the ‘Cat abc’ Category

Calling all Music Lovers! Summer Music Festivals in Italy

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

With its breathtaking landscapes, amazing food and wine, and rich cultural history, you probably don’t need another reason to visit Italy. But alas, here one is!  Italy is chock full of music festivals during the summer months, affording multiple opportunities to add a fantastic concert or show to your itinerary.

Like art, food, and family, music is an important part of Italian culture.  Italians’ love of music, and of life, is celebrated in many ways- including live music festivals.  Multiple regions around the boot throw their own music fests, featuring musicians from around the world.  Read on to learn about some of our favorites:

The Lucca Summer Festival is the main live music event in Tuscany, taking place every year in late June/July.  Performances are held in the historical center of the city, in Piazza Napoleone, and in the past have featured acts by: Elton John, Alicia Keys, Zucchero, Nora Jones and many others.  This year’s event kicks off July 1, 2015 with Bob Dylan, follow by others including John Legend, Billy Idol, and Robbie Williams.  (Check out the 2015 schedule here:

Umbria Jazz is one of the most important Jazz festivals in the world, held annually since 1973. It takes place in July in the beautiful historic city of Perugia, with the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in late December/early January in Orvieto.  Countless jazz legends have taken the stage at this fabulous event throughout the years, including B.B. King, Tony Bennett, James Brown, Miles Davis, Earth, Wine & Fire, and Eric Clapton.  (See the 2015 line up here:

Umbria Jazz

The Ravello Festival was established in 1953 when the Amalfi coast town decided to throw a music festival to honor German composer Richard Wagner.  Wagner had visited the town in 1880, and was so taken with the beauty of Villa Rufolo that he used their gardens as a model for the enchanted garden in his opera Parsifal.  While the festival originally focused on Wagner’s music, the event has since grown into a nearly two-month long presentation of a wide variety of styles, including chamber music, jazz, large orchestras, dance, photography and art exhibitions.  (See the 2015 schedule here:

If you’re planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast outside of the summer months, you are still in luck!  Ravello carries on its live music series from March through October.  Their classical music program begins in March, reaching its crescendo in June and September with the International Piano Festival and Chamber Music Week, and finishes in October.

In addition to these notable events, there is a plethora of summer music festivals throughout Italy, including Rock in Roma (June-July in Rome:, Collisioni  (June in Barolo:, Pistoia Blues (July in Pistoia:, the Pompeii Festival (, and the Heineken Jammin Festival in Milan (

As you plan your next summer adventure in Italy, speak to your personalized travel agent, Joyce Falcone – The Italian Concierge, about including a music performance in your customized travel itinerary!

Stay tuned for another blog post about other outdoor arts performances, including opera, ballet, and theater in breathtaking venues throughout Italy.


A Different Side of Amalfi at Monastero Santa Rosa

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Though I have been in contact with the staff at Monastero Santa Rosa for years, it was only this year, during my trip to Matera in the fall, that I finally made it out to visit this property high on the coastal road perched over the Amalfi coast.

The Location

IMG_2693We work with several other five-star properties along the Amalfi coast, and initially, I had resisted visiting the monastery, because I thought the location—if you think driving on Amalfi’s coastal road is hairy, this place is best reached with a driver—was inconvenient, but upon visiting I saw the excellent silver lining.

Sitting high above the main road, Monastero Santa Rosa is free from the frenzy you usually find along Amalfi’s central artery.

In the classic coastal style, both the property and its gardens cascade down the hillside, but due to the lack of other hotels on either side, you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the coast and the ocean.

Monastery Cuisine

Don’t expect ascetic, staid, monastic food here. To begin with, this is the home of the nuns who created the famous southern dessert sfogliatella, named for its layers of paper thin pastry, which are then stuffed with sweetened ricotta mixed with lemon or orange zest and occasionally some spices like pepper and cinnamon.

