Faena: More than a Hotel; Art, Culture, Gastronomy and its creative master mind

 

When entering the opulent Faena Hotel is like submerging in to a Cathedral of art; murals and mosaics by renowned Argentinian artist Juan Gatti called the Coined Utopia (Faena + Utopia) a depict of the Journey of Life and a vision of Alan Faena’s magical world.

DSC04517
The author in front of Juan Gatti’s “Coined Utopia” at Faena Miami Beach wearing Dolce & Gabbana

Alan Faena; the orchestrator of this Hotel Universe; has always been the utopian businessman; when believing in areas that no one will give credit to; decades ago back in Argentina, transforming and making its own empire from marginal to chic; like a Midas touch; everything turned in to gold.

When understanding the Faena’s “cosmovision”; his own style that has been evolving as the Urban Alchemist; dressing in pristine white and a dandy hat but with a humble accessory to complete the outfit: an Indian wayuu crossbody bag. We want to show you more about his fantastic world and here we are for the experience.

Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 11.07.16 AM
Alan Faena

Golden columns and red carpet guide us to the Living room, the tropical lounge retreat with a curated live music set nightly; elaborated mixology and that feeling of being on your best friend’s living room.

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann: A few steps right after we are at Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann; crowned the Ambassador of Fire; Francis Mallmann brings his own South American “Gaucho” mastery for “asado” as the traditional way on his custom designed wood fired grill.

 

One of the distinctive points at the Faena is the golden mammoth installation by Damien Hirst; “Gone but not forgotten” is an example of the unexpected bringing us back to reality and what is here to stay. The path will take us to the beach on a dreamy oasis of white sands flanked by the characteristic red and white stripped umbrellas with endless tassels; in the Middle East tassels were worn as amulets for protection; tassels can be seen on the decor around the Faena complex.

IMG_9621
Damien Hirst: “Gone but not forgotten” Montserrat Franco wearing a Pitusa Sevillana dress

Pao by Paul Qui:  Coming back to the dining areas; we are ready to contemplate the stunning views from the terrace at PAO by celebrity Chef Paul Qui; a James Beard winner brings his Pan Asian flair to Faena’s fine dining arena; from stylish presentations to harmonious flavors; the crudos, kinilaw, ceviche, sashimi or tiradito are once again a delectable sharing experience all paired with a cult and collectible wine list under the tutelage of the sommelier team at La Cava. Another Damien Hirst sculpture of The Unicorn; half gold, half alive in the middle of the dining room is a true expression of the dichotomy myth + reality in Faena’s universe.

IMG_0531
Damien Hirst: The Unicorn at Pao by Paul Qui
IMG_7381
The Unicorn is the name of this creative dish composed of Uni + Corn on a sea urchin shell

Tierra Santa: The Spa

White for the floors and walls, at “Tierra Santa Healing House” spa but full of vibrant colors of Latin American embroidery and handcrafted objects by Eco Fair Trade designer Carolina K who has been working with different ethnic groups from Mexico to Peru and India with successful collaborations such as Anthropology and Urban Outfitters.

IMG_0254
Otomi cushion covers and ethnic objects at the Bazar by Carolina K inside Tierra Santa spa. Otomi cushions are also part of Tierra Santa’s decor.

Tierra Santa is America’s first South American inspired spa, combining ancient healing techniques and treatments; hand blended plant oils, rose stones and vibrating singing bowls. Sustainable in so many different levels Tierra Santa’s holistic treatments have been developed respecting the mysticism and rituals of these cultures with their own in-house Shaman.
Spa Director Vivianne Garcia-Tunon explained what makes Tierra Santa Healing House so different from any other Spa experience; a unique collection of seven “Moringa” seed base oils representing the 7 chakras to elevate, calm, restore and heal are used on each specific treatment; Amazonian white clay collected from the Marajo shores and Guarana-maca blend scrubs to purify mind and body; a welcoming scent of Palo Santo and their own custom made soap tower are just examples of the attention to every detail. Once at the Wet Spa; guests can experience the journey of the senses; the hammam, centered by heated gobek tasi stone and incrusted with Faena’s signature South American Rose mosaic.

