Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Italy: The Real Deal with Ionian Jewel Tours

It helps when the tour guide is your sister-in-law, Nancy Howard but either way Ionian Jewel Tours

will customize your trip to Italy so that you will feel like you are traveling with a friend, not on a tour.

Nancy grew up spending half of every year in her mother's village, Montepone in the hills of Calabria above Soverato in the Catanzarro region of Italy.  She is fluent in Italian and knows all the unique restaurants, inns, and out of the way spots you might never experience.  Best of all she shares colorful stories of life growing up in Italy and she is related to and/or knows many of the locals.

She took us to Memo's cottage where he prepared a meal of fried tomatoes potatoes and peppers cooked on the outdoor fireplace topped off with his own red wine.

The beach is just across the railroad tracks a short walk through a tunnel.

We met other locals too.

At the bakery down the street we bought fresh warm bread from the bread maker.  He's not in the shop?  No problem a neighbor will lead you to his house so he can come open up and sell you huge round loaves.

 The one on the right is Antonio(the other one is my brother).  He is a well known Calabrese poet.  If you are lucky he will read for you.

Maria makes her own cheese and olive oil right here in her basement.

The fish and cheese come fresh to your door.  And of course the vegetables too.

  Listen to the vendor call out, "zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, big ones, round, ones, thin ones, long ones...just the way you like them."  ;-)

And when his truck must maneuver narrow alley ways and cause a traffic jam of one or two cars, the whole village is there for the entertainment and with not a little advice.

Nature hikes and walks through mountain villages provide all the color that is Italy.

Geraniums cascade down cobbled alleyways. 

The cactus in this southern region are huge.

Swallows build their adobe nests under the overhang of roofs and fly into unshuttered rooms.

And always the colorful laundry, knickers and all.

Who could resist Squillace Pottery for color, especially when you can buy it in the nearby village where it is made from the potters working there.

Of course Italy may be best known for the food and we were treated to everything from the simple homemade bread with fresh ricotta cheese and tomatoes to seafood and other dishes from the region.  We ate on the balcony in the mountains, cafes in tiny villages and restaurants seaside.   And always the cappuccino, the beer, wine and pastries. 

 As  writer I look for details.  The Calabrese cut their bread against their chest, a detail I love.

 My favorite end of meal liqueur?  You can only find it in Calabria!

 The young baker, Stephano gets up at two every morning to begin work at his shop.  Where did he learn to make such delicacies?   He was an apprentice to the owner of the business until he died.  "I learned from the master,"  he says with a twinkle and hands us another free  pastry.
We went to an olive oil tasting dinner sponsored by the Slow Food movement.  It began in Italy!  Watch for a future blog on this organization with a Navajo connection.  We would have never known about the event if we weren't traveling with Nancy.  

So if you want a real taste of Italy try a cooking tour or yoga tour.  Perhaps you have roots in Italy.  Let Nancy help you find them.  Or just go enjoy the beach and the history.  Better yet let Nancy show you the magic you don't even know exists in places you never heard of in Italy.   Check out  Ionian Jewel Tours on Face book.


Anonymous said...

What a luscious sensuous repast -- images, smells, colors, people, and yes, in Italy, the food! Thank you. Nancy Bo Flood

Vicki K said...

I am so excited to be able to go to Italy with Nancy and some friends next spring. She is the real deal and knowing her for 20 + years, she is the sweetest person to let plan your trip. So glad to see this piece, which really tells you what she's all about. Can't wait. Love ya girl !!!!
Vicki :-)

Fred Corazzini said...

Wonderful account of what it is to visit Calabria. Those of us that have done the trip, and now that we have had time to reflect, come up with one thing that makes the trip so special. Lets face it the area has been there for centuries, it is "NANCY" that etches in your memory and your heart what it is to be Calabrese! She has a way of leaving a lasting loving memory! Nancy is a very special person, who has always given her "all" in everything she does. Book with Ionian Jewel Tours now!

Ciao Fred C

Anonymous said...

Calabria is a very special place. Calabria's Patron is a Franciscan Saint by the name of Francesco Di Paola. For this reason many boys were given the name Francesco, as so was my dad. It is no wonder, that many hold on to the motto, Family First, but even before that, God First! God truly did bless this region , and filled it with His Beauty. Just to look out at the magical Ionian Sea one can reflect on God's immense love for us. Only a fool could not see this. Calabria mia, sei sempre nel cuore. Calabria mia in joia e dolore. Sei sempre per me il mio paesino, fresco e puro con amore Divino! Inspirational thoughts by Rosalba Di Montepaone 2013 ©

Quyen said...

This is fantastic!