Monday, December 28, 2009

California Dreaming: Coast Toast...

Having just returned from a month in my other “homeland” and to a non-stop flood of sideways rain in Italy, I am still longing for certain things “americana”. Can’t help it. It’s a common thing, as many of you expats know. I will return to blogging about Italy, but for now, I am going to do a little California dreaming and hope it makes your mouth water!

One of my favorite things about our annual pilgrimage to SoCal is going out for a big ol’ American breakfast. We make a trip each year down to La Jolla to one of the best breakfast houses in the coast, Brockton Villa. It is, literally, an old beach house with a million dollar view and OUTSTANDING food. Their signature item is “Coast Toast”. French toast (especially after nearly a year without it) is already too good, but this special recipe makes it "a slice of heaven!":

1 loaf of soft French bread (sliced diagonally about 1 1/2” think)

1 qt. whipping cream

10 eggs

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sugar

a pinch of salt

2 Tbs. vanilla

2 Tbs. orange flavoring

Combine the liquid ingredients. Pour over the bread slices. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Remove bread and discard liquid. Spread butter on flat grill. Cook bread until golden brown, then bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until bread is puffed up like a souffle. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. (Serves 6)

Brockton Villa

1235 Coast Blvd.

La Jolla, CA

(858) 454-7393


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Casa Dolce Casa...

72 hours ago I was in this.

One flight from hell (since when is the leg room so small on a plane that carries 300+ people that I could not cross my legs? And what was that slimy pink thing I ate that they called salmon?!), one missed flight (maybe I needed the break after the first one?!) and a day stuck in snow and disorganization to the max (who knew in Germany?!), we made it back to this.

It sure may not look pretty, but it’s home. And I’m glad to be here.


from a blistery, damp Italian Riviera!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Going Back to Cali...

Taking a "blog hiatus" until my return around Christmas time.  

Have a great month!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gratitude Friday: Modern “Lines” of Communication

While many of us have a “love and hate” relationship with our computers (well, I do for sure), there is one thing we can't deny.  Its ability to make the world smaller. Living 10,000 miles away from my family is not always easy, which makes me so grateful for skype, iChat and all the other “modern lines of communication”.  To be able to speak and see my parents is priceless.

Hope you all have a chance to make your world a bit smaller this weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crossing Borders: Haven in Paris...

I am taking a “jaunt” north and over the border to France in this blog because I have discovered a fabulous rental agency specializing in luxury apartments in Paris and villas in the French countryside that I must share with you all!

Haven in Paris was founded by American, Erica Berman, who moved to Paris just after graduating from college in 1993.  She started out by buying a small apartment of her own and renting it out.  Over the years she has helped other apartment owners “spruce up” their properties to the standard she was looking for and began renting those out as well.  She now represents over 30 gorgeous properties to choose from: whether it’s a studio overlooking Sacre Couer or a luxury villa in Provence, you will find plenty of gems to use as your “home base” in France.

In addition to her “day job”, Erica keeps a fun blog about French life (and sometimes beyond when spending time in her home away from home, Genova) at:

Au revoir!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gratitude Friday: Time...

I can remember as a kid asking my mom (many times) the very kid-like questions, “When will we get there”?, followed by “How long is soon”?, followed by “How long is 30 minutes”? , followed by “I can’t count to 60, 30 times!”!  Ah, to be young and have no clue of time or to think a 1/2 hour was an eternity.

I’ve always thought it strange how life seems to pass so much faster as we are older.  Are we so much more occupied as we get older that a 1/2 seems like a smidgen of time, one that can make or break your entire day?  Maybe.

Today, I managed to have 3 doctors appointments, pay the bills at the post office, write and send a proposal for work, and have an impromptu caffè with a friend all before 11:30AM.  In Italy This is a miracle, a luxury - something that certainly does not happen during the “season”, or possibly may not happen again.  Today I had time on my side.  What a nice feeling.  Thank you time.

