Italy Travel – Photos from Ostuni in Puglia

Ostuni Photo by Margie MiklasCittà Bianca, or the White City, is the nickname given to the Italian city of Ostuni in the southern region of Puglia. All the buildings in its historic district must be painted white and from a distance  the view of the city is a wondrous site.

Ostuni - Photo by Margie Miklas

Enjoy a photo tour with me throughout the narrow streets of this lovely town.

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Ostuni photo by Margie MiklSOstuni Photo by MArgie Miklas

Ostuni Photo by Margie Miklas

The Cathedral of Ostuni, a 15th century Romanesque-Gothic style church dedicated to the Madonna of the Assumption

Ostuni - Photo by Margie Miklas

Ostuni - Photo by Margie Miklas

Photo by Margie MiklasOstuni - Photo by Margie Miklas

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imageI hope you enjoyed a photo journey with me through Ostuni.

Have you been here before? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.  Grazie.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Pescallo – A Short Walk from Bellagio on Lake Como

Pescallo on Lake Como Photo by Margie MiklasPescallo is a small quiet village on Lake Como and is located less than a mile from the larger resort town of Bellagio. Having read about this place as being a little fishing community away from the tourist area, I was interested to see it for myself. On my first visit to Lake Como and Bellagio in 2011, I started exploring and found that it was only a short walk to Pescallo.

The walk to Pescallo may be short but it is not that simple. For anyone who has difficulty navigating steps or uneven walkways, this is not for you. Although Bellagio is at the water’s edge, the town is built on a hill.

Bellagio 1 edited

There are various staircases rather than streets because of the steep topography, and the names of these walkways reflect that they are staircases, e.g. Salita Monastero. The term Italian word salita means climb. The path to Pescallo cannot be reached on foot except by first walking uphill  in Bellagio.

Bellagio - Photo by Margie Miklas
The main road in Bellagio at the top of the hill is Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and eventually leads to the town hall or municipio. Just across from that town hall is a paved footpath that goes off to the left with a small sign indicating Salita Cappuccini and this goes towards Pescallo.

Photo by Margie MiklasThe walk down is less than ten minutes away and consists of part path and part staircase.

Staircase to Pescallo

There are more steps than you think possible, and after turning a corner, there is another set of steps, and another and another. They are quite steep in places and this continues for awhile. Eventually Pescallo is just ahead after turning right onto Via E. Sfrondrati.

Pescallo on Lake Como Photo by Margie Miklas
Pescallo looks like a postcard and is truly an enchanting and lovely little fishing community. Only a few people are around and there are ducks in the water and boats pulled up on the shore. Reminiscent of a scene from a movie, a couple sits on a bench in the quiet solitude of Pescallo.

Pescallo - Photo by Margie Miklas
One of the two hotels in Pescallo is the family-operated La Pergola and its covered outdoor restaurant sits right on the water. This 14th-century restored convent is the perfect location for a drink or a meal while enjoying il dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing.
For a little respite from the crowds and activity of beautiful Bellagio, take the walk to Pescallo and don’t forget to bring your camera.

Have you been to this out-of-the-way place? Or do you think you’d like to see Pescallo for yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, Reservations, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Meet Marco Jovon – An Authentic Artisan in Venice

Marco Jovon - Photo by Margie MiklasOne of the benefits of social media is the ability to connect with people from other parts of the world. And one of the benefits of traveling to other parts of the world is the chance to actually meet one of them in person. Meet Marco Jovan, an authentic artisan from Venice.

Rialto Bridge Photo by Margie Miklas

Rialto Bridge

When I was in Venice recently, I was thrilled to finally meet Marco Jovon, a talented, enthusiastic Venetian artisan. He and his brother Alessio craft fine cameos by hand, following a tradition started more than eighty years ago by their grandfather, Luciano.

“We can’t look at our future if we don’t understand our past and our roots”.
– Marco Jovon

Custom Cameos by Eredi Jovon - Photo by Margie Miklas

Their shop, Eredi Jovon, can be found on the famous Rialto Bridge, where it has existed since 1934.

