Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brief History of Greece

The Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greece are undoubtedly the most splendid, having left behind a host of ideas and art that provide the foundation of “western civilization”. After the dark ages of Europe, the “Renaissance”, was named by historians in the mid 19th century to describe the rebirth of ideas, philosophies, and culture from the classical period.

Ancient Greek Art

Greek architecture permeates monuments and buildings around the world. Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles holding up a pediment based roof or creating column lined walkways can be found throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and even Africa. Likewise, sculpture emerged as a visual expression of the human body and spirit, driven by the free discussion of sexuality found in Greek writing.

Ancient Greek Thought

Greek scholars and teachers develop the concept of philosophy, "love of wisdom," as great philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle emphasize the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of the knowledge itself. They believed that this knowledge would help people to live happy and worthwhile lives. Anaxagoras (500-428 BC) introduced dualistic explanation of the universe, that the universe consists of living and non-living matters (organic and inorganic). He developed the concept of nous (reason), which he considered as an infinite and unchanging substance that entered into and controlled every living object. This concept of eternal substance was later adopted in formulating the doctrines of Christianity during the Ecumenical Councils of Churches.

Pythagoras stressed the importance of form rather than matter in explaining material structure. - leading to the development of the Pythagorean Theorem and the evolution of Trigonometry.

Socrates led the Greek people to consider fundamental questions such as:
  •   What is the purpose of your life? 
  •   What is good? 
  •   What is justice? 
His insistence on understanding ethics and his teaching of critical thought, led to his downfall. I wonder if he realized the irony of his belief that all corruption is the result of ignorance, and that no person is willingly bad, when Politicians, threatened by a free thinking society, forced him to drink hemlock, a deadly poison.

Plato, a student of Socrates, continued Socrates focus on ethics and used fictitious dialogue in books like The Republic to express his beliefs. Aristotle, was one of the students who studied under Plato. Extending Socrates thirst for understanding, he believed that people should examine, describe, and classify as many forms of life as possible, because it is important to have scientific knowledge. Aristotle stated that the universe consists of four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, plus a fifth element that exists everywhere and is the sole constituent of the heavenly bodies "above" the moon.

As you can see, Greek scholars and artists formed a strong foundation for Western civilization. This perspective will make your exploration of Greece much more fascinating.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Please read "Little Secrets", just wrote about "Kyanite to remove financial blockage".

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How careful should you be going to Greece

Travelers should be concerned with petty crimes directed tourist as well as violent crime which could break out anywhere. While once one of the safest destination in Europe, Greece is now faced with desperate citizens no longer able to get services from their government and Albanian criminals who cross the borders carrying weapons stolen from the Albanian Army depots. The Greek Police are unable to cope with this huge increase in serious, violent crime which is mainly due to an uncontrollable tide of illegal immigrants that burden Greece socially and financial.

Tourist Precautions

You should take the usual safety precautions you would in any urban or tourist area during a visit to Greece. Crimes against tourists (such as pick-pocketing and purse-snatching) occur at popular tourist sites and on public transportation - especially the Metro - and in some shopping areas in and around Thessaloniki. If you travel by Metro, keep track of your purse/backpack/wallet at all times.

Thieves will often try to create a diversion to draw your attention away from your immediate surroundings. These diversions can include “accidentally” sneezing or spilling something on you and loudly accusing you of having bumped into them.

Thieves ride the trains in from the Athens Airport, so be especially careful when you first arrive. You may be tired and a bit disoriented and you may have just visited the ATM or exchanged money.

Be discreet when discussing plans and organizing your belongings upon your initial arrival. Always keep a close eye on your suitcase. Try to avoid standing near the doors, as thieves will often wait to strike just as the train/bus doors open and then dash onto the platform and disappear into the crowd.

Omonia, Vathi, and Kolokotroni Squares in Athens, while very close to the tourist sites, are areas with high crime rates; Glyfada Square has a significant organized crime network associated with clubs, which should be avoided if you get a “hard-sell” pitch for business. Never agree to go to a bar or club with someone you have just met on the street. Sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including date or acquaintance rape, are not uncommon. Drink alcohol in moderation and stay in control. Never leave your drink unattended in a bar or club. Some bars and clubs serve counterfeit or homemade spirits of unknown potency.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even those widely available, along the sidewalks in Central Athens or Thessaloniki. Not only are these goods illegal to bring back into the United States, the purchase of bootlegs and “knock-offs” in Greece violates Greek law.

Avoid high crime targets

The US State department has identified Greece as a country with increasing military level violence e.g. improvised explosive, grenades,and assault rifles. US company assets have been targets as have vulnerable businesses such as kiosks. Do your best to avoid these areas.

