Top 10 Tips on How to Dine in Italy like a True Italiano

How to Dine like a Real Italiano

1   Aperitivo – You can have a full dinner of light appetizers (usually pizza, pasta and bread based) when you pay for one drink in a bar or a lounge.  In any town in Italy ask the locals about the APERITIVO spot.  This is a usually the most swank bar or a lounge that entices people to come for a drink by spreading out an elaborate buffet on the bar starting around 6:30 pm until about 9 pm.  It’s the place where you come to meet your friends and have a cocktail or a glass of wine before heading off to dinner.  Today with Italy’s recession it has turned into the place you meet your friends to drink and eat for free.  The buffet is included for free with the purchase of just 1 drink.  Try a Negroni!

Aperitivo in Italy

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Volare! Travel Tips to Fly to your Destination Stress-Free


The dreaded part about going on a vacation is often all the preparation and time mounting up to actually arriving there.  Stuffing all the necessary belongings into a tiny suitcase, careful not to forget anything.  Arriving to the airport two hours in advance, security lines, disgruntled airline employees.  Sitting still for 10 hours-straight stuffed like a sardine in a tiny aircraft seat, crying infants, terrible airline food, crooked necks from trying to sleep sitting up.  Arriving only to find lost luggage or a delayed second leg.

 I have a travel routine that works for me to make Airline Travel Day smooth sailing.  It works for me and hopefully can help you arrive in style, ready to be immersed in your new surroundings.
The Day Before Travel
  • Check the weather of my travel destination before I begin to pack –  Rain Jacket & umbrella, winter gloves & scarf, sunscreen & bikini. Be sure to pack your suitcase the day before you are scheduled to fly out.  That will give you time to add anything that you have forgotten as it comes to you.  It also allows you to wake up on travel day already relaxed and ready to go.
  • Weigh my luggage on my bathroom scale.  I don’t want to get to the airport and realize I have to take something out bc it is over the weight limit.  Check with the airline that you are flying to see what the weight limit is for checked bags and pack accordingly.
  • I have my frequent flyer airline “800 number” programmed in my iPhone under my favorites & I have the airlines app on all my iDevices.  This way I am in direct contact with my airline.  I am able to check-in online 24 hours in advance using my smart phone.  I get automatic updates any time there is a delay or gate change or any other update.  I call the airline or look online to double check my seat assignment to see if there could be something more comfortable.  Most often now a days flights are fully booked, but it doesn’t hurt to check.