IMG_0409
Inside the Hammam the gobek tasi stone incrusted with Faena’s signature South American Rose mosaic.
IMG_3076
Signature 7 chakra oils made of moringa seeds and Himalayan singing bowls at Tierra Santa Spa
IMG_4824
A treatment suite at Tierra Santa spa

Back to the spa suites; a rainbow stripped rug representing the 7 chakras and comfy sofas adorned with otomi embroidered cushions make the perfect spot for sipping on blended teas and healing stone infused water while contemplating views of the tropical oasis.

IMG_3780.JPG

A gracious spa hostess dressed on Huaxacan styled dress by Carolina K guide us to the gorgeous suites covered with Juan Gatti’s murals. There, a choice of therapeutic power oils, healing stones and custom massages are used in conjunction with singing bowls to elevate the spirit.

Now, we don’t want to go back to reality but we can always dream of that fantastic world and yet have it all; right here in Miami Beach at the Faena District.

For reservations:

Faena Hotel Miami Beach
3201 Collins Ave.
Faena District, Miami Beach, FL 33140
Phone # 305 535 4697
http://www.faena.com

Tierra Santa Healing House
Phone # 1 844 798 9716

Pao by Paul Qui
Phone # 786 655 5600

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
Phone # 786 655 5600

As seen on Fashion & Wine Magazine http://www.fashionandwinemag.com

 

 

 

Miami’s cultural and gastronomic tours

With so much to do in Miami it is hard to decide where to start your day but if you are in the Downtown area, need a great cup of coffee and at the same time support your local roasters stop by Eternity Coffee Roasters on 117 SE 2nd Ave.  They have a roasterie and tasting room where you can choose your grains, make your own blends and they will roast it and brew for you on site.  I took my European friends to the tiny shop and they all agreed the coffee was superb, the espressos made just right, the aromas and the blends fantastic.

Just like in the wine world, the coffee can be tasted and appreciated, today there are more coffee connoisseurs who are showing interest in the “art of the barista” (coffee barman) So now you know, when you need your Java dose try Eternity Coffee and get the whole experience of coffee tasting.

The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room.  Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room. Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry

If you didn’t make a trip yet to Miami’s newest Museum the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) there’s no better time to do it then now and there are no excuses to be immersed in the contemporary art world with all this Museum has to offer. Arrive to the Museum by car, foot or take the Metro Mover stopping at the Museum station and you will be right there on 1103 Biscayne Blvd. Each second Saturday of the month there’s a free admission for everyone, a program sponsored by Target.

Most of the Latin American Art collection including Botero, Diego Rivera and Wilfredo Lam comes from Colombian-born developer Jorge Perez who donated $40 million in cash and art to earn naming rights.  Perez, the son of Cuban exiles, has been a major force in Miami’s urban redevelopment.

A visit to the PAMM will definitely open new ways to look at art and think twice when labeling Miami as a less cultural town.

Ai Weiwei "According to what?" retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
Ai Weiwei “According to what?” retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.  Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM

Time for lunch? Visit the Historic Miami River neighborhood, one of the oldest in Miami.  At a settlement from the early 1840’s is where you will find Garcia’s Seafood and Grill Fish Market located on 398 NW North River Dr. you will find fresh fish and seafood from the boats to your plate served with the traditional Caribbean seasonings and flavors.  For over 40 years The Garcia’s (a Cuban-born family of 11 kids) have been offering affordable dining with fresh catch grilled to order on a casual riverside setting.

Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros)
Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs, sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros) with grilled shrimp. These side dishes are perhaps part of Miami’s Cuban traditional gastronomy
Garcia's fresh stone crab
Garcia’s fresh stone crab

Now is time to visit another great unconventional Gallery on a Historic site in Downtown Miami, CU1 Gallery at the Security Building on 117 NE 1st Ave.

The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction.  Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style,  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction in 1926. Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
20140107-213406.jpg
CU1 Gallery is a photo space located inside the iconic Security Building. You can visit the gallery Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 6 pm. Free admission
20140107-213454.jpg
“Look at Me” was the first opening exhibition at CU1 Gallery where you can take a look through the photographer’s lens inside the vault at The Security Building
"Look at Me" showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
“Look at Me” showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance, it's going to happen.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller who believed in Miami’s art life, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance and it’s going to happen.

“Eye to Eye” is the current exhibition at CU1 Gallery on view until February 14 2014.  What are you waiting for? take a look at one of the newest innovative galleries in Miami.

