Lemon Shells Stuffed with Lemon Sorbet

We first experienced this delicious desert at Nonna Gelsa's Ristorante in the Tuscumbrian town of Umbertide, Italy, some 13 years ago. We loved the desert's simple elegance and were blown away by how refreshing and light the lemon sorbet was. When we introduced our son to this desert three years ago he too had a similar experience. So when we recently had some close family friends over to dinner at our place we decided to attempt to make this very special desert.

Our eldest son, Jake, was very enthusiastic to help prepare the desert with his father. Indeed, it proved to be a great bonding experience. We first started by gutting the 8 lemons. Using a two sided grapefruit knife (one edge had two blades to cut the  membranes while the opposite side had a serated/curved blade) we were able to gut the lemons fairly quickly. I handled the cutting while Jake handled the juicing and the zesting (he is now an expert zester). We then placed the empty lemon shells in the freezer and started on making the sorbet. Jake loved this part as it was fairly easy and required more sugar then he had ever seen. After preparing the sorbet we placed the sorbet in the freezer and stirred/mashed the sorbet every couple of hours. By the end of the 2nd day, Jake really mashed the sorbet and learned how to whip it into a smooth creamy texture. The zest flecks were really neat to look at and Jake said that the sorbet tasted delicious. The next day we stuffed the lemon shells with the sorbet making a point to let the sorbet overflow a bit. We placed the tops back on each Lemon and let the stuffed shells sit over night in the freezer. Our friends absolutely loved the desert and it was especially refreshing after a rather large meal.


Yields: 8 servings
Prep time: 20-30 min

8 lemons*
1/3 cup lemon zest (you'll need 3-5 additional lemons)
1 cup strained fresh-squeezed lemons Juice (from lemons used for cups)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 grapefruit knife or similar type of knife to gut and clean out the lemons
* You'll need one lemon per person. Make sure the end (not the stem end) has a nice shaped "bump" and try to purchase uniform lemons.)

1. Cut off the top 1/3 of the lemon (not the stem end) and reserve for the "cap." 

2. Hollow out each lemon by using a grapefruit knife (the angled blade keeps you from puncturing the bottom and you can also cut underneath the center of the fruit) just inside the rind and circling the flesh (being careful not to puncture the lemon). 

3. Remove juice and flesh and put it in your juicer. Use a strainer if you do not have a juicer.

4. Make a slight shallow cut on the bottom of each lemon shells (being careful not to cut through to the inside of the lemon). This will make them sit straight and not fall over when placed on a plate. 

5. Freeze the shells at least one hour or overnight. Then fill with sorbet and freeze again. this sorbet can be made ahead and will keep several days in the freezer. The frozen shell will prevent the sorbet from melting too quickly when you serve it.

Making Lemon Sorbet (should be done in advance of the steps above)
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 2 minute. Add the lemon juice, stir well. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. Pour cooled mixture into a shallow container, cover, and freeze overnight.
Ice Cream Maker - Transfer mixture to ice cream maker, process according to manufacturer's instructions.
Freezer Method - Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. We found that we had to mash the sorbet several times over two days in the fridge.
NOTE: Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.
Makes 8 servings.


Altabella: A slice of Tuscumbrian Paradise

There are, undeniably, many beautiful places to visit throughout Italy. Indeed, every region has no shortage of spectacular views, fine wines, dazzling architecture and delicious region/city/town-specific cuisines. Our favorite area, however, and certainly still a hidden gem of central Italy, lies in the small unassuming valley of Niccone.

The valley is about 25 km long, running from the twin villages of Mercatale (in Tuscany) and Lisciano Niccone (in Umbria), down to the village of Niccone, where it meets the River Tiber. We are partial to this area because of its natural beauty, off-the-beaten-path feel and because it offers so much for travelers seeking to experience Italian culture without the typical summer crowds. We also love this area because it is a wonderful place for families with children to visit as it offers a variety of family-friendly activities and experiences and it serves as a great base from which to springboard to all parts of Central Italy.

A L T A B E L L A   P R O P E R T I ES

View from Altabella Properties
While there are many excellent places to stay in the Niccone Valley we would be hard pressed to believe that there is anywhere as nice to stay at as the Altabella Properties which is located in the heart of the Niccone Valley along a small road on the way to Preggio.
Map from Altabella.com website
The Altabella Properties "comprise three classically restored stone villas on a 155-acre estate on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, 30 minutes east of Cortona.  Experience the deep pleasures of Umbrian country life in a location of extraordinary natural beauty with easy proximity to some of Italy's richest artistic, culinary and cultural treasures." (source: Altabella Website)

Katharine Michaels and Elizabeth Wholey are the two managers of the Altabella Properties and their dedication and commitment to the properties and its guests is unmatched in our opinion.The property is meticulously maintained and has all the modern amenities one would expect including WiFi, a gorgeous pool, cooking/touring/concierge services and much more. The location of the property is a 3km drive up a private road and offers its guests complete undisturbed privacy and spectacular views of the Umbrian hills of Preggio and beyond. It is the ideal place for guests seeking rest, relaxation and reflection. It also is a terrific place for family reunions and gatherings.

The interior of La Pietra, an Altabella property (pictures from Altabella website)

U S E F U L   I N F O R M A T I O N

The main police station is located just outside old Umbertide (Piazza Matteotti 1, tel: 0759-419-250, E-mail: vigili@comune.umbertide.pg.it, Commander: Dr. Gabriele Tacchia). It is not often that one will run into the local police but it is always a good idea to keep a copy of your passport in the glove compartment. Also make sure you have your car rental agreement in the glove compartment at all times. We have only been stopped twice by the local municipal police and on both occasions we were very happy that we had our passport, rental agreement and driver's license on hand. To learn more about Italian police please see our section on Italian Police.

