Seen in Sicily

The Mafia gets points

for having

the best restaurants.

David Beard

Italy-Sicily-map-Sharon-Birke

A tour of Sicily for 11 days? I imagined this island to be just a bunch of rocks so I had serious doubts. Sarah Murdoch, the Goddess of Packing Light and honorary Sicilian, won me over with her enthusiasm and passion, swearing 11 days is not enough to see all of Sicily’s best.

Turns out, Sicily has always been the bread basket of Italy and driving through the island revealed a rolling landscape of fertile farms, vineyards, citrus and olive groves. Even if you don’t have 11 days, here are more than 11 things worth seeing and doing:

1. Visit the charming Contessa of the Palazzo Conte Frederico. Her family converted their Palazzo’s stables into Palermo’s most royal B&B.  She will be thrilled to host your private party and her love story with her husband will make you swoon.

Italy-Sicily-Palermo-B&B-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

2. Take the local pulse at bustling open markets and catch quaint domestic street scenes like this genius manual elevator.

Italy-Sicily-street-scene-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

3. The Cathedral of Monreale has 68,000 square feet of mosaics illustrating various passages from the Bible. Each tile measures about the size of the fingernail on your little finger. What’s even more amazing is  that the artisans of this Catholic church were Muslims imported from Constantinople–which explains why the work is similar to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.

Italy-Sicily-mosaic-church-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

4. The Sicilian Goddess of Pastry, Maria Grammtico, hosts group lunches and pastry baking demonstrations. Signora Maria was orphaned very young and had to work at a convent crushing almonds as a little girl. Her biography Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood tells how she turned the difficulties of her childhood into a literally sweet life.

Italy-Sicily-pastry-baking-Maria-Grammatico-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

5. If the kids tag along, this family of puppeteers in Ortigia will remind you of the Von Trapp family of the “Sound of Music” with their Italian productions.

Italy-Sicily-puppet-show-Sharon-Birke

Trivia for lovers of antiquity: Where do you find the world’s best preserved Greek ruins? Sicily, of course!  In the very long history of this strategically located island’s revolving door of ruling powers, the Greeks had their turn and a few of Sicily’s hills are littered with their art and architecture.

6. Sing an aria at Segesta’s amphitheater. With its incredible acoustics, you can hear the person on stage whisper even when you’re this far. And do notice the backdrop of mountain, sea and neighboring island off the horizon.

Italy-Sicily-Greek-ampitheater-Sharon-Birke

7. On the rolling hills of Agrigento, the Temple of Concordia stands majestic, looking out to the sea. If you’d rather not melt your wings in the heat like this fallen Icarus, visit Sicily off season. At night, this temple and its neighboring ruins are lit for your viewing pleasure as you sip a granita at your hotel terrace.

Italy-Sicily-Greek-temple-Icarus-Sharon-Birke

8. From the Roman chapter of Sicilian history remains the mosaic floors of the Villa Romana Del Casale from 500 BC. Carpet sellers could not possibly have made a penny from this family who had every inch of their 4,000 sq. feet covered with a variety of scenes and patterns. My favorite was the long hallway of now extinct exotic animals captured in Africa for the Roman extravaganzas at the Coliseum. The “Bikini Girls” in the next room are actually  female athletes of their time.

Italy-Sicily-Bikini-Girls-mosaic-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

9. “Passeggiata” is for people watching. In the early evening at every town especially on Sundays, locals meander down Main Street to say hello to each other and catch up with daily gossip.  Dress well for La Bella Figura, a good first impression and photo opportunities.

Italy-Sicily-church-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

10. Eat well and/or cook better! Learn how to make Arancino rice balls, caponata, fresh gelato, Sicilian pizza,… at the Nosco Culinary School in the hillside town of Ragusa.

Italy-Sicily-Nosco-cooking-class-Ragusa-Sharon-Birke

11. Can chocolate be made without heat, butter or artificial additives? Solve the mystery while chocolate tasting at Antica Dulceria Bonajuto in the town of Modica. Had to bring home their pistachio chocolate Easter Eggs.

Pistachio-chocolate-easter-eggs-Sharon-Birke

12. Wine tasting does not get more charming than in the company of the handsome father and twin sons who run the Benanti vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna. I love how the labels of their wine bottles  combine the family patriarch’s love of wine and Renaissance art.

Italy-Sicily-Benanti-wine-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

13. In Siracusa, whisper in the Ear of Dionisio or sing your heart out with a grand chorus.

Italy-Sicily-cave-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

I didn’t even make it to Sicily’s beaches! Taormina is popular with its pebbles and if you prefer sand, head towards the Southern coast facing Africa.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Sicily travel tips.  La Dolce Vita Easter to you!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

When In Rome Again

In Italy,

they add work and life

to food and wine.