Now get ready for the next art exhibitions on board of the SeaFair docked at the Chopin Plaza next to the Intercontinetal Hotel from January 16th to the 20th of 2014.  it is a unique experience to appreciate works of local and international artists showcasing installations, paintings, photography and sculptures.  See you on board Miami !!!

The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th
The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th

(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco

Best kept secrets in Downtown Miami

Take a stroll in Downtown Miami like a local and if you live in Miami discover or revisit these great spots once again. Start with a good coffee at The Urban Öxy proudly brewing Panther coffee , a local roaster located on 101 NE 2nd Ave. I really love this coffee shop where everything is made from scratch so you can have your coffee the way you want it.
Prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, try some of the grill sandwiches made to order with roasted artichoke, sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, provolone, Swiss or for the sweet tooth the mini cupcake selection or the homemade oatmeal cookies with pecan, dark and white chocolate chips, cranberry or macadamia nuts, absolutely delicious.

The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy

Now that you’ve got your coffee and read your newspaper why not taking a visit to the Freedom Tower, just at walking distance located on 600 Biscayne Blvd. across the American Airlines Arena, the Freedom Tower is one of Miami’s magnificent landmarks constructed in 1924 on the Spanish Colonial revival architectural style, conceived originally for the Miami News, serving later as center for Cuban refugees during 1962 to 1964. Today is home of the Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design and you can enjoy the contemporary art and photography exhibits as they are free and open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays until 5 pm.

The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville
The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville, the alligators climbing on the tower were part of the “ForeverGlades” exhibition in 2013 in collaboration with Galleria Ca D’Oro Rome-Miami
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
"Rituals in Haiti" the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower
“Rituals in Haiti” the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower.  The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people

And for those who are craving of cultural things to do in Miami there are no excuses, this is exactly what we will do if we were in NYC going from one Art Gallery to another and then stopping for some coffee and cupcakes, really? At least I will.

Now having fulfilled your cultural appetite why not going for lunch just a few blocks away on another historical building of Downtown Miami, yes I am talking about ‘Soya & Pomodoro” a truly hidden gem, a place were you can seat and relax like in NYC’s SOHO while enjoying comfort Italian food on a very particular setting.

Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant.  The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant. The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida's history.
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida’s history.
Absolutely amazing the "Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio" fresh pasta filled  with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
Absolutely amazing the “Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio” fresh pasta filled with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style,  very present in the heart of Downtown Miami
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style, very present in the heart of Downtown Miami

Soya & Pomodoro is also great to visit on the evenings for dinner, Thursdays
or Fridays when they have live jazz and… talking about live Jazz another
great place to visit in Downtown Miami is “Le Chat Noir” this intimate suburban spot next door to Soya & Pomodoro has anEpicurean market section were you can get your selection of cheeses and charcuterie and a bottle of French wine, then go downstairs to listen to jazz and blues truly soulful musicians.  If you are looking for
an alternative atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on  Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz.  You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz. You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Hope you enjoy this short Downtown   Miami tour for a day, keep coming to the blog for new places   to dine, shop and live a cultural life in Miami.  See you soon   !!!
(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco.  All   pictures by me, except for the ones with credits.

 

 

 

 

Dolce & Gabbana, Visions of Sicily

For the fashionable pair Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, their beloved Sicily is an endless font of inspiration. With several collections on a row from New York to Milan Fashion Weeks they take us on a tour to rediscover Sicilian traditions, architecture, and history through Fashion.

The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous  Byzantine mosaics.
The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous Byzantine mosaics.
Montserrat Franco in Dolce & Gabbana's Byzantine dress
Montserrat Franco wearing the Byzantine dress

 

Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art.  Founded in 1172 by William II.  A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art. Founded in 1172 by William II. A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
dolce
Details from the runway at the Milan Fashion Week 2013. The sumptuous gold, the Cardinal red, the Sicilian widow black and the pure white. This collection is a romantic view of the Sicilian women going to Church, wearing their lace veils and rosaries, the accessories are exaggerated with bejeweled crowns that makes them part Saint and part principessa.
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, bag and dress from the Sicilian Baroque collection
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses from the Sicilian Baroque collection
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.

