A Hidden Treasure of Italy – Artist Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi – Self Portrait

By Joanne Natale Spigonardo

September 17, 2021

We all know the many great Italian masters of art.  There are too numerous male painters to mention. However, the ones that automatically come to my mind are Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Caravaggio. 

Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most famous women in the history of art.  She was born in Rome in 1593 and worked along side of her father, Orazio Gentileschi, also a painter and student of Caravaggio. Her father was her mentor, and even though, her mother died when she was only 12, Artemisia had a gentle and strong role model in her father. Artemisia also studied the Baroque style of Caravaggio. Her style is known for its natural form and color. Her works come to life in a surreal and energetic burst of light.

Artemisia was raped by artist Agostino Tassi, who refused to marry her, but she was avenged in court where he was accused of the crime.  Her life was one of repression, rage, and unfairness.  Artemisia had a good father who encouraged her to study in Florence and she was soon married to a Florentine who supported her talent. Artemisia was the first woman to enroll in Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (the Academy of Arts and Drawing). She painted her first portrait entitled The spirit of Cesar in the Soul of a Woman at age 17.  Her work often depicts myths where women are warriors facing battle.  One of which is, Judith Slaying Holofernes. Her painting suggests the plight of women then and now. Her voice is telling us to fight suppression and use talent and intelligence as a weapon.  Artemisia was also celebrated artist in the court of the de Medici family, that aided her popularity and success.

The spirit of Cesar in the Soul of a Woman
Judith Slaying Holofernes

Artemisia paved the path for the many wonderful famous women artists in history.  She died in Rome in 1652.  She is a true treasure of Italy. Her story and talent gave inspiration to  many women artists, for example, Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Elisabeth Louise Vigee le Brun (1755-1842),  Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), and many others that are too numerous to mention.  

About the Author: Joanne Natale Spigonardo

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty.  She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/White-Widow-Joanne-Natale-Spigonardo/dp/B085DT65DB.  For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanne-spigonardo-b4824a9/.

Nusco – My Hometown

Panorama of Nusco, Province Avellino

By: Joanne Natale Spigonardo

August 27, 2021

When I think of Nusco, Province Avellino, I think about a jewel nestled in the past, untouched or spoiled by commercialism. It is located in Compania, in Southern Italy, and is east of Naples.

Nusco, is my hometown, which I left as a five year old, many years ago. It has remained pristine with its proximity to valleys, mountains, and breathtaking views. Nusco is known for its medieval festivals, ancient Lombard ruins, and the Cathedral of Saint Amato. Nusco dates back to the 9th Century AD.

With much of its history in the Renaissance, Nusco hosts reenactments of period parades, and concerts. It celebrates the feast of Saint Amato on September 30th each year. The festivities include entertainment for all ages, with classic food and music.

Lombard Castle, Nusco

There are many homes that are hundreds of years old and are still inhabited by new generations of the original families. It is a place of traditions and beauty, with simple but spectacular nuances of an undiscovered treasure. The quaint homes are a testament for outstanding construction and architecture. Many are pastel painted, and the soft colors embrace the warm southern sunshine of the region.

Nusco Streets
Renaissance Parade, Nusco
Statue of Saint Amato, Nusco’s Patron Saint

Nusco, has many culinary delicacies, like everywhere else in Italy. In particular, Nusco is known for its buffalo milk mozzarella, which is used in its unique pizza margherita. Also, Nusco celebrates its truffles and mushrooms on wonderful handmade tagliatelle con tratuffi. For those with a sweet tooth, the artisinal gelato, and local strufulli pastry are a must.

If you are looking for a timeless village that is on the road not taken, you must discover Nusco, and the many beautiful villages nearby. I hope you get to visit my hometown!

About the Author: Joanne Natale Spigonardo

Joanne Natale Spigonardo

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, history wine and cuisine. She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon. For more information about Joanne please visit her Linkedin page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanne-spigonardo-b4824a9/

AVE Maria -Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast – The Procession

