Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance man. He was an inventor, painter, sculptor, scientist, architect, and mathematician. Certainly, his work was complex. Life, during any era, is complicated. Perhaps, that’s why da Vinci recognized the importance of simplicity.
This image of a red touring bicycle leaning against the railings overlooking the sea in Ischia, Italy speaks to that message. In an era of hot cars and roaring trucks, a bicycle is simple. In a time when everyone is throwing themselves into the rat race, people wading in the sea or sunbathing on a rock are the picture of simplicity.
Truly, that’s what the sweet life, especially on an island, is all about. What has been devastating to me in recent days is how Mother Nature has attacked that simplicity. The earthquake that took down homes and a church in Casamicciola in Ischia is one example. But now I am watching the decimation of islands all across the Caribbean and Florida Keys, not to mention cities in Florida, all the victims of Hurricane Irma.
Still, there is beauty to be found in this tragedy. Neighbors helping neighbors, political leaders on different sides of the aisle coming together to support victims, the deer and birds roaming among the debris in the Keys are all reminders of peace. They are all part of that simplicity that island life usually brings to people. As a result, you can feel the hope in your being.
Granted, a storm that causes this much devastation causes stress. None of these islands are immune to stress, especially at this time. But Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away. In this moment, she has taken away but the giving is just around the corner. A bit of sunshine and some elbow grease may go a long way to making a comeback. The islanders know their vulnerability. But they realize their strength more.
Eggplant parmigiana is a favorite dish in Italy and the United States alike. But you might be surprised to learn about the differences between the two versions in each country. For starters, in Italy it is a contorno or side dish, not a main dish. Indeed, the waiters in Italy might look at you funny if that’s all you order. It’s like asking just for a side of broccoli and nothing else.
In any event, there are many other differences, too. In the United States, we sometimes refer to the dish as eggplant parmesan or eggplant parm. We need to differentiate it from chicken or veal parm, which don’t really exist in Italy. On the other hand, Italians call the dish la parmigiana. They don’t even have to confirm it’s eggplant. That’s already understood.
The Biggest Difference Lies in the Recipe
Italians cook up eggplant parmigiana in a different way than Americans. To begin, the ingredients are different. Italians use fresh mozzarella, which is wetter than the blocks of mozzarella many Americans use. Italians make the marinara sauce from scratch. Some Americans do, too, but many home cooks use jars of the stuff.
But by far the widest gap between Italian eggplant parmigiana and the American version is breadcrumbs. Italians never coat the eggplant in breadcrumbs first, which means no eggs or anything else. Instead, they thinly slice and fry the naked suckers in olive oil. When you get comfortable breaking the rules, you can use Nonno’s Sunday Funday sauce instead of the marinara. The meat makes it a heartier dish.
If you want to make traditional, genuine Italian eggplant parmigiana like I did as evidenced by the photo above, then here are your instructions:
Recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplants (about 3 medium to large eggplants)
Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese (the real stuff imported from Italy, not Parmesan)
Marinara sauce (see recipe below)
Thinly slice the eggplants. You can keep the skin on if you like them that way. Most Italians keep the skin. I don’t like it, so I peel it off first. It’s up to you. Make sure to generously salt both sides of the eggplant and place it between paper towels to remove excess water. You should leave this about an hour at least. Some people leave it for up to three hours. Removing the water will make your eggplant parm less soggy. The eggplant itself will be crispier, too.
Heat about an inch of olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is nice and hot, fry those slices of eggplant. After they become lightly browned on both sides, place them on a dish with paper towels to remove excess oil. Continue to fry until all the eggplant is done.
Sprinkle some marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of fried plant on top of that sauce. Next, add pieces of mozzarella and a layer of Parmigiano cheese. Keep making those layers in that order until you hit the top of the baking dish. Be generous with the Parmigiano on the top layer, so it makes a sort of crust on top. It also looks more delectable.
Finally, put it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. (You know your oven; if it gets too hot, you might opt for 350 instead of 375). You want everything to blend together nicely and for the cheese to melt. I cover it with aluminum foil initially. About halfway through cooking, I take off the aluminum. The reason is I don’t want the cheese to get burned, just bubbly and browned. It usually needs to cook between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the size of your baking dish and oven. I was using an Italian oven in Italy when I made the one in the photo. It took about 50 minutes at 150 C.
Many Italians like to make la parmigiana a day ahead because it usually tastes better after a day. In that case, you can just heat it the next day, and you might take it out of the oven a bit earlier the first time around.
Recipe for Marinara Sauce
Tomatoes (chopped, about 2 to 3 lbs., preferably from your garden – or Nonno’s)
Olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Fresh basil (a handful, preferably from your garden – or Nonno’s)
Salt (1 to 2 tsp., depending on how many tomatoes you are using)
Americans often include onions in their marinara sauce. Italians do not. In fact, they don’t even always keep the garlic in the sauce until the end. This is the Italian version. Saute smashed garlic (not minced) in a thin layer of olive oil in a saucepan. Remove the browned garlic. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and the juice that spilled out onto the cutting board. I don’t worry so much about the seeds because I use a mesh sieve to strain the sauce when I’m done cooking.
Next, add the salt to the tomatoes. If you’d like, you can add a little more olive oil for flavor, too. Then, bring the tomatoes in their juices to a boil. Lower the flame, so that the sauce simmers and thickens. Stir frequently. When the sauce is about 10 minutes from being done, add the basil.
Finally, pass the sauce through a sieve. I use the bottom of my wooden spoon push it through. Then, I toss the seeds and skins. Your sauce is ready. You can keep it in a jar in the fridge for a day or two. Or you can just put it to work immediately on top of gnocchi, pasta, or in this case, in eggplant parmigiana.
Zi Nannina a Mare in Ischia Italy offers guests a sophisticated menu and incredible island views. I’ve taken you to this restaurant before in this blog. But it’s always a new and memorable experience. It is uniquely Ischitano. The culture there epitomizes the sweet life, spending time with friends and family amid lovely ambiance and over delicious food.
The restaurant is small. There is room for a just a couple of tables inside. You eat outside on the terrace with an overhang or right on the lawn as you see in the photo above. This meal was in mid August, the height of the tourist season. There were many guests on hand. Everyone seemed relaxed. Indeed, that’s the emotion this place brings to you.
While the views are lovely – both during the day when you can take in the scene and at night when the setting becomes more romantic – the food is still the star. Without further ado, here’s a look at the meal we enjoyed.
Flavorful, Unique Combinations
This salad of arugula and calamari in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese is the reason my husband loves this restaurant. So, when he didn’t see it on the menu in August, he asked if the chef could make it, and he obliged. The peppery arugula and sweet balsamic drenched calamari are a wonderful contrast. And the Parmigiano is the cherry on top.
Spice and Tradition
A refreshing and light appetizer, octopus and potato salad is a typical dish. This one was lightly dressed in olive oil and lemon, and the octopus was perfectly cooked. It was soft and delicate, not at all rubbery or chewy.
My husband, son, and I went to Zi Nannina’s days before our departure. That’s why we felt compelled to order some of the more traditional dishes on the menu. It’s always as though it’s the last chance to eat them. When I’m away from Ischia, I dream of mussels and clams on a bed of long pasta just like this.
Saute of mussels or clams is my absolute favorite dish in Ischia. One of my foodie friends, who has visited me on the island a few times, put it best; she says she would like to drown herself in the simple soup under the shellfish. Usually, it consists of olive oil, garlic, some Italian spices and white wine. When you order the zuppa instead of the saute, you’re going to get a a similar sauce with tomatoes. This one was a zuppa and it was spicy with some some hot pepper to give it kick. There’s nothing like dipping grilled Italian bread into this feast and chowing down.
This tiramisu, an ever-popular Italian dessert, was beautifully presented in a martini glass with some coffee to pour on top. I’m not a fan of coffee (not even espresso). I know it’s sacrilege to admit this. Sorry! But my husband thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fruit and gelato are easy ways to make my belly happy. The heat in Ischia throughout the summer was tremendous, worse than I’ve ever experienced. As a result, a refreshing dish of juicy fruit was the perfect ending to this meal. It was coated in a creamy, sweet sauce that reminded me of zabaglione. It was paired with homemade gelato, my drug of choice. Indeed, the ending was perfect.
Scalinatella a Mare is a restaurant in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy, which sits on the beach. Its name, which translates to Stairs to the Sea, describes its location. Indeed, there are stairs that take you down to the beach in Ischia Porto, the island’s capital, and right into the restaurant. While the dining area is nothing fancy, the food and the view out to the ocean more than makes up for it. Before you go down the stairs, you should take a look at the beach and the glorious sun. This was our view when we went there in early August 2017:
We sat outside on the porch of the restaurant. A lovely sea breeze passed through, which made the meal all the more pleasurable. A family runs this place. The children wait on you, and their parents cook and serve. It really felt like we were guests in their home. This is a great place for tourists to go for a taste of Ischia’s home cooking. Couples will be swept away by the naturally romantic setting, even if their kid is with them.
It’s All about the Food at Scalinatella a Mare
The view is nice. The digs are humble. But the food elevates this restaurant from anything you’d expect to eat down the shore. Beach food in Ischia is way different from beach food in the United States. While this restaurant was not gourmet, it delivered in style and taste, and it matches the food Nonna would have made for you.
To go to Ischia is to answer the call of the seafood gods. If you don’t like shellfish, there’s plenty of other stuff for you. But you’re missing out. At Scalinatella a Mare, we ordered seafood for the entire meal. Neither of us was disappointed. Of course, our son had his usual chicken cutlet and hand-cut french fries. The calamari salad in the photo above was refreshing and whet our appetite for what was to come.
We also sampled this other seafood salad, which included octopus, shrimp, and calamari. Topped with olive oil and a touch of lemon, the salad had pretty tomato florets as edible decorations. This was another refreshing antipasto, perfect for the hot day we had been experiencing.
A Heavy Fork
Italy is all into toast nowadays, too. This version, which is similar to bruschetta, featured warm octopus in a tomato sauce. There was just a hint of spice, presumably from fresh hot pepper. This was quite filling and delicious, which is why we canceled our pasta order. Even with the “heavy fork” my husband and I have when we go out to eat, we had filled up too much in the heat. Honestly, my stomach could have stopped here. But who can resist the mussels that were to come?
These babies get me every time. I can’t resist saute di cozze (mussels) or vongole (clams). Most restaurants on the island offer up a version of this classic. Chefs steam mussels or clams in olive oil, garlic, and white wine. Then, they top the dish with parsley and serve it all with grilled bread. It never disappoints and this was no exception. “Yum,” is all I can say at this vision of beauty.
Golden fried calamari and shrimp were so tempting that we almost did not take a photo at all. Luckily, I remembered in the nick of time. What’s interesting about the shrimp is they are fried without being cleaned first. In other words, the head and shell are still intact and the batter is around it. The belief is that cooking the shrimp without cleaning it gives it more flavor, even if you don’t end up eating any of the fried batter. While it’s more work to clean the shrimp at the table, they are delicate and delicious.
Overall, Scalinatella a Mare in Ischia Porto offers lovely ambiance and home cooking worthy of your attention. Be sure to take a walk in the sand with your beloved to work off the meal.
Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy, is more than a vacation destination. It’s a state of mind. There is an entire culture built around this little piece of land in the sea. Truly, the sweet life of Italians – as Americans have come to know it – begins and ends here.
The photo above says it all. After all, who can resist the romantic ambiance of a real life castle in the middle of the sea positioned next to bronzed sunbathers and swimmers? There’s even a grapevine and all that greenery. It is the picture of a place that soothes the body and opens the mind to endless possibilities.
A Melody Like No Other
Life’s rhythm is different here. There is no frenetic pace of workers pounding the pavement. Instead, the tourists and natives alike are swayed by the sea. So, their step is gentler, their sense of purpose less directed. The breeze moves them. By the way, that’s not always a bad thing. It takes some getting used to for an American such as I. But once you stop fighting it and let your body relax, you flow like the waves kissing the shore.
Stepping lightly is foreshadowing for the siesta of every afternoon. Families gather for long lunches that they follow with a nap. The force of the sun and the pull of the waves unleashes unbridled passion. You’ll find yourself making love in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe you’ll sleep, too. In the evening, the people return to work. But first they share a coffee with their friends at the bar. After all, there’s always time for espresso.
Friends become family. Family becomes friends. Everyone gets in everyone else’s business, but that’s the way it is supposed to be. Neighbors still help each other. If you stay long enough, you might feel suffocated by their love. If you leave, however, you long for their affection and can never replicate it.
Food That’s Better Than Sex
Your whole world revolves around food when in Ischia or with people from Ischia. For it is food that unites you with lovers and neighbors. It is food that sustains you. You will feed each other endlessly for food is love. Love is food. Biting into the island’s lush vegetation – peaches, tomatoes, figs, and more – is a revelation. It is as though you’ve never eaten before.
Bottomless plates of pasta doused in the finest sauces, shellfish and octopus plucked right from the sea in front of you before arriving at your table, and the coniglio Ischitano (Ischia rabbit) dressed in its glorious simplicity will fill your heart as much as your belly. Indeed, you will feel healthy and indulged all at once. And don’t forget to top it off with fresh, artisanal gelato.
Green hills, fragrant flowers, luxurious spas and hotels, sexy beaches, and pretty people are lovely distractions. Your brain will take a vacation. When you carve out time to sleep, you will restfully doze. You drift away from everyday worries and the person you are in the real world. You become someone else. When you look in the mirror, you see someone you like better. She is prettier, smarter, more capable, and she knows it. The people all around you will look at you differently, as though they are finally seeing you. No matter how hard you try, you can never replicate this experience anywhere else.
Ischia State of Mind
Perhaps, that is why island life becomes a drug for many. You can never have enough of that feeling it induces deep inside you. It has a grip on your heart because Ischia makes you stronger, more desirable, more beautiful, more alive than ever. The earth in Ischia will move you but only in the best of ways for it is a force of nature that never really leaves you.
The Ischia Italy earthquake struck Aug. 21 and registered a magnitude of 4.0. Many of the residents of the island (which is the home of my ancestors and husband and where I live during the summer) describe a loud noise that sounded like a bomb. Seismologists on various Italian news programs explained that this is common when an earthquake hits a volcanic territory. Indeed, Ischia is a volcano.
Damage Was Limited to One Town
After the loud noise, the earth shook and the electricity went out briefly. Many of the people in Barano say they didn’t even realize anything – let alone an earthquake – had just happened. However, the town of Casamicciola faced more serious damage. The natives say that Casamicciola, which is a port town where tourists often arrive, is more vulnerable to earthquakes than the rest of the island.
Some homes collapsed in Casamicciola. Others experienced damage that rendered them inhabitable for the time being. Lacco Ameno and Forio, two other towns, also experienced some damage but it was minor in comparison to Casamicciola. In the aftermath, 2,600 people were left without homes in Ischia. Still, outside of Casamicciola there is little evidence an earthquake ever hit. Life carries on as usual.
A Miraculous Rescue
News that three brothers, ages 11, 7, and 7 months, were stuck under the rubble of their home devastated everyone. The oldest boy had put them under a mattress, and they were able to communicate with the rescue workers the entire time, which lasted through the night and into the next day.
Rescue workers successfully pulled out 7-month-old Pasquale first. Next, came 7-year-old Mattia and 11-year-old Ciro, who was hailed a hero by news outlets for quick thinking that saved his brothers and him. You can view the emotional rescue of the baby on YouTube.
Two Women Lost Their Lives
Tragically, the earthquake did result in the deaths of two people. One woman was outside the church, where she had just worshipped. The quake hit and the church bell fell and killed her. Another succumbed to the rubble in Casamicciola.
Authorities are investigating to determine if the houses in Casamicciola collapsed because they were not properly built. In other words, they want to make sure builders obtained the proper permits and completed construction up to code for protection against earthquakes. Because the 4.0 magnitude was not as big as other quakes, authorities are raising suspicion. The people of Ischia are railing against these accusations.
Asking for Support
Anyone who wants to help the people of Ischia with the rebuilding efforts in Casamicciola can donate to this gofundme page. (I personally can vouch for Dario Pinto, the person who started this fund. He is a family friend and native of Ischia.) In addition, you can visit the beautiful island of Ischia. Many tourists fled in the wake of the earthquake. Others canceled upcoming reservations.
While I understand the tourist’s concerns, I also feel for the people of Ischia. This is their busy season; if no one comes now, they lose serious income. An island reliant on tourism, many of the natives only have six months of secure work. Those who really want to support Ischia amid this tragedy should spend their vacation money there.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of the island is functioning as usual. The damage was limited to one small hamlet of the island. There have been no aftershocks. Natives are making swift, energetic campaigns on social media to demonstrate the sun is still shining. The beach is still welcoming. And you should join in the fun.
Romance is a state of being. You can’t fake it or manufacture it, even though you probably try. Islands breed romance by their very existence. Perhaps, none sets the mood better than Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy. Just to look all around you is to fall in love.
First, the Island Seduces You
Known as l’isola verde or the green island, Ischia boasts fragrant flowers and green hills. The pastel colored houses serve as polka dots on the landscape. Sea and sand are equally intoxicating. Castello Aragonese harkens royalty and the elegance of its former dwellers. Cobblestone streets and rustic cantine (wine cellars) promise Old World sensibilities. Sundays gathered with family feasting on coniglio Ischitano (traditional rabbit dish of the island) bring you simplicity. The heat has everyone in various states of undress.
Next, a Native Inspires Romance
Then, at some point, you will feel the intense eyes of a native on you. He will look at you as though he can see your inside thoughts. You will become at once intrigued and uncomfortable, more than ever before. As if only the two of you exist in the world, you’ll have a conversation with your eyes alone. He’ll touch the small of your back, and you’ll be charged by the electricity. He’ll guide you outside to see the view. That’s when you lose all control. Any power you had before vanishes. You are unable to even whisper. Instead, you quiver.
No Turning Back
In front of you is the sun. As it sets, it looks as though it belongs only to Ischia and you only to it. That setting sun bursts with soft, yet electric colors that splash across the sky. The gentle breeze rises as if from the waves and caresses your cheek. You close your eyes. The island passionately kisses you and you succumb. Those kisses become your drug, and you keep coming back for more. But whatever you do, don’t look directly into the sun. Or you may lose yourself forever.
The bang of fireworks sounded as though they were going off in our bedroom as my son and I bid farewell to Ferragosto 2017. My husband was already off to work at a nightclub in Ischia, Italy. There, tourists and natives alike would keep up the celebration until the wee hours of the morning. Dancing too close. Drinking too much. Celebrating just enough.
A Delicious Start to Ferragosto 2017
But before the holiday could be over, it had to begin. In Italy, the start of every celebration is all about the food. Tourists who visit the island for Ferragosto, Aug. 15, can expect the hotel to go all out. Restaurants are also keen on marking the occasion. My husband works for the 4-star Hotel Continental Mare, so he graciously took photos of the spread and scene for us. This way, you can see just how to launch a holiday that is a mix of secular and religious sentiment with just a touch of indulgence. Just look at that carved squash with sunflowers splashed across it.
Ah Salute! Cheers!
A flower of a watermelon graces the banquet table holding glasses waiting to be filled with refreshing drinks. I can only imagine the wine was flowing. But what strikes me most about the picture is what gets me every time in Ischia. That view of the sea and greenery all around combined with that ocean perfume transports your being. The divine beauty is intoxicating. There is nothing more to say.
One of the most delightful aspects of any Italian meal is antipasto. This precursor to the meal always offers lovely little surprises. Italians often call it “sfizioso.” It literally translates to “delicious,” but it’s more than that. The word refers to the food being more than delectable. It suggests it is addictive. Indeed, often antipasto can be like a drug – at least for me. And I can make an entire meal of it. I’m not a wine drinker, but I live among them. They all love to pair their vino with the littlest bites. Certainly, antipasto is the perfect way to kick off a party.
Ship as centerpiece is a fitting decoration on the island of Ischia. This table brought guests the treasures of the sea. Ischia is famous for its coniglio Ischitano, a rabbit dish that many a native family eats every Sunday. But it is an island, so the seafood is must-eat as well. These are the freshest clams, mussels, octopus, etc. you’ll ever eat. Seriously, I dream about the stuff when I’m not here. That’s not an exaggeration. Aaaah, now you want to sail away to Ischia. You with me?