The 2013 Fall/Winter Collection is all about Domenico Dolce’s homeland, honoring the materials of homespun craft (needlepoint, tapestry) the faded baroque splendor in the palaces and basilicas of Southern Italy, an invitation to look deep in to our lost traditions and beliefs, no matter what they are.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco

La Maison d’Hermès opens a new Temple of Luxury in Milan

With a private and impeccable event the French Luxury Maison Hermès opened the doors of its new Milan flagship store on Via Montenapoleone 12, Milan’s fashion “quadrilatero”.   The Neoclassical palace was dressed up in the famous “giallo ambrosiano” the characteristic yellow color of the city and the exhibition of Pégase d’Hermès, on display in the city’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The Pegase of Hermes on display at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, artwork by Christian Renonciat, celebrates the opening of the new store

The choice of Pégase statue it was inspired by the bronze sculpture ‘Eloge du Cheval’, which was also built by Renonciat for the famous Ecole National d’Equitation in Samur, France. Made of beautiful handcrafted wood, the wings represent the free spirit of Hermès.

The infamous "Kelly" bag is one of the best seller items, named after Grace Kelly, the bag made fashion history in 1956 when the Princess of Monaco attempted to protect her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
The infamous “Kelly” bag is one of the best seller items of the Maison, named after Grace Kelly.
Grace Kelly and her Hermes bag during her pregnant days
The Kelly bag made fashion history in 1956 when the Princess of Monaco attempted to hide and protect her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
The Birkin bag pictured here in furious red is more flexible than the Kelly and can remain easily open at the top.  The Birkin has two handles when the Kelly has only one handle.
The Birkin bag, created after Jane Birkin, the haute-hip English born but a long term resident of France is more flexible than the Kelly and can remain easily open at the top. The Birkin has two handles when the Kelly has only one handle.

Older than Louis Vuitton as a brand, Hermes is the epitome of elegance and style.  An Institution in the “savoir fare” (know how to).  In 1837 Hermes was already the leader in saddle horse making, requested by Royal Houses.  Today; from the hands of the same family, the tradition continues, evolving in smaller accessories and luxury objects of desire, the must have: bags, foulards, belts, etc.

The Hermes, horse and chariot logo.  The Maison was created by Thierry Hermes (1801-1878)
The Hermes, horse and chariot logo. The Maison was created by Thierry Hermes (1801-1878)
Enamel bracelets House of Hermes artistic vision.  Detail from the Great Odalisque by Ingress, 1814.
Enamel bracelets. Maison d’Hermes artistic vision. Detail from the Great Odalisque by Ingres, 1814 (oil on canvas) at The Louvre, Paris.
The iconic Hermes belt
The iconic Hermes belt
"The Carre" made under the Lyonese school of twill silk making.
“The Carre” made under the Lyonese old school of twill silk making. The Hermes scarf is a style icon, worn by Royalty and celebrities, coveted and admired, is not only a square of silk but a stuff of legend.
And for those avid fashion readers I recommend this book by Nadine Cole.  Since the first scarf made in 1937, the House of Hermes has produced more than two thousand different designs.
And for those avid fashion readers I recommend this book by Nadine Cole. Since the first scarf made in 1937, the House of Hermes has produced more than two thousand different designs

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco

Pompeii and Herculaneum, a walk on the roads of ash and wine

The Goddess of Love.  Is one of my favorite frescoes inside the many houses of Pompeii.  This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.
“The Goddess of Love” is one of my favorite frescoes inside the House of Venus. This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.

The remains of Pompeii were discovered by accident in the 1590’s when architect Domenico Fontana was excavating the canal to bring the waters from river Sarno to Torre Anunziata but it was not until the 1750’s that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure and one of the most important and well preserved examples of Roman civilization.  Follow me on this amazing trip around the streets, houses and wineries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvius National Park.

The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people.  The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.
The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people. The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.

In 90-89 BC the people of Campania became Roman citizens.  Naples (Neapolis) or the new city came in to contact with the growing power of Rome.  In AD 79 the erupting Vesuvius buried a number of ancient Roman cities including Pompeii.

Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud.  People tried to scape but didn't make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.
Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud. People tried to scape but didn’t make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.

IMG_08211

Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also  preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.

