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4 Months in France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy

Here is a list of my 25 posts of our adventure in Europe. This is like a table of contents of our trip.

What’s To Eat in Paris?

What’s To Eat in Lisbon?

What Else is There to Eat in Lisbon?

What’s to Eat in Seville?

What’s to Do and Eat in Córdoba Spain?

What to Eat and Do Near Sitges Spain?

What’s to Eat in Provence?

Village Hopping in Provence Part 1

Village Hopping in Provence Part 2

What’s to Eat in Corsica?

Where to Go in Corsica?

What’s to Eat in Sardinia?

Where to Go in Sardinia?

What’s to Eat in Sicily?

Discovering Sicily

Beautiful Puglia and It’s Trulli

What and Where is Puglia?

What’s to Eat in Puglia and Where is It?

What’s to Eat and Do in Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast? Part 1 of the Amalfi Coast

Beautiful Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, Part 2 of the Amalfi Coast

Sorrento, Making Limoncello and Beyond, Part 3 of the Amalfi Coast

Sorrento, Herculaneum and Naples, Part 4 of the Amalfi Coast


2 Days in Milano

Istanbul Backstreets and Eats

Istanbul Backstreets and Eats

Our 4 month adventure ended with Istanbul. It seems kinda crazy flying 4 hours further east from Milan to Istanbul for a few days and then back west for an 11 hour flight to Chicago! The tickets with Turkish Air were half the price of the other airlines and they are the highest rated airline in Europe!  And we love Istanbul. We spent a week there last year

This time we also rented an apartment, but in a less traveled neighborhood, FenerBalat. This is like the new Brooklyn. It’s a neighnorhood of immigrants and lower income folks, but is now appreciated by the young professionals. Antique shops, and some are closet size, coffee shops and new renovation. It’s fun, but sketchy too. Here are some pics of the neighborhood.

Our first floor apartment


Men like this collect recyclables all over Istanbul with their carts


Old run down buildings are being bought and renovated in the past few years


Some creative design and a streetwise child


This is the street of our apartment. I’ve been told it was used in the most recent James Bond film! The streets are their living rooms. People sit on the sidewalks and streets all day.

Antique shops are everywhere, of many varieties

This lady bakes in this local bakery in a wood burning oven

Streets like this are slowly being purchased and renovated

This woman is washing off her sidewalk with water

This man walks around selling pastries from his cart 


This man sells and buys old things from his cart.

This man sells sandwiches 

Another salesman of all things but his dogs


People tend to walk in the streets rather than the sidewalks


Kids walking through traffic and waiting for the train to pass

Families walking through traffic on busy Istanbul streets


We did not see one dryer in any of our apartments throughout Europe. Hang drying is everywhere 


Local fast food:

A fried ground lamb burger mixed with spices and breadcrumbs

A fresh baked custard 


This is called Wednesday Market or Caramba, because it’s held on Wednesdays in the Balat neighborhood


Our favorite coffee shop in Balat, Coffee Department, where the owner scientifically roasts coffee beans and has a variety of coffee making styles. I love these floors!

Notice his hand made coffee making apparatus 

And here is the traditional Turkish coffee shop


The shop owner is enjoying his newly purchased reel to reel tape player!

We truly loved our stay in Fener-Balat


We took a lovely boat trip to Prince’s Islands. It was an overcast day, but we enjoyed the sights anyway. The Bosphorus is a busy waterway always filled with fast moving boats of all sizes.


There are 3 Prince’s Islands. We went to the largest one. It reminds me of Mackinac Island. No cars, only horse and buggies, wood frame large houses and very picturesque.   


We took the horse and buggy to the interior of the island where we then walked a mile to the top of the hill for some great views and yummy food!

A mosque/church on this hill With scarfs to cover your head, arms and legs.

