As we gear up for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, I can’t help but think of the seafood I ate at ‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro in Naples, Italy. The shellfish could not have been more perfect. And my son’s pizza Margherita was one of the best I’ve had in Naples. While the food was sublime, the flashing cameras and line down the block was the most memorable part of the evening.
‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro Uses Social Media to Its Advantage
With 154,000 followers on Facebook, ‘A Figlia d’o Marenaro restaurant knows how to maximize its social media presence. In fact, its use of video is more than admirable. The restaurant’s name means “daughter of the fisherman.” Indeed, the face of the restaurant is a blond woman who presumably is a daughter of a fisherman. Whether that’s real or not, she plays the role perfectly. Her quintessentially Neapolitan dialect and accent only enhance the branding of the place.
Her presence in the videos that you can find on the site has made her somewhat of a celebrity. In one, she and others go fishing before dawn to get the ingredients that will appear on the dinner menu that same night. By the end of the introduction, they broke into Neapolitan song.
When we walked outside after our dinner at Marenaro, the “figlia” was taking photos with guests as they were coming in. She stood for a photo with us, too. My native Italian friends fawn over her and the photo quickly became a treasured souvenir.
Old-Fashioned Home Cooking
Still, the best part of the meal had to be the food. As promised on the website, the dishes are influenced by the home cooking of yesteryear. But they include modern twists. Even the simplest menu items were beautifully presented and a delight for the taste buds. For example, I ordered grilled calamari salad. The calamari was grilled to perfection. It melted in your mouth. A light dressing of olive oil and lemon left a refreshing taste in your mouth.
Mountain of Shellfish
This type of “shellfish soup” is typical of what you’ll find in and around Naples, Italy. What made this remarkable were the fresh ingredients, savory sauce, and crunchy taralle. Usually, restaurants serve this with grilled Italian bread. The idea is to have a toasted bread to soak in the sauce. Using taralle, a typical Neapolitan snack, was novel and welcome.
A Sweet Ending
This giant profiterole was the dessert for the table. The four of us dug into it with verve. And we were not disappointed. Now, I’m not a huge chocolate dessert fan. But I will make an exception for this one. It was a yummy ending to both our delightful meal in Naples but also my annual trip to Italy. Certainly, this meal perfectly fit into my dolce vita.
Visit Italy, and you will be mesmerized. Regardless of the time of year, you will see its beauty and history. And you will taste its delicious food and wine. Still, each season provides a different perspective and therefore a unique experience. Deciding when is the best time for your visit depends on a number of factors. For instance, if you are planning to travel to Italian islands, the winter is pretty much dead. But if Florence or Venice is calling your name, any time would work.
Discover what each season offers to tourists:
In general, fall is my favorite time of year to head to Italy. Airfare is cheaper than it is at the height of summer. The crowds have all returned to school and work. And the weather remains delightful, especially down south. In fact, I’ve been to the beach in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, well into September and even October. In addition, all the thermal pools are open through November. The rest of the country is usually cooling off, at least compared to the hot temperatures of July and August. The most popular sites, such as the museums or the Colosseum in Rome, have fewer visitors. People traffic is no longer an issue in the big cities and hot spots. To visit Italy in fall, is to take a real vacation. It allows you the time to truly relax.
Colder weather is a deal breaker for some visitors. But others long for the snow in the north. In fact, many come to cities, such as Torino, just for the skiing and other snow sports. There’s no question that you can avoid crowds during this season in Italy. Also, the prices for airfare and hotels is usually the lowest in January and February after the holiday season.
While I’ve been in Ischia and Naples during the winter months, I wouldn’t advise people to go there during the dead season. Few natives are on the islands, and many of the hotels, restaurants, and other sites are either closed or open only sporadically during winter. The holidays are an exception; hotels and even some restaurants will open for the Christmas season, even on the islands. The hiking and swimming in the oceans are pretty much impossible because of the temperatures. Still, if you have family there as I do, it might be a nice time to go to spend uninterrupted time with them.
One warning, however, is about the heating available. I find myself cold to the bone whenever I’m in Ischia in the winter. Much of the south is similar. Though the temperatures never drop as much as they do in my hometown in New Jersey, the homes are made of cement. And no one uses heat 24 hours per day. There’s high humidity, which makes it a wet cold instead of a dry one. Babies and older people and those susceptible to ailments, such as bronchitis, might not want to be even in the warmer south during the winter.
