Category Archives: Wine

Semana Santa in Seductive Segovia Spain: Holy Week and Easter Traditions

Segovia Cathedral • Catedral de Segovia

Segovia Cathedral • Catedral de Segovia (Photo credit: jesuscm)

The present-day Alcázar of Segovia, significan...

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Segovia (Photo credit: ferlomu)

Segovia -Ayllón_2 casa del Cordón

Segovia -Ayllón_2 casa del Cordón (Photo credit: ferlomu)

The Ancient Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, ...

The Ancient Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, by Nicolás Pérez. September 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Segovia is a seductive

English: Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain Français :...

English: Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain Français : L’aqueduc de Ségovie, Espagne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Spain that is imbued with the spirit of an old Castillian town. It was declared a UNESCO site in 1985 and it is protected by the Eresma and Clamores Rivers with and impressive collection of historic monuments.

Aqueduct of Segovia

Aqueduct of Segovia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Segovia is less than 50 miles away from Madrid. It is about 3,000 feet above sea level and has an incredibly well-preserved Roman aqueduct that is over 2000 years old. The mortarless Roman Aqueduct is made from granite blocks and was used to carry water from the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains to the city. It is considered to be one of the best civil engineering works in Spain with 166 arches and 120 columns that transported water fro the La Acebeda to the Alcazar, defying the laws of gravity. In 1072, 36 arches were damaged during the attack of Al-Mamun from Toledo. The town also has a fabulous cathedral and historic castle named Alcazar. UNESCO site in Spain

English: Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain Español: A...

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Segovia is a Castilian town in Spain

During Holy Week (Semana Santa), at the base of the Aquaduct, faithful Christians don tunics, capes and pointed hoods for the annual ceremonies. The procession of religious brotherhoods are accompanied by their treasured sacred sculptures of Jesus and Mary.

Semana Santa reaches a climax on Good Friday when faithful adherents of the city’s brotherhoods work their way through the medieval streets to the Cathedral

Segovia  houses an impressive Alcazar fortress/castle with a moat and draw-bridge loaded with plenty of art, stained glass windows and military memorabilia  It was built over the remains of a Roman fortress and became a Royal residence in the 13th century. Climb to the top of the tower to enjoy the magnificent Vino con Vista views of the historic city. The throne room has a beautiful mudejar ceiling

Segovia Spain

Segovia Spain

Segovia Spain

Segovia Spain

Segovia SpainSegovia Spain

Segovia Spain's Alcazar

Segovia Spain

The 16th century Renaissance-Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria frames Plaza Mayor and marks the border of th Old Jewish Quarter. It was consecrated in 1768. There are 18 chapels with noteworthy art by Spanish artists like Pedro Berruguete and Sanchez Coello. It has a beautiful altarpiece designed by Sabatini.  Segovia is located in the Castilla and Leon region, a short drive from Madrid.

Segovia SpainSegovia Spain

In Segovia, enjoy some suckling or roasted pig with some of the local white wines from Nieva or the red wines from Valtiendas. The town is also famous for marzipan made by cloister nuns and bakeries.

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Segovia Spain

Segovia Spain

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Loire Valley Wine Tasting in Chicago at the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive

French red wine from the Loire Valley region o...

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What a great day for the Loire Valley French Wine Tasting on the 33rd floor of W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. It was definitely a Vino con Vista opportunity with plenty of French wine and wine-makers. The central part of the  Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire in France was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List  in  2000.


The Loire is the longest river in France and it is characterized by elegant historic chateaux and 300 miles of distinctive terroir that supports numerous vineyards along the river banks. This region is the leading producer of white French wines. The region is cloaked  with lovely vineyards and microclimates that produce distinctive varietals and wine styles. It is one of the most diverse wine regions in France with 69 appelations that include red, white, elegant sparkling wines and refreshing rose wines. There are distinct climates and a variety of soil types that divide the Loire Valley into 5 distinct regions.

The first vines were probably planted during Roman occupation 2000 years ago. Afterwards, the Augustinian and Benedictine Brothers enhanced the wine-making practices in this region.

I tasted some interesting Rose wines and plenty of earthy 100% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is one of the world’s major red grape varieties and was introduced to the region in the 11th century. It  is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce a Bordeaux style wine. In the Loire region, it is  not blended with other grapes so it is lighter in color than Bordeaux blends. It is used in the development of Chinon and certain roses in the Touraine appelation.

Today I spoke to Philippe Porche, a charming wine-maker from the Saumur-Champigny region in Parnay located on the south bank of the Loire River decreed an AOC in 1957.  Cabernet Franc is the predominant grape in the area.  He and his viticulturist wife founded the estate in 2005 and produce some interesting Cabernet Franc wines. I favored the garnet-colored full-bodied and velvety  “Le Fou du Roi” that was aged in oak.  This lovely couple is looking for an importer @ Feel free to contact them if you are interested in importing  luscious wines from this region. Tell them that Vino con Vista sent you.

There is a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier and Chicago’s Landmark high rises from the former “Pinnacle Room” of the hotel where I spent my Senior Prom.Chicago Illinois It’s always exciting to re-live your youth.

Chicago Architecture

Domaine de Roche Ville Winery

Lake Michigan

It was such a beautiful spring day that I decided to stroll down Ontario Street heading westbound after the wine-tasting. I longingly gazed at the wide array of restaurants on Ontario Street that I patronize. They run the gamut from divine to sublime. Here’s a sampling of my “Chicago Foodie Nation” favorites:

Les Nomades is an outstanding French Restaurant that offers a Prix Fixe menu of four courses for $115 in a swanky turn-of-the-century brownstones mansion on Ontario Street. It is the perfect place to enjoy French cuisine after a Loire Valley wine-tasting event at the W Hotel down the street.

Chicago Restaurants

Chicago French Restaurants

Another one of my favorites is the Capital Grille Steakhouse where I can’t stop eating the crunchy potato chips at the bar. I love the grilled salmon served over a bed of  veggies with a side of creamed spinach. They have an extensive wine list and have won numerous awards for their outstanding burgers!

Chicago RestaurantsOntario and St. Clair in Chicago

Capital Grille ChicagoChicago Restaurants


Italian Restaurants in Chicago

Chicago Italian Restaurants

Across the street from the Capital Grille, I enjoy dining on the outdoor patio of the Coco Pazzo Cafe when the weather is nice. They have an outstanding lunch menu and recently won an award from the Italian government for their “Authentic” Italian cuisine. Quartino was another “Authentic” Italian-award winning restaurant. I took cooking lessons with the chef and he taught me to add some water from the pasta to my sauce–what a novel idea!! The Red Head Piano Bar is another one of my favorites night spots. They have great wine-tasintg events.

Authentic Italian Restaurants in ChicagoRestaurants in Chicago

There are plenty of famous classic Chicago  “Steak-Houses” on Ontario. Lawry’s serves an incredible Prime Rib and I love the “Aged Filet Mignon” and mushrooms at David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel. The Chicago Chop House has a wide array of delicious “sizzlin steaks.”

You will never be hungry or thirsty on Ontairo Street in Chicago. This city is a haven for Foodies!

Chicago is a Haven for Foodies

Chicago Steak HouseDavid Burke's Primehouse

Stop in at the the Hard Rock Cafe if you’re up for some live music. There are also some landmark fast food joints on Ontario including “Rock and Roll” McDonalds with a Rock and Roll Museum filled with memorabilia that my guitar-playing son adores.

Portillo’s has a great Italian Beef sandwich and classic Chicago hot dog and the drive-thru is always packed. Make sure you try the decadent chocolate cake . Chicago DestinationsM Burger is another fast food option that people are raving about.

Chicago Hot Dogs and Beef Sandwiches

Burgers in Chicago

Plan a trip to the Loire Valley and explore some of the majestic castles with spectacular medieval architecture: Chambord, Cheverny, Villandry and Chenonceau.


1. Villandry was built by the same man that designed much of Chambord (François I Finance Minister Jean Le Breton). Villandry is actually most renowned for what is outside of the castle. However, while Chambord remains Le Breton’s main achievement in construction, it is Villandry where he used all of the Renaissance gardening tricks he had picked up while working as an ambassador in Italy. The castle remained in the Le Breton family until the early 20th century, when it was purchased by Joachim Carvallo, who spent a whole of time, money and devotion to rebuilding, expanding and repairing the beautiful gardens. Today the gardens at Villandry are considered one of the best examples of Renaissance style gardens in the world and boasts a water garden, flower gardens and vegetable gardens laid out in formal patterns created with low box hedges—making it a must-see on any castle tour of the Loire.