  • I also check what type of aircraft I will be flying on.  Understanding what aircraft means knowing if I will have my own personal entertainment monitor.  If I have one in my seat, I won’t bother to download too many movies on my iPad.  I used to not look and would end up paying for & downloading the same movies that were available free to me on the flight.  If there is no personal entertainment device, I download at least three movies to be sure that I am not stuck watching some idiotic film.
  • Get Cash! If I am going to a different country, I exchange dollars for the local currency at my bank.  DO NOT EXCHANGE MONEY IN THE AIRPORT! Its a total rip off and they will take a huge commission.  If you forget to exchange your dollars, get cash out from an ATM in the new country.  That is the other best option for not getting ripped off.  Then use your credit card as much as possible bc your Credit Card will give you a pretty fair exchange rate, however they will tack on a foreign exchange fee.
  • Call my Credit Cards to let them know what countries I plan to visit and the duration of my stay.  Otherwise I will be in the middle of a shopping spree and have my card blocked by the first international transaction.  Then I am stuck either with no credit card or on the phone with the credit card company trying to get everything back up and running.
  • Buy snacks at the grocery store to keep in my carry-on.  I am not a fan of airline food and usually do not eat what is served on the plane.  It usually causes some type of stomach discomfort, makes me feel super-full for days, or just tastes gross.  I buy my snacks at the grocery store bc if I wait and buy them at the airport, I will be paying double for junk food.
  • I charge all of my iDevices fully and put all of my charges in a bag in my carry-on.
  • Get a good nights sleep.  I don’t want to be any more distressed on a long cramped flight.
Travel Day
  • Get dressed with the Security Line & sleeping in a chair in mind.  I never wear too much metal jewelry, belts, or clunky shoes that I can’t just slip on or off.  I try to make it fast and easy for me & everyone else in the security line.  I wear stylish but comfortable clothes.  I find that I get better service if I am dressed nicely… AND I sleep better in a sports bra and cotton clothes.  Don’t wear anything that you think you might want to take off to sleep!  I had this uncomfortable bangle one time, that I took off and left in the airplane, gone gone jewelry!
  • Turn on the news and see what is going on in the world, be it severe weather or God For Bid, Airline Drama.
  • Check the Flight Status. I like to use the *** Flight Tracker APP on my iPhone.  It shows you if there are any flight delays and real time flying information for my scheduled flight.
  • If my flight is not too early, I always make time to work out and get my body ready to sit still in an upright position for hours on end.  I always go for a long walk or get into the gym to stretch out my body and tire myself out so that sitting still for so long will be received as more of a break than a punishment.  Since I have back discomfort from sitting to long, I prefer to get into the Pilates, Yoga Or Barre studio to strengthen my core on flying day.  It makes a big difference on long international flights.
  • I like to stop at a good restaurant with my best friends or loved ones on the way to the airport.  I make it an event with at least two hours to sit leisurely and relax with my company.  We laugh and catch up over a bottle of wine & nibble on appetizers.  I have a full meal to tide me over until I arrive in my destination.  The snacks in the carry-on are for the plane ride.  Its a great way to say goodbye to my loved ones and plan what we will be doing the next time we see each other.
  • I arrive to the airport two hours before my international flight is scheduled to arrive, one for domestic.  I don’t want to be that person running through the airport holding up the flight.  Plus you never know what the security line will be like in the airport.   I always check in curbside outside of the airport with the Sky Captains if that is available.  There is usually no line & I have never had met a disgruntled Sky Cap.  Maybe thats bc they work for tips, so be sure to give them at least $5 for assisting you!
  • I call my mother and let her know how much I love her!
Flying Time
  • Once on the plane, shoes off, socks on and try to get comfortable.  I leave in arms reach my iPad and my travel bag (it contains earphones, eye mask, hand lotion, lip balm, and my Advil PM).  I want to have everything I need close by so as not to disturb fellow travelers by constantly getting up and opening and closing the overhead bin.
  • I read or write or watch a movie in the first couple of hours.  Then I have about two glasses of wine and my snacks during the food and beverage service.  As the flight attendants have served and removed all the food trays, I take 2 Advil Pm and settle into another movie, with the hopes of dozing off for the duration of the flight!
  • Wake up feeling somewhat rested and ready to begin the fun part of the travel!!!
What’s in My Carry On?
Pair of socks
Clean pair of Underwear
1-Light Weight Wrinkle Free Sweater
an eye-mask
2 Advil PM
1 oz Hand Lotion
Roll On Eye Moisturizer
Travel Size Perfume
Emergency Make-Up
Toothbrush & ToothPaste
iPad with pre-loaded Movies, iBooks & iMagazines
Snacks, usually nuts & gummy bears or jelly beans
Gum for popping landing ears
Ear Phones
A travel Guide if I am traveling to a new destination
And a travel Pillow ONLY if I have space, they have the kind that you can blow up and deflate which is great for space

Travels to a Nursing Home

Grandma and Dana Bergman

If you have never stepped foot in a Nursing Home, let me tell you that its NOT an easy place for anyone to enter, especially for the people who reside there.  For you and me, we take it as scary entrance into Old and Deathdom Valley.  For those who move in, its taken as an entrance into hell and punishment, looking at the other residents as old and decrepit… seeing themselves as young and able.  As you enter, you are abruptly welcomed with a stench of medicines, cleaning products, and an indescribable funk.  Walking the halls are women in wheelchairs clutching on to baby dolls,  people screaming and singing strange songs to no one, men asking you “Where is my room?”  It’s heartbreaking, frightening and eye opening.