Thank God nothing has happened to me and my family when we went, we had a great time but PLEASE be very careful and have a safe trip.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Religion and Weather in Greece

The moment that Orthodoxy became official, anyone in a political role had an obligation to obey and/or associate himself with the Greek Orthodox religion. Even the new leaders must affiliate with the Orthodox church and be sworn in using Greek Orthodox church rites. Non-Orthodoxy is simply not accepted.

The Greek people assume being Greek means being Greek Orthodox. Greek Orthodoxy has a very long history. In the Byzantine Empire they called the Emperor,"God’s vice regent." In 1975, the Orthodox religion was established as Greece’s official religion by the constitution.

The government of Greece, particularly the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, subsidize the budget of the church, and the maintenance of the church’s properties. Greek children must study religion in public primary and secondary schools.

Weather and when is best to go

May through June is the best time to visit Athens and the Islands.The first two weeks of June have perfect, sunny and warm 80 degree (27 °C) weather, with little clouds or rain. Children are not yet out of school, so places are open and not crowded.

Do your best to avoid traveling in August, since Athens, like Paris, belongs to the tourists: Some 60% of all Athenians take their summer holiday between the 1st and 15th of August. Stretches when it's well over 100°F (38°C) are not uncommon in August, when anyone with health problems such as asthma should be wary - the city can be very hot and exhausting -- and most tourist locations include lots of steps over dry, hilled areas.

Most rain falls between November and February, when Athens can be colder and windier than you might expect. You'd be surprised to know that January daytime temperatures are in the range of 52°F.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Please read "Little Secrets" I wrote about a little help how to sell your home.
Good luck

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Capital, Currency & Language in Greece

Athens became the capital of modern Greece in 1834, two years after the country achieved its independence from Turkey. Its population: is 11.2 million. Athens is a huge city with several districts containing sightseeing, restaurants and  nightlife.

Greece's monetary unit is the Euro for now, though some politicians are talking about moving back to the Drachma, I don't think this will happen. No other currency is accepted. The smart traveler simply takes money out of an ATM, paying a 3% fee rather than exchanging currency. If you must exchange currency, it is best to go to a bank. Currency exchange shops and banks in very touristy areas charge high commissions and increase spreads on the buy and sell side; so, make sure you know what the commissions are before you commit to a transaction. Banks are open from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. At the new airport near the luggage pickup you can find ATM's as well as machines that can exchange foreign currency and return Euro. Very nice indeed since you need the Euro for a luggage cart.

While everyone assumes that cash is accepted everywhere, there have been times when cash in large denominations is not very convenient. I have had banks in Greece refuse to exchange $50 or $100 bills, but I never had problems with $20 bills.

Traveler's checks
World wide ATM networks have almost made Traveler's Checks a thing of the past. What they do have going for them is security. They are accepted in most places and shops, especially in areas where tourists frequent, but if you venture off the tourist track, and want to buy a memento or two, you will find that people have no idea what they are, so make sure you exchange them for cash at a local bank.

Even in businesses that take travelers checks, you might have a hard time paying or exchanging large denominations of traveler's checks especially (fifties or hundreds). I have found large bills are treated with suspicion by vendors and some might not accept them. Finally, you never know what exchange rate the merchant is willing to offer. Better to exchanging them for cash at a bank.You should have your passport with you when you pay with traveler's checks to verify your identity.

The best way to access money while in Greece is through the ubiquitous ATMs that are present in every large or small city. While I recommend Credit Cards at restaurants and anyplace your card goes out of your sight, Debit Cards are fine for ATM's at banks. One note of caution, look around the ATM to make sure some crook hasn't installed a skimmer (a small device that records your ATM number and pin.)

When you make a withdrawal at an ATM, it disperse Euro using the conversion chart displayed on the bank's window. Make sure you keep all receipts though for a few months after you return home. This way you can review your account and make sure you weren't double charged.


Among many other languages of Greece, Greek is the main language which is spoken by 11 million inhabitants. Greek is a common language in Greece and with immigrants who have traveled to countries like USA, Australia, Britain.

English, French and German languages are also sparsely used in Greece. Modern Greek is spoken by about 15-25 million people mainly in Greece, USA and Cyprus. Modern Greek also enjoys the status of a minority language in parts of Turkey, Italy and Albania.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's go to Athens, Greece "Introduction"

Greece is strategically located between the mainland of Europe and the Middle East. It lies in the south of the Balkan Peninsula and to the north, shares a border with Albania, FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Bulgaria. In the East, Greece borders, Turkey, an ancient rival, while its western front faces the Adriatic Sea and its southern side straddles the Mediterranean Sea. The country covers an area of 32,000 square km.(19,838 miles)

Greece is, of course, the land of ancient sites and architectural treasures -- the Acropolis in Athens, the amphitheater of Epidaurus, and the reconstructed palace at Knossos among the best known.

