Visions of Italy – Scenes from Molise

I can’t believe it has been almost a month since I posted here. I guess that’s what happens when you are focused on writing a book. I have been seriously working on a photo book that I hope to publish this spring. Stay tuned for that.

Molise, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasMolise is the region in Italy where my paternal grandparents were born. Originally Molise was part of a region called Abruzzi e Molise, but in 1970, that region was split into the two regions of Abruzzo and Molise, making Molise the newest region in Italy. The area is mountainous and beautiful, not typically a tourist area.

Molise, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasEnjoy a few photos from Molise.

Molise, Italy photo by Margie Miklas

Molise, Italy Photo by Margie MiklasDSCN5322 - Copy (640x480)Molise, Italy Photo by Margie Miklas DSCN5309 DSCN5310 DSCN5311Can you tell I have an attraction toward these old doors? I often wonder who lived in these homes and what they were like. Today most of the homes here are vacant. Lots of stories behind these doors…but we’ll never know them.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Italy Magazine Blog Awards

Amalfi Coast - Photo by Margie MiklasI am beyond thrilled to announce that margieinitaly has been shortlisted for the Italy Magazine Blog Awards 2014. Thank you for all your support, because it is thanks to you that margieinitaly has this honor.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice, ItalyMargieinitaly has been shortlisted in two categories. One is for Best Travel Blog and the other is for Best Single Post Art & Culture Blog for the post titled  Street Scenes in Naples.

Street Scenes in NaplesI would be most grateful if you would vote in these categories. Voting ends February 27, 2015 with the winners announced on March 3, 2015 at Italy Magazine. To vote, click on these links:
Best Travel Blog
Best Single Post Art and Culture Blog

Grazie di cuore! Thank you from my heart!

Posted in Italy Travel | 23 Comments

Top 7 Excuses People Use Not to Buy Books

Margie Miklas, Author - Book Signing at the Florida Writers Association Conference
As a writer, I enjoy writing a whole lot more than selling or marketing my books. I am sure this is true for most writers, yet books do not sell themselves, so promoting and marketing becomes part of the process.

I have personally found Twitter to be one of the best avenues for promoting and networking, and I enjoy the engagement with others on this 140-character social media venue. I have sold the majority of my books as a result of the word getting out via Twitter, and I have found the community of writers and readers to be  extremely supportive of each other. I am grateful to all who have played a part in this process.

Photo by Margie Miklas

However, as a member of the Treasure Coast Writers Guild I also occasionally participate in events where I have the opportunity to engage readers and sell my books in person. It’s fun and I am able to autograph them for readers who are interested in learning about my travels in Italy. I am not a salesperson by nature, so I don’t sell that many books at these venues overall. Recently, however, I had a fun and successful weekend at a three-day Taste of Little Italy festival, not far from where I live in Florida.

Author Margie MiklasOf course not everyone buys a book and that’s OK, but I am always amazed at the excuses which I have heard again and again. I don’t know why someone doesn’t simply say, “Thank you, not today,” or “I’m not interested,” or “That’s not my genre.” So I decided it’s time to write a post to share with you the top 7 excuses people give not to buy books.

• “I don’t read.” This seems to be one of the most common excuses I’ve heard, and it never ceases to surprise me when someone says this while they walk away. If I myself didn’t read, I would be ashamed to admit it to anyone, but apparently “Honey Badger don’t care.” Unbelievable.
• “I only read the Bible.” This is another excuse I hear almost every time, and I don’t even live in the Bible belt. It’s as if they believe that God doesn’t want anyone to learn anything that isn’t in the Holy Book.
• “I have so many books to read already.” Okay, I can sort of identify with this one, but what’s one more, especially if you seem to really be interested in the subject?
• “I could write a book.” Duh – What does this have to do with reading a book, or buying a book? If you could write a book, go do it.
• “I only read on my Kindle.” While I realize that Kindle sales outsell paperbacks today, I would think a more appropriate response might be, “Is your book available online as an eBook?”
• “I don’t even live here.” This excuse is from a snowbird, someone who lives in Florida for a few months during the winter and then returns to a home up North. The first time I heard this, I couldn’t help myself from asking where they lived and then asking if they read in New Jersey. See why I was not cut out to be in sales? Obviously, the person did not buy a book from me.
• “I didn’t bring any money with me.” This one is another excuse that makes me wonder how anyone could leave their home with no money. Again, even if this was true, I would never acknowledge this to a stranger.