I’d like to share the story of how one musician dedicates his time to bring smiles and joy to these elderly residents.  Making their day as he comes to perform concerts with his guitar and his canine companion.  He brings the sunshine and happiness!
My travels have brought me to Asheville, NC.  We are celebrating mommy’s birthday – Happy Birthday dahhhhling – You Look of so Fabulous at 41, again!
Also we are visiting granny in the nursing home, who does not realize today is her daughter’s birthday.  Grandma is a very old 80 year old woman; I mean that in a way that there are very much younger 80 year olds out there still actively with it who have a lot more going for them.  Today, Grandma cannot remember what she had for lunch; she can barely hear you when you shout; she cannot sit, stand, go to the bathroom, yet alone take off her sweater by herself.  Going to the dining hall, we have to cut her food up for her in tiny bite-sized pieces, put a bib around her neck, and remind her not to stick her fingers in her mouth to pull out the food that she can’t swallow.  She wants us to take her to the bathroom, but we can’t take her alone anymore bc the nursing home is afraid that she may fall and break her bones.  Her muscle memory is gone to the point that she really does not remember how to swallow or make her legs stand up.  It breaks our heart and is so hard to see.  Shakespeare was so correct and I fear to see it today, my beautiful grandmother,
“That ends this strange eventful history,
Is Second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” (Shakespeare, As You Like It”)
I am comforted in the nurses attempt to make my grandmother smile, he pretends that her teeth are talking to her after he helps her take them out of her mouth to clean them.  She toothlessly laughs and asks him, “Does your wife enjoy your sense of humor?”
Yesterday when she was feeling pretty rotten and in pain, I heard her calling out to Jesus, to God to come in there and help her get off the toilet by herself. I had never heard her do this and it quite frightens me.  She repeats at the top of her lungs, “Oh Jesus!  Oh God help me.  Oh Jesus come help me.  Oh God I don’t know what to do.  Oh Jesus… Oh God help me!”
The same good-hearted nurse later tells me, “On her bad days when she cries out to Jesus to come to help her, I come in there I put out my hand for a handshake and introduce myself as Jesus.  It gets her out of her zone.”  That brings a smile to my face.  He truly cares and really wants to help comfort her.
After he leaves her room, after he has “toileted her”, and changed her, she secretly tells me how cute she thinks he is.  He is an angel, and I am relieved that she is really fond of him and his cute funny ways.  She is so with it at times like these, so sweet and I see the grandmother that I remember.
We talk about grandmothers life with her recalling all of the details.  How she spent 29 years working as a nurse at the army hospital working long hard hours working with the alcohol and drug addicted patients.  She had so much patience with her patients.  They all lived at the army hospital as their last attempt before being discharged from the army.  These strong army men who fought battles in war had to pass grandmas test, or they were released dishonorably from the army forever.  She was award many great accomplishment achievement award for her time and great work.  She was and is an amazing woman!  Only now she is at the mercy of her nurses.
Tonight I took her to the 6 o’clock concert in the nursing home.  By some strange coincident… or fate, it happens to be the same musician as the Christmas singer back four months ago, my last visit.  This is only his second time singing for the residents here.  I think he is amazing grace, his devotion and compassion for these forgotten residents is inspiring.  If I could sing or capture the spirit of these people like he does I would devote my time as he does. His name is Dana Bergman and promotes “Songs for Seniors” and “Songs of Faith and Praise” and “Songs and Ballads from the 40’s through the 70’s.” He knows his audience and speaks to them with words that they hear and understand.  His stage presence is such that he makes full on eye contact with everyone in the audience, engaging every member.  He makes it a special point to walk through the audience kneeling down on one knee to sing a special lyric or chorus to one special person at a time, always well received.  It makes the difference.  He sings songs that they know and can sing and dance in the chairs along to.  While singing a happy song, he approaches the woman in the front clapping and tapping her feet to the beat.  He calls her Happy Feet, and she applauds with great energy.  She craves and needs this attention.  Sitting in front of me were two women, eighty or ninety-something… I don’t know them…  But the woman in the wheel chair blindly reached her hand out to her neighbor in the red sweater for compassion.  Red sweater cradled her neighbors hand and gave it a kiss.  They held hands for the rest of his songs.
Just remember that today when you feel like you need attention, wait till you are 80 with barely anyone arond you for days on end, how much more attention you will crave.  Respect your elders and appreciate all of the challenges that they have paved for you.  Find peace and beauty in everything around you.  Capture every moment.
Life is short, enjoy the music.
DanaBergmanAcousticGuitar + FaceBook page
Dana Bergman presents Songs for Seniors
Songs of Faith and Praise as well as light Folk/Rock Classics
Music For All Occasions!

We all Gotta Start Somewhere

For my first blog entry it seems only fitting to start with a road trip to my HOMETOWN of Augusta GA … Or Disgusta as I call it. But don’t get any ideas thinking that you can bad talk my hometown, it’s like you saying my mamma is fat… And don’t no body say nothing bad about my mamma!!!   Truthfully, I love coming back home to Augusta GA.  It’s where I spent the first part of my life, in and around… And I love Augusta GA.
Downtown Augusta GA preparing for the wave of chaos, that which is called the Masters, one of the most important golf tournaments in the world.  I remember as a little girl, that the town turned new in one week of the year, they bring out new street signs that they keep stored and cleaned year round, only bringing out for this week of the year, all the blowers come out to blow away all the pollen and dust from the streets.  It’s the most magical week in Augusta. Restaurants extend their hours, bring out their best silverware.
When you stay in Augusta, be sure to visit broad street in downtown. Ive seen such a revival downtown, and I my opinion we owe all of the life and energy to two places that started it all back in. The late 90’s. You have to stop in the Soul bar and the Pizza Joint.  Yes I am partial to theme both, I was one of the original pizza joint waitresses back in 1996, when downtown was nothing more than wig shops, skanky furniture stores and bunk insurance companies. Today I barely recognize it. But I’m proud to have been there to see this huge transformation from rags to riches. Broad st Augusta … you got it going on baby! Work it, keep,up the good work! XOXO



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