But Greece is much more: It offers age-old spectacular natural sights, for instance -- from Santorini's caldera to the gray pinnacles of rock of the Meteora -- and modern diversions ranging from elegant museums to luxury resorts.

Greece is a mountainous peninsula with fertile plateaus, coastal belts and about 50 inhabited islands, of which Crete is the largest. The climate is relatively mild during the winter. Daytime winter temperatures are usually between 6° - 14° C with many hours of sunshine. The summer is warm, with temperatures between 28°  - 36°C. Low humidity and rainfall make the country and its islands one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world.

Greece also boasts a well educated workforce and is a member of the Euro-zone. The tourism and shipping industries are very important in the country and are growing rapidly. English is widely spoken, especially within the business Community.

Historically, Greece represents one of the most ancient civilizations, with advanced cultural and political institutions dating back to 500 B.C. greece8During the Roman era, the country became part of the Roman Empire. Later it became one of the main administrative areas of the Byzantine Empire. Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, Greece became a territory of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries and achieved its independence in1829. It was only after a series of local wars that Greece stabilized its present territory.

The period ending in 1974 was often characterized by political instability, culminating in the seven-year military coup of 1967. The 1974 democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy, leading to decades of relative political stability continuing through today. Ironically, that stability is threatened today by Financial excess which has weakened the economy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Where to stay in Rome

Since there are so many hotels options in Rome, I have selected a few nice Hotels for you to choose from. I will start with 5 stars and then go down to 4 and 3 stars.
Most of the ones that I chose are in the heart of Rome, so you can walk to everything.

1-St. Regis Grand Rome (5 stars)

Named to Condé Nast Traveler's Gold List, the St. Regis Rome is sumptuously luxurious.  The hotel features opulent interiors and its austere façade adds to the seductive atmosphere of this landmark. Each of its guest rooms and 23 suits feature a unique identity and are exquisitely appointed in a combination of Empire, Regency and Louis XV styles.
Among the luxury Hotels in Rome, The St. Regis Rome is the one of the most equi-distant to the city's most popular sites as well as shopping areas featuring traditional Italian boutiques and high end shops. Price starts at 370 per night.

Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, 3
Rome, Italy 00185
Phone # + 30 06 470 91
Right in the heart of Rome, you can walk to everything.

2-II Pellicano Hotel (5 stars)

This Hotel is not in the heart of Rome. If you are looking for a elegant, relaxing experience and breath taking views with day trips to Rome, Florence, Sienna and other great destination in Tuscany, this is a great option.

II Pellicano is an exclusive, secluded, resort hotel in a unique and unspoiled location on the Western Tuscan coast. Uniquely laid out to ensure privacy for its guests whether they stay in cottages or the main building, the hotel proudly offers the finest cuisine and all the amenities a five-star guest could desire. Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazines regularly name Il Pellicano among the top hotels in the world, highlighting the staff's commitment to excellence via friendly and personalized service. Price starts at 215 per person/per night

Località Sbarcatello 58019 Porto Ercole (Grosseto) - Italy
Phone +39 0564 858111

3- Atlante Star Roma (4 stars)

Is a luxury Rome 4 Star hotel in the heart of the historical centre of the eternal city, just a couple of streets away from St Peter's Basilica and the gateway of the Vatican City. Situated between San Pietro and the River Tiber, this luxury Vatican City Hotel is just moments away from Via Conciliazione, the magnificent thoroughfare that leads from Castel Sant'Angelo to the glorious cathedral of St Peter's itself.
The Hotel Atlante Star is unique in the city of Rome thanks to the shining jewel in their crown - the amazing 6th floor Roof Garden overlooking St Peter's and the Vatican City, to the backdrop of the entire enchanting city of Rome; and in which is situated one of the most exclusive restaurants in Rome, Les Etoiles. Price starts at $134 dollars

Via Vitelleschi 34 - 00193 Roma 
Phone +39 066873233 

4-The Duke Hotel Roma (4 stars)

The Duke Hotel’s service, ambiance and facilities create none of the best hotels in Rome. The Duke Hotel is a ideal for tourists and business travelers alike and has a goal of creating a home away from home for the traveler. All events, activities and attractions in Rome are within easy reach.
Price starts at $104 dollars per night

Via Archimede, 69
00197 Rome, Italy
Phone (+39) 06 367221

5-Hotel Aventino (3 stars)

Offering tranquility and free parking in the center of Rome, Hotel Aventino is located on the Aventine Hill, a 10-minute walk from Circo Massimo Metro. It features traditional, elegant rooms.

