vineyard became the 2nd largest public park in Rome, with the Villa Doria Pamphili in western Rome considered to be the largest. After obtaining the Villa Borghese from the Borghese family in 1903, the city opened the park to the public. The park  offers something for people of all ages, with open green spaces, bocce courts, picnic areas, a zoo, museums, bicycle rentals, a lake with boats, an amphitheatre and a botanical garden.
The most well-known museum in the park is Galleria Borghese, or the Borghese Gallery, which is in the original Villa Borghese, after which the park derived its name. Galleria Borghese features works of art from the masters, Raphael, Titian and Rubens as well as sculptures from Bernini and Canova. It is located near the Porta Pinciana entrance.
20110502-112114.jpgThe National Gallery of Modern Art, or Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, has 75 rooms featuring the largest collection from 19 th and 20th century Italian artists. It is close to the National Etruscan Museum, or Museo Nazionale Etrusco, which is inside the Villa Giulia, the former summer home for Pope Julius III. One of its main features is a life size reclining bride and groom monument.

Called the Bioparco, the zoo in the northeastern area of Borghese Gardens, is a delight to both children and adults. It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, built in 1911 and has over one thousand animals. It is open daily except Christmas for an entrance fee of 15 euros for adults and 12 euros for children and seniors.

The lake in the park is not only a beautiful serene spot with swans, ducks and geese, but you can also rent boats here. A favorite subject with photographers, the Temple of Esculapius next to the lake allows for great photo opportunities.

Rentals and Other Fun Activities
Besides renting boats at the lake, you can rent bicycles and Segways as well as take a hot air balloon ride from inside the park. For children, there are playgrounds and a children’s library and also a small touring train which traverses the park. A cinema house featuring predominantly Italian films also is in this park.
20110502-112134.jpgRome is beautiful and there is so much to see, but part of living the sweet life or “la dolce vita” is taking time to relax in one of its few green spaces. Borghese Park is a pleasant alternative to the cobble-stoned streets and uphill roads of the Eternal City.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Back from the Florida Writers Conference

IMG_3654 (640x473)Oct 30, 2014
After three weeks in Italy, I returned home to Florida on Tuesday. Two days later I repacked my bag and left for Orlando to attend my first writers’ conference. The timing was not the best since I was still on Italy time due to  jet lag, but nevertheless, I looked forward to the event.

The Florida Writers Association holds an annual conference in the Orlando area. This was the 13th year for the conference, which took place at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary Hotel. I arrived Thursday and got settled, and looked forward to meeting other writers and doing some networking. The first sessions took place Thursday evening and then all day Friday and Saturday, ending with morning sessions on Sunday.

Since I am a relatively new author I was eager to attend the workshops and learn as much as I could about the craft of writing and also the business of marketing and selling my books. All of these topics and more were covered by experts and professionals in their fields. I learned so much this weekend and enjoyed being part of a group of more than 400 writers from all areas of Florida, as well as other states.

These are the workshops I attended:
The Second Draft and Beyond
Contracts and the Creative Process
Pitching Your Story
Great Book Titles – Make them Marketable and Memorable
The Future of Digital Publishing
Drafting a NYT Bestseller
Waking from the Comma Coma
Social Media for Writers
…and a lively panel discussion entitled Let’s Talk about Sex

I thought the price of the conference was well worth it,  especially since all the meals were included. I am already planning to attend next year. I enjoyed meeting quite a few other writers as well as meeting up with a few members from the Treasure Coast Writers Guild. Some other  writer friends of mine attended too.IMG_3657 (481x640)

Another feature of the conference was the bookstore, where I had my books for sale, and also the option to sign up for a time to sign books, so I did that as well. Like most of my book signing experiences, I didn’t sell or sign many books, but it was a good opportunity to talk with people.  What made it more fun was that I met another award-winning author, Pam Carey. Her latest book, Elderly Parents with all their Marbles, is a survival guide for those with elderly parents. It was great meeting you Pam, and I look forward to a lunch date with you sometime soon. Check out her blog, Minor League Mom Writes….IMG_3666 (480x640)The big event on Saturday evening was the Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet. Awards were given to the best works, both published and unpublished in various genres. Over 300 works were submitted to the competition, and my first book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy had qualified as a finalist, which was an honor for me. Two large screen TVs ran a continuous slide show with photos of the finalists and the names of their books in their genres.