There are plenty more excuses that people give for not buying books, but these 7 are the top ones I have heard. I’d love to hear more, so please share any you’ve heard.

Book signing - Margie Miklas
If you like what you read, please leave a comment, and/or share this post with a friend. I’m always interested in feedback. Until then, keep reading and thank you for not being one who “doesn’t read.”

Continue reading

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Passion for Italy – Guest Blog by Ishita Sood

Today I am happy and honored to feature a guest blog post by a writer who has an unbridled passion for Italy. Like me, Ishita seems to never tire of dreaming and writing about Italy. Please welcome Ishita Sood, a writer from India.

Photo by Ishita Sood ITALYI was always fascinated by Italy even as a young girl, the Colosseum in Rome especially attracted me. I felt a strong pull towards this country of wonderfulness and I knew that someday I would definitely visit Italy.

So in 2013, my friend and I thought of visiting Europe. After setting an ambitious target of wanting to see 5 countries, we narrowed it down to 3 and then finally to two – Italy and Spain. I was sure of one thing – I couldn’t miss Italy for the world!

Photo by Ishita Sood ITALYLanding in Rome on a lovely warm evening in September, just a week before my birthday, little did I know that I would be leaving this country with a heavy heart but wonderful memories for a lifetime. Italy enthralled me, I did not know that a 2 week trip could have that much of an effect on me as Italy did. I felt as if I was in my land, as if I had already visited this place in some other lifetime of mine. It is easier to say that I felt a connection in the first few days of my travel and it was a wonderful feeling. I was ecstatic!

Photo by Ishita Sood ITALYThe cobblestoned streets, wonderful piazzas, street side cafes, everything lured me. I had read a lot about Italy from a guidebook of Lonely Planet especially made for the Indian traveller’s taste and palate. I realized how  similar our country is to Italy. We Indians are big on food and family values just like the Italians; I couldn’t help but smile as I recalled one of the lines from Gregory David Roberts’s book Shantaram. It said very simply “There is so much Italian in the Indians, and so much Indians in the Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a goddess, even if the religion does not provide one.” How true!

Photo by Ishita Sood ITALYItaly has been my calling ever since. The hill town of Biasa near the Cinque Terre – where I found the real Italy; Florence where I realized how much I love the land; and Rome – my first Italian city which took a bit of my heart.

Photo by Ishita Sood ITALYFor those of you who may be curious, yes I will be visiting Italy again someday soon and this time I will be away from the bigger cities and travel the smaller towns where the real Italy is. Thank you Margie for this wonderful opportunity to write for your blog as a guest blogger, I am thrilled and honoured.

Ishita is an Indian blogger who visited Italy for a couple of weeks and fell in love. Since then, she has been writing, reading and researching on the country. Ishita plans to return to the country soon and visit the unexplored regions. She writes the blog, Italophilia! Italy,Books, and More..!   Follow Ishita on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Posted in Italy Photo, Italy Travel, Italy Travel Planning, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Travel Tips for Visiting the Amalfi Coast in Italy

Along the Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast is  one of the most stunning places in Italy. I could describe this stretch of coastline in so many ways: beautiful, magnificent, captivating, appealing, alluring, gorgeous, and wonderful. As you know by now, the Amalfi Coast is my favorite place in Italy, hard as it is to decide on just one spot. Each time I have visited Italy, I have chosen to go to the Amalfi Coast, and I never tire of it. As you might expect, it is once again on my itinerary when I return to Italy this spring.

Situated along Italy’s southwestern coastline in the region of Campania, the Amalfi Coast offers stupendous views,  wonderful food, tempting shopping, and relaxation.
Beginning at the southern end of the Sorrentine peninsula,  and ending at Salerno, the Amalfi Coast offers some of the most beautiful scenes combining cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea below. It is truly a photographer’s dream. Each time I visit I learn something valuable to make travel there a little easier, and here are a few travel tips, based on my personal  experience along the Amalfi Coast.

• Take a bus ride along the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Amalfi. The SITA bus is accessible at the bus station next to the train station in Sorrento and makes a stop in Positano along the way to Amalfi. For the best views, sit on the right side of the bus for this hair-raising experience. You can board other buses from Amalfi if you choose to ride farther along the coast to the towns of Minori, Maiori and Salerno.
• Be sure and taste some limoncello in Sorrento as this liqueur is made from the very large fresh lemons grown in this area. It is very refreshing especially on a hot day, and there is no problem finding it anywhere in Sorrrento.Cathedral in Amalfi
• Buy some hand-painted ceramics in the shops of  Sorrento or Amalfi. The prices are lower than what you will find in Positano.
• Get off the bus in Positano and walk down the winding streets to la spiaggia, the beach, to get a real feel for the town and the people of Positano. This was one of the filming locations for the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and you can have lunch on the beach at the famous restaurant Buca di Bacco, just like Diane Lane did in the movie.
• Take a day trip to the island of Capri on a hydrofoil or ferry boat from Amalfi. You will experience breathtaking views of Positano and Amalfi from another perspective. Capri can only be reached by boat and it is worth the trip. You can also get to Capri from Sorrento, Positano and Maiori as well.