The Aventino’s rooms are furnished with luxurious fabrics and parquet floors. Each has air conditioning, a minibar and satellite fed, LCD TV. A few rooms feature a balcony or jacuzzi bathtub.

Guests can enjoy the Aventino’s continental breakfast in the flower garden on nice days. Price starts about $105 dollars per night

Via Di San Domenico 10, 
Rome, 00153 Italy 

6-Hotel Canova (3stars)

 Located in the ancient Monti district and next to Via Cavour, the Canova hotel enjoys a great location in the center of Rome and is the perfect accommodation for tourists who want to discover the amazing Italian capital. Most of the cultural and tourist sites such as Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum and the famous shopping street Via Del Corso are close to the hotel.

A former monastery transformed into a hotel in 1900, Canova is situated in a quiet, charming neighborhood full of restaurants, wine bars, and shops. The hotel has a relaxing atmosphere, elegant furnishings and the most modern comforts.
Price stars at $100 dollars per night

Via Urbana 10a, Rome,00184 Italy
Phone#  ‎866-539-8430

7-Reasanable accommodation  Hotel Madison 

The Madison Hotel is set in a 19th century palace a few minutes walk from the Termini Railway Station, in a very strategic position both for those who wish to spend a few days in Rome and for one-night stays. This elegant and comfortable hotel in Rome offers its guests 130 rooms including single, double, triple room and family, all tastefully furnished and fitted with modern and comfortable facilities.
Price starts at $65 dollars per night  

Via Marsala 60, Stazione Termini, 00185 Rome
Phone# +39 06 44 54 344

These are the ones I recommend, hope you have a wonderful time in Rome.
Next week we go to Greece.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Please read "Little Secrets" right next to my Home page.
I talk about this rare stone called "Phosphosiderite".

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Places to go in Rome

Rome is an amazing place, full of history, architecture and art. While you could spend days in Rome, you can also see the highlights in just two days. Here is my list of top venues.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Perhaps there is no greater living testament to Rome’s storied past, than St. Peter’s. Over two thousand years of Roman and Christian history are represented and found in the history of St. Peter’s. The history of St. Peter’s begins with St. Peter himself. Referred to in the bible as Peter the Rock, he was the foundation of the Christian religion and the Catholic Church. St Peter was crucified around 65 A.D. in Nero’s Circus and was buried nearby in a small cemetery on Vatican Hill. Catholics celebrate this spot with a magnificent baldacchino, (a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy) directly below the current dome of St. Peter’s. In addition to its history, St. Peter’s is also the largest, most important, and most famous church in all of Christianity. Here is a little secret, as you walk away from the dome, look on the floor for markers of other christian churches through out the world. You will see that they fit inside St. Peters. St Peter's is the home of the pope and the center of the Catholic Church. Finally, St. Peter’s rivals the greatest art museums in the world with the depths of its treasures. Artistic masterpieces and architectural design by such greats as Michelangelo, Bramante, Bernini, and Maderno grace its halls. As an example, the
Pietà (1498–1499) by Michelangelo is in the first alcove to the right as you enter.  It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. The statue is one of the most highly finished works by Michelangelo.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the oldest structures still in use today. Located near the Piazza Navona on the northeast side of the city core, the Pantheon was built around 120 A.D., it is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. Originally dedicated to the major Roman gods by the emperor Hadrian, this building was consecrated (and thus saved) as a church in the 600s and today serves as the resting place of Raphael and other famous artists. It is within walking distance of Piazza Navona, Tivoli Fountain, the Colosseum and many other famous artifacts.

The Colosseum

I love history and I love being able to “live” history – to go where historical characters were, to feel what they felt, to see what they saw. Located near the ancient center of Rome the Colosseum is a marvel to behold. Commissioned by the emperor Vespasian in the 70s A.D., the Colosseum was originally used as a sports complex where gladiators fought. When Constantine took over Rome and began to Christianize the empire in the 600s, he outlawed all forms of gladiator games and blood sport.

The Colosseum is a vast ellipse with tiers for seating 50,000 spectators. Below the wooden arena floor, there was a complex set of rooms and passageways for wild beasts and other provisions for staging the spectacles. Eighty walls radiate from the arena and support vaults for passageways, stairways and the tiers of seats.The three tiers of arcades are faced by three-quarter columns and their toppings, Doric in the first story, Ionic in the second, and Corinthian in the third. Above them is an attic story with Corinthian pilasters and small square window openings in alternate bays. At the top brackets and sockets carry the masts from which a canopy for shade, was suspended.

