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Italian Video Course Announcement | Print |  E-mail
Written by Larry Aiello   
Saturday, 29 November 2014 14:34

If you ever wanted to learn Italian then check out my new Italian Video Course.


You may be saying can't I learn the same stuff on YouTube for free? Well, you can. But you'll be bombarded with advertisements during your learning and a lot of other "related videos." Before you know it you'll get sidetracked and then you'll be watching dancing cats and dogs and NOT learning Italian.

You also do not have downloadable materials on YouTube and you don't get quizzes to track your progress. You also have to hunt and peck to figure out what you should be learning. My course takes you through a logical progression of what you should learn to get you from basic to intermediate in Italian.

It is geared for a beginning Italian language student with an emphasis on traveling to Italy. If you join today you get lifetime access to over 3 hours of video lessons, quizzes and downloadable materials. You can even access the materials any time you want via iPhone or Android apps.

And there is a money-back guarantee. You can also use the "Gift this Course" Option on checkout. It's a great way to give someone a great gift that could last a lifetime.

Click here to find out more...

Napoleon Hill Inspirational Quote in Italian | Print |  E-mail
Written by Larry Aiello   
Monday, 21 April 2014 00:45

One of the great pioneers in personal success and development was Napoleon Hill (1883 -1970). He authored many classic books such as "Think and Grow Rich" that continues to inspire people to this very day. He is also attributed to many great quotes including the one below which has been translated into Italian:

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.
Se non puoi fare grande cose, fai piccole cose in modo grandioso.
Napoleon Hill

Famous quote by Napoleon Hill translated into Italian

Agriturismo Wine Making Visit Sicily | Print |  E-mail
Written by Larry Aiello   
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 01:19

There has been a growing movement in Italy since the 1980s when the government allowed farmers to supplement their income by turning their farms into short-term vacation accommodations. This movement in Italy became known as "agriturismo," which is basically a two-word combination for agriculture and tourism.

Nestled right outside of Corleone, I had the pleasure to visit "Casa Mia" which means "My House" in Italian - a nice little agriturismo in the Sicilian region of Italy. Yes, it is very close to Corleone, the location for the famous "Godfather" movie made famous by Francis Ford Coppola in the 1970s. An interesting fact that many people do not know is that the actual footage was not filmed in Corleone but in another town a few hours away near Messina on the northeastern coast of Sicily.

Mafia myths, reality or legends still run deep in this part of Sicily. Well if you really want to get technical, in all parts of Sicily. Overlooking the rolling hills from the agriturismo the manager indicated to me that the hills had the infamous reputation as being known as a "mafia cemetery." One could only imagine how it received such a notorious distinction. Ah, but if only them there hills could talk. What a tale they could tell.

Below is a picture of the hills of the "mafia cemetery."  In the picture you can see some melons in the foreground and some sheep in the background.

Picture of Sicilian countryside showing melons and a herder in the background tending to his sheep.

One of the nice feelings that you get from staying at an Italian farmstay vacation is that it brings you back to a more simple place and time. All the food is fresh and naturally grown on the premises. This is how we ate up until about 100 years ago. Nowadays with fast food and processed foods we consume in the United States we lose so much of the natural ingredients and flavors in our foods. And when you taste food the way it is supposed to be grown, prepared and served it's like your taste buds become "born again" in almost a religious sense.

Below is a picture of the appetizer we had at lunch at Casa Mia - all the items were grown or milked from the same farm.
It's also a good way to unplug and unwind from your daily grind.

This place is not so easy to find. There are a lot of Sicilian back roads that are off the beat and path, so to speak, that you need to traverse to get there. Even my cousin (who is their photographer), who has been there a few times, had trouble finding the place. I wouldn't rely on any type of GPS or MapQuest. Luckily, they will arrange for a bus to pick you up from either Palermo or Corleone. Many of their guests will come in at the port of Palermo or Falcone-Borsellino airport (PMO) and then arrange for a pickup.

Sicilian olives prepared near Corleone along with some bread, salami and cheese.

Why Choose an Agriturismo in Italy

Another benefit of staying in an agriturismo is that you can see how they make various food items depending on the type of agriturismo that you choose for your Italian vacation. Some of them will show you how they make wine, cheese, olive oil, etc. In this case, I got to get an up and close personal tour of a Sicilian winery.

When people think of Italian wine they often think of the famous wines from Tuscany and the other northern Italian regions. However, Sicily, with its fertile and volcanic soil, is known to produce an excellent quality wine, especially known for marsala - yes as in chicken marsala. In fact, Sicily is Italy's third largest producer of wine after the northern regions that are home to Venice and Bologna.