• Avoid visiting the Amalfi Coast in July and August as these months are the most crowded as well as having the hottest temperatures. Most Italians take a vacation in August and it’s next to impossible to navigate the roads. As one guide told me, the buses cannot even stop sometimes at their destinations because of the congestion, and what takes an hour and a half normally would take twice as much time driving the coast.
Li Galli islands in southern Italy
• For a quieter experience, go to the hilltop town of Ravello which is situated five km above Amalfi. You can take a 20-minute bus ride there from Amalfi, and you will experience a complete change of pace and sound from the busier more touristy towns of Positano and Amalfi. The views are spectacular from this high, as Ravello overlooks the Amalfi coast towns of Maiori and Amalfi. I was able to capture stunning  shots with my camera from this vantage point.
• Watch the experienced artisans in Sorrento as they create by hand the beautiful music boxes made of inlaid wood called Intarsia Sorrentina. You can purchase these at excellent prices in the shops here as well. The shop owners are happy to give you a deal, just for the asking, especially is you but more than one item. You have a choice of music to put inside the box you purchase.
• Consider staying in one of the smaller towns of Minori or Maiori if you just want some relaxation. The pace is slow and the beach is inviting, not to mention the stunning views. Both towns are on the bus line for easy access to Positano, Amalfi or Sorrento.
Maiori PromenadeOnce you go to the Amalfi Coast you’ll never forget it.  When I’m there,  I find myself wishing I could stay forever. It’s no wonder the Amalfi Coast  is one of the most popular places in southern Italy. These travel tips are just a few suggestions based on my memorable experiences in this little piece of heaven called the Amalfi Coast.

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

Movies Filmed in Italy

20110430-102759.jpgItaly has long been famous as a favorite filming location for Hollywood moviemakers. I love movies and am particularly interested in the behind the scenes information and shooting locations.  When I can recognize places I have been in Italy as I watch a film, I get a little excited.

The classics which easily come to mind for many of us include Cleopatra, Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday, Cinema Paradiso, and The Godfather.

In the past 15 years, quite a few popular American films have been shot on location in Italy, and as a result, tourism in the smaller towns has dramatically increased. Here are just a few of the more well-known films made in Italy.

The Trip to Italy was a comedy that took Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a road trip through Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and ending in Capri.

Some exterior scenes of Pompeii were shot in Naples and Pompeii.

The Great Beauty, or La Grande Bellezza, was the 2014 Oscar winner that everyone is still talking about. The cinematography of the scenes in Rome is breathtaking. I could see that movie over and over just for the scenery.

The Temple of Hercules Victor in Rome

The Temple of Hercules Victor in Rome

The Woody Allen movie, To Rome with Love was filmed in Rome, beginning with the first scene in Piazza Venezia. Other locations include Trastevere,  the Rome Termini station, Trevi Fountain, and other famous places.

In  The Tourist, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp star in a thriller set and filmed in Venice. Scenes were filmed on a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal and near the Rialto Bridge.

Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal

Eat Pray Love was filmed partly in Italy in the Naples area. One of the scenes was filmed in Pio Monte della Misericordia Church and another at the famous pizzeria , L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele.

The American, starring George Clooney, was filmed in the Abruzzo region of Italy, in the small towns of Sulmona and Castel del Monte.

Piazza delle Erbe in Verona

Piazza delle Erbe in Verona

Letters to Juliet was shot in the lovely town of Verona, and since the success of the movie, Verona has even more tourists than before. Most of the film was actually shot in Tuscany near the Castelnuovo Berardenga area.

When in Rome, starring   Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel, obviously was shot in various famous locations throughout Rome, many of which are easily recognized.

The popular Angels and Demons starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard, was shot in various locations in Rome.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon was filmed in Montepulciano, and the huge success of the movie added to the the curiosity of tourists, with even more of them flocking to this town, which had already become famous with the 2003 film, Under the Tuscan Sun.