NOTE FROM EDITOR: My husband works for Hotel Continental Mare, and he was working when he took the photos. I just want readers to know that this is not an objective review or anything close to that. This is merely an opportunity to see the preparation for the Ferragosto celebration and the beauty of the hotel’s view and its offerings. Not bad, eh?
A walk in Ischia, Italy, a small island off the coast of Naples, is often remarkable. The cobblestone streets you still find in many places stands as a stark juxtaposition to the yachts in the port and the designer clothes on display in the stores. Whenever I’m walking around, I find myself wondering what this world must have been like for my ancestors, even my father who spent his childhood here. They lived without the luxuries the natives of today know. Yet, they still have much in common with their modern counterparts.
For one, the “bella figura” lives on. I’ve tried many times to explain “bella figura” to non-Italians. And I’m not sure I have the right words. But here I go again. First, it literally translates to beautiful figure. People say they want to “fa bella figura” or “make a beautiful figure.” What they are really saying is that they want to make a good impression. They want others to perceive them in a good light.
They Judge the Book by Its Cover
Sometimes, they are referring to avoiding embarrassment, such as a slip of the tongue or falling in front of everyone. Other times, however, they are simply referring to looking good while walking around. Every hair needs to be in place. Their shirts must be crisply ironed. And they would never walk around in sweats. Flip flops are only permissible if they are walking that one block to the beach here in Ischia. Breaking these rules could mean failing to make the “bella figura.”
So, when you take a walk in Ischia, you have to be perfectly coiffed and wearing your best clothes. You don’t always have to be dressed for a formal wedding. But even your relaxed look should be planned out and designer if possible. This is the reason I am often recognized as an American. I used to wear flip flops everywhere. And I still don’t mind going outside the door in a comfortable T-shirt and lounging pants.
Still, when in Ischia, I try to conform. I’m more aware of what I’m wearing, what I look like. In addition, I’m careful about what I say and to whom I say it. Sometimes, I fail at the bella figura. I chalk it up to my Americanness. I always feel relief at returning home to America, where few care this much about this stuff.
Castello Aragonese is connected to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, by bridge. In fact, the town around this medieval castle is called Ischia Ponte, which translates to Ischia Bridge. It is a stunner. You simply can’t take your eyes off the place. From afar, some will mistake it for a mere cliff. But it’s an actual castle carved into a cliff, and it’s full of history and stories to tell, if you just listen closely.
You can still visit the castle and walk through it to see what life inside may have been like for its various inhabitants. When you step inside, you’re entering another world. The hard rock facade, the ancient walls that whisper of the past, set the stage for the island outside its gates. Mainly built between the 14th and 17th century, the castle has ghosts as far as I am concerned. And every so often I get the urge to visit them. They are deliciously haunting.
The castle had served as fort, love shack, church, and prison. Historical figures, such as Vittoria Colonna, resided there. So did monks and nuns. In fact, you can still see the catacombs, frescoes, and altars of another time. And there’a Torture Museum featuring all sorts of devices that had been used to wear down humanity; I call it the dungeon. You can see ancient winemaking tools lying around. You can only imagine what went on here.
History swallows the island. And the juxtaposition of a monastery next to the Torture Museum next to a love shack is fitting for Ischia. After all, Ischia is everything and nothing at once. Most are swept away by the headiness of this place. The scent of the flowers growing in every nook of the castle is intoxicating. Then, there is the vision of tomatoes growing in one of the gardens. But the view of Ischia Ponte and the sea is enough to move you into a fantasy.
Of course, there’s no denying the beauty all around you. Pastel homes dot the lush hills nearby. Waves crash on the rocks agains the bridge. Often, you’ll find sunbathers perched on the rocks. Boats rock feet from the castle. A coffee bar at the feet of the bridge buzzes with tourists and natives alike; some say it’s the best espresso on the island. Every so often, newlyweds come to take their wedding photos out front. (My husband and I did.) You will feel invisible when the sun sets and sinks into the ocean, and you’re standing toward the top of the castle.
Today, you can stay at the castle as a hotel guest. If an overnight stay isn’t in the cards, you can also visit the museum. I’ve done both, and it’s always a true journey. But you don’t even have to enter the gate to take in the “bellezza.” It’s a must stop for tourists because few photo backdrops compare.