Still More Must See Italian Towns Off the Beaten Path

Italy is a very popular destination no matter what time of year.  I seriously doubt they have an off season like other vacation spots.  I’ve only seen 2 seasons, busy and busier.  It’s said to be empty in August during the dog days of summer when the Italians leave the cities to head for the shores.  Yes it’s less busy in August mostly because the natives are on holiday so you may find shops and restaurants closed for the month, this is true in the smaller towns and cities, not so much in the major ones.  But although the locals have fled the heat the tourists still flock to the big cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice.  That’s why we like to leave the big crowded cities and head over to these 5 Italian towns off the beaten path.

Mind you though we head for the less crowded Italian towns off the beaten path it doesn’t necessarily mean we stay there for days on end, some of them don’t have the accommodations we prefer, like large hotels with air conditioning!  We usually use one of the cities as a hub and take day trips from there when possible.  For us this works out better, but if you’re ok with small hotels, B&Bs, and other types of accommodations then go for it!

Today I’m sharing my 5 favorite Italian towns off the beaten path.  They are by no means the only Italian towns off the beaten path that are worth a visit; in fact in my opinion all Italian towns are worth the visit!

Though many of them don’t boast the large museums and famous art work you’ll find in the larger cities, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find in many of them.  From quiet piazzas, little trattorias serving awesome regional specialties, quaint wineries where you can participate in the harvest, and interesting festivals and events that some towns are known for.


Matera is a city in the Basilicata region in Southern Italy.   The modern city of Matera is pretty much a typical town and there’s not a whole lot to do there. It does however boast a very nice pedestrian free zone that connects the two Sasso Districts, Sassi Barisano and Sassi Caveoso.  This zone is lined with shops, restaurants, and churches including the cathedral.  But the main attraction in this city are the Sasso Districts.

Matera  or more specifically the Sassi di Matera (meaning stones of Matera) in my opinion is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets.  Probably because during the years between the late 1950’s to the early 1990’s Italy would have liked to hide the town from the map.

Matera is definitely off the beaten path.  It’s not so easily accessible and is not on every tourist’s bucket list, although that is changing!  Thanks to Hollywood Matera is getting noticed!  Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ and the most recent Wonder Woman film were both filmed there.

The couple of times we visited Matera it was basically empty, we went in the fall and spring, a great time to go weather wise, specially if you want to walk down to the Sassi.   We didn’t see a lot of tourists in the modern and old sections of the city.  There were a handful of tour groups milling around, but finding a seat at one of the restaurants wasn’t difficult at all!

Matera is said to be the third oldest continuously inhabited place on earth.  Proof of its habitation dates back to the Paleolithic age, yes that’s caveman days, when ancient man found shelter in the caves that dot the walls of the gorge.

Over the years inhabitants built homes, shops, wells, and churches in the caves.  By digging in the soft tufa rock they were able create new spaces and enlarge existing ones.  The cave dwellings and churches don’t look like caves from the outside, everyone one of them has an intricate facade and many are grouped into little “neighborhoods” where several homes share a courtyard.

This worked out well for many years until the town became over populated and living conditions became very unsanitary.  People were living stacked in the caves with no running water, electricity, and poor ventilation; and raw sewage was literally running through the streets.  Diseases were rampant and the infant mortality rate was very high.  It became the shame of Italy and so in the late 1950’s residents, many forcibly, were moved to the modern city above.

The Sasso district was left abandoned for years until some enterprising folks along with help from the government began transforming the caves into luxury hotels, shops, and restaurants.  This pretty much started after the Sasso and the Rupestrian (stone) churches within all became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  So slowly the tourists are beginning to trickle in.  But the tourists that do go are very determined ones because as I said it is quite off the beaten path.

Getting to Matera isn’t difficult if you’re staying in Bari and the surrounding area.  It is connected by light rail the FAL line to Bari.  You can take this very slow train from the FAL tracks located in Bari’s main train station to Matera, that’s the end of the line.  Depending on the train you might have to transfer in Altamura  but no worries, the trains are marked and there are only 2 tracks in Altamura.

For more information on Matera check out my article here!


Another one of my favorite Italian towns off the beaten path is Bolzano.  Again it’s not on every tourist bucket list and those that do make it up to Bolzano are pretty determined tourists.