Europe, in general, is a popular destination come springtime. Spring break and Easter are popular dates for travel during this period. Because demand is up, the airfare and hotels tend to charge more. This is a lovely time of year to visit Italy. But you have to be prepared for a range of weather. In the north and central parts of the country, you may still experience snow or low temperatures. In the south, don’t be surprised if you get lots of rain. The dampness has gotten to me at this time of year more than once.
Still, this can be a nice time to visit. First, you get to see some of the spring rituals – beginning the gardening, preparing for holidays, such as Easter, and seeing the buds come to life. Second, you also don’t have to deal with the heavy crowds you’ll find in the summer. In late spring, on the islands and coast in the south, you might even get a few beach days. For instance, the thermal spas and pools in Ischia are usually open by late spring, weather permitting.
Hiking is optimal because the weather is usually not too cold or too hot. While the sites, such as museums, might be packed during the week of Easter and the week after (especially in Rome and Vatican City), the rest of the spring is usually less crowded. What I always love about being in Italy during this spring is that the whole nation is coming back to life.
Summer is the most popular season for travelers for a reason. Obviously, in many places, schools are out, so families prefer this time of year. Also, the warmer temperatures mean less uncertainty about the weather. This is appealing whether you’re heading south for the beaches or looking to discover beautiful cities and historic sites. The downside is that sometimes Italy experiences major heat waves. Because electricity is so costly and the people believe too much air conditioning can make you sick, you don’t always have easy access to AC. It is, however, becoming more available, especially in major cities.
While I go to Italy just about every year in the summer, I can’t recommend it for everyone. It is super crowded. Estimates have shown that the population on the small island of Ischia, where I stay, triples in August. Indeed, most Italians have either the entire month or a significant portion of it off from work, which means they are all on vacation, too. Often, they visit parts of their own country. I have referred to it as the siesta on steroids.
But the summer is full of fun, especially if you’re heading to any of Italy’s incredible beaches. You can experience the pagan holiday of Ferragosto that is uniquely Italian. The sun and sand are essential for serenity. So, if you’re willing to deal with human traffic jams while walking down the street or bathing in the ocean, then you might pick summer for your journey.
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.
Ristorante Bar Dai Tu’ is a small eatery perched over the sea on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy. Located in Ischia Porto, the island’s capital, the restaurant offers delicious seafood in an ultra romantic setting. I would love to inform you about price. But this is southern Italy, where the prices are never set in stone. If you know the owner, you pay one price. If you don’t, you pay another. That’s just the truth. Still, from what I’ve gathered no one has ever been gouged here. So, we can call it affordable. Whatever you call it, you’ll be calling the food delicious.
Essence of Romance
See those lights in the photo? That is the restaurant. It looks like a tiny shack, but it’s absolutely charming. The inside features an arched doorway to the kitchen and long farm tables. But the luckiest diners score a table on the terrace outside. The lovely breeze and the view of the sea make Ischia all the more alluring. I was there with my husband, his entire family, and our son. But my sister-in-law had been there with her husband for their anniversary and raved about the pumped up romance level, especially when seated outside. The nice part is that some “romantic” restaurants are elitist. Or they’re so fancy that you feel uncomfortable. This is not like that at all. The restaurant is casual and beachy, so it does not come off as stuffy at all.
See the Seafood
Of course, the best part of the restaurant is the food you are served. Seafood in Ischia is hard to beat. It’s super fresh since this is an island. It never has that fishy smell or taste like you sometimes experience in the United States. At this restaurant, you can experience the sea’s treasures and a touch of sweetness to boot. You won’t be disappointed. Discover the plates my group sampled:
Shellfish is my absolute favorite whenever I’m visiting Ischia. The best way to eat it, in my opinion, is in “saute.” This is when the juice from the shellfish, white wine, olive oil, and some seasoning, including garlic come together to form a broth. The mussels and/or clams sit atop a shallow pool of this broth. And there are always pieces of grilled, crusty bread adjoining them. I’ve shared with friends visiting the island; they always tell me they want to drink vats of the stuff. It’s seriously addicting. When I’m not in Ischia, I dream about it. This version at Dai Tu’ was one of the best I’ve had.