An architectural marvel, the construction utilized a careful combination of types: concrete for the foundations, Travertine for the piers and arcades, Tufa infill between piers for the walls of the lower two levels, and brick-faced concrete used for the upper levels and for most of the vaults.

This building represents an important link in our human heritage and world history, it is an honor to be able to step back in time and still admire the work of the ancient Romans. I will never forget my visit to the Colosseum and my overwhelming desire to touch everything as I took in its history! 

Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona sits upon the ruins of the ancient Circus Domitianus. The present day piazza is ovular in shape and owes its shape to the ancient race track that once occupied the space. The Piazza is marked by three beautiful fountains, the most famous being the center fountain by the great Bernini. The center of the fountain is marked by a tall Egyptian obelisk and surrounding it are four figures representing the great rivers of the world. Another famous landmark in the piazza is the church of Saint Agnese. The facade of St. Agnese was designed by Borromini. Legend says that Bernini designed one of his figures in the fountain (the one covering its face) as a reflection of his thoughts on Borromini’s design – the two were great artistic rivals. Around the piazza you will find countless bars and restaurants, one featuring my favorite Pizza, "Rocket with Scamorza" ...yum.

The Trevi Fountain 

The Trevi fountain, inspired by Roman triumphal arches, is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain in Rome.In 1629, Pope Urban VIII, asked Bernini to sketch possible renovations of the fountain, finding it insufficiently theatrical. After the Pope's death the project was abandoned. Bernini's lasting contribution was to situate the fountain from the other side of the square to face the Quirinal Palace (so that the Pope could see and enjoy it).

The Trevi Fountain as we know it today, was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and competed in 1762.
The central figures of the fountain are Neptune (God of the sea), flanked by two Tritons. One struggles to master a very unruly "sea horse", while  the other leads a far more docile animal. These symbolize the two contrasting moods of the sea.

On the first story, a relief shows a young girl (the legendary virgin after whom the aqueduct was named) pointing to the spring from which the water flows.

Appropriately for a fountain resembling a stage set, the theatrical Trevi Fountain has been the star of many films shot in Rome, including romantic films such as "Three coins in a fountain" and "Roman holiday", but also "La dolce vita", Federico Fellini's satirical portrait of Rome in the 1950s.Tradition has it a coin thrown into the water guarantees a visitor's return to Rome.

Villa Borghese

If you are stressed out from all your site seeing, take a picnic to Villa Borghese's Gardens. Stretching from above Piazza del Popolo to the top of Via Venato, Villa Borghese crowns Rome in a glorious canopy of Green.
Villa Borghese is literally a breath of fresh air for those who visit it. There are museums, a theatre, a bio park, a lake, a winter ice skating rink, rollerblade and skateboarders space as well as numerous fountains dotted throughout.

The Park was originally a private vineyard, redesigned and enlarged in 1605 to grandiose proportions for pope Paul V's nephew, the Cardinal Scipione Borghese. However, it was named after the Borghese family on the condition that it boasted the most luxurious and magnificent dwelling in Rome.

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. The Museums include several monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment.
The Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery, is situated in a building that dates back to 1932 and that was designed by the architect Beltrami. It is connected to the Museum complex (at the entrance of the Quattro Cancelli) by an elegant portico.

The Christian, Profane and Missionary-Ethnological Museum contains a collection of artistic and archaeological objects, some of an ethnological nature, that were once housed in the Lateran Palace.
The Collection of Modern Religious Art was added to the Museums in 1973. The History Museum is located in the Lateran Palace and includes, among other things, items that belonged to the Pontifical Military Corps.

The Museums are usually open to the public every weekday morning and in the early afternoon in summer. Entry is free on the last Sunday of every month. The entrance to the Museums is on Viale Vaticano, near Piazza Risorgimento. Go early as long lines develop.

So, I hope you enjoy Rome.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Food in Rome

Who does not love Italian food?

I love it and eat it whenever I can. But I will tell you something very interesting about Italian food.
First, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way. You will not find “Italian food” in Rome, for the simple reason that Italian food does not exist. In Italy, you will find different food in different regions of the country. Food in Rome is different from food in Florence, Bologna, Venice or Palermo. Also, if you your Italian food expectations are based on what you have grown to love in Italian Restaurants in the US, you are in for a big surprise. There are some “Italian” dishes that you will not find in Rome or anywhere else in Italy, except in the worst and most touristy of restaurants. Spaghetti with Meatballs, Veal Parmesan and Chicken Parmesan do not exist in Italy; they are Italian-American dishes. And don't look for a little bowl of olive oil to dip your bread into; that is an invention of American Italian Restaurants. By the way, Italian restaurants won’t give you butter either: butter is only served at breakfast.