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

By: Neil Garguilo

     You can feel it in your bones.  It’s calling you.  A yearning inside your “being” builds up.  Once summer begins it slowly gets overwhelming.   And now it is back since the pandemic has been lifted.  Yes, it is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast, O’Giglio e Paradiso and it ran from Wednesday, July 7th through Sunday, July 18th. I was beside myself and once it was official that the Feast was on, I made arrangements with my buddies who I know over 60+ years to come for the festivities.    History…tradition…the old neighborhood…Italian…American…love of family…and friends…it is back after one year absence to continue its pull on our hearts and minds.  It’s the Feast!!!  And it is 117 years old and still ticking…     This year was going to be extra special–I decided to make another trip to the Feast.  Please keep in mind that this was no simple decision since I live in Freehold, NJ and it is basically 1hour and 15 minutes into Brooklyn.  However, it is never that easy.  There are so many connections (Garden State Parkway to NJ Turnpike, etc.) and pot holes and accidents and overall congestion.  Sometimes I reach my destination after 1 hour and 45 minutes and I am exhausted and “harried.” Another thing is the expense.   Most people outside of the tri-state area do not know the cost of tolls.  When I visit it costs around $30!  But, after the dancing of the Giglio on Sunday, July 11th, I was coming back on Friday, July 16th to take part in the Procession of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel no matter what.  This second trip took on a spiritual element since the Blessed Virgin was calling.

     As is always the case, we all meet up for lunch.  Most times it is at world famous Bamonte’s—a legendary place for 121 year!  Oh, did we eat–hot peppers and bread to begin; two portions of hot antipasto followed by stuffed peppers and baked clams.  Then the main courses: Benny and I had the veal pizzaiola with potatoes and string beans; Mike had a delicious chicken valdostana dish made with fontina cheese and prosciutto.  I could not resist ordering a side of fusilli macaroni for my mother’s sake since this was one of her favorite types of pasta.  Then, we had some lemon gelato that was outstanding.  Yes, we rolled out of there and we definitely needed to walk.  A mass was held to honor Our Lady at 3 pm.  Then, from the church steps you could see the statue of Our Lady being brought out and, then, placed on the float.  At about 4 pm the procession began with some wonderful words from Msgr. Jamie J. Gigantiello.  The band played some of our traditional music and off we went.  We moved toward Union Avenue where we made a left and continued to Richardson Street where we made a right onto Lorimer Street.  Benny and I followed and we cut off after the procession met up with the first block of Withers Street.  This was where our cars were—parked under the BQE or Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.     But this process was special for me.  I followed along behind and next to some Haitian devotees who may be part of our parish or are devoted to Our Blessed Mother.    They were singing in their native tongue which I found to be very touching.  In between and among these songs was Ave Maria. 

It reads and sings as follows:

               Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus,  et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death.  Amen.    

A group of 100 or so parishioners solemnly followed as the float with Our Lady made the turns on each block.  As we passed, Scapulars of Our Lady were handed out to the faithful.  In the year 1251, in the town of Aylesford in England, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite.  She handed him a brown woolen scapular and said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.”   In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites and who perpetually wear it (www.sistersofcarmel.com).  My mother was devoted to this Scapular and said her rosary every night with it next to her.  I trust that the Lord has received her into Our Lady’s hands. 

     And so it went.  Different songs of devotion but always coming back to Ave Maria.  What a wonderful song this truly is.  And with each step I remember my youth attending Our Lady of Mt. Carmel grammar school and being trained in the life of a Christian by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  Then, from there, onto Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School where the Christian Brothers refined what I have learned.  My final spiritual step was taken at Fordham University and the Jesuits.  But it all started at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

     May she, the most pure and blessed of all women to have existed, come and be with us once again, like of old.  When all was simple, pure and traditional as we went about our business, the business of a Catholic life.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.   

About the Author:

Neil D. Garguilo is a retired manager who spent a good portion of his life working for well-known companies like FedEx and Hertz. In his retirement, he loves to write about growing up Italian in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.  He is part of the Italian Sons and Daughter of America (ISDA) and writes articles for their newspaper, La Nostra Voce.  Other interests are travel, reading, exercise and helping others.

Ben Nostramo, Mike Massone, Neil Garguilo

Italian Neighborhoods -A Taste of Paradise

Brooklyn the OG of Italian Neighborhoods

By Neil D. Garguilo    

In my slice of Little Italy (aka Williamsburg, Brooklyn) in the 1960’s and 1970’s we had everything at our fingertips when it came to food.  Everything was in a 5 block radius from our homes and mostly was within 2 blocks.  Oh, and the food was so good…When you leave this time and place it becomes increasingly difficult to find these food places such as butchers, bakers and fish mongers.  But, lucky me I found one 2 miles away from my home nestled into a little mall.  Its name is Tuscany Marketplace.   I will compare and contrast this new wonderful place with my hometown memories of delight.