Sicily is also known for other dessert wines. The process involves utilizing raisins instead of a mature grape. And of course the region also produces other highly esteemed red wines most notably the Nero d'Dvola, Corvo and Syrah along with the rich volcanic wines grown near Mount Etna.

Many people do not even realize that Sicily produces more wine than Australia and New Zealand combined! Think about that for a second. Australia has a land mass of almost 3 million square miles. It takes a few hours to fly across the country by plane. Sicily has about 10,000 square miles and it takes a few hours to drive across the island by car.

How they Make Wine in Sicily

CAVEAT - I am not a vintner, or someone who makes wine or an expert in this endeavor. There are many ways to make wine and various methods and techniques can be utilized. After all, this is a process that has been refined and perfected over thousands of years. However, below I'll show the basic process as was explained to me by my guide at Casa Mia.

Wine Making Process

The first obvious step is planting the grapes on the plantation. The Sicilian soil is very fertile and hilly and oftentimes rocky which makes it a great place for growing wine-quality grapes. There are tons of minerals in the soil that are conducive to making a high quality wine.

The grapes are then grown and then harvested. This typically occurs in mid-September through October, depending on the climate for that particular year. I was lucky that I visited in September so I got to see the wine production facility in operation.

Below you can see the grape fields just outside of the agriturismo.  The grapes in the top of the picture will become some type of white wine.  The grapes in the bottom part of the picture will end up becoming a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Some vineyards in central Sicily

The harvested grapres are then brought in on a truck and then weighed. Below you can see an image of the weighing station.

A weighing station used for weighing the harvest of grapes after they are picked.

Then the grapes will get cleaned and of course any rotten ones will not be utilized. Then they undergo a de-stemming process and are crushed. Nowadays the crushing takes place with high-tech machines although in the old days it was done "a piedi" or by foot. The stems and other remnants are then used as fertilizer for the next planting. As you can see everything is used and recycled back to nature!

This is the machine that extracts the skin from the grapes during wine production.

Yeast can sometimes be added to aid in the fermentation process which turns the sugar of the grape into alcohol. Or sometimes there is enough natural yeast to aid in fermentation.

Generally speaking, with red wines the skin is used during the fermentation process to give the wine its red color. If white wine is being produced, the skins are not utilized in the wine production. However, the white grape skins are then shipped to Naples where they are used in the production of grappa which is an after-dinner liqueur that is very similar to moonshine.

The fermentation will occur in giant stainless steel vats.

Picture of Stainless Steel Vats used in Wine Production

Storage vats used in wine production during the fermentation process.

Secondary fermentation

Then the wine is stored in oak barrels in the cantina and it'll continue to ferment and age. The barrel will even further add to the complexity of the taste.

Oak barrels used for aging the wine properly

After the storage in the barrels it is time for the wine to get bottled. Below in this picture you can actually see the bottling plant. These machines can handle 4,000 bottles per hour. That comes down to about 66 per minute. More than one every second! Below are pictures of the wine bottling phase of the operation along with placing the label on the wine bottle.

These are machines that put labels on the wine during the bottling phase.

This next picture below shows a closeup of the label.  This is actually a Syrah wine.  Principe di Corleone is the producer.

An actual wine label from a Sicilian winery.


And then after the bottling process is complete the wines are packaged in containers and then shipped to the various markets, restaurants, etc. for consumption.

Here are the wines prior to being shipped to the purchaser:

Pallets of wine that are awaiting shipping to the consumer

This whole process from start to finish can take about five years before the winery sees any cash from the sale of wine. It's not a business for amateurs and it's obvious that the wine business has a lot of barriers to entry. It's amazing that we can find bottles of wine as inexpensive as they are considering the amount of labor, love and risk that goes into the production.

It was such a delight to get to spend the day at the agriturismo. To savor the delicious food and wine that is grown right in front of you is such an enjoyable experience that I'll never forget. The place is also frequented by people from different parts of the world, including the US, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. It's a good place to meet people from different cultures.

If you plan on going to Casa Mia in Corleone you can call them at 091-846-2922 or 091-846-3512. Or feel free to contact me and I will let them know you will be arriving. They will welcome you with open arms. Another alternative for finding good agriturismo residences in Italy is by going through this link.

Please feel free to share this page with your friends on Facebook or twitter with the sharing buttons above and leave a message below if you liked this article.