Thanks to the many discoveries we can have an idea of the life in the Roman houses of Pompeii, constructed generally around two open courts; the atrium; an Italic feature and the colonnaded garden of Greek origin.  But not only the architecture and the art in their walls, Pompeii reveals much more in the bodies of people unearthed along with their everyday objects.

A public fountain in Via dell'Abbondanza.   The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
A public fountain in Via dell’Abbondanza. The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
One of the horse barns in Pompeii still shows utensils for horse riding and the remains of a horse placed on display
At the House of the Chaste Lovers is possible to see the fossilized bodies of the mules that used to drive the millstone for grinding wheat.
Medusa's head (Sec. IX BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii.  On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Medusa’s head (Mosaic IX Century BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii. On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii's many brothels.  The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in this houses.
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii’s many brothels. The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in these houses.

Lacryma Christi and the ancient wine making in the Vesuvius

A Paleo Christian legend says that Christ cried over the Vesuvius and His Holy tears blessed the vineyards giving name to this excellent wine.  Other legend distorted from the pagan mythology says that Jesus visited a hermit converting his bad beverage in to amazing wine.  Today we can see many frescoes with wine rituals from the houses in Pompeii that have survived the ashes after the eruption of the Volcano.

The Wine Offering.  Fresco found in Pompeii (Sec. VII BC)   Many of these well preserved frescoes can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
The Wine Offering. Fresco found in Pompeii (VII Century BC) on display at The Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) Wine making and consumption was very important in Greek and Roman cultures, just like drinking water.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD.  Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines including the Lacryma Christi.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD. Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile.  Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile. Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico made the perfect blend for Lacryma Christy reds.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico grapes are used to make the Lacryma Christy reds.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture  the organic "Pienolo tomatoes" just like the wines;  obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture the organic “Pienolo tomatoes” just like the wines; obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
The Vesuvius National Park it's a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
The Vesuvius National Park it’s a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
I had the pleasure to visit Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter.  Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
Visiting Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter. Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti's fields
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti’s fields

 

Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii

Herculaneum

The town’s quiet existence was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 79 during the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii with deep lava and mud.  The site of ancient Herculaneum is well below the level of the modern town.  The area is still being excavated.

In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan.  Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan. Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting.  Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting. Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco.  All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot.  You are more than welcome to share them mentioning the font.

Great trips around Italy on a Vespa: The Amalfi Coast

 

One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, most of these trips can be done  a weekend, again the Vespa is one of the best transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads
One of the greatest trips with breathtaking views are around the Amalfi Coast, the Vespa is one of the preferred transportations when it comes to getting around those narrowed roads

Going to the Amalfi Coast is certainly memorable and a unique experience, the story of Amalfi is linked to the nymph Melphe, the apple of Hercule’s eye and the legend says that he built a city so high on the cliffs to buried her when she died but there is another theory; when Romans lived here in the IV century named it Melfi.

In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites
In recent years Unesco has included the Amalfi Coast in its world Heritage sites

Suspended between the sea, sky ad earth the state road 163 twists and turns in an almost never ending path around the Coast, it has stunning views from every corner.  In the 19th century access to the Amalfi coast was very difficult and possible only by the mountains in mules.  By the 1900’s the isolation of this part of Italy attracted many travelers. In Edwardian times the coast became a destination of choice by British aristocrats, later actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren  brought fame to the area.

You can find some of the best well kept secret restaurants of Italy (Michellin stars and local eateries) with amazing menus that are well worth the narrowed roadside trip and the headache.

A view from the Amalfi coastline
A view from the Amalfi coastline

Arriving to Nerano

nerano
The first stop in the Amalfi coast is the quiet fishermen village of Nerano, part of Massa Lubrense. Below is the town of Marina del Cantone popular for its small seafront and restaurants, here is the Star Michelin Restaurant “La Taverna del Capitano”

 

Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce
Fior di zucca ripiena (stuffed zucchini flower) How beautiful is to eat a flower stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese on a bed of summer tomato sauce.

 

capitano 2
Taverna del Capitano; a family tradition from grandfather Alfonso to son Salvatore Caputo who is one of the youngest recognized star Chefs of Southern Italy. Pictured here marinated spigola (European sea bass) covered with grilled aubergine, with zucchinis in julienne, cherry tomatoes and a bed of aromatic herb sauce. I paired this dish with Marisa Cuomo’s Amalfi Coast Fior D’Uva wine.

la taverna del capitano
Spaghetti alla Nerano, since you are in Nerano you must try this fresh hand made pasta which definitely tastes better with the fantastic view. It is characteristic with the bold flavors of the Provolone del Monaco cheese and slices of zucchini.