Quantum of Solace, the James Bond thriller, was filmed in the Italian Alps, with the opening chase scene taking place in the town of Carrara and along Lake Garda. Other scenes in the film were shot in the Tuscan city of Siena during the yearly Palio in Piazza del Campo.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was filmed in Matera since the landscape could easily be made to look like Jerusalem.

The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, was filmed in Venice, Italy in such prominent locations as the balcony of the Doge’s Palace, the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.

This remake of the original 1969 film, The Italian Job, starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron, features scenes shot in Venice on the Grand Canal and at Campo San Barnaba and Marco Polo airport.

Under the Tuscan Sun was shot in several locations, one being Montepulciano, in Piazza Grande, where Diane Lane was mesmerized by the traditional festival flag throwing contest. Of course her beloved Bramasole (in reality VillaLaura) was located and filmed in the hill town of Cortona, which has not been the same since. A small village, basically unknown prior to this film, Cortona has had hundreds of thousands of visitors since becoming famous in this film. Many of them have actually purchased homes here, not unlike Diane Lane’s character in the film.

The Bourne Identity, starring Matt Damon, was shot in various locations in Europe, including Rome. The opening scene, in which Damon’s character was rescued by a fishing crew, was filmed at the Imperia harbor on the northwest coastline of Italy in the Liguria region.

The crime thriller film, Hannibal, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Anthony Hopkins, was filmed in Florence at various easily recognized locations. The scene in which Pazzi was hanged was shot in the Palazzo Vecchio, and Anthony Hopkins’ character, Dr Fell, purchased a silver bracelet on the Ponte Vecchio.

An upcoming film scheduled to shoot on location in Italy is the remake of Ben-Hur, and the location is in Matera in the Basilicata region. Shooting begins next month and over 1000 locals will star as extras in the film.

Posted in Art, Made in Italy, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

An Interview with a Mosaic Artist and Designer – Meet Felicia Funderburk

Felicia Funderburk, creator, designer,owner of Fragments Mosaic StudioToday I am  truly honored to introduce you to Felicia  Funderburk, creator, designer, and owner of  Fragments Mosaic Studio in Los Angeles.  Felicia is a  mosaic artist with a love and passion for Italy, and it certainly can be felt in her words and seen in her works of art. If you’re like me, you will have tears in your eyes by the time you finish reading.

Welcome,  Felicia.

When did you visit Italy for the first time, and what was your reason for going?

My first visit to Italy was in March, 2013. The purpose of my trip was twofold: To immerse myself in the beautiful history, art, culture and landscape of 3 cities I’ve ALWAYS longed to visit: Rome, Florence, and Venice. I wanted to visit Rome and Florence before ending in Venice (saving the best for last?!) where I would participate in a week long, intensive mosaic course at the famed Orsoni Scuola Mosaici. The result of my trip was life-changing: I fell in love with Italy!

It’s obvious you have a passion for Italy. Did this develop after your trip to Italy or have you always felt this connection?

I grew up in Pennsylvania, having lived next door to a wonderful Italian family of seven (the five children were my childhood friends) so I was always fascinated by their Italian traditions and their annual visits to Italy. I then studied Latin for 4 years in high school with the most amazing full-blooded Italian teacher (Mr. Stagliano) who continued to nurture that “Italian seed” in me! Studying Latin not only helped me learn medical/scientific terminology quickly, it also gave me an even deeper appreciation and respect for the history of Roman and Greek civilization, language, literature, art, music, culture, and architecture. So, in essence, I guess it’s safe to say the appreciation of and longing to visit Italy have long been a part of me! Now I simply dream of my next visit there. My husband and I just returned from Italy in November of 2014.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

I grew up with 3 older brothers and a younger sister. Our sister is severely disabled as a result of brain damage suffered from an undiagnosed metabolic disorder at birth. Having said that, I was the “first born girl” so I had a unique position in our family. My Mom was a labor and delivery nurse and I spent a lot of time as a very young girl “helping” my Mom to take care of my sister. The “helping” gene established itself in me early on and I did wish to be a nurse like my Mom; HOWEVER, I was notoriously ALWAYS busy, busy, busy with my hands. Very much a tomboy, hanging out with my 3 older brothers, I learned to do a lot of things with my hands at a young age, also.

