Monday, September 26, 2011

Walks, Wine & Wonders 
on the Italian Riviera

Start your 2012 Italy planning and join us for a very special week on the Italian Riviera!  Not only will you enjoy the beauty and trails of Le Cinque Terre, but also make visits to fabulous (and underrated) Genova, the marble mountains of Carrara, gorgeous Portovenere and chic Portofino PLUS visits to local wineries and other hidden gems of the area.  

Check out our itinerary:

This is just one of several fun and unique hosted tours we are organizing for next season.  For more information and ideas, please take a look at our Hosted Tours page on

A presto!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another easy one for you all: 
Pagello (sea bream) and leeks with cauliflower pureĆ©!  

Ok, we’ll start with the fish:
  • 1 Pagello per person (they are not that big), cleaned*
  • 1 leek per pagello, chopped in to thin pieces
  • olive oil
  • fresh oregano, chopped finely
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat oven at 200° C or 425°F
Make sure the Pagello has a nice cut from head to tail for stuffing.  Sprinkle a little olive oil inside, then a little salt, add the leek, a bit of white wine and then the oregano.  Stick them in a pyrex pan or regular pan with “carta al forno” and then cover with aluminum foil.  Cook for 25 minutes.

Next is my new favorite concoction.  I love mashed potatoes, but was looking for a new twist that might not bloat me up as much.  So I thought cauliflower!
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 cube of butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut up the cauliflower and add them to the water.  Let boil for about 12 minutes, until the cauliflower is getting mushy. Drain and put in a bowl.  Add  the ingredients a little at a time.  You have to be careful that it doesn’t become too liquid-like as the cauliflower requires much less than the absorbent potato.  Use a hand mixer to create a nearly fluffy pureĆ©.  Serve hot.

There’s a lot of white going on, on the plate, so add a few of the leeks to one side and a little mixed salad to the other and it will spruce it up a bit.  It can’t get much simpler than this!
*Pagello can be replaced with just about any flakey white fish, just make sure it’s a whole, fresh fish and preferably “pescato” (fished).

Friday, September 09, 2011

Tegame di Vernazza

I had an itching for anchovies.  Just love them.  Poor little guys get a bad rap, especially in the states where the only use for them seems to be in caesar salad dressing or on top of a pizza.  But these tiny, shiny, very pretty little fish (look at one closely) are jam-packed with flavor (and not fishy flavor like you might think) and a whole bunch of fabulous vitamins to keep us healthy. 
In a world where certain fish (that are less good for us) are going extinct, we need to rethink our fish intake and start to recognize that “pesci poveri” (poor fish) or “pesci azzuri” (blue fish) are, in fact, one of the best “meats” a person can eat. They are also plentiful and inexpensive.  Along with yummy little anchovies, this fish group includes sardines and mackerel.  All it takes is a little educating and trying out a few recipes to find there is nothing fishy about these fish.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now and give you the recipe! This is a very typical dish of Le Cinque Terre (hence the name with Vernazza in it!) and very easy to make:
1/2 kilo of fresh anchovies 
2 large potatoes
1 large tomatoes
A handful of Italian parsley
1 clove of garlic 
olive oil
1 cup of white wine

Pre heat oven at 200° C (about 400° F)
The cleaning of the anchovies is the only real time consuming part of this recipe.  In order to clean an anchovy, you have to “pop” off the top of the head and then pull down to take out the insides.  Then along the same cut, open the rest of the body with your finger and pull out the spine.  Ok, might sound really gross, but once you do one, you’ll almost find it rewarding to continue, no joke!  If you get skirmish about these things, your fish monger will probably take care of the cleaning for you. 

Cut the potato into thin slices (about 1 cm thin) and then chopped up the tomatoes into little pieces.  Mince the parsley and garlic together along with a little salt and if you like, as I do, a little red pepper flakes for some punch.
Use either a pan with sides (ceramic or tin, but with tin use “carta al forno” underneath) and then start lining the pan in layers starting with the potatoes, then the anchovies, then a bit of the parsley mix, then the tomatoes, then a few more anchovies and parsley mix.  

Sprinkle the top with olive oil and the white wine.   Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30-35 minutes.  What comes out is a flavorful and super healthy “secondo piatto” for 4.

Please try this dish and let me know if I have converted you to an anchovy lover like me!


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fabulous Rental Series:

A Slice of Heaven

between Sorrento & Positano

Villa Aurora is beautifully located on the sea side of a naturally protected marina "Punta Campanella", on the farthest edge of the amazing Sorrento Peninsula known as Massalubrense. The landscape of intense beauty, the views breathtaking and the water is pristine. The villa itself is a wonderful combination of Amalfitana seaside style and modern comforts.

On the ground floor you will find a lovely dining area and living room with wood flooring, a fireplace with antique ceramic tiles, and large windows facing the sea and patio. There is an outdoor lounge area also furnished with lounge chairs, dining tables, built-in benches with cushions, making it the perfect area to relax both by day as well evening.

The country-house style kitchen is fully equipped with both a large and a small oven, gas range-top, refrigerator, freezer, electric coffee machine, and a marble topped countertop. Nice tiled floors decorated with antique hand painted ceramic tiles illuminate the kitchen which is connected to a storage room offering a washing machine and ironing facilities as well as a ½ bath. There are also 3 bedrooms located on the ground floor.

On the first floor (2nd floor US ), there is the master bedroom with large,double bed and a single bed (which can be taken out), a built-in closet, amazing sea views, and an en-suite bathroom with ceramic tiles and a shower, boasting windows with a lovely garden view looking out towards the island of Capri.

This floor offers direct access onto a terrace wrapping behind the villa as well as onto a second, roof top terrace fully equipped with sun lounge chairs and an outdoor shower. The roof top terrace offers great sea views overlooking the Bay of Naples, the island of Capri and the cliff-lined coast.

18 steps up from the master corridor is another double bedroom boasting access onto a private, sea-view terrace. There is also a small double bedroom with bunk beds suitable for young children or teens. This bedroom enjoys access onto a private terrace behind of the house and has an bathroom with bathtub. One final and very spacious double bedroom with french windows facing the sea concludes the accommodations of the villa.

The crown jewel of the home its its access to the sea and it’s unique pool area. A pleasant walk (60 steps) leads from the villa down to the magnificent sea side. There is a pool house with outdoor shower, a kitchenette with gas stove-top, a refrigerator, and a double sink; also, a dining area and a ½ bath. 20 steps more leads to the sea water pool (6 x 5 x 1.20 meters) which is built into the natural rocks and paved with beach stones. 20 more steps leads to the direct sea access equipped with a staircase leading into the water and an external shower. SIMPLY PARADISE!

Included in the price of Villa Aurora daily maid service and continental breakfast, air conditioning (in bedrooms), a change of bed & bath linens twice a week and parking for up to 4 cars. Other amenities include: satellite-TV, fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, private pool and sea access, pizza oven and barbecue.

Villa Aurora is an excellent choice of accommodations for those eager to explore the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Sorrento, Naples and Pompeii, strategically located within a short drive of all of them...that is if you can tear yourselves away from this little slice of heaven!