Bolzano is in the South Tryol region of Northern Italy.  It’s not easily accessible, but can be reached by public transportation for those with a mind to do so.

Located in the the Dolomites/ Italian Alps Bolzano can get fairly busy in the winter as there are ski lodges up in the mountain top.  It’s also a popular place for hikers as there are many beautiful trails in the area.  But having said that it’s still a pretty quiet town, specially in the early fall and late spring when the ski season is over.

Even if you’re not into winter sports or even hiking or trekking there are still plenty of things to do in Bolzano.  You can visit Otzi the iceman, he resides in a freezer in the archaeological museum in town.  His well preserved body was discovered in ice in the Italian Alps and the museum is pretty much dedicated to studying ice mummies.  You can also visit the cathedral located across from the town’s main square, Piazza Walter, some castles in the area, ride the cable car up to Sopra Bolzano where there is a bee museum and other interesting sites, you can dine in the many restaurants, and of course shop in the mall and the open markets.  Or you can stroll by the river and relax in the park along side it.  It’s a wonderful spot for a picnic!

Bolzano is an Italian town with a German feel.  The residents speak both languages, the buildings look more German than Italian, some folks do dress in lederhosen, and the cuisine features both Italian and German/Austrian dishes.

You can get to Bolzano by train from Italy, Germany, and Austrian.  From Northern Italy there is a high speed train that leaves from Verona Porta Nuova station.  The ride takes just under an hour and a half.

For more information on Bolzano check out my article here!


Padua is a town located in the Veneto region, a train ride away from Venice.

It’s a college town that’s a bit off the beaten path, at least the tourists don’t crowd there as they do in nearby Venice and Verona.  It does get a bit busy when there are festivals and concerts in town, but other than that it’s pretty quiet.

There are several churches and chapels in town that are worth visiting, but to me the best feature is the Prato della Valle, the oval green space in the middle of town.  It is a huge space said to be one of Europe’s oldest and largest squares, even though it’s oval shape it’s still considered a square.  It is bordered by a moat and is accessible by crossing one of the 4 bridges. Positioned around the moat are statues of Padova’s important citizens.  I love this place!  It’s a great place to let kids run around!

The square has some restaurants and bars around it, but for more food choices and shopping you can wander the shaded streets that connect the square to the museums and university.  Like I said it’s hardly ever crowded and is a relaxing place to spend half the day just wandering and sipping wine with a fine meal in one of its many restaurants.

For more information on Padua check out my article here!


Vicenza is a city in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.  It’s about a 45 minute train ride away from Venice.

For those interested in architecture, particularly the designs of Palladio then Vicenza is on their bucket list.  This little Italian town is home to most of Palladio’s work.

Here you’ll find his Basillica, Teatro Olipico, La Rotonda (the villa that inspired Thomas Jefferson when he designed Montecello), and a handful of other villas.

You can also make your way up to Monte Berico where you’ll find a church and a spectacular view of the town below.  Other tourist sites in the area include a museum dedicated to all things Palladio, wineries, olive groves and presses, and a lively market in the main square on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

For more information on Vicenza read my article here!


Marostica is a town on the side of a hill in the Vicenza province in Northern Italy’s Veneto region.  It’s claim to fame is its live chess game the town puts on ever 2 years – every even year to be exact.

Yes a live chess game right in the main town square in front of the castle.  Very Alice in Wonderland!  It is definitely an Italian town off the beaten path!  It’s not the easiest place to get to unless you have a car.  The closest train station is in Bassano del Grappa and from there you must take the bus to Marostica.  But unless the chess festival is going on (September on even numbered years) you’ll more than likely have the town to yourself.  There’s not much to do there, specially when there are no chess matches, but you can explore the 2 castles and the churches then relax at the town square.  Very restful!  A great place to get away from the maddening crowds!

Ready for an Italian adventure?  Call Savvy Nana Travel, we’ll help you plan an adventure of a lifetime!





5 Unique Activities  to Really Experience France

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience France


So you’re heading to France, yay!  That’s one more place to cross off the bucket list right?

But is that all a trip to France is all about?  Is all you want are a few selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, a mind numbing tour of the Louvre and the D’Orsay, and perhaps a glass of wine and a crepe?  If it is then travel on and good luck!  But if you’re looking for ways to really experience France then read on.

