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 mosques 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.


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How Shoes are Made by Hand in Italy


I always welcome the opportunity to observe a part of Italian life which is not typically experienced by the average traveler. I was fortunate to be able to receive a personalized tour of an authentic Italian shoe factory or fabricca. So my blogger friend, Debra Kolkka, and I set out in search of the town of Serignano in Monte, not far from Lucca.

We were greeted warmly at the office of Italian Shoemakers by the friendly Louisa who spoke fluent English, thanks to her living in San Francisco for eight years. This company has been in existence since 1982, designing and manufacturing women’s shoes and sandals by hand. Peter Romanelli is the owner and apparently is very hands on.

After introducing us to her colleagues Louisa gave us a tour of the facility where the design and creation of prototypes and samples occur. Fifteen people work here and they work straight through the day with a short break for lunch, unlike most Italian businesses which close for three hours in the afternoon.

Afterwards she drove us to one of the factories that specializes in making the straps for the sandals.

All materials are made in Italy except the decorations which come from China.20141019-174857.jpg

I found the entire process fascinating. Some parts of it are automated but everything is basically done by hand.

Following this we drove to yet another factory where the finished product is assembled and packed for shipment. Nubia, one of the owners, showed us around here and explained that they work strictly for Italian Shoemakers.

A total of twelve people work here in this family-run fabricca. Apparently someone likes birds because as soon as we walked in an aviary with quite a few cockatiels was the first thing we saw.

Aside from that, this place looked like a factory and smelled of glue. More than anything else, the attention to detail here, made an impression on me. What a wonderful day we had with the Italian Shoemakers family in Tuscany.20141019-182640.jpg

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Photos from Lucca


Lucca is a delightful city in Tuscany not far from Pisa or Florence. What makes it unique is that this town has a historic center which is enclosed by medieval walls and you can even walk or ride bicycles on the walls. Inside the walls the streets are basically pedestrian except for those who live here. A few hours in the lovely town of Lucca left me wanting more. We take what we can get. Enjoy.




I didn’t find a battery for my camera here but I found another camera. At least it is better than nothing. Hopefully in Venice I will find a camera battery.







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Travel Destination Tuscany


I am fortunate enough to have made friends with other bloggers and lovers of Italy. Debra Kolkka, who writes the award-winning blog, Bella Bagni di Lucca, as well as Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, is one of those people. She kindly invited me to stay with her at her home in Ponte a Serraglia, one of the lovely villages of Bagni di Lucca.


Since it was cloudy and rainy when we arrived, and since my camera battery had died, I did not take many photos, but Debra is an excellent photographer, so please refer to her blog to see what her village looks like.

After settling in we went to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, just across the bridge, in the piazza. It was obvious that she knows everyone after living here half the year for eleven years. She is Australian but speaks Italian and has a passion and love for Italy too.

The next morning, after cappuccino and a pastry at Il Monaco, we drove to Serignano in Monte for a personalized tour of Italian Shoemakers and the factories where they actually make their shoes by hand.

Look for another blog post on that tour. It was an amazing experience to see how everything is done, and Louisa and her colleagues could not have been any nicer to us.

In the afternoon she took me up into the mountains where her other home is, one that she built from an old stone home. She lovingly named her house, Casa Debbio. The atmosphere in the mountains was so peaceful despite the rainy weather. The clouds hanging low created a scene worthy of a painting. It’s always good going with a local who knows the best places, so we went to a hermitage, Antica Trattoria dell’Eremita that had a fantastic lunch. I had the delicious crepes recommended by Debra. The water was from their spring and the entire area was one of tranquility. The ride back to Ponte Serraglio was definitely not for the faint of heart. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is a must as well as a skilled driver.

Debra treated me to a homemade meal of pasta with pomodori and olivi, and it was the best. Of course the Nero d’Avila wine added to it. It was nice to be inside during the heavy rain that night.

Before Debra took me to the train station the following morning, we had time to browse around Lucca for several hours. Check the next post for photos from Lucca.

Grazie Mille, mia amica for a wonderful time!

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Photo Collage from Ravello ~ Amalfi Coast Travel

This gallery contains 10 photos.

