Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Buon Natale from Italy to Los Angeles and Back

Merry Christmas to all...

Buon Natale a tutti



Thank You for following 

Italy to Los Angeles and Back


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Twenty reasons why you'll want to visit the Langhe in Piedmont, Italy.


1. Travel the 'Strada Romantica' through the sweet rolling hill sides of Barolo.


2. Eat fresh white truffles at Cascina Collavini: http://www.ristorantecollavini.it/ 

3. Stay in elegant surroundings like the Relais Poderi Luigi Einaudi  in Dogliani. http://www.relaiseinaudi.com/

4. Call a country home, home.
5. Watch autumn colors wash over Dogliani.
6. Enjoy a splendid view from a splendid room.

7. Learn about and taste local wine.
8. Warm up in a sitting room that was once a stable.
9. Use a barrique as a table.

10. Indulge your senses in a plate of homemade gnocchi and fresh sliced white truffles.

11. Swim in a wine-bottle shaped pool.

12. Wander down country roads.
13. Enjoy breakfast in peaceful surroundings.

14. Gaze at the view from the top of Neive.

15. Wonder at nature's ability to astound.

16. Visit wine cellars in use since the 1800s.

17. Travel toVerduno and eat where the locals do: http://www.bercau.it/ 

18. Prepare a light dinner with local fruit, wine and cheese.

19. Look up in Neive and see a grape covered balacony that would make Juliette jealous.

20. Say arrivederci to Barolo because you'll surely return.

  Where are the Langhe?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langhe  Buon viaggio!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Sarah Mastroianni, journalist for Canada's Panoram Italia magazine, asked me what I thought...


Venice’s Struggle for Survival

2013/10/11 - Written by Sarah Mastroianni
Venice’s Struggle for Survival
Venice’s Struggle for Survival
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Throughout the course of its lengthy history, Venice – the city on the water – has  become home to innumerable artistic, architectural, and cultural treasures, as well as  historical figures such as Marco Polo, Antonio Vivaldi and Giacomo Casanova. But  despite the city’s illustrious past, present-day Venice is in trouble. It’s only fitting that  such a unique city should face an equally unique array of problems. The rising water  levels, increasingly frequent occurrences of “acqua alta,” sinking foundations, a falling  local population and ever-increasing throngs of tourists, have the city both literally and  figuratively fighting to stay afloat.    
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Marie Ohanesian Nardin, writer of the blog Italy to Los Angeles and Back and  long time resident of Venice, weighs in on the city’s water-related struggles,  commenting, “All too many times a year Venice’s residents must deal with  high tide invading ground floor homes and entryways, their shops, restaurants and  schools. They must prepare for such, and though the high tide may entertain tourists,  it is no light matter for the locals.”    
It’s during these times that sirens sound a warning throughout the streets and  locals can’t do much except wait for the high tides to abate and hope that the damage  is minimal.                              
“But Venetians are resilient people,” Nardin continues, “and take living with high  tide as part of their culture; they just wish it didn’t happen so often.”  It’s looking like Venetians might actually get their wish.                          
The aptly named Progetto MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico),  which is currently in progress, is expected to accomplish in Venice what Mosè (Moses)  did in biblical times: save the people from the water around them.                
How will it reach its goal? The Progetto MOSE, governed by the Consorzio  Venezia Nuova, consists of a series of electromechanical gates, which are being  installed underwater at the three mouths of the Venetian lagoon: Chioggia,  Malamocco and Lido. The gates will exist to effectively close off the lagoon from the  sea during high tides or extraordinary weather conditions in order to prevent the  water level from reaching dangerous heights within the city’s canals.

Clara Ceolin, Cultural Coordinator at the Centro Veneto in Toronto, was born  on the Lido and returns to Venice regularly with her family. On a recent trip she visited  one of the MOSE construction sites to get a better idea of just how a man-made  machine might be able to “fermare il mare,” (stop the  sea). “They’ve been working on it for years,” says  Ceolin, “but they had problems with money.”                
After many years of planning and numerous setbacks  along the way, the project is currently more than  60 percent completed. The much-anticipated MOSE  should finally become operational sometime in 2014,  but there’s still a catch.                      
“There are many people who say that it won’t be  useful at all,” reports Ceolin. Unfortunately, this might  actually be true: there is still much speculation as to  whether the gates will actually be capable of living up to  their purpose, since, to date, a project of this kind has  never been used in any other comparable situation in  the world. Despite the widespread worry, “We have a lot  of hope in the project,” she says.
But Venice’s water level issues aren’t the only ones  that make it an increasingly difficult place to live.  “The Venetian people feel their city is slipping  from their fingers and being monopolised by a tourism  industry that both provides the livelihood of many  locals and strips the city of the quality of life that only  Venice can offer,” Nardin says.                        
The love/hate relationship that Venetians have  with tourism is a complex one, not caused by one element  but by a combination of issues that negatively  impact the daily life of those who reside in the city. On  a very simple level, Venetians don’t appreciate the flood  of visitors – upwards of 9 million in 2012 – who, at  times, lack respect for their city and treat it as if it were  an amusement park instead of home to real people with  jobs, lives and families.
As if that weren’t enough, Nardin explains that  the cost of living in Venice is very high, with average  household spending in the Veneto reaching 2835 euros  per month (the third highest of Italy’s 20 regions), a  number which is being driven higher by the ripple  effects of the city trying to cater to millions of tourists.  Unable to make a living or enjoy their city, many locals  are leaving Venice in search of work and respite from  the flooding that assails their city, both in the form of  tourists and high tides. In 1961, there were 137,150 residents;  the number dropped to 58,991 in 2011.                        
What future is there for Venice with all her problems?  Similarly to Ceolin, Nardin has hope for the  Progetto MOSE and reaffirms her love for the city,  tourists and all. “Being in Venice is living in history:  when I step through her calli (alleyways), I can’t help  but wonder about those who have followed the same  route for centuries before me. And for someone like me  […] Venice will always be home.”

- See more at: http://www.panoramitalia.com/en/arts-culture/history/venice-s-struggle-survival/2163/#sthash.CAsKkuUO.dpuf

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fresh Sage Fried in Batter...Salvia Fritta in Pastella

Fried Sage Leaves

Italian cooks bring delightful appetizers and snacks to the table by battering-up and frying most anything edible from the garden. Some of my favorites are zucchini flowers, sambuca blossoms, wisteria blooms and sage leaves. Since sage is the most common garden plant on my list I thought I'd share this Salvia Fritta in Pastella recipe with you. It's easy to prepare and makes a delicious snack, appertizer or side-dish. Buon Appetito!

Fresh Sage Leaves Fried in Batter (Salvia Fritta in Pastella)

·       2 dozen fresh large sage leaves

·       100 grams or ½ cup Flour

·       125 ml or ½ cup cold beer or sparkling water
Garden Sage

·       Salt to taste

·       1 egg white

·       1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

·       Peanut or corn oil for frying

Place the flour in a bowl, add the cold beer (or sparkling water) and mix well with an egg beater; mix in salt and olive oil. After having obtained a smooth consistency cover the bowl with a dish towel and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.


Wash the sage leaves and pat dry. After the flour mixture has set for 30 minutes, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and delicately blend them into the flour mixture.


Dip the sage leaves one by one in the mix and fry them on both sides in abundant hot oil until the leaves turn golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place them on a platter lined with paper towels. Salt to flavor and serve immediately.





Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ten guidelines for tourists from the City of Venice

City of Venice Information Campaign for Tourists
"Live the City--Venice is yours too, Respect it!"