Of course you should visit the Louvre and the D’Orsay and any of the many museums you want in Paris and believe me Paris is not lacking in museums!  And by all means take your photo in front of the Eiffel Tower and do all the touristy things one expects to do in Paris.  But for a truly unique experience in France try at least one of these activities; I promise you won’t regret it; and it will be memorable!


Eiffel Tower Dining

Don’t just climb up the Eiffel Tower, take the time to dine at one of the restaurants located in the tower.

There are several restaurants, bars, and shops in the tower that should suit everyone’s taste and budget.  Treat yourself to seasonal french cuisine at The 58 Eiffel Tower located on the first floor.  This is where you can have an upscale picnic lunch or chic bistro dining.  Or indulge yourself at The Jules Verne located on the second floor Michelin starred chefs offer mouth watering gourmet cuisine.  For smaller budgets check out the buffets for fine quality snacks they are located on the esplanade and the first and second floors.  Or you can have a drink or two at the Champagne Bar located on the top where you can enjoy unparalleled views of the city.

The restaurants require reservations or tours.  Contact Savvy Nana to help you plan your Eiffel Tower dining experience.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Up, Up, and Away! For a truly memorable experience float above the French countryside in a hot air balloon,  Enjoy a bird’s eye view of palaces, gardens, farms, villages, and chateaux as you gently glide over Fountainbleu or the Loire Valley in a colorful balloon.

Sunrise and Sunset rides are offered and depart from various locations around the country.

Contact Savvy Nana to help you plan your hot air balloon ride in France!


Historic Champagne Cave Tour & Tastings

Many champagne houses located in the Champagne region of France offer cellar or cave tours and champagne tastings; in fact some offer their tours free of charge.  But there are only a handful of Champagne houses that store their bubbly in historic chalk caves that date back to the 4th. Century and even fewer still that rests on the property of a 13th. Century abbey as well.  (There’s only one that fits both descriptions, Tattinger!)

Rest assured that these historic champagne caves now designated historic monuments and UNESCO heritage sites are worth the visit.  Not only will you learn the history of the sparkling drink and how it’s made, at the end of the tour you  get to sample this lofty beverage too!

Even if you’re not a champagne drinker one sip of this glorious drink straight from the caves will turn you into a big fan.  Like Dom Perignon, the 17th. century monk whose contributions are important to the production and quality of the bubbly, supposedly said when he took his first sip “I am tasting the stars!”  Fine French champagnes is really like tasting stars!

Contact Savvy Nana to plan your historic champagne cave tour and tasting!

French Pastry Making Class

France is known for its delicious french pastries, specially macaroons and puff pastry.  So indulge your sweet tooth and learn how to make delicious french pastries from master pastry chefs in and around Paris.  Take a macaroon or pastry making class taught by a master chef or at one of the famous patisseries in town like Laduree.

Of course the best part of the class is tasting your creations!  Contact Savvy Nana to plan your pastry making adventure in France!

Market Days

As in most of Europe Market Days in France are a way of life.  Most of the locals use the open air markets to shop for much of their daily needs like fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meat and poultry, and so much more.

Most markets are held in the town’s main squares where all sorts of vendors set up stalls to display their wares.  In many towns vendors have schedules and set up specific days for instance Mondays could be for food vendors, Wednesdays for general merchandise, and Saturdays for antiques, books, and other collectables.   Check with your hotel or on line for the market schedules in the towns you’ll be visiting.

If you’re lucky enough to be in France during the Christmas season be sure to wander around the Christmas Markets, many of the larger ones are in the Northern region not far from the German border.  These markets are huge events that have rides, shows, food kiosks, and of course handicrafts for sale.

Ready to plan your vacation in France?  Call Savvy Nana for custom itineraries!





5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy

Italy!  It’s a country that’s on just about everyone’s “bucket list”.  Sure you want to go to Italy to see the sights, visit museums, and of course eat, eat, eat!  But is taking selfies in front of the Vatican or the Colosseum, or grabbing a slice of pizza and a cup of gelato on the run really your idea of an Italian vacation?  If it is then go for it!  But if you want to really experience Italy read on!  Here are 5 unique activities to really experience Italy!

Some of these activities are seasonal, but hey, you haven’t booked yet right?  So plan your Italy vacation to be able to take part in at least one of these 5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy!

5 unique activities to really experience italyVendemmia 

Think Lucy and Ethel stomping grapes in one of the “I Love Lucy” shows and plan your Italian vacation between late August and very early October.  That’s the Grape Harvest season or Vendemmia in most of Italy.

The exact dates vary from year to year and from place to place, depending on the weather.  But it’s safe to say that by September the grape harvest is taking place in most of the countries vineyards.

Many towns and vineyards throughout the country host grape harvest festivals.  Vineyards open their gates and fields to the public for some fun, food, and of course drink.  For the price of an admission ticket you can wander thru rows of grape vines, pick grapes, stomp them in huge wooden vats, then enjoy locally prepared food from antipasti to dolci, and of course taste the various wines the vineyard or winery offers.  Several glasses of wine are usually included in the ticket price but you can buy bottles to take home or drink during the event at the vineyard.  Trust me there will be more than enough wine to go around!

Click here to learn more about Grape Harvest in Italy!


5 Unique Activities to Really Experience ItalyOlive Groves & Olive Oil Factory

If you find yourself in Italy sometime between mid-October to early-December you can take part in the olive harvest.  The craze may have been jump started by the popular book Under the Tuscan Sun, but there is something to be said about spending the day in the olive groves specially during harvest season.

My husband and his relatives have many fond childhood memories of warm fall days spent picking olives in olive groves where they grew up.  Of course picking olives is outdoor work that builds up an appetite so a hearty picnic lunch is definitely a must have.

If you’re not the outdoorsy type then take a tour of the olive oil factory.  It’s pretty interesting.  You’ll learn how they take those olives and cold press them into incredible olive oil.  Did you know that  mills are communal mills called Frantoio where most of the local growers take their olives to be pressed?  And did you know that olives are pressed only during the harvest season and the oil is stored to be bottled during the year?

You’ll learn all about the pressing and bottling process if you take the short factory tour which of course ends with an olive oil tasting and some time to wander around the gift shop!

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy

Tour and tasting at the Bonamini Frantoio in Northern Italy.

Click here for more information!


5 Unique Activities to Really Experience ItalyPizza & Wine Pairings

So you’ve been to a wine tasting and maybe even a pizza tasting, there are all sorts of tours around Italy that offer them.  But have you been to a Pizza & Wine Pairing at the farm and vineyards that grow the food you’re tasting?

Pizza & Wine Pairings in a beautiful hillside setting on a farm built on top of a 17th. century Benedictine convent is truly a memorable event!  You can do this at the Fattoria dell’Eremo outside of Padua in northern Italy.  The hosts are friendly and the food and wine are amazing!  They will cater to your dietary needs just let them know your preferences.

5 Unique Activities to Really Experience Italy

 Amazing setting!

Delicious pizzas!

Outstanding wines!

Click here for more info!




Italian Cooking Class

Yes there are pizza making classes and pasta making classes, they’re all great; but for a truly unique experience take an Italian cooking class at a local residence!

You’ll make everything from antipasti to dessert!  Best of all you get to eat what you cooked!

Email me for more information about this cooking class in Northern Italy.









Market Day

Every Italian town or city has at least one market day.  For a truly unique local experience wander a local market or two.

Markets are usually held at the town’s main square or in the larger cities like Rome the markets spring up along side streets around town.   You’ll find everything from fruits and vegetables to household goods, and clothing and shoes at these outdoor markets.

Some towns have specific days for specific vendors.  Like in Vicenza food vendors are open in the main square and around town on Tuesdays; Thursdays are for clothing and household goods with a few food vendors around; and the last Sunday of the month is for the antique market.  So find out what days are market days in the area you’ll be visiting.

Markets are a great place to find an inexpensive lunch.  You can grab a loaf of bread from the bakery stall then meat and cheese from the deli vendor.  Top it all off with some fruit and a bottle of wine and you’ve go the makings of a picnic lunch!



Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan your Italy vacation!

Visiting Vicenza

Visiting Vicenza


City of Vicenza as seen from the Monte Berico viewpoint

Vicenza is a city in Northern Italy’s Veneto region.  It is located 43 miles from Venice (a 45 minute train ride away), 38 miles from Verona, and 22 miles from Padua; making it an easy day trip from any of these other famous Veneto cities.