2. Chambord is one of France’s most recognizable castles known for its distinct French Renaissance architecture, which blends late French Gothic and newer Italian Renaissance motifs. Chambord is also the largest castle in the Loire. Chambord was first built by King Francois I as a hunting lodge (I know you picture a hunting lodge as being more of a log cabin than a magnificent model of French Renaissance architecture, but it was a KING’S hunting lodge, after all).  Chambord has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 84 staircases. It is most known for its façade, which through more than 800 sculpted columns was designed to look like the skyline of Constantinople, with 11 kinds of different towers and different types of chimneys. Chambord also has a double-helix staircase that serves as the centerpiece to the castle and was rumored to have been designed (or inspired) by Leonardo da Vinci during his time at nearby Clos de Luce.

4. Chenonceau is one of my favorite castles in the Loire Valley. Chennonceau was built in 1513 by Catherine Briçonnet and later embellished by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici, the Chateau de Chenonceau contains exquisite interiors and has idyllic gardens that look over River Cher.

Originally a small castle along the banks of the River Cher, the castle got its current design in the 16th century when it was seized by the crown for unpaid debts. In 1547, King Henri II offered the castle to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. and she had Chenonceau’s  arched bridge built. It spans the river. She is also responsible for the gorgeous flower and vegetable gardens set in buttressed stone terraces.

Upon King Henri II’s death in 1559, his clearly bitter widow and regent Catherine de Medici had Poitiers expelled from the castle and she moved into the scenic spot herself, adding even more extensive gardens. Since then the castle was privately owned for years and even used as a make-shift hospital for soldiers during WWII; its gallery bridge’s southern door provided access to the unoccupied Free Zone while the castle’s main entrance was in the Nazi occupied zone. Chenonceau today is one of the most visited and popular of the Loire castles and its Renaissance architecture and well-lit gallery and beautiful gardens.

5. Amboise is perched up on a strategic point along the Loire River and was originally built as a fort. In 1434, the castle was seized by King Charles VII after its owner (from which the castle got its name), Louis Amboise, was convicted and killed for supposedly plotting against the King. In the 15th century that the castle was lavishly rebuilt and added onto, starting with its late French Gothic architecture, until Italian builders were brought in and the castle’s style changed to Renaissance.While the castle became a favorite retreat for many French Kings (King François I was raised primarily at the castle), Amboise’s most famous guest was Leonardo da Vinci, who came to the castle in 1515 as a guest of the King and stayed in nearby Clos de Luce. What is most notable about Amboise, however, is known for its unique blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and large formal garden.

6. Blois was always a favorite getaway town for French kings; the castle in this quaint little Loire town is best known as the birthplace of King Louis XII as well as the primary residence for Henri IV’s exiled wife Marie de Medici, and later for the Duke of Orléans (brother of Louis XIII and uncle of Louis XIV). However, the castle has a long and prominent history and its Renaissance architecture and picturesque spot along the banks of the Loire make it a definite worthwhile stop on your Loire castle tour. In fact, the castle was the main resort for the French court during the 16th century and was also the location for the famed States General meetings held by Henri III in 1576 and 1588, where several prominent nobles were sentenced to death. The castle also plays a role in the famous Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas as an important retreat for some of France’s most famous and powerful kings.

7. Cheverny was also given to Diane de Poitiers by her lover, King Henri II. Chenonceau was her favorite and primary residence. Poitiers sold Château de Cheverny to the former owner’s son who had originally built the castle between 1624 and 1630. The castle passed between owners until 1914, when the owner made it the first castle to be opened to the public; the family still owns and operates the castle to this day. The castle is renowned for its beautiful interiors and collection of furniture, tapestries and rare objects d’art. There is also a pack of about 70 dogs that are kept on the grounds and taken out for hunts twice weekly.


8. Clos Lucé is not really a  “Château de la Loire”; it is a large mansion located just 500 meters from  the Château d’Amboise by way of an underground passageway and is notable mostly for its most famous resident, Leonardo da Vinci. In 1515, King François I invited the Italian painter and inventor to Amboise and offered him the manor to use as a home and studio. When Da Vinci arrived in 1516 he came with three paintings, including the famed Mona Lisa, and lived in the mansion for the last three years of his life. Visitors to Amboise should not hesitate to hop on over to Clos Lucé, where you can peruse a museum that includes forty models of various machines designed by Leonardo.

9. Langeais is a perfect example of Medieval French architecture. It is located near the Brittany frontier and had a significant role in the battle between the French and English. The structure dates back to the 10th century and was built on a cliff which offered a strategic location overlooking the Loire River. The castle was actually fortified and expanded under the rule of Richard I of England (when English kings ruled this region of France) until King Philippe II of France recaptured the castle in 1206. The castle was also where Anne of Brittany and King Charles VIII wed, thus uniting France and Brittany. Today, the dark and ominous looking castle is replete with a great collection of Medieval tapestries.

Château de Langeais



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Buon Natale and Christmas: Feast of Saint Ambrose and Holiday Events in Milan Italy

Skull of Saint Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, i...
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Milan was founded by the Gauls in the early 4th century B.C. and grew rapidly following the Roman conquest in 222 B.C.  By 1277, Archbishop Otto Visconti imposed hegemony over the city and 130 years of Visconti rule ensued. Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402) was a generous patron of the arts and initiated the construction of the magnificent Gothic Duomo made of white marble with 135 spires

December 7th is the Feast Day of Saint Ambrose, the Patron Saint of Milan. He was born in 339 and consecrated as the Bishop of Milan on December 7, 374. He served as the Bishop until his death in 397. This eloquent bishop was instrumental in spreading

Crypt of bishop Ambrose and two marthyrs, Sain...

Crypt of bishop Ambrose and two marthyrs, Saints Gervase and Protase. Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan. (bodies aren’t totally sharp because they are behind a bad quality sheet glass) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christianity and you can visit his mortal remains in the crypt of the Basilica of Sant’Ambroglio.

Drawing based on a statue of St. Ambrose

Drawing based on a statue of St. Ambrose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He is also the Patron Saint of Bologna. St. Ambrose is one of my favorites because he is the Patron Saint of learning and students., The “Honey-Tongued Doctor” is portrayed with a beehive and bees in his iconography which symbolizes wisdom. He is also the patron saint of  candle-makers and bee keepers.

The “Fiera di Sant’Ambroglio” is the city’s antique fair and takes place in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio from December 7-22. This event coincides with “The Fiera degli Oh Bej-Oh Bej.”  This is a traditional annual outdoor street market held in Milan to honor Saint Ambrose from December 5th to the 8th. For 400 years it was held in front of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, built by Ambrose between 379-386 which is one of the oldest churches in Milan.

Benefattori dell'Ospedale: i Duchi della Milan...

Benefattori dell’Ospedale: i Duchi della Milano quattrocentesca (Francesco Sforza e Bianca Maria Visconti) nell’atto di donare al Papa (Pio II Piccolomini) il bozzetto dell’erigenda Ca’ Granda (Photo credit: renagrisa)

This year the Festival will be held in The Square in front of Castello Sforzesco on Via Dante. Francesco Sforza, husband of Bianca Maria Visconti, became lord of the city in 1450. He ruled from the imposing Castello Sforzesco fortress until 1535. Today, the castle serves as a museum. Francesco Sforza built the present castle where the Visconti castle originally stood. The palace contains several art museums. The Torre del Carmine serves to enclose the fortress of the Visconti family. Michelangelo’s famous “Rondanini Pieta” (1564) can be admired in the Castello Sforzesco.

Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco (Photo credit: viiruone)

Mangia and have a “Vino con Vista” at the festival where you buy interesting gifts from over 400 stalls and can enjoy a porchetta sandwich, cioccolato con panna montala (hot chocolate) and some “Vino Brule” (mulled wine).

Here’s a recipe for Vino Brule

A bottle of red wine

1/3 cup sugar

3 cloves

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 stick of cinnamon

1 lemon peel

Stir wine over medium heat. Add sugar to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Salute!!

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, by night

The Teatro alla Scala in Milan, by night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December 7th is the official opening of the Opera Season in Milan at Teatro alla Scala which opened in 1778. Visit the Museo Teatrale that features vintage opera posters and a remarkable array of opera costumes. For tickets visit:

Attend the Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings from the Duomo to the Church of Sant’Eustorgio on January 6th.