Buon weekend a tutti!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Swordfish, Dom Perignon and X-Factor

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.  And like most couples we wanted to celebrate it in a romantic and gastronomic way.  But we’ve been so “on-the-go” lately that staying home really sounded most appealing.  So we did, but not without some good food, GREAT champagne and our favorite guilty pleasure of the moment (X-Factor).

For the big event, I prepared my “Super Swordfish”, as Lui calls it.  Super easy and super good:

2-3 swordfish steaks, 3/4 inch high

A handful of Italian Parsley

2 slices of a large red onion 

1 garlic clove

Olive oil

Salt & peperoncino (red chili pepper flakes) to taste

6-8 cherry tomatoes sliced in quarters

1/2 a handful of pine nuts

1/2 glass of white wine

Start by mincing the parsley, onion and garlic together into a fine mixture (I think the “mezzaluna” knife works best for this).  Add oil, then the mixture, salt and peperoncino to large saute pan.  Bring it to a sizzle (about 2 minutes) and add the swordfish steaks.  Let them cook for about 3-4 minutes and turn.  Add the tomatoes and pine nuts and let cook for 3 minutes.  For the last minute add the white wine and shake the pan a bit letting the wine cover the steaks.  Serve hot with your favorite bottle of white wine (in our case a bottle of Dom and I feel great today!).  You can also add olives when you add the tomatoes and pint nuts (I was out!).

As you can see, it’s not a complicated process but comes out tasting delish.  Buon appetito and “buon anniversario” to us!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Rustic Charm & Unbelievable Views Above Lerici

Cozily situated in the hills above Lerici in the bay of La Spezia on the Ligurian coast where Shelley and Byron spent their summers, Villa Rocchetta enjoys fabulous views of the bay, Porto Venere and the islands of Palmaria and Tino.  On clear days you can see as far as Elba and Corsica.  The famous villages and hiking paths of “Le Cinque Terre” are just across the bay and around the corner from Portovenere.  Located in the splendid setting of the protected woodlands of “Parco di Montemarcello” this beautiful property is surrounded by olive, fig and chestnut trees, while its terraced gardens fill the air with the scent of fruit trees, wild flowers and fragrant lavender and rosemary.

The once olive oil “frantoio” has recently been restored and is equipped with all kinds of modern comforts yet still keeps its rustic charm with wood beamed ceilings and stone façade. The villa has four floors and is fenced in with a verdant garden. 

You enter the home from the second floor where there is a living room with TV (Italian stations only), DVD player and CD stereo, fireplace and a french doors leading out onto a magnificent terrace overlooking the bay. In addition, there is a small study with a single bed. 

The lower floor consists of a dining room, large sea view living room with large flat screen TV (Italian stations only) and sliding glass doors leading onto the garden, a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with shower, dining room, and access to a second covered porch and the multiple gardens. 

The third floor has a second bathroom with bathtub/shower combo and a laundry room.

There are "2" fourth floors: one set up stairs leading up to a double bedroom with small terrace and garden views, and the other stairs leading up to the “mansarda” (attic floor) where there is the master bedroom with sea views.

The autostrada can be reached in less than 10 minutes and there are several nearby interesting villages and towns to visit including San Terenzo, Tellaro, Montemarcello, Sarzana, Castelnuovo Magra and La Spezia. Portovenere and Le Cinque Terre are just a short boat ride away from the port in Lerici. Villa Rocchetta is perfectly situated for exploring the Liguria, NW Tuscany or for just relaxing in front of the mesmerizing views!

For more information and pricing, please contact me directly at:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is It Really Autumn in Italy???

My best friend arrived last Thursday for a 4 night stay.  I warned her to bring sweaters and a good jacket.  She arrived to bustling fall weather, drizzle, wind and all.  But by Saturday morning we were eating breakfast on the terrace.  It was 22 degrees and just too beautiful out to stay in the house, so we headed to the beach.  Yes, the beach!  Her son, Max, and our “adopt-a-daughter”, Simona frolicked in the break water and enjoyed drawing in the warm sand.