Vicenza is one of the oldest cities in the Veneto.  It is known for its natural beauty and the beautiful villas in and around the city.  The villas were designed by Andrea Palladio a humble stonecutter born in nearby Padua.  Palladio fled an oppressive employer in Padua and ended up in Vicenza where he went on to become a noted 16th. Century architect. Palladio left a legacy of villas, churches, and other building in and around the city.  Because of his contributions the city has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.  It is listed as “The City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto” thus emcompassing all the building within the city center and those around the province of Vicenza.

VicenzaNot only did Palladio design beautiful villas in and around his adoptive city, he transformed European architecture.  Among his admires was Thomas Jefferson who considered Palladio the greatest architect of all time.  Jefferson studied the works of Palladio and considered the architectural book written by him to be the Architectural Bible.  Montecello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia was modeled after Palladio’s “La Rotonda” villa located outside Vicenza’s historic city center.  Many British country homes are also designed in the Palladian style of architecture.

So a visit to Vicenza is really a walk thru Palladio’s City.  Many of his works are in the city’s centro storico.

If you’re not a big fan of Palladian Architecture or architecture in general you don’t have to enter any of the villas or the Palladio Museum, but you can certainly stroll thru town and admire the classical styled building built by the great man.

Here are a few things to see and do in Vicenza:

vicenzaTeatro Olimpico

Inspired by Roman amphitheaters Palladio started this Renaissance marvel in 1580, after his death it was completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi.  Beyond the walled garden lies an elliptical theater with a stage set modeled after the ancient Greek city of Thebes.


vicenzaYou can buy an entrance ticket at the box office located on the right side of the arched stone entrance to have a tour of the building and the stage.  Tickets are €11.

Or you can admire the statues of actors scattered around the garden.  The garden is free to enter.

vicenzavicenzaOn hot summer days the garden is a nice place to cool off and rest after walking around Vicenza.  I like to grab a cold drink, like a granita, from one of the bars just outside the gate and sit quietly on a stone bench in the garden.

The theater is still used for operas and classical and jazz  performances.  Italian performers vie for a chance to perform on the amazing stage.


vicenzaPalazzo Thiene 

Today the headquarters of Banca Popolare di Vicenza Palazzo Thiene was purchased by the bank from the Thiene family in 1872.

This palazzo is now home to fine paintings and statues.  It also houses the world’s largest collections of oselle.  Oselle are silver and gold coins once minted by the Venetian Doges to gift to all the noble families of Venice at Christmas.

A visit to this palazzo is by appointment only.

Click here for their website!


VicenzaBasilica Palladiano

This Basilica located in Piazza dei Signori the town’s main square is now a venue for world class temporary exhibits and is the home to the Museo del Gioiello which houses a dazzling collection of historic and contemporary jewelry.

The building is modeled after a Roman basilica.  It once housed the courts and Council of Four Hundred. Palladio was commissioned to restyle the old palazzo in 1549.  It is capped by a huge copper dome that looks like an upturned ship hull.

During spring and summer you can climb up to the roof  and walk around.  The roof has a commanding view of Vicenza’s centro storico.

vicenzaPalazzo Chiericati

Designed in 1550 this palazzo is one of Palladio’s finest buildings.  Located diagonally across from the Teatro Olimpico the palazzo is home to Vicenza’s Civic Art Museum.

On the ground floor which is used for temporary exhibits you’ll find the amazing ceiling fresco of Diana and Helios by Domenico Brusasorci.

The upstairs galleries include works by Anthony Van Dyke and Alessandro Maganza as well as the private collection of Guiseppe Roi with drawings by Tiepolo and Picasso.

Admission to the museum is €7.


Dominating the Piazza del Duomo is Vicenza’s Cathedral.  Designed by Lorenzo di Bologna construction began in the late 15th. century.  Palladio added his own touches to the unfinished building in the 16th. century, notably the dome that was inspired by the

Pantheon in Rome.

The building was heavily damaged during the bombing in WWII so the building seen today is a 20th. century reconstruction.

The square also hosts vendors on Market Days usually Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Actually you’ll find that the town pretty much turns into a huge open market on those days with vendors and food trucks setting up along the streets and the piazzas.