A deep fried thin pastry filled with provolone like cheese and qbits of sausage
Another deep fried pastry filled with ricotta like cheese

This is one of the thin pastry doughs used here

Other pastries with cheese and spinach fillings

Making stuffed grape leaves with a grain and vegetable filling


In our Balat neighborhood we ate dinner at Agora, a very nice restaurant. Here is a tray of mezes or small plates: eggplant, thick yogurt with hot peppers, herbed olives, ground pistachio and almond and dill mixture, yogurt with fresh basil and spices, seabass in tomato with cilantro.


This is a main course like meze of sliced lambs liver with sliced onion and peppers

Lamb chops with a grilled pepper


Calamari in a fish sauce

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar. We bought nice quality jewelry this time and last year from EFES


Lunch at the Grand Bazaar is a ground lamb and spice mixture grilled on skewers

Village Salad with a Pomegranate Dressing

A dessert of ground pistachio and honey pudding


Haggia Sophia means Holy Wisdom and was originally a church, then became a mosque, then a church and is now a museum. First built in 537

The Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built in 1609 and is known as the blue mosque because the interior has blue tiles.

Ancient column called the Egyptian Obelisk was built in 1500 bc and moved to Constantinope in 390. This is located in the Hippodrome which is where the ancient chariots would race.


This cistern of Istanbul is one of hundreds and is called the Basilica Cistern and is where the water reserves were stored up through modern times. There was originally a Basilica in its place and after a fire in 476 the cistern was built. It’s a popular place since the latest Dan Brown book was set here.


This is St George’s Church and is the center of the Greek Orthodox Church and home of the Patriarch. There has been a rule that no church should be larger than a mosque, so this church is small.
Mosque and gardens in the Balat-Fener neighborhood called Mosque of Fatih. We learned the government pays for the care and upkeep of the mosques. Interesting to see such a lavish mosque in a poor worn out neighborhood

The flower beds in Istanbul are all curvy and elaborate. They use sod cutters to make the patterns. The designs remind me of Arabic script. 


Washing area for men to clean their hands, face and feet before entering the mosque

My favorite drink only available in Turkey! Ayran, a thin yogurt drink with added salt. Very similar to a salty buttermilk. It’s available everywhere!

Our last night we went to the rooftop bar at the Marmara Pera Hotel. The views were the best in the city and so worthwhile!  We had dinner at the rooftop terrace at Duble Meze in the Palozzo Donizetti Hotel. Fabulous!


Meze in the Palazzo Donizetti also has great views! The food is fantastic! You can see the Marmara Pera Hotel is close by


Duble Meze Menu


Tabouli with yogurt, stuffed mussels and Circassian pate.

Roasted marinated peppers topped with a melted cheese

Chocolate coffee mousse and chocolate cake squares


The next morning we boarded a Turkish Air flight to Chicago which began with Turkish Delight! A sweet memorable end to a glorious 4 month trip!


Two Days in Milano

Milan is the Paris of Italy. Paris is always a good idea as Audrey Hepburn says. I think Milan is too!

Every time we go, we discover something new. This time it was the Boscolo Hotel, the hair make over at Marchianos, the Salsamenteria di Parma Restaurant, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum and of course the shopping and the risotto! It was only 2 days, but every minute was packed!

We always treasure our visits with the Nebulonis! They met us at the Boscolo Hotel where we stayed.


Cool lobby of the Boscolo!

Boscolo Lounge

Boscolo Pool and Spa


Our bedroom at the Boscolo


Cool bedside lamp



Breakfast buffet mini pancakes skewered with ham and cheese at the Boscolo!


Dinner at Salsamenteria di Parma Restaurant. Very authentic food from the food capital of Italy, Emilia-Romagna!

Lambrusco is a sparkling light red wine served cold to balance the heavy flavors of the EmiliaRomagna region.

And at this rustic restaurant it is served in ceramic bowl!

Here are 2 spreads for the rustic crusty bread:Parmesan with olive oil spread and sautéed onion spread

Prosciutto and sausages, specialties of a salumeria, which is an Italian deli.

Lasagne with a meaty ragu and Parmesan cheese

Ravioli filled with zucca, which looks like our pumpkin and tastes like our butternut squash.