Robin Leach

Rome-Italy-Piazza-Navona-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke

Piazza Navona on a rainy day last visit

After last year’s whirlwind mother-daughter holiday (see posts London with teen and Paris Charms with Teen,) the older brothers realized that traveling with mom need not just be an excuse to get their pesky sister out of the house.  This Spring break, Brother #1 has signed up for his turn to go on  a mother-son rendezvous.

Argentina was first choice because he’s interested in tango (and the pretty ladies that go with it,) but that’s too long a schlep from Boston for a week off. He got all excited over Iceland, but I refuse to  be any place colder in March. Where can he hop on an easy flight to get to relatively mild weather, see art, architecture, and engineering marvels everywhere he turns, while avoiding hordes of tourists? Why, Rome in March, of course!

Audio tours

Before you even start packing, let celebrity guide Rick Steves’ audio tours stoke your imagination and enthusiasm.

701Rome_021.jpg

A few fun things to do in Rome after you’ve covered the basics:

Rent a Ferrari

This IS Italy! Why not?

ome-colosseum-ferrari-car-rental-italy

photo by Conde Nast Traveler

Ostia Antica

Also known as “The better Pompeii,” Ostia Antica is only 30 minutes North of the Colosseum, compared to Pompeii’s 4 hours South. This used to be the bustling commercial port of Rome when the Romans controlled the Mediterranean. Wandering around the ruins today, you’ll see well-preserved remains of ancient brick structures from docks, bakeries, warehouses, apartments, mansions, shopping arcades, baths and sculptures–a peek at Roman lifestyles 2,000 years ago.

And if your travel companions are allergic to museums, a couple of light and lovely options are:

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

This private mansion off the Piazza Venezia on Via del Corso is also a museum open to the public. An easy walk from the Colosseum past the Typewriter building (aka The Wedding Cake or Il Vittoriano Monument.) I love its rich interiors and their mini version of Versailles’ “Hall of Mirrors.” Listen to the audio guide recorded by a family member of the Doria Pamphilj as you walk through the elegant rooms and art filled halls, pay the extra 5 Euros to tour their more private apartments. Caffe Doria breaks the museum standard fare with its delicious and generous portions for lunch and tea/coffee in old world charm.

Italy-Rome-palazzo-doria-pamphilj

photo by Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Galleria Borghese

Hike up to this mansion of Cardinal Borhese that is now a small museum for lovers of classical paintings and sculpture. Make advance tour reservations, leave your handbag home to avoid one more queue to check it, get there early before the crowds, and take your sweet time  with their audio guide that is not shy about describing  the underhanded ways that wealth and treasures get acquired. Afterwards, you can stroll through the gardens or rent a bicycle wagon in the park surrounding the property.

Italy-Rome-Paolina-Borghese-Bonaparte-as-Venus-Galleria-Borghese

photo from Google Images

The Galleria Borghese is an easy walk down to Piazza del Popolo with its ancient obelisk and open square. Plenty of restaurant choices along the way as you head down Via del Babuino to the Spanish steps.

Galleria del Cembalo

Between the Spanish steps and the Tiber River at a wing of the Palazzo Borghese, fans of photography can admire exhibits in rooms with ornate high ceilings.

Italy-Rome-galleria-del-cembalo

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) for your Rome travel tips.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Venice Carnival 2014

What happens in fantasy 

can be more involving than what happens in life–

and thank goodness for that.

Roger Ebert

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1662

Among my favorites in posing, Nhaelle de France

If you can visit Venice only once in your entire lifetime, time it for Carnival and bring the kids!  This annual winter festival of masquerade and fantastic costumes can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th Century when months before Lent, everyone in town wore masks to break down social barriers and playfully defy differentiation between nobility and the common people.

Today, an international crowd of 3 million revelers congregate and make time to dress up in their original and fantastic creations or an elegant wardrobe of authentic period pieces.  Those in full regalia are so very kind and accommodating in holding a pose for your camera.  Can you imagine the time and effort each costume takes to create and transport, never mind wearing them all day in heat or cold for the two weeks of the fabulous Venice Carevale.  I’ll let the photographs speak eloquently for themselves.   You bet it wasn’t easy choosing which creations to exclude here.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what your fantasy costume might be.

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-0883

Christine et Eric Plas

followed the yellow brick road from France

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-2261972

Almost a kiss by Pierre and Dominique

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1838

If you were wondered “Where’s the party?”

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-2261893

Should we tell?

Venice-Carnivale-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1245

Anabella from Estonia checks her makeup

Venice-Carnivale-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1665

I just love how the background complements this ensemble

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-0987

I’m a night owl who didn’t know

catching the rising sun could be such fun

with Jeanne of France 

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1756

A rose and a serenade for mi amore

on Burano Island


Venice-Carnivale-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-0954

Love the shadows matching the pointy hats on

Monika and Peter Gowitzke from Germany

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1136

The opulence of this flamingo theme

is one of my Carnival favorites

Venice-Carnivale-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-9690

Venice-Carnival-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-by-Sharon-Birke-1735

A most adorable party peeper

xoxox

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

xoxox

%d bloggers like this: