Naples, Go to Give

Ron Martin (upper left) with  IVHQ volunteers.

Ron Martin (upper left) with IVHQ volunteers in Naples.

Ron Martin is a community guy. He advocates for small businesses and his firm, RMG Insurance, hosts an annual Ladies Golf & Gourmet fundraiser to support the Freddy Awards for high school musical theater.

Ron Martin is also a guy who adores Italian food and culture. Always has. So when Martin pondered a recent trip to Italy, he embarked on a plan that satisfied both his Inner Italian and his community guy.

Martin volunteered for the month of October in an International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) program. Working with the Piedi per la Terra nonprofit, Martin helped refurbish the Vigna di San Martino.

The 17-acre UNESCO world heritage site clings to the Vomero hillside in the heart of the city. Atop the hill is the former Charterhouse of San Martino, which is now a museum, and Castel Sant’Elmo.

In exchange for a $1,000 fee, Martin received hostel lodging, modest meals, and at age 51, the honor of being the senior volunteer in the group. Among his colleagues were Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians.

Martin labored–clearing land of undergrowth, harvesting olives, and turning compost piles–but he also fell into the rhythm of southern Italian life. Rainy day naps, a weekend on the Amalfi coast, the famous pie at Antica Pizzeria Michele. Walking to and from work each day through a living tapestry of ancient street culture.

He summed up his experience on his parting Facebook post:

“Tonight I leave Napoli. I have spent a whole month here. I will miss it incredibly. I have lost two notches on my belt working in the vineyard. I have not watched TV at all. I have connected with its people and its rhythm. It’s not the prettiest city but the people here make it feel like home. My fellow volunteers are all awesome and deserve all of the praise in the world. Love them all! I’ll be back!”

Have you volunteered to work in Italy or are you considering it?

Share your thoughts with us.

Fall Tuscany Tour on Sale

Come to Tuscany this October for the Sangiovese grape harvest.

Come to Tuscany this October for the Sangiovese grape harvest.

SimpleItaly is happy to share some great news–and great savings–with you.

The dollar value increase versus the Euro means NOW is the time to travel to Tuscany with SimpleItaly. Our week-long October adventures in Tuscany are perfect for self-formed groups of family or friends.

It’s a funny price: $2,486. But it’s a serious offer. The dollar has strengthened by 17% versus the Euro the Tuscany Tour was priced last year. SimpleItaly is passing those savings on to you. SimpleItaly is taking 17% off $2,995 per person/double occupancy so you save $509 per person.

Our unique, seven-day adventure in an exquisite private villa south of Siena includes:

• Splendida! Luxurious Private Villa Pipistrelli
• Sapore! All meals included, all prepared by private chefs
• Blog Heaven! Visits with leading travel writers and authors
• Arte! Painting Class
• Palio! Stunning insiders look at a Contrada in Siena with best-selling author Dario Castagno
• Vino! Private winery tour and lunch with best-selling author Jennifer Criswell
• Festa! Harvest festival
• Vita! Food, vino, art and beauty
• Celebrazione! Celebrate with cookbook author, Cooking Up an Italian Life, Sharon Sanders

Book Now! Two departures Tuscan Harvest Celebration departures: October 3-10, 2015 or October 10-17, 2015. Save $509 per person/double occupancy!

Grillo White Wine From Sicily

P1090982Browsing in my local wine shop, a bottle of white caught my eye.

It came from Tenuta Regaleali, a name I recognized as the much lauded estate and cooking school in Sicily. It was founded by the late Anna Tasca Lanza, who did so much to bring Sicilian country cooking to wide acclaim. Tasca Lanza’s daughter Fabrizia has taken over the school. (This is off topic, but David Lebovitz published this gorgeous post about the estate.)

I also had never encountered the varietal Grillo, which means cricket in Italian, so I was doubly intrigued.

Golden in color, this vino is aromatic with hints of citrus. It’s a sumptuous dry Italian white for summer times.

I learned the back story of this indigenous Sicilian grape on The Wine Hub blog. Once the primary varietal used to produce fortified Marsala wine, it has largely been replaced by the higher yielding Catarratto. Happily, it’s being revived by modern vintners.

Cin Cin!

Tenuta Regaleali
Cavallo Delle Fate
Sicilia DOC 2013

$13.99 for 750 ml. bottle in Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits Store

Do you know of an Italian white that veers from the standard pours list? Share it here!

Travel and Adventure Show


Imagine yourself in a thousand magnificent destinations at a Travel and Adventure Show.