There are those who would argue that Venice, Italy, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and there are those, like me, who would argue that it is the most beautiful city in the world. So, it’s no surprise when every year millions of tourists cross oceans and continents seeking their own intimate interaction with the city that, as far back as the 1300s, contributed to the Renaissance and controlled European trade with Asia and the Middle East. To understand Venice’s grandeur, past and present, all one needs to do is pause and look. Venice is a work of art, and her treasures are detailed in every corner, arch, façade, nook and cranny. A city so culturally rich that a lifetime isn’t long enough to discover all she has to offer. But Venice isn't a museum or an amusement park. It's home to approximately 60,000 people and a place of work to many more.

It was the mid-80s when I first walked through Venice’s labyrinth of calli: the Berlin wall was still standing, Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, Madonna hadn’t yet traded-in her lace gloves for a leather bustier, and many who ate at the chicest restaurants in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles still opted for French cuisine and had yet to taste their first forkful of risotto or tiramisu. Then, fortunately, the wall came down; the internet sped up; gelato became an internationally recognized word; pre-9/11 air travel became easier; cruise ships filled ports and gave travelers an option; and many who had never dreamt of setting foot outside their country became informed tourists and discovered the art of traveling abroad. Yet in recent years as tourism has developed into Venice’s number one industry many visitors, certainly not all, seem to have forgotten or perhaps never considered simple polite behavior and respect for their surroundings.

This year alone local and international papers and social networks published far too many photographs taken of tourists behaving in ways which are deemed disrespectful to Venice, to the Venetians and to Italy. There was the group sitting in high water in the finest drawing room in Europe, their feet propped up on a café table, while their friends swam—in bathing suits—in a flooded St. Mark’s square; a middle aged man walking around town, his shirt-tails open and flapping in the breeze to reveal a physique that only a doctor should be forced to see, and twenty something year olds in flip-flops and bathing suits sunning themselves while sightseeing in a city where wearing shorts—except if you’re running the Venice Marathon—by local standards is considered unacceptable attire.  Some may find it funny to see people swimming in St. Mark's square, some may think a dress code anywhere, let alone on vacation, is outdated. But I can guarantee that the majority of locals, and the City of Venice, find these situations an insult to their city and their culture.  

So, the City of Venice, in an effort to welcome and inform tourists, has developed a list of 10 guidelines available in seven languages. The decorum list has been posted around town and fliers are being handed out to visiting tourists.  I've duplicated the list in English below to let you in on the guidelines, too. Have a look, and then feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below. If you want to give Venice a helping hand you can share the info with your friends, too. For information in other languages click on this link: http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/57560

·      Litter

Please do not litter.
Throw rubbish into the nearest waste bin!
Help us keep Venice clean.
(Local bylaw art. 9 and 23
Fine up to 500 euros)
·       Picnicking
Please sit on the bench to eat your picnic.
Remember that the entire area around St. Mark’s Basilica
(throughout St. Mark’s Square, Piazzetta dei leoncini, and right up to the quay/waterfront)
is a no-picnicking area.
Help us look after Venice.
(Local bylaw, art. 23
Fine up to 500 euros)
·       Dress
You may not walk around Venice in swimwear or bare-chested,
nor plunge or take a bath (swim) in canals.
Please behave respectfully in the city. You can find beaches on the Lido Island.
(Local bylaw, art. 12 and art. 23
Fine up to 500 euros)
·       Pigeons
As well as damaging Venice’s artistic heritage, pigeons
carry diseases. Don’t feed them!
Safe guard your health and that of Venice’s monuments.
(Municipal bylaw on environmental health and animal health
And welfare, art. 24 Fine up to 500 euros)
·       Graffiti and bill posting
If you deface Venice through graffiti
or flier-posting you are damaging the city.
Use the official sites for your posters.
Venice is a city of art.
(Local by law, art. 13; for graffiti:
Fines up to 500 euro.
Defacing important monuments is considered a criminal offence.
For fly (flier) posting: fine up to 412 euro)
·       Obstructing Traffic
Given that Venice’s calli, or lanes, are very narrow
you should keep to the right
and avoid lingering on bridges.
Remember not everyone is on holiday, lots of people
live and work in the city. So help us make Venice
a pleasant place for everyone!
·       Transport
When traveling on public transport,
remember to respect other passengers:
put your rucksack (backpack) on the ground,
avoid standing in the entrance, and store
your bags/luggage where the boat staff tells you.
The water buses are the only form of public transport used
by both tourists and locals.
Help us make Venice a better place to live in!
(Local bylaw art. 50
Fine up to 500 euro)
·       Acqua Alta (flooding)
Alternative routes exist in case of acqua alta (flooding).
Use the raised walkways.
Keep to the right, don’t loiter.
Discover how fascinating Venice can be at high tide.
(Note from me: I would have left this last statement out! Acqua alta is not very fascinating for the locals.)
·       Street Vendors
If you buy goods from unlicensed street
vendors you are committing a crime
as well as putting your health at risk.
These products are not subjected to
any form of control. They harm you, the crafts sector
and encourage exploitation of the weak.
(Italian law No. 80/2005 art. 1 par. 7
amended by Italian law 99/2009, art. 17.
Fines up to 7,000 euro + seizure of goods purchased)
·       Disturbing the Peace
Venice is just like every other city:
So respect the neighbors and keep the noise down
after 11 o’clock at night.
You can have fun without disturbing others!
(Local bylaw art. 29.
Fines up to 500 euro)