Milano castello sforzesco natale

Milano castello sforzesco natale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milan has an interesting wine bar called La Cantina di Manuela on via Cadore with outdoor tables for people-watching or a nightcap. Try a Rosso della Costa Collina del Milanese or Bianco dell Costa Collina dell Milanese with some Castel Magno cheese. The Lombardy region’s specialty wine is fizzy Franciacorta. Most of the wineries in Lombardy are outside the heavily industrialized city limits in towns located between the Alps and the Apennines including Bergamo, Sondrio, Brescia, Pavia and Mantua.

Milan Duomo

Image by underflowR via Flickr

Bloomingdale’s Christmas Tree

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Buon Natale and Christmas: Holiday Events in Tuscany

Piazza del Campo with Palazzo Pubblico and Tor...
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If you follow my posts, you know that there are many exciting Holiday Events in Italy.  There are some interesting events you may want to attend in Tuscany over the holidays. Tuscany is divided into ten provinces.

Tuscany stretches over the slopes of the Apennines and borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. The landscape is mostly hilly with a flatter area along the sea called Maremma. Visit the wineries across the Chianti hills from Siena to Florence. The two notable wine towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino are also located in the province of Siena in Tuscany.


Siena (Photo credit: ho visto nina volare)

On of my favorite Tuscan towns is Siena. The historic center became an inscribed UNESCO site in 1995. Siena’s yellowish brown buildings are the embodiment of a gothic medieval city.  Her golden age came to a screeching halt with the Black Death of 1348.

Enlightened travelers will love this charming city in the heart of Chianti country about 21 miles south of Florence.  Siena is the birthplace of Saint Catherine (1347), the patron saint of Italy. She received the stigmata at Pisa and her head is still housed in the Basilica of San Domenico.

The brick,  shell shaped brick Piazza del Campo is one of Italy’s most triumphant piazzas, large enough to feature a semi-annual 350 year old summer bareback horse race called the “Palio delle Contrade.”  The Piazza’s surface is divided inato nine segments by colored paving stones, symbolizing the Council of Nine. Their members governed the city in her medieval heyday.  The Council met at the Palazzo Pubblicoon the eastern part of the square.

Torre del Mangia towering above of the Palazzo...

Torre del Mangia towering above of the Palazzo Pubblico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The residents of Siena were fierce rivals of the Florentines.  The distinctive 330 foot city watch tower Torre del Mangia bears witness to their intense rivalry.  Climb to the summit of the Gothic Cathedral; the summit of the tower offers a superb panoramic view of Tuscany.

Throughout the centuries, the residents preserved their city’s Gothic appearance, acquired between the 12th and 15th centuries. In this period, the work of many artists including Duccio, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini influenced the course of European art. Many artists were influenced by Byzantium of the late 15th century. The entire historic city center of Siena, built around the Piazza del Campo, was devised as a work of art that blends into the surrounding landscape. In the southwestern quadrant of the city, the Duomo houses masterpieces by Michelangelo, Bernini and Donatello.  Visit Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s, “Allegory of Good and Bad Government” (1318), in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.

There are many Holiday Events is Siena and other charming provinces of Tuscany:

In the Province of Siena

“Un Natale Speciale” in the town of Chiusi from December 6-25

The Feast of San Lucia on December 13th in the Church of Saint Lucia in Siena

Festa dell’Olio in mid-December

A New Year’s Eve Concert in Piazza del Campo in Siena

“Mostra dei Presepi” is the 16th Annual event in Bottolle (Citta dei Presepi) in Sinalunga Siena from December 12th to January 16th

In Montepulciano attend the Festa e Fiera di Natale

More Events in Tuscany

In Equi Terme witness the “Presepi Viventi”–living Nativity Scenes

Fiera de San Michelle on December 8th in Lucca

The Barga Chocolate Festival on December 4th and 5th in Lucca

In Lucca between December 25 and January 1st there are weekly Puccini concerts at the Basilica of St. John

In Arezzo attend the Honey Festival on December 12-13 in Piazza Risorgimento

Slow Christmas Exhibition in Cutigliano Pistoia from December 4th-12th

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Buon Natale: A White Christmas in Valle d’Aosta

A view of Breuil-Cervinia slopes.
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Valle d”Aosta is located in an extremely mountainous area. It is the smallest Italian region and borders France to the west and Switzerland to the north. It is dominated by some of the highest majestic mountains in Europe called the “Four Queens of the Alps” including Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Cervino and Gran Paradiso.

Valle Geiranger

Valle Geiranger (Photo credit: lecu_lillas)

It’s the perfect place for a “White Christmas”; and nobody does it like Bing Crosby In Italian, listen to “Bianco Natale”

There are four languages spoken in this autonomous province: French, Italian, Valdotain and German. Many feudal castles were constructed in this area to serve military functions.

English: Gran Paradiso summit and Cresta Gasta...

English: Gran Paradiso summit and Cresta Gastaldi; Gran Paradiso massif; Graian Alps; Aosta Valley; Italy Italiano: La vetta del Gran Paradiso e a destra la Cresta Gastaldi; Massiccio del Gran Paradiso; Alpi Graie; Valle d’Aosta; Italia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Tresenta summit, Gran Paradiso Massif...

English: Tresenta summit, Gran Paradiso Massif, Graian Alps, Aosta valley, Italy Italiano: Vetta della Tresenta, Massiccio del Gran Paradiso, Alpi Graie, Valle d’Aosta, Italia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This region of Italy is a haven for skiiers; with 23 ski resorts and 170 ski lifts. Mountain climbers, rock climbers, snowboarders and winter sports enthusiasts flock to this area. The region is famous for “Torchlight Processions” around New Years’ Eve. In this province, Christmas Markets are called “Marche Noel.”

Holiday Events and Torchlight Processions

“Noel au Bourg” at the Fortress of Bord until January 6th.

“Marche Vert Noel” in Piazza Severin Caveri in Aosta until January 6th.

The 2oth annual “Courmayer Noir in Festival” through December 13th.

A ski competition in Pila December 18th-20th.

“Fiera di Sant’Orso” in Aosta January 30-31 that originated in the year 1000.

Italiano: Plan Maison, Valle d'Aosta

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There are many “Torchlight Ski Processions” on December 30th and 31st in this area. Some of the places to see these pocessions include in the towns of: Ayas-Antagnod, Breuil-Cervinia, Chamois, Champorcher, Courmayeur, Etroubles and Gressoney-Saint-Jean.

The Valle d’Aosta Alpine vineyards are Italy’s window to Switzerland.

There are many “Vino con Vista” opportunities on the  “Route des Vins.”  This is a regional circuit of wineries. The vineyards are generally terraced and follow the “adret” that are located on the southern, sunny side of the mountains. The highest vineyards in Europe are located in Morgex-LaSalle.  Stop in the village of Morgex and have a glass of the prestigious Blanc de Morgex. The village houses a chalet with a tasting room and a restaurant. There are 22 DOC wines in the “DOC Valle d’Aosta

The Aosta region of Italy

The Aosta region of Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orchards and vineyards line the valley. Fresian cows graze in the pastures. Fontina cheese is produced in this region. Regional specialties include beefsteak alla valostana that is breaded, fried, topped with fontina cheese and ham an reheated in the oven on a slice of polenta.  Order a cup of Valle d’Aosta coffee with a shot of grappa to accompany your yummy chocolate dessert or regional tegole and torcetti almond cookies.

The Buon Ricordo destination in Valle D’Aosta is Hotel Ristorante Casale in Saint Christophe on Fraz Condemine The signature dish is Scaloppa alla Valdostana cooked with prosciutto and fontina cheese. The collector plate shows three Fresian cows grazing in the sunny pasture.

Bloomingdale’s Christmas Tree

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Ospitalita Italiana: Top Chicago Italian Restaurants certified “Authentic”

Equestrian statue representing Garibaldi, La S...

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English: Italian statesman Giuseppe Mazzini

English: Italian statesman Giuseppe Mazzini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1866, four years after s...

Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1866, four years after surviving a bullet wound misdiagnosed by Partridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leonardo da Vinci replica at Fabio Piccolo Fiore in NYC

Leonardo da Vinci replica at Fabio Piccolo Fiore in NYC

Rome: Spanish Steps

Rome: Spanish Steps


phil stefani's 437March 17th was the official date of the 150th Anniversary of Italian Unification (1861-2011).

