Joyce Falcone

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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.

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Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Joyce Falcone-The Italian Concierge to their prestigious "A-List" for her knowledge of Italy for the fourth straight year.

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There is no place like Venice. Of all the regions in Italy I can’t wait to get to Venice time and again. I make sure that I visit at least twice a year and try to plan that one of those times during the off season. ( November- Late January before Carnival), the crowds are smaller and you can actually see in the windows of the chic shops as you pass by. My next trip will be February, and I can’t wait.

One of my favorite five star luxury hotels in Venice  are Bauer Il Palazzo If you like being on the Grand Canale, in old world luxury and near the chic shops, then Bauer Il Palazzo is for you. Now do not be confused. The Bauer also has Bauer     L’ Hotel ( which is not my favorite and is attached to street side and feels more commercial and contemporary). But if you are looking for plush, lush, deep burgundy reds, and polished silver, heavy gold corded tassels, then try The Bauer, the right location. For a ultimate villa experience in Venice, the Bauer also owns the Villa F across the canale in sleepy Giudeca.  Villa F can host you and twenty friends in an intimate and eloquent private venue complete with staff and private boat.

Cipriani- The ultimate in refined hospitality and style.  How can one go to Venice and not discuss the iconic family of hotelliers Arrigo Cipriani? Dod you require a swimming pool and grounds? Then Cipriani is for you.   When last there, they had preserved a wing, in 50’s style exactly as it was.......50 years ago. Kitch.   The remainder of the rooms have been renovated.  The property lovely and the service.... well he wrote the book on service not servitude didn’t he?

As far as dining at Harry’s bar... well I would say pass.  If you must go, then go because it is an icon and not for the food.   The decor is great though, the bill was not. I am sure if you were there in 1962 it was "the spot".   Go and drink,  order  a Bellini! But dine with Diane and Cesare  at AL Covo divine and dining.   Better to  reserve ahead.

Back to hotels in the five star category,   though lovely, I have trouble with booking Hotel Daniele or Palazzina Grassi not that I do not like them, they are both wonderful. I was at the opening of Palazzina Grazzi when Philip Stark and entourage were there for the preliminary opening. Had I known I was going,  I would have change clothes.  It is cozy and hip and colorful with wonderful decorate touches  to  enhance the room into an intimate space.   But to stay there, I would not, rooms were small, and it is tucked away though nicely reachable by boat.

THE TOURIST ZONE- The majority of  tourists visit and stay in  the  area between St Marks and Rialto Bridge.  These two areas  are the most crowded,  and do not reflect the true temperment of the city. My advice is to walk and visit Castello,  San Polo and Dorsoduro.   One of my favorite sestiere is Dorsoduro. It is only a 15 minute walk to Piazza San Marco, and begins by crossing  the Accademia bridge.

TRAGHETTI- A piece of Venetian History

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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 onConde Nast Traveler’s Travel Specialists List, where I’ve appeared for the last four years straight.

Joyce Falcone-The Italian Concierge

Joyce Falcone

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