Chiesa di San Lorenzo

This 13th. century Gothic church was built by the Franciscans.  It’s best feature is the marble entrance.  It’s pretty spartan inside.



But it has a splash fountain nearby for kids to play in during hot summer months and on Tuesdays and Thursdays the square hosts an open market where you can buy fruits and veggies as well as dairy products and fried seafood.

vicenzaMarket Days

Market days in Vicenza are normally Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Food vendors set up stalls in front of the Chiesa di San Lorenzo and in the Piazza del Duomo.

Clothing and household goods are sold in stalls in and around Piazza dei Signoria and Piazza dei Erbe.  Just walk around the town and you can’t miss one of the markets.

vicenzaIf you’re there during the summer months try some Pesche Saturnine.  These saucer shaped peaches are delicious!






vicenzaGelato & Prosecco

When you’ve had your fill of the Markets or have seen your share of Palladian buildings treat yourself to a cup or cone of Gelato.  You’ll find a gelateria on just about every street, but my favorite is Venchi just down the street from the Coin Department Store.

vicenzaGelato not your thing?  Then head over to a Wine Bar or Porseccheria, they’re on every street too!  Try a refreshing Hugo Cocktail, one of my favorites!

Better yet have both!  Well maybe not at the same time, but believe me both are well worth it!




vicenzaMonte Berico

Check out Monte Berico and the Basilica di Santa Maria di Monte Berico.  The Marian church is a minor Basilica in Vicenza and sits atop the hill of Monte Berico.

It’s about a 10 minute ride up the hill from the city or you can walk up from Vicenza in about half and hour.  The walk takes you thru a tall staircase and thru a beautiful arcaded walkway.  Free parking can be found in Piazzelle della Vittoria across from the church’s main entrance.

That’s where you’ll find the viewpoint for some awesome views of Vicenza and the surrounding countryside.


Try going up during the day and again at night, it’s two totally different experiences!



These are just a few things to see and do in and around Vicenza.  Believe me if you’re a real Palladio buff there are more villas to see and a Palladio Museum to visit.  But to do all that would require much more than a day.  I’ve been to Vicenza at least 3 times and have stayed for a month at a time and I still haven’t seen everything!

Of course we’ve wandered the other nearby towns like Quinto Vincention, Torre de Quatresolo, Camisanno, and more.  Believe me there is so much to do in and around the area.  So if you have friends and family stationed at the Casserma Ederly Army Base in Vicenza be sure to visit them and plan to stay for a while!

Ready to plan your trip to Northern Italy?  Call Savvy Nana Travel 808-372-7734, we’ll help you plan your dream vacay!






















This Ground Turkey and Bean Stew with Cumin, inexperienced Chiles, and Cilantro has pinto beans and it’s thickened with refried beans, and this tasty stew is low-glycemic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and South Beach Diet friendly! Use the Recipes-by-Diet-Type Index to seek out a lot of recipes like this one.

I used ground turkey rather than chicken thighs, and Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian lady Beans rather than pink beans, however I unbroken the generous quantity of garlic, cumin, and diced inexperienced chilies from the first formula. I conjointly superimposed a will of frijoles refits to thicken the stew, and though it all over up being not excessively attractive, this clothed to be the type of comforting ground turkey bean stew I’d like to have within the electric refrigerator for a fast dinner. Don’t skip the lime wedges for serving this; they’re the right of entirety.

(This post has affiliate links)

Click here for ground turkey and  bean stew with cumin,green chiles,and cilantro recipe!


2 T + 1 tsp. olive oil
2 lbs. ground turkey (use turkey with less than 10% fat for the South Beach Diet)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, to season ground turkey
1 large onion, diced in 1/2 inch pieces
1 T minced garlic
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 cups cooked pink beans or pinto beans
(3 cups = 2 cans. I cooked beans in the slow cooker, then used some for this recipe.)
2 cans (4 oz.) diced green Anaheim chiles
3 cups chicken stock (or use 2 cans chicken broth)
1 can (16 oz.) refried pinto beans
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or more)
sliced lime wedges, for serving


Heat the 2 T olive oil in a heavy frying pan with high sides, add ground turkey, season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and cook over medium heat until the turkey is well browned. This will take 12-15 minutes; don’t rush the browning step.
While turkey browns, peel a large onion and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. When turkey is well browned, push it over to the side of the pan, add 1 tsp. more olive oil, add onion pieces and cook about 5 minutes, until onion is lightly browned. Stir in minced garlic and ground cumin and cook the mixture about 3 minutes more, stirring a few times.
Add 3 cups cooked beans, 2 cans diced green Anaheim chiles, and 3 cups chicken stock. Stir to combine, then reduce heat and let the mixture simmer about 30 minutes.