     Let’s start off with the private butchers.  We had several, with one on the corner and one around the corner.  There were two others on Metropolitan Avenue, a mere 2 blocks away from my home.  The meat sold by these butchers were just better than the stuff we get in the supermarkets today.  I am not sure if the meat was USDA choice or a cut above choice.  I doubt it would be prime due to cost.  And, speaking of cost, the meat by comparison to today was lower in price when comparing “apples to apples” so to speak.  I have a fondness for butcher markets since I worked for several for about 5 years in my youth, mostly delivering the meat the customers ordered.  This was a great service since you knew the butchers for years and trusted them.  A little tip and you could have your sirloin steak without leaving your home.  These places were quaint and friendly with saw dust thrown on the floor so you wouldn’t slip.  The meats were neatly displayed in the refrigerator and looked “so fresh.”  Some of the butcher names I remember fondly were Phil, Rex, and Nicky.

     Now let’s switch to grocery stores.  Did you say “around the corner?”  Yes, it was called Anthony’s, after the son’s name.  The parents were Italian immigrants and I remember them so well.  They were nice and hard working.  Although I must add that the mother and son argued a lot.  It was part of the lore of the store.  You had all the ingredients you needed for that sirloin steak you just bought: potatoes, lettuce, and Italian bread.  Then there were the cans of tomato, paste, canned veggies, detergent, soap and paper goods including toilet paper.  And, it was all in a very tiny store!  At Anthony’s you could also get a wonderful sandwich made for lunchtime.  I remember seeing his helper make a tuna sandwich on Italian bread with imported Pastene tuna.  He cut open most of the loaf, poured the can of tuna olive oil on one side of the bread and smashed the tuna directly from the can onto the same side of the oil.  He then took mayonnaise and spread it on the other side of the bread and for the “topping on the cake” he sliced a red onion and placed it on the tuna.  WOW!  Delicious…There were many other grocery stores throughout the neighborhood which are too many to mention here except one: Tedone’s.  She was the aunt of my childhood friend and made the best fresh mozzarella in the whole damn world!  She worked her little store on Metropolitan Avenue for years.  Such longevity…

     The trek for a great fish place was not too long– about 5 blocks.  It was called the Grand Street Fish Market and it was the best in the whole neighborhood.  It was spanking clean with loads of fish.  I remember as if it was yesterday my mother taking me to “get some fresh fish.”  I liked going to this store.  Reason?  There was the heavy set owner with a white apron on…he wore black rimmed glasses and had a black 2 day old beard.  But that is not the reason.  It was his delicious deep fried French Fries.  “To die for”…he had the potatoes cut thick and then he would swoosh them into the deep fry basket and in a few minutes you’d have your fries.  He would throw them into a brown bag and add plenty of salt with his silver shaker.  Mmmm…the bags were greasy with oil spots but who cared when you were a kid.  I think he also deep fried shrimp and clams for the adults.  When mom made fresh flounder I ate it!

     Now, onto the vegetable store.  We had one on Metropolitan Avenue and one on Graham Avenue.  I think Grand Street had one too.  But they all sold the most fresh veggies of all kinds.  As I grew up, my mother would take her weekly bus trip to Greenpoint to shop.  The vegetable stands were run by Korean families and they too sold fresh vegetables of all kinds.  I liked to go to Greenpoint since it bustled with activity with all the blocks of stores selling everything from appliances to clothing to food, etc.  Of course, mom took me to the Manhattan Triple Decker for their famous 3 tiered sandwiches.  Breathless…

     Let me not forget these two other areas of gastronomic pleasures: the pork store and the bakery.  The pork store was truly unique.  It was one block away on Lorimer Street and was run by an immigrant Italian husband and wife team.  Their sausages were the best in the world (well, my small world) and made fresh daily.  I remember being in the store and seeing all the hanging ceiling cheese, aging as the days went by.  The store was always clean and spotless.  And the owners looked like they worked so hard.  God bless them.

     Last on the list were the bakeries.  I will highlight two.  The first one was on Jackson Street and Graham Avenue and it was a German-run bakery called the Withers Street Bakery.  Oh, the German apple pie was just too delicious.  It had a marbled white/black glazed top with scrumptious apples that I can taste right now.  It was worth the four block walk.  The other bakery was very famous.  It was called DeLuca’s and was located on Havemeyer Street.  This family really knew how to bake.  I remember mom sending me for the St. Joseph’s Pastries (Zeppole di San Giuseppe) every year on March 19th.  They would make the filling two ways like most Italian bakeries do, one with cannoli cream and the other with silky custard cream.  My mom taught me to remember each St. Joseph’s day because my grandmother name was Josephine and my father’s middle name was Joseph.  Momma, I still do…love you all in heaven.  

