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    Our Paesani

    "Our Paesani" is a column written by Francesca Di Meglio. Its purpose is to help bridge the gap between Italians in Italy and Italians throughout the world.

    5 Best Beaches in Ischia
    Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples and near its more famous neighbor Capri, is a beach lover's paradise. There are fewer things I enjoy more than running my fingers through the sand (which is different depending on which beach you go to) and walking at the edge of the shoreline, so my feet just barely get wet.

    5 Best Views in Ischia
    There is no argument that Italy's Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, is a stunner. Known as L'Isola Verde (The Green Island), Ischia is lush with vegetation and its mountainside serves as the perfect backdrop for the ocean.

    6 Ideas for a Fantasy Vacation in Italy
    In my quietest moments, I dream of Italy -- a refreshing banana gelato, a bright Versace gown, Totò singing Malafemmena, the comforting sound of the ocean on Maronti in Ischia. I pretend I'm as desirable and elegant as Sofia Loren or Monica Bellucci. I'm on the arm of someone as handsome and charming as Adriano Giannini or Gianluigi Buffon as we stroll along the Via Veneto. Here are 6 things you should do the next time you're in Italy -- even if only in your imagination.

    6 Ways Kids Can Enjoy Ischia, Italy
    6 Ways Kids Can Enjoy Ischia, Italy Just because you are the parent of a young child (or children) does not mean that trips to exotic islands in Italy are off limits when planning a family vacation. You just have to rethink how you spend your days in such a place.

    10 Not-To-Miss Activities in Italy
    The new year is a great time to set goals. Whether you can make it to Italy in 2011 or you'll have to put off your trip for some time, you can at least start to think about the must-do activities of your dream trip. Here are some ideas to help you start planning.

    Best Eats in Ischia
    While you can go just about anywhere to get a good meal in Ischia (none better than at one of the native's homes), here are the places to savor some of the best Italian food you'll ever have.

    Consider Taking a Trip to an Italian Farm
    Agriturismo is the word Italians use to describe bed-and-breakfast-type residences on farms in southern Italy. These hotels are popping up all over the countryside in southern Italy, especially in places like Benevento, and Tuscany. The idea is to give tourists a tranquil setting in which to taste country living.

    Daydreaming of Italy in the Spring
    At this moment, I'm lying on my boyfriend Antonio's bed in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples. And it's a chilly yet sunny February afternoon. I've been coming to Ischia in the winter since I was 2 years old. But a few times I made the trek in April. Nothing is more beautiful than Italy - and especially Ischia - when everyone wakes from hibernation in the springtime.

    Family Travel – Practical Tips for Travelers to Italy
    Many travelers to Italy, especially those with Italian ancestors, head there believing they know the culture. They think navigating the trip will be a piece of “torta,” as a result. But the truth is that Italian and Italian American (or Italian Australian or Italian Canadian, etc.) culture are two different things. In addition, times have changed from when many of our ancestors actually lived in Italy. So, our perceptions aren't quite timely. Discover these practical tips for travelers – of Italian ancestry or not – to Italy.

    Garden of Eden in Italy
    In 2004, I was supposed to have my first date with my now boyfriend Antonio Gerenini - and our destination was going to be La Mortella, the lovely public gardens in Forio in Ischia. Having read all about it before traveling to Italy, I could hardly wait. But before I could get there, I had a serious accident that eventually resulted in three surgeries to my knee. I never made it to La Mortella - that is, until now. And I want to take you there, too.

    Good Eats in Ischia
    I just returned from another spring jaunt in Ischia, the small island off the coast of Napoli and neighboring Capri from which my family originates. I always come back with wonderful memories of my relatives, my boyfriend and his wonderful family and the natural beauty of the island. But it's the food that leaves the best taste. Ischia is after all the island, where "si mangia, si beve, e si fischia." ("one eats, drinks, and whistles"). If you ever get the chance to go to Ischia, here are some restaurants that will have you whistling too.

