Sunday, March 11

{Podcast from Italy} D.I.Y vs. Hire a Pro, Politics in Italy and Food: What's in Fashion vs. What's in Season

 Holy smokes - it's a crap-shoot most days in Italy if you will get everything crossed off your to-do list and today has been epic - everything from the shopping to house work has gotten done! The fireplace and kitchen are damn near set just in time for guests to arrive in less than a week!

The cap/hood for the stove has a new whole in the wall - without  a hitch! Which makes us pose the question - when to D.I.Y and when to hire the pros...Plus And listen for a SPEICAL OFFER for our Podcast Listeners for our Move to Italy Workshops

Jason comments on Jeremiah Tower's article/interview in Bon Apetite and his thoughts on cooking with what's in fashion vs. what's in season. A little local gossip of course and the usual updates from our farmhouse. What happens when you have credit card fraud in Italy? (Pray it doesn't happen) A few thoughts on the election coverage and politics in Italy. And GPS vs. an old school DRIVING MAP!  And check out the backroad to our farmhouse hat has collapsed...

Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #117 Podcast from Italy:
D.I.Y vs. Hire the Pro, Move to Italy Workshop, Politics & Jeremiah Tower’s Thoughts on Food
  Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

Winter Snow = Hearty Veal Stew

Outside, away from the warmth of the fire, beyond the steam covered widows, our valley was blanketed with a solid 3 meters deep of snow for over a week, then came the freezing rain (we've just thawed out in time for our first guests arriving next week!) We were prepared with plenty of wood and enough provisions to feed most of the village just in case… This was the perfect time to have something rich, hardy, and stewy on the stove fitting the weather outside.  Not to mention, I'm a meat & potatoes kinda girl - stick to your ribs the better and this does just that!

Most cultures have a staple version of stewed meat and vegetables. These are versatile comfort foods that take advantage of tougher cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, and typical seasonings cooked slowly to tenderize and bring all the flavors together.

The same simple ingredients with slight variations produce totally different versions of the same dish. Add a bit of cinnamon, cardamon, and coriander and take the dish to North Africa. Rosemary, Juniper white wine and olives brings me back to Italy. Lets’ go to Greece by incorporating instead a squeeze of lemon, dill, and parsley- Its really that simple.

Stewed recipes here in Italy are referred to generally as ‘In Umido’ or that are cooked and served in a sauce usually of their own juices.

Some useful tips for stewed dishes:
1.  Bones! They have marrow and will provide the richness for your stew. If you like a more hands on experience, use meaty bones and serve them. If the bones are not your thing, use boneless stew meat along with stew bones during cooking and then remove the bones before service.

2. Stock. Use good quality or better yet make it yourself!

3. Beware of too many sweet vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash etc. are sweet veggies and can overpower everything! Keep this in mind when composing your stew. Love the parsnips and rutabagas; perhaps leave out the carrots…..

4. Grandma was correct in that stews always taste better the next day! Make it over the weekend for dinner during the week.

Here is one of my favorites Sepzzatino di Vitelli:

Stewed Veal

1 lb/500 gr of beef for stew (or a mix of both beef & pork)
1 carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
handful of olives
2-3 spoonfuls of capers, drained
1/2 glass of white wine
salt & pepper
flour for dusting
olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
aromatics/herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary
stock, enough to cover the meat
optional: mushrooms

Dredge meat in flour.
In a heavy bottomed pot on medium/high heat, brown meat on all sides.
Remove meat from the pan.
Reduce heat to low, add in vegetables, season with salt & pepper and sweat for 10 minutes.
Add meat back to the pot (as well as the optional mushrooms) with your aromatics.
Deglaze with white wine and lemon juice.
Cover meat with stock.
Toss in capers & olives.
Simmer very slowly for 1.5 - 2 hours until meat is very tender.
Check your seasoning.
Serve over polenta or boiled potatoes.