     Before we leave my old neighborhood, I would be remiss not to mention some famous beverages.  One classic was the Manhattan Special made and located on Manhattan Street, of course.  It was pure expresso coffee soda in a unique glass 12 oz. bottle.  It was strong but “oh so good.”  The other famous drink is out of business.  It was called Kist Soda Pop.  The flavors were so good.  There were orange, peach, pineapple, lemon lime, grape, and cream soda.  For 15 cents you got 12 oz. in a nice glass bottle.  We went to our friend’s father’s beverage distributorship on Withers Street to obtain these classics on hot summer days after some street games like punch ball.  What fun!  By the way, both companies distributing these thirst quenches were owned and operated by Italian-Americans.     

Tuscany Marketplace in Marlboro, New Jersey

     That was then; this is NOW.  What is a boy from Brooklyn to do to find great food?  Well, well… welcome to “A Taste of Paradise” in Marlboro, NJ called Tuscany Marketplace!  I found my nirvana and favorite place to obtain my Italian food desires.  It is a multi-faceted store snuggled in a little mall literally 2 miles down the road from my home.  For New Jersey, that is considered “close.”  The story goes something like this on Sunday morning.  My wife says: “Neil, we need to watch our diet.  Let’s have a salad with slices of chicken and avocado.”  My first reply was “sure” but later in the morning I am overcome with Italian Family Dinner pangs resulting in me saying: “My love, for old time sake, can we go to Tuscany and get some sauce, meatballs, twisted Italian bread and some pastries?”  And off we go smiling all the way to my special place.

     Yes, Tuscany has everything including a wonderful butcher shop to fine fruits and vegetables to an outstanding bakery.  You can also get fish but only prepared Italian style.  Please don’t forget their great deli and those sandwiches he makes—oh, WOW…….are they good.  He has a list of over 42 sandwiches made on regular Italian bread (12”) or signature panini and wraps.  When I visit my sister I bring her a sandwich which we share for lunch (yes, they are that big).  We are now working our way down the list and hope to try all the sandwiches by the fall.

     Here is a place where you do get Prime cuts of meat.  The display is inviting.  The big Tomahawk Steaks make your mouth water.  Then, for Sunday, I always stop buy for the bracioles—one beef and one pork.  Mmmmm…

     It is funny that one of the owners is Anthony (like my boyhood grocer’s son).  The other is his father Vinny.  They are both hard working Italian-Americans with a great business sense.  They are very innovative and present the food in a logical and tasty way.  They have great customer rapport too.  And all their employees seem happy since they are all so helpful.  May God bless them all.

     Now, let’s get back to the food.  When my mother was alive and living with us a few short years ago she would always ensure we had daily fresh Italian bread.  Momma would say to my wife: “Denise, please remind Neilly Boy to pick up some bread on his way home from work.”  Sure as the sun rises I used to get a call late in the afternoon from my wife to remind me: “bread.”  On my way home from work I would pass my favorite store and pick up some delicious Italian bread.  Sometimes I got lucky and it was warm.  Momma was so happy eating this bread.  Her dentures would rattle as I laughed that she was “gnawing” at the bread.  By the way, I gained 10 pounds while she was living with us!

     Next to the bread section are the bake goods.  I can’t stand it!  So good!  All types of cookies, pastries, pies and cake including my favorite, Italian Cheese Cake.  Oh, those rainbow cookies, those pignoli cookies, those macaroons, those pistachio cookies, those, those, those, etc.  Let’s not forget the pastries like those delicious cannoli, napoleons, sfogliatelle, etc.  I see I am gaining weight again.

     Their deli section is always jammed.  We now have to take a number from the ticket machine.  Hard working people don’t have to worry since you can get a home cooked meal here at the counter.  There is everything you could want.  All the Italian specialties like eggplant any way you want (e.g. parmigiana, rollatini, etc.), chicken Marsala, meatballs, stuffed flounder Florentine, and all sorts of pasta dishes I can’t name here since the list is too long.  Then, there are the other wonderful deli items like homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and all sorts of delectable food stuff.  Do not forget their unusual food offerings like a pastrami or corn beef stuffed knish (Mmmm) and egg rolls stuffed with Italian treats like eggplant.  WOW!  And they cater too.  Plus, they carry Manhattan Special Expresso Coffee Soda!  What more can a guy ask for…

     Next up is a pizza joint called Molto!  It is ready to open soon and I can’t wait.  I bet it will remind me of Brooklyn Pizza.