 Ravello is a peaceful beautiful city high above the seashore on the Amalfi Coast. Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone afford spectacular views of the coastline which made the uphill walking and numerous steps and staircases worth it. More stories to … Continue reading

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A Visit to Capri

Oct 10, 2014

I have been to the island of Capri twice before, and it is a beautiful place. However during the day it is usually crowded with cruise ship passengers.20141013-203330.jpg

Today I have no need to revisit sites from before. I am going specifically to have lunch at a restaurant that bears my name, even though there is no family relationship. At 9:30AM I board the boat to Capri at the port of Amalfi.


The trip is especially enjoyable since I love to be on the water and also because the scenery is spectacular. A stop in Positano to pick up and drop off passengers guarantees a wondrous perspective and photo opportunity for me. The entire town is visible by approach by boat and much differ any other view. So even though I am not visiting Positano this trip, I am fortunate enough to be able to have this great view on a perfect weather day.
By 10:45 or so we arrive at Marina Grande and this time rather than a taxi I decide to take the funicolare to the center of Capri. The ticket is €1.80 one way and the biglietti booth is to the far right of the pier. You must purchase a ticket prior to getting into line for the funicolare. At least twenty minutes in line makes me wonder weather the €5 taxi fare would have been a better idea. Too late now. After spending five days in Naples with Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations, that this entire area, Naples, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, is all built on tufa stone, from lava. So unique modes of transportation, like a funicolare, are essential ways to move from lower to higher elevations.

Before I look for Ristorante Longano I do need to do something. Unfortunately the battery to my camera is exhausted and no longer will take a charge. The two photo shops in Amalfi are out of that battery so I am hoping Capri may have. A photo shop with a battery. Well no such luck. The two shops here don’t even sell camera batteries. I could kick myself because my son Brian always reminds me to be sure to take an extra camera battery. He is right and after this I will always have a spare. At least I have the camera on my iPhone, and at 8 megapixels the photos are of good quality, although I will have to do without many features from the Nikon Coolpix. After I wander around a bit, and shoot a few photos, I am back in the piazzetta where Via Longano is. In Independence, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, there is also a street with my maiden name. Longano Drive actually was named after my grandfather since he developed the land. This street in Capri is not connected to my family, from what I know. Still, seeing the sign for it is pretty cool.

The restaurant is known for its pizza and pasta dishes, and as as soon as I enter the pizzaiolo is working with a wood-fired oven. I love it. After mentioning to the hostess that my name is Longano and asking for the owner, she explains with a smile that the owner’s name is not Longano. She clarifies that the restaurant is named for the street, Via Longano. So now the question is solved.

Lunch here proves to be a positive experience, especially because she seats me at a table next to a window with a view to die for. I am not that hungry so I decide to have the spaghetti with small pomodori and basilico and ask if they can serve it with penne pasta instead.

No salad, just some acqua naturale and bread. Good choice because I can’t even finish all the food. The pizza menu consists of more than twenty-five pizza including a Longano pizza, which is described as white pizza with Parma ham, arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese. The prices are no bad especially considering this is Capri. This restaurant features a special menu of the day that offers a limited selection of a first and second course, vegetable, dessert, all for €16, including the cover charge. A 10% service charge is not included and either are neither are the beverages. After two hours in the center of Capri, I take the same funicolare back to the marina. Now a line is nonexistent. I am early for the return boat to Amalfi so I decide to have a gelato at a place where I can use the bathroom as well as Wi-Fi.
Bar Corallo is the perfect place to kill time and people-watch. The kind woman who is so accommodating also owns a jewelry shop that features Capri watches. The €8 cost for the gelato is pricey but typical for Capri and well worth it for the time.

After I arrive back in Amalfi I am tired but decide to see if the cathedral is open. Just my luck it is open from 5:00PM until 7:00PM and I am glad for the opportunity.

This cathedral is as impressive inside as much as it is outside. Originally built in the ninth century the Cathedral of St Andrew underwent massive renovations several centuries ago and now is an example of baroque and romanesque design. Opting not to have dinner I am back in my hotel room early to edit photos and relax.






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A Day in Amalfi


Oct 9, 2014 First Full Day in Amalfi

Breakfast on the terrace this morning could not have been any better. With a view of the beach on the Tyrrhenian Sea and feeling the warm breeze, I could have sat here all day. Relaxation defined.