Thursday, March 8

Let's Talk Lids! Cooking Class Quick Tip

Lids are not normally what make headlines or talked about on today's cooking shows - they seem more interested in extreme eating and food wars than sharing actual cooking fundamental! But not us! Jason was trained old school, with serious technique imparted upon him. However this is a simple cooking tip that anyone should learn no matter what skill level they are in kitchen.

Do you know when to use a hard lid vs. a soft lid vs. no lid at all?!
Any idea what a soft lid actually is?

Sunday in between painting the guest rooms we took a break to have serious talk about lids & answer these burning questions!

Here's the LIVE video from our Facebook page:

(In case you have a problem viewing this, here's the link as well: Let's Talk Lids)

Tuesday, March 6

From Snow to Spring - Time for an Italian Getaway

Snow is still on the ground but we've got artichokes, radishes, fave and Spring greens on our mind!! Join us for our 2 & 3 Night Spring Getaways + hands-on, farm to table Cooking Class during April & May at our farmhouse in lovely Le Marche!

Arrive to a five course welcome feast, made by hand with produce from our garden and local traditional recipes. The next day tie up your custom made apron for a half day cooking class including meal prepared by the class and plenty of local wine! Choose from our Pasta & Sauces class or Full Meal Dinner Party class (creating all five courses from scratch!)

Includes: Two nights accommodations in apartment PESCA, welcome dinner with local wine and half day cooking class (with meal, wine and gift apron) for TWO (based on double occupancy.)

You can always stay longer and join us for a mushroom hunt, wine tour or "Feel like a Local Friday" Market Tour/Tasting & Lunch!

Details: Spring Getaway at La Tavola Marche  or email

This is what it looks like today - 

But in a few short weeks everything will be beginning to blossom! Here's a glimpse of what Spring will bring - 

Thursday, March 1

Snow Storm + Another Podcast from Italy...

This week's podcast is brought to you by: PROCRASTINATION. When it's snowing outside and there is a ton of work to do before the first guests arrive...Procrastination! So we poured another cappuccino and fired up the mics for another Podcast from Italy!

It's been 3+ days of snow with about 3+ feet and still falling - from shovelling to shuttling wood, frozen pipes and cats going crazy there's a lot to take into account when living in the countryside. Stories from Gaggi's birthday party and the most amazing (and most likely illegal in the U.S.) samples ever at Auchan!

I took the drone out for a flight during a break in the snow and was able to capture a few great shots - editing a short video in between painting the last of five guest apartments while Jason cooks and bakes up a storm!

The infamous internet ladder!


Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #116 Podcast from Italy: What it’s REALLY like when it SNOWS in the Italian Countryside! + Another Chapter of the Book Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

Tuesday, February 20

Podcast from Italy: A Half Hearted Apology to the Florence Airport, Winter Travels, Soccer in Spain + Another Chapter of The Book!

From painting the farmhouse to fancy dress in Barcelona!! This week's podcast we apologize to the Florence airport for our disparaging words on a previous podcast and then quickly take back the apology! An invitation to Barcelona for a five start hotel opening at the Alamanac means a surprise winter getaway to one of our favorite cities! We share a few of the best tapas bars & spots to visit off the beaten path not to mention our first European soccer or football game!. Staying at the ritzy new hotel makes us ask ourselves the question about what the definition of high end hospitality is today. 

After seeing a photo of us dressed up & Jason in a Tux Gaggi comments on Jason's resemblence to certain infamous's hysterical! Always there's an update from the farm and what we've been up to from Fish on Friday's, Carnevale and the local gossip about the price of wine in 2018! 

And finally another chapter from The Book, Chapter 13: The Doctor's In -- thanks for listening! Ashley & Jason

 Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #113 Podcast from Italy: Florence vs. Ancona Airport, Long Layovers & Italian "Public Relations" Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

Friday, February 16

Retire in Italy: Where to Begin...

Dreaming of retiring or buying a holiday house in Italy? There's a lot of work needed before you can enjoy la dolce vita! Here's what you need to know when it comes to house hunting, negotiating, taxes, health care, moving with pets and assimilating into life in Italy! Ashley & Jason Bartner (that's us! - owners of La Tavola Marche & No Half Measures Consulting) and experienced American expats are your hosts for a series of Workshops with the experts to help offer you the tools and insider information you need for a successful start to your new life in Italy! This will be an honest, informative, humorous, engaging and inspiring series of seminars/lectures over the four days.

If you are planning for your retirement or thinking about purchasing a holiday home it's all in the preparation and this intensive & intimate workshop will answer all your burning questions. We hope to provide you with a road map for this journey to make your dream of living in Italy a reality!

The next workshop is 15-18 March 2018 (with only a few spaces available), the May dates have SOLD OUT and the autumn workshop 25-28 October has only a few spots left as well!

The mornings will be spent doing activities at the farmhouse with time to explore the area. This is why you are in Italy - you love this country, go explore! Then return to the farmhouse for apertivi and interactive seminars before dinner. The seminars/workshops will be broken into 3 Phases: Preparation, Transition & Execution
  • Create a timeline
  • Immigration & The VISA Process
  • Finding the Property & Negotiating, Understanding closing costs & taxes
  • Holiday Rentals
  • The Nitty Gritty: AirBnB, VRBO, etc.
  • Logistics of the Move, Bringing your Pets
  • Culture & Expat Life in Italy
  • Stories from Expats : Behind the Scenes of Purchasing a House in Italy,  Restoring a Farmhouse, Life as Single Woman & Dating in Italy and more!

Q&A with the Experts 

Come prepared with all your burning questions! On hand will be "Insiders & Experts" from an Italian Commercialista (Tax Account, Business Advisor Specialising in European Financing) Fabio Centurioni, Business Attorney, other Expats (from Holland & America) and of course Jason & Ashley Bartner! The expats are a mix of entrepreneurs & retirees that live in diverse settings from the rural countryside to the heart of a medieval village - giving you a better understanding on the pros & cons of city vs. country locations, some retired and others dabbling in holiday rentals/ AirBnB, all sharing stories of their struggles, successes & what keeps them loving life in Italy!

We recently interviewed Susan about her move & life in Italy: 
Entrepreneurs & Expats in Italy: Making the Move as a Single Woman in her 50's | Dogs, Dating & Renovating!

The Details:

This boutique, intensive workshop is limited to ten participants.
Includes three nights & four days accommodations, breakfast & dinner with local wine daily, Sunday lunch, evening aperitivi, daily seminars, printed workshop materials with a take home zip drive with extra resources and the full presentation + a one-on-one Skype chat before the workshop to help maximize your time in Italy & prepare for the trip!
​2750 Euro/Couple or 1950 Euro/Single
Book Now or request more details:
or email

Friday, January 19

Podcast from Italy: Florence vs. Ancona Airport, Long Layovers & Beer for Breakfast

A January update from our farmhouse & cooking school! With 55 kilos of salami hanging in our rafters, we’re adding another 55 kilos of sausages this Saturday. This warm winter we are ready for winter projects around the house after a short trip away. We flew out of our local airport of Ancona which was a pleasure (especially compared to Florence - we explain why!),  check for flights into Ancona for a nice & easy arrival into a tiny airport and leisurely drive to our farmhouse!  Plus we share a priceless long layover travel tip! 

 Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #113 Podcast from Italy: Florence vs. Ancona Airport, Long Layovers & Italian "Public Relations" Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

Here's that beautiful German breakfast I ordered at the airport in Munich: sausages, warm pretzel & a Pilsner - it was perfect! (Notice how Jason went with boring eggs & bacon...I definitely won the ordering challenge)

Friday, December 15

Entrepreneurs & Expats in Italy: Making the Move as a Single Woman in her 50's | Dogs, Dating & Renovating!

We are excited to start a new series on our blog - Interviews with Inspiring Expats in Italy - sharing stories of hard work, big dreamers with determination, entrepreneurs and risk takers!