Happy Birthday Italy

Chicago celebrates Italy's 150th birthday

The Risorgimento was a movement led by heroic Italian patriots like Camillo Cavour, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Their efforts resulted in the establishment of the Italian nation. Although Napoleon attempted to unify Italy, his defeat led to oppression and dismal economic and political turmoil. Today Italian national brands like Armani, Versaci and Ferrari are a reflection of Italian ingenuity and quality craftsmanship.

Thank God they didn’t unify the culinary traditions that celebrate the diversity of the historical influences and regions of Italy. The cuisine is the cornerstone of signature dishes around the world.

Coca Pazzo's Tarimi Su

On March 17th,  Fulvio Calcinardi, the executive director of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Milan Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International awarded 18 Chicago-area restaurants with the “Ospitalilita Italiana Quality Seal.” Here’s a video from the Chamber of Commerce that describes the Award Criteria

Chicago Osptalita ItalianaThe Italian Quality Seal Award recognizes authentic Italian Restaurants and is granted by the Italian Government. This honor is bestowed for their authenticity and culinary contributions to Italian Culture. I love that this event took place on St. Patrick’s Day. Did you know that St. Patrick was the son of a Roman?

The Quality specifications are determined by Italy’s National Institute of Tourist Research and was launched in Italy in 1997.  The project was extended beyond Italy’s borders and each establishment must meet 10 stringent criteria and submit proof of their authenticity.

The award ceremony took place at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Little Italy on Taylor Street in Chicago. Participants were able to taste the cuisine of many of Chicago’s premier Italian restaurants where the chef’s lovingly prepared some of their signature dishes.

Taylor Steet in Chicago

Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

The seal was created in 1997 and generated a list of criteria that includes proof of authenticity. It is like a “Baldrige Award” for authentic Italian restaurants and esteemed Italian chefs. Each restaurant must employ at least one Italian speaking employee and the menus must be written in proper Italian. At least 20% of the wines must be DOP-certified and the head chef must be proficient in authentic Italian cooking . They must submit at least five recipes with the region and ingredients that inspired the menu.

The 18 Chicago-Area Restaurants that earned the coveted award are:

Ospitalita Italiana Chicago

I love these Italian Restaurants!

  • Spiaggia Restaurant, 980 N. Michigan (Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano)
  • Piccolo Sogno, 464 N. Halsted (Chef/Owner Tony Priolo)

Piccolo Sogno in Chicago

piccolo sogno quality award

  • Coco Pazzo, 300 W. Hubbard (Executive Chef/Partner Chris Macchia)

Coco Pazza Quallity AwardCoco Pazzo in Chicago

  • Merlo on Maple, 16 W. Maple (Chef Luisa Silvia Marani)


Merlo on Maple in Chicago

  • Tocco, 1266 N. Milwaukee (Chef/Owner Bruno Abate)

Tocco in Chicago

Tocco Restaurant in Chicgo

Porchetta cooked to Perfection at Tocco

Vivere at The Italian Village, 71 W. Monroe

Taylor Street Italian Festival 2012

Taylor Street Italian Festival

Italian Expo 2011 121

Volare, 201 E. Grand (Chef Massimo Campagnini)

Volare Restaurant in Chicago

Volare Restaurant on Grand in Chicago

  • Pelago Ristorante, 201 E. Delaware (Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici)
Pelago Ristorante in Chicago

Mauro’s Pelago Restaurant is one of my favorites in Streeterville on Delaware

Pelago Restaurant in Chicago

Mrs. Mafrici from Pelago Restaurant in Chicago

  • Quartino, 626 N. State (Chef/Partner John Coletta)
Quartino Restaurant in Chicago

John wrote a great CookBook

Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush, 437 N. Rush (Executive Chef Federico Comacchio)

  • Riccardo Trattoria, 2119 N. Clark (Chef/Owner Riccardo Michi)
  • 312 Chicago (Chef Luca Corazzina)

312 Chicago's Chef Luca Corazzina

  • Via Carducci La Sorella, 1928 W. Division (Chef Luis Hernandez)
  • Vivere (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Reynaud)
  • La Cantina (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Duerscheidt)
  • Ristorante Agostino, 2817 N. Harlem (Chef Anna Fiasche)
  • Sergio’s Cucina Italiana, 280 N. Rohlwing Rd., Itasca (Chef Sergio Abate)
  • Gaetano’s, 7636 W. Madison, Forest Park (Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto)
Ravioli at Phil Stefani's 437 Rush

Ravioli at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush

Linguini at Phil Stefani's 437 Rush

Linguini at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush


The wine and Prosecco were provided by Casa Vinicolo Zonin

Italian Wine and Prosecco

Italian Wine  A great time was had by all!!!

Here are a few Italian restaurants that I like with alfresco dining that were not recognized with a formal award:

1. Anteprima is located at 5316 Clark Street in Andersonville

2. Zia’s in Edison Park and Zia’s Lago Vista on Ashland in Lakeview are both outstanding! The latter has plenty of outdoor seating

3. Club Lago’s northern Italian cuisine has been around for over 60 years at 331 W. Superior in River North.

4. Viaggio At The Park on Fullerton in Lincoln Park also has an outdoor seating area

5. Topo Gigio in the heart of Old Town on Wells Street has plenty of outdoor space. It has been around for over 25 years.

6. Autre Monde in Berwyn, was founded by four Spiaggio alums has a patio and greenhouse.

7. Due Lire on 4520 N. Lincoln in Lincoln Square


Buon Appetito!!

Dr. EveAnn Lovero loves her Ducati Motorcycle

Dr. EveAnn Lovero loves her Ducati Motorcycle

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Vino con Vista Travel Guides @

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Vino con Vista Pisa: A UNESCO Site in Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of the most fam...
Image via Wikipedia

Pisa was a former Roman naval base and commercial port. Trade with Muslim Spain, North Africa and Lebanon generated tremendous wealth for this maritime power from the 11th to 13th centuries  Arabic numerals were introduced to Europe through Pisa.  By 1406, the city was conquered by Florence.

The iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa, and its spiral staircase of 294 steps is one of the most famous Italian monuments in the world. The Piazza dei Miracoli or Piazza of Miracles, hosts four gleaming Medieval masterpieces: the Leaning Tower is also the Bell Tower, the Camposanto (the graveyard), the Baptristy and the Cathedral. The Baptistry and Cathedral ; Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta are Pisan Romanesque.” It was constructed with the intention of preserving “holy land” from Palestine.

The UNESCO  World Heritage site stands in a large green expanse, known as the “Field of Miracles” and was inscribed in 1987. The Piazza del Duomo houses a group of splendid monuments known throughout the world.

English: Interior view of the duomo of Pisa

English: Interior view of the duomo of Pisa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some UNESCO photos of Pisa, Italy: del Duomo, Pisa &siteid=49


Pulpit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These four masterpieces of medieval architecture were influenced by Islamic architecture.  They include:  the Cathedral (1064), the Baptistry (1154), the Campanile (1173) which is the famous gravity defying “Leaning Tower of Pisa” and the cemetery (1277).  The unstable subsoil caused the Tower to tilt and sudside.  The cemetery houses Roman sarcophagi and frescoes damaged by WWII bombs that have beeen restored.

The Duomo of Pisa in the Piazza dei Miracoli, ...

The Duomo of Pisa in the Piazza dei Miracoli, showing the Baptistry. The Leaning Tower cannot be seen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pisa’s Duomo is considered the finest Pisan-Romaneque building in Tuscany with its tiered façade, colonnades, arcades and beautiful bronze doors. Giovani Pisano’s magnificent carved pulpit represents the life of Christ (1301-11).  The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo contains casts of the fountain stones of each of the buildings beginning in 1064.

English: Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Pisa), Pi...

English: Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Pisa), Pisa, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Andrea del Sarto’s “St Agnes and Lamb”; Tino da Camaino’s “tomb of Emperor Henry VII, as well as Cimabue’s 1302 mosaic “Christ in Majesty” are housed in the Duomo.  In the Duomo Museum, Giovanni’s “Madonna and the Crucifix” was carved in ivory in 1299; the natural shape of the tusk contributes to her stance.





The Baptistry of the Cathedral of Pisa.

The Baptistry of the Cathedral of Pisa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The white marble Romanesque Baptistry was designed by Diotisalvi in 1152 and completed in 14th century. It was structurally renovated between 1990 and 1999. It contains a beautiful pulpit by Nicola Pisano and a central font by Guido Bigarelli of Como. The cylindrical structure has amazing acoustics.  The roof of the Baptistry is double-domed..

Pisan artists had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century, which is reflected in the work of Bonanno and Giovanni Pisano. The National Museum of St. Matthew on the banks of the Arno River, has a wonderful collection of Tuscan painting and sculptures including: Francesco Traini’s “Scenes from the Life of St. Domenic”, Fra Angelo’s “Christ” and Donatello’s bust of San Rossore.

There are many Events in Pisa:

Attend the annual  “Unica Terra di Vino” in December.This wine Festival will be held at the Stazione Leopolda and features 60 producers from the Pisa Province.

The International Pisa Marathon is on December 19th and starts at the Piazza dei Miracoli.

Corso Italia and Borgo Stretto are draped with holiday lights. There are Holiday Markets on Via Paparelli, under the Logge di Bianchi and at Largo Ciro Menotti.

Attend the Pisa Gospel Festival in December.

Christmas concerts are held in many churches: the Church of San Nicola on December 5ht, Santo Stefano on December 10th and the church of San Francesco on December 19th featuring the music of Bach and Vivaldi.

Opera Primaziale will perform on December 18th in the Cathedral of Pisa in Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Church of San Martino will host a presepi exhibit until January 9th.

On December 29th attend the Volterra Mercato & Gusto.

Attend the annual Cigoli Artistic Nativity Scene and Market of Solidarity at the Santuario Maria Madre dei Bambini in Cigoli Miniato. This is one of the largest nativity scenes in Tuscany.

English: Leaning Tower - Pisa.

English: Leaning Tower – Pisa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many “Vino con Vista” opportunities at the cafes near the Leaning Tower.  In Marina di Pisa, have some lunch and a glass of Bianco Pisano at Miracles Café on Via P. Agostino da Montrefeltro on the seafront terrace.  Visit the Castellina Maritima Winery on Via Bagnoli (  Order a Foresta on Via Litoraneaz for a great view.

There is a newly renovated Bagni Di Pisa Natural Spa Resort (  It was the former summer resort of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  For a real treat, stay at the Relais dell’Orologio on Via della Faggiol (

There are two Buon Ricordo restaurants to in Pisa:

Ristorante Enoteca Dante e Ivana in Tirrenia @ Viale Tirreno.  Enjoy the “Tomato Soup with Tyrrhenian batarga” to get the charming collector plate.  It works well with a glass of Bianco Pisano di San Torpe. The seaside veranda is a lovely place to dine and enjoy the view.

Ristorante-Enoteca Del Duca inVolterra @ Via di Castello, 2.  The signature dish is “Ribollita with wood pigeon and volterra truffles.” This soup should be accompanied by a glass of red wine.  The restaurant is located in the prestigious Palazzo Inghirami.

Happy Holidays from Vino con Vista

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @

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Juliet’s Balcony makes Verona Italy the Vino con Vista City of Love

Juliet's purported balcony, in Verona. Beneath...

Image via Wikipedia


Giulietta (Photo credit: Luciana.Luciana)

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper...

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper for Toy Theatre; Romeo and Juliet (background and surroundings removed) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quotation from Romeo and Juliet and a Portrait...

Quotation from Romeo and Juliet and a Portrait of Shakespeare on the right-side Pillar of Gates of Verona, next to the entrance to the Museo Maffeiano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: verona arena italy 2009

English: verona arena italy 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An 1870 oil painting by Ford Madox Brown depic...

An 1870 oil painting by Ford Madox Brown depicting Romeo and Juliet’s famous balcony scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper for Toy Theatre; Romeo and Juliet (background and surroundings removed) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verona (Photo credit: IK’s World Trip)

If you have seen the movie “Letters to Juliet” with Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried you are familiar with the story of Juliet’s balcony and the Club di Giulietta. The letters that are addressed to Juliet are read and answered by local volunteers.

Vanessa Redgraves’s long lost love Lorenzo in the movie  is actually her husband in real life.

English actress Vanessa Redgrave at the press ...

English actress Vanessa Redgrave at the press conference for the film Coriolanus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper...

Julia/Giulietta, Zweitguss 1974 nach dem Origi...

Julia/Giulietta, Zweitguss 1974 nach dem Original des Künstlers Nereo Costantini in Verona, ein Geschenk der Partnerstadt Verona (oder der Sparkasse Verona) an München (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie was filmed in Juliet’s hometown of Verona. Did you know that you could go to Verona and leave a message under her balcony at the 14th century palace? Look at all the documents under the picture in the post. Her secretaries will respond to your request offering advice about your Romeo. You don’t actually have to go to Verona to leave a letter, you can email the letter seeking romantic advice to her secretaries. The volunteers at the Juliet Club (Club di Giulietta) will answer your letter. On  Valentine’s Day you may win a prize. Every Valentine’s Day a prize is awarded for the most beautiful letter. The prize includes a weekend trip to Verona. Juliet’s Club is financed by the city of Verona and was the subject of a book by Lise and Ceil Friedman.

The Capulet’s House (Casa di Giulietta) has a balcony, a courtyard and a bronze statue of Juliet. For good luck, stroke Juliet’s breast on the bronze statue. If you write your name and your loved-ones name on the wall, it is believed that your love will be everlasting.

The historic city of Verona has pastel candy-colored buildings. It was founded in the first century B.C. and is located at the foot of the Monte Lessini on the river. Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an outstanding example of a military stronghold. Verona is the second most important art center in the Venato region outside of Venice.

Verona has developed progressively and uninterruptedly for over 2000 years. The top row of the Roman Amphitheatre offers a panoramic view over the town and on a clear day the Alps are visible.  The amphitheatre continues to serve as an opera house. Verona’s arena serves as a venue for an annual Shakespeare Festival. It was completed in 30 AD.

The Giardino Guisti is one of Italy’s most famous gardens and offers a beautiful view from the “monster balcony.”  Verona flourished under the 124 year reign of the Scaliger family in the 13th and 14th centuries and as part of the Republic of Venice from the 15th to 18th centuries. Several seminal stages of European history have been preserved in this magical city. Tour the museums to view masterpieces from the medieval and Renaissance periods.

When you go to Verona to send your letter to Juliet, have a seat at a café in the Piazza dei Signore and order a Rosso Veronese, Soave or Valpolicello Classico as you gaze at the imposing statue of Dante. Think about Shakespeare embellishing Romeo and Juliet’s love story in this romantic “City of Love”. Sign up for cooking lessons at Villa Giona, associated with the Allegrini Winery, to seal the deal with Miss or Mr. McDreamy!

Dine at Osteria Sottoriva on Via Sattoriva and try some asparagus lasagna. Arche and Il Desco offer outstanding regional cuisine. There are two Buon Ricordo restaurant options near Verona: ( 1)  Gardesana in Torri del Benacoke on the eastern Riviera of Lake Garda is located at Piazza Calderini, 20 ( Order the whitefish filet in sweet and sour sauce and gaze at the glistening lake from the terrace and (2)  Ristorante 12 Apostoli on Vicolo Corticella S. Marco, 3 ( offers a delightful duck breast in Amarone wine. This restaurant has a 250 year history.

Verona has a long and strong history of wine production with high quality and high productivity.  On the Veronese Riviera, Lake Garda is synonymous with the Bardolino red wine zone and winery tours can be arranged at the Enoteca del Bardolino and at the Wine Museum of the Zeni estate. The Valpolicella appellation was declared 2009’s winemaking region of the year by Wine Enthusiast. Amarone and Recioto wines were upgraded to DOCG status. Amarone is my favorite Italian red wine. It is made from the partially dried grapes including: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.

Amarone from Verona

Amarone from Verona

Deutsch: Zwei Flaschen Amarone della Valpolice...

Deutsch: Zwei Flaschen Amarone della Valpolicella Italiano: Due bottiglie di Amarone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In April of each year, Verona hosts “Vinitaly.” It is the country’s largest wine exhibition where you can taste thousands of wines from around the world.   Here are some red wines you want to try in Verona:  Amarone della Valpolicella,  Bardolino Superiore, Cabernet Franc e Sauvignon, Chiaretto del Garda, Valpolicella and Raboso del Piave. To learn more about Italy read Vino con Vista Travel Guides

Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites

and iBookstore

If you are planning a trip to Vinitaly or Verona, consider these hotels:

Byblos Art Hotel Amista (15th century villa) Hotel Gabbia Doro (in town) Due Torri Hotel Baglioni (14th century building) Lake Garda, stay at the Grand Hotel A Villa Feltrinelli
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Forza Azzurri: Vino con Vista Turin and Italian Unification

English: Map of unification of Italy, 1815-70

English: Map of unification of Italy, 1815-70 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coat of Arms of the Dukes of Savoy after Emman...