There is a ospedale (hospital) in Umbertide that seems capable of managing minor injuries quite well.  We had an aunt of ours who had an allergic reaction to a wasp sting and she was seen to immediately by a very nice hospital staff and doctor. The hospital is located along Via Forlanini, just past La Rocca in Old Umbertide. The phone number is 075-941-7494. In the event of an emergency, you should go to Pronto Soccorso (emergency room), once at the Umbertide hospital.

If you look on the map of the town, the hospital is just off the street behind La Rocca, the big medieval tower in Umbertide. Drive to Umbertide, take the second left after you cross the bridge, and drive in front of the round church and halfway around the roundabout. Take the street that goes in the direction of Montone between La Rocca and the La Rocca trattoria. After one or two blocks you will see a hospital sign with a bed on it. Turn right there. You will see a parking lot on your left, planted with tall pine trees. Turn left into the little road, go straight, and you will arrive at Emergency. Someone will speak English. On the map of Umbertide (below), this is Number 9, Ospedale Civile.

Keep in mind that many of the rural areas in Tuscumbria are home to scorpions, vipers and wild boars all of which can inflict serious harm if come across or provoked. Altabella is no exception to this so understanding how to immediately treat these types of injuries until help can arrive can and knowing how to get an injured loved one to the medical attention is crucial in saving a life or avoiding more serious injury.

If one is bitten by a viper it is important to tie a tourniquet between the bite and your heart (so as to prevent venom from reaching your heart more quickly) and get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible. Boars gashes and wounds should be attended to immediately to avoid infection and large loss of blood. Fortunately, the scorpions in this area are not poisonous but do inflict painful bites depending on their size.

Dr. Rita Mommi
cell 336-6346-51
She is in Preggio Monday 11-12 and Thursday 2-3, and in Umbertide M, T, W and F 8:30-10 and Thurs 5-7. She speaks English.  In Umbertide she is on the street just past the Taverna of Pulcinella, off Via Fratta which is the second street to your left going out of town, past the Umbertide train station. A bit hard to find the first time.

Using the Telephone
When answering the phone you say "pronto".
When dialing to Italy include - 011-39 before the number you are dialing
When dialing a number within Europe - 39 before the number you are dialing
When dialing only in Italy do not include 011-39.

Important Telephone Numbers
Police - 113
Ambulance - 118
Umbertide hospital - 075.941.5944
Info for all of Italy - 12
International info -  176
English speaking operator - 15

Post Office
Located along Viale della Repubblica, it is possible to purchase stamps and send mail from this post office.

Pharmacies, like stores, are not open during certain times so always check in advance what their hours of operation are. 
  • Pharmacy 1 - Piazza Matteotti 2 06019 Tel: 075-9413228 - Fax: 075-9420272 Director: Dr. Gaetano Reggiani
  • Pharmacy 2 - Largo Cimabue 06019 Umbertide Tel: 0759417878 - Fax: 0759413505 Director: Dr. Ceracchini Luisella

Train stations
Terontola Train Station
The closest train stations to Altabella Properties are located in Perugia and Terontola. We prefer to take trains from Terontola at it close to the houses and you can leave your car at the station for free. One can take trains to Florence or Rome from  Terontola which is about 1.5 hours (Florence) & 3 hours away (Rome) but can possibly be longer if you take the slower trains. You can look at train schedules and purchase tickets for in advance from Trenitalia.

Perugia FCU & FS trains
There is a station in Umbertide located on the road between the old and commercial parts, run by the FCU (privately-owned) railway that runs from Perugia to Sansepolcro. The train sometimes has only one car so make sure you buy a ticket in advance to ensure you get a seat.

If you need a taxi from Terontola "go across the street from the station to the bar and ask for Roberto Iacomi Servizio Taxi, care of the Caffe Degli Sportivi. His cell phone is 338-100-8098, and his telephone number is 0575-67101." (Altabella.com). There are also small shops and a pharmacy one can shop at if you need anything.

Playgrounds for children
Playground in Mercatale
Initially, we were surprised that we would have difficulty finding playgrounds for children. There are only a handful of playgrounds we know of. There is one very small playground in Mercatale with a jungle gym. There is another near Umbertide at a restaurant called Lo Sherleffo and at another restaurant called Nonna Gelsa in Niccone. We are going to explore Umbertide more to see if there are playgrounds that have been built recently and hopefully add to this short list. ****Update - (8/2011) - Recently, we were able to find several more big playgrounds in Umbertide. One belongs to the elementary school which is just a couple blocks from the main square (walk towards Conad and you will see it on the right side). The other big playground and playing field is located in the commercial area of Umbertide just opposite the street from COOP supermarket. We also wanted to point out that there is a smaller play area at both Nonna Gelsa's Ristorante in the Village of Niccone and just outside Girasole's Ristorante on the s416 heading towards Mercatale.

  • Cinema Elios - (V. Garibaldi 18 - 06019 - Umbertide (PG) - Tel: 075 9412387)
  • Teatro Dei Riuniti - (P. Braccio Fortebraccio - 06019 - Umbertide (PG) - Tel: 075 9412697)
  • Associazione Farneto Teatro - (Vocabolo S. Giuliana-Pierantonio 32, 06019 Umbertide (PG) tel: 075 9420297)
COOP Supermarket, Umbertide
  • COOP - in the Centro commerciale "Fratta" on Via Rodolfo Morandi.
    This is a handy little shopping centre with a number of shops, lots of car parking space and a good Pizza al taglio (take away).
  • Conad - on Via Martiri della Liberta.
    This is part of a parade of shops which includes a good fresh pasta shop and delicatessen. 
  • Supermarket in Mercatale 
  • Colestrada Hypermarket - Located just outside Perugia just off the E45 as you head towards Umbertide.
In general the food shops in nearby towns will meet most day to day needs. There is however a Hypermarket just off the E45 near Perugia at Colestrada (drive past the turning for Perugia Airport/San Egidio, follow the bend round and take the far right hand lane to the access road for the shopping complex). Facilities include a huge COOP, electronics, clothes and shoe shops as well as restaurants and bars.

