Aglio e Scalogno

Aglio e Scalogno
Aglio e Scalogno: Garlic and Shallots at the Christmas Market in Florence

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You must visit B&B Giglio Bianco in Florence !

Here are some photos from our stay at B&B Giglio Bianco in Florence. This "home away from home" is located in the Oltrarno district, about a 10-minute's walk south of the Ponte Vecchio. Each night as we walked back to the B&B, we felt that we were leaving the madness and chaos of Florence behind us (wonderful though it can be) and that we were coming "home" for the evening.

Varinia and Edoardo were excellent and caring hosts. They offered us a cell phone to use while we were in Florence; our bed was very comfortable and the room adorable; Edoardo gave us a lovely bottle of wine to enjoy in our room upon our arrival; and the breakfasts were beautifully-presented, and we were offered anything we wanted.

We also enjoyed two of Varinia's "special dinners," one of which followed a cooking class that Varinia taught just to me! Varinia and I made two luscious types of pasta (pumpkin ravioli and tagliatelle with vegetables), talking and laughing and drinking wine in her cute, intimate cucina.
Check out the pictures of some of the courses below!

There are hundreds of places to stay in a city as large as Florence, but I am thrilled that I chose B&B Giglio Bianco. It was not a long walk to the hustle and bustle (and there are tons of cute shops along the way, plus the best pizzeria in all of Florence!), but this B&B offered a quiet, comfortable and safe refuge from the crowds and craziness that you find in the center of the city. We got a wonderful night's sleep each night, delicious and healthy (and mostly organic!) meals, and two new friends in Varinia and Edoardo. Visit to see more pictures and book your stay or your cooking class with Varinia and Edoardo!

I miss you, Varinia and Edoardo !

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Magellan's Vinni Bag

The Vinni Bag from Magellan's ( worked like a charm on my most recent trip in Italy. I used the Vinni Bag to transport a very special bottle, because once I inflated it, I could tell how well-made a product it was and how securely it protected the bottle inside. When fully-inflated (which is soooo easy to do!!), it is very plump and firm. I used it while in Italy to transport my favorite bottle from town to town and then placed it in my checked luggage for the trip home. My suitcase was international carry-on size, so there was not a lot of extra padding around the VinniBag, yet it still protected my purchase perfectly. Now I can enjoy my special Italian treasure! I highly recommend this product and look forward to using it again and again on future trips abroad! Thanks, Magellan's, for offering this unique, useful, and high-quality product.

Here I am holding my inflated Vinni Bag in my room in San Gimignano, Tuscany.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mi manca il bel paese

Back from 12 memorable and exciting days in the Bel Paese. Listening to Elisa and drinking a Sangiovese, but it's not the same. The streets outside here are not narrow, not historic, not cobblestoned... They are wide and new and devoid of the special spirit that touches my soul when I walk through an Italian town.... any Italian town.......

I think the only cure for the sadness and hollowness that I feel is to start planning my next trip to Italy. I'm sure in the coming days and weeks, I'll embrace the joys that the mountains here do provide - the playful snowshoes with my dog Drew, the sun-kissed sparkles in the air as I cross-country ski across fresh-fallen snow, and the dreams of springtime with its promise of emerging sprouts of garlic and tulips. But tonight I'm feeling nostalgic and a bit empty....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leavin..... On a Jet Plane

Headed to the Bel Paese domani (tomorrow). Non vedo l'ora! I can't wait!

3 nights in Lucca, 3 nights in Florence, 2 nights in San Gimignano, 2 nights in Orvieto, and 1 in Rome. Cooking class in Florence, wine tour of the Chianti region, 2 hour stop-over in Montalcino - oh my GOSH, I can't wait.

I will try to update this blog while I'm there and let you know about the B&Bs and hotels I've chosen, and about all the fun Christmas festivities. I was reading the Lucca newspaper on-line last night, and they are setting up an ice-skating rink in the main piazza. The Christmas shopping season is well-underway in Lucca, and everywhere else, I'm sure.

I hope all my friends and blog readers have a safe and happy first half of December. Feel free to post to this blog and share your tips and insights! Happy Holidays!!!

Don't Just Dream It - Do It ! Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!

Don't Just Dream It - Do It !   Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!
L to R: Marybeth, Giuliana (owner/founder) Steve (filmmaker)

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours
Giuliana, on the right, leading a tour in Umbria

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide
Steve taking a self-portrait in Italy

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Italian Club of Salt Lake

If you're in Utah or coming for a visit and are interested in events related to Italian culture, music, or food, check the Italian Club of Salt Lake (ICSL) website for information: .

The ICSL also offers wonderful Italian language classes in a fun and comfortable setting at Raw Bean Cafe', at 611 South West Temple (great access off I-15). I'm the coordinator of the classes as well as a student, and believe me, the classes are great!