Gioielleria Eredi di Jovon - Photo by Margie Miklas

Gioielleria Eredi di Jovon

Marco’s father Bruno was the jeweler for many famous people including Pope John Paul XXIII and Ernest Hemingway. In addition to creating cameos and corals, Bruno was a master at watch repair, and Marco recounts this story of Hemingway’s Rolex. Apparently his watch was losing time, approximately twenty seconds each day, and Hemingway wanted the time to be precise. So Bruno opened the watch and repaired it so it would keep exact time.

Born and raised in Venice, Marco speaks English much better than I speak Italian. His educational background includes a Doctor in Economics degree from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, but he also had to meet his father’s criteria in the jewelry business. In addition to his studies he had to be able to discern the difference between a real and a fake cameo. This was taught to him by his father. Marco’s expertise today is a result of his apprenticeship and years of experience working with his father in the Jovon family shop.

Marco speaks lovingly of his talented father, who died in 1988. At that time Marco and his brother took over the business.

Marco and Alessio Jovon - Photo by Margie Miklas

Alessio and Marco Jovon

Maintaining an important role is his mother Gabriella, who still sets all the coral jewelry today.

Marco, Gabriella, and Alessio Jovon - Photo by Marco Jovon

Marco, Gabriella, and Alessio Jovon

Alessio Jovon - Photo by Margie Miklas

Alessio Jovon

Gioielleria Eredi di Jovon sells authentic hand-crafted jewelry. That is important to know, because many shops on the Rialto Bridge offer jewelry of inferior quality. Marco even posts an explanation for you to learn how to spot the difference between fake and authentic cameos.  See my earlier post where I featured Marco’s cameo promotion and give-away.

What Marco is most proud of are his specialty cameos on demand, or “portrait cameos customized.” Marco can create a custom portrait cameo made directly from your photos or digital files.

Photo by Marco Jovon

Photo courtesy of Marco Jovon

These one-of-a-kind cameos are made completely by hand and customized for the client. Marco begins with your photograph of a person or a pet. Then he creates a drawing from the photograph, and communicates by e-mail with the client.

Photo by Marco Jovon

Photo courtesy of Marco Jovon

He sends a file of the sketch for the client’s approval. Marco wishes to be sure that he has every detail perfect, and modifies the sketch as needed after consulting with the client. Once it is approved he is ready to create the cameo. I was amazed at the detail in the finished custom cameo, truly a work of art made from the heart.

An initial deposit of approximately 30% is all that is needed for Marco to begin work. He is sensitive to privacy issues regarding children and requires a signed agreement granting permission to use the photo to create the custom portrait cameo.

In the process of creating the cameo Marco demonstrates the fine work, describing the process. “A cameo is like a sculpture. You ‘take off,’ using special tools.”

Marco believes a cameo “calls” a client, stating that many of his customers end up buying the first one they see.

 Cameos at Eredi Jovon-Photo by Margie Miklas

Cameos at Eredi Jovon

Many of the non-customized cameos in Gioielleria Eredi di Jovon are beautiful and reasonably priced. The blue cameos are one of his best sellers. Some of these cameos are created from a pre-made design and require partial machine work but all the work is done by the Jovon family.

 Gioielleria Eredi di Jovon has something for everyone, in every price range. You can be assured you are not only buying quality, but taking home a piece of Venetian tradition that has endured for three generations.

Eredi Jovon - Photo by Margie Miklas

Eredi Jovon

 Be sure to stop by Marco’s shop on the Rialto Bridge during your next trip to Venice. Check out his website  where you can see a selection of cameos and prices.

Stay up-to-date with Marco by subscribing to his newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

And if you think you may be in Venice for three days or more, you may want to stay in this beautifully appointed and updated apartment  he rents in one of the best locations in Venice. Contact Marco directly at marco.jovon@gmail.com for details. See the apartment at Biennale Apartments.

And please tell him Margie sent you.