Served still warm, the octopus are boiled to make them soft for this salad. I’ve had this kind of salad cold, too, which is just as delicious. This warm version was doused with olive oil and lemon. The ruchetta (known to Americans as arugula) was particularly spicy, which was a nice contrast to the mild octopus.
This plate of fried fish was the very reason we headed to this restaurant. One of the people with us was having a craving. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of fried fish with “spina,” bones. And I don’t really know how to clean these fish well. So, I mostly steered clear of this dish. But it included a few types of fish, including merluzzo, a mild white fish popular on the island. My husband enjoyed this dish and gave me a few bites of his. It was truly delicious, especially with a spurt of lemon. It made the flavor pop.
Normally, these kinds of eateries disappoint when it comes to dessert. After all, the emphasis is on the fish. The sweets are an afterthought. But this place has it all. For starters, the presentation is gorgeous. The light, fluffy cheesecake is served in a bowl made of cookie crust. Then it is topped with homemade sorbet and sauce. I believe it was a wild berry sorbet and topping. Everyone at the table was envious of those of us who ordered this.
It was divine. The sorbet was refreshing and cut into the sweetness of the creamy cake. That bit of crunch from the crust was just perfect. Others at the table ordered tiramisu (in a cup) and panna cotta. They were all satisfied with their dessert, but I focused on the cheesecake. I didn’t even feel the need to taste the others. It was the cherry – err, wild berry – on top of a delicious night.
The best New Jersey day trips are the ones spent with loved ones. They are inclusive, so even young children can participate. And they offer something different from the norm. While the state often gets a bad reputation, it provides endless opportunities for both studying and enjoying life. As a Jersey girl, born and raised, I have had the chance to visit all these places. Nowadays, I bring my son, niece, and nephew. What makes these little adventures the best for me is their ability to spark the imagination. They are educational and fun all at once. And they make for the perfect time out during the summer, when everyone is a little freer.
Here, you can pick your own fruits and vegetables in season. Also, special events to honor holidays and celebrations are draws for the whole family. During many of the events, kids can go on a hay ride, ride a little wagon train, jump in the moon bounce, and climb stacks of hay. They can also ride a pony and visit with the farm animals. In addition, there are always holiday appropriate activities like picking pumpkins at Halloween and searching for eggs at Easter. Sometimes, you can tour the apple cider mill and see how it’s made. The samples are delicious. In July, there is a strawberry festival and a blueberry festival . In August, you can participate in the Peach Harvest Festival and Jersey Fresh Harvest Festival. You might consider the pancake breakfasts. On Farm Fun days, the little ones can do pretty much all those special event activities. When you tire of the farm, the quaint and charming Chester neighborhood awaits.
Turtle Back Zoo offers another opportunity to get close to nature. At this small zoo, kids can take a train ride, spin on the carousel, and see some impressive animals up close. The tortoises, penguins, and giraffes are favorites with most. Now, lions have joined the mix. The sea turtle rescue area is educational. You see the recovering wild sea turtles and get educated on how zookeepers help them. Another good time is the aviary, where you can feed parakeets. They land on your feet and hand. Careful not to roll over them if you have a stroller. Of course, TBZ also offers the chance to ride a pony.
AC is not the first place in Jersey to come to mind when you’re planning to hang out with kids. After all, the casinos are what make the place famous. But you’d be surprised to know that there are actually some fun things to do with kids, even on the Boardwalk. For starters, there’s a beach. The adults can take turns watching the kids and playing the slots. Also, there’s shopping galore. Outlets are within walking distance, and a mall is right on the Boardwalk. Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a fun museum with outrageous, unbelievable exhibits. Of course, the most popular place for kids is the Steel Pier. This amusement park is historical and offers a ferris wheel, other rides, and delicious treats. Nearby White House Sub Shop, with its V.I.P. following, offers a menu of sandwiches made with homemade fresh bread. Don’t forget to pick up some salt water taffy for the ride home.