    Great Gifts for Italians
    My son and I have just a couple more weeks in Italy before we return home to the United States. But many Italian Americans I know will be visiting the Homeland in July, August, or even in the fall, which are popular times to travel to Europe. If they are like us, they'll be seeing lots of Italian relatives, and they'll want to treat them to some American goodies. But what to bring them? If you're short on ideas, here are some trendy things from America that most Italians I know truly appreciate.

    Greetings From Italy
    The rain is falling in Italy, but not in my heart. I arrived in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, a few days ago for a month-long stay that will combine business with pleasure. Consider this the first of my postcards to you while I work and vacation in the homeland.

    How to Get to Italy with a Baby
    You know those people, who bring their infant on the seven- to nine-hour flight to Italy. They usually end up sitting next to you, right? They make you cringe, and when the baby starts crying and lamenting, you have half a mind to tell them what you think of their decision to travel with a wee little one. Well, my husband and I are soon going to be those people, when we bring our son, who will be six months old, with us to Ischia, the island off the coast of Naples from which both of our families hail.

    How to Make the Move to Live in Italy
    Since I started writing this column, many of you have written to me. Every so often, you can help me offer information to the masses. A reader, Felice Berenson, 56, is an ESL and Italian teacher in Boca Raton, Florida. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she lived in Florence, Italy from 1969 to 1993. I asked her to answer some of your most common questions about moving to Italy, and she responded thoughtfully in an e-mail. Below are edited excerpts of her responses.

    How to Pack for the New World
    The summer might be coming to its unofficial end in the United States, but Italy will remain ripe with tourists through October. If you're among those heading to the motherland in the fall, then you probably already know that new security measures mean you'll have to put that toothpaste and shampoo in your checked luggage - or you'll have to leave it at home. But there are certain gadgets that will help you bring all your favorites - even those hand-painted ceramic plates - back home with you. Here are some ideas.

    How to Travel to Italy with Baby
    Traveling from the United States to Italy with a toddler can be a challenge. It was hard enough when he was six months old and couldn't walk yet. Despite the differences – now, my son who has the energy of the Energizer bunny will be itching to hop around during turbulence – there are some lessons that I picked up on our first trip.

    Ischia's Islanders
    Ischia is the place of dreams. Clear blue skies blanket lush mountainsides and the Mediterranean beaches filled with beautiful people, natives and tourists alike. Get the truth about one of Italy's most popular islands - and its people - by reading my new weekly blog installments.

    Ischia Italy Vacation – Plan a Visit There Now!
    Discover why the island, which was recently struck by an earthquake, is clamoring to make sure tourists know it's open for business. But in the wake of the quake, the tourists fled. Many others canceled future reservations. So, Ischia's hotel, restaurant, and shop owners began publicizing the beauty of Ischia. These insiders also explained that the rest of the island is doing just fine, and it's open for business. A campaign that was largely visible on social media went into full effect the day after the earthquake. After all, the year's economy is dependent on it.

    Italy's Gifts
    As soon as my family hears I'm going to Italy, the requests for souvenirs start rolling in. The foodies want authentic Italian ingredients, the fashionistas want a scarf or designer purse. Just about everyone wants a hand-painted ceramic plate. Then, there are the kids, who usually ask for T-shirts and chocolate. Even though the gifts weigh down my suitcase, I love shopping for my family. And I love - even more - seeing their glowing faces when I hand over the memento of our homeland.

    Live the Dolce Vita at Il Mosaico
    Too often we eat simply to put fuel in our engine, to keep us going. We should also be eating, as the Italians do, for pleasure. Once in a while, I like to pretend that I have the time for a dolce vita, and I eat for the pure joy of it. When you decide to do this, you have to eat something extra special, something more than wheat toast and an apple. The tasting menu we devoured at Il Mosaico was the most dolce of all the dinners we've ever had.