And for dessert, Salumi de Chocolat! This is a dessert I have made which is a base of broken vanilla wafer like cookies with chocolate, butter, nuts and powdered sugar. The light color pieces of cookie are to represent the fat chunks of salami! It’s a cookie log that is not baked which is rolled in powdered sugar and then sliced.

My Milano Hair Salon Experience at Marchiano’s


Those aren’t my legs:)

A hair styling involved all these people plus one more!


The Poldi Pezzoli Museum is a private mansion turned into an art museum. Similar to the Fricks in NYC and the Isabella Stewart Gardener in Boston.


Bar at the Boscolo. Very trendy crowd. A buffet of antipasti finger foods were available. The view is of the Duomo

Dinner at a nearby pizzeria for risotto with zucca and shrimp and risotto with red wine and cheese

Milan is a beautiful exciting city that should be on your travel list. Next time I’d go to the Expo!!! It’s like the Worlds Fair of Italy, focusing on FOOD! It’s located in Rho, a town just outside Milan.

Sorrento, Making Limoncello and Beyond

The first evening of our 2nd week in Sorrento, we walked to the Museo Correale of Terranova to see a performance of Italian opera and Neopolitan songs. This venue was a palace full of decorative arts and art collections. The performance was in a room that seated about 100 people. Most of the audience were English. The 2 vocalists  and 3 instrumentalists were phenomenal! A huge sound in a room much smaller than an opera house!


Beautiful views before the concert near the museum.

The next day we visited the San Francesco Church and Cloisters and saw a photography exhibit of local historical mid century memories. And there were stunning views!


Here is a photo of a scene we’ve seen in Sorrento. Young love!

Francesco Church and Cloisters


Yes that is Mt Vesuvius!

Our host, Gino Coppola and his extended family invited us to lunch and a cooking lesson in their home.

Nutnapha finds Italian cooking easy compared to Thai cooking! She enjoys them both!


Youngest Daughter is Mama’s Girl!

Gino and his niece


The clams have been cleaned and scooped out and sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Then broth and white wine are added


Roughly chopped garlic and parsley to saute


Add sliced zucchini


Brown zucchini and drain on paper toweling


Toss with cooked spaghetti and add the clams and broth. Add butter and parmesan and toss repeatedly


These clams are scrubbed and combined in a large pot with roughly chopped garlic and parsley and olive oil. Place over heat and cover till opened.


Serve as a second course with bread. Bread is not served with pasta!!!


Nutnapha Going Out to Coffee on Her Motorbike

One day we drove on our own to the Masa Lubrense region, took a walk to a small monastery up in the hills, and stopped for lunch at a tiny family cafe.

But first we returned to a tiny town, Marina Cantone, which we explored with Sorrento friends 25 years ago


On to the tiny monastery up in the hills.

Fresh orange juice and lemon juice with only water added, NO sugar!



Fried Zucchini Flowers, Pickled Zucchini, Proscuitto and Sausage



A Thin Layering of Tomato Meat Sauce and Cheese Layered Lasagne


Sfogliatella is a Neopolitan Pastry Filled With Ricotta Served With Limoncello


Sfogliatella is a ruffle of layers filled with ricotta that’s sometimes lemon flavored. Sfogliatella means small thin leaves/layers as the pastry resembles stacked leaves.


Gino’s sister gave us lessons in making limoncello. This was one of the highlights of the trip!


The old style basket and rope with a hook for your back


The lessons in making limoncello were a 3 stage process. 


14 lemons

2 liters 96% alcohol (This is grain alcohol in the USA, which you can’t buy it in Michigan, but you can in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Vodka is not a good substitute) 

2 1/2 liters water

1 kg sugar (2.2 pounds) You can add an extra 1/4 pound if you like it sweeter


First pick the lemons when they still have a little green on the ends.



Then peel carefully only the yellow skin, not the white, and place in a large glass container. 



Above is some mandarincello which was delish! They also use oranges and make various blends.

Pour the 96% alcohol over the lemon and let sit a few days


Mix a syrup of sugar and water and heat until dissolved. Cool overnight. Pour into the lemon alcohol mix. Let sit a few days.

