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I loved this candle lit outdoor restaurant in Trastevere

Italy is like Santa’s bag full of all my favorite toys! It’s difficult to choose just one or two when I want to play with them all. While recently re-living my photos of Italy, I chose 5 places that were especially good memories. Each of these is worthy of a visit at least once.

While exploring Trastevere on a friday evening for the first time, I was surprised and impressed by the active nightlife. Caught up immediately by small street bands strumming guitars and singing while strolling past clusters of candlelit tables of outdoor diners, I was ready to join the throngs for a veritable feast. I stumbled onto Grazia & Graziella at the corner of Via della Paglia by chance. The ambience was irresistible and so I cubbied in with those already gathered around the tables.

Amid the lively chatter, I enjoyed a glass of delicious white wine. Soon the handsome dark waiter brought me a gourmet thin crust cheese pizza embellished with lemon slices and sprinkled herbs. Large slices of tenderly grilled eggplant traced the side of the plate. It was all delicious. My evening in Trastevere was a swirl of lamp lit cobblestones, smiling faces, exotic smells of grilled meats and basil, all encased in a spirit of romance.

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Ancient staircase that connects San Martino to the lower city of Naples

San Martino is an attractive neighborhood above the old city of Naples. It has a monastery-museum and castle that I wanted to see, so I took a funicular up from the city below for the afternoon. After visiting a cameo shop along with the museum and castle fortress, I was encouraged by Giovanni from the cameo shop to take the stairs back down and enjoy the gorgeous views. I was not disappointed. Mt. Vesuvius stood in the background, it’s top contours blurred by the pinkish rays of the setting sun. The Bay of Naples joined the sea in a shimmering blue expanse. Old buildings and short leafy palms lined the stair. Apartment buildings with open windows let out the sounds of family activity. Fragrant smells of food preparation followed. So much life was happening behind these old walls, so much activity. But I was having a memorable moment in Naples all to myself.

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Magnificent breakfast and castle wine tour at Verrazzano winery in Chianti

Captain Verrazzano was born in this castle winery estate in 1485. A Florentine navigator who explored New York harbor and most of the east coast in the 1500’s,┬áNew York immortalized him by naming their double-decker suspension bridge the Verrazzano-Narrows in 1964.

The castle wine tour, lead by a playful young man by the name of Mateo, took us through a dungeon lined with cells. I discovered not only the Captains wine, but also hanging racks of prosciutto, small barrels of aging Balsamic vinegar, and large terracotta pots full of golden olive oil. The spirit of the Captain, who met his untimely death on an island of cannibalistic natives, was strongly felt. We all enjoyed an excellent tasting afterwards of delicious wines, thick balsamic vinegar and fragrant olive oil.

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Italian Riviera walk along Santa Margherita on the Mediterranean

The Italian Riviera is famous for so many things from exotic yachts, famous people, gorgeous views and rich ambience. But it is always the promenade that attracts me. I love to walk along the ocean while simultaneously viewing the town. The promenade is a public walkway that is especially fun during the passeggiata, where throngs of people traditionally meet for an early evening stroll.

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Piazzas and backstreets of Rome

Rome has a maze of piazza’s and back streets that are so much fun to explore. Cozy outdoor restaurants and cafes bring a feeling of community that I love to get lost in. Sipping a glass of cold white wine while people watching at one of the tables is one of my favorite ways to spend an hour or two mid-afternoon or just before dinner, and a perfect way to relax.

There is no end to my list of favorites and great memories of Italy. Each time I visit, I wonder how I can bring a bit back home with me. The most effective way I know of is to keep the memories alive and safely tucked away to revisit over and over again. My photo collection has become my treasure box.