The Italian Meal

Traditionally, an Italian meal is composed of a number of courses that follow an unwavering order: antipasto (“before the meal” or appetizer), primo piatto (soup or pasta or risotto), secondo piatto (meat or fish) served with a contorno (vegetable or salad, which you have to order separately), formaggio (cheese) and dolce (dessert).
Obviously, Italians do not eat every course at every meal: they will have two or three courses. They may even share dishes. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for a dish “uno in due”, but some dishes lend themselves better to sharing than others: a shared pasta dish will generally come from the kitchen on two plates, while secondi, contorni and dolci will not. What is not acceptable is for two people to order one pasta, one secondo and one dolce and then share all three dishes.

Roman Cooking

Except at the papal court and in the palaces of the aristocracy, Roman cooking – like all regional Italian cooking – has always been a cucina povera, a “poor cuisine” that relies on what is available and in season and uses up all that is available. The prime examples of this in Roman cooking are the quinto quarto dishes, the ones using the “fifth quarter”, that is, what is left after the best parts have gone to richer tables: offal and, particularly prized in Rome, oxtail. In case you’re already worried: you will not have to eat tripe or organ meats in Rome; in fact, most restaurants do not have quinto quarto dishes on the menu every day, and every restaurant offers many other options. The other principal influence in Roman cooking is Jewish cooking. One of the glories of Roman food is a Roman-Jewish dish: carciofi alla giudea (deep fried artichokes).


Bruschetta: This is what to have if you’re looking for olive oil with your bread or for garlic bread (which also doesn’t exist in Italy). It’s a slice of bread, toasted or grilled, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Very often, diced tomatoes are added (bruschetta al pomodoro). Pronounced brusKETTa.

Antipasto misto: A mixed appetizer plate that can include any or all of the following: cured meat, cheese, olives, grilled or preserved vegetables, greens. It is hard for me to write about this great food and not have my mouth water.antipastaroman Food in Rome

Italian cuisine is characterized by its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Dishes and recipes are often the creation of grandmothers rather than of chefs, which makes many recipes ideally suited for home cooking.

This is one of the main reasons behind the ever increasing popularity of this cuisine, as cooking magazines in foreign countries popularize Italian recipes targeted at the home cook. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated with variations throughout the country. Cannoli is a prime example. You can get a Cannolo anywhere in Italy.

The best advice I can give you about eating in Rome is this: Forget what you know about Italian food and try Roman food, choosing dishes that appeal to you from the above descriptions. They will be more genuine and more carefully prepared than generic “Italian” dishes. Enjoy the flavors of the food, they are so different and delicious.


Before I leave, I have to show you these deserts. I wish I could dive into them. They are very typical in Italy.

Cannoli, a very famous Italian dessert freshly made with bitter chocolate, candied orange and citron, cocoa, pistachio nuts, fresh ricotta blended with white wine and coffee powder - originated in the Palermo area of Sicily.

Tiramisu is perhaps the most famous Italian dessert, made with ladyfingers, coffee and mascarpone cheese. Tiramusu means, "pick me up" probably from the coffee in the dessert. It's origin is hotly debated. Venato, Sienna, Venice ... oh well, where ever it is from I know where it is going when it gets on a plate in front of me.
BTW the photo on the left is the traditional Tiramisu while the one on the right is a highly stylized version you might find at a high end restaurant.

Here is another little secret, if you are fortunate enough to be invited into an Italian home for dinner, it is customary to take a tray of dolce. Stop by an Italian Bakery early in the afternoon so that you have a good selection and ask for a tray of dolce for dinner. You will be able to pick from a wide array of finger desserts. Then they will wrap them for presentation when you arrive. It will be fun to pick them out and to eat them later.