As the awards were announced, the description of the winning book showed up on the screen, followed by the name of the book and the photo of the winner.

IMG_3669 (640x480)I could hardly believe it when I saw my book description appear and heard my name announced as a third place award winner in the travel category.

DSCN5777 (481x640)I walked up to the stage to receive my award and was thrilled to be able to share the moment with my friends from Vero Beach, Lidia and Arthur Doweyko, both writers.

DSCN5774 (640x480) Not long after that, Arthur had his own moment in the sun as his unpublished Angela’s Apple won first place in the science fiction genre.

DSCN5779 (480x640)Congratulations, Arthur.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Shopping the Rialto Market in Venice

20141027-164207.jpgOct 15, 2014
One of the benefits of social media is meeting people with similar interests from all over the world. I have known Karen Henderson, an American writer and blogger who lives in Venice, for some time, but we have never met in person.Photo Oct 16, 3 07 14 AM20141027-165608.jpg

Today, I met Karen for coffee at a bar in Campo della Guerra, near to where I was staying.  After a cornetto and a cappuccino and a little time to chat, Karen offered to show me the Rialto Market. This centuries-old marketplace has been serving Venetians since the year 1097!

I have not been to the market in the morning, when all the fish vendors are there, so this was a first-time experience for me. Karen explained that the fish vendors leave at noon and are not there on Sundays or Mondays. That is why it’s best to eat at a seafood  in Venice on any days of the week except Sundays and Mondays.

The fish vendors were located in one area of the market and the produce vendors in another. 20141027-164632.jpg 20141027-171634.jpg

20141027-164304.jpgKaren explained that by noon the pescheria closes and the area gets washed down, but that the produce section stays open longer.

The produce was so fresh and the colors made for great photographic moments. 20141027-171746.jpgThe entire marketplace was very well organized, and there were also meat stalls and place which specialized in equine products, a common food in all parts of Italy. 20141027-170350.jpgWhat fun to see a traditional landmark like the Rialto Market with a local like Karen, who has lived in Venice for the past eleven years. She also pointed out the only working fountain in Venice is here at the market. 20141027-171810.jpgGrazie mille, Karen for a wonderful time!

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Photos from Venice

20141021-091434.jpgThe always crowded Rialto vaporetto stop




Angela and Alessandro shared a gondola ride with me!20141021-091856.jpg

Angela and Alessandro shared a gondola ride with me!


The famous Bridge of Sighs, about which a legend exists. Supposedly if a couple kisses under the bridge while riding in a gondola at sunset, if the church bells ring…their love is everlasting.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Venice by Boat


Venice is a city full of history, art, culture, and rich traditions. I was fortunate enough this trip to be a guest of Context Italy on their “Venice by Boat” tour. Context Italy has been doing walking tours all over Italy for many years and what makes these tours unique is that they utilize scholars with PhDs and Masters degrees as well as experienced local guides. The groups are small, six maximum, and the focus is on education in an interesting way.

I learned so much about the history of Venice on this tour and would recommend it to anyone. My group of three was led by docent Monica Vidoni, who was born in Venice to American parents. She has a PhD in European History and teaches Venetian History at American universities in Italy. Her love of the city as well as her personal experience living in Venice adds depth and insight to her sharing of Venetian history with our group.

Starting at the Rialto Bridge in a covered water taxi, we traversed the Grand Canal as well as riding through Canareggio and Castello on the smaller canals. Seeing Venice by boat is a completely different experience than walking its streets.

Understanding the culture of Venice today based on its origins as a place of trade and its strength as a republic, I have a deeper appreciation for its 1200-year history.

The tour included some walking in the Jewish Ghetto while Monica explained its history and pointed out some of the architecture and locations of several synagogues in the area. This was particularly interesting to me since I had not spent much time here previously.

Touring the lagoon we were able to see Venice’s fire department with its red boats as well as the hospital and the ambulance boats. I had never seen the Arsenale before now, and since it is so huge, the only way to really see it is by boat.

In two hours I learned more about Venice than I knew from my two previous trips to this spectacular city on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Grazie Context Italy and Monica for an unforgettable experience in La Serenissima.


Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments