Courtyard Of Courtship | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

Walking along the small alleyways of Polignano a Mare in my beloved Puglia, a good aroma of home cooked food filled my nose. The salty air of the Mediterranean mixed with the food aroma coming from people’s houses permeated the air and created an aura of antiquity, that midday feeling when works stops to give way to daily meal with family and nothing else matters.

I was visiting my country at that time and I was walking the streets of Polignano with all my childhood friends who are ready to pick up our friendship where we left off, as if no years have passed by and no oceans divide us.
I pushed open the large green metal patina door of the house where the food aroma was coming out and a beautiful courtyard revealed in front of my eyes. Tall and short plants concealed colorful seating areas, cherubs in the fountains looked happy to play with the water, flowers everywhere, distressed walls, consumed floor and clean laundry were in all in one space open to the sky.

On the second floor, the mama was leaning on the balcony, visibly curious to see what a group of strangers were doing in her courtyard. To relieve her inconvenience of having strangers in her court, I soon asked her what she was cooking and why it smelled so good. She replied that the aroma I thought was so fantastic was nothing more than simple pasta and beans with pork bones. She invited all 10 of us to eat with her family and after a few minutes of reluctance, we were delighted to accept the invitation. The lunch lasted a good 3 hours, during which time she took out her best home-made wines and the best food preserved for the winter. It was a feast with people with had not known before that moment and became our best friend.

A courtyard is not a backyard, nor a front porch, it is a private open spaces surrounded by walls used in residential architecture for as long as people have lived in constructed dwellings. In Roman villas the Peristilio was a courtyard used to give more light and aeration to the dwelling, often enclosing a swimming pool, or fountains to give out a pleasant atmosphere with games of water. In the Middle Eastern countries and as far as 3000 B.C., courtyards have been used for many purposes including cooking, sleeping, working, playing, gardening, and even places to keep animals.

In the Renaissance Italy the courts with portico and colonnades returned in all the classic elements, even monasteries and public buildings adopted the style. In Italy there are beautiful examples of public buildings with a court: Brunelleschi’s Palazzo Busini-Bardi (1430), Palazzo Strozzi and Palazzo Pitti (late 1500) in Florence, Palazzo Venezia (1470) and Palazzo Farnese in Rome or Palazzo Ducale (1470) in Urbino.

Courtship often took place in the courtyard of private homes under the watchful eye of the family, but mostly courtyards filled the universal desires of human beings to have air, light, privacy, security and tranquility.
If I will ever build my house, I will have a spectacle of courtyard and reproduce that moment in Polignano with all the friends who will want to court my food. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val Admiring World This is my 24th years in design business and I am not showing signs of wanting to quit. I will be evolving in different directions, while still helping people realizing their dream spaces in homes, offices, interiors, exteriors and improving restaurants or cafes. Check out my books on
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Au Revoir Holidays | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Last night, I closed the holiday season celebrating Epiphany day, which falls on Jan. 6.
Epiphany Day in my native Italy was the day when kids received their Christmas gift, note I said a gift in the singular form and received nothing for Christmas day. Christmas was only a religious celebration, a time to spend in holiness, reflecting on spirituality, with family cooking, laughing, loving and enjoying one another.

On the evening of Jan.5th, my parents told us kids to go to bed earlier than usual to allow the Befana (Epiphany) to come down through chimneys or other ways if there was no fireplace and leave one gift for each kid of the house. They also suggested leaving a little something to eat for the Befana. Flying on a broom from home to home, delivering gifts, made the old woman very tired, thus she needed to replenish her strength. A reminder of possibly receiving black charcoal at the Epiphany Day instead of a gift loomed over our head during the year, it kind of forced us to be good kids all the time. Black charcoal was only a chunk of sugar colored with black food coloring, but still, receiving it, was such an ordeal.

We went to bed early than usual, but we stayed awake listening for any noises indicating the Befana was in the house. In the morning, the food we left on the table for her was gone or half eaten and the gifts we found were exactly what we asked in the letter we wrote in December and gave to our parents to send to the Befana. It was so sweet, innocent and gratifying, because the Befana listened.

Until one day, I was eleven years old, I peeped through a keyhole and saw my parents arranging the gifts for us three kids in the usual place in the kitchen. The next day, we opened the gifts and of course we were very happy to receive just what we had asked. Then I told my father that I saw him and mom putting the gifts in place the night before. His answer was: “Oh yes?! Then you are too old to get gifts.” I never received one more gift at Epiphany Day, only some clothes for Christmas, a sweater, perhaps a pair of shoes, a skirt, but not all of them together, only one, until I was eighteen. Nothing else after that. I started working and gave them a gift instead.

The night of Jan. 6th was for a fun day for the adult too. They invited a bunch of friends with kids and together we took down all the chocolate decorations on the Christmas tree. It was another occasion to celebrate with food, a lot of love and laughter, or an excuse to organize the first party of the year. Kids plaid with their new toys.

Yesterday, as I do every year, I celebrated Epiphany Day my way, took down my Christmas decorations and cooked all bunch of food to share with a few friends. Reflecting on what really Christmas means these days, I don’t look forward to the holidays stress and spending. We should call the Christmas Season the “Stores’ Season” instead. In this part of the world, everything we do in the last three months of the year is about increasing stores sales, alleviating our bank account of a few thousand of dollars and stir ourselves crazy trying to enjoy the holidays in a frenzy way. People never receive gifts in their wish list, or receive useless gifts with no meaning, thus recycling the gifts received  for the next occasions, or the next Christmas is a thing to do, while some other people pay their Christmas debts all year around. This is not the way to enjoy Holy Day, only a backward way of doing things!
During the holidays enjoy spending time with people you love and care about as long as they last, share food and fun with them.  That’s the best gift.

I can officially say Au Revoir to the holidays. No resolutions for me, only continuing living life in colors and doing the best I can for others and me. I hope you have a splendid 2014. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValOperaStampValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Often people describe her as “the colorist” for a reason. She lives in a colorful world, wrote a book on colors ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors and loves to color her clients’ environments by creating the unusual. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine. Find Valentina’s three books on
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Things I Miss | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

This video has circulated in a group of Italian women I belong. The video is all about the best most common Italian food. Many women in the group commented that the video made them cry. I know, we the expatriates, miss our mother land, we get very emotional and like them I miss it too, but Italy is not all about food.
Thanks to the proliferation of food lovers, importers have made possible for us expatriates to find all kinds of Italian food even here in the USA making the distance from home more digestible. Prices for imported real Italian food are outrageous, but they know we bend to their wishes and our tables are always a bounty of food from home that manage to astound our friends and silence our pain.

What I miss about Italy is not the food. What I miss is a life of subtle emotions.
A. I don’t see the swallow birds and their sweet chirping announcing the coming of Spring. Instead, I see black, scary and ominous crows. Their sound reminds me of Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds”.
B. I  don’t hear the church bells ringing at midday marking Italian lunch time break. How sweet to go home and eat with the family.
C. I miss my neighbor knocking on my door to ask for a cup of sugar, a lemon or a hand full of parsley, which often is an excuse to get a cup of coffee together.
D. I miss my girlfriends calling at 11:00 at night just to shoot the breeze and tell me about the happenings of their day. In the US nobody calls anymore but everybody text. Texting takes more time to write word by word than to say the same thing verbally. Voice travels faster than typing and the voice doesn’t betray emotions. Through voice we can detect if a person is sick, sad, happy or lying. Texting is cold, calculate and abbreviated.
E. I miss the salty water smell of my Adriatic Sea and the transparent waters of Gargano and Salento. Just taking a simple walk around the Lungomare (along the sea) in the downtown area of Bari my hometown is invigorating, healthy and relaxing.
F. The grocer in my hometown, when he received a new product, a new wine or something he knew I would appreciate,  always put it aside for me, or called me to tell me about it and if I didn’t show up in the store for 3-4 days, he would send someone at my home to check that everything was fine and didn’t need any help. In the American grocery shops I am one of the millions shoppers without a face or name.
G. I miss taking long walk with friends, talking, laughing and watching shops’ windows without buying anything.
H. I miss going to restaurants and café for fun, leisure, pleasure, not for conducting business as people do in the States. It gives me indigestion to sit in front of food at all hours of the day and talk business with people I might not see again. I eat breakfast in the early morning, lunch under the sun rays and dinner under the moon rays. I don’t miss any meal because of work and I don’t eat and drink at all hours of the day either. Having a glass of wine at 3:00 in the afternoon, just to share some business ideas, doesn’t cut it for me and end up either changing the appointment to a more convenient time for me or turn it down all together. In Italy we have apéritif after 6:00 pm, when the day is over and we can enjoy friends, colleagues, or business associates as people.
I. I miss my neighbors sticking their nose in my business. There was time I thought they were such a nuisance, but if I got sick, they always came around with soups and cooked food. Now in the States, I live in a  very private neighborhood, it’s so private that if I leave for month, no one knows I was gone and if I am sick nobody brings me anything, because nobody knows I am even sick.

Perhaps some of my northern friends in my Italian group will disagree with me. Perhaps the North of Italy is very much like the US, but I come from the South of Italy, where each one of us has a weight in somebody else’s life, friendship is real, family ties are strong, promises are promises and contracts are still done with a handshake. “I see you later”, really means later in the same day, or “I call you later”, really means that person will call again in a few hours. You have no idea how many times I waited for someone to call or to come, when I first arrived in the States and didn’t know any better.