It will easy cost you 800 calories, but it’s worth every bite, like the food at the monastery today.

The hotel has imported a chef from the Hilton Pergola in Rome, and it shows. I honestly had the best of my visit to the Amalfi Coast in Monastero Santa Rosa’s restaurant. Like the tasteful renovation of the property, the food was clean and fresh. Exactly the flavorful, un-precious food that is truly authentic Italian cuisine. They also provided excellent wine pairings, and I enjoyed a fine rosato from Antinori Guado al Tasso.

Monastero Santa Rosa Rooms and Amenities

IMG_2695When historic properties are renovated, you are never quite sure what you are going to get: a hyper-modern reboot or an overly faithful medieval interior.

Monastero Santa Rosa strikes just the right balance, with contemporary tailored fabrics on antiques that create a vibe that is the ideal middle ground between fussy and sober. Due to its coastal location, all rooms have a view, as you would expect, but I would go for the corner suite. But with just 20 rooms, it is hard to go wrong.

The spa, which is truly designed for one person or a couple at a time, echos the same cozy dimensions as the hotel, and offers an intimate experiences with the same gracious staff and spot-on service you’ll find through out the property.

My Take-away?

I’m glad I finally visited, because this hotel offers a level of sophisticated peace and beauty far from what you usual find in an area with so much mass tourism.

They have mastered the arts of relaxation, style, and taste.

Report from the Road: Truffles

Saturday, October 26th, 2013



Here is the scoop. They true truffle hunters go out only at night, secretive with only their dog and do not use a flashlight or else others will see them and know where their spot is.  So they go alone, or with the dog.  Any dog will do, just needs a trained snout.  when you find them you place them in a newspaper and wrap them up.  They last about 5 days 1 week.  Stored in a paper towel and then places in a jar.  Open the jar once a day ( and sniff)  .

the buy

The current price literally on the street Eu 2. 50/ etto ( 100 grams).  IN a ristorante you will pay EU 3. 50 per etto on your plate.

Best way to serve that I have found, just grated over two fried eggs.  Truffle shaver costs EU 10.  Now you just need to learn how to make Tajarin ( or tagliatelle egg based pasta) and WOW.  The truffle frenzy is ON around here.  while I watched I saw over Eu 1000 in truffles sold.

Time for Dinner, got to run, my glass of Nebbiolo is waiting.



On the road again: 39 villas- Piemonte and Toscana.

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

With my calendar full of appointments I head tomorrow to Piemonte, Toscana and Roma.  With a well planned list of stops  I have used Google maps to plan each and every day.  Divided into each day there is a map, contact info, and managers name  to make sure that every minute is used wisely.  This is called R&D- Research and Development, this is where  I travel specifically to gather information to be able to sell and discuss the finer aspects of Italy with you.

Many friends ask to come along on R&D, but I have learned this can be a conflict.   For  friends,  going to Italy is a vacation , for me Italy means work.  I do not schedule in time to sit in the piazza and drink a cafe.

During this particular trip I have 39 villas and hotels to review in 10 days.   It is an aggressive schedule, with only two days planned in as play days.   Upon arrival, at Malpensa, and with a rental car,  I will drive to the Langha and Roero with the first appointment scheduled for 11:30.  Call me crazy, but I do not use a GPS. I take along a trusty Michelin Map ( now on version #4 having worn out the other editions).

The goal is to review hotels  newly opened, and villas in Tuscanys’ central core as this is a new service we will be offering. Oh and to have risotto with truffle at least once.

Two days into the research, and I feel like Anthony Bourdain where I cannot even recite to you where I have been.   Today I started touring a lovely Relais of 16 rooms a renovated monastery overlooking a pristine valley, with swimming pool ( no the monks did not have that) the rooms simly decorated ( after all they were once cells) but now with halogen lamps.  From there I reviewed a beautiful beautiful villa with 4 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, heated pool and hectares and hectares of land.  The owner was asking Eu 20,000/week for th

Selling truffles on the side of the road

Selling truffles on the side of the road

e rental.  The property lovely only issue was it was in the countryside in farm country and not in wine country.