By Walter Sanders

John Golicz is the ring master of the nationwide Travel and Adventure Show series in seven U.S. markets. When the circus gets to your town, take advantage of it.

travelshowsAt the recent show in the Philadelphia Convention Center, all our senses were dazzled. Scrumptious aromas wafted across the exhibit floor as chefs prepared their specialties at the Taste of Travel Stage. We touched the brocaded robes of a tour operator from Nepal. We heard joyful music from Saint Lucia. And everywhere we looked was the colorful tapestry of global travel. You saw visitors trying out a Segway, and others scaling a rock wall.

Experts shared their wisdom at the Destination Theater. We sat in on the hour-long “Insider’s Italy” session featuring nostri amici Kathy McCabe—publisher of Dream of Italy and host of the upcoming Dream of Italy on PBS—and Italian authority and writer Susan Van Allen.

the-bookWe enjoyed speaking with the engaging Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. She is like the Pied Piper of travel. We would follow her anywhere.

We spent some time with John Golicz to get a sense of how he shapes up the 2015 travel scene.

“What will be the hot international travel destination this year?” we asked John.

“Now’s the time to go to Europe. The dollar is strong versus the Euro—about 23 percent stronger than last year—and many analysts predict parity by 2016,” said John. “While the US economy is gaining strength, there’s softness in many European countries. That means better deals at hotels and restaurants as these vendors compete for tourist spending. Plus, with more transoceanic air competition, it is very likely that European airfares will drop as carriers have more seats to fill.”

“SimpleItaly fans would enjoy hearing about your Italian experiences. Anything you’d like to share?”

“We love Italy. We’re very fortunate to share multi-generational family trips with my parents and my children. One of our favorite trips was to Italy when the kids were younger. We started in Rome, then settled into a villa in Greve, right in the heart of the Chianti zone,” said John.

John Golicz

John Golicz

“The food and wine were exceptional, as usual. The kids enjoyed the pool, the hill towns of Tuscany. In Florence, we were smart enough to hire a guide who made the city and its art come alive. In the Uffizi, the guide told the back stories of some of the paintings and that really engaged the kids. They still enjoy visiting museums because they realize every work of art has a human story.”

The Golicz family does more than travel together. Son Jon is the mastermind of 1,000 Travel Tips a travel resource for the best tips, trend information and expert advice for any travel situation you can imagine. SimpleItaly looks forward to becoming a contributor.

The shows 2016 schedule is out, visiting seven cities between January and March. Whet your travel appetite by attending the show in your market.

Pazzi Chapel Restoration

Commissioned by the Pazzi family, the Chapel

Ornate sculpted rosettes, terracotta cherubim roundels and the colourful tin-glaze terracotta by Luca della Robbia decorate the interior of the Pazzi Chapel loggia. It is built in pietra serena, a grey sandstone that, by its very nature, tends to crumble over time.

By Walter Sanders

Many fortunate lovers of Renaissance art journey to Florence, but few get to the splendid Pazzi Chapel—one of architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s 15th Century masterworks–part of the complex of the Basilica of Santa Croce. If you have been to the Pazzi recently, you may have noticed the façade is in need of some repair. After 650 years, who wouldn’t need a little touch up?

The video in the Kickstarter campaign launched by the nonprofit Opera di Santa Croce paints a loving portrait of a jewel. The Opera is seeking donations to match the 50 percent of the funding it has already raised.

I’ll focus on what the Pazzi Chapel means to me. I first experienced it as an art history master’s student. Viewing it from the courtyard, I was underwhelmed. The façade looked severe, and a little top heavy, with the illusion of the tall porch and cupola being supported by impossibly spindly columns.

But there’s something transformative about entering the Chapel. I felt serenity, order, cool spatial integrity. I was amazed how hushed the interior was, muffling clamor from nearby Piazza Santa Croce. And, over time, I learned to love the façade.

I worked inside Santa Croce, at the Scuola del Cuoio (The Leather School), and lived just off the square. Santa Croce and the Pazzi Chapel became integral aspects of my daily life. In some respects, the Pazzi Chapel became a personal escape, a calm island. I needed only to look at it to feel the peace.

Sharon and I met in Santa Croce, and four years later married there. No, not in the Pazzi Chapel but in the Medici Chapel in the adjacent sanctuary of the Basilica.

The Pazzi means a great deal to us, and we are helping to support the renovation (#crazyforpazzi).

Do you have a Pazzi story? Share it here and please consider a contribution to help restore this Renaissance treasure.