Coat of Arms of the Dukes of Savoy after Emmanuel Philibert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Palazzo Madama a Torino File:Brogi, Giacomo (1...

Palazzo Madama a Torino File:Brogi, Giacomo (1822-1881) – Torino – Palazzo Madama (1865s).jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meeting with Victor Emmanuel in Teano

Meeting with Victor Emmanuel in Teano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy

Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia
Image via Wikipedia

Italian Unification was the political and social movement know as il Risorgimento (the Resurgence). The movement attempted to unite Italy under one flag. Italy was officially united into a nation state on March 17th, 1861. On this day, Vittorio Emanuele II, the King of Piedmont-Sardinia proclaimed the birth of a new Italian Kingdom in Turin.

This day has been declared a national holiday and many of Italy’s museums and monuments will be free. In Rome, there will be fireworks and concerts. Milan is celebrating with a free concert and Palermo will have a parade at Villa Trabia.

Turin is the largest city in the region of Piedmont and it was historically under Austro-Hungarian domination. Piedmont is located between the Alps and the Po Valley with soaring peaks and charming vined-cloaked hilly landscapes. It is the home of Italian auto maker FIAT

Turin was Italy‘s first capital. Her piazzas, palaces and churches are brimming with the remnants of the powerful House of Savoy. The amazing residences of the Royal House of Savoy are UNESCO World Heritage sites. They were inscribed in 1997 and include the Palazzo Reale, the Royal Armory, the Library and Stables.

When Emmanuel-Philibert, Duke of Savoy, moved his capital to Turin in 1562 he began a series of buiding projects. These projects were continued by his successors to demonstrate the power of the ruling house. The Savoy complex of buildings radiates from the Royal Palace in Turin to many country residences and hunting lodges in the surrounding countryside.

“These architectural masterpieces represent a comprehensive overview of European monumental architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries. These structures embody distinctive grandiose style and grace; depicting the prevailing doctrine of absolute monarchs.” UNESCO

In 2011, Turin celebrated 150 years of unification with special events in many regional cultural venues. Turin has more than 40 museums including the National Museum of the Risorgimento, the Egyptian Museum and the Automobile Museum.

Prior to March 17, 1861, Italy was divided into small city-states ruled by other countries like Spain and Austria. In 1861, Italy won her independence following the Risorgimento aided by Garibaldi’s military prowess. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed and Torino became the capital of the new kingdom.

Italian sports teams wear Azzurro Blue (azure), the official color of the House of Savoy.  At national sporting events,  the Italians chant “Forza Azzurri” which means “Go Blue.”  Here’s the soccer team in their Azzurro uniforms “Italia Championi del Mondo”

Visit the Pinocoteca dell’Accademia Albertina with eight rooms of fine arts and the Galleria Sabauda for Renaissance art. Bellini, Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi masterpieces are housed in these galleries.

The original Holy Shroud (Sacra Sindone) of Turin is kept in Turin’s Duomo in a silver casket inside a marble coffer. The replica is available for viewing. Carbon testing in the late 1980’s indicated that the shroud dates back to the 12th century; this invalidates the original theory of the shroud.

Facts about the Province of Turin:

The life of “Vittorio Emanuele II: The Gentleman King” will be highlighted with documents, pictures and artifacts in three locations in the province of Turin. Castle Racconigi, the location of his wedding to Archduchess Maria Adelaide of Hapsburg-Lorraine, will display the legend of  “children and families.” In the Gallery of the Shroud of Turin in Palazzo Reale, battle highlights of the Risorgimento will be exhibited.

Turin was the Hollywood of Italy. The “Zombies, Vampires, Mummies and Ghosts” visit the Museo Nazionale del Cinema on Via Montebello.

Get tickets for the  Turin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Holiday Events in Turin:

1. Mercatino di Natale on Via Roma in Turin

2. Presepi da Gustare on December 11th in Comune di Venaus

3. Mercatino di Fine Anno in Centro Storico of Oulx on December 30th

4. Mercatini di Natale in Comune di Sestrieve on December 18 and 19

5. Fiera Regionale del Bovino da Carne in Carmagnola December 10-12

6. Cioccolatorrino in Bardonecchi at Piazza delle Stretta on January 4th

7.  Il Bosco Incantato on Vie del Borgovecchio December 27th thru January 6th

Additional holiday events in Piedmont:

In Alagna, admire the Ice Nativity Scene on Christmas Eve

The Bonfire Celebration in Roatto on Christmas Eve

The torchlight re-enactment of Christmas Eve in Schierano

The “Living Nativity Scene” in Cessole and Maranzana on Christmas Eve

The cafes in Piazza San Carlo present perfect “Vino con Vista” opportunities. Sip wine and enjoy tasty agnolotti (ravioli) and tajarin all’uovo pasta. Your Moscato d’Asti will be served under a fabulous Murano glass chandelier.

King Vittorio Emanuele II would have probably preferred a glass of Barolo wine produced from Nebbiolo grapes to celebrate the unification of Italy. Try a glass of Barbaresco with some agnolotti filled with ricotta or stewed meat and garnished with white truffles. Another regional specialty is Oca alla Piedmontese.

In Piedmont, Barolo the “King of Wines”, Barbara and Barbaresco come from the vineyards of Langhe close to Liguria. This area is one of the most prestigious red wine producers in Italy.  More interesting red wines from Piedmont include Premetta, Torette, Pinot Noir and Petit Rouge. Brachetto d’Acqui, sweet Moscato d’Asti and sparkling Spumante are also produced here. The Provencia di Asti is located in the Piedmont region.

My absolute favorite everyday Italian wine is Barbera. It is produced in the town of Alba, which is also famous for white truffles. Barbera d’Alba is fruity and lighter than Barolo. Dolcetto d’Alba is also quite appealing. Most Italian wine lovers prefer the region’s prestigious Barolo.

The Buon Ricordo options in the Piedmont Region include:

1. Ristorante Torino in Alessandria at Via A. Vochieri 108 ( The signature dish is an extraordinary Rabbit with Peppers.

2. Ristorante La Contea in Neive at Piazza Cocito, 8 ( offers a Piedmonte calf-tail braised in Barbaresco  with a charming collector plate showing a cow’s tail wrapped around a glass of red wine. The restaurant is located in the center of town in the picturesque village of Langhe.

To learn more about Italy read www.vino-con-vista.comTravel Guides and

Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites

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The Ten Most Seductive Vino con Vista Places to Drink Wine in Italy

Almalfi Coast (10/10/2007)

Image via Wikipedia

English: Part of Positano, Italy.

English: Part of Positano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italy Series - Italian Coastal Town

Italy Series – Italian Coastal Town (Photo credit: John O Dyer)

English: Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy.

English: Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy] (LOC)

[Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

English: Map of Italy and its districts.

English: Map of Italy and its districts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Positano (Photo credit: warlikeangel)

Ravello-Villa Cimbrone Pavillon

Ravello-Villa Cimbrone Pavillon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italy is one of the world’s most alluring travel destinations. It is brimming with centuries of masterpieces by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Caravaggio. Verdi and Puccini created indredible operas.  Venice, Florence and Rome are cloaked with amazing architecture.

It is the historic and cultural epicenter of the Etruscans, the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church and the Renaissance.  Captivating panoramic vistas of the peninsula’s majestic mountains, volcanoes and glistening seas enhance Italy’s timeless charm.  The fascinating array of sights and travel experiences includes glorious cityscapes overflowing with art and architectural masterpieces.  Historic cities are surrounded by dreamy landscapes of rolling hills that are carpeted with vineyards, olive and citrus groves.


Positano (Photo credit: jimmyharris)

[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC)

[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

There are many differesnt types of wine produced in the world; about 80% is still wine, but you can also drink fortified wine and sparkling wine in Italy.


The grapes thrive on terraced vineyards with intense sunshine; pronounced  fluctuations between day and night temperatures are essential for some grapes. Italy’s landscape is covered with vineyards. Some regions of Italy have more limited wine production than other regions. These smaller production areas do not export much wine because all of the output is consumed locally. These regional wines can only be enjoyed in Italy. Wine, bread and olive oil make up the Holy Trinity of the Italian Mediterranean diet. I like to drink wine and gaze at a panoramic vista of something beautiful. I have selected these locations because they provide what I consider a “Vino con Vista”–Wine with a View.