In 2010 we first met Susan Dufresne, she was travelling through Italy with one of her son's and stayed at our farm, inn & cooking school. Throughout the years Susan kept in touch and shared the trials and tribulations of moving to Italy  and restoring a farmhouse with us.

It seems fitting to ask Susan to be our first guest in this series of interviews because not only was she a guest at our inn years ago and made the move, but she will be joining our panel of Expats & Experts in our Move to Italy to Retire Workshops! Sharing with our guests what life is really like a single woman, in her fifties living and dating in small town Italy!

Now 30 years after her first trip to Italy, Susan made the leap in April 2017 and moved with her two dogs to Guardia Sanframondi, Campania. And as she puts "Moving to a small village in Italy has truly been an adventure and a comedy of errors."

Let's jump right in!

Why did you want to move to Italy? 

I grew up in a little coastal town in Northern California with a large Italian and Portuguese community. I didn’t think there was anything unique about that community until my mother remarried and we moved to Oklahoma for a bit. Before, normal food for us were things like salami, pasta and sauce and fruits like pomegranates. Then was introduced to chicken fried steak and crawdads! A bit of a culture shock.

When I was in my early 20’s I took my first trip to Italy with my friend, Maria. It was love at first sight - literally. The minute I came out of the Termini train station in Rome, I knew I wanted to live in this country. I loved the language, the food, the culture and people. I never forgot that moment and kept that dream alive for another 30 years.

What was the catalyst for wanting to move?
"I was burned out by my corporate job and feeling a bit lost but had never given up on my dream of living in Italy. I have always known that someday I make the move here. I was previously married, I have two children, Steven and David, who are now in their 30’s and two grandchildren. I am always asked how my children feel about my move. The answer is that they have been prepared (maybe brainwashed?) since they were young. I talked about moving to Italy all the time. They were not surprised at all when it happened and probably would have been more surprised if I hadn’t moved.

What inspired you to finally make the move?
My son, David, and I took a trip about 6 years ago to Italy. I wanted him to see another part of the world and selfishly chose Italy. We were traveling to Rome, then traveling up north eventually to Venice and back. I found La Tavola Marche through a search and was very intrigued and it was on the way to Venice. What an inspiration! An American couple who took a chance and uprooted their life to start new in Italy. I would like to say I chose La Tavola because of how beautiful it was but I think deep in my heart, I wanted to meet people who had made the leap. They were truly inspiring to me in their bravery and determination. (What an incredible make me blush!!)

I’m guessing it is not something new for their guests to tell them that they will live in Italy one day. But I was serious! I continued to follow their blog and listen to their podcasts. Sometimes it was difficult for me to listen to their podcasts to be honest because I was so envious. It’s true. I wanted to start my life in Italy but knew it would be a few more years. That trip to La Tavola helped me to overcome any doubts and make the move.

It's not easy moving to Italy! What kept driving you forward when the going got tough?

I just kept thinking about the life I wanted. I knew that it would be almost impossible in the States. I had a fairly stressful job which involved quite a bit of travel, and being transferred to various cities. But I knew if I took those positions in the company and transferred where needed, I could save enough money to make the move to Italy. Also, my children were now living on their own and beginning their own lives (one lives in Florida and the other in Saigon). It was time. I sold my home, my car and gave away or donated most of my belongings. I often thought I was crazy to do this but continued to listen to my heart. I knew I would be happy but also knew it would not always be easy. It has been hard work but I have not regretted it for one minute. The beautiful Deruta vase I bought 30 years ago on that first trip now sits in my living room in Italy. It amazes me every day that I am here.

What's it like dating in Italy? This is a part of the culture I know nothing about.