     So, there you have it.  Neil found his food haven in New Jersey thanks to this fine establishment called Tuscany.  The saying goes and I paraphrase: “You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy.”  Thank you Tuscany for a taste of paradise.  Thanks, too, to all the store owners of my youth who have given me lasting memories.

About the Author:

Neil D. Garguilo is a retired manager who spent a good portion of his life working for well-known companies like FedEx and Hertz.

In his retirement, he loves to write about growing up Italian in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.  He is part of the Italian Sons and Daughter of America (ISDA) and writes articles for their newspaper, La Nostra Voce.  Other interests are travel, reading, exercise and helping others.

Neil Garguilo

Join Me on My Dream Vacation to Italy

Grand Canal – Venice

By Judy McMurtry

May 15, 2021

My journey will begin in late August into early September to ensure that I am there to enjoy the Venice Film Festival, which is the oldest film festival in the world.

Starting to make my dream a reality while flying over the great Atlantic Ocean in style and comfort, while enjoying a delicious meal onboard a luxury aircraft, relaxing in the comforts of my favorite airline.

Oh, how I long to take to the skies to places that many people only dream of visiting. I have a burning desire to visit Italy to taste the great food, indulge in the fascinating cocktails and wines. I love to delight my palate with the creamy sensation of the many flavors of gelato. 

My journey will begin on Delta Air Lines, in a spacious Delta One suite, sipping on mimosas and enjoying the wonderful food and entertainment onboard. Building up my anticipation of arriving into Italy and visiting all of the magnificent shops and picturesque sites. 

Delta First Class Cabin

I will land in the beautiful city of Venice; it is an extraordinary city on the water. Venice is an incredible city because of the arts, small historic hamlets, nature oasis and mountains, fortified citadels, noble villas and holiday resorts by the sea and lake. I will check into the breath taking “The Gritti Palace, which is from the luxury collection of the Marriott Hotels. I will wake up to a beautiful view of the city, after resting in the comforts of this glorious room.

Mariott Gritti Palace – Venice

While I enjoy room service overlooking the grand canal, I would plan my day full of spontaneous fun crazy adventure. I plan to relax and explore the city by taking to the atmospheric waterways. Keeping with my wonderful luxury theme I would visit the stunning Ca d”Oro Palace.  I will finish my visit in Venice with a historical walk through the Jewish Ghetto. I would finish my evening with a sophisticated concert at the Venice Jazz Club in the Dorsoduro quarter. I will enjoy a delicious dinner at Ristorante dalla Marisa.

It is a known fact that the canals of Venice are among the world’s most romantic places to visit.

My final stop will be the glorious city of Florence. According to Wikipedia, “The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics.” After reading about the rich culture of Florence, I decided to jump on Rail.Ninja high speed train to Florence to embrace their fabulous culture.

Keeping with the Marriott theme, I will check into the beautiful Westin Excelsior and wake up with this magnificent view of the city. I will enjoy a lovely brunch at this beautiful hotel, before taking to the streets of Florence to explore the rich culture of this historical city. I plan to just relax in luxury and rejuvenate after several months of being restricted to travel. 

My vacation will end with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, as I prepare to travel back to the United States.

About the Author – Judy McMurtry

For 33 years, I was the person behind the scenes of successful businesses making it all happen. Driven by my passion for leadership development, I had a successful and diverse leadership team. My name is Judy McMurtry, and during those years, I thought I had it all. Maybe you’ve been there too. 6 years ago, I realized that I was stuck and wanted more than just a career in someone else’s corporation. That is when I decided to retire from the corporate world and start a new chapter in my life. On this journey I have been trained and mentored by world-class leaders. I am equipped with the tools, resources, and experience to help any team improve productivity, performance, and profitability. Now instead of leading successful teams myself, I help leaders find success through their teams and grow organizations, from the outside-in. If you are looking for a team transformation, email me at jmexcelconsultant@gmail.com and I would love to sit down for a free exploration for together we can transform your team.

Return to Travel

By: Karen Titus – May 1, 2021

With the potential of return to travel and Europe loosening restrictions and opening borders, I am optimistically creating a trip to Sicily.  Sicily is easy to reach, you can connect through Europe to either Palermo or Catania and many carriers offer service year round.