Combine 1 can refried pinto beans with 1/4 cup water to thin the beans, then stir refried beans into the turkey and bean mixture. Simmer about 25 minutes more.

While mixture simmers, chop 1/4 cup (or more) cilantro. When the stew is as thick as you’d like it to be (about 25 minutes for me), stir in chopped cilantro and simmer 5 minutes more. Serve hot, with lime wedges to squeeze lime into the stew when you eat it.

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Half Day in Padua

Half Day in Padua

PaduaPadua, or Padova in Italian, is a quiet little city in the Veneto area of northern Italy.  Unlike its illustrious neighbors Venice and Verona, Padua sees much less tourist traffic making it an ideal place to spend a few hours wandering its dense network of arcaded  streets where you’ll find lazy piazzas, artwork by famous Renaissance artists including Donatello and Giotto, a university, bridges, and several churches including a Duomo and a Basilica.

Padua is the setting for Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.  Although it’s not really certain whether the Bard actually spent time in the area it was clearly a region he liked.  He set several plays in the Veneto including The Merchant of Venice, Two Gentlemen From Verona, and of course the tragic romance Romeo and Juliet which was set in Verona.

Padua is situated on the Bacchiglione River 25 miles west of Venice.  The Brenta River once ran thru the city and still touches its northern part.  In fact the Brenta Riviera Cruise from Padua to Venice departs daily from the historic Burchiello’s Stairway at Portello the city’s ancient river port.  This slow boat takes tourists down the Brenta River, thru its canals, and stops at historic villas once home to the Venetian elite.  That’s a day long excursion from Padua and ends in Venice in the late afternoon.

Other than the river the city is home to the University of Padua one of Europe’s oldest universities founded in 1222.  Galileo Galilei lectured at this same university between 1592 and 1610.  It is still a bustling university today!

PaduaIn Padua one can visit “Il Santo” as the locals call the Basilica di Sant’ Antonio da Padova  the most celebrated Paduan church.  It houses the bones of the saint in the chapel richly decorated with carved marble and the works of great artists including Sansovino and Falconetto.  The church is dedicated to St. Antonio of Padua aka St. Antonio of Libon, the Portuguese Franciscan who spent part of his life and died in the city.

This Basilica is one of the eight international shrines recognized by the Holy See in Rome.


PaduaAlthough Il Santo is the city’s beloved church it is not the titular cathedral of the city.  That honor belongs to the Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta a church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  It is the seat of Padua’s Bishop.  The current structure dates from the 16th. century and its construction involved Michelangelo.


PaduaA must see for art lovers is the Cappella degli Scrovegni.  The chapel situated in a small church next to the Augustinian monastery contains a fresco by Giotto that is considered to be a masterpiece of western art.




PaduaAnother Basilica with beautiful chapels and artwork is the one adjoining the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Giustina.

The abbey and its adjoining Basilica faces the Prato della Valle.  The church was built in the 520s to house the remains of St. Justina of Padua and other Christian martyrs of the city.  The interior is home to chapels dedicated to various saints and is decorated with ornate multi colored marble from quarries in France, Genoa, Padua, and Carrara.

Statues and paintings throughout the church were done by various artists.



paduaMy favorite place in the city is the Prato della Valle.  It’s 90,000 sq. meter elliptical “square” in the city.

It’s border is defined by a moat that is ringed by 2 rows of statues depicting Padua’s elite citizens of old.  There are 4 bridges that span the moat and allows you to enter the huge green space where you’ll find the fountain in the center.


paduaThe Prato della Valle is a great place to let the kiddies burn off all that pent up energy while the adults relax on one of the low walls or on the grass.

At certain times of the year the square hosts concerts, markets, fairs, and other events.

The square is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and cafes.  It really is a great space to relax after wandering this charming city!


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