 

On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view
On my way to Positano I stopped to admire the view

 

View from La Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
View from Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, great place for an aperitif at sunset
Positano.  In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that "Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone"
Positano. In 1953 John Steinbeck wrote that “Positano bites deep, it is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
The view from Le Sirenuse Hotel opened in 1951 when the Marchesi Sersale turned their summer house in to a charming Hotel.
Mozzarella di Bufala.  I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo.  In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.
Mozzarella di Bufala. I stopped at Next Café in Positano to savor this fresh traditional soft cheese eaten only within a day or so of being made, solely from the milk of water buffalo. In the Amalfi coast the Buffalo mozzarella is produced in Tramonti.

 

On my way to Praiano, Marina di Praia

 

Furore, before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains.  Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.
Before arriving to Amalfi I had to make a stop and contemplate the Fiordo of Furore, fishermen houses clinging on the rocky mountains. Be aware of the many steps you will need to climb from the road to the beach and careful with that 2 way road that fits only one car at a time.

Amalfi

Amalfi  has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century.  The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian
Amalfi has the glamour of the once glorious maritime Republic, the Duomo di St Andrea was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11th century. The campanile is is decorated with Arabic like interlaced arches, typical of the Southern Italian Romanesque.
I stop for some readings at the Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants "Da Gemma"
A pause at Piazza Duomo before heading to one of my favorite restaurants “Da Gemma”
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
Fresh fish is important part of the Amalfi cuisine, the flavor and freshness of the fish should shine and not be masked with many flavors
The food from the Amalfi coast features more fish, lemons and herbs.  Pictured here one of the dishes served at Da Gemma
The food from the Amalfi coast features fish seasoned with lemons and herbs. Pictured here sea bass served at Da Gemma paired with the local white wine Marisa Cuomo’s Costa d’Amalfi Furore is a superb blend of 60% Falanghina grapes and 40% Biancolella
"Melanzane di Cioccolato" is a hybrid of a lasagna like made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
“Parmigiana di Melanzane al Cioccolato” (Baked Aubergine with chocolate) is a hybrid made for dessert with eggplant covered in hot chocolate sauce and chips of caramelized fruit, sugar covered almonds and nuts served with vanilla ice cream and a syrup snowflake for garnish
Sweet ending with macchiato (as I can't take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored pop corn
Sweet ending once more with macchiato (as I can’t take my espresso is too strong) and a variety of home made cookies and flavored popcorn

 

 

 

Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century.  Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello's landmarks by excellance, with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles
Ravello was part of the Duchy of Amalfi in the 9th century. Villa Rufolo is one of Ravello’s landmarks with Arabic elements and a mixture of 13th and 14th centuries architectural styles

 

A view from Villa Rufolo's amphitheater, the Ravello's annual Music Festival takes place here in July.  Here is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera "Parsifal"
A view from Villa Rufolo’s amphitheater, the Ravello’s annual Music Festival takes place here in July. Also in this place is where Richard Wagner got his inspiration to write his Opera “Parsifal”

Maiori, Minori and Cetara

the next towns along the coastline are Maiori, Minori and Cetara where the ancient Maritime Republic arsenals were situated, dates back to Roman times.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso's bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy.  His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.
Stopping at Sal Di Riso’s bakery is a must while in Minori, Salvatore di Riso was the first Pastry Chef from Southern Italy to be admitted in to the prestigious Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy. His renowned cakes and desserts are world famous, Pope John Paul II approved.

 

Vietri sul Mare

Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
Arriving to Vietri sul Mare will lead you to some traditional shops where you can get the best deals on majolica ceramic that made so popular this part of the Coast, these hand painted utensils have been made here since the 1400
I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well
After my last stop at Vietri sul Mare I am ready to head back to Naples. I love to go to the Amalfi Coast in winter as well.
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coast line road.  The first traces of snow were there and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to
I made my way back by the woods instead of using the coastline road. The first traces of snow were there in November and it was extremely cold but as a sunny Floridian I had to touch the snow, I just had to