Thursday, May 28, 2015

One Capri, Two Perspectives

“We are different because our brain is wired differently. This causes us to perceive the world in different ways and have different values and priorities. Not better or worse - different.” Allan Pease

As my time in Italy is running out, I am going through my list and making sure I've visited the places I wanted to visit and ate the foods I wanted to eat.  So, while checking my Italy bucket list, I realized I had not seen Capri yet!  Anxiety sets in, in no time I'm looking for places to stay and booking train tickets. To get there from Rome, you have take the train to Naples, a taxi to the port and a ferry to Capri (four and a half hours door to door).  You can also get there by boat from the Amalfi coast.

Capri is one of those places that is well-known around the world and that the Italians gracefully leave for the tourists.  They have their own islands they are not marketing to foreigners because they want to keep those to themselves (Ischia, Procida, Sardenia).  Most of of my Italian friends had recommended us to go elsewhere, but how could I possibly leave Italy without seeing this beautiful island?  So I went.

Woman's Perspective:
My friends and the entire world say it's wonderful, I have to see it!

Man's Perpective:
I'm only going because you want to go.

Woman's Perspective:
Wow, look at that nice street lined with luxury brands! Prada, Gucci, Bulgari!

Man's Perpective:
Nothing for me here.

Woman's Perspective:
The Blue Grotto, we have to go, it's such a romantic place!

Man's Perspective:
Tourist trap!  PS. If you are going to do it, you can take the 70 euro private boat from Marina Grande, or the 18 euro sight seeing boat, however, the entrance to the blue grotto is right on the other side of the island, so why not take the 1.80 euro orange bus to the Blue Grotto and then go down the steps to the entrance of the cave?  Seeing the Blue Grotto takes you just a couple of minutes, once you've gone through the entrance of the cave you're there, check out the deep blue reflexion of the light on the water and your time is up.  If you are lucky your boat guy sings.  13 Euro a person to see the Blue Grotto.  More if you took the boats to get there.

The best of Capri was the sunset by the lighthouse.  Second best, we got the recipe of Scialatielli, a wonderful fresh pasta, from the restaurant L'Angolo del Gusto in Anacapri.  Since sharing is caring, here is the recipe:

And don't forget to eat a Caprese Salad while you are in Capri!  (Caprese=from Capri).  Had a very nice meal at Ristorante Pizzeria Verginiello, would certainly recommend it.

Arrivederci for now,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rome With Kids: Domus at Palazzo Valentini

“There are two kinds of travel: first class and with children.”  Robert Benchley

Rome is a wonderful city for those who appreciate art and history, but what about those traveling with children or teenagers? The answer is yes! Rome can also be a great destination for people traveling with children... if you play your cards right.

I've been traveling a lot for the last 18 years, and all my travels have included my kids.  I'm not saying it's easy, but if you manage your expectations correctly you can have a great time and see some sites at the same time.

Rule number one and the most important one for me: don't expect to see it all, pick some highlights and visit your choice spots.

Rule number two: keep a flexible schedule.  If your little ones are tired and cranky, no one will have a good time.

Rule number three: if all fails, there is always gelato (and wine).

Last week I visited the Domus Romane under Palazzo Valentini and I couldn't wait to tell you all about it!  The domus were the houses of wealthy romans and the one under Palazzo Valentini has been turned into a multimedia museum.  The tour (for which you have to get tickets in advance here) allows you to visit a Roman Senator's extravagant home, imagine attending an open-house in times of the Roman Republic! This is the kind of experience you'll get.  

A visit to the Palazzo Valentini Domus Romane is great for older kids as they won't be looking at ruins, the tour is actually a multimedia experience, so when they are explaining that there was a pool in the room, you'll hear the sound of children splashing in the water.  The remains of the room become alive when laser beams fill in the missing parts of the room giving you an amazing visual of how the house actually was.  Older kids and teens will totally be into this museum!

When traveling with kids to the Eternal city, you may want to add a stop at Villa Borghese.  It is the one park that is most accesible to tourists  (Villa Borghese sits next to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, right in the city center).  There, you can find Segway rides, bicycle rentals and more, so take a break from the madness of the tours and insert some free time into your schedule.  Read all about Villa Borghese here.

Lastly, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Go to a piazza, buy a gelato and let the kids run around and watch the street performers that are always present in the city squares.

Do you have any tips for traveling with kids?  Would love to hear about them!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Making Time for the Simple Pleasures

“Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”  Eddie Cantor

This may sound like an odd question, but have you ever been in a "slow town"?  I have.  I was there last weekend and let me tell you it was slow!  Most urban folks are used to the fast-paced cities where everything moves at hurricane-speed.  Women, the ultimate multitaskers, are constantly going through an imaginary revolving door, going from one activity to the other and when you are trapped going at that rhythm, it is very hard to slow down.

A trip to Italy might just re-set your RPMs.  Italians are fantastic at slowing down.  After living here for a few years I have a renewed appreciation for their take on what's important in life.  Apparently, slowing down will not only be beneficial to your heart health,  it will also improve your chances of loosing weight and even boost your sex life (Read: 8 Reasons to Slow Down).  It seams to me that every Italian person has read and practices the suggestions of this article.  For example, when I first arrived in Italy I would be furious when there was a cloud of people in front of a counter all waiting to be helped by one single person, then I realized I was the only one bothered by the situation, everyone else waited patiently.  There you have it, 50% more chances of developing high blood pressure, while Italians with their natural Zen, will live forever...

So, back to the Slow City, it is called Sperlonga and it is located two hours south of Rome.  It is a sea-side town with an old village on top of a hill, overlooking the ocean.  The Hotel Aurora is a great option for those traveling there as it is located right next to a central piazza and on the water front.  Sipping a Spritz on the terrace, will definitively make you slow down your RPMs! (Can I now reclaim my low blood pressure please?!)

At one of our lunches at the hotel, we were given only a couple of options from which to choose, the menu of the day basically; less options = less stress.  Another day we dinned in the town, and the food came to our table an hour after we sat down.  A disgrace of a restaurant you may say.....but NO! we did get an antipasto and our wine, and were dinning "al fresco" staring at the calming waves (disclaimer: my kids got their pasta dishes right away and moved on to play in the sand).... it was a perfect time for conversation, relaxation and mindful eating, all the skills we loose with our fast-paced lives.

Even if you are not in Italy, take a minute of your day to be grateful for the sweet smells of spring, or the softness of your child's embrace.  Take another minute to savor your meals, ditch a couple of unnecessary tasks and go outside to feel the warmth of the sun touching your skin.  At the end of the day, that is what life is all about, isn't it?

Now I will say "arrivederci" in sloooow motion.....until next time,