Alessio Jovon, Margie Miklas, Marco Jovon, and Giorgio - Photo by Margie Miklas

Alessio Jovon, Margie Miklas, Marco Jovon, and Giorgio

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Made in Italy, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Italy Pics

Vietri sul Mare on Amalfi Coast Photo by Margie MiklasItaly is a photographer’s dream destination. I love to take photos and each time I travel there I take thousands, this time it was 6000. Thanks to digital cameras and smartphones, it’s not so difficult. After I return home, I love looking at my photos of Italy, because they instantaneously transport me to a place where I left a part of my heart.

On the streets of Naples Photo by Margie Miklas

On the streets of Naples Photo by Margie Miklas

I also appreciate and enjoy other travelers’ photos of Bella Italia. Here are some of the best Italy pics posted on Twitter from photographers who shared them with me using the hashtag #Italypics. Grazie amici. Enjoy the photos and check out their Twitter links.

Rome Photo by Len Copland

Rome Photo by @Snapperlen

“Rome” Photo by Len Copland, @Snapperlen

Tropea by @Gsteif

Tropea by @Gsteif

Tropea”  Photo by G steif,  @Gsteif

Secret glimpses in Venice by Valerie du Monceau

Secret glimpses in Venice by @ourvenice

“Secret glimpses in Venice” Photo by Valerie du Monceau, @ourvenice

One of my faves from Tuscany by Ashley Turney

One of my faves from Tuscany by @italyash

“One of my faves from Tuscany” Photo by Ashley Turney, @italyash

The Sassi of Matera by Sophia Khan

The Sassi of Matera by @sophiasstudio

“The Sassi of Matera” Photo by Sophia Khan, @sophiasstudio

Fontana delle Tartarughe, Tortoise Fountain in RomePhoto by @lovelybird66

Fontana delle Tartarughe, Tortoise Fountain in Rome Photo by @lovelybird66

“Fontana delle Tartarughe, Tortoise Fountain in Rome”  Photo by Leila Harris, @lovelybird66

Venice by Charles Christopher

Venice by @eyesofcc

“Venice” Photo by Charles Christopher, @eyesofcc

The medieval hamlet in Agropoli (SA) Photo by @FilomenaDeStefa

The medieval hamlet in Agropoli (SA) Photo by Filomena DeStefano

“The medieval hamlet in Agropoli (SA)”  Photo by Filomena DeStefano, @FilomenaDestefa

Rome - Photo by Len Copland

Rome by @Snapperlen

Rome Photo by Len Copland, @Snapperlen

It was not easy to decide but the Amalfi Coast wins by Marija Markovic

The Amalfi Coast by @MarijaMma

“It was not easy to decide but the Amalfi Coast wins” Photo by @MarijaMma

Verona  by Len Copland

Verona by @Snapperlen

“Verona” Photo by Len Copland, @Snapperlen

Evening walk with a friend tonight by Emily, @inspiredinitaly

Evening walk with a friend tonight by @inspiredinItaly

“Evening walk with a friend tonight”  Photo by Emily, @inspiredinitaly

Pompeii Phot by @Suzie81blog

Pompeii Phot by @Suzie81blog

‘Pompeii” Photo by @Suzie81blog

Came across this beauty in Barga by Jeanie Beck

Came across this beauty in Barga by @italyandson

“Came across this beauty in Barga” Photo by @italyandson

San Gimignano Photo by Ishita, @italophilia

San Gimignano Photo by @italophilia

 “San Gimignano” Photo by Ishita, @italophilia

Cinque Terre Photo by Hannah Babineau

Cinque Terre Photo by @Hannah_Babineau

“Cinque Terre” Photo by Hannah Babineau, @Hannah_Babineau

Lecce's Baroque Photo by Victoria De Maio @ladolcevita4me

Lecce’s Baroque Photo by @ladolcevita4me

“Lecce’s Baroque” Photo by Victoria De Maio, @ladolcevita4me’

Isola Bella in Taormina by @margiemiklas

Isola Bella in Taormina, Sicily by @margiemiklas

“Isola Bella in Taormina, Sicily” Photo by Margie Miklas, @margiemiklas

I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment. And if you are on Twitter share your favorite photos of Italy with me @margiemiklas and use the hashtag #Italypics. Let’s keep this going.