I have never stayed in Amalfi, nor spent much time here except in the main square, so I set off to explore. Wandering up the main street I discovered small alleys and streets with a supermarket, ristorantes, ceramic shops, and businesses the local people use, like a barber shop and laundry. The more I walked, the higher the elevation, and although I am far from being physically fit, at least I am in better shape than the last time I came to Italy. The walking on inclined streets did not seem to bother me much at all, which was good since I wanted to walk a lot while in Italy to balance out the calorie intake.

Wandering onto a side road, I asked a local man if there was a view from there. In English he explained that there were just more homes. He walked the same route as I, so we had a conversation which turned out to be a history lesson for me. He was retired, so yes, likely about 75 years old, and he explained that the road ended where we were walking because a river had been there, and bridges were built. By the time we got to the main square, he told me that the sea at one time had come up to the location of St Andrew’s Cathedral.

Then he pointed out the fountain, which had a statue of St Andrew on the top, and ironically had figures which were far from saintly beneath. He said the fountain used to be situated in front of the cathedral but was after moved so it wouldn’t obstruct the traffic flow. Also he explained that the cathedral had been built over a prison. So interesting. I plan on visiting the cathedral on another day, although he kindly offered to act as a guide if I wanted to go now.

He told me that a princess died in that tower in Scala that can be seen high above Amalfi.
This gentleman’s name was Antonio and the conversation was precious to me because I learned something about the local culture. He told me that Amalfi had been one of four republics prior to the Unification of Italy, and that it was quite powerful as the Maritime Republic of all of southern Italy. What I think I will remember the most was what he said about the local Amalfi people. He said that when they die, they know they will go to Paradise and they already live in Paradise.


I then visited the Arsenale on the advice of a Twitter follower.
This ancient place now is used as a venue for musical events. In addition it is a museum and displayed original gold coins called Tari. Some local shops even made jewelry with them.

After returning to my room I did some laundry by hand and caught up on my blog and photo editing. Then in the evening I found the other restaurant recommended by the front desk manager. Da Maria Trattoria had a great margherita pizza. While waiting for it I noticed the decor fit in perfectly with the name of the restaurant. About twenty or so ceramic holy water fonts of Mary decorated the walls.



I love being on the Amalfi Coast. Tomorrow I will take the boat to Capri!

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Travel Destination – Italy’s Stunning Amalfi Coast

20141010-230929.jpgOct 8,2014 As you may have guessed, that grueling travel day was totally worn it it as soon as I arrived in Amalfi. My hotel, once an eighteenth-century palazzo, is a beautiful 27-room modern accommodation across from the sea.

My balcony provides me with a view of the beach and tonight the full moon shines brightly. Amalfi is a lively town with plenty of restaurants that stay open late, so once freshened up, I requested a recommendation for a place to eat which was not in the main square.
20141010-230459.jpgWithin ten minutes I arrived on foot at L’Abside Restaurant and Wine Bar, which I reached by walking through the bustling Piazza del Duomo and the Amalfi Cathedral of St Andrew with its huge staircase. Hundreds of people were on the street tonight in this summery-like weather. Turning left I walked up a steep alley until I came upon the small Piazza del Dogi.

20141010-230005.jpgThe restaurant’s outdoor tables were full. Of course it was typical Italian dinner time, 9:15PM, so the kind waitress had me sit inside and wait a few minutes for a table outside. The ambience is perfect in this temperate climate where a scarf might not even be needed. A glass of prosecco, some acqua naturale, and homemade ravioli with a green salad was just what I needed.

The waiters and waitresses spoke English and I overheard a lot of English conversation from visitors British accents. I felt like I was in heaven here and already knew that the next four days were going to be perfect. My plan here was to relax and enjoy Amalfi, maybe visit the nearby town of Ravello and take the boat to Capri for a few hours. Buonannote. More about Amalfi tomorrow.20141010-232903.jpg

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My Italian Family

The only reason I went to Molise and to the town of Colle d’Anchise was to visit my cousins on my father’s side of the family. My cousin Antonella and I connected a few years ago on FaceBook and this was the third time I have visited her and her family. It was a short visit but I got to see everyone.