Finally, if you have a sweet tooth and are willing to travel, go to Sicily or at least visit a Sicilian Bakery while in Rome and pick up a Sicilian Cassata. It is heaven. Imagine a cake with a thin layer of sponge cake on the bottom, then a filling similar to the Canolo filling and another thin layer of white sponge cake on top with the sides made of alternating sections of Marzipan, then cake, Marzipan, then cake all around the cake. And if that isn't enough, a translucent covering of white icing and marvelous decorations on top using candied fruit, Marzipan, and icing. Like I said, heaven to a sweet tooth.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Please read "Little Secrets" I wrote about the difference between Aura and Chakras. Hope you find interesting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

History of Rome

The Founding of Rome and the Kingdom of Rome

Rome's history starts with a legend. Rome is said to have been founded by the twin brothers Romulus and Ramus on the 21st of April, 753. The city of Rome was named after the brother who became the fist king of Rome, Romulus. Romulus's 37 year reign was followed by six other Etruscan Kings - this period of history is referred to as the Rule of the Seven Kings of Rome. The Roman Senate was established as an advisory body to the Etruscan kings. The Kings were eventually replaced with a republic (a Republic is a country without a king or emperor - the people who rule a republic are elected). 

The Roman Republic

The Roman Republic was the ancient Roman state which started in 509 BC and lasted until the Emperor Augustus assumed power in 27 BC.
  • The Roman Republic was governed by 300 Senators, all from aristocratic families who were appointed for life
  • When a Senator died, the Senators selected new Senators
  • The Senate also appointed two senators to become joint heads of state for a year. These heads of state were first known as praetors and later as consuls
  • Each consul had the power of veto to forbid any action of the other
  • To avoid serious stalemates in a crisis, the constitution of the republic provided for another more powerful office with the title of Dictator
  • A Dictator could only hold office for a period not exceeding six months
  • In the Roman Republic the wealthy, aristocratic Patricians ruled Rome
  • The poor Romans, the Plebeians (Plebs), protested at their total lack of power and exclusion from any benefits of the Republic
  • The protests of the Plebs led to the creation of two powerful new officials called the tribunes of the people whose role was to safeguard plebeian rights
  • The 500-year-old Roman Republic became weakened by bloody civil wars and political in-fighting and dissatisfaction with the Senate
  • Julius Caesar seized power and became Dictator, ending the Civil Wars, but signalling the end of the Roman Republic
  • The adoptive son of Julius Caesar, Octavian, became the first Emperor of Rome as Caesar Augustus

The Roman Empire

During this period Rome was ruled by Emperors and conquered most of the known Western World.
  • There were various dynasties of emperors who at first inherited the title through the family such as Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero
  • Other emperors obtained the position by virtue of their abilities
  • Other men just seized power
  • The Roman Empire saw wars, murder, revolts, civil wars, street fights, plagues, famines, fire and earthquakes which led to its weakening and ultimate decline
  • Famous historical events during the period of the Roman Empire included the lost legions of Varus, the reign of terror by Sejanus, the invasion of Britain and the great fire of Rome, Destruction of Jerusalem, the Eruption of Vesuvius and the Building of the Colosseum, Hadrian's Wall and the Pantheon, persecutions of the Christians,  and invasion by the Visigoths and the Vandals
  • The split of the Roman Empire was initiated by Diocletian into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire aka the Byzantine Empire
  • Theodosius I was the last emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. After his death in 395 AD the two parts of the Roman Empire were split permanently
  • The city of Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and by the Vandals in 455 signalling the disintegration of Roman authority and the final Fall of the Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire officially ends with the abdication of the last Emperor, Romulus Augusts, on 4 September 476. The Eastern (Byzantium Empire) continued for nearly 1000 more years.

This is a brief History of Rome.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How careful should you be going to Rome

Pickpockets are a big problem in Rome. When you're out wandering the streets or riding the metro, make sure that your wallet, phone and other valuables are stowed securely (and not in the outside pocket of your jacket, or back pocket of your jeans). If you carry a handbag, keep it with you at all times.

For a large city, Rome has a relatively low rate of violent crime. In recent years there have been more reports of robberies targeting businesses, but overall Rome is still a safe city.

However, for the tourist, there is a danger from pickpockets and bag snatchers, who might not be out to hurt you but could still ruin your holiday if they make off with your wallet. Confidence tricksters are also common, especially in major tourist areas like Termini station, the Vatican, and other popular sites. These scammers lose their power if you already know the game, so you may want to familiarize yourself with the information on taxis scams and other tourist scams.

Crime hotspots

As is often the case, the criminals congregate where the tourists are: crowds of lost, tired, overheated tourists make for easy pickings. Be careful around the Vatican, and other crowded areas like the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, and the Catacombs.

Public transport is another danger zone: be cautious in main transport hubs like the airports and downtown stations, on buses, trams, and the metro (especially on the more crowded routes that lead between tourist sites). As an example, the bus route from the Catacombs to downtown is especially notorious for pickpockets.