Travel Tip**** We have gotten along quite well by shopping exclusively at the COOP in the commercial part of Umbertide and the smaller market in Mercatale. However, we encourage you to shop around and explore the food scene a bit more. It's fun and you'll see a lot of new things along the way. Try to brush up on your Italian food vocabulary and measurements or bring a travel dictionary with you if possible. You will not regret it.Always remember that when you are buying meats, pastries, baked goods always look for a ticket dispensing machine as some of the modern supermarkets have a ticketing system to determine who gets served. Also, when you are buying vegetables and fruits make sure to look for stand alone machines where you can weigh your items and then stamp a sticker on the bag (which the machine prints out). The cashiers will not weigh you fruit & vegetables for you. (The smaller supermarkets do not have this type of weighing machine) Additionally, make sure you bring coins with you as some large supermarkets will have shopping carts available for use but you will be required to leave a deposit (1 or 2 euro coin). These carts operate very much like the ones you find at the airport except you get your money back when you return your cart.

Fruit & vegetable weighing machine

Shopping carts

Meat Shop
There is a very good macelleria (butcher's shop) on Via Roma in Old Umbertide You will also find a decent meat shop in Mercatale. The meats offered at both of these shops are fresh and locally produced.

Butcher's shop in Mercatale

    Natural, Organic, Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian Foods in Italy
    There is an organic shop in Spedalicchio and many restaurants, such as La Chuisa, offer organically grown meats. Please see our section on Natural, Organic, Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian Foods in Italy for more information on this topic.

    Eating Kosher in Tuscumbria?
    While we are not kosher, we have had several family members stay in Umbria who are. As most people know it is quite difficult to find kosher stores, food and restaurants in more rural areas. Please see our section on Eating Kosher In Italy to find more information on this topic.

    Please see the section on Tuscumbria: Restaurant Reviews for a more extensive list along with reviews on many of the restaurants, advice on tipping and where to eat organic.

    While there are many more restaurants in the area, here are the most popular places to eat that are closest to the house:
    • La Fattoria I Girasoli Di Saint Andrea 
    • Agriturismo Ristorante Calagrana
    • Agriturismo La Chuisa
    • Ristorante la Locanda di Nonna Gelsa
    • Trattoria Mimi
    • Ristorante La Castagna 
      Travel Tip**** Always check with the restaurants in advance to confirm their hours of operation and to determine if reservations are necessary. Many of the smaller restaurants require reservations be made in advance as it helps them to make sure that they have sufficient food on hand to accommodate their guests. In our experiences traveling throughout Italy most, if not all, are family-friendly and adore children, especially young ones.

      Wine Shops
      It is easiest to pick up regular table wine at any of the supermarkets. Even smaller convenience stores offer a decent selection of tasty table wines. The best wine stores with the largest selection of regional wines in the area are located in Cortona (Molesini) and Umbertide (Enoteca). Please see our section on Wines, Stores, Tours and Tasting for more on this topic.

      Outdoor Markets

                • Monday : Assisi, Marsciano, Perugia
                • Tuesday - Gubbio, Perugia 
                • Wednesday - Perugia, Umbertide 
                • Thursday - Citta di Castello, Perugia, Camucia, Mercatale 
                • Friday - Bastia Umbra, Perugia, Tuoro Sul Trasimeno 
                • Saturday - Castiglione del Lago, Città di Castello, Gubbio, Perugia
                To get a more detailed information about the hours of operation of each market and what is being sold please see Anglo Info.

                Things to do
                Tuscumbria has a multitude of things to do.
                • Visit Cultural and artistic sites
                • Golf
                • Horseback Riding
                • Beach
                • Wine & Olive Oil tasting
                • Truffle Hunting
                • Cooking
                • Bicycling
                • Shopping
                • Markets

                Things to do with Children in and around Umbertide
                • Citta della Domenica: Nature Park for kids with animal petting zoo and reptiles. Open 15th March - 14th September every day. Monday to Friday 10:00 - 18:00 and weekends 09:30 - 19:00. Open weekends only from 15th September - 2nd November. At Via Col di Tenda 150, Perugia (PG) Tel: 075 505 4941 Fax: 075 505 4941
                • Fantasylandia - Inflatable toys to play on, electronic games, indoor open spaces, restaurant and room for birthday parties for up to 400 people. Open Monday to Friday from 07:30 - 13:30. At Via della Piaggiola, 06024 Gubbio (PG) Tel: 075 922 0053 Fax: 075 922 0053
                • Parco dell'Arringatore - L'Arringapiccoli: Park promoting the appreciation of open spaces and nature. A section of the park, called L'Arringapiccoli, is set aside specifically for children, with special events throughout the year. Tel: 333 413 8856 
                • Perugia Officina per la Scienza e la Tecnologia: The POST Science museum for children has interactive displays interesting for people of all ages. Explanations in Italian, though the exhibits are easy to understand for those not speaking the language. Via del Melo 34, 06123 Perugia (PG). Tel: 075 573 6501 
                • Pozzo della Cava: Caves under Orvieto originally dug by the Etruscans. Via della Cava 28, 05018 Orvieto (TR). Tel: 0763 342 373 Fax: 0763 341 029
                • Maridiana Alpaca FarmFraz. Niccone, 173 - 06019 Umbertide (Perugia)  P.IVA: 01219580543 Tel. +39 075 9410934 - 335 157 0202

                Gelato near Altabella Properties
                Colleti - Located in Umbertide behind Collegiata (the instantly recognizable octagonal church in the middle of old Umbertide).
                Mercatale - There are also two a small but nice gelato shop in Mercatale.

                Cooking & Tours
                For those interested in learning how to cook we strongly recommend taking a look at Amore Sapore which offers cooking classes taught by expert chefs. Amore Sapore is an excellent way to receive an introduction to the culinary arts of homemade pasta & desert making, the preparation of local, seasonal  vegetables & foraged foods and  roasted & grilled meats.

                One of the chefs and co-founders of Amore Sapore, Elizabeth Wholey, who, in addition to having provided wonderful wedding planning for us, also offers a host of informative and enriching tours throughout Umbria. Learn more about these tours at Elizabeth In Umbria.

                Driving Direction to the Nearest Towns
                For all of these directions you must first leave the property by driving down to the bottom of the hill, take a right and follow this road until you get to the main road. The sign marking the road to Preggio will be on your right (and is also the direction to Umbertide while left is to Mercatale and Cortona).

                Please HONK your horn around every corner so that any driver coming up or going down will be alerted to you. This will avoid any accidents. Drive slowly.

                Directions to Ossaia, Cortona, Terontola, Siena
                • Go down the hill and take a right at the bottom.
                • Continue to the main road.
                • Take a left onto the main road in the direction of Mercatale.
                • Follow the road into Mercatale.
                • In the center of town, you will have the option to go left or right. Follow the road right.
                • Follow this road straight and go up the mountain and down. This will take you about 30 minutes.
                • Once you come down the mountain you will continue straight. Please note that if you need gas there is a gas station on your left at the bottom of the mountain as you go towards Cortona.
                • Drive straight and follow signs to Ossaia. The turn for Ossaia will be a sharp left turn. If you miss the turn the road will take you to Cortona.
                • After making the turn to Ossaia, continue straight. You will wind through the town of Ossaia. It is a very narrow road that knifes through the town so be careful.
                • To continue on to Terontola follow the road through Ossaia and go straight. The Terontola railroad station will be on your right. If you pass through Terontola you have gone too far.
                • If you follow signs to Cortona there will also be signs to Siena which you can follow and is about 1.5 hours from the house.

                Directions to the Commercial Part of Umbertide, Citta Di Castello & Perugia
                • Exit Right onto the main road in the direction of Umbertide.
                • Follow this road until you reach a point where you can only go right or left. 
                • Make a right in the direction of Perugia and Umbertide. Follow the road through the old part of Umbertide.
                • Go through the old part of town and the industrial part will be on your left. 
                • If you continue straight instead of turning left towards the commercial part of Umbertide you can follow signs that will direct you to either Citta Di Castello or Perugia (E45). If you follow signs to Perugia, the E45 will eventually bring you to signs leading to the S75 that will lead you to the A1 (Autostrada).
                • The super market is called COOP.
                Map of Umbertide
                Directions to Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, Lodi at Tuoro
                • Exit left onto the main road in the direction of Mercatale. 
                • Follow road into Mercatale.
                • In the center of town the road will fork and you will have the option to go left (Tuoro) or right (Cortona). Follow the road left towards Tuoro. This will bring you up through the mountain and back down. On the other side is Lake Trasimeno. Follow signs to Tuoro sul Trasimeno.You will pass small towns but if you keep going straight you will eventually reach the lake and Passignano Sul Trasimeno which also has a beach and ferry stop.


                    Essential Travel Gadgets

                    (image: marcandangel.com)

                    There are many who believe that bringing gadgets on a vacation can detract from the overall enjoyment of the experience. While we certainly understand the rationale behind this belief, we believe that gadgetry can be a great way to enhance one's traveling experience, not detract from it.

                    Every once in a while we will highlight new gadgets that we believe will make your traveling experiences easier and more interesting. In this post, we will talk about gadgets that we have found particularly useful on our travels throughout the world. 

                    For us, the essential technology and gadgetry that we regularly rely on while traveling include the following:

                    Digital SLR Camera
                    A digital SLR camera is a must-have for travelers wishing to capture great pictures. Digital SLR's are perfect for capturing fast-moving subjects, portraits, wide-sweeping landscapes and people.Not all SLR's are bulky and quite a few are very portable and light. A terrific site where you can get all sorts of reviews and information is run by Ken Rockwell who offers expert advice on everything a consumer and prosumer could want to learn about when it comes to photography. For the novice and family photographers we would recommend the following: 
                    • Nikon D40/D90/3100
                    • Nikon 35mm AF-S f/1.8 DX lens (or standard kit lens will do)
                    • SB-400 flash

                    Nikon D3100 (image: Ken Rockwell)

                    Pocket Digital Point and Shoot Camera
                    It is always a good idea to bring a backup camera. It is also very useful to have a point and shoot camera that you can bring with you to places where a digital SLR might not be as convenient. Really, any point and shoot digital camera will do. It is important to make sure that your digital point and shoot camera has a video recording option as we have found this to be quite adequate replacement for lugging around a digital camcorder. 30 second clips of video are excellent for creating a video montage when you get home and allow for much greater viewing enjoyment for both friends and family later on. 

                    We are huge fans of the Canon brand and particularly the Canon S95 which is possibly one of the best point and shoot camera's ever made. We have shot most of our pictures with Canon Powershot models but are thinking about moving to a Canon S95 in the upcoming months.

                    Nikon S95 (image: Ken Rockwell)

                    iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad
                    Sure, one doesn't really "need" to bring an iPhone, iPod or iPad on a trip but from our experiences doing so really does make traveling more fun and convenient. Each on of these devices have built-in WiFi which means that you can get connected online wherever you can find an paid or open WiFi source. Many restaurants, hotels and business establishments offer WiFi which makes using your WiFi enabled devices a breeze. While we're on the go we use our iPod Touch to check our email or to make notes. Many of the smart phones and Apple devices have useful Apps that make traveling easier too. We would err on the side of caution and suggest that you leave your iPad at home though as it is not very travel-friendly and could break fairly easily.

                    iPhone 4 (image: BGR.com)

                    Power Converter & Plug Adapter
                    Many of the electronic gadgetry that is being produced these days have built-in power converters that enable your gadgets to work abroad making only a plug adapter necessary. Plug adapters are typically very inexpensive and world-use sets can be purchased airports or pharmacies. Similarly, a power adapter can be purchased at airports and pharmacies too and allow you to use your gadgets that do not have built-in power converters to operate abroad. Always make sure that the electronic gadgetry you are using with the power converter is does not require higher amounts of energy then the converter can convert. Hair dryers, curling irons and other gadgets that require lots of energy should be carefully examined before use to make sure they are compatible with the power converter you have or are using.

                    Laptop Computer
                    Our family laptop has become a necessity for all of our family trips. We use our laptop (big wide screen) for many uses such as movies for the kids, storage for our pictures, a place to write about our travels and a way to stay in touch with our friends and family back home through skype and other useful programs. It is very possible to enjoy your trip without bringing a laptop but we believe that bringing one does enhance the enjoyment of your trip, especially if you have children.

                    Portable GPS
                    It is possible to rent a portable GPS from a car rental agency and we suggest that you do so if you don't already own one. However, purchasing one before you go on your trip might be a better idea as the cost of the GPS rental basically amounts to slightly less then if you were to buy one of the lower end Garmin or TomTom GPS models (which are perfectly sufficient to get you around). We prefer models that speak the names of the streets (helps to keep your eyes on the road) and that have traffic service alerts bulit-in (to make quick detours).  Many places throughout Europe do not have physical addresses (instead using a P.O. Box at the nearest town) but do have GPS addresses (longitude/latitude) making having a GPS really handy as you can simply plug in the coordinates.

                    Getting Married in Italy

                    This topic is near and dear to our hearts as simply talking about getting married in Italy brings back very fond memories of our own wedding in Italy.  For many, planning a destination wedding can be a very daunting and intimidating task. Planning for a destination wedding, however, does not have to be challenging. In this post we hope to provide some basic information for anyone thinking about getting married in Italy with the goal of assuaging any anxieties and trepidations one might have about having a destination wedding in Italy.

                    Hand-made chupa

                    Initially, the idea of having our wedding abroad seemed like a foolish one. As one can imagine, we had so many questions. How could we choose a venue sight-unseen? How could we afford the cost of a wedding in Tuscumbria? How many of our guests could afford the airline tickets, accommodation costs and all other travel associated expenses? Did we really want to pay several thousands of dollars for a wedding planner and even more for a videographer & photographer? As you can tell, we had so many questions and concerns but after doing a little research, getting some invaluable help from our parents and a family friend of ours (Elizabeth Wholey) who lived in Italy and letting go of a lot of our concerns that we knew we had no control over we were able to have our dream wedding that we had both envisioned.

                    Our ceremony inside the walls of Castello di Montegualandro

                    String Quartet
                    We decided to get married in Tuoro Sul Trasimeno in a small but beautiful castle called Castello di Montegualandro. The rich history of the castle is only rivaled by its fantastic views of Lake Trasimeno and beyond. We said our vows before seventy-five of our dearest family & friends underneath a hand-made chupa which was adorned with grape vines and local flowers. The setting was simply perfect and our hosts, Mr. & Mrs. Marti, were so accommodating and they made sure everything went as planned.

                    View of Lake Trasimeno from Castello di Montegualandro

                    Some of our guests enjoying the spectacular views
                    hors d'oeuvres

                    We held the ceremony inside the castle walls which allowed for better acoustics for the music and the ceremony. We hired a string quartet to play music during the ceremony and dinner which seemed to be a perfect compliment to the festivities. After the ceremony, we had all of our guests go outside the castle walls to have hors d'oeuvres and local prosecco all while catching a magnificent Tuscumbrian sunset. The food was top-notch and a local band really ended the evening nicely.

                    Tuscumbrian sunset

                    We knew very little about how to plan and organize a destination wedding before we planned our own but we believe if we could do it that anyone can plan a spectacular and memorable wedding in Italy.  Below you will find some information to help you with your wedding planning. Good luck!

                    Marriage laws in Italy  
                    Destination weddings raise both legal and logistical questions for anyone looking to get married abroad.  Many countries have their own distinct marriage requirements (and some even have marriage pre-requisites) that make getting married in that country pretty difficult. 

                    According to Italian law, civil weddings must be performed in a Town Hall or on a property purchased by the local government only. Most Town Halls are located in historical buildings, unique palaces, villas and manors and offer a lovely setting for a wedding. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes and is conducted in Italian by the Civil Registrar. An interpreter will be provided during the ceremony if needed. You may personalize the ceremony however you desire using music, personal vows and readings. 

                    Depending on which municipality the marriage is to take place in, you are required to sign a Declaration of Intent to Marry two to four days prior to the wedding.

                    Marriages in Italy have many guidelines that one must follow including some beaurocratic steps that can make the entire process especially tedious for foreigners who have only a fixed amount of time in Italy. Also, things are slow there and it is difficult to tell whether one will receive important documents in a timely manner. If you are a couple that wants to do your civil ceremony in Italy (the legal part) then the best bet is for you to go with a company that actually makes all of these arrangements for you (cost probably $1500+ euros). 

                    Please note that according to Italian law a divorced woman or widow cannot remarry unless 300 days have elapsed from the date of the Decree Absolute or decease of the previous spouse. Those documents have to be supplied, if applicable.
                    There are several possibilities regarding a wedding abroad in Italy. We have listed the options below. We chose option 3 as it made the most sense and was simply the easiest thing to do. For readers outside of the United States please check with your own country's marriage requirements.
                    1. Obtain the marriage license in the U.S. and perform civil ceremony in the U.S. Easiest option.
                    2. Obtain marriage license in the U.S. and perform civil ceremony in foreign country with a U.S (state specific) licensed Officiant. Essentially, find an officiant abroad who is licensed to perform the marital ceremony (sign marital certificate & affidavit) in the state in which couple is getting married. This can be difficult but not impossible to do. 
                    3. Obtain marriage license in the U.S.(or your country of origin) and perform a civil ceremony in the U.S. followed by a marital ceremony abroad (purely symbolic). This gives the most flexibility to the couple. The couple can choose who they want to be their Officiant (a family friend?) and they are not restricted by the marital laws in either country.

