How To Host an al Fresco Tuscan-Themed Lunch Party

Catered Sunday Lunch in a Private Tuscan Villa

Primavera in Italy calls for celebrations of the beautiful Spring-Time sunshine and cool breezes.  What better way to do that than with a 3-hour long lunch with friends and family out in the grounds!  One of my favorite pastimes in Italy is eating & Italians sure know how to throw a lunch party! Viene a pranzo da me!

Recently I attended a celebratory lunch that was catered and served poolside in a luxurious Tuscan Villa in the country-side.  Take these notes on how to accomplish a Tuscan Themed Lunch with friends and family:

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Are you at Risk of Identity Theft while on Vacation?

Could you be an easy target for Identity Theft?
Do you put your mail on Vacation Hold in the USPS while on vacation?
Do you use the same passwords for multiple accounts?
Do you still use the same online passwords from years ago?
Do you use your full real name on Social Media Sites?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, You ARE an easy target for Identity Theft.
I became a Victim of Identity Theft while I was on vacation, racking up $10,000 in debt.

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Top 5 tips to Survive Public Restrooms in Italy

Traveling in Italy is one of the most amazing experiences in life, BUT make your trip better with these travel tips beforehand:
1-   Bathroom Doors in Italy are almost always shut, often with a rickety door latch.  First try by pulling or pushing really hard on the door handle.  If you think its locked, Knock loudly on the door.  If you hear, “occupato!” then someone is in there. I can’t tell you how many times I have waited outside of an empty bathroom only to realize the door handle was stuck.
2-   Door Signs on Bathrooms in Italy
Multi-Sex Bathroom – Bagno or Toilette or WC (Water Closet) or Gabinetto
Men’s bathroom- Uomo or Signori
Women’s bathroom- Donna or Signore
***Pay attention to the “I” or the “E”!!! I have gone into the men’s bagno more than 100 times by mistake of not reading the sign correctly! ~oops!
3-   Carry a pack of tissues in your pocket going to the bathroom. Usually there will be NO toilet paper… AND almost never have hand soap or paper towels.  They might have a hand dryer from 1970 that will take you an hour to dry your hands.
4-   Pay Per Pee – Keep an EURO or small change in your pocket bc most public restrooms have a bathroom attendant who demands that you leave change for the use of the bagno, especially in rest stops.  You may have to insert money into a machine before entering.  But these are usually the cleanest best bathrooms!
5-   Flushing the toilet in Italy -There is a different mechanism in almost every toilet in Italy.  Sometimes you will push a pedal on the floor, PREMERE or push a plastic round button on the wall, Pull a handle from the ceiling, pull up a little knob on the back of the toilet, or push a large rectangular button made of stainless steel in the wall… be prepared to be confused as to how to rid of your waste.  BEWARE of the “SQUAT” or La Turka!!!
*** Most bathrooms in Italy are not very well marked with directional signs and usually you have to ask, “Dove’ il Bagno?”   Where is the restroom?
9 times out of ten, “Il Bagno” {the bathroom} is “In fondo a destra” {in the back in the right}.  If its not on the right, check  “a sinistra” {the left}.
***  Forget everything you know about public bathroom cleanliness!

 

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

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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?
Passport
1-Pen
Pair of socks
Clean pair of Underwear
1-Scarf
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
Sunglasses
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