 

Posted in Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Arriving in Positano on the Amalfi Coast

Positano  - Photo by Margie MiklasJune 11, 2015
As we drove along the scenic Amalfi coast road my heart skipped a beat once we approached Positano, the città with the homes which appear to jut out from the cliffs. Choosing this beautiful seaside location as the last place on this Italy experience was perfect, because by now, I looked forward to relaxing in a hotel with a view of the sea.

Amalfi Coast approaching Positano - Photo by Margie MiklasIn 1953 John Steinbeck described Positano perfectly. “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide.”

Positano -- Photo by Margie MiklasMichele, our entertaining Italian driver, left us at a parking garage in the upper part of the town, since vehicles cannot navigate any farther down. The streets narrow into pedestrian walkways and soon disappear and are replaced by staircases and inclined paths.

From here a porter from Hotel Pupetto, our beachfront hotel, met us and distributed our bags onto a wagon. Luckily for us we didn’t have to transport our bags by ourselves, although we had no idea what awaited us.

Excitement reigned as my travel companions and I eagerly began our downhill trek to the beach. Little did we know that we would traverse 300 steps before we would eventually arrive, hot and sweaty.

Positano stairs  - Photo by Margie MiklasJune on the Amalfi Coast seemed to be hotter than normal. In fact most of Italy was experiencing higher than normal temperatures. I was glad I was wearing capris and sandals.

Fornillo Beach in Positano - Photo by Margie MiklasAs we drew closer to the hotel, we caught glimpses of the azure blue sea and the downhill walk immediately became totally worth it! I knew this was where I had longed to be and I felt a sense of sheer joy. And the best part was we had five days here!

Fornillo Beach at Hotel Pupetto in Positano - Photo by Margie Miklas

Fornillo Beach at Hotel Pupetto in Positano

To reach the front desk we had to walk along a path and garden in full bloom with aromatic lemon trees, glorious bougainvillea in hues of magenta and purple, huge white snowball flowers,and other tropical flora.

Hotel Pupetto Garden - Photo by Margie MiklasGarden at Hotel Pupetto-PHOTO by Margie MiklasA large beautifully decorated terrace restaurant extended to overlook the wondrous Tyrrhenian Sea, where small boats were buoyed.

Hotel Pupetto Terrace and Ristorante - Photo by Margie MiklasWe were escorted to our rooms by the friendly English-speaking hotel staff. Once I was inside the room and walked out onto the balcony I knew that I was in Paradise.

This was a dream come true–to realize that for the next five nights this view would be mine,  and that the rhythmic sounds of the quiet waves would soothe me to sleep.

Positano - Photo by Margie MiklasNow you know why this is my favorite place in Italy.

Stay tuned for more posts and photos about Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast.

Have you been to Positano or long to visit? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave me comment and share your thoughts. Grazie!

 

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

50 Tips for Staying Safe as a Solo Female Traveller – Guest Post

Milano Centrale  Milan, Italy - Photo by Margie MiklasI’d like to welcome Raushan Jaiswal as a guest blogger today. He created the cool infographic about safety tips for female solo travelers. Enjoy.

There is no denying that travelling solo can be one of the most insightful adventures in the life. Travelling on your own is fun, challenging, and exhilarating. One of the greatest joys of travelling alone is the freedom to do whatever you like, whenever you like.

Solo travelling gives one the freedom to experience the world without the influence of a friend or partner’s tastes, prejudices, or preferences. You can discover more about yourself at the same time you’re discovering more about your travel. This makes the solo travel delightfully self-indulgent and an ideal opportunity to try something new and exciting.

But solo travelling, especially for a woman, has some perils too. The world is not safe for a woman as we wish it to be. Solo women travelers are more vulnerable to security threats like robbery, harrassments, scams, etc. These safety concerns are the very reason that is keeping most travel enthusiasts away from indulging in our dream travel.

Don’t let your voyage of self discovery be ruined by the evils of the world. A little preparation and common sense can both keep you safe and get you through the rough spots.
Below is a comprehensive list of safety tips for solo female travelers prepared by a travel company 

50 Tips for Staying Safe as a Solo Female Traveller

 Be prepared and be safe by following the solo female traveler’s safety guide while you are on your life changing journey. Enjoy your journey to the fullest by following these tips because when you feel safe, you’re better able to relax and enjoy your trip.

While there is a greater risk for women traveling alone, solo travel is a dangerous business for both genders. Although these safety tips were written with women’s safety in mind, most of these tips are applicable to both men and women.

Raushan is an entrepreneur and a web consultant who loves travelling and wishes to travel around the world with his girlfriend. He can be reached at Twitter and Facebook

 

 

Posted in TRAVEL | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast – Official Book Release

5182 Margie with new bookCiao amici!

 It’s official!  Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast has been published!

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast by Margie MiklasFrom the pulsating streets of Naples to the relaxing vistas of the Amalfi Coast, people, places, and traditions embody the spirit of Campania. The distinctive photography in Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast portrays the southern Italian culture and lifestyle in such a way that the reader will wish he or she was there.

If you dream of discovering  Naples or visiting the Amalfi Coast, or if you have already experienced this region in southern Italy, you will be transported there on every page. This 96-page hardcover book features all original photography by the author.

Photo by Margie Miklas

In Naples with Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations

Available on Amazon.com for $24.95. If you prefer to have an autographed copy, please e-mail me and I will be happy to ship one directly to you for the same cost, plus shipping and handling. USA $30 total. Canada and International is more. Please e-mail me for final cost.

With Luca from Sailing and Sea in Positano Photo by Margie Miklas

In Positano with Luca, Skipper at Sailing and Sea

Read what some are saying about this book from these 5-star reviews on Amazon

A Delightful Book from Start to Finish! This is a lovely collection of photos from a talented writer whose love of Italy is evident in every word and picture. The Amalfi Coast is a favorite vacation spot of mine, and Margie has captured the true essence of this magical slice of heaven. Naples is still on my must-see list, and I’ll be using this book to guide me in my travels. The narration is down-to-earth, as the author takes you along with her on her travels. I particularly enjoyed the way she shares less touristy stops along the way, giving the reader a glimpse of the “real” Italy and a taste of the rich Italian culture. If you’ve been to Italy, you’ll feel like you’re traveling there once again. And if you’ve never been…what are you waiting for?”

Highly recommend! Margie has really done a wonderful job on this book. The photography is amazing and each picture is worth more than a thousand words. The paragraph or two that accompany the pictures accent the views perfectly. This is the best art book I have ever bought. And you can pick it up at any point in the book and feel the wonder of foreign shores, the sounds of the local square, the yummy shops and the people themselves.”

Beautiful  photography. Love the way Margie has captured the magic of Naples and the Almalfi coast in her photographs whether it is everyday life or stunning views. This book is a must have for people who love Italy.”

“Another Home Run Once again Margie has captured the essence and character of Italy, and the people who are an integral part of Her beauty. On this trip we are transported to just 2 locations in her photos and narrative. She doesn’t take us to the same old spots that every tourist goes to and we have all seen ad nauseam. Instead, Margie walks around the corner, taking us with her every step of the way, and we see glimpses of the pulse, the heartbeat, that is Naples, the exquisite beauty that is the Amalfi Coast. The food, the people, the simplicity of life, the majestic magnificence of Her landscapes, the magic, the smiles, the traditions. Take it all in; slowly. Just let yourself be; in the moment. If you want to see the real beauty of Italy, just turn the page. Go around that corner. You won’t be disappointed.”

The perfect book for those interested in Italy This literary offering is a wonderful exposure to the theme and tribute to Italy. It is complete in its detail, and expressive in its ability to transport one to Naples and the coast in a way that makes you feel like you are there, and, definitely makes you want to go. Just sitting down and reading through brings out the excitement of the authors experiences in wonderfully vivid pictures and by the descriptions you can tell the author has a distinct grasp on the culture which bubbles forth from pages.”

“Perfect book to capture life in Southern Italy! You know when they say some authors have the power to transport you to that place. Well Margie did just that for me. I already feel like I have seen a little of  Naples and Amalfi thanks to you, Margie! I felt a mixture of emotions going through this photo book. Thank you for taking me to Italy- again!