From there, I raced to Monforte d’Alba to see a newly refurbished villa ( 4 bedroom ) quite fine with pool, would be rented so easily.  If I were you  I would book it now for next October for truffle season.   Stumbled upon a very very chic renovated palazzo

in town and was able to squeeze into the day a classic fried egg shaved with truffle and glass of Nebbiolo.    Then to a hotel castello in the Langha proper to a Modern resort complete with Michelin ristorante on the premises and an Aveda Spa, which unfortunately I could not stay and test.  But the very highlight of my day was encountering this Trufalao who was hawking his wares out of his new  Audi A6 wagon in the parking lot.





United first class upgrade to Milano for $550 plus 20,000

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

It is hard to believe that this will be my fifth trip to Italy this year.   January- Rome and Firenze , February skiing in the Dolomites, and Venice, May on tour in Puglia and then to Emilia Romagna, early October to Venice and Verona and this week Piemonte and Toscana.  With this job, I am  always searching for more information to share with all of you, this is the life of a professsional traveler to Italy.

Many people would want to ask, Am I tired of traveling to the same places?  But you see, I have not been to the same place this year, and with twenty regions  in Italy each one different, one never is bored.  This trip I am preped for   some glorious foods such as  Barolo, Dolcetto, Gianduja, risotto,  and Truffles.  In Venice the classic pairing is baccala mantecato and Friuliano.   Toscana will serve cingale in a hearty red sauce  ( and God-awful bread).

En route, the United Premier lounge  in Newark airport  is a good place to work, and wait until your flight is called.   Well worth the Chase Visa Card activation charge.  Here are some of the benefits of obtaining this card:  specialty lines for check in, specialty lines through security, and of course the lounge benefits such as snacks, drinks,  comfy chairs and electric outlets for all the business gear that a working traveler needs to stay connected.  Every seat  in the lounge is full by the way, however, when checking on my reservation to Milano apparently  the plane was not.  Whether this had to do with Emirates new discounted fare or the time I year, I do no know.    As a reluctant  flyer in coach class,   I seat surf frequently prior to departure,  to see if I can secure a more advantageous position with a tad more space.  Rarely,  is that the case, especially  when flying to Europe during high season months.

On this flight first class was  empty when I looked at the screen one last time. Then the offer came blinking in front of me,     First Class  Upgrade for $859.   That sounded pretty good, but I did not take it.  After passing security,  and having some time to review,  a little voice said,  Why not try first class?    When approaching the agent she had an even better offer. First Class for $550 and 20,000 miles  How can one resist?

Touring Southern Italy- A merging of cultures

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

I passed a funeral in Locorotondo today. Was not expecting it as I was frantically searching for something to eat, I had waited to long to stop. You see here in Italy you must be seated for lunch no later than 14:00 or they will not seat you.
I was racing around, (which is my usual state when doing research), and realized I had not eaten. It was not 15:30, and at that hour of the day the staff is dining, when the funeral crossed my path as it marched up the hill towards the Chiesa Madre in the center of town. Stopped.

There they were, the entire community walking slowly behind the limo with casket all in black. One cannot race in front of a funeral. One waits. Time has stopped. One cannot photograph a funeral either. Respect is everything in southern Italy. I am sure at one time, the casket was laid on a carriage drawn by a horse. Life can resume its usual speed once the funeral has passed, but it forces you to stop and consider time. and your life of course.

I have dedicated two weeks to discovering “la Novita” in Puglia and Basilicata,  with one day dedicated to “i Miei” that is my ancestors,  honored  with a stop in the unknown town  of Oliveto Citra Provincia di Salerno, birth home of Maternal grandmother whom I adored. The major part of this visit to southern Italy, is to see what is new, different or interesting, in order to advise my clients better.
I have been to Puglia and Matera  before, and have already led tours here, on a few occasions,  however, some time had passed, and therefore research is required, to stay on top of my game so to speak.