The cooled sugar syrup is added to the lemon rind and grain alcohol mixture


The lemon will become like leather.

The texture of the lemon peel has become a leather-like


The Limoncello is ready to sit and develop it’s flavor for several days


Mix the limoncello with a wooden spoon.  Line a funnel with rolled cotton. Collect your containers


With a ladle, pour the limoncello through the cotton and funnel into the glass bottle.


The completed limoncello ready to distribute!


Gino’s sister and her husband


We work well together! 


Thank you Coppola  Family!


We drove 5 hours from Sorrento north to Assisi where we stayed a week. This region is Umbria and is full of stunning landscapes, ancient towns and delicious food and wine!

Here is their most famous church, known as San Francesco, but it’s formal name is The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It is the mother church of the Francescan. It has an adjoining friary, Sacro Convento.

The basilica has 2 levels, an Upper Church and a Lower Church. It’s built into the side of a hill and was begun in 1228 to honor St. Francis who was born in Assisi. He started the Franciscan Order in 1208.

St. Clare was also born there at this time. She founded the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of the Poor Clare’s.

St. Francis was a wealthy young man who gave up his worldly goods and lived in poverty. He started several Catholic Orders who all lived monastic lives in poverty serving the Catholic Church.

There are many churches, monasteries and convents in Assisi as a result of St Francis and St Clare.


This is the Communale, a large open square. The Roman columns of the building are part of the Roman temple. The structure has also been a church. In Roman times it was the Temple of Minerva. In the Middle Ages it was used as a jail. In 1539 it was built as Santa Maria sopra Minerva, a church.

Below this square and building are the archeological ruins and museum of Roman time.


The Roman Forum Museum underneath the Plaza Comunale


This is our apartment. It’s been in the family for centuries.


View from our windows

 Trattoria Degli Ombri was recommended for lunch and is on the Communale Square. Delish!

Roast Rabbit with Olives and Vegetables


Lasagne with crispy sausage, truffles and cream sauce. No tomato!


This a cold salad made from farro, which is a popular Italian grain that reminds me of barley. It’s very light and has tomato, corn, mozzarella and parsley. We bought this at the grocery store deli.

  The Rocca Maggiore Castle has 2 towers connected by a 100 foot tunnel.  The towers offer a beautiful view! A museum is within the main castle.


There are many churches and museums to see including Palazzo Vallemarni Pinacoteca, Oratorio del Pellegrini

One day we drove to 3 towns nearby. 

Trevi is a pretty town known for its olive oil


was lovely and known for their wine! We enjoyed a relaxing lunch at Coccorone

House made Sausages


Fettuchini with Truffles


was another ancient town we enjoyed

We took a day trip to Perugia and had a walking tour. They are known for their major Roman presence and today their chocolate!


This ancient Roman Aqueduct is now a walkway.

Pasticceria Sandri is a lovely cafe dating to 1860.
We enjoyed our morning coffee here so much we returned at lunch for an outdoor buffet!

Our last day in Assisi we explored more churches and had lunch at San Francesco Cafe

Gnocchi with Aubergine


Scamorza, a sheeps milk cheese


Our last evening in Assisi we dined with a view at Metastasio


House made Pasta with Truffles



We say goodbye to Assisi and drive on to Milano.

Cold Beet Soup

This is a soup my Russian grandmother used to make. It’s all vegetables, no meat and served ice cold! It’s the Russian version of Spanish gazpacho and salamorejo!

You can add more of the ingredients you prefer. It’s slightly sweet sour, but you can add more of the vinegar and sugar if you want. Garlic, green onion and dill are other strong flavors you can increase. If you want a chunkier soup, add more beets and cukes!

No sour cream in this recipe!


6 beets with stems and greens

3 cucumbers, not too thick because those are seedy

8 green onions

1 bunch dill fronds, left whole

1 very large clove of garlic

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons white wine or rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Trim the beet stems and leaves from the beet root. Wash all thoroughly in a sink of cold water. Scrub the beet roots with a brush. 