Thursday, July 25, 2013

Have you ever dreamt of learning to speak Italian in Italy?

The quiet of Matera, Basilicata

One of the benefits of blogging about Italy is meeting others who are as crazy in love with my adopted country as I am. Melissa Muldoon is one of them. Earlier this year Melissa and I met and exchanged a few messages on our social network pages. Soon we had made plans to meet, face to face, in Venice.
It was a gorgeous spring day when I found myself seated next to Melissa and across the table from the very lively group of Italian language students she had accompanied to Venice. Over plates of steaming seafood lasagna and fresh fried calamari at Al Diavolo e l’Acquasanta, a restaurant owned by family friends and one of my favorite places to eat in Venice, Melissa told me she was planning other Italian Language and Cultural Immersion Trips for 2013 and 2014. When I saw how much fun this group of all ages was having I thought my readers might be interested in learning more about her upcoming trips, too, and perhaps join her on one! So, I invited Melissa to write about her learn while travelling trips to Italy here, on Italy to Los Angeles and Back. Please welcome Melissa Muldoon…la Studentessa Matta!

Melissa Muldoon

Ciao! Sono Melissa, la studentessa matta – the crazy student of Italian! I studied Art History and painting in Florence in college, and now I am a graphic designer in the San Francisco Bay area. About fourteen years ago on a whim—regretting I didn’t learn the language well as a college student—I began to self-teach myself Italian. I started my journey with grammar books bought at a local bookstore. Then I went on to find every means available to advance my language skills: I’ve taken evening classes, on-line courses, watched films and soap-operas, listened to music, participated in conversation Meet-up groups and on-line forums, Skyped with Italian friends and traveled all across Italy. I’ve even hosted an Italian high school student in my home for a year. Now, to exercise and flex my language skills, I write the Studentessa Matta Blog  www.studentessamatta.com in Italian. The blog explores aspects of Italian culture and current events in a light humorous way. You can find my posts about il bel paese on Twitter (italiamelissa) and on the Studentessa Matta Facebook page,too.

St. Mark's Basilica, Venice
Recently I’ve taken my passion for Italy and Italian a step further. I now organize language and cultural immersion trips for language students and travelers who want to go beyond the typical Italian tourist experience. When I travel in Italy I like to wander off the beaten track so that I can use and practice the language in a worthwhile and rewarding way. In fact, some of my most meaningful moments in Italy have been those in which I pause to have a conversation with one of the locals. There’s the used book shop owner in Venice who keeps his merchandise safe from acqua alta by storing them in old gondolas in the middle of his shop; the man in a bar in Gubbio—who turns out to be a truffle hunter—and unlocks his shop at midnight to share his homemade wine; the scamorza cheese maker in Martina Franca who fashions her cheese into fanciful shapes for her customers; a restaurant owner in Pienza whose wife makes a to-die-for ribollita soup that is the talk of the town; a Roman cab driver who extends our drive together to include a tour of the city "gratis" so that we may continue our conversation; an artist in Ostuni who welcomes me back into his shop and shows me his latest work of art; and a young musician from Lecce who takes the time to chat with me prior to the Ferragosto parade in which Sant’Oranzo, the town’s patron saint, is celebrated. 