                    The Logistics of Planning a Destination Wedding
                    Logistically, there are many important things to think about in terms of planning your destination wedding. Some key things to think about include the wedding planning itself, accommodations for your guests and family members, transportation and activities for your family and guests before, during and after your wedding. We will outline some of the most important things to think about below.
                    • Define a wedding budget - It is very important to define your wedding spending budget. Try to determine how much you believe you realistically can allocate for the wedding and then subtract about 20% of the cost and you'll have a better idea of what your wedding budget really is. By doing this, you allow yourself 20% spending cushion that stays within your realistic budget. The costs for weddings always run higher then one anticipates as unexpected costs invariably come up.
                    • Research & book a venue for the ceremony & reception - This is really one of the most important steps to do first. Picking a venue for the ceremony & reception will take time and patience. Ideally, you will be able to find one venue for both. Once the venue is chosen you can then start selecting food, music, entertainment and other particulars. The venue will likely have someone on hand who will be able to offer you options in regards to food, entertainment and other wedding-related things.
                    • Research & book a restaurant for your rehearsal dinner - If you are asking friends and family to travel half way around the world for your wedding then it is a very good idea that you invite everyone in the bridal party and who attends your wedding rehearsal to come to dinner after the rehearsal. It is in very good taste to invite guests who are not involved in the ceremony to come to dinner too in our opinion. Make sure that you agree on a per person price beforehand and have it in writing, preferably email or written and signed by the manager. Some restaurants on occasion have been known to disregard the agreed upon price once all your guests arrive so having a written confirmation goes a long way in avoiding trouble.
                    • Research & book a restaurant or space for your guests for breakfast the day after the wedding - Since most of your guests will be staying for several days it is appropriate, in our opinion, to have a breakfast for your guests the morning after your wedding. If possible, have the breakfast in a lounge in your hotel or locate a restaurant nearby that will serve breakfast to you and your guests for several hours. Your guests will appreciate this and it is a great way for them to see the newlyweds.
                    • Send out "Save the Date" cards to all your guests - As soon as you have a venue booked make sure to send out "Save the Date" notices. You can do this by email or snail-mail. Many people need to book vacations in advance due to job constraints or other obligations so giving them advance notice allows your guests to make vacation arrangements.
                    • Contact airlines, car rental agencies & hotels to determine if any will give you special rates for your guests - If you are super wealthy and can afford to pay for the airfare, car rentals, hotels and tour costs for your guests then that is great. They will love you more for it. However, if you are like us, then paying for everything is simply not an option. You can, however, get discount rates for your guests and they will certainly appreciate it. Another option is looking into Agriturismi. Multiple guests can share the expense of an Agriturismi and it can be a wonderful experience.
                    • Look into Tuxedo rentals & bridesmaid dresses - The easiest and least expensive way to ensure your grooms look great is to rent tuxedos for them. Places like Joseph A. Bank offer great prices for tuxedo rentals. Bridesmaids dresses should be shopped for early on to ensure that there are sufficient quantities of the dress you desire. Groom and bride are expected to pick up these expenses.
                    • Do research on activities for your guests in and around the area where you will have your wedding - Spending time doing research on the area where you will be getting married is very important for both you and your guests.
                    • Prepare an information packet for your guests -  Prepare an information packet for your guests which can be sent to them once they RSVP that includes important travel info such as passport/visa info, map of the area, restaurants recommendations, activity list, hotel info, airline & car info, emergency contact info, etc.
                    • Create a wedding website - This is a very good idea in our opinion. The website is a place where guests can go to for updates and wedding information. Wedorama is just one example of a website where you can sign up and create a wedding site. The cost is minimal and your guests will stay informed and be impressed.
                    • Send out invitations - This is where your creative side comes into play. It is possible to spend a ton of money on hand-made invitations from stores like Papyrus. However, it is also a chance for you to get back in touch with your arts and crafts side and make your own invitations. Either approach will do as long as the important invitation is included. It is very important that your guests know that this is a destination wedding or they may fail to RSVP in time to make vacation arrangements. Make sure to include a pre-stamped RSVP envelope!
                    • Look into party favors for guests - We think it's preferable to buy party favors abroad to avoid having to carry more stuff with you. See below for some suggestions.
                    • Look into gifts for bridesmaids & groomsmen - This is important in our opinion. There are a multitude of sites that offer gift suggestions. We like traditional gifts. Flasks for the men. Jewelry for the women.
                    • Look into thank you cards - Thanking is very important to us and having cards ready to send out when you get home makes it all the easier for you and your guests will be thoroughly impressed.
                    • Research videographers & photographers - Videographers and photographers can run you a pretty penny (or Euro). Picking the right one is the trick. Try to request samples of each person's work so that you can make a better informed decision. For many hiring a photographer is enough. However, some feel that if you're going to trek all the way to Italy then you want to capture the experience from every angle and on every type of medium. We suggest that you just have friends and family take mpeg videos on their cameras or camcorders and then have them send the footage to you. Then you can use a simple video editing software to stitch the footage together. Add some music to this and you have a personal, home-made video of your wedding!
                    • Prepare and write your vows - Do not leave this to the last minute. Try to at least write an outline of your vows before you get to your destination.
                    • Plan your ceremony - This is a chance for you to be creative or to stay traditional. If you are of mixed religious and ethnic backgrounds then the ceremony is a real chance for you to include various aspects of your backgrounds into the ritual itself.
                    • Prepare a thank you speech to you guests and family - Thanking your guests is a must and having a prepared speech is a great way to show your guests how thankful you are that they came this far to celebrate your special day.
                    • Research musicians and/or bands for the ceremony and/or reception - The venue you select might have someone who will be able to make recommendations for you. Follow their suggestions and make sure you get samples to choose from and listen to. 
                    • Prepare a music list of special songs for specific traditional dances - This is important to do so that the band you hire will know what songs to play and when. Also, if the band or DJ you hire does not have the songs you like you can bring them with you in mp3 format.