    A Love Letter to Napoli
    If Napoli, Italy's southern capital, was a man, it would be the "bad boy" of every woman's dreams. As famous for its relatively high crime rate as for its breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples and the magnificent Vesuvio, Napoli is sensitive with an edge. Much like mischievous men who always get the girl in the end, such a place produces the best sort of contradictions -- fast and slow, sweet and sour.

    A Night in Napoli
    The saying goes, "Vedi Napoli e poi muori," which means "See Naples and die!" For the most part, my people, who come from the nearby island of Ischia, which is actually a province of Naples, must take the saying literally because some of them have never stepped foot in the city that is only a boat ride away.

    Prepare for Summer Italian Style
    Americans celebrated the unofficial start to summer last weekend. But nobody does summer like the Italians, who are known for taking off work for the entire month of August. Now, that's what I call the lazy, hazy days! Just because summer is practically underway doesn't necessarily mean that you're ready for it. Maybe you can take your cues from Italy - and get prepped for fun in the sun. Here are some things Italians are doing to get into gear for the hot season.

    Review of Meridiana's Direct Flights from New York to Naples
    Find out whether you should book a trip to see the homeland with Italy's discount airline.

    Should You Cancel Your Upcoming Trip to Italy in Light of Terrorist Threats?
    It’s that time of year again, when many of us begin planning our spring and summer getaways to Italy. But after warnings of the possibility of more terrorist attacks in Europe, you might be second-guessing your decision to go. Determine how risky travel to the homeland is right now and what kind of precautions are underway.

    Southern Italy's Hidden Gems
    Summer is the time of year for vacations. Although the weakening dollar and rising cost of gas is making trips to Europe seem impossibly expensive, many Italian Americans are still returning to Italy. I can testify to this because my recent Eurofly flight to Naples, Italy was full to the brim. After all, many of those flying to Italy on that airline are like me - they have to pay for the costly plane ride but they save on accommodations by staying in their own Italian homes or with family and friends. If you're among those making the trek to Italy, here are some hidden gems of the south - some in the most obvious of places - that you might consider.

    Take It Easy Italian Style
    This week Pope Benedict XVI, on holiday in the Italian Alps, suggested that everyone, especially those who live in cities, take a vacation to meditate and contemplate life's meaning. The Italians will be doing just that in a couple of weeks because most of the country takes the entire month of August off. They'll be heading to the mountains, beaches - or even the United States to take it easy and get away from life's mundane worries. Really, the Italians are great at maintaining stress levels, and Americans could learn a thing or two from them. Here, a few tips from the Boot on how to relax.

    A Taste of Italy in America
    For years, my family and I have visited Walt Disney World's EPCOT, a theme park dedicated both to science and cultural exchanges. One half of the park, in fact, features mini villas that represent different countries. In Italy's villa, which is part of this World Showcase, you will get a taste of the homeland.

    Through the Looking Glass
    I left Venice over a week ago, but the vacation has sweetly stayed with me. At certain moments during the day when I have a chance to catch my breath, I find myself daydreaming about my most recent Italian sojourn. Often, my thoughts turn my heart to glass, Murano glass that is. On the Venetian island of Murano creating artistic, high-quality glass art - from picture frames and clocks to crystal clear, three-foot tall horse statues - is a way of life. And tourists are welcome to observe the artist at work firsthand.

    Tour Ischia from Home
    It's that time of year again, when I start planning my next trip to Ischia to be with my fiancé Antonio and our friends, and family, who live there. This trip is going to be especially special because Antonio and I will wed in a civil service ahead of our church nuptials in Ischia in October and a vow renewal in the United States in November.

    Travel Diary: An Italian American in Ischia, Italy
    I've been back in Ischia, home of my ancestors and fiancé and the location of my upcoming fall nuptials, for a little more than a week. I thought I'd share my travel diary with you to give you an insider's look at life on a small island off the coast of Naples, Italy.

    Travel Log: What Happens If You Get Sick or Hurt When Vacationing in Italy?
    This is Francesca's first hand experience on just what happens if you get hurt or sick while on vacation in Italy. This three part article includes "Dark Days on the Green Island", "Live Nude Girls! At the Hospital?" and "My Italian Boyfriends Give Me Lots to Think about".

    Travel Tips - How to Get to Southern Italy
    Getting to my family and friends in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, is torture. This is especially true for me now that I am always traveling there at the start of summer vacation with my 6-year-old son. My husband leaves a month before we do just about every year. So, it's just the two of us – mamma and her little man. Journeys like this require grit and determination, not to mention a backpack full of distractions.

    Traveling to Italy Gets Easier
    It's the time of year when folks start thinking about summer vacation. If Italy is among your destinations for the lazy days, you have wonderful options. Here are some possibilities that you might want to consider.

    An Unforgettable Venetian Journey
    No city is more romantic than Venezia. And now I know firsthand, for sure, with certainty. After arriving in Roma on Monday, my boyfriend Antonio, a native of the Neapolitan island of Ischia, picked me up and surprised me. At first he wouldn't tell me where we were going. Then, he mentioned the town of Jesolo, which I did not know. As we inched closer to our destination, I saw the signs for Milan and Venezia. In my gut, I knew then we were on our way to see the city on water in all its glory, which had been a long-held dream of mine. But having a native Italian plan the trip for me made all the difference; this surprise was affordable, yet met every expectation I had and then some.

    Visit Italy: Florence's David Gets a New Look
    Recently, Italians gave a bath to Michelangelo's masterpiece David. The decision to restore David in time for his 500th birthday was a controversial one. Art critics said the cleaning was unnecessary because the statue has been indoors at the Galleria dell' Accademia for more than 130 years. They argued that other works of art already had been damaged after much-too-harsh cleanings, and that risking one of the world's greatest works was downright wrong.

    Visit Italy: A Historic Venetian Theater Heats Things Up
    The roof was on fire – and not just in the figurative sense. Teatro La Fenice in Venezia (campo San Fantin, San Marco) has a history of burning down. According to Knopf City Guides, the San Benedetto opera house, the theater's first incarnation, burned down in 1774. The first Fenice was destroyed by fire in 1836 and again in 1996. This year the theater finally reopened - this time, with the hopes of igniting passion instead of flames.

    Visit Italy: A Southern Italian Treasure in Caserta
    Just outside of gritty Napoli in Caserta lies Italy's version of Versailles. An emulation of the decadent French palace, La Reggia di Caserta is about the size of three soccer fields with 1,790 windows. Carlo III di Borbone, then-king of the two Sicilies, commissioned architect Luigi Vanvitelli to construct the palace in the mid-1700s.

    Visit Italy: Travel like an Italian Celebrity
    Practically all of Italy goes on vacation in August – and the country's most glamorous stars are no different. Celebrities have money and need to relax and pamper themselves, so it's always wise to take your travel cues from them. Here are some suggestions for itineraries from the rich and famous.

    What I Learned Living in Italy
    Once upon a time living in Italy had been a hope of mine. Then, I spent months in the country back when I was dating my husband, who is a native, and I changed my mind. I recognized that my family left southern Italy for a reason. There were few opportunities for young people to work. You couldn't achieve the type of success, financial reward, or lifestyle that was promised to me in my United States.

    What Is the Best Time of Year to Go to Italy?
    People plan dream vacations to Italy all the time. Some sock away money for years to make it happen. Some want to see the history, some want to taste the food, and some want to meet their families or discover the land of their ancestors. While people consider airfare, accommodations, and what they want to see and do, they don't always know what's happening in Italy in any given season. Truly, to get a good return on your investment, you should carefully choose when you take this dream vacation. Discover the pros and cons of each season.


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