If you want to see my books about Italy or the Italian language you can go to this link on Amazon.


Below you will find a couple of pictures for Casa Mia - one is a pool on the premises for relaxation and one is of the grounds.

Swimming pool in Sicily at the Casa Mia agriturismo


The grounds at a Sicilian agriturismo


Challenge Yourself Inspirational Quote in Italian | Print |  E-mail
Written by Larry Aiello   
Saturday, 15 March 2014 15:02

This is a famous inspirational quote translated into Italian that falls along the lines of what you believe to be true is most certainly true! The power of your own mind combined with positive thinking can propel us to accomplishing things we never thought possible. Here is the quote – I’m not sure when it was published or who actually wrote it – but here is the English and Italian version:

Challenge yourself with something you know you could never do, and what you’ll find is that you can overcome anything.
Mettiti alla prova con qualcosa che credi di non poter fare e scoprirai che puoi fare qualsiasi cosa.
- Anonymous Author

Here is an image below - please feel free to share to your friends.

Challenge Yourself Inspirational Quote Translated into Italian

Characteristics of Roman Cuisine | Print |  E-mail
Written by Antonio Violante   
Saturday, 01 March 2014 15:59

Roman Cuisine Typical Characteristics

When on a tour to Rome the least of a tourist's worries should be food or a good eatery. Yes, Rome is not only famous for its breathtaking sites and rich history. There are many good quality eating places from pizzerias and trattorias (that are run by families and have been operating for many years with good reputations to back them), to more hip and fancy restaurants. Roman cuisine is known to satisfy hunger with its savory flavors and simplicity. It is full of flavor and offers many mouth-watering dishes for many tastes.

Roman cuisine is deeply rooted in traditions and reflects the past through natural ingredients. It mainly consists of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the region and this is mainly artichoke. Whether it is simmered in garlic, olive oil, mint or deep fried. Quinto quarto also known as innards are less expensive meat cuts cooked in chili pepper and herbs. Tasty and deep appetizers like stuffed zucchini and salted cod are common trademarks of roman food. Pecorino cheese which is extracted from sheep milk is a very used ingredient for a number of recipes.

Pasta certainly qualifies as the Italian staple food and has been for many centuries. Spaghetti aje o ojo' and 'carbonara,' are some of the common loved pasta dishes. They are simple to make and effective and have better taste when garlic, chili pepper and olive oil are added. Olive oil is a major component of roman cooking. It is impossible to come across a dish that has no olive oil in it. Most of these ingredients don't require long preparation hours.

Herbs are a compulsory part of it and they bring out the homemade, genuine and tasty flavors. Sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, bay leaves and many others are always put to use in a way or the other. Bread is an important element in a Roman meal. In the past bakers were regarded very highly in society for their skill this signifying the importance of bread. Roman cuisine is said to have taken its humble flavors from a culture of leftovers. Whatever was not suitable for the cardinals and princes was offered to the lower class people and they would make a feast out of it. Much has evolved though and some of what was cooked back then is not to be found nowadays.

Soup is yet another trademark of Roman cuisine. Soup is accompanied by bread, meat or fish pieces and cheese. There are many soups made from garlic, carrots, celery, parsley and onions, legumes, vegetables or any other ingredient that one prefers. Soups are really easy to make and aren't restricted to ingredients. Desserts are also an important element. Crustulae and ricotta (which is made of sheep milk) are favorite desserts. Ricotta is consumed fresh as a dessert on its own. It is used to make homemade creams to fill cake, pastries, bocconotti, flavored ricotta and ricotta pudding. It is also used on toast and bread as spread, as a dipping for cafe' latte, as a snack for kids and as a replacement for cheese during meals.

You may also be interested in: First Time to Rome Vacation Planner - available on Amazon

Pictured below is an example of Pasta Alla Carbonara - Photo Attribution: By Ed Hawco (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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Agriturismo in Italy

What is Agriturismo? In Italian, it is actually a combination of two words - Agricoltura and Turismo - agriculture and tourism.

It basically means spending your vacation on a farm.  It started becoming popular in the 1980s when many Italian farmers were looking for other ways to supplement their income. At an Italian agriturismo you will usually have the chance to experience the foods prepared from raw materials produced on the farm.  Some will allow their guests participate in the activities surrounding the farm such as wine-making, cheese-making, olive production, milking cows, etc.  It is usually a very rustic experience.  Agriturismo can be another option instead of a typical Italian vacation that involves Italian hotels.  Most of them are located in Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily.


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