                    Some Suggestions
                    Do not be shy about enlisting a couple of close friends and relatives to help you. Having friends and family help to ensure that things go the right way will alleviate much of your stress. They will be flattered that you asked them. Just make sure to thank them and to reward them with a generous gift afterwards. We relied heavily on several of our friends and family and without them our wedding might never have happened.

                    Many of your guests will see your destination wedding as a chance to celebrate with you but also as an opportunity to have a wonderful vacation too. The wedding celebrations might last a couple of days, at most, so your guests will have time on their hands and it is customary for the bride & groom to either set up activities for their guests or provide their guests with activity options.

                    Putting disposable digital cameras on each table is a great way for your guests to get involved and for you to get extra pictures of your wedding.

                    If you have friends or family who are avid photographers and have decent cameras (digital SLR) then ask one or two of them to take pictures before and during your wedding ceremony. This could save you from having to hire a wedding photographer which could be upwards of $5,000 dollars.

                    Favors for your guests do not have to be expensive as long as they are meaningful. Here are some of our suggestions:
                    • Wine bottle -  We purchased local wine and designed our own labels with our wedding info on it.  Just make sure that your guests do not receive the bottles until the conclusion of the wedding.
                    • Local olive oil - This is also a nice favor because it can be consumed and is a reminder of the area the wedding took place. 
                    • Putting together a CD of your wedding music - This is an easy and inexpensive gift. Music is a wonderful way to remember a special event.
                    • Put together an organized activity - one thing all guests love is to attend an organized (and free) activity. Some ideas might be taking your guests to the beach, on a vinyard tour, a city tour or some other type of activity that you think the majority of your guests might like to participate in.
                    • Gift certificates - Giving gift certificates to local restaurants, activities or shops is a terrific idea as many of your guests surely will enjoy buying souvenirs of their trip.

                    We think that creating a wedding website make great sense and is an efficient way to send out updates and give information to your guests. Many of the wedding websites currently available (e.g. Wedorama) offer really nice designs at a nominal fee. Simply upload your pictures, type out your information and you're good to go. You can include your wedding venue information, directions, a blurb about the wedding couple and anything else you wish.

                    Here are some marriage planning resources:
                    United States Government website: http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship/citizenship_754.html
                    Italy Weddings - http://www.italy-weddings.com/how_to_get_married_in_italy.htm
                    Getting Married in Italy - http://www.gettingmarriedinitaly.com/showPage.php?template=pages_first&masterPage=page_aboutus.html&search=aboutus
                    Italian Destination Weddings - http://www.italiandestinationweddings.com/
                    Italy Weddings - http://www.italyweddings.com/
                    Go Italy - http://goitaly.about.com/od/weddingsinital/Italian_Wedding_Planning_Getting_Married_in_Italy.htm
                    Elizabeth in Umbria - http://www.elizabethinUmbria.com
                    Rick Steves - http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/graffiti125.html
                    Summer in Italy - http://www.summerinitaly.com/traveltips/getting-married-in-italy-tips-to-get-you-started
                    Castello di Montegualandro - http://www.montegualandro.com
                    Wedorama - http://www.wedorama.com
                    Marry Me in Tuscany - http://www.marrymeintuscany.co.uk/
                    Some suggestions on when to get married: http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/aroundtuscany/when-to-get-married-in-tuscany/ 

                    If you have any suggestions, advice or specific venues you'd like to mention please do so by leaving a comment or submitting a review.

                    Traveling with Children

                    Flying with Kids
                    No one dreads flying more then parents with small children who are especially susceptible to the changes in altitude pressure. We have traveled with infants and toddlers and find that there is no way to predict how your child will react to flying for the first time. In all our experiences, however, we have never had an issue with our children upsetting other passengers. Ofcourse, every travel experience is unique and it's not safe to assume that people will always be so understanding. Indeed, before we had children we often would request seating as far away from families with infants as possible. Oh how things change!

                    You never know who you might meet!
                    We would recommend bringing a couple of games and activities that can keep your child busy. Drawing paper, crayons, books and games are all good bets for keeping a child's interest. While the airlines usually  have in-flight entertainment for kids nothing beats bringing your child's own favorite selection of movies and videos so if you can bring a portable DVD player or laptop it will come in handy. We like bringing our laptop wherever we go because it's easy to put on a movie and prevent a melt-down. 

                    Typically, children under 2 fly for free or pay only the taxes (they are not purchasing a seat but, rather, will sit on your lap) while children over 2 years of age pay full-price. There are exceptions to these ticketing practices, however,  and the age limitations can either be higher or lower so it is prudent to check with your airline to confirm what their policies are.

                    Baby Air flight Vest
                    For parents traveling with infants the best seats on an airplane to reserve are bulkhead seats as they offer more leg room and a small area where infants and toddlers can safely stretch their legs or roll on their backs (though it's recommended that children of all ages remain seat belted at all times).

                    It is possible to purchase a lap belt to strap infants in that connects to their parent's lap belt. We tried this method but it only worked for takeoff and landing as our child wanted to move around as much as possible once the plane leveled off. (See: Air flight vest). For additional information on flying with kids this handy site provides answers to many of the most common questions parents have about flying with children: Flying with Children).

                    ***Update 8/2011- We recently flew on 6 different flights with our two sons (age 5.6 & 1.5) and were told by several airlines (American, Iberia) that child safety lap belts & vests were not proven to be affective in the event of an airline crash. Indeed, the only airline that issued us an infant lap belt was British Airways. We were told by an American Airlines steward that the force of a plane crash is 4 times greater then the force of a car crash and that the vests and belts were not strong enough to withstand an airplane crash and that infants using these safety devices would most likely fail to be properly restrained if a crash did occur. The airline advised that we bring on board with us a car seat as this would provide the best protection possible in the event of a crash. Ofcourse, instead of flying for free, infants riding in a car seat would be required - on most airlines - to pay about 50% of the price of an adult ticket because a seat is necessary for the infant car seat (airline policies differ so check with your carrier).