Truly, all the shore points offer a good time. But Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant offers something special. Besides the usual carnival rides and games and snacks, such as fried Oreos, visitors can visit the aquarium right on the beach. It’s small but the kids will be wowed by the wildlife, including penguins. Then, of course, you can always splash in the ocean and build castles in the sand. A couple of the Boardwalk restaurants serve the kids’ meals in a pail replete with shovel. Few can leave without indulging in soft-serve ice cream to boot.
Singing the praises of LSC is hardly difficult. This interactive museum makes science and technology come to life. One exhibit teaches about the Hudson River and some of the creatures that call it home. Another gives you the chance to see a working honey bee hive up close. The Skyscraper exhibit helps kids understand what it takes to build tall buildings. There, you’ll also see some 9/11 artifacts. The Infinity Climber gives kids a chance to jump and climb in a suspended, multistory play center. Warning, moms and dads, you might be terrified when looking up at your kids roughhousing in the sky. During the summer, the little ones will love digging in the sand to search for dinosaur fossils. There are always interesting traveling exhibits making an appearance. Pick up some astronaut ice cream and an LSC pencil that changes colors in your hand at the gift shop. Or you can just snap a photo of your crew wearing astronaut helmets before leaving.
Many people don’t realize that Liberty State Park is in New Jersey. From here, you can take a boat to the statue and Ellis Island. The New York skyline is in the background and the park makes for a beautiful backdrop for photos. Of course, visiting the statue, climbing inside it, and learning about the country’s immigrant roots is momentous. Finding artifacts people brought from distant lands and tracking down your own ancestors who passed through are among the highlights.
Giardini La Mortella in Ischia, Italy, an island off the coast of Naples, gives visitors some tranquility. The beautiful plants and flowers provide the backdrop for a leisurely walk. Even though you sometimes have to climb steep steps, you feel at ease. There are waterfalls, whose natural music is welcoming. An aviary filled with majestic birds catches the eye and elicits gratitude for nature. When you’re feeling down, a piece of lemon Caprese cake will lift you up. I ate it a decade ago, and I still remember it. Every so often, the gardens become a concert venue. I can only imagine how delightful it must be to hear the strumming of a violin amid all this beauty.
The gardens are the creation of Susana Walton, the late Argentine wife of British composer Sir William Walton. Designed by his is the home to both subtropical and mediterranean plant life. Many of the species are exotic and not easily maintained on the island. In 1956, Susana Walton turned to landscape designer Russell Page, who envisioned a plan to include the view of the sea and the volcanic rock formations naturally in the garden.
A Tour of La Mortella in Photos
Located in the town of Forio in Ischia, the gardens are displayed in two levels. The lower level is called the Valley, and the upper level is known as the Hill. From the top, you can take in the view of the stunning San Francesco beach in Forio. In the Orchid House, you will find some beauties. In fact, there is an orchid hybrid that was created in honor of Susana Walton because of her passion for gardening and contributions to the community.
The Old Man
Take a Seat
On the other hand, one of the most memorable parts of my walks through La Mortella is this olive tree. It is hundreds of years old and truly spectacular.
Truly, seeing this chair carved out of a tree stump is a whimsical touch. Indeed, there are many objects like this at La Mortella.
When you turn a corner, and see this life-size alligator figure amid these short cascades of water, don’t be frightened. Simply put, it’s a touch of humor.
After you have photographed lots of plant life, you might opt for a selfie. This bamboo makes for a lovely backdrop.
When Water Falls
Just when you think you can’t be any more relaxed, you hear this – the sound of running water. The various fountains around the gardens are as beautiful as they are soothing.
Let the Light Shine
This little nook in the gardens is typical of Ischia. The wall, fountain, and moss harken to the island’s beginnings. Known as L’Isola Verde or the Green Island, Ischia offers many scenes just like this.
Being One with Nature
In fact, gardens like this are a perfect fit on the Green Island. While religion is not at the forefront of the images in the gardens, there is a spirituality that resonates. Statues like this capture the mood and make for an appropriate accent.
La Mortella is a great place to take a stroll. You can unwind and witness breathtaking views worthy of photographs. Even if you don’t have a camera, you will carry the images in your memory for years to come.