When I was 7 years old, I suffered a tragic accident that left me completely blind in one eye. It’s true when a Mom says: “Don’t throw stones, somebody can lose an eye.” That’s precisely what happened to me and we still have no idea which brother did it ;) I spent an entire summer in the hospital with both eyes covered with patches, having to be carried to the bathroom and having to be on bedrest…that experience, I believe has heightened ALL of my senses to this day and especially, it has helped me to realize that I should never, ever feel “limited” by my lack of sight. I made my first “real” stained glass owl at age 8 in my Dad’s Uncle Bernie’s studio. I’ve always been surrounded by creative people—mostly very gifted musically (which skipped me!)

Perhaps the first time I realized that my parents both supported me (entirely) in my quest to be creative and artistic came when I was a rebellious teenager and they allowed me to paint my bedroom walls the way I wanted to paint them—which involved a gigantic, continuous rainbow all the way around the room and a black closet wall complete with white stars! My parents always fostered my creativity and I had the most fabulous art teachers in my schools all the way through 12th grade! Our school district’s art program was second to none—we had exposure to it all: Drawing, Painting, Photography, Ceramics, Art History, Art clubs, field trips…it was very cool to have such talented teachers who were so inspiring—I credit them among the many who nurtured the creative part of me!

Felicia Funderburk, creator, designer,owner of Fragments Mosaic StudioYou have another career besides your mosaics studio. Tell us about that.

I have been a registered nurse for 26 years. After I graduated, I worked for one year in the adult hematology/oncology department. Neonatal Intensive Care units were the “up and coming” thing while I was in school in the 1980’s. A job opening became available in the NICU and I was young and adventurous and said “Yes!”. I never left the NICU since. I absolutely LOVE taking care of critically ill babies and their families as most of the stories have very happy endings…even after many months! I believe the highlight of my NICU career was being on the aeromedical transport team for 12 of those years—flying in a helicopter in all kinds of East coast weather with a critically ill infant, a respiratory therapist, and a pilot probably cemented my ability to think critically, act autonomously, and live adventurously!

Can you talk about the way the Master in Mosaic course is organized at the famous Orsoni Studio in Venice?

First, allow me to say: attending the Orsoni School was SUCH a dream come true for me! I literally cried when I stepped out of the train station at Santa Lucia in Venice—I was traveling alone and Venice literally “spoke to me” (and has been speaking to me since!)…for, I was LIVING THE Dream!! The course is very well organized. Prior to arriving at the school, the student is expected to have their drawing/design ready as the students get to work immediately on Day #1 and work many, many long and diligent hours after first receiving individualized and group instruction on the history, methods, and techniques of the ancient art of mosaic. The class size is very intimate and students in my class came from all around the globe.

Felicia  Funderburk, creator, designer, and owner of  Fragments Mosaic StudioOur teacher, Antonella, is amazing and quite talented as a mosaic master. She was assisted each day in our classroom by Mirta, our interpreter who translated into English. We met Lucio Orsoni on a number of occasions during our course time and that was extra special! The students are allowed 24 hour access to the studio so a few of us worked late at night after a late dinner somewhere in the city. The school is a truly magical place. The course takes place right in the midst of an ancient, working glass foundry.

When I arrived in Venice, I walked along the Grand Canal, followed along a Fondamenta, found my little calle and came upon a very unassuming pink façade of a building with a small mosaic sign that read: “A. Orsoni”. I knew I had arrived; yet, I had NO idea what treasures awaited behind that façade, that door, that wall!!! The grounds of the Orsoni factory consist of several separate buildings—you enter through a door into the most amazing gallery: Lucio Orsoni’s work is proudly displayed under beaming lights and it takes your breath away instantly! This building houses the offices of Orsoni Worldwide Headquarters. To the back of the building, past the gallery, are the offices and a door that leads outside to the studio, foundry, color library, and warehouse (complete with a door that opens to a tiny canal where they ship their product from!) The second floor of the gallery is the absolutely stunning Domus Orsoni—easily, the most beautiful, impressive “bed and breakfast” I’ve EVER stayed in (or encountered!). All of the buildings form the perimeter of a beautiful garden space—very unusual in Venice!

Were you able to complete your mosaic piece during the week at Orsoni?

Yes, after many long hours and days! I am always shocked and amazed when someone says “Oh, that looks easy; I could do that”! Mosaic is very labor intensive and time consuming…very meditative for me. I spent the first day of class drawing my design onto the substrate and choosing materials. The remaining four days began early in the morning at 8 or 9 AM and we worked all through the day, many days skipping lunch and most days, returning in the evening to work some more! I was very happy to complete my project on the last day! The teachers helped me to package it very securely and I hand-carried the very heavy mosaic all the way home!

How intensive were the courses and did you stay on the grounds during your study there?

