CHRISTMAS EVE IN TORRE DEL GRECO – 2019
A family excursion to experience and enjoy our Italian cousins in Torre del Greco, Naples.
We arrived at Roma Fiumicino and taxied to our hotel,
The Westin Excelsior – Rome, located on via Veneto, a beautiful main shopping street with bars and restaurants. Once again we visited St. Peter's Square and viewed the nativity scenes in the piazza. It's always wonderful to visit Vatican City and the largest church in the World, home of Michelangel's La Pieta and of course The Sistine Chapel. We enjoyed dinner at our hotel at La Donay.
Our cousins, Davide & Irena picked us up for our 4 hour drive. We spent Christmas Eve with our Napoli cousins in Torre del Greco. Our hotel, La Marad, which overlooked the Bay of Naples on one side and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance on the other side
What is Torre del Greco noted for? Besides the crazy Neaopolitans and their pizza, all of the cameos in the world are made there, lots of coral and onyx as well. Mt. Vesuvius is the backdrop, Pompeii is the historical neighboring town and the suburbs of Naples are some of the most beautiful and most visited areas in Italy and in the world. Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Positano, Ravello, Vietri sul mare and the islands of Capri and Ischia are just fantastic. A must visit!
Having a Christmas Eve dinner with 35 Italian cousins is something I will never forget. The warmth, the jolly spirit, the singing and dancing, the traditions and the food were unique yet special. Christmas Eve is typically a meal of seven fishes. Torre del Greco, Naples is a port and a seaside town where seafood and local fish are the main source of food for the locals. Everything from baccala, eel, prawns, smelts, vongole and octopus are just a few delicacies of the region. At midnight, they marched around the room to music and each took a turn at carrying a baby Jesus and then placed him in a cradle. Being in Italy for Christmas, I felt a real sense of religion and the significance of the holiday is mostly about religion. Bravo!
Christmas morning we met our cousins at our hotel and walked the town, stopped at a very large Pasticceria owned by a cousin and had an espresso shot with sfogliatelli, a layered seashell shape pastry with ricotta filling. We visited the church for Christmas mass where the Vitiello and DiDonna grandparents were baptized. I did notice that most of the people out by the square and on vespas were men, as that’s right, the women were home doing the preparation for Christmas Day dinner. In this small town, you can find many shops named Vitiello, a common surname for this area and a similar look in the eyes. We enjoyed some prosecco and then said goodbye “ciao” to the Vitiello cousins. At 3:45PM, we boarded the train from the Napoli Centrale station for a 2 hour fast train ride to Firenze.
Widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is a relatively small city, gets crazy busy with tourists during the peak season.
Grand Hotel Minerva, located at the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 2 minutes from the main train station,
is centrally located in a festive and active piazza. It was lovely.
Firenze is a charming walking city filled with culture, art, wonderful architecture, shops and restaurants of high sophistication and cuisine.
We visited Il Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and my man, David, by the famous artist Michelangelo. David is standing in the Galleria dell’Accademia and is one of the most representative works of the Italian Renaissance, completed in 1504. I remain in awe of this sculpture, since the first time I saw him in 1978. Visiting him years later and on this trip always brings me to tears. Buy tickets online in advance, as the lines and crowds are always huge.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – you can climb to the top (463 steps) and enjoy beautiful views out over the city. There is also a museum where you can see classical artwork by Michelangelo, Donatella and others. Stop at l’Girone De’Chiotti for delicious paninis and a glass of wine.
Boasts an impressive collection of Italian Renaissance art by Botticelli as well as other masters. It is located inside the Palazzo Pitti and is architecturally stunning.
Shop as the locals do. This is an amazing market with amazing food to buy. Prices are good and there’s a food court upstairs where you can get a snack or a meal at a reasonable price.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Florence, which is one of the few places that didn’t receive damage in the war. Rumor is that Hitler refused to destroy it. The bridge is stunning and is built at the narrowest part of the Arno and retains the houses and shops that are built on top of them. Do some window shopping for jewelry.
Siena – we hired a private tour guide and driver who gave us a wonderful tour of the city of Siena. Siena is a city in Tuscany and is most famous for the Palio, a horse race held twice a year in Piazza del Campo. We then went to a fabulous wine tasting/tour with charcuterie at a family vineyard in the Chianti region. A lovely day
A recommended restaurant in Florence:
Trattoria Antico Fattore via Lambertesca 1/3r
Also, we enjoyed a traditional cooking class in a private home. Made fresh pasta, 3 different types and tiramisu. Wonderful experience and delicious food and wine with great people. It doesn’t get much better….. You can book experiences online through viator or tripadvisor. There are so many choices of things to do in this beautiful city and its surrounding area.
A side trip from Florence is the Tuscany region, where many of the finest Italian wines are produced. You will need several days there just visiting the various vineyards, experiencing wonderful wine tastings and tours and enjoying the serene and picturesque countryside. The town of San Gimignano is a must visit, a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture and unforgettable skyline. Saffron and the white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area.
Arriverdici Firenze, it’s time to return home to the cold January in New York. Another wonderful and heart-warming trip to Italy.
Vive bene, Spesso l’amore, di risata molto!
Live well, often love, lots of laughter!