The micro climates of regions from Piedmont to Sicily provide the nation’s wine producers with resources and endless opportunities to produce highly regarded local wines.  Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes become estate wines that ultimately stock wine cellars throughout Italy and the world. There are over 300 varieties of vines that are cultivated in many locations: by the sea, on the foothills and in the southernmost islands. The Italian wine industry provides a wide assortment of wines with various aromas, flavors and textures.  The diversity of these wines tends to harmonize with various types of food because of their overall natural acidity.  The extensive latitudinal range of the terroir allows the grapevines to be caressed by the convergence of many natural forces including: climate, sunshine, soil, humidity, sea breeze and rainfall.  These forces produce a kaleidoscope of wines in many distinctive wine regions throughout the peninsula. Pour, observe, swirl, smell and enjoy.


Ravello (Photo credit: Davide78)

Looking back to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy.

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The Amalfi Coast is dotted with the picturesque hill towns that line the cliffs of the Sorrentine peninsula from Positano to Vietri sul Mare. The area includes the towns of Positano and Ravello with sun kissed vineyards, lemon and olive groves. This is arguably one of the most enchanting coastlines in Italy. Amalfi was the first Maritime Republic before Venice, Genoa and Pisa. The strategic location enabled Amalfi’s military to keep invaders away. As a trading powerhouse, it dominated trade in spices, papermaking and silk.

English: Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy.

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1. Villa Cimbrone in Ravello is perched high upon the mountain overlooking the villages of Atrani and Minori. It was once part of the Republic of Amalfi. Amalfi is the coast’s largest town, but Ravello is the undisputed aristocrat of the Amalfi Coast. Ravello is an enchanting stretch of paradise, perched 1500 feet above the Gulf of Salerno on a high cliff above the town of Amalfi.  It commands awe-inspiring views of the coastline, citrus groves and vineyards. Visit the cathedral, the beautiful gardens of Villa Ruffalo and Villa Cimbrone.

English: Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Italy.

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The impressive Duomo ( Chiesa de San Giovanni del Toro) was founded in 1086 and has the relics of St. Barbara ( The 12th century Santa Maria a Gradillo church is also noteworthy.  When you get to Villa Cimbrone, walk out to the belvedere to gaze at the panoramic vista.  Then walk over to the hotel and order a glass of Costa d’Amalfi Ravello Rosso Riserva wine from the pool bar.

Deutsch: Die Terrazza dell'Infinito der Villa ...

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2. Positano was once part of the powerful Republic of Amalfi. It is an exclusive and romantic destination for jet-setters where former palazzi have been converted into luxurious hotel properties. On the Amalfi Coast, Furore and Tramonte grapes grow on terraced cliffs next to lemon and orange trees.  This gives the wine a distinctively delightful flavor. This Moorish hillside village on the southern tip of the Amalfi Drive opens to the Tyrrhenian Sea and provides gorgeous panoramic vistas of the sea and vineyards.


Positano (Photo credit: bawoodvine)

The town is spread out over the slopes of Mount Commune. Climb the steep, winding “1000 Stairs” pedestrian promenade to the Scalinatella, the highest part of Positano or stay at the beach, rent a chair (stabilimenti) and order your wine from handsome Stefano, as you submerge your feet in the irresistible azure water. Near the beach, dine at La Pergola or Tre Sorelli and order some impepata di cozze (mussels). Navigate the stairs up to the top of the town for more secluded restaurants. Dine at Bruno or El Capitano for panoramic views. After your relaxing day at the gravel beach, visit the lobsters in the tank at LoScoglio on Piazza della Sirene west of Positano.  Request a table overlooking the Bay of Sorrento. Stay at San Pietro on Via Laurito 2 or Le Sirenuse on Via Columbo, 30 for breathtaking views from the 4500 square foot terrace overlooking the Bay. Dine at Al Palazzo in the Hotel Palazzo Murat on Via Dei Mulini and order Paccheri all Napoletana. Most of the hotels cling to the cliffs and have beautiful views of the water. A boat tour will help you truly appreciate the scenery.

Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi

Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi (Photo credit: jimmyharris)

Vesuvius overlooking Sorrento and the Bay of N...

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3Sorrento is situated on a terraced plain above the sea with spectacular views of Vesuvius, Ischia and the Bay of Naples. This enchanting location makes it the perfect destination for exploring this region. The rugged landscape, lush vegetation and mild climate of the Sorrento peninsula are enchanting. Sorrento’s terraced vineyards produce Peninsola Sorrentino DOC wines like Lettere and Gragnano. Sorrento is the ideal satellite location for side trips to Naples, Capri, Positano, Ischia or Amalfi via watercraft from the Marina Grande or the Marina Picolo. Choosing a base for your travels depends on your priorities, timetable and budget.

Reserve a table on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria at sunset; situated on a cliff overlooking the bay and Mount Vesuvius. This is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine from the Penisola Sorrentina vineyards made from white Falanghina or red Piedirosso grapes. The local Tiberio winery produces a nice red Antico Convento. Da Gemma on Via Madre Serafina has a lovely panoramic vista. Plan your next day trip as you watch the boats disembark from the marina to Capri, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast—La Dolce Vita!  Some additional places for sipping some vino with dinner include the famous upscale Don Alphonso next to Santa Maria delle Grazie in Sant’Agata. L’Antica Trattoria on Via Padre R Guiliani  and Il Buco on Il Rampa Marina Piccola, 5 offer pleasant dining. The lush garden setting of O’Parrucchiano on the main street of Corso Italia a few blocks from the Piazza Tasso is interesting. La Tonnarella’s rooftop restaurant on Via del Capo offers a breathtaking view and a fabulous antipasto table. Stay at the Grand Hotel Capodimonte at Via Capo, 14 for another splendid view of the Gulf and Vesuvius. Another interesting hotel option with a sweeping view is the Capri Palace on Via Capidimonte, 2 where you can dine at its L’Olivo restaurant.

Tuscany is Italy’s quintessential wine region and the birthplace of three important red wines: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. These wines are made from Sangiovese grapes but have distinctively different flavors in Tuscany’s diverse microclimates. Chianti is produced in seven subzones in Tuscany. The Chianti Classico zone has DOCG status. The other six Chianti subzones are: Chianti Rufina, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane and Chianti Montalbano. The “Chiantigiana” is the road that twists and turns through the Chianti zones between Florence and Siena.

Montalcino, Toscana, Italia

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4. Montalcino’s Brunello is Tuscany’s rarest and most expensive wine. It is produced in the walled medieval village of Montalcino, south of the Chianti Classico zone. The climate is warmer and the hills are steeper. The wine is aged longer and it must be aged in oak barrels. You may consider staying in Mantalcino at Il Borgo (  They offer weekend culinary classes taught by Chef Heinz Beck from Rome’s famous La Pergola Restaurant.  Near the charming wine town of Montalcino, visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, a beautiful Romanesque church. Enjoy the Brunello di Montalcino made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes. Montepulciano is another charming wine town, home of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wines. Visit the tomb and church of St. Agnes, the town’s patron saint.

Sienna Cathedral

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5. Siena’s yellowish-brown buildings are the embodiment of a gothic medieval city.  Her golden age came to a screeching halt with the plague called the Black Death of 1348.  Enlightened travelers will love this charming city in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone about 21 miles south of Florence. Order a bottle of wine at a cafe in the shell-shaped brick Piazza del Campo is one of Italy’s most triumphant piazzas, large enough to feature a medieval semi-annual 350-year-old summer bareback horse race called the “Palio delle Contrade” (  The victor of the Palio celebrates with a massive town dinner (cena). Sometimes the horse wins without a jockey. The piazza’s surface is divided into nine segments by colored paving stones, symbolizing Siena’a original Council of Nine. Their members governed the city in her medieval heyday.  The council met at the Palazzo Pubblico on the eastern part of the square. In Siena visit Italy’s most famous Enoteca on Piazza Matteotti housed within the Medici fortress, order from among 1000 wines from more than 50 producers.  Then take the Chianti Road (La Chiantigiana) through the magnificent Tuscan countryside revered and replicated in Renaissance paintings.  Sip some Sant’ Antimo Terre du Siena in the Campo with some pappardelle con leper, pappa al pomodoro or Costata alla Fiorentina. The Tuscan hillsides provide the ideal micro-climates for Sangiovese and Trebbiano grapes. Visit the Italian Library of Wine in Siena owned by the Italian government to showcase their finest wines. The outdoor terrace is a great “vino con vista” venue.