The fabulous thing about the Italian culture is that I find the men very engaging, passionate in their interests and they truly enjoy having a dialogue. But there can be little landmines for a single woman whether you are seeking out someone to date or not. I live in a small town of 4,000 people and could probably make a fortune with a "The Real Housewives of Guardia” show. But…. I would then have to move. Just like any small town, gossip is a pastime. There are also many stereotypes of single, western woman coming to Italy solely to find men whether married or not...It can be frustrating, but it’s the truth. You will be asked out for coffee often and assume the man is single. They usually are not. That’s another reason it’s important to find a support system. They can give you the background of the locals and help you navigate through this.. I am a fairly independent, non-traditional woman but do respect the place that I live and do not assume that I have the freedoms that I would in the US. This is small town specific of course and it was my choice to move somewhere where I knew I wouldn’t always agree with the attitudes towards women.

The smaller town mentality can be difficult and confusing sometimes but the benefits are also incredible. Like your neighbors looking out for you and bringing you some fresh tomato sauce, olives, or whatever is seasonal and from their kitchen. Knowing the bread lady, meat guy, fruit and veggie guy so you get the freshest food possible and they sometimes throw in something extra for you just because. The hospitality is incredible. If you ask for directions, do not be alarmed if someone or a group of someones, jump in your car and lead you to wherever you were trying to go. One of my biggest dilemmas here is trying to figure out how to reciprocate the enormous generosity. That’s a good problem to have and something I appreciate every day.

How do you spend a typical day?

It’s fairly erratic right now because of the renovation in my home. Usually I am mainly dealing with renovation - consulting with the workers on plans and layout, trying to find material and general errands. Like you, I do not live near a major center where there are a lot of options so I do quite a bit of driving back and forth to Naples and the surrounding area for materials.

When I do have a break from renovation, I meet with friends for coffee and dinner, go to local events, take an online Italian class with a group of people and lots of walks in the mountains with the dogs. Errands can also take up a fair amount of time in a small town because I need to go shop to shop and make sure I get everything done before pausa, which Guardia Sanframondi takes very seriously. Stores are closed for up to 3-4 hours mid-day. Blessing and a curse.

Now that you live here and reached your goal of moving to Italy, what are your plans?!

I initially thought that a blog giving information about restaurants, activities, local trips, artisan, workshops, etc. for visitors and expats was something I would be interested in doing. There is no site or information currently in one place and Guardia has over 200 expats with second homes. But after many attempts to start, I realized that my heart was not in it and I would not enjoy it over time. I have a marketing background so initially thought only about the need. But I didn’t move here for that reason.

As they say… follow your passion. So I recently started working on a blog showing my day to day life here. It is not live yet but should be up early next year called SempreItaly.  I am a fairly adventurous person and love exploring. It will be from the prospective of a single woman who had a major life shift - going from the corporate world in the States to a small town in Southern Italy. And the dogs! I hope it is entertaining and helpful. I will talk about learning the language, being so far away from family, cultural differences, getting by as a single woman and everything else that happens in my life. I want to show the generosity of the people, my major faux pas which are daily and what there is to offer in this area. This I am excited about!

I have a hundred more questions for Susan (and I'm sure you do too!), as I mentioned before we are so excited to have her on the panel and joining our Move to Italy & Retire Workshop! She will be here to share more stories on her experiences of moving with pets, purchasing & renovating a property, dating and dealing with family! Below are a few tips and things to consider before moving to Italy, from the perspective of many of you dreamers - a single woman in her fifties!

A few of Susan's Quick Tips on Moving to Italy:

- Social Media - Remember that Italians have Facebook too! A woman I know moved to Italy, started complaining about everything Italian and forgot that she had “friended” quite a few locals on FB. Keep those rants in personal messages. Google Translate works both ways.

- Thick Skin - You will need it. Italians love to make fun of each other - to their faces - and can laugh at themselves. It takes a little getting used to but is harmless. When speaking you will say the wrong words a lot - just roll with it and laugh at yourself. Be careful of the word “Fico” It’s tricky!

— Italian food - Do you really, really, really love Italian food? I do but after weeks on end of nothing but Italian, I crave some Thai, Mexican food or any other type of food. Bring your spices, your cookbooks and when friends are heading over to visit, have them bring anything you can’t get in Italy - within reason of course. It may seem a minor thing but after a while you will be dreaming of a carnitas burrito or tom yum soup.