So what to do in Sicily, where to stay, when do you go? Do you drive, ride bikes, vespa?  Since I have never been to Sicily it is like a blank canvas that I get to paint

My ideal getaway would be spend a few days on a the beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea or the Mediterranean Sea and read a book under an umbrella.  Ideally, I would be able to walk to a café with a view of the sea to have lunch, enjoy the fresh foods a sparkling water for me please rather than still.  Over lunch, try to take in conversations if possible and meet new people.  After a long lunch and walk, return to the beach for the late afternoon and watch the change in colors in the sky and water as the sunsets

After a day of sheer relaxation and having your senses touched,  jump on a vespa and go to a  local restaurant for delicious dinner al fresco that lingers and lingers and then on that most fabulous way home, you know you have tomorrow to do it all over again.

Ideas to consider:

Visit the Eastern part of Sicily, specifically Catania.

Rent a villa, they rates range of course based on time of year but for Spring time, you could rent a villa from a wide range of prices, from $150 USD a night to over $1200 per night or higher, depending on what amenities you may want.    During the day, you can spend time on the beaches of Playa.  Here you are close to the foot of Mt. Etna, and have history of a volcano and the sea stretching out ahead of you.  I may never even open my book because of the beauty of nature.   In Playa,  are plenty of restaurants along the beach and you can make a reservation in advance for a table.  You can enjoy all the flavors of the town.   

There are several beaches in the Catania area in addition to Playa, here are few including a dog beach.

Lido Cocoa Beach

Lido Azzurro

Dog Beach by Lido Azzurro

Renting a Vespa is fairly simple to do, as long as you have a valid driver’s license. Or you can even rent a bicycle for a minimal cost per day.

While I am in Sicily, I am going to take some time to try to trace my roots as my grandfather came from Sicily.  I will look into the family names and see if I may any extended family.  Even if I am not able to trace any distant relatives, I will get a feel of history and bring me a little closer in my heart to my Pop-pop.

Happy Travels!

Karen loves to travel and spent 15 years with Delta Air Lines exploring all parts of the globe.  AS an avid animal lover, I have a few rescue animals at home and am involved in the community through volunteer programs, and helping those who are underserved.   In between that, I am looking for my next adventure.

For more information about Karen, please visit: 


Italian Easter Traditions

Easter Egg with a Surprise!

By: Joanne Natale Spigonardo

April 3, 2021

One of the fondest memories of my childhood is celebrating Easter with my family. On the day after Ash Wednesday, my Mother would start planning for the festivities. Lent was always observed diligently with no sweets to be consumed until Holy Saturday at noon. Her planning was truly appreciated when we got a chance to break into our surprise Italian Easter Egg. It was always dark chocolate with a little toy surprise.

We also baked and baked for days, we made sweet and savory treats. Our kitchen was a haven for Easter bread, cookies, ricotta pie, and la pizza ripena or la pizza rustica. La pizza ripena, is a pie filled with salami, parmiggiano reggiano, and fresh basket cheese. All of these recipes are hidden treasures brought back from our home town, Nusco, Italy. These traditional wonders are those that we savor still today.

Pizza Rustica – La Pizza Ripena

After a sumptuous feast of homemade pasta with a meat sauce that cooked for hours, grilled lamb, roasted potatoes, asparagus, and many more dishes, the meal would end with a Colomba di Pasqua. The family was around the table, telling jokes and enjoying each other’s company. No matter how full we were, we always had room for this delicious cake with candied fruit with a glass of Prosecco.

Colomba di Pasqua – Traditional Easter Cake

I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter celebration, and take time to remember your Italian roots, make new memories with your family, and toast to a beautiful Spring!

About the Author:

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, history, wine and cuisine. She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon. For more information about Joanne please visit her Linkedin page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanne-spigonardo-b4824a9/

Private Boat Tour to the Blue Grotto

By: Linda Thatcher Raichle

March 2021                                                                   

In June 2019, we had the pleasure of spending 11 magical days cruising from Rome throughout the Mediterranean Sea including stops in Italy, Malta, Greece and Croatia. Anticipating our stops along the Italian coastline, we pre-arranged a small, private boat tour for ourselves and 2 other couples. Our tour included the services of a local captain and tour guide. We spent a glorious day cruising along the Amalfi Coast with stops at the Furore Fjord, LiGalli Island and the Blue Grotto. Our day included time for swimming, snorkeling and a stop for lunch at a small restaurant nestled among the high cliffs of Positano overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. 