English: Towers of San Gimignano

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6. San Gimignano  is 32 miles southwest of Florence. It is considered the Manhattan of Tuscany. The majestic skyline of noble towers was built for defensive purposes and as a symbol of status and wealth. Pass through the Arco dei Becci (the arch) and enter the Piazza della Cisterna.  You will feel like you have returned to the Middle Ages.  This charming town produces a prestigious white wine called Vernaccia di San Gimignano in the beautiful vineyards that surround the old city.  It is an excellent aperitif.  This was Italy’s first white DOCG wine. Harvest time is generally between September and October 15th.

San gimignano

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Visit a café in the Piazza del Duomo or Piazza della Cisterna and order a local specialty made with saffron to accompany your wine.  The saffron is made from crocus flowers and is produced in this area.  Have a gelato at Gelateria di Piazza. Stay or dine at La Collegiata on Localita Strada, 27 ( for an extensive wine list and great views.


Pisa, Italy

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7. Pisa was a former Roman naval base and commercial port, trade with Muslim Spain, North Africa and Lebanon generated tremendous wealth for this maritime power from the 11th to 13th centuries.  Arabic numerals were introduced to Europe through Pisa.  By 1406 the city was conquered by Florence. A defensive wall surrounds the Field of Miracles.  Pisa was historically an important port since the time of the Romans.  It was a great sea Republic throughout the Middle Ages. The Piazza del Duomo houses a group of splendid monuments known throughout the world. These four masterpieces of medieval architecture were influenced by Islamic architecture.  They include the Cathedral (1064), the Baptistry (1154) and the Campanile (1173), which is the famous gravity-defying “Leaning Tower of Pisa” and the cemetery (1277).  The eight-story bell tower (180 feet tall) was begun under the supervision of Bonanno.  The unstable subsoil caused the Tower to tilt and subside. Galileo conducted some of his experiments on gravity from the top of the tower. There are many cafes near the Leaning Tower.  In Marina di Pisa have some lunch and a glass of Bianco Pisano at Miracles Café on Via P. Agostino da Montrefeltro and sit on the seafront terrace.  Visit the Castellina Maritima Winery on Via Bagnoli (  Visit Foresta on Via Litoraneaz for a great view.  There is a newly renovated Bagni Di Pisa Natural Spa Resort (  It was the former summer resort of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  In Pisa make a reservation at the Relais dell’Orologio on Via della Faggiola 12 ( for outstanding accommodations.


Français : La coupole de Brunelleschi vue du c...

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8.  Florence is the world’s celebrated jewel of Renaissance art and architecture is famous for voluptuous domes and intimate restaurants. She rose to economic and cultural pre-eminence under the mighty Medici dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries. The churches, galleries and palaces are brimming with masterpieces. The city was built on the site of an Etruscan settlement and has 600 years of extraordinary artistic activity. It is an incredibly compact city for walking.  Walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset for a glimmering moonlit cityscape.  Marvel at her panoramic glory as the cloak of darkness descends over her dimly lit splendor. Natural and man-made disasters have threatened the city’s wealth of art history.  In 1966, the Arno River’s devastating flood destroyed or severely damaged Florentine treasures.  In 1993, a mafia bomb exploded near the Uffizi and severely damaged the gallery. The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge to escape Nazi bombs during World War II. Her glorious past is evident in the monumental grandeur of her structures. The 13th century cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Church of Santa Croce, the Uffizi, Santa Maria Novella, the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Bargello and the Pitti Palace are incredible repositories of Renaissance art. Florence has the largest concentration of Renaissance art and sculpture in the world. Landmark cloisters, chapels and refectories are all galleries of Renaissance art.

Reserve a table (“vorrei reservare una tavola”) at a café in the bustling Piazza della Signoria.  Gaze at the fashionable residents wearing Florence’s designer icons like Pucci, Gucci, Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli. As you sip your Chianti Classico, Brunello de Montalcino Riserva or Vino Nobile de Montepulciano and admire 600 years of artistic activity.  This strategic location will give you a magnificent view of the Loggia dei Lanzi by Orcagna. The Loggia dei Lanzi was designed by the architect Orcagna.  It is named after Cosimo I’s bodyguards; the Lancers were German mercenaries that were on his payroll. It was built between 1376 and 1383 by Benci di Cione and Simone Talenti. Three classical arches rest on columns of different styles. Above the arches statues of the Virtues occupy the alcoves. Two lions flank the entrance to the center archway.  A copy of Cellini’s bronze statue of the “Perseus beheading Medusa” in 1554 is prominently displayed in the left arch. Cosimo I wanted to warn his enemies of their probable fate. Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabine Women” (1583) was carved  from a single block of marble.

Consider an afternoon Enoteca (wine bar) crawl.  The local bars offer “Aperito” (Happy Hour); visit Negroni, Zoe and Il Rifrullo.  Interesting wine bars in Florence include Antico Noe on San Pietro, Cantinetta da Verrazzano on Via dei Tavolini, Fuori Porta on Via dei Monte all Croci and Le Vope e l’Uva on Piazza de Rossi. If you prefer, head over to the Frescobaldi Winebar ( and try some Toscana Giorgio Primo or Rosso di Montalcino.

English: Italy Duomo di Orvieto Cathedral

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9.  Orvieto in Umbria is perched halfway between heaven and earth on a plateau over 900 feetabove sea level. Take a funicular to the top of the cliff to visit the medieval historic center of this charming town. The town’s crowning jewel is the splendid Romanesque-Gothic Duomo designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. The Cathedral has famous frescoes by Fra Angelico and Luca Signorelli. The Cathedral was started in 1290 when Pope Nicholas IV blessed the first stone. The inside and the outside of the Duomo are covered with basalt and travertine stripes. The façade has glistening mosaics including “The Coronation of the Virgin” in the central gable. There are plenty of cafes, wine bars and restaurants. Visit the Enoteca in Piazza del Popolo to sip Orvieto’s famous wine.

English: The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti in Ven...

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10. Venice  is one of the most magical and romantic destinations in Italy. The majestic “Mistress of the Sea” was founded in the 5th century. This seafaring republic, between the river, lagoon and hypnotic Adriatic Sea is spread over 118 small islands with 150 canals and 400 bridges. Venice embodies the victorious struggle of man against nature. Lavishly adorned palazzi like Ca d’Oro and Ca’ Rezzonicone line the Grand Canal. These palaces are embellished with Baroque magnificence and Rococo elegance. Gondolas and Vaporetti (water buses) transport residents and exuberant tourists through paradise via waterways.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, mainland refugees settled the sparse islands to escape waves of invasions. These residents harvested seafood from the canals of the Adriatic Sea for sustenance. Eventually, they became sailors and then wealthy sea merchants. This gateway to the Asia became a major maritime power in the 10th century. Exotic spices like saffron, cinnamon and curry fueled the Venetian Empire. Salt was a crucially important profit center for the Venetians. The term salary is derived from the Venetian practice of being paid in salt. The extraordinary profits earned through trade, filled the coffers of the patrons of the flourishing artists. Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a prominent Venetian explorer who traveled to Asia. This enchanting city is an architectural masterpiece with domes, spires and campaniles. St. Mark’s basilica and the Doge’s Palace constitute the fulcrum of Venetian religious and civic life. The work of Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese adorn her magnificent buildings. Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is the location of some of the major attractions including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Sansovino Library. Saint Mark is represented by the winged lion surmounting one of the tall 12th century granite columns. The gorgeous church of Santa Maria della Salute has a prime location on the mouth of the Grand Canal. Purchase a museum card or Museum Pass to avoid long lines in Venice.

View from the Rialto Bridge in Venice

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Meander through the labyrinthine ancient passages of Venice and delight your palate with a “Chicchetti” bar crawl with Venetian bar snacks. Sit at a charming café in the middle of St. Mark’s Square like the Caffe Florian that was built in 1720. Listen to the tuxedo-clad orchestra as you sip some Pinot Grigio delle Venezie. Café Quadri was built in 1628 is also located in the square. Caffe Chioggia has a view of the lagoon. Venetians love to dine at the Osteria al Bacareto located at 3447 San Marco. Have some risotto di mare or sarde with pine nuts (sardines). Another scenic option is the Gran Caffe Lavena where you can enjoy your glass of Rosso Roggio or Laudato Malbech del Venato in the shadow of the Torre dell’Orologia. Effervescent Prosecco is great with a splash of pomegranate juice and a sugar cube. In September, get tickets for the annual International Film Festival. Enroll in cooking school at the 16th Century Hotel Cipriani with Michelin Chefs

To learn more about interesting and seductive places to drink wine read Vino Con Vista Travel Guides available @

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