- Professionals - Get a good attorney, commercialista (accountant), notary, and auto insurance agent in your area. Seek out referrals from locals and other expats.

- Type A Personalities - You may struggle. Italy is a tough cookie and will probably not change anytime soon. You’ll either need to let go and enjoy the crazy ride or enjoy Italy as a vacation spot only. Plus, isn’t that why we want to move here - because it’s Italy?

Things to Consider Before Making the Move as a Single Woman:

- How do you handle being alone and out of your element? If it’s something you know you would struggle with consider moving to a city with a more international atmosphere or try a trial run in a rental before making the leap to move longer term.

-Can you imagine being away from your children and family for long stretches of time? Will you be able to travel to see them or they to see you? Skype and other services are great but do not replace that connection. When thinking about the cost of moving and living in Italy, I would include travel back and forth as well.

-How will you handle your new found popularity? You will have friends you haven’t seen or heard from in years asking to come stay with you, cousins that you had forgotten about suddenly interested in coming to Italy. It’s nice to feel wanted but be careful with the constant flow of guests especially in your first year when you are trying to figure out your new life. Be prepared to be popular!

Thank you Susan for your insight & inspiration!!

Take the first step towards the sweet life!
Meet Susan along with other inspiring expats at the next Workshop: How to Move to Italy & Retire / Buy a Holiday House in March & May 2018 at La Tavola Marche (Le Marche, Italy). Jason and I love hosting this workshop! If you are dreaming of retiring or buying a holiday house in Italy understand  there's a lot of work needed for la dolce vita! We share first hand experience on what you need to know when it comes to house hunting, negotiating, taxes, health care and life in Italy!

Saturday, December 9

10 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Kitchen

Watch our Facebook LIVE! video sharing a few of our favorite things - 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Kitchen - all tools used in our cooking school and kitchen daily! From luxe to stocking stuffers & in no particular order here are the links below!

Be sure to watch the video to find out why we chose these great gifts!

1. Falk Copper Cookware - This is true craftsman ship! Beautiful handmade copper cookware - start your collection with either a sauté, sauce or fry pan! These pots & pans are Jason's favorite kitchen tools! They are worth the investment, don't be fooled by fake knock-offs.

2. Cutting Board with a Lip/Edge   - Stop the slippage with a lip! 

3. Chinois -   A classic fine mesh strainer.

4. Parchment Paper - I know, weird to be on a Christmas list but it makes a great stocking stuffer or Secret Santa gift for anyone who cooks because it's so versatile! (I think Jason should invest in parchment stock!) From lining a baking sheet to using it as  - a lid or piping's indispensable in the kitchen! Buy it by the roll, not individual sheets!

5. Food Mill - from tomatoes to potatoes, keep one in your pantry.

6. Bialetti Moka & Milk Frother - It's a classic and makes most Italy lovers gift lists. We use ours every day, many many times a day! Bialetti is our moka of choice and this simple hand pumper/frother works like a charm. And here's (one of my first videos) on how to use it and make a proper Italian caffe!

7. Lexan - Take tupperware to the professional level. 

8. Big Pasta/Stock Pot - You can never boil pasta in too much water! This is when you hit up a restaurant supply store and buy the biggest pot your stove can handle. Nothing fancy needed it's just to boil water - and a lot of it!

9. Cookbooks - On every kitchen/cooking/food lovers christmas list are cookbooks! Our recommendation is simple: The Silver Spoon - get both in English & Italian, Il Cucchiaio d'Argento they are different. And a personal favorite is The Food of Spain, when the kitchen is closed for the winter we happily eat our way through this cookbook!

10. Cheese Grater - Ok this is the wild card item. This is an Italian military issued cheese grater, made for the battle field! We found this antique item in our farmhouse when we moved in (for years we didn't know what it was!)

Happiest of Holidays! 
Let us know your favorite's to add to the list for next year!

...hopefully our kitchen renovation will be done in time for Christmas!!!
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