The highlight of the day included a stop at the Blue Grotto (Gotta Azzurra) a jewel of a sea cave located off the coast of Capri in the Bay of Naples. As we approached the Grotto, we were met with a floatilla of boats bobbing and weaving in the turbulent sea near the cave. We heard a cacophony of shouts from the boat captains wanting their occupants to have a chance to see the Grotto.  Since visitors may only enter the cave in small, official Grotto rowboats at low tides, time is of the essence and a sense of urgency prevailed amongst the chaos.

When our turn came, we were instructed to quickly climb into the official rowboat and lie flat so we could enter the ever-decreasing small mouth of the cave as the waves ebbed and flowed. The rowboat captain stood in the boat with his oars poised high while shouting orders.  I was positioned in the stern next to our somewhat larger friend. A former football player, whose wide berth was limited by the size of the boat, his head seemed to protrude far above the limits of the small cave entrance.  I worried he would be injured as we entered the small opening of the cave and expressed my concern.  He agreed and tried to wiggle his way further down into the rowboat while pushing my head down shouting “get lower” to give him more room.  Years afterwards, we continue to laugh about the scene we must have created.

Once inside the Grotto, we sat up and the chaos of the past few minutes was immediately hushed by the brilliance of the turquoise water.  The reflection is caused by sunlight entering the cave from outside and inside through an underwater breach, creating bluish-green colors depending on the time of day and weather conditions. We were among only 4 or 5 boats in the Grotto at the same time.  We slowly made our way around the cave in quiet reflection admiring the stalactites (gallery of the pillars) and the underwater rocks shown through silver reflections.  The rowboat captains began to gently sing O Solo Mio with the melodious tune softly echoing in the cave.

We were captivated and awed by the Grotto’s beauty. While we spent only about 5 minutes in the cave, we emerged with a sense of serenity having witnessed the beauty that only nature can create. 

This is Italy.  It is sometimes chaotic and crazy, bubbling with turbulence and energy, but always revealing something new and seductive…always wanting us to return. 

About the Author: Linda Thatcher Raichle, PhD

Linda’s quest to become an Italian citizen began when she found her Sicilian grandfather’s birth certificate in the back of her cousin’s closet. After a 5-year quest, she is now a proud dual citizen of the US and Italy. Linda and her husband, John, a semi-retired surgeon and avid photographer, have enjoyed their retirement years “Dolce far niente”(the sweetness of doing nothing) by traveling extensively throughout Europe and Asia.  Italy is a frequent and favorite destination.  They look forward to more travel as the COVID restrictions are lifted.


The 10 Best Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) Tours & Tickets 2021 – Capri | Viator

The Grotta Azzurra, Italy’s Amazing Blue Grotto (allthatsinteresting.com)

Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) – Isle of Capri, Italy – ItalyGuides.it

The 3 Tenors O Sole Mio 1994 – YouTube

Golfing in Italy

By: Karen Titus

As there seems to be a little light that one day soon we will once again be able to travel, I started daydreaming of where I would want to go first. Of course, Italy is top of the list, and then wondered how could I make this trip different.  I have never had the opportunity to golf in Italy and in the last several years have fallen for game of golf, so why not combine the two.

If you are thinking of the same, you can find over 150 18-hole golf courses in Italy, with the majority found in the north, specifically the Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy regions, all stunning in their own way.  

There are several courses in Piedmont, one of which was designed by Robert von Hogge, and is considered one of Italy’s most spectacular courses. Circolo Golf Bogogno. This course boasts of the backdrop of the Alps and Monte Rosa. Here you have a hotel, restaurant, wellness spa, fitness center and a pool. 

On Lake Como, sits Golf Club Monticello.  You can spend the day here, be short distance from the restaurants around Lake Como and Milan. You can combine your day of golf and then take in sightseeing Visit Duomo of Como and highly recommend one of my first and favorite places in Italy, Villa del Balbianello.  From here, you can wander the garden, take in the view of the lake, one of the best in the area.  And there is so much history here, and fun fact, it was in scenes in James Bond movies as well as Star Wars.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and most recently International Women’s Day, I am thinking this would be an awesome girl’s trip.  While golf can be intimidating, and tends to be a male dominated sport, why don’t we make some changes to that.  Pick up our clubs, take a trip and spend some time on the courses in Italy.