Puglia is underrated among tourists. Overshadowed by Tuscany, Venice, and Florence to the north and Sicily and islands, such as Capri, to the south, the capital Bari and its surrounding area offer hidden gems. Much like Naples in Campania, the area is grittier than most tourists prefer. But if you know where to visit, you can be safe and enjoy some must-see places. Long ago, before we were married and had our son, my husband and I ventured to Puglia. It. was. epic. See below for some highlights from our trip. You should put these sites on your bucket list:
We saw Puglia by car. The signs are easy to read and follow. My husband and I got a kick out of the town named Monopoli. We had a long-running inside joke with my parents about the game. We took this picture with them in mind. The Grotte di Castellana called our name. We had hoped to see the animals at the Zoosafari in nearby Fasano. But it was closed the day we were in town. Just our luck. Maybe someday we’ll get back there. I’ve heard good things.
Grotte di Castellana
The Grotte di Castellana are a study in science and a tourist attraction. Found in the town of Castellana Grotte, they are underground cavities, where limestone has eroded. Over time, this limestone has formed a landscape brimming with fissures, sinkholes, ridges, and towers. The most impressive scenery is the stalagmite and stalactite covering the ground and roof respectively. A museum neighbors the caverns. There, people can get a deeper understanding of the natural wonders they just visited.
In Alberobello, you might feel as though you’ve arrived in a giant Smurf village. The round rooftops of the houses, known as trulli, are among 51 sites in Italy on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. They are stunning. We looked at the town from above on a flat rooftop, and all you could see were these charming homes that didn’t even look real lining the streets. It was lovely to walk through the streets and just take in the scene. I also really enjoyed the shopping, which included many handmade souvenirs.
Pottery Offers Pizzazz
While I would never lug one of these babies home, I couldn’t help but photograph them. They were gorgeous. And the pottery piled together like that looked like a painting. The setting sun only added to the artistry. Although I was sad a vase of this stature was too big a purchase to bring home with me, I found other souvenirs. All these years later, I still cherish the treasures from Alberobello. I bought some beautifully decorated bath towels for relatives. Also, I found hand embroidered towels with images of the trulli on them. We still keep a mini trulli replica front and center in our china closet. The trip was a long time ago, but the memory lives on in our hearts.
This is the first in a series of stories about traveling to the island of Ischia in Italy.
Mine are the peasant people of Ischia in Italy. This island is considered a province of Naples in Italy. Ischia neighbors the more famous Capri. Another neighboring island, Procida, had its 15 minutes of fame when the charming film Il Postino was released. When my people left in the 1950s and 1960s, the island was suffering. World War II had decimated the economy of the entire country. And the spirit of the people was shaken. Italians are not ones for war. Truly, they are lovers and not fighters. Fighting Americans (many of whom were related) and changing sides took its toll.
Challenges Change the Islanders
Food and family are the top priorities in Italy. Back then, getting food on the table was difficult. My father disagrees. He doesn’t remember scrambling for a meal. But his older siblings have different memories. They were working the land to make ends meet. It was a tough life. In 1960, when my 13-year-old father left, everything changed. Tourism began to replace agriculture as the island’s prime business.
So, where is Ischia?
Well, it is the largest island in the Gulf of Naples. It is 17 miles southwest of Naples on the western edge of the gulf, according to the World Atlas. Foreigners travel by plane. Often, they have to take a flight to a European capital. Then, they take a shorter flight to Naples. During some times of the year, you can get direct flights from New York’s JFK.
You can easily access the island from Naples or Pozzuoli (birthplace of Sofia Loren). You simply have to take a boat or hydrofoil from either of those places. You go with the boat if you need to put a car or motor scooter on board with you. You go with the hydrofoil if you’re traveling without additional transportation. The hydrofoil, of course, is faster and takes about an hour. The boat will take about 1.5 to two hours. It all depends on whether you make a stop in Procida first.
What Makes the Geography Special
The island is actually a volcano. It last erupted 700 or so years ago. But in 2010 some experts warned it might blow again. No joke. Before you run away from Ischia, consider their final thoughts on the matter. The experts also said an eruption was not at all imminent. Still, they are monitoring it along with nearby Vesuvius.
These volcanic origins are not all bad. They provide rich soil for vegetation. You might credit it with the sweetest fruits and most delicious veggies you’ve ever eaten. Your body might also appreciate thermal waters and mud. Many athletes and ailing people come to Ischia for their healing powers.
For those who trace their roots to Ischia, it lives within the heart. It is where we find family and friends. It is where we find a slice of piece and Nonna’s parmigiana. Can’t beat that.
Alitalia filed for bankruptcy for the third time. The news is causing shockwaves in Italy. The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad had come to the rescue in 2014, and before that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a number of Italian companies had bailed out the national carrier in 2008, according to The New York Times. These efforts all failed. Now, Etihad has announced it has no plans to continue its investment, according to CNN.
How Italy Is Taking the News
Scouring Twitter amid news of the filing, you saw that Italians are sick and tired of bailouts. In fact, La Repubblica reported the results of a survey in which 77 percent of Italians were against helping.
One headline in La Repubblica read “Alitalia, un pasticciaccio tutto italiano,” which means, “Alitalia, a big, all-Italian mess.” In that story, Massimo Giannini compares happenings in the European Union to kick off the subject. “In Paris, you are voting to save Europe,” he writes. “In Italy, you are voting to kill Alitalia.”
What This Means for Alitalia Travelers
While Alitalia has suffered from an inability to compete with discount airlines, Ryanair and easyJet, for domestic passengers, it was still the go-to for many Italian Americans. Or at least many of the ones I know use it. Recently, many of my Italian friends and family visited the United States and traveled with Alitalia. Indeed, a few people I know have flights coming up in the next few weeks. So, what are Alitalia travelers to do? Discover the steps to take starting now:
Call Your Travel Agent
Many Italians I know still use a travel agent. Or you prefer an online agency, such as Expedia or Orbitz. Get in touch with your contacts or customer service to find out if they have any information. This is helpful even if they don’t have any news for you because you will be on their radar.
Call Alitalia Directly
If you don’t have an agent or simply prefer your independence, you can call the airline yourself. To reach support from the United States, call 800 223 5730. To reach it from Italy, call 892010. You can also call Italian support for the airline from abroad by dialing +39 06 65649. (Remember the + sign is the prefix you must dial from your point of origin, so you will need to look that up if you don’t have it.)
Keep Tabs on the Headlines
Should Alitalia flights be grounded, you will hear about it in the news. With so much going on in the United States and other places these days, you might have to look for the headlines yourself. Set up Google alerts, so any story about Alitalia is emailed to you. Scan the stories to learn what’s happening with flights and passengers. At the Alitalia website, you should also sign up for the newsletter. There’s a chance the staff will share information about canceled or grounded flights. That’s not a guarantee, of course, because some companies use newsletters just for promotion.
Have a Plan B
Recognize that travel with Alitalia is not the most secure at this point. So, be prepared for the worst. Alert family, friends, or chauffeurs who are going to pick you up at the airport that things might change in light of the bankruptcy. Brace yourself for some inconveniences. If you have kids, prepare them as well. Bring along extra snacks and distractions in case there are major delays.
Also, figure out if there are other travel options for you. Do not purchase a new ticket unless you are certain your flight is canceled and the airline won’t be doing anything to rectify the situation for you. One would like to believe they would protect consumers during this challenging time, but you never know in these circumstances. As they say in Italia, “In bocc’ al lupo,” or “In the mouth of the wolf.” It just means good luck. Really. But it seems perfectly suited to this scenario.
Family vacation New Jersey is not a phrase you often hear. After all, my home state has a bad reputation. I never realized this fact until I attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Many of us came from New Jersey, but the others – many of whom were from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York – constantly put down our place and our people.
Back then, HBO’s Sopranos was one of the most popular shows on television. In one way, New Jersey experienced a renaissance during that time because people who never paid attention to it were suddenly interested. In another way, it worsened the rep by making everyone think that corruption was rampant.
Misconceptions about New Jersey
We New Jerseyans heard it all. You live in the “armpit of America.” Isn’t New Jersey just a turnpike? As an Italian American who came from northern New Jersey just like the characters and many of the actual actors on the Sopranos, I was often asked, “Are you in the mafia?” Oy!
Truly, I could not believe what people thought of my lovely home state. In defending N.J., I grew to appreciate all it had to offer. I ended up writing a book, Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012), and I continue to discover its many wonders. I encourage others to do the same. The first step in planning a trip to New Jersey is deciding on which part to zone in. Discover the regions of the state and what they have to offer:
Family Vacation New Jersey: Northern New Jersey
Home sweet home is what comes to mind whenever I think about northern New Jersey. This is where I grew up. It has way more to offer than the strip clubs made famous in the Sopranos or the various restaurants where New Jersey Housewives have exploded on each other in front of Bravo TV cameras. Lots of famous people have lived here, including Frank Sinatra (in Hoboken), John Travolta (in Englewood), Eddie Murphy (in Englewood), and of course James Gandolfini (Park Ridge).
Here you’ll find pieces of New Jersey’s history, particularly as it relates to the Revolutionary War and the leadership of our first President George Washington. At the Fort Lee Historic Park, you can take check out Revolutionary cannons and a museum. You can also take epic photos of the George Washington Bridge made famous by Gov. Chris Christie, who allegedly loaded up traffic as an act of revenge to the town’s mayor who would not back him.
In Paramus, you’ll find lots of grand malls for shopping. The best part is you pay no sales tax on clothes in New Jersey. The Jets and the Giants play at the Meadowlands, where you’ll also find many concerts and other entertainment throughout the year. You can seek out your inner Einstein at Liberty Science Center, or check out the digs of inventor Thomas Edison. Not many people realize this, but you can also get to the Statue of Liberty from Jersey, which is a nicer ride than the one in Battery Park, in my humble opinion. New York City and the other boroughs, not to mention Connecticut, are a hop skip and a jump from northern N.J., so there are plenty of day trips to plan.
Family Vacation New Jersey: Central New Jersey
When trashing New Jersey, people often forget it is the Garden State for a reason. This is where we grow fresh Jersey tomatoes, sweet summer corn, and fall’s favorite cranberries. And central New Jersey is where you’ll be reminded that the state has its countryside, too. Forget the farmer’s market. You can go directly to the source and pick your own peaches, strawberries, and other goodies all summer long. But the fall is the best time to head to one of the farms, including Alstede Farms in Chester, N.J. Hay rides, pumpkin picking, and interactions with the farm animals can’t be beat.
In central New Jersey, you’ll also find the historic towns of Princeton and Trenton. Perhaps, Princeton is best known for the university. But it also home to Drumthwacket, the residence of the governor and his family, and the Princeton Battlefield, site of a Revolutionary War battle that is now a great place for hiking and bird watching in the midst of history. Trenton is the state capital, so you can visit the New Jersey State House. But you can also travel back in time by visiting the British soldier’s barracks at the Old Barrack’s Museum or the oldest house in the city, the Willian Trent House.
The Garden State Discovery Museum with its hands-on exhibits for kids in Cherry Hill and Camden, which is home to the Adventure Aquarium and Camden Children’s Garden are perfect destinations for families. Of course, you can easily visit nearby Philadelphia, too.
Family Vacation New Jersey: Southern New Jersey
South Jersey is where everyone goes down the shore. This is the best known region for family travel and with good reason. Nobody does summer quite like the Jersey Shore. Truly, you have a bevy options. Wildwood, Seaside Heights, and Point Pleasant offer the beach and the boardwalk for kids and kids at heart alike. In Asbury Park, you can check out the Stone Pony, where rockers such as N.J. native Bruce Springsteen launched his career. (This is also the part of the state from whence Bon Jovi came, so it’s kind of sacred ground as home to Tommy and Gina, who are still “living on a prayer” as far as I know.)
Atlantic City is full of must-see attractions, even if you’re not a gambler or have kids with you . The Steel Pier offers lots of fun rides and games for the whole family. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not offers unbelievable stuff to spark the imagination. A quick stop at White House for sub sandwiches that still attract the rich and famous whets the appetite. But don’t forget to grab some salt water taffy for dessert.
Near Atlantic City in Margate, you’ll find Lucy the Elephant, which makes for a great photo backdrop. Another must do in south Jersey is Cape May. Here, you’ll find the beach, a zoo, and the famous Victorian houses, some of which are open for tours. If you read this far, you now realize that New Jersey is in no way America’s garbage dump. In fact, it is the flowering garden of the United States.