When asked if I am here for vacation, I shrug….I am here just 48 hours already  and have already visited nine hotels. The list even becomes longer asas I travel from north to south. Matera, Bernalda, Faesano, Martina Franca, Lecce, Ostuni, Monopoli, Otranto, Leuca, Gallipoli, Taranto before departing Puglia. There is no time for a cafe in piazza or a rest near the piscina. Do you understand how much time it takes to find where you are going.  I do not use GPS, they do not really work here, intuition and a 4th generation Michelin spiral bound map are my travel companions and accessories.     No, I am not here for a vacation.

Do not get me wrong. I adore this work… it is not work… but a found joy in life that not many can experience. This can only be said the Italian way, I found a passion, “To know Italy”, is my passion. Maybe an American will not understand this. But here “passion” plays a role in each and every day, and more so the further south that one goes.

As for food, I am trying to dine on less flour  every day.  I adore la Pasta.  And nothing improves my  disposition better than steaming hot  pasta and red wine,  immediately  I become a joyful person once again, however,  flour  on top of flour, does nothing for a middle aged body that is not getting her normal exercise.  Difficult as it is to pass up orechiette ( little ears) for lunch AND dinner, abstention  every  day   either during  breakfast or lunch, is what I am trying to do. The good thing is Puglia is known for their vegetables.  Last night in Cisternino I went to Zio Pietros’ Maccelleria ( butcher shop) .  Apparently Cisternino’s speciality is  grilled meats selected by you from the glass case, weighed  and grilled over an open fire right there   in the butchers shop  is a common way to dine.  I suggest  that Jack the butcher in Aspen, set up a small dining room in the back of the Butchers Block to be able to stay competitive and try this novelty.   This concept will catch on easily apart from the fire marshals objection to the open fire pit in the center of Aspen.  This will help them stay on top of Whole Foods in El Jebel.

What I have noted so far is  that this area has an unusual amount of Great Pyranees, those big white fluffy dogs  that are used to herd sheep.  Here the tradition remains of  the transhumanza or the movement of the herd from summer to winter pastures  and vice versa, whereby those dogs come in handy to control the herd movement.  They are everywhere.  There is not one  GSP in sight here.  Even the “Cane in Giro” or tame abandoned dogs that lounge around on the streets seem to be Great Pyranese.

To be continued.. further south, Lecce, Otranto and Leuca.

And if you like what you’ve been reading, like us on Conde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last five years straight.

Falcone’s Italian Concierge-Newsletter

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

April 2012

Falcone’s The Italian Concierge Newsletter

It has been a while that we have wanted to send  out a monthly newsletter and to share with others what we have found while traveling in Italy these past 18 years. 
Finally, and with the help of Emanuele Tozzi our “Eye on Italy” reporter, we are able to offer a monthly compilation of what we think is current, reliable, trendy, or traditional “going on’s” in our favorite country Italy.

 Be it small artisan shops with our favorite finds, scarves, jewelry, antiques, or outlets, or our old favorite trattorie,  with consistantly the best porchetta ( Roberto’s at Latte e Luna in Pienza by far) , hip design hotels, or old classics, we hope to offer you free advice ( and one can never get enough of that)  to help you enjoy your trip to the fullest.
If you would like to subscribe to receive our newletter, please send us an email  and us to include you to our list.

Buon Viaggio! e Viva Italia! 


Downsizing- Luggage I can live with

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

When the snow starts to fly in Aspen. The one thing that gets me through our long winters is to have an unused plane ticket in the drawer. To be able to count the days before I return to Italy, gives me hope in the midst of a white out in March. Hope comes in the form of promises of sunshine, red wine, fashion, and history all rolled into, An Italian Escape.