Karen recently retired from Delta Air Lines and has always enjoyed traveling the globe, with special love and interest for Italy as it was her first trip to Europe.

For more information about Karen, please visit: 


International Women’s Day — The Struggle is Real

By Pam Lazos

March is Women’s History Month in the U.S. and March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day whose roots stretch back to places across the globe beginning in the early part of the 20th century when the first such gathering was held on February 28, 1909 in NYC. Women took to the streets seeking basic civil rights such as the right to vote (check); better working conditions (check-lite); equal rights (working on it); and ending sex discrimination (very much still working on it), to name a few. We’ve been at it for awhile now, ladies, but hopefully it won’t take another 111+ years to get across the finish line.  Sadly, economists are now saying that Covid may set women back a decade or more.

Women already held more precarious positions in the work force — working fewer hours, for less money, with shorter tenures and in lower-ranking jobs than men. The loss of child care limited many working mothers’ hours and availability even further, meaning they were often the first to be selected for layoffs and unpaid leave, the report concluded. And it noted that many families appear to be deciding that if they need one parent to give up a job and prioritize child care, it should be the lower-paid parent — usually the mother.

A.Taub, Pandemic Will ‘Take Our Women 10 Years Back’ in the Workplace, The New York Times (9.26.20).

Despite over a century of growth in the right direction, the ill wind known as Covid may have blown us here again, but take heart ladies, as there is one thing that cannot be taken from you and that is your education — and what you intend to do with it.

No one knew that better than the Italian innovator, Maria Montessori, a physician and educator who helped the cause for women immensely when on January 6, 1907 she opened the Casa dei Bambini — the Children’s House — in San Lorenzo, an inner-city district in Rome, for children aged seven and younger. Originally a daycare center, Casa dei Bambini evolved into an education center that would ultimately change the landscape of and traditional thinking behind teaching by developing the “Montessori Method,” a practice of instruction that adapted each child’s individual learning style in creating their curriculum. By letting the child lead, learning came more naturally to each because it was paired with the child’s own inherent learning abilities, allowing children to pursue what interested them, leading to success. Add self-assessment and self-correction as integral parts of the learning curriculum and the result is self-driven, self-aware, and smarter students.

Born to parents that believed strongly in education, Montessori’s own childhood was filled with museums, libraries and other places of learning, and as young as 13, she was breaking down traditional barriers by enrolling in an all-boys technical institute to study engineering. She later switched to medicine and after some false starts, graduated from medical school in Rome in 1896 as one of the city’s first female doctors. Perhaps it was her interest in psychiatry that ultimately led to adopting a manner of teaching that spoke to each child’s cognitive abilities and spurred Montessori to travel extensively in support of the Montessori Method, drafting adherents to the cause wherever she went, or perhaps she was just a natural born visionary and teacher.

My own godmother was not only a Montessori teacher, but a pioneer in women-owned businesses. In the late 1970’s she started her own Montessori school and ran it for decades. I remember as a kid being in awe of her multitasking abilities, raising a family of three children with her husband, himself a principal at an elementary school, while simultaneously running a business teaching other people’s children a new way of learning, to my mind the pinnacle of success. As both a career woman and smart momma — e.g., prepping meals on weekends for the week ahead as a time-saving measure — she empowered other women by example and she did it all before it became de rigueur.

At the turn of the 20th century, hotels, brothels, taverns, retail shops, and other service-oriented trades were the mainstay of the women-owned business, but after WWII, women started more diverse businesses, growing the list from about 600,000 in 1945 to over 1 million in 1950. By the 1980’s, women owned 25% of all small businesses.
Today, that number has risen to 40% and climbing which translates to 12.3 million women-owned businesses.

International Women’s Day may have started a century ago, but we still have a big hill to climb. Until women have equal pay, are represented equally in congress, until there are just as many women entering the workforce in STEM careers as there are men, and — this is the kicker — until we no longer need the #MeToo movement to help put an end to sexual discrimination in the workplace, we will remain vigilant and proactive, paying it both back and forward to our mothers and our daughters, and one of these years, we will laugh as the ill-winds pass us by since they will no longer hold sway over us.

Celebrate International Women’s Day by thanking the women you love.

About the Author:

Pam Lazos is an environmental lawyer with a passion for assuring access to clean water for all, a blogger, and author of the novel “Oil and Water”, about oil spills and green technology, and “Six Sisters”, a collection of novellas about the family ties that bind us.  She practices laughter daily.