In a very large pot, place the whole scrubbed beet roots and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until a fork can just slightly be inserted. Don’t over cook. They should be slightly crisp.

Lift the beets out of the beet water with a large spoon and place in a colander to cool. 

Place a mesh strainer lined with a paper towel or coffee filter over a large bowl. Pour the beet water over the filter into the bowl.  Reserve strained beet water and cool.  This is the broth. There should be about 8 cups or so.

To make a filter, fold a paper towel in half crosswise and in half again.

Cut up the beet stems into 3 inch lengths. Cut the larger greens in 1/2 or 1/4s. Place stems and greens in a medium pot. Add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Simmer only a minute or so. Strain the liquid through the paper toweling and reserve the greens and stems in a bowl to cool.

Peel the beets with a paring knife. Cut in 1/2, then slice and then cut into julienne strips. Reserve in a bowl.

Wash and peel the cukes. Slice and julienne or cut into quarters and then slice into chunks. Reserve in a bowl.

Wash and slice the green onion. Reserve in a bowl.

Mince the very large clove of garlic. Add 1/2 tablespoon of the 2 tablespoons of salt and mince to a paste. Reserve.


In a very large bowl with a lid or a pot combine all the ingredients with a spoon. Add more salt, sugar, vinegar, garlic, green onion to taste. Cover and chill overnight and serve ice cold with a whole grain European style bread. Leave the dill in the container. Don’t add it to the serving bowl.

This is so colorful and nice to look at I like to store it in clear glass quart size canning jars In the frig. Enjoy!

Sorrento, Herculaneum and Naples, Part 4 of the Amalfi Coast

From Sorrento we took the Circumvesuviana Train to Ercolano/Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius. At the train stop in Ercolano, the Italian version of Herculanum, we took the bus up many switchbacks to Mount Vesuvius. It was a mountainous trip up through thick forests until we arrived above the tree line.

Upon getting off the bus we then walked up the gravel like path with intense wild flowers and shrubby plants to the Mount Vesuvius Crater. It was fantastic! It is a live volcano with steam coming out of the crater! The views were of Naples and the sea! It was foggy up there though.


After walking and slipping down the lava rock path and taking the bus back down to Ercolano, we stopped for an outdoor lunch at a nice family pizzeria just outside of the archeological park entrance.

The caprese salad and bufalo mozzarella pizza were as good as it gets!


was the town where all the wealthy people lived. They were hit by the volcano after Pompei. Because of the deep pyroclastic material which covered it, organic objects such as wood beams, roofs, beds, doors, food and 300 bodies were preserved.  Only 1/4 of Ercolano is uncovered. The rest of it is under the modern city. I would recommend Ercolano over Pompei!



The train ride back was hot, but we met interesting fellow travelers.

The next day we took a trip to Napoli, the Italian version of Naples. This was our 2nd trip there this week! The first was a 3 hour car ride, a closed museum and church, but a nice tour of the city by Pietro.

This time we took the boat from Sorrento to Naples! Beautiful 1 hour ride along the coast! We met Caroline and Joe at the Renaissance Marriott. Cool art glass exhibit in the lobby. Had lunch and walked around Naples. Saw the Veiled Christ at the Museo Cappella Sansevero. The Naples National Archeological Museum would have been a good stop.

Leaving Sorrento



Mount Vesuvius


Castle Nuovo in Naples


Brilliant Colored Apricots

A Musical Serenade at Lunch


Pizza in Napoli of Course! The Home of Pizza!


Godfather Images



Napoli Style!



Pompeii Style Jewelry


Proseco at the Renaissance Marriott



We took the boat back to Sorrento and had a lovely dinner at ILBuco. Very fancy!

A curved cracker with a brandada of swordfish





Black Squid (made with squid ink) and White Squid


Lobster over Polenta


Bluefish with a pistachio crust


Roasted Lamb

 Good bye Amalfi Coast! It’s been unforgettable! On to Assisi!


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