Sunday we woke to summer-like conditions.  Our plan had been to go eat a hearty fall-like meal in Parma (on our way to Milano), but derailed everything to more time at the sea.  This time, Portofino, which was PACKED with people wanting to take advantage of this glorious day.  (Note to self and others, never eat seaside in Portofino unless you want to spend a small fortune for just above average food.)

I figured by the time we reached Milano, we’d start experiencing a chill. Wrong.  20 degrees and sunny.  Dined outside, at the end of October!

So, when is the real fall arriving??? I hope just in time for our annual pilgrimage back to California in 3 weeks!  I’m lovin’ it! :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gratitude Friday: No Time Today but...

I'm happy about it!  My very best friend in the whole wide world and her son are visiting us and we're running around having lots of fun, so no time to properly blog...and I am super grateful for that!  

Buon weekend and more to come!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rentals on the Riviera (and Beyond!)

I am please to announce the (beta) web site for Rentals on the Riviera is now up and running!  ROTR features hand-picked properties (villas & apartments) on the Riviera di Levante, plus two special exceptions in Puglia and Tuscany.  We don’t have the intention of going “mass”, instead only choosing properties we feel best represent the region and areas we know well.

We are offering a 5% discount off any property for bookings made before January 1, 2010.  Pass it along!

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Our Backyard...

It never seizes to amaze me what interesting, beautiful things we find when taking a Sunday drive.  Although an area known for its seaside adventure, you can easily be swept away into another world within only a short driving distance of the Mediterranean.  Here’s what we found yesterday:

One of many residences of the Malaspina Family.

Just your average pizza place.

A bird’s eye view from the medieval hill town of Fosdinovo.

Motorcross - who knew?!

And super-duper “comfort food” for a crisp fall day. 

Hope you all had a good weekend too...

Friday, October 16, 2009


Sounds silly, but it is important, especially in a country where ladies don't often “do lunch” (ok, the big cities are a little different but not that much...).  When I first moved here and for about 2 years after that, I was quite lonely and perplexed but not having made a circle of friends like I had in the states (I know many of you expat in Italy girls can relate to this).  It took awhile to find and build friendships, but it finally happened.  And maybe because of the “challenge” it was, I appreciate just the concept of “ladies lunch” even more.

After 5 days sick in bed and probably all around exhausted after a long season, I was feeling less than “up for” a ladies lunch.  But I wasn’t about to cancel, no way.  Three hours of bonding, laughs and just a little wine, was just what the doctor ordered.

I am so grateful to finally have girlfriends nearby to do ladies lunch. Salute!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009



Nestled in the characteristic hillside village of Montemarcello, Casa Rossa is part of a private estate with wonderful sea views, olive groves, a manicured garden and a swimming pool.  

This super charming guesthouse is about 90 square meters (1000 square feet) and is consists of a spacious living/dining room, a small, but fully equipped kitchen and two bedrooms each with en-suite bathrooms (showers).  The villa was just completed in September 2009 and offers all modern comforts such as WiFi, satellite TV, dvd, stereo system, washing machine, dishwasher, safe, mosquito screens, pool and wonderful outdoor furnishings.  The furnishings have all been carefully chosen to create a bright and airy atmosphere It is great place for small families or two couples.

Montemarcello is considered one of Italy’s “I Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia” (The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy), an honor given to only a select group of village throughout the country.  A part of a national park, it lies 250 meters above sea level and know for it’s protected botanical hiking trails trails and white sandy beach just below which can be reached by boat from Bocca di Magra or by foot (700 steps down and 700 back up!!). 


* Bedrooms: 2

* Bathrooms: 2

* Living Room: 1

* Kitchen: Refrigerator/freezer, Stove, Oven, Dish Washer

* Terrace: Covered patio on ground level

* Garden: Surrounding the house including sun bathing area

* Parking: In village lot about 100 meters away (partially unpaved walkway to the estate)

* Amenities: Pool, Wifi, TV & DVD player in other living room, laundry room with washing machine, iron,ironing board, sink for hand wash items, use of cell phone during stay.