There were students of all skill levels in my class; but, it was very suitable for all present. The teachers were always available if you had questions and there was never any pressure to finish the project if you worked more slowly. I did, indeed, stay on the grounds of the school at the Domus Orsoni and it was FABULOUS to say the least! A few of the other students stayed there as well and so, it was quite nice to be right “on location” and to have 24 hour access to the studio if we wished! We each had a key to the front door and to our individual rooms so we could enter/exit whenever we wished.

The rooms are unbelievably gorgeous—each furnished by a different mosaic artist’s touch! The room I stayed in was SO extraordinary: my bathroom floor and walls were made of GOLD!! My headboard and side tables were covered with beautiful mosaics that reflected the natural light that filtered in through the four windows in my room—two windows overlooked the calle below and the other two windows faced the magical courtyard below, just across from the foundry and studio. Staying there was like living in a dream. Awakening to the lyrical sound of the foundry workers singing in Italian every morning was absolute heaven!Felicia  Funderburk, creator, designer, and owner of  Fragments Mosaic Studio

Tell me about Fragments Mosaic Studio in Los Angeles and how it came to be that you opened this business.

After I married my husband in 2005, my then-13-year-old daughter, Erika and I moved to Los Angeles from Pennsylvania…we blended families with my stepdaughter, Claire, who was 8 at the time and we all set out anew: new family, new house, new city, new job, new school, new everything! I moved my glass and mosaic supplies with us and set up a studio at our first home here.

In December of 2006, while visiting my family back East for the Christmas holiday, I became suddenly and very unexpectedly ill during what was supposed to be my Mom’s retirement celebration. Not wanting to “ruin the party” I locked myself in the bathroom and proceeded to become lethargic and near unresponsive—my Mom, thankfully being a nurse, called 911 and the next thing I knew, I was in the trauma room of the local ER…in complete hypotensive shock with plummeting blood pressure and a rock hard abdomen. Being a nurse myself, I knew instinctively that I was about to die…my youngest brother who is an Ob Gyn was en route to my parents when my Mom called him and diverted him straight to the ER. I credit him for saving my life as the last thing I remember is him saying: “Get 2 large bore IVs in her now, or I’ll take her to the OR myself”.

Ultimately, that evening, my husband and I learned that we had both conceived and lost our baby and in the process, I had ruptured my uterine artery—requiring surgery and blood transfusions, etc. During the many weeks of recovery following that event, I decided it “was time” to finally create the business I had always dreamed of. The name “Fragments” was an apt metaphor for “picking up the pieces” (of my life, now that I was being granted another chance at living!) And so, “Fragments Mosaic Studio” was born! For many years, my “business” was basically a hobby as I focused on settling on the other coast and raising our family. When my Dad became ill in 2012, I began to realize just how much influence he singlehandedly had on my creativity. Read more about Fragments Mosaics Etsy shop here.

Is most of your work sold through your Etsy shop or is there another avenue for anyone to view your works?

One very valuable lesson I’ve learned along the way as an artist is to document my work! I’m still working to achieve that. The majority of my business has come from word-of-mouth referrals. I opened my Etsy shop in September 2014 at the suggestion of our daughter who insisted I should try it out! We moved to our current home in 2010 and have converted the former garage into my studio. There is always work in progress there; so, one way to see my work is if you are in the Los Angeles area, you can always stop by to see what is going on! I have a portfolio of some of my work that will soon be updated on my website (still learning about documenting my work!) I have done commissioned work for clients after they’ve seen my work elsewhere.

What was one of the most valuable lessons you learned at the Orsoni Studio?

Probably to LET GO of my perfectionist tendencies! Mosaic of ancient times—in its truest, most authentic form—was meant to be viewed from a distance (think: celings, domes, walls, etc) usually at least 30 meters or so. I guess an equally important lesson that I learned is that the spaces between the tesserae are as important—if not more important—than trying to make each piece fit “perfectly” next to another.

How do you balance time for work, a family, and your art studio?

As of August 2014, balancing has become a little easier as we sent our youngest daughter off to college. Our older daughter graduated from college in 2013. So, just by virtue of having parented to the point of college, I have more free time than ever before…yet, simultaneously, caring for my aging Mom and sister on another coast presents its own unique challenges. Balance, I believe, comes about when one is MINDFUL—deliberately paying FULL attention to what is happening around you and within you…mind, body, and heart. I also firmly believe that balance is possible ONLY when one SLOWS DOWN. In this way, I believe we have the power to remain happy and satisfied despite changing conditions around us!