Wine tasting after morning language lessons

Most of these locals don’t speak a drop of English so, not only is it a rewarding experience to speak to someone using their native language, I tend to make a lot of new friends and improve my Italian with each new encounter, and I always learn something special about Italy and Italian culture. The goal of my language tours is to create these kinds of moments for the intrepid travelers who come along with me. 

Check out my past and current Italian tours. I would love for you to join me on my next trip to Italy! You can reach me by email at Melissa@StudentessaMatta.com or find me on my blog StudentessaMatta.com.  

In August 2012 I co-lead a group to Lecce in Puglia with my friend and partner Ylenia Sambata of YLTours. We stayed in a renovated farm house in the middle of an olive grove, complete with swimming pool and a lovely big kitchen where we cooked with Italian nonne—grandmothersand shared evening meals together. We studied Italian in the mornings and visited Alberobello, Locorotondo and Gallipoli, where we swam in the sea, in the afternoons. We enjoyed professionally guided tours of Lecce, met with local artists and pastry chefs, had dinner with local cheese makers and learned how to properly taste olive oil in a local producer’s grove.

In April 2013 I co-lead a group with my friend and partner Diego Cattaneo of the Venice Italian School in Venice. We stayed on the island of the Giudecca. In the mornings we bought cornetti and cappuccini at the neighborhood bar and enjoyed our breakfast alongside the local tradesmen before taking the vaporetto across the canal to Venice to study at the Venice Italian School. In the afternoons we walked around the city, visited churches, observed glass artists and learned how to work with hot molten glass, and met carnival mask makers. We even got the chance to learn how to row a gondola, and found time to take in an opera at Teatro Malebran.

This fall I have two trips planned for September 2013. There are still spots available if you would like to join me!

I Sassi of Matera by night
September 14-21 2013: I’ll be co-leading a group to Matera in the Basilicata region with my partner Ilaria Navarra of Percorso Italy. We’ll live in the sassi, Matera’s historic city center, take classes in the morning and explore the city in the afternoons. We’ll cook, taste wine, take art history tours, visit famous movie sights and treat ourselves to an underground grotto spa experience. You can sign up now! Spots are still available and details for the Matera trip can be found on the the Studentessa Matta Blog. 

September 22-30, 2013: I’ll return to the Salento area of Puglia with my partner Ylenia Sambata of YLTours. We’ll begin our visit in Puglia in the historic center of Lecce where we’ll take classes and tour the city, and then move out to the countryside to the Masseria for more cooking with Italians chefs, gelato making and wine tasting. We’ll do all the fun activities we did last year and more! You can sign up now! Spots are still available and details for the Puglia trip and can be found on the Studentessa Matta blog.

Matta Language & Immersion Trips for 2014! 
Italian coast

June 1-12, 2014: I’ll be co-leading a language and cultural immersion with Lucca Italian School in the town of Lucca in Tuscany. We’ll live in the heart of the historic city center and take morning class at Lucca Italian School. In the afternoons, we’ll visit nearby hill towns, making excursions to Pisa, Monte Carlo and Pietrasanta, wine tasting, biking & picnicking along the wall in Lucca. We’ll also attend a concert featuring arias by Puccini and other Italian composers, as well as taking cooking classes. You can sign up now! Details for the Lucca trip are available on the Studentessa Matta Blog.

September 2014: Fall trips to Arezzo in Tuscany and Le Marche are in the works and will soon be posted. Stay tuned to the Studentessa Matta Blog to learn more about the upcoming 2014 fall Italian trips.