One of the comments of my group of women said we must be in peace with ourself and accept the new place as it is. There is no one living in a foreign country more in peace as I am.  I made a great living in a foreign land without anyone’s support and without a family. I am very thankful to have experienced a new life and new customs, but the things I miss, I will always miss and if I think harder the list could be longer. Pardon my lament,  it’s so uncharacteristic of me to write a post like this one, it must be the corny Christmas time. Wishing you all great holiday seasons. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValOperaStamp2

Valentina Cirasola, is the principal designer and owner of Valentina Interiors & Designs. She is a trained designer and has been in business since 1990. She works all over the world via Skype line and in the traditional in home consultations producing concepts for remodeling, restoration of historical dwelling, upgrading, décor restyling and home fashion. Vogue magazine and many prominent publications in California featured Valentina’s work. She has made four appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15 and interviewed on various Blog Talk Radios. Author of three books all-available on
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A Stiffener For The Holidays | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

There was no way we could leave a family or friend’s house before tasting a touch of home-made rosolio. I know you are asking what the heck is a rosolio.

Let’s go back in time: Renaissance Italy 1400. Monks and most respected families engaged in a practice of adding flavors to distilled water to cure simple ailments and to help digestion after a heavy meal. The flavors came from experiments of macerating herbs, plant roots, flowers, and seasonal fruit, sometimes mixing some species together and sometimes using them singularly. Sundew, a particular carnivorous plant considered aphrodisiac attracted so much interest during Renaissance time that became the main ingredient for Rosa Solis, a cordial liqueur of a pretty bright yellow. Flecks of pearls and real gold to attract energy from the sun enriched the mixture. Nothing but the best for the rich and nobles! The word rosolio originated from the predecessor Rosa Solis. By 1700 entire Europe was enthralled with spirited drinks served in dainty glasses that became a social recreation more than medicinal purposes.
It’s hard to get rid of something that makes us feel good, therefore this social habit continued to these days and digestive drinks (after dinner drinks) were born.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Cordial Glasses-A

In Europe is still very common to find cordials in most households. They are generally made of seasonal fruits and served straight out of the bottle, no ice, no water added to the glass. Just like during the Renaissance, a cordial drink is always served in a small and dainty glass that one holds by the foot of the glass, or by the lower part of the stem. This is not a drink that goes down in one shot, sipping and savoring is the way to go while enjoying the company. It forces us to have cultivated manners.

StrawberryLiqueur

(Photo from my book: ©Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts)

There is still time to produce this delightful Strawberry Liqueur and have a taste of a home-made stiffener during the holidays. My clients get an array of original food I produce in the most natural way and not found in any stores.

Strawberry Liqueur
Ingredients:
34 fluid oz. of pure alcohol 90° proof
17.5 oz. of strawberries
34 fluid oz. of water
24.5 oz. of sugar

Wash strawberries, take out leaves and stems.
Place the strawberries in a glass jar with a lid that closes hermetically, pour in the alcohol, and let them macerate for at least 30 days. Gently turn the jar upside down every three days and return it to the upright position.

After 30 days, make a simple syrup with water and sugar. Bring it to a boil and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar is melted.
Let it cool before filling the bottle.

Filter the macerated strawberries trough cheesecloth or a tight mesh colander. With the help of a funnel, pour the strawberry liquid in a decorative glass bottle, add the simple sugar. Shake the bottle gently, taste. Mix in a little more alcohol, if you like it stronger. Close with a tight cap. Let it rest one more week, then enjoy it.

This and more cordial liqueur recipes are in my book ©Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val:FarfalleStampValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition, and well-being. Finally, she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
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Shoes Tell Your Story | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

A jazzy music from the ’30 was filling the air of San Francisco’s street the other day. As I got closer, I recognized the music of Duke Ellington playing from of a boom box sitting on the pavement next to a shoeshine stall. I looked around and suddenly I was catapulted in a different time in a different country.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Shoeshine(Found on: http://wilmingtonian9.rssing.com)

The colors of the street turned sepia colors and I was a girl in Italy walking together with my father, in a time when men took a great care of their exterior appearance and just like women, men too went into extensive hours of grooming to achieve a polished look. In my vision, shoeshine stalls were at almost every city block, ice cream vendors screamed to have the best ice cream of the entire city and bicyclists filled the streets with only a few cars, but the sound of San Francisco’s cable car returned me to reality. The magic of being in another era lasted a few seconds.

The street shoeshine stalls are disappearing in Italy too, as people find more convenient to polish their shoes at home. However, there is a majority of people in Italy still cleaning their shoes before leaving home. Italian people wear leather shoes more often than tennis shoes and the “dandy” affected look is still very much a high game in Italy. To have dirty shoes is a sign of sloppiness and uncaring to make bella figura, the Italian art of looking good in the eyes of others.

Sciuscia'
(Photo from the film Sciuscia’)

Kids shined shoes of American GIs during WWII out of necessity to make extra money. Italian film-maker Vittorio De Sica took inspiration from this new street activity to produce a film called Sciuscia’, which was the word kids shouted to American soldiers to attract their attention and let them know they were open to shine shoes. It was the way English sounded to them Shoeshine – Sciuscia’. They served only men and continued to these days.

An Italian shoeshine is a colorful street character. The man who wants to shine his shoes will be asked to sit on the high chair while the shoeshine will sing at him some Opera Aria or any well-known pop music, otherwise the two men will start talking about politics and sport, two favorite subjects men talk about in the street with strangers. A shoeshine might not be a highly educated person, but can speak four or more languages easily. At times, I heard them babble in Japanese, Chinese and Arabic, aside from the common European languages they have mastered well and mostly learned in the street from tourists. Rest assured that at the end of his service, the shoes are like brand new and the customer leaves amused.

saphir-shoeshine-starter-kit2

Every home in Italy owns one elegant wooden box with all the necessary items to shine shoes beautifully and if not they have the basic creams and brushes lose in a drawer. I have a cedar box my mother left me and every time I go out the door, I polish my shoes and remember.
Now, it’s September and as every September it’s time to go through my shoes, get rid of the pairs I don’t want anymore and polish all the winter shoes. My shoes are well kept and someone else will have the chance to enjoy them the second time around.

©Shoes-A

Feet are the end of our body and often are not the prettiest part. They support the weight and the beating of the walk. We make them swollen and tired, the least we can do, is to make them look good. Shoes tell the story of who we are and men with polished shoes have my attention! Ciao,
Valentina
Open this link and scroll down the page to find my Fashion Services
https://valentinadesigns.com/services

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val WorkingValentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Vogue Italy and many prominent publications in California featured her work. Among designing and remodeling homes, designing custom-made furniture and writing books, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life style. Check out her latest book Red-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of colors, available on
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Spirit Of Gatto Verde | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Renato Nicassio last June wrote a blog on the ethic and spirit of Chiringuito, apparently a preferred spot in the city of Bari, Italy where people escape the summer heat.
http://ilblogstruggentediunformidabilegenio.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/letica-barese-e-lo-spirito-del-chiringuito

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

 

This is my answer to Renato’s blog.

Introduction To Bar Gatto Verde
In the same town of Renato’s Chiringuito, Bari, Italy, in the upper area of the city at the corner of Viale J.F. Kennedy with Via Giulio Petroni, very near to Poggiofranco, there was a small bar called Gatto Verde. The tiny coffee shop (in Italian called bar, which confuses tourists looking for a dark place where to spend a few hours drinking hard liquors) sold the usual espresso, cappuccino, cornetti (croissants) always consumed standing up among a crowd trying to wake up in the morning rush hours. The bar also sold ice cream but that was reserved for the afternoon stroll and Peroni beer that most tourists would describe it as camel piss. Later when the bar made a little profit became a pizzeria with a modern seating area American style making it almost a luxurious pizza place.

GattoVerdeCorner
(View Of Gatto Verde Cafe’-Bar- daytime)

Just like the Chiringuito, young people, mostly “nulla tenenti” meaning students and young workers at their first job, gathered every night outside the Gatto Verde. Even though Bari is a city on the Adriatic Sea, there, at the Gatto Verde we didn’t even get a swift of the salty water, too far to reach. You must know that distances in Italy are felt as the bubonic plague. Living in America now, I can drive 300 miles in one day to reach a client or a supplier, in Bari it’s s burden to drive or walk 30 minutes to downtown from Viale Kennedy.

Gatto Verde
(View Of Gatto Verde Cafe’-Bar- nighttime)


Chapter 1 and only one

There was nothing to admire at the corner of that intersection except a gas station directly across from Gatto Verde, tall modern apartment buildings sharing the same road with two storey, old small buildings and a series of utilitarian stores, fruit vendor, butcher, bread store, fish place, hardware, notion store, a photographer and a pagoda-style Catholic Church, so much criticized when it was built. It was a corner without history or identity like you say in your article about the Chiringuito.

There was nothing to admire, no palm trees, no one row of cafés and restaurant on the promenade, no Maserati driving by, nor handsome lads to drool for, nothing of nothing and the air was polluted just as at the Chiringuito, only a different pollution made by exhaust fans from cars, trucks, motor scooters and people’s loud voices. However, my group of friends met every night after 7:00 pm at the usual Gatto Verde and we were a lot of us. At times we shared a couple of Peroni beer between 15 people as we couldn’t afford a beer per person, other times someone offered a cup of espresso to their best friends, but we met for the pleasure of meeting old and new friends. Among our group, someone owned some used cars and most of the times we didn’t go anywhere, gasoline was too expensive even then. We stayed in the cars, sometimes we stuffed ten people in a small Fiat, to talk and laugh until our stomach muscles hurt either for the crunched up position or for the real laughter.

We spent the best hours there at the Gatto Verde when it was just a small coffee shop. Many puppy loves and many serious relationships happened at that location. At Gatto Verde we didn’t say H & G (hi and by), we discussed real society matters and resolved personal challenges while we made a lot of cigarette smoke. Coffee cups being banged on the counter and in the sink was our background music. Imprinted in my head there are still our conversations; we struck friendship I can count on to these days, even though Oceans divide us.

“Why people go to such a place as the Chiringuito” or “We go to the Chiringuito because everybody goes there” and “What else do you want to do at night?” These are questions you raised, my dear Renato. My answers are simple. People go to Chiringuito or Gatto Verde because of the desire to cocoon with other people and especially because there is a lack of activities in that city from the dawn of time. How about the Mediterranean mentality? Don’t you think it has a lot to do with it?

a. The Mediterranean people tend to gather at night in places where there are noise, confusion and a lot of people wandering around without a program.
b. Mediterranean people go out after 8:00pm and live through the night, whether there is something or nothing to do. As long as there are people around and whether they know them or not, it doesn’t matter, they allow boredom to take place, this way they can feel miserable together.
c. Mediterranean people don’t eat under the sun rays, they eat under the moonlight, thus restaurants are full at midnight through early hours of the morning and empty in the late afternoon/early evening.
d. Mediterranean people are always tired in the morning, rushing to work and are unpleasant until lunchtime because they burn energies through the small hours of the night.

As an alternative to places like Chiringuito or Gatto Verde, Mediterranean people could visit museums, or participate to cultural events, could visit art galleries or support the liberal arts, or could appreciate theatre art: opera, ballet, and plays. What better activities then painting in a group, gathering to learn new cooking skills, or take classes on arts and crafts? How about doing some sport that is not the usual soccer on Sunday?
But none of that happens, Mediterranean people live in the street, the street is their theatre, there is the place they show their art of coquetry and put it to a good use.

I was part of that ‘What else is there to do?” In that city, nothing is happening now just as much nothing happened then. I had the chance, since my transfer to California, to talk to Italian emigrants, who moved abroad like I did. My question always aimed to know the reason why they moved since they came from beautiful cities the world admires, like Florence, Rome, or Capri. Their answer was: “One can’t live with bread and love only”.
Well, at least I had the excuse to leave Bari, a beautiful postcard city with little substance and believers in friendship and family ties.

As far as Gatto Verde, my group of friends left that meeting point when it became pretentious and attracted a different crowd. We were people with ideals, goals, things to do and we were not static. Some of us when to different parts of the city, some others went to breath a different air abroad. That different crowd, which took our place, contributed to the closing down of Gatto Verde, I guess they weren’t the crowd leaders we were and not as exciting as we were.
The Chiringuito will continue to exist as long as static people will frequent it. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer working in the USA and Europe since 1990, specializing in kitchen, bath, wine cellar, and outdoor kitchen designs. Often people describe her as “the colorist” as she loves to color her clients’ world and loves to create the unusual. “Vogue” magazine and many prominent publications in California featured Valentina’s work. She also has made four appearances on T.V. Comcast Channel 15. Author of three published books, the latest RED – A Voyage Into Colors is on the subject of colors.
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Local Flavors | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

The idea of Local Flavors by http://biancadventures.wordpress.com  gives me an opportunity to show some of the local flavors my group of curious travelers will experience as soon as they land in Italy this coming April 15 with me. That’s right, I am taking a group to Puglia, South East of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. In 2012 American soap opera running on T.V. since 25 years ago “The Bold And The Beautiful” filmed eight episodes of the main protagonist’s wedding between the towns of Alberobello, Polignano a Mare and Fasano, a very quaint area of the region.  
I didn’t even know the existence of this soap opera until I spotted this video, now I just hope Hollywood’s influence on the region doesn’t help raising prices for the locals.

Don Antonio the fruit vendor, truly an Italian charmer, always offers the typical afternoon glass of bubbles (Italian Prosecco) with familiar shoppers that come in after 6:00 pm. He knows how to keep the shoppers faithful to his merchandise and how to keep them in the shop. It is a ritual while shopping there for produce to get a glass of Prosecco and a taste of something delicious his wife prepares daily with his fruit and vegetables. They are two delightful people who can steal your time blindly if you don’t watch the clock. Often, Italian shops are daily meeting points of people living in the neighborhood. They buy whatever product the store sells while they indulge in gossips, news, business or even planning future activities between each other.

My local flavors include the show all the fishermen put out on the seafood bank along the promenade in Bari, the main city of Puglia. My group will enjoy watching them opening live shell-fish, will get a real amusement hearing them making loud and colorful comments on who has the best fish of the Adriatic Sea and will feel enticed to try some of those delicious morsel of row fish, wine and bread. Puglia is the only region in Italy where people are accustomed to eat row fish, even if the price is as high as 50-60-70 Euro per Kilo.

As a local born in those parts, my work as a tour guide into art, architecture, history and local flavors will be easy. I am planning to show the area on foot and by a private bus. Walking around the streets is the best way to learn the customs of a country. My group will admire the beautiful Mediterranean architecture and learn some insight of the local history. They will learn that balconies are not just an appendix of their flat, but also places for eating outdoor, gardening and exchanging a conversation with the next neighbor. They will admire fashionable people, pick up some folkloric slang or……a lover. Well….., Italy is the country that will enrich you in every sense.

To register for my trip click here, I still have room for April 15, 2013 : https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-2
Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

PDots2Valentina Cirasola will host two trips a year to Italy with the intention of showing Italy with the eyes of a designer born in those parts and let people experience the ”wheel of emotions” don’t even know exist. She will take her groups to the non-commercial Italy, areas not beaten down by massive tourism. Valentina will guide the tours through art, architecture, food, shopping and special adventures organized for people who want to live it up!

Check out her books on
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Even The Fastest Race Car Needs A Pit Stop | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I read in a travel magazine that in North America 25% of the population never takes vacations and 37% will only take one week of vacation a year. Considering that North America is a highly productive part of the world, how can we keep our sanity and keep on producing our wealth if we don’t ever take a break from the daily grinding? We know that stress is the major cause of heart disease, high cholesterol and on and on, while our nerves are slowly being pulled apart as a rubber bend until they snap for good and become beyond repair.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Gargano(Architiello S. Felice seen from the sea- trip to the sea caves of Vieste by Cappellaccio)

As we need restorative breaks in life, April 15, 2013 I am taking a group of curious travelers to Puglia, Italy, the region where I come from, South-East of Italy, sitting pretty on the blue-green Adriatic Sea looking at the white Greece and the Dalmatian Coast of the ex-Yugoslavia. Puglia is one of the many Italian regions not well-publicized to mass tourism, thus it is an area where the land is virgin, the air is pure, food is deliciously hand-made fresh every day, people are warm and friendly and prices are affordable. This is a place where you will reconnect with freedom, or will make you the protagonist of your own art of vacationing.

Trani(Cathedral of Trani – Via Pinterest)

Traveling to Puglia is not about a super luxurious accommodation, but about finding new experiences and feeling new emotions. Puglia will teach you how to lose yourself in moments totally without the “hurry” word. I promise, while you are there, you will not want to see your electronics to connect with work back home!

 

My father used to say: “Andiamo piano che abbiamo fretta” meaning “let’s go slow in order to go fast”. How true is that? If you don’t slow down, you will never be attentive to the details in your life and fall in love with them, or even appreciating the “unexpected” life brings.

Our private bus will take us to many places, however the trip is not a “tour de force”! At our leisure, I will take the group through beautiful landscape of orchards, vineyards and seaside views, art, history and shopping in markets. The group will learn to appreciate local traditions, the rhythm of nature and its sounds, healthy natural food cooked at home, colorful atmosphere and the pleasure of making your own food. Yes, perhaps, one or two nights we will cook with a local chef in the farmhouse where we will stay. Puglia will teach you never to eat alone. One a different day, we will have a crazy fun, dressing up in vintage clothes and ride in vintage cars along the Adriatic Sea, or perhaps you will want to experience a relaxing massage with olive oil, the “green gold” of this land.
Register here: https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-2

I will take the group to an “unexpected” Italy through all the human senses, collecting memories or flavors and not material things. I will show you how simple food will change you forever, as it fulfills your soul and rewards your health. While we are on the subject, we will talk about Italian table manners and etiquette.

Eating in Barrels

(Ristorante Gorgo Di Fuoco – Putignano)

Even The Fastest Race Car Needs A Pit Stop, you need to stop in Puglia! Please find price, all the information needed and watch the videos when you click on the link. Start packing and register here: https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-2
Registrations will close March 20, 2013 and I want to see you on my bus. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val:FarfalleStampValentina Cirasola will host three trips a year to Italy based on her three books with the intention of showing Italy with the eyes of a designer born in those parts and let people experience the ”wheel of emotions” in the non-commercial Italy away from beaten paths of massive tourism. Valentina is NOT a travel agency, but with the help of her Italian expert travel team, she will guide her tours through art, architecture, food, shopping and special adventures organized for people who want to live it up! Register here: https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-2.

Find Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Come To Puglia | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Through the years, many of you have expressed to desire to visit Puglia with me, a local who was born and raised in those parts. After putting my energy into the writing and publishing of three books, the time has finally come.

I have listened to your wishes and self-proclaimed a cultural promoter of the region of Puglia. Bari is the airport you will land in Puglia.
Puglia is a region on the East side of Italy on the Adriatic Sea, made of warm people, tasty food and free thinkers. You will see palm trees and a flat land with white terrace roofs. You might have the impression to have taken the wrong plane to Africa, but not at all, you will be in Puglia where homes are built on the foamy coastline of the blue-green Adriatic Sea and where the waves make embroideries with the sky, the air is salty, the summer heat is sultry and humid, women exude sexuality from every pores and well…the rest of the people are as laid back as in a tropical island.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

In Bari airport, the largest city in the South, my team and myself will greet you with smiles. Each trip has been built around the title of each book I have written. My second book – “Sins Of A Queen” – just to talk about one of the trips’ theme, gave me the inspiration to take my guests into a lavish living while they are in Italy and experience incredible treatments with the most natural products from this land of olives, fruits and grains.
I will call this trip: “Let’s Travel Into The Sinful Luxury Of A Queen”.

The Lungomare of Bari, a romantic promenade on the Adriatic Sea will be waiting for us to drive along in vintage cars, dressed in vintage clothes, while soaking the fresh sea salt air, enjoying the view and a “gelato affogato” (literally ice cream drowned in a secret spirit). The promenade stretches to Monopoli and Polignano, two quaint towns perched on the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea. We might reach them in vintage cars, or we might take a boat ride coast-to-coast ending for dinner in a fabulous restaurant built-in the cave on the cliff. It will be magical!

Rudolph Valentino is on our route to the stalagmites and stalactites caves, thus we will stop in Castellaneta to visit the museum dedicated to the actor. Did you know Valentino was born in Hollywood as an actor, but his native town was Castellaneta, in Puglia? His town was an agricultural and unknown town even to the rest of Italy. He died August 23, 1926 and only a few years ago, his town counsels finally dedicated him a statue and a museum.
The Castle in Gioia del Colle will disclose us the intricate romance between Bianca Lancia and Emperor Frederick II, which as most passionate stories, ended up in a tragedy.
In between visits to the most exquisite Baroque architecture, Valentino’s museum and other cultural events, I have planned some fun shopping in local markets for the latest fashion clothes/accessories, where my guests can buy affordable priced items. We will also pay visits to local artists’ shops, where they produce one-of-a-kind high-class handbags, gold jewelry, custom jewelry, or stunning glass lighting, furniture and home accessories. My function as a designer is also to show all the beauty Italian artists are still creating for the world.

(Photo above: Gorgo di Fuoco Restaurant)

Food and wine will also play a large role. Going to Puglia and not enjoying the earthy food, as locals do, would be a crime. It will not be a common restaurant eating, I have used my fantasy. We will have one dinner inside of dismissed wood barrels of wine, where you can still smell the must of wine impregnated in the wood. On another day, an opera singer will delight our dinner. We might have a rustic picnic in the country with a donkey ride, or we might cook with a local chef in the kitchen of our farmhouse where we will stay. How about a massage with the green-gold of the land: olive oil?

My trips’ aim is to inform and entertain and certainly allow the guests to relax while in Italy with unforgettable experiences. My trip will not be a trip in a bus loaded with tourists, packing and unpacking every day and make stops to bathrooms. My goal along with my Italian team’s goal is to take care of our guests, giving them personal attention, while we are still together in a group setting. My intention is to show Italy with the eyes of a designer born in those parts and not the commercial Italy of the mass tourism. I want to show you the heart of Italian life, the immediacy of every day living with a lot of fantasy.

You will get to know Puglia through art, architecture, food, shopping and special adventures organized for people who want to live it up!
This is not a tour de force!
My goal is to allow our guests to experience a wheel of emotions they don’t even know exist. My team in Puglia and I want them to never forget the warmth and hospitality of Puglia people and create a relationship with our travelers for the long haul.

Trip date: April 15-24, 2013 – 10 days, 9 nights.
Registration closing date: March 15, 2013.

This price will include:
a. Two meals a day with water, juices and a couple of wine glass a person. Extra food or drinks, or extra drinks for the road, are not on the house.
b. Lodge, private transportation, transfer from and to Bari airport.
c. Private bus for our excursions.
d. Visits to museums or exhibitions.
e. Gratuities
f. Cooking classes and chef fees (if applicable).
g. Vintage cars, or Opera singer.

Please contact me directly for prices: designsvalentina@yahoo.com 

Plane tickets and insurance are not included.
Again, this is a trip to realize how short life is and to learn how to enjoy it. This experience will change you. Ciao,
Valentina
https://valentinaexpressions.com/trips-to-puglia-2/

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved


As a writer and cultural promoter of Puglia, my native land, it is my intention to let readers feel and experience a new ”wheel of emotions”. I want to encourage them to visit areas of Italy not beaten by massive tourism. Through stories of art, architecture, fashion, food-wines, shopping, I want them to create their special adventures and live it up in Puglia!
Check out my books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Ice Cream Party | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I tasted the most delicious truffle limoncello ice cram yesterday at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. The day before, at my house, I prepared gelato affogato as an after dinner for some foreign friends vacationing in California. After two consecutive days of ice cream, which is something I don’t do often, I am now in the mood of organizing an ice cream party for adults and kids, before the autumn falls. Among all the parties, ice cream party is one of the least pretentious and inexpensive parties we might be involved with. It takes very little planning, very few ingredients and backyards are just perfect.

(Photo above: http://www.foodspotting.com/places/207933-baroncini-ristorante-italiano-iowa-city/items/625423-gelato-affogato-con-espresso-e-il-biscotto-toscano)

 

Set the mood and decide on a particular era into which to set the scene of the ice cream party.  Ask your guests to come dressed up in costume of the era designated and choose the music to go with the theme. I would suggest to discard the present time, we are already living in today’s time and we know how this reality is, but setting up an ice cream party in a nostalgic era, will give us a chance to live, relive or fantasize it our way, without the challenges that came with any given era.
 (Photo above: Zaharako ice cream parlor and museum. 329 Washington St. – Columbus, Indiana 47201)

 

Do you like the party to be set in the ‘20s or ‘30s? You will find plenty inspiration in the roaring age, flapper girls’ fashion and Charleston music. You might like the more modern ‘50s and ‘60s era, in which also you will find a lot to play with the sophistication of the ‘50s and the rock and roll of the ‘60s.  Perhaps, you like to experiment or relive the ‘70s and the concept of the hippies’ era, bohemian style and flowers kids.

In the history of costume, there is a lot to chose from and I think it’s always the right time to dress up in style for any theme party and not just for Halloween.

Decorations and invitations should follow the theme of your party. Hand written personal invitation cards reflecting the theme of the party will make an impression. Your guests will know to have been invited to a real “scoop” of something tasty.

(Photo Source: BH&G)

For an ice cream party we don’t need much, only a great attitude towards food and a few ingredients. Don’t worry about diets, just go to the party and enjoy the moment, tomorrow is a different day. We need first an ice cream machine to help making all the ice cream, gelato and sorbet we need in a quick time. The machine in my photo is sold at Neiman Marcus for less than $200.00.  Furthermore, we need a fruit variety for making both sorbet and ice cream, many varieties of toppings such as nuts, chocolate chips, edible flowers, paper or waffle cones, ice cream glasses, spoons and saucers.

Designate areas for toppings, fruits, garnishes, cones, all the ingredients for making various type of ice cream; then designate a different area for all utensils and one more area for all the drinks. This way, the traffic will flow harmoniously and your guests will not be on top of each other preparing their own ice cream.

(Photo Source: BH&G)

 

I suggest some fun drinks for the adults: sparkling wines mixed with any kind of fruit juice, strawberry, oranges, cranberry, blueberry, pear, pineapple, apple, peach juices, or anything else you like. Decorate each drink with a berry or a slice of the fruit used as a mixer. Pink champagne is especially good as palate cleanser between ice cream tasting or right after, but don’t spend lot of money on the most expensive champagne, the fruit and the champagne must compliment each other and not fighting.

I know the kids will like to drink all kinds of sodas and bounce from wall to wall for all the excess sugar, but it will be better to serve them something simpler and healthier: mineral water mixed with any fruit juice of their liking. They will have the impression of drinking champagne like the adults.

Organizing theme parties is fun. Perhaps, next time I will elaborate on a champagne party, or omelet party. The holidays are just around the corner. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer since 1990 and a former Fashion Designer.
She blends fashion with interior and colors the world of her clients with designing, teaching style and table manners, party organizing and public speaking.
She has been described as “the colorist” and loves to create the unusual.
She translates colors into excitement. Valentina’s new book on colors will be in the market soon: RED-A Voyage Into Colors.
Check out Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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