Shopping on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is arguably the world's most famous stretch of coastline, the setting for Silver Screen romances and chic fashion shoots alongside vacationing celebrities, honeymooners, and everyone in between. If you are planning a visit to this stunning coast, be ready to take on the hairpin curves of the famously tortuous highway skirting the shoreline, explore the Instagram-ready towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, and relax over a plate of fresh seafood at a seaside restaurant with sighs of delight as the sun dips into the Mediterranean.

amalfi-coast-boat-tour-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Be prepared to shop, as well. The coast doesn't offer the famed cultural landmarks of Rome or Florence - though Pompeii is a quick day trip away - but it does have majestic scenery, elegant dining, and some memorable shopping. From artisan workshops to luxury designer boutiques, there are ample opportunities to choose a special memento of your stay on Italy's iconic Costiera.

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“Master of None” and Delicious Modena

Italophiles are always thrilled when a movie or tv series is set in the Bel Paese, but most programs filmed against the backdrop of Italy are sappy romances or travel shows. If your pop culture tastes lie outside these genres, you aren't often treated to seeing American stars walking the cobblestone streets and sitting in the bustling bars of your favorite Italian city.

Modena, piazza grande(Photo by Cristina Sanvito via Flickr)

The Netflix comedy Master of None is an edgy outlier. This modern comedy/drama follows the adventures of a 30-year-old Indian-American actor Dev (played by the comedian and show's co-creator Aziz Ansari) in New York City, where he is trying to build a career, find love, and balance the expectations of his parents with his Millenial lifestyle. Since its debut in 2016, the show has been a critical success, received multiple awards, and was considered one of the best new programs last year. The newly-released second season begins with Dev getting over a failed romance in the small city of Modena in Emilia Romagna, where he has apprenticed at a local pasta shop making the region's iconic tortellini and discovered the joy of authentic Italian cuisine.

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Il Mercato Centrale: The Pros and Cons of Gourmet Food Courts in Florence and Rome

Florence and Rome have both made news over the past couple of years with high-profile inaugurations of an updated (Florence) or new (Rome) Mercato Centrale. Florence expanded its historic central market in 2014, adding an enormous 3,000 square meter upper level with a gourmet food court including over a dozen stands, food and wine shops, a bookstore, and a cooking school and exhibition space. Rome expanded the Mercato Centrale brand in 2016, opening up its own gourmet food court in Termini's historic railway workers' social club space, featuring stands by some the most recognized names in the city's restaurant and food scene.

mercato-cr-winke(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Unlike Eataly, which showcases products from across the country, the Mercato Centrale philosophy highlights products, eateries, and shops from the city and surrounding region. Though there are exceptions - there is a small vendor offering Sicilian pastries at both locations - the food stands generally feature either prepared dishes or products like cheeses, charcuterie, and baked goods that are strictly local.

Both the Florence and Rome locations have ardent fans and passionate detractors, and only after a visit and tasting can you decide what side of the fence you are on. Here are a few pros and and cons of Italy's unique take on the food court:

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Ragusa: Baroque from the Top Down

Ragusa has been one of the most important cities in Sicily since the native Sicels first defended their hilltop town of Hybla Heraia from the invading Greeks four millenia ago. Though successive waves of invaders and conquerors from the Arabs to the Normans left their mark on city's cuisine and culture, it was Mother Nature who changed Ragusa's history most dramatically.

scale-ragusa-ibla-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

A devastating earthquake razed most of the city center in 1693, killing thousands and destroying almost all of the historic buildings and monuments. Reconstruction began in the 1700s, and divided the city into two main sections: Ragusa Superiore, located on the higher point of the hilltop and laid out in a modern grid pattern, and Ragusa Ibla, rebuilt on top of the destroyed historic center and laid out to match the historic Medieval city plan, with its labyrinth of winding lanes and small squares. It was during this rebuilding that many of the city's most famous and breathtaking Baroque churches and palazzi were built, and what has made Ragusa Ibla one of the most charming historic centers in Sicily and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with other Baroque masterpieces in the surrounding Val di Noto valley) since 2002.

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Look Down: Italy's Most Beautiful Floors

Enter a historic villa, palazzo, or cathedral in Italy, and you'll find that your eyes are almost immediately drawn upwards. Intricate Byzantine mosaics, ornate Renaissance frescoes, and sumptuous Baroque plasterwork cover the ceilings of many of Italy's most important buildings, a symbol of the wealth and power of the emperors, dukes, and popes who commissioned them centuries ago.

piazza-armerina-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The next time you step into one of Italy's landmark buildings, however, don't forget to look down. Many floors can rival the ceilings, and are artistic masterpieces of complex patterns and prestigious materials that have survived the passage of thousands of feet over time. Here are a few of the most interesting floor types, and where to find them.

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