                    Anyone entering Italy must have a valid passport or visa. It is important to make sure that your child's passport is valid and will not expire less then 3 months after the date of travel. It is a great idea to make a color photocopy of your child's passport and keep it hidden in a separate location from the original. In the United States, children up to age 16 must be accompanied by both parents (or have an affidavit in lieu of one parent being present). Children must not smile when their passport photo is being taken and kids with long hair must part their hair to the sides.

                    It is generally a good idea to take the same precautions in Italy as you would at home. Like any foreign country, Italy has plenty of dangers for children.

                    The most common crime is theft and pick pocketing. Children traveling with family members are typically not a target for crime but there are exceptions so keep an eye on your young children at all times. If you are accosted by a criminal while with your children the best thing to do is give the assailant what he/she wants.

                    Family tip **** - Whenever we travel to a heavily touristed area as a safety precaution we slip a note card in our child's pocket with our hotel address, our child's full name, our email address, telephone number and our full names. Along with this we write: "Ciao, io sono perso può per favore aiutarmi a trovare i miei genitori? Non parlo l'italiano. Io parlo solo inglese" ("Hello, I am lost can you please help me find my parents? I do not speak any Italian. I speak only English.")

                    Driving with Kids
                    Driving anywhere children can be quite an adventure. Driving in Italy with children can be fun and easy. It is possible to rent a car seat from your car rental provider for a nominal daily fee.

                    Hotels with Kids
                    Most hotels are very accommodating to families with children. However, some hotels prefer adult guests only so make sure you make inquire as to what your hotel's policy is regarding kids. Always request cots and cribs/bassinets in advance as most hotels will have these on hand (some charge a fee) but in limited quantities.

                    It is also our suggestion to ask the manager if a first aid kit is on-hand and if not where the closest place to get medical attention for kids might be. Some big chain hotels have medical staff on call so be sure to check with your hotel provider.

                    Swimming pools are always a huge safety issue especially for young children. Always make sure that your younger children are supervised by the pool at all times.

                    We have found it helpful to explain to our kids what to and not touch in the hotel room. What might appear complimentary to your child might not be complimentary if taken or opened. In higher end hotels drinks in the mini fridges have touch sensors that record what was moved off of them. We learned the hard way when we received a larger bill then expected as a result of our son moving the bottled drinks around and taking them out of the refrigerator.

                    If you are traveling with an infant or child that requires milk or refrigeration of a medical supply always be sure to ask the concierge if a refrigerator is available if there is not one in your room.

                    Eating with Kids
                    Eating with kids in Italy is very easy. In the major cities it will be possible to get all types of children's foods in the supermarkets, restaurants and even fast food chains. Pizza & pasta can be bought almost everywhere. Cheese and ham sandwiches are also readily available. And, ofcourse, there is Nutella everywhere. Nutella is an amazing hazelnut spread and is delicious on almost anything. Kids will love trying Italian pizza along with the wide variety of pasta dishes too.

                    Most restaurants have high-chairs for younger children. From our experiences, the high-chairs we've seen and used aren't the best or most stable but are generally safe and suitable for young kids. When we traveled with our 1.5 year old son we took a portable chair with us which proved to be very useful.

                    In the smaller towns it has been our experience that the restaurant owners and staff love children, especially young children. We often received special attention as a result of our son's presence...

                    A picture is worth a thousand words

                    Baby Supplies
                    It is possible to buy baby food supplies in the big supermarkets. Sometimes the smaller convenience stores carry baby supplies too. The pharmacy will also carry certain infant medications along with diapers too.

                    If you require special supplies for your child it is advised that you bring them from home. Often when visiting the smaller towns, when we most needed supplies for our young son we found it very hard to get supplies as a result stores being closed due to holidays, for daily rest, etc.

                    Activities for Kids
                    For families traveling with kids of all ages often one of the main concerns is finding activities for their kids to do. Fortunately, Italy loves children of all ages and there is plenty to keep grownups and children busy and happy.

                    It is generally understood that most children can take just so much of the tourist grind and would welcome a nice change of pace. In our experiences, children traveling to Italy love gelato, shows, movies, bicycle riding, horseback riding, the beach, swimming, sports and just running around in a local playground.

                    Some very good activities for kids resources:

                    Family tip**** - We try our best to make traveling fun for our two boys. In addition to allowing activities that we normally would not allow our boys to do (watching movies, playing video games, etc.) we play more games with them then we typically would do. Good games and activities to play and do are card games, eye-spy, spot the plane, singing songs, coloring & drawing, and many more. We also try to make it interesting for our boys by turning all of our traveling trips into ways to grow their various collections. When we travel on a plane, train, bus or boat we try our hardest to find a replica toy copy for them to purchase as one of a couple of mementos of their trip. For example, every time we fly a new airline the boys are entitled to a small, inexpensive, die cast airplane of that particular airline. Every time we rent a car the boys are entitled to a small matchbox equivalent. And every time, well, you get the idea!  It is also possible to collect almost anything - stickers, coaster, spoons, post cards, stamps - so find something inexpensive and fun that your children can collect to remind them of their trip and to keep their interest!

                    Dealing with Homesickness
                    We have all experienced homesickness at least a handful of times during our lives so it is easy to relate to what some younger children might experience when they travel even though their parent(s) are with them. To this day, every time we take a trip our eldest son always says immediately upon arriving at our destination (and sometimes sooner) "I miss home, I can't wait to get back, I'm homesick already." This reaction is natural and talking to your child(ren) about the highlights of your trip that await them is a great way to ease their minds. Also, emphasizing how a break in routine is a good thing will encourage their sense of exploration and teach them to accept change as a positive thing. We always use the "you're so lucky to be traveling" card which never seems to fail.
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