I normally spend every May/June in Italy. When it is high season, I like to be there, in Italy, where it is happening. This year I will be personally escorting two groups of about fifty travelers, from the top to the toe of Italia. With only one day of “downtime” between these tours, every item of what goes in the suitcase becomes an item to be reviewed and reviewed again for weight, style and travel worthiness. My plan is to try to accomplish this in a carry on. Yes I said carry on bag.

I began in the 80s; with Classic Hartman khaki and leather set which was shared with my husband. We took many a trip with that luggage, a few times to Hawaii, European Grand Tour once or twice. Finally divorce sent the luggage into he closet of my ex-beloved and as with everything else I had to fend for myself and find a new look that represented my new “singleness”. I adored that luggage, it represented good times, and later bad, when I moved out, I had to use cardboard boxes.

To express my newfound divorcee status, I went for IT. A Louis Vuitton, Epi leather Saddle color hand carry bag. It is gorgeous. And I am afraid to use it. But alas, It is only suitable for car travel. It has seen some travel, but by the time it is full, it is to heavy to carry. So it stays in the top of the closet. I was convinced I needed wheels.

The quest for luggage to call my own, began in 2002, when I came upon a sale in a small Columbus Avenue boutique NYC which was selling at 50% off Italian Luggage make by , Piero Guidi. I had to own all three pieces, even the train case, though I only use it for storage now. The train case is a piece of art. The luggage was a chocolate brown with coveted brass hardware. I think it went to Italy at least eight times, until I finally learned to down size. The wheels were not suitable for hauling heavy luggage across the cobble streets in Florence and that was the end of Piero.

The hunt for Italian luggage was on. And finally after a successful tour with exaggerated tips, I purchased a Brics suitcase in tan suede with saddle leather details. A stylish roller bag, smaller than the Piero but it still needed to be send as baggage since it was not small enough for carry on status. Feeling better about being able to maneuver around Italy, it only took one over packed bag, a non portable, portable laptop (about 8lbs) and an out of service elevator and 35 steps up from the train track to learn, I must go smaller. I went through two Brics bags and thought, I need to spend less on luggage.

By now I was convinced, that my elbows were going to be pulled from their sockets from hauling bags around Italy. I needed a carryon bag, and a lighter weight portable computer to survive. TJ Max had the answer. For Fifty dollars, I found a DVF, brown, weatherproofed vinyl, no pockets, and decent wheels. Another 14 trips back and forth to Italy, and the bag wore out, but I do feel I got my money’s worth.

After looking high and low, I have finally found, and invested in a two piece nylon set by Tumi. Light weight, good wheels, great color ( not black), and fits together. I adore it. Took me three years of shopping to find it. I go through luggage. When travel is your business, one tends to use luggage up. Luggage is my vice.

I am now determined to travel for a month using this two piece carry one set. The hand bag is the office, the roller bag, is the closet and off I will go. I have a Mac Air, am downsized and happy about it. I can move though airports, onto trains, into and out of numerous hotels on site visits. It is the perfect size. When I look at others struggling with their entire closets in the suitcase for a two week trip, I just smile. ☺
“Baule-“ they call it in Italy, Americans travel with “baule” ….Trunks.

And if you like what you’ve been reading, like us on Conde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last four years straight.

Italian Language-Learn some before you go

Friday, July 1st, 2011


Why it is that traveling Americans are always so dreadful.” Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis


We cannot dispute the fact that America is known as a force in the world, both economically and for our military. We are loved and despised for our social freedoms, admired for the opportunity given to each and every citizen to have a chance to pursue his/her dream. It is no wonder why so many foreigners want to come and live here. Look at our borders. Daily people risk their life to get here. That position was one I had heard time and again from my well traveled parents in the 50’s and 60’s. And is still applicable today for some cultures. But is it applicable to Italians? Do other Italians still envy the USA so much that they all want to become American? There has been a change in attitude over the past thirty years with regard to our culture. The whole world no longer envies us as they once did. As a conscientious traveler, we must ask ourselves what brought on the change? One reason is that Italy has changed. The quality of life has improved dramatically in western European countries since WWII. Life is much better now for Western Europeans and therefore many are less likely to want to leave.