Meet my Italian cousins!
Antonella and her husband Michele

Isabella, Antonella’s mother

Santina, Antonella’s youngest sister

Carolina with Santina, also a sister

Pasqualina, Antonella’s aunt with Antonella’s Nonna Carolina

Gianluca, Antonella’s son

Federica, Antonella’s daughter


They are all so happy and nice. I enjoyed my time with them.

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More Train Adentures in Italy


Oct 8 2014
When you travel to small towns in southern Italy you have to expect an adventure, particularly if you are traveling by train. So today was no exception. Luckily Antonella dropped me off at the Boiano train station thirty minutes early, because immediately after I arrived a train official asked me where I was going and when I said Salerno, he directed me to follow him to a waiting bus full of people.

Apparently there was some problem with the 1:45PM train to Salerno and a bus was taking us to Isernia where we would board a train to Caserta and then change to one headed for Amalfi. Lucky for me that I understand enough Italian and can communicate with other waiting passengers to determine which track will have the train going to my destination.


I can understand why a car is helpful in southern Italy and perhaps next time I will consider one because these small towns are not so easy to reach. The Amalfi Coast is reached either by Naples or Salerno but still it is a project to get there.

A kind young Italian man from Napoli helped me with my luggage and put it on the overhead rack. He told me he was a pizzaiolo in Posillipo near Napoli. He was impressed when I told him I had been there and showed him some photos. At least this train is not crowded and a woman who is also going to Caserta is sitting across from me. She was helpful in explaining in Italian that I need to get off there and change trains to go to Salerno.

At 3:05PM the train left the station. The hour and a half trip to Caserta naturally didn’t occur as I had expected. Since nothing happens fast in Italy, we had a delay at Venafro for an unknown reason. The train just sat on the tracks for 25 minutes. I have learned that it pays to be flexible because these situations occur frequently and are completely out of my control. So I used the time to write my blog post and edit photos on my iPad. This is Italy…and you have to take the good with the bad. It’s the whole package or nothing.


Finally a few minutes before 5:00PM the train pulled into the Caserta station. All the men on the train had been discussing my predicament and were concerned whether there would be a train to Salerno today, now that this train arrived seventy minutes later than scheduled. One man who spoke some English informed me that there had been a crash early this morning near Boiano, so that was the reason for the delay. We then had a conversation partly mostly in Italian about how common these problems are in the south of Italy. I said, “Capito.” One man said that they would have a revolution. You gotta love the passion.

Needless to say, the attractive young pizza maker from Napoli told me that he would carry my bag off the train. The kind woman who sat near me said “Buon viaggio” and gave me a kiss. She also told me that next time I come here I must stay at her house. Where have you ever met friendlier people? Grazie Millle a tutti!

And of course no one ever checked that I had a train ticket.

Once inside the station I checked with the man at the ticket desk and he informed me that the next train to Salerno is at 6:12PM. I remembered taking this same train three years ago when my train was diverted here, so no problem. I know there are SITA buses that run late so I will get to Amalfi sometime this evening. I am not worried. It’s all part of the adventure.

Thirty minutes prior to my scheduled departure I saw the train on Binario 5 with a sign indicating its destination, various stops, and time of arrival in Salerno. Just to double check I asked the train official who was walking nearby and he verified the information.

This was great news. I stepped onto this larger and more modern train, and to my delight, there were no steps. I had my choice of seats since it was empty and I was able to sit in the first row where there was space for my bag on the floor next to me. Everything is working out fine. and on this train the Trenitalia official checked ticket. You just never know.


If I’m lucky I will be able to buy a bus ticket at the station and catch the next bus to Amalfi without having to wait too long. Vediamo.

Did you think this trip to Amalfi could continue without any more problems? Well, I arrived in Salerno at 7:15PM, rushed to the edicola downstairs to buy the one-way SITA bus ticket for €3.40, and went outside to the bus stop only to find the familiar blue SITA bus dark. I asked a young man where the bus stop was, in case it may have been moved. He informed me that today there was a riot, or some type of strike, so not all buses were in service. You can imagine now that my patience was wearing thin after traveling for the last six hours. He kindly directed me to the office, where a pleasant employee stopped what she was doing to hear my frantic request. She said that in ten minutes a bus would be coming, at 7:30PM. This was my lucky day, I guess. Right on time the bus appeared and within three minutes or less we were on our way to Amalfi.

I look forward to the next four nights to relax in my hotel with a view.

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