I walk every day, most times more than once…simply to reconnect with my surroundings (inside and out). I don’t watch TV but prefer to listen to music instead. These things help to create the internal ‘balance’ that allows me to face external imbalances [if that makes sense?!] Additionally, I put my fork down after every single bite of food during a meal (seriously!)…..weird? painfully slow? Perhaps. But, it is a reflection of my desire to stay fully present—even during a meal! THIS is what allows pleasure to bloom in thousands of small moments throughout our lives…leading beyond ‘just’ happiness to true Joy! I’d much rather skip a meal than be forced to eat it quickly!

Felicia  Funderburk, creator, designer, and owner of  Fragments Mosaic StudioWhat can you offer to potential clients?

I can custom design/create and mosaic anything you wish. I really enjoy creating mosaics that are made using the ancient techniques, using the ancient tools and materials of thousands of years ago. The most important aspect of my work is to do work that is MEANINGFUL and heartfelt…work that connects the owner to the piece.

Who I serve? I create mosaic art for people who have an appreciation for authenticity, old world style, connectedness, soulfulness, purpose. Typically, the art stirs memories…reminders…connections…love… for the recipient. A dear friend of mine recently lost her 16 year old son suddenly and unexpectedly to undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. I made a mosaic in his memory. As a result of that gift, she in turn has purchased at least 30 unique and very personal mosaics from me in the past 3 months to give to other parents who have lost children. The ripple effect of her compassion is far reaching—I’m merely a vessel through which she works. Sharing in a family’s grief is a privilege and an honor for me. This is the kind of meaningful, soulful, healing creative work I so thoroughly enjoy. In some small way, as I work on the pieces, I am intuitively connected to their spirit and thus, the piece is infused with their energy. It is a newfound gift that has presented itself to me time and again recently. The impact it has on the recipient is astounding.

WHY I do this work?? As a nurse, I helped the sickest, tiniest, most fragile patients fight for their lives. As a mosaic artist, I believe I’m being called to help others connect (or reconnect) with their Spirit. I do it because of what it gives the person—the experience of Joy or Beauty or Hope in their world. For me, my journey to Venice the first time represented a GIANT step in courage to be able to go to Italy by myself, to be open and ever mindful on the journey…as a result, I discovered SO much about myself.

As my website states: I am who I am when I am there. I will return again and again.

To learn more about Felicia or her work, e-mail her at ,   give a call, visit her website, read about her on Etsy, or follow her on Twitter.


Posted in Art, Author Interview, Italy Travel, Made in Italy, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

McDonald’s Italian Style – Rome’s First McDonald’s

McDonalds's in Rome Gelato and CoffeeOne of the major highlights in visiting  Italy is  its wonderful food, and Italians pride themselves on creating the most savory dishes using fresh, local  ingredients. The thought would never cross my mind to  eat at a McDonald’s while visiting Italy – it just seems wrong.

Yet, many tourists do it and I just scratch my head. Not for the food, but for its architectural design, one  McDonald’s in Italy is worth visiting, because it is the most elaborate McDonald’s anywhere in the world. Of course it is the McDonald’s at Piazza di Spagna 46, near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Close to 30 years ago, this   was the first McDonald’s to open in Italy amid protests from groups which later became known as the Slow Food Movement.  Not your typical McDonald’s this one opened in 1986, and  is defined by such features as marble walls, fountains, mosaics and frescoes on the walls.

McDonald's in Rome in Piazza di Spagna 1st floorUpon entering the fairly small and unassuming entrance doors I walked through a hallway with marble walls and up several wide flights of marble stairs to enter the actual restaurant. It was worth taking the time to enjoy the paintings on the walls and get a feel that this is definitely a one-of-a-kind McDonald’s.

I just couldn’t bring myself to order anything except something to drink but I enjoyed the novelty of being in this now famous, Rome McDonald’s. The other unusual feature of this McDonald’s is the separate gelato bar and the “Coffee and Sweet” bar, where you can have an espresso or cappuccino and brioche for a little over one euro. Only in Italy! Not only does this McDonald’s serve the typical fare that Americans know, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes, but they also cater to the Italian customers with caprese salads (tomato and mozzarella) and the il Mac (hamburger on a Panini bun).

When it was built it was the world’s largest McDonald’s seating 435 customers and some reports today say that it holds 800. In typical Italian style, it is noisy and always crowded, due in part to tourists as well as local teenagers.