STUNNING and ELOQUENCE Beautiful photography, eloquent descriptions from high above the Mediterranean Sea to vivid bougainvillea flourishing in Capri, alley views and laundry hanging from balconies, garlic strung on a balcony and side street flower vendors, vegetables at the market and pastry, and vines to become wines…. this is a book for anyone thinking of Italy, planning on going and for all who know the experience of memorable times there.”

Grazie for all your support! I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Ciao

 

Posted in Italy Travel, Photography, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Cats in Italy

Photo by Margie Miklas Amalfi  Coast catsCats seem to be everywhere in Italy. Maybe I just notice them more since most live outside. On my most recent trip to Italy I saw cats in every single town I visited. I must say though, that I do not recall seeing them in the larger cities of Venice, Florence, and Naples, but I am sure they are there. Because I am a cat lover and have my own cat, Jeronimo,  seeing these kitties in Italy always brought a smile to my face.

Jeronimo Photo by Margie Miklas

My cat at home – Jeronimo

Calico cat in Positano

Calico cat in Positano

Tuxedo cat in Matera ~ Photo by Margie Miklas

Tuxedo cat in Matera

Tuxedo cat in Polignano a Mare ~ Photo by Margie Miklas

Tuxedo cat in Polignano a Mare

This little tuxedo cat was darling but his owner told us he is crazy and his name is Schizzo.

Tabby in Polignano a Mare ~ Photo by Margie Miklas

Tabby in Polignano a Mare

Cats in Apricale

Cats in Apricale

These well-fed cats roam the streets of the Ligurian town of Apricale.

Photo by Margie Miklas

Kitten in Puglia

I took a liking to this little black kitten who lived at Masseria Provenzani in Puglia.

Farm cat in Puglia Photo by Margie Miklas

Farm cat in Puglia

This big kitty also lived at the masseria just outside Squinzano and near Lecce in Puglia.

These kitties and their mamma lived just below our B&B in Polignano a Mare…So cute. Are you a cat lover? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment. Grazie mille!

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Photography, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Experience the Sassi of Matera

Matera in Basilicata - Photo by Margie MiklasMatera in Basilicata has intrigued me for quite some time. Any photos I have seen or stories I have read about this place built from caves have been so  interesting. Finally now I can say that I  have experienced this captivating town in southern Italy.

This 2-minute video provides a brief overview of  Matera.

This past fall the European Commission chose Matera as one of its two capitals of European culture for 2019.

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A recent article in  Smithsonian Magazine explains the history of Matera and how this unique UNESCO World heritage site advanced from being called “the shame of Italy” to a chic place to stay today.

Not only have I visited Matera, but I stayed in one of the sassi, or cave dwellings, which has been restored into a bed and breakfast. Our below ground suite in San Giovanni Vecchio Residenza was one of the oldest in Matera.

image One of the highlights of staying here was the rooftop terrace with a phenomenal view. We enjoyed evening aperitivo here in this ambience where the scent of the blooming purple petunias permeated the night air.

image The managers who spoke excellent English were extremely nice, carrying our luggage down into our rooms.

imageFully restored with wi-fi and a modern bathroom and kitchen, this subterranean accomodation was an adjustment. Twelve steps down lead into the full suite and there are no windows except a small skylight  high above. It was a challenge which caused me to laugh as I rummaged through my suitcase on a curved floor. I don’t think the stone walls can fully hide the fact that this was once a cistern.

Matera is definitely not a place for anyone with mobility issues. There is a lot of walking and most of it is on uneven ground and staircases.

imageAfter walking  for miles the first day, we opted to pay the reasonable fee of  15 euros and had the opportunity to meet Andrea, a pleasant, intelligent, attractive young man with amazingly curly light brown hair. He was born in Matera and speaks with pride and an honest perspective when he shares his feelings from his heart with us. Regarding the changes to his city, he   explains  that while the restoration of Matera may be good for the economy, the additional onslaught of tourists may change his city forever. “Now nobody locks their doors, ” he says.”It’s not always about money. Some things are more  important.” I am impressed to hear so much wisdom from someone so young.

imageHe not only showed us around his city, but gladly stopped for us to take photographs at various locations, and even recommended a favorite place to have lunch. Grazie, Andrea!

imageimageWe had some of the best food and wine in Matera. Breakfasts at Oi Mari Ristorante and dinner outside at La Talpa were enjoyable.

Because of the appearance of the Sassi in Matera, several movies have been filmed here. Most recently, some scenes from the re-make of Ben-Hur were shot here, and 1000 Matera residents had non-speaking parts in the film.

imageMel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ  was filmed here since the landscape resembles Jerusalem;  some scenes were filmed outside and some inside one of the 157 Rupestrian churches here.

imageInside the 12th century Church of  Madonna della Virtu, which is dug entirely in the rock. The frescoes are incredible.

Matera is not as small as I had expected. The city has over 50,000 inhabitants, and these Sassi are in the centro storico, or historic district. I liked it that we saw few tourists except some group tours. I saw very few Americans here, but I think that will likely change within the next few years, leading up to the 2019 celebration of Matera as a capital of European culture.

This post only scratches the surface about Matera. Many more  stories can be told about the interesting museums, free-wandering healthy-looking cats, music which fills the air  from the Conservatory near Piazza Sedile, the  views from Piazza Duomo and the Duomo which is under a major restoration, and more. Stay tuned.

Would you put this off-the-beaten path city in southern Italy on your bucket list? I’d like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italian History, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

A Solo Traveler Goes on a Small Group Tour

From the title of my first book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy, many of you know that I travel solo to Italy and I enjoy the experience. I value the freedom that comes with traveling alone.

FrecciarossaI like creating my own itinerary, deciding where I want to go and what I want to do.

imageI like the lack of stress caused by an argument with your spouse, partner, or travel companion. I also abhor being guided around in a large group like a herd of animals.

Photo by Margie MiklasI believe that traveling solo can be very empowering, especially for women. The unique thing about solo travel is knowing that you are the one who has to make things happen. While that choice is yours, so is the responsibility and yours alone. I often meet up with friends for a day or two, which is great.

Margie Miklas in Gallipoli, PugliaHowever, I decided to make a change this spring and join Victoria De Maio on her Puglia Experience, and I’m so glad I did. I had a fantastic time and did much more than I would have done alone. It was so much more than I expected, and I’d recommend it highly to anyone, whether you are a new traveler or a seasoned traveler.

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Let me tell you what made me decide to join this small group tour.

1. Staying in one place, a masseria, for 10 days… and not having to unpack every few days. I liked that idea. From the masseria we  take excursions to other Puglia towns, and participate in cooking classes, wine tastings, and more.

image 2. Everything is included in the price. All the meals, all the wine, all the excursions, cooking classes, wine tastings, and transportation.

Especially in Puglia, without a car, it is costly to get around when you are traveling solo. I have previously hired a driver in Puglia for half a day and I remember what I paid, so I knew that this was really a great value for the money.

Michele from Puglia Wine School

Michele from Puglia Wine School

These two reasons were actually enough for me, although there are many more reasons I’d recommend this small group experience. All I had to do was to see all the photos Victoria posted from last year’s trip and I was hooked. I wanted to go to those places in Puglia that I hadn’t been to before, as well as revisit those that I had seen.

Our driver Fabio and our guide Daniela

Our driver Fabio and our guide Daniela

I can say without a doubt that one of the best parts of going to Puglia with Victoria was feeling the camaraderie not only with the others in the group, but also with our drivers and guides, and all the local people with whom Victoria has established relationships. It is hard to describe but there was definitely the feel of being part of a family.

 imageI knew from Victoria’s writing that she has the same kind of passion for Italy as I have, and now that I have met her and traveled with her, I realize that it’s that passion that makes her small group experiences so special.

imageCheck it out. It may be for you, or maybe not. But you won’t know unless you give yourself the opportunity. I’m so happy I did.

imageWhat do you think? I’m interested in your thoughts. Please leave a comment. Grazie mille.

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