Pickpockets vary in appearance from gangs of itinerant teenage gypsies to well-dressed businessmen and often carry something to cover their activities: a shopping bag, a map, or just a big piece of torn cardboard. There are also gangs of children who will mob you and, by the time you've shooed them away, your pockets have been systematically emptied.Watch out for obvious distractions: if something's causing a scene and making a crowd gather, whether it's an impromptu musical performance, a street argument, or a woman taking her clothes off (it's been known), there's a good chance it's all been arranged so that a pickpocket can work the crowd. If you are confronted by children with newspapers to hide their hands, step back from them and say, "Basta" in a loud and authoritative voice. This means "Stop" in Italian. I have gone so far as to place my hand on the paper and push it out of the way. But, don't accost the children, you can be sure that an adult criminal isn't far away. You just want them to pick an easier target.

 Bag Snatchers

The criminals cruise around on mopeds can also be a danger. If you must carry a bag, try to sling it over your head and across your body, with the bag hanging away from the road in front of you. (Some others advise the opposite: to carry the bag loose off one shoulder, so if it is grabbed by a passing motorist driver, you aren't dragged with it.) The common ploy is for a moped to cruise behind you as you cross the street and grab the bag. They carry razors so the they can quickly cut the strap of the bag and yank it from your grip.

I have been fortunate when traveling to Rome a few times, nothing has ever happened to me. But I watch my purse! Cross-body in front  is a great option. Some travel bash even include a steel cable in the strap to foil the razor toting thief.
Several years ago,a good friend of mine went to Rome expecting the trip of a life time.
But, she was lulled into carelessness by the many motorcycles used for legitimate purposes such as  delivering things. As she crossed the street close to Piazza Navona, two guys on a moped silently slipped in behind her and took her bag, dragging her to the ground as she clutched onto the bag. They won. Unfortunately, she had all her documents, all the cash for her trip, some credit cards and travel checks in her bag. She lost everything and the trip was ruined!

So, PLEASE watch your purse if you go there and have a great time!

 My Advice

After years of travel, my best advice is,
  1. Don't carry all your valuables with you every day. Only take one credit card, some cash, and your passport. 
  2. Secure your passport next to your body. I put my passport in one of those holders, like a belt that I wear under my clothes.
  3. Store your valuables in the hotel safe. This assumes you stay at a reputable hotel.
  4. Take imitation jewelry with you. Keep the good stuff at home. I have some good recommendations in my Amazon shop.
  5. Use a Credit Card while traveling, not a debit card. If you do get your card number stolen by a dishonest waiter, you don't want your bank account cleaned out.
  6. If you catch a thief stealing from you, don't try to be a hero! This is not the time to play Rambo, now you need to be Sherlock Holmes and gather as much info as possible and go to the police. You can bet the thief has accomplices close by who will defend them.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Religion & Weather in Rome

Italy is a predominately a Roman Catholic country with 97.67% baptized as Catholic's. Today, you may find  minorities of Muslim (immigrants) and Jews with very few Christian Protestants due to a history of persecution and intolerance that has continued until modern times. The Catholic Church was the State Church until it was dis-enfranchised with the 1948 Constitution, then definitely with the 1984 revision of the Lateran Treaty. In Italy in 2006 there were 53 million of Christians (all denominations), 4 million Atheists and Agnostics, 1,210,00 Muslims, 160,000 Buddhists, 115,000 Hinduists, 70,000 Sikhs, 45,000 Hebrews, 15,000 Pagans.

What do the 15,000 Pagans worship, especially with the Vatican right around the corner? The Religion Romona is the per-Christian religion of Rome. Sometimes called "Roman Paganism", the modern practice of the Religion Ramona is an attempt to reconstruct the ancient faith of Rome as closely as possible, making as few concessions to modern sensibilities as possible. As with other forms of historical re-constructionist paganism, every attempt is made to rely on actual historical and archaeological evidence, and interpolations are made only when the primary sources are silent, and then we strive to be consistent with them.
The Religion Ramona began as the simple earth-based faith of the farmers of the village of Rome. Influenced by their Etruscan (and later Greek) neighbors, the Romans developed a complex State Religion that emphasized duty to the Gods (pietas) and serving them through exactly prescribed rituals.

Rome's mild climate makes it popular to visit year-round; however, spring and autumn are without doubt the best times to visit, with generally sunny skies and mild temperatures (although late autumn, November, can be rainy).
Unfortunately, these times are also the peak tourist season, when the tour buses pour in and tourists are herded around like cattle. July and August are unpleasantly hot, and Romans traditionally desert the stiflingly hot city in August, with many businesses closing; try to avoid visiting at this time. From December to February there is briskly cold weather, although it's rarely grey and gloomy.