VIGNETTE: I was sitting in the piazza in Portofino with another Italian guide waiting for our group to gather. Many, many groups entered the piazza in Portofino during a day. “See that group?” I was asked by my colleague, “yes.” “They are American.” “How can you tell?” “Well, all the other groups come to the piazza and view it from the side, but this group came into the very middle of the piazza and claimed the entire center, as if they intended to conquer it.”. Do they still love us? Yes, they do. Do they want to move to the USA? No, they don’t.


They do not like to work and have a lot of holidays. Great food and bad government. They drink a lot of wine They seem to have a lot of strikes. They live with their mothers. They adore the Madonna. They dress well and pose. They are all in the mafia.

HOW TO RELATE TO PEOPLE-Italian Style In a fast moving world, I believe we have forgotten how to communicate with real people. We email, phone and Skype. It is no longer necessary to look people in the eyes when conducting our daily transactions. Italian Style- is all about how you treat people. It is about maintaining the human element throughout our daily lives. Courtesy. Look directly in the eye, and acknowledge whomever you are speaking with. Take your time and begin with small talk first. The actual reason for your visit is secondary and comes after the social graces have been satisfied. Remember: People first, then business.

VIGNETTE: I had an encounter with an Italian shop keeper. Her comment, “I see you speak some Italian, may I ask why is it that Americans never look us in the eye or acknowledge us when they enter our store? We feel badly that they do not acknowledge us. Is it because you have grande magazzini (big warehouses) and you do not need to speak with anyone? Or is it because you think you are better than everyone else?” When visiting an artisan or food producer, be mindful when you schedule the appointment, to allow enough time. As Americans we are known as “Sempre in Fretta” Always in a hurry. The visit will take as long as it takes. More often than not, the host will offer you something to eat or drink or perhaps even a small gift as a positive memory “Ricordo” of the experience. This happens all over Italy. Try to not rush off.

GREETINGS: Learn a little Italian; it will go a long way. This is not a language book. But you cannot expect to travel around Italy using only English. Americans all to often begin encounters in English. You need a few basic words of Italian to make your experience more rewarding. We want to be better travelers. We want to be respectful and savvy about the country we are going to. Then give it a go, and try to speak the language!

Italian Alphabet: 21 letters No J, K, X, Y, W

Lesson # one. Our culture has lost all formality in our use of English. We say “ Hi, how ya doin’? To everybody without ever stopping to listen to the answer. Romance languages are more formal and will address different people within the society respectfully based on the intimacy or lack thereof in the relationship. Your greeting sets the tone of the interaction.

Don’t use “ciao” unless you know the person well. We all know the word and may even use it in the USA. “Ciao” is a very informal greeting meaning hello or goodbye. It is used when greeting people you know well; family, peers, or to greet small children and dogs. Remember: It is okay to kiss, (both cheeks) men and women.

Please learn and use at least two of the following:

Buon Giorno- Good Day

Buona Sera- Good Afternoon (begins around 16:00 ish)

Buona Notte- Good Night (final salutation when going to bed)

ArriverderLa. – Good bye to you (Formal) Arriverderci. – Good bye to you (Plural/informal)

Buona Giornata- Have a good day! Salve`- Health (Old trail greeting-informal)


Scusi- Excuse Me

Prego You are welcome

Mi dispiace- I am sorry

Lei Parla inglese?- Do you speak English?

Non parlo l’Italiano I do not speak Italian.

Grazie Hear me… Three syllables Grah-ts’-yeh NOT Gra-z!!!

And if you like what you’ve been reading, like us on Conde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last four years straight.


Monday, October 11th, 2010

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