* Airports: Pisa 60 km, Genova 70 km, Florence 100 km, Milano Malpensa 200 km.

* Train: Sarzana 17 minutes by car, La Spezia 30 minutes by car.

* Bus: Bus stop for Lerici 100 meters (1 per hour).

* Boat: Ferry boat to Portovenere, Le Cinque Terre, Portofino located in the village of Lerici and also from Bocca di Magra (10 minutes) in July and August.

* What Makes it Special: Complete serenity and a sense of being immersed in nature, lots of outdoor space to enjoy, ability to dine outside.

* To Think About: Montemarcello is about a 15 drive to Lerici. While there are a few necessities in the village (bar, restaurant, post office), you will need to a car to get around and for a larger grocery run.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Super Delish in Roma

Thanks to Stefania at Rome Shopping Guide, I “discovered” this wonderful enoteca/restaurant/store on Via Frattina in Rome that specializes in products of Lazio: from wine (love Frascati by the way!), cheese, meats, olives (the ones from Gaeta are divine), local dishes and much more.  I treated myself to the fettuccine with moscardini (baby octopus), fresh tomatoes and olives from Gaeta.  It was one of the best pasta dishes I’d had in quite a while - and it was reasonably priced!

So next time in Rome...


Enoteca Regionale

Via Frattina 94, Roma

Tel: 06/69202132

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


A Super Sanctuary in Puglia

Located just a few minutes from the Adriatic sea and the whitewashed hilltop town of Ostuni, lies this wonderfully restored masseria (fortified farmhouse) that offers the peace and tranquility of the Pugliese countryside but with a world of exploration and activities just beyond its gates...

La Masseria is divided into two buildings with a large garden with welcoming swimming pool (12 meters x 6 meters) in the middle.  The main house has a lounge dining room, kitchen, outside covered patio for breakfast in the morning and relax area and four bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms (three inside the courtyard of the house and one on the first floor with large terrace).  In the main lounge, there is a television with SKY and a DVD player, stereo and a small collection of DVDs available for guests. There is also 24 hours internet connection via a ADSL LAN connection and a laptop wirelessly connected only in the lounge of the house. 

In the second building, there are four apartments including three with one bedroom/bathroom and one with two bedrooms and two bathrooms plus two more independent bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms.  All apartments are equipped with cooking facilities and living rooms, and every apartment/room has air conditioning, heating, refrigerators, TV, DVD player and stereo.  Each accommodation has been comfortably and tastefully decorated by the owner who has collected furniture, antiques and rare objects from around the world.  

Your stay at La Masseria is made even more special by the assistance of its full-time staff which includes two housekeepers and night watchman.  Every morning a lovely breakfast is served under the main house veranda with the scent of jasmine and the silence of olive trees around you. In addition to daily cleaning and laundry service, the sheets will be changed twice a week and towels every two days. The night watchman  will be a guard who will offer guests could leave without the worry of closing the home (there are lots of doors and windows to think about!). A gardener comes once a week for maintenance of the garden and pool is also cleaned daily.  A cook can be included at an additional cost. All staff of La Masseria is always very attentive to the privacy customers.


11 bedroom/11 bathroom villa with pool, staff, daily breakfast and cleaning 

(accommodates up to 22 people or offers 4 individual apartments for rent)

For more information, photos & pricing,

please contact:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Gratitude Friday: October

I used to feel a bit melancholy come this time of year: no more dips in the sea, making the switch from flip flops to boots, awaiting the first big storm to wipe out these fabulous sunny days and the anxiety of not knowing what next year will be like work-wise.  But this year I feel different, sort of having a "primavera" moment in autumn. I'm ready for a some down time or just time. To do things planned and unplanned.  

Thank you October, you arrived just in time!