American tourists with families assume that eating here will  be cheaper than at Italian restaurants but this is not the case.  An average meal runs 8-10 euros, and depending on the conversion factor that may be as high as $14 or $15. The local young people are used to the euro as their currency so the conversion factor never weighs into their decision about prices. The appeal to them is that they can buy a hamburger and fries, not easily found anywhere else in Italy.

The other plus is cold air-conditioning, clean bathrooms, free wi-fi, and free seating if you just order a coffee or cappuccino.

Today there are many more McDonald’s restaurants in Rome and other cities in Italy. Locations in Rome include Piazza Barberini, Via del Corso, Piazza della Repubblica, Trastevere, in the Termini, and the beach, Ostia Lido.

McDonald's sign in Trastevere

McDonald’s sign in Trastevere

I think a visit here is worth it at least once, only for the atmosphere and art,  not the food.

Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Travel, TRAVEL | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Frustration with Social Media – Twitter Lockout

Since my blog usually deals with all things Italian, this post is a bit off topic. But I feel compelled to write after  experiencing so much frustration, or frustrazione in the last 24 hours. I must confess that my good friend and fellow writer and blogger, Stephanie Neighbour suggested the idea, and I decided to run with it.

I have been on Twitter since September of 2012 when I published my first book and had to learn to promote it on social media. I knew nothing then but in two years have managed to  gain over 5000 followers. Anyone who knows me realizes that I am always extolling the benefits  of social media, especially Twitter, for networking and promoting. So as a result, I am on Twitter quite often throughout the day and night. I have come to rely on scheduling websites such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite since  I manage not only my own account on Twitter, but also @ItalianTalks.

For over 23 hours now my @margiemiklas account has been locked. Other Twitter members can see it and so can I, but I cannot access it, or tweet anything from it. I suspect my account has been hacked. The entire process began with an e-mail from Twitter Support.original email from twitter 12202014At first I was skeptical, and researched this to make sure the message was not a scam or hoax. A few hours later, after I was convinced that this was legitimate, I changed my password. I was able to access my account, although not for too long, and then I received another e-mail informing me that my account is now locked.

2nd emailThis was the beginning of the frustrazione, which has only escalated since that time. After numerous attempts to reset the password and receiving this same canned text message I was ready to kill someone. Of course, there is no possibility to talk to a real human being at Twitter. The only communication is the support team via e-mail and a form.

After 18 hours of no access to my Twitter account I took action and created a new account, @margiemiklas1, with the same photo, header background, and bio. At least this way I can still tweet, but now I am starting over with no followers. What a nightmare.

The saving grace of this aggravating scenario is the support and encouragement from my wonderful friends on Twitter…too many to name, but if you go to my new Twitter account, you will see who they are. A few of them even e-mailed with suggestions and advice. Some took to Facebook to spread the word. All were so supportive and helped make this not be such a bad thing. By the end of the day, I had almost 100 followers, not bad for starting from scratch. It’s not 5000, but you have to start somewhere.

I am hopeful that I may have my original account restored. Supposedly, after signing out og third-party applications, such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, after enough time elapses, I may be able to reset my password again. We’ll see, vediamo. Patience comes to those who wait. I do not have high expectations, but some have said that after 3-5 days their accounts had been restored.

So on that note, I am thinking positive thoughts and moving forward. A big hug to everyone and please know how much I appreciate each of you!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all.

Posted in Italy Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Nominate Your Favorite Italy Blog – Italy Magazine ‘s 2015 Blogger Awards

It’s that time of year again, and Italy Magazine is accepting nominations for their 2nd Italy Blogger Awards.

blogger-awardsLast year, thanks to all of you, my blog was a finalist in one of the categories – an honor for me.

Since you are such loyal readers of my blog I can only assume that  you have the same kind of passion for Italy as  I do.  So here is your opportunity to have a voice and nominate your favorite blogs  in the various categories. Of course, I would be most grateful if you nominated margieinitaly for an award. You can vote more than once and in more than one category.

IMG_1183 (640x480)

Click here for the Italy Magazine Blogger Award Nomination link

Here is the information you need when you fill out the Blogger Award Nomination Form
Name *
(Name of person nominating blog – that’s you!)
Blog Title * margieinitaly
Blog URL *
Contact E-mail *
(Contact email for person nominating blog – that’s you!)
Nomination Category *
Check: √ Best Travel Blog and/or Best Overall Blog for lovers of Italy
Grazie mille from the bottom of my heart!!!

Please feel free to share this e-mail with your friends.


Posted in Italian Culture and Lifestyle, Italy Travel, TRAVEL, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments