Weekly Photo Challenge: Sharing My Italy 2012 in Review

WordPress has compiled a 2012 annual report for my blog so I thought it would be fun to share it with you.

Also, this week Photo Challenge gives me the opportunity to review my first year of blogging through some of my favorite pictures. The first 12 pictures are some of my favorite recipes, the next 24 are pictures from my 2012 trip in Italy, and the last two are . . . you will have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find out!

I want to also take this opportunity to thank everyone that has supported me throughout this year and I wish everyone a New Year 2013 filled with peace, joy, and health.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 19,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

My most viewed post for 2012: CALZONI E PANZEROTTI 

Calzoni and Panzerotti

NEAPOLITAN RAGÙ

Neapolitan Ragu`

PESTO TRAPANESE

Maccheroni al Pesto Trapanese

CHIACCHIERE DI CARNEVALE

CHIACCHIERE

EASTER PIZZA PIENA

PIZZA PIENA

ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE

ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE

POTATO GATTÒ

GATTO` DI PATATE

DELIZIA AL LIMONCELLO

DELIZIA AL LIMONCELLO

PARMIGIANA DI MELANZANE

PARMIGIANA

CIAMBELLA DEI SETTE VASETTI

CIAMBELLA

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO

EASTER NEAPOLITAN PASTIERA

PASTIERA

IMAGES FROM MY 2012 TRIP IN ITALY

Navigli, MilanoBroletto, Novara

Cantine Marchesi di Barolo

BaroloLake OrtaLake OrtaVeneziaVeneziaGondole, VeneziaBuranoBuranoBuranoTorcelloTorcelloLake ComoLake ComoOrvietoCivita di BagnoregioCivita di BagnoregioCivita di BagnoregioSorrentoAmalfi CoastAmalfi CoastAmalfi Coast

AND MY LAST TWO

my birthday

MY 50TH BIRTHDAY!

And the hightlight of the year . . . My trip to China

The Great Wall, China

THE GREAT WALL!

FELICE ANNO NUOVO!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Related posts:

Lake Como not off the beaten path but still beautiful

Two nights in Venice

A day in Barolo

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

It seems that the weekly photo challenge has lately become my only opportunity to share my Italy with you. I hope to get back with recipes, travel notes, notes on culture and traditions as soon as possible. For now, I hope you will enjoy my entries for this week photo challenge: delicate.

I picked two images from Venice, the delicate vetri (glass art) of Murano (picture taken at the Carlo Scarpa- Venini exhibition) and the delicate touch of  an artisan working on a Venetian maschera (mask). I am also sharing an image of the delicate Burano merletti (laces) (Burano is a small island in the Venice lagoon and it is known for its lacework). Lastly, the delicate taste of my Delizia al Limone, a lemon flavored dessert typical of the Amalfi Coast. You can find my recipe clicking here.

Weekly Photo Challenges: Reflections

Few photos from Italy to answer this week photo  challenge: Reflections.

ISLAND OF BURANO

ISLAND OF BURANO

VENICE

VENICE

VENICE BY NIGHT

ISLAND OF SAN GIULIO, LAKE ORTA

NAVIGLI, MILAN

NAVIGLI, MILAN

Lake Como . . . not off the beaten path but still beautiful.

View of Lake Como from Varenna

View of Lake Como from Varenna

 Quel ramo del lago di Como, che volge a mezzogiorno, tra due catene non interrotte di monti, tutto a seni e golfi, a seconda dello sporgere e del rientrare di quelli, vien, quasi a un tratto, a ristringersi, e a prender corso e figura di fiume, tra un promontorio a destra, e un’ampia costiera dall’altra parte; e il ponte, che ivi congiunge le due rive, par che renda ancor più sensibile all’occhio questa trasformazione, e segni il punto in cui il lago cessa, e l’Adda rincomincia, per ripigliar poi nome di lago dove le rive, allontanandosi di nuovo, lascian l’acqua distendersi e rallentarsi in nuovi golfi e in nuovi seni… ” (Alessandro Manzoni, from I Promessi Sposi) – translation at the bottom –

How could I have forgotten how beautiful Lake Como is! Perhaps it’s because last time I was there I went to purchase seta (silk) for my wedding dress. I guess my mind was too preoccupied occupied to pay much attention to the beauty of my surroundings. Are you wondering why I was in Lake Como to buy silk? The city of Como, sitting on the edge of the lake, began the art of silk weaving back in 1510. Como, still nowadays is regarded as the “City of silk”. An educational museum dedicated to the silk has been instituted in Como in 1985.

Lake Como is lake of glacial origin located in the region of Lombardia. It‘s the third largest lake in Italy, it’s shaped as an upside-down “Y” where the two arms are surrounded by the pre-Alps. Already a popular destination for aristocrats since Roman times,  in the last twenty years it has become a very popular tourist destination. I have always been looking for spots “off the beaten path” , so I had not returned to Lake Como until this past September. Our destination on Lake Como was Bellagio, which we reached driving along the East branch of the lake from Lecco. Unlike the West branch which is dotted with many beautiful villas, palaces, and gardens, here the landscape is dominated by mountain ranges and rocks. Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy that day and I could not take good pictures (and the ones I did take, I did from the moving car’s window); however, the scenery was fascinating and I was happy to have returned to Lake Como.

Lake Como East branchLake Como East branchLake Como East branch

In Bellagio, my husband and I were guests of the Hotel Belvedere . . . just beautiful!

Hotel Belvedere

The Hotel Belvedere

The hotel sits up on the hill overlooking the lake, it is away from the summer crowd yet, it is at walking distance from the town center and the lake boardwalk. The Hotel Belvedere has a long history, it was established in 1880 when it was called “La Vignetta” and it was managed by the owner’s daughter Maria Gilardoni, who later took the reins of the property. Signora Maria transformed the small “locanda” into a comfortable hotel that was renamed ” Belvedere“. The Hotel has since gone through several restoration, enlargement and modernization projects and today it is a beautiful hotel with 59 rooms and 5 suites. The hotel has two restaurants, one inside and one outside on the terrace, both offer amazing views of the lake. I would have loved enjoying one of my meals outside, but unfortunately the weather had other plans for me . . . rainy and cold. The hotel also offers a pool surrounded by garden terraces, an infinity Jacuzzi pool, a SPA, and a library/media room.

The view from the restaurantThe terrace restaurantThe restaurant

The barThe lounge

Most importantly, the hotel is today at its fifth generation of beautiful and tenacious women who have been running this family business

While the weather was gloomy and cold, my husband and I received the warmest welcome by  Signora Chiara Mauri and Hotel manager Signora Laura Molinari, who were both stylish, professional, cordial, and proud of their establishment. Mrs. Molinari was sincerely apologetic about the fact that all lakefront rooms were booked and kindly invited us to be guests of the hotel restaurant for dinner. The hotel decor offers the right combination of classic and contemporary where pastel colors and bold greens and red coexist in perfect harmony. The atmosphere is relaxing and warm. Our room was comfortable and tastefully furnished and decorated, fresh cookies and a small book with a personal welcome note by Mrs. Molinari were awaiting on the desk and I could have not been happier with the side view of the lake from our balcony . . .perfect!

Views from my balconyIMG_3118

The views from the hotel ground were magnificent and even in the mist, rain, and wind Bellagio looked beautiful as my husband and I walked along the lake and under the “portico” dotted with nice shops, bars and café. Yes, it’s true Bellagio it’s touristy, but nonetheless charming.

porticoporticostreetsViewviewstreetthe laketerraceview

And it’s true that George Clooney may be bothered by the paparazzi, but it is also true that the locals are not at all trilled with the hype either. A shop’s owner expressed her discontent to the fact that most tourists ask about Clooney’s address rather than advises on the true beautiful places to visit such as Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Villa Melzi‘s Garden in Bellagio or Villa del Balbianello in Lenno. How many know that in Bellagio, Villa Serbelloni hosts the Rockfeller Foundation Bellagio Center, which operates a conference center and a residency program for scholars, artists, scientists, writers, musicians, and policymakers from around the world?

Villa SerbelloniRockefeller Bellagio Center

When our umbrella could not handle any more rain and wind, we headed back to the hotel were I treated myself to a relaxing pedicure while my husband enjoyed an aperitivo doing some work in the comfy library.

Library

The library and media room

We were delighted to accepted Mrs. Molinari’s invitation for dinner. The experience was lovely; the atmosphere was relaxing, the service  impeccable, and the food was very good and nicely presented. My beef filet was juice and flavorful while the Langhe hazelnut crème brulè was a perfect ending to the day. Our waitress was knowledgeable and suggested a regional wine – Prugnolo DOC 2006 from the Rainoldi winery based in the Valtellina area-  that we were not familiar with . . . it turned out to be an excellent choice. I later learned that the wine is named after a stone fruit – native of the vineyard area – bearing blackthorn.

beef filetwine

The next morning we were blessed with mild temperature and the sun was soon to come out. While enjoying the spectacular view, we had a plentiful breakfast from the widespread buffet which included freshly baked croissants and fruit tart along with savory options.

breakfastcrostatasavory

After breakfast, taking advantage of the weather, we enjoyed the hotel outdoor space and visited the SPA facility which was quite impressive, especially the view from the relaxation room.

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The poolChromotherapy showers

The SPA relaxation room!

The SPA relaxation room

Another stroll throughout Bellagio and some shopping (shoes, of course) were a must prior to boarding the ferry to Varenna, a small picturesque town set between the lake and the mountains.

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The ferry ride to Varenna is only 15 minutes and you enjoy beautiful views of the mountains and the coastline.

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Once in Varenna, a coastline walk takes you from the dock to the town center, the lake beach, and then uphill to the Church of San Giorgio.

VarennaDSC_0105DSC_0111DSC_0165DSC_0114

We walked up and down narrow alleys, climbed many steps and shopped at a charming handmade pottery souvenirs shop.

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Finally we had lunch at the restaurant Vecchia Varenna. The restaurant is housed into a 1400s building which was originally a laboratory of black marble of Varenna. We ate on the restaurant covered terrace right on the lake and it was amazing . . . both the setting and the food. My husband and I shared an antipasto of Marinated Agone filet (a fresh water fish), a Risotto al Prosecco and scimudin (a soft cheese from the Valtellina area), and a Zabaglione (sabayon) . . . everything was divine but I especially liked the Risotto.

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Time to ride the ferry back to Bellagio, to take in some more beautiful views and to say thank you and good bye to Signora Mauri and Signora Molinari and the Hotel Belvedere for a memorable stay . . . we can’t wait to be back!

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Time to head to our next destination: Civita di Bagnoregio . . . stay tuned!

° Translation:  ” That branch of the lake of Como which extends southwards between two unbroken chains of mountains, and is all gulfs and bays as the mountains advance and recede, narrows down at one point, between a promontory on one side and a wide shore on the other, into the form of a river; and the bridge which links the two banks seems to emphasize this transformation even more, and to mark the point at which the lake ends and the Adda begins, only to become a lake once more where the banks draw farther apart again, letting the water broaden out and expand into new creeks and bays…” (Alessando Manzoni, from The Betrothed)

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

It must be my background as an architect but I can honestly see geometry everywhere!

Hope you will enjoy my selections for this week photo challenge.

Firenze

Firenze

Paestum

Paestum

Venezia

Amalfi

Burano

And with this post I am signing off for two weeks . . . heading to China tomorrow! Ciao…

My two weeks in Italy: Two Nights in Venice

I was 17 years old the first time I visited Venice; I was spending a month with my uncle in nearby Treviso so I would often ride the train to Venice to explore the calle, museums, and churches. I already knew I wanted to be an architect and I was fascinated by this city however, I remember thinking that July was not the perfect time to fully appreciate it and the misty days of November would have added so much more to the atmosphere. I returned, in November, with my boyfriend (today my husband) and indeed I loved it.

I have returned to Venice time and time again, with my husband and my children. My children have then returned with their girlfriends. I have never, however, spent a night in Venice! Never until this past trip to Venice. September is still tourist’s season and also the cruise ships are still in sight, I needed to find a place where I could feel in the heart of Venice but far from the tourist hustle . . . I found the perfect place: The Bauer Palladio Hotel and SPA.

Set on Venice’s Giudecca Island, the hotel is a jewel under many aspects. First of all the hotel is discreet, just a small plaque on the outside and a slightly larger one as you pass the entrance.

Architecturally, it is housed in a historic palace originally designed by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio – hence the hotel’s name. Historically, Casa delle Zitelle – as it was originally referred to – was a charity established by women in the 16th century to prevent young women falling into prostitution. From the hotel you enjoy sweeping views of the lagoon, Punta della Dogana on the left, San Marco and the Ducal Palace just across, and the Island of San Giorgio just one stop ahead.

The hotel went through a complete restoration and it reopened in 2006 thanks to the vision of Mrs. Francesca Bortolotto Possati, granddaughter of Arnaldo Bennati, whom bought the first Bauer hotel, on the Grand Canal, back in 1930 (Today divided into two: Il Palazzo and the Bauer Hotel).

The Palladio provided the experience that I was looking for, be part of Venice but away from the crowd. It’s easily reachable from the train station with a Vaporetto (we got a 3 days pass) and from the Airport with the Alilaguna. Both stop at “Zitelle” only few steps away from the hotel. The hotel also has a free shuttle which runs every 30 minutes (until midnight). The shuttle stops at the sister hotel, The Palazzo, which is a short 5 minute walk to Piazza San Marco.

Having arrived early, our room was not ready so we were offered a glass of Prosecco to ease our wait. We took the opportunity to visit the bar and wander through the outdoor space. Walking through the Palladio‘s quiet garden you feel relaxed and at peace, almost at home. The narrow paths, the secular olive tree, the grapevines, the large patio, the intimate cloister, perfect to enjoy an afternoon Spritz, the secluded benches, the brick walls . . . all make it for a true retreat.

It is striking how the Palladio, while offering all the modern amenities that you would expect from a 5 star hotel, has been restored in complete respect of the original 16th century convent. I must say that I am not surprised by that, especially after having the pleasure to meet Mrs. Francesca Possato, the Bauers owner and CEO. A native Venetian, pleasant and energetic, Mrs. Possato was not afraid to show her passion to preserve the culture and history of her hometown.

Model of the original palace

My husband and I had a beautiful two-story suite, which we loved. Unlike the rest of the hotel furnished with antiques and adorned with trelliswork stencils, our suite had a more contemporary style, it was simple and luxurious at the same time; fresh flower, fresh fruit and inspiring good night notes made it even more special.

I also loved that the bathroom was furnished with “Santa Maria degli Angeli” products made with natural and organic herbs from the local botanical garden of the 1400 ancient convent of ” Le Convertite“. The cosmetics are then created by the female inmates housed into the jail near the botanical gardens. The same products are used at the Palladio SPA, which I did not have the opportunity to test; I did however visit the facility which boasts an impressive relaxation room overlooking the Grand Canal.

After a quick lunch of cicchetti and Prosecco at a nearby cafè and after visiting the glass work exhibition ” Carlo Scarpa – Venini” on San Giorgio Island, my husband and I took the 5 minutes shuttle ride across the canal.

San Marco Square was just as my last time there, a lot of people, the pigeons, the Florian . . . and the scaffolding.

My trip to Venice this time did not include visits to museums, churches or palaces. I was there to enjoy the city, to get lost, to discover new corners, to wander, to eat and to have a good time. As we headed to the Mercerie the sky got dark and it was quickly pouring. We did not despair; we found shelter by a church, we purchased a 5 euros umbrella, we stopped at a bar for yet another Prosecco (my third for the day), we got wet, but at the end, we were rewarded with the magnificent views of Venice after the rain . . .

My husband and I kept wandering through the calle until dinner time. We went to ” Trattoria Alla Vedova“, a historic trattoria founded in 1891. Located in the vicinity of Ca’ d’Oro, the restaurant featured a simple Venetian menu, exactly what I was expecting. We shared an antipasto of mixed fish which included local sarde and baccalà mantecato (Venetian style cod-fish – like a spread), I had cuttlefish in black ink served with polenta, my husband had bigoli (sort of tick spaghetti) in typical salsa and we also shared a plate of veal’s calf in Venetian style. We drank the wine of the house and we ended with biscotti dipped in sweet wine . . . other than for the bigoli which I think were replaced with spaghetti, everything was delicious. Before leaving we also stopped to chat with the owner who graciously offered a local grappa.

After a short walk we rode the Vaporetto through the Grand Canal and to Fondamenta Zattere where I was hoping to end my evening with a gelato at Nico, however, we were late and the gelateria was already close. Time to get back to the Palladio for a good night sleep and to recharge for the full day ahead.

We started our second day in Venice with a plentiful breakfast at the Palladio. The spread of food was awesome, from freshly baked bread to homemade pastry, from fresh fruit to local cheese and charcuterie.

The plan for the day included a trip to the islands of Burano and Torcello but, first I wanted to make few stops.

We walked through empty streets and calle, enjoyed the quiet morning hours and of course took many pictures.

Our first stop was the “scala” (stair) of Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. How many places can you go in Venice and say that you were the only one there? This is the place . . . my husband kept asking me: ” Are you the only one to know about this?” I guess that’s one advantage of marrying an architect!

Our next stop was the Mercato di Rialto (Rialto open market). On our way we walked by the Scuola Grande San Teodoro, whose Main Hall, was the setting of the evening Concert of Baroque and Opera performed in XVIII century costumes. I purchased two tickets for the evening performance. To many this might sound like a tourist attraction, however I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the performance, especially the atmosphere, the closeness to the artists and the beauty of the Hall.

Back to my morning and my stop to Rialto Market. What can I say about it that my pictures could not? Look at the vibrant colors of the fresh produce and the fish so fresh that you could smell the sea.

We finally reached the Fondamenta Nuove and we were in route to the island of Burano from there we would have later reached Torcello. Both islands are so beautiful that they deserve their own post, so please come back in the next few days to enjoy a very colorful slide show!

We spent most of the day on the two islands and came back right in time to make a quick stop to Ca’ del Sol. Ca’ del Sol is a laboratory and shop specialized in hand-made masks. The craftsmen produce masks and carnival costumes for the public but also for the theaters. If you are looking for something more than a souvenir you should definitely stop here and take one their beautiful mask home . . . I purchased an awesome Arlecchino (the one in the picture getting one last touch up)!

Time to run to the concert . . . of course got lost again but we made it! After the concert it was another first for us: we sat at the Florian in Piazza San Marco! Late at night, with only few guests and with no crowd, the live music and the gelato seemed so much better . . . despite the steep check, it was the perfect ending to a perfect day and to wonderful stay in Venice!

Buona notte da Venezia!

Related posts:

My two weeks in Italy – A day in Barolo

My two weeks in Italy: Windows and Balconies

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign . . . A new photo gallery from Italy

These weekly photo challenges could have not come at a better time. Having taken thousands of pictures during my recent trip in Italy the photo challenges give me the opportunity to share some of my favorite images with you.

I hope you will enjoy today’s selection. And as always, I would love to hear which one is your favorite.

Coffee shop in Milan

Ice cream shop in Milan

Milan

Barolo

Grissini Torinesi

City Hall of Neive

Venice

Caffe Vergnano in Venice since 1882

Fagioli and Finocchi at Rialto Market, Venice

Giuggiole at Rialto Market, Venice

Rialto Fish Market, Venice

Rialto fish market, Venice

Sarde and sardine at Rialto fish market, Venice

Wine shop, Venice

Venitian mask’ shop, Venice

Trattoria al gatto Nero, Burano

Merceria in Bellagio

Caffe Pansa, Amalfi