Pink Lemonade Pie Squares

Summertime is my favorite time of the year, for many reasons. One of them being, refreshing, summer desserts. I love lemons and anything related to them such as, lemonade, key lime pie, lemon squares, you name it. I recently came across a very easy recipe for frozen pink lemonade pie squares, and can I tell you, they are amazing.  All I had to hear was cream cheese, condensed milk, cool whip and Oreos…I was sold! So sweet, yummy, light and refreshing. Anyone can make them.

Ingredients
22 Golden Oreos crushed

1/2 stick butter softened
8 ounces cream cheese softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces frozen pink lemonade concentrate thawed
8 ounces Cool Whip
Red food coloring

Instructions
Mix together the crushed Oreos and butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 pan. You can also just use a graham cracker pie crust if you prefer, but the Oreos make it different and delicious.

In a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese for about 2 minutes until it is fluffy and smooth. Add in the sweetened condensed milk (as usual, I added an additional 1/4 can), pink lemonade concentrate and red food coloring (only 4 drops, I made the mistake of using too many and mine came out dark pink) and mix it well. Fold in the Cool Whip using a spatula.  Don’t mix it with the mixer or it won’t be fluffy. Pour this mixture over the crust and freeze for approximately 4 hours. Cut into squares and serve. Should look like this:

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I love easy recipes and you can’t go wrong with this one. Have you ever made frozen lemonade pie?  I would love to hear how you make it.My Signature

When the Cypress Whispers

Continuing with my book reviews, here’s my next pick…

When the Cypress Whispers is a novel set in the beautiful island of Erikousa in Greece.  Naturally, I was enticed by the story and the cover, as I love all things related to Greece (a slight obsession of mine).  This was the first novel I’ve read by Yvette Manessis Corporon, an Emmy Award winning writer, producer and author. She is currently a Senior Producer with the syndicated entertainment news show, EXTRA. I really enjoyed this book because it connected the author to her Greek roots, and while there is a bit of a love story in the novel, it also speaks of Greek traditions that the author learned from her own grandmother. I am truly looking forward to reading her second novel, Something Beautiful Happened, also set in Greece.

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When the Cypress Whispers: A Novel (Synopsis)
The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne aspires to the American Dream, yet feels as if she’s been sleepwalking through life. Caught between her family’s old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career, she cannot seem to find her place.

Only her beloved grandmother on Erikousa, a magical island off the coast of Greece, knows her heart. Daphne’s fondest memories are of times spent in the kitchen with Yia-yia, cooking and learning about the ancient myths. It was the thought of Yia-yia that consoled Daphne in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death.

After years of struggling to raise her child and pay the bills, Daphne now has a successful restaurant, a growing reputation as a chef, and a wealthy fiance-everything she’s ever wanted. But across the ocean, Yia-yia can see through the storybook perfection of Daphne’s new life- and now she is calling her back to Erikousa. She has secrets about the past to share with her granddaughter- stories from the war, of loyalty and bravery in the face of death. She also has one last lesson to teach her: that security is not love, and that her life can be filled with meaning again.

Pickup a copy or download it to your e-reader and enjoy a great read, I promise you will truly enjoy this story.

Have you read any good books lately?  I love suggestions!

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Mini Bacon & Cheese Meatloaves

Meat loaf is a staple for dinner in our house, we all love it and I have been making it quite often during this quarantine time. A few days ago we were getting pretty bored of all our usual dinner meals, however, I didn’t feel like going food shopping or inventing something new to cook. So, my daughter went on Supercook.com in search of some new recipes. This is a website (and there are many other similar ones) that will provide recipes for you once you input the ingredients you have at home, very convenient. That’s how we found the Mini Bacon & Cheese Meatloaves (as usual I made my own adjustments to the recipe).  The best part is how easy they are to make and they are delicious too!

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
4-5 slices of bacon
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup ketchup
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of Goya Adobo seasoning
1/2 an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, combine beef with remainder of ingredients (except bacon slices).

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Mix until well combined. Your mixture should be firm, but, not too dry. Adjust bread crumbs to form mixture to your liking. Form meat into 4-5 individual loaves. Wrap a single piece of bacon around each loaf. Spread tops with additional shredded cheese to your liking.  My daughter and I love cheese so we decided to add some extra.

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Place on baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes or until meat is done and no longer pink. The final product should look something like this:

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Serve with mashed potatoes, mac and cheese or steamed vegetables and you have a tasty new way of enjoying meatloaf! Have you ever made these mini meatloaves? I’d love to try some different recipes if you have one.

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Cuban-Style Arroz con Leche

Growing up, my grandmother was the queen of Cuban desserts. I have a tremendous sweet tooth so I know good desserts when I taste them and I have yet to find anything remotely as delicious as my grandmother’s Arroz con Leche (rice pudding, my favorite), Flan or Natilla (and I live in Miami, where Cuban bakeries and restaurants are a dime a dozen).  Hers were simply in a league of their own.  Sadly, I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe, so being my perfectionist OCD self, I decided to google Arroz con Leche recipes and found one that I really liked and made a few adjustments. I know there are many recipes out there that only use cow milk, however, I cannot imagine making this dessert without condensed and evaporated milk. This recipe is super easy to follow and will make for a very sweet and creamy Arroz con Leche.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup of short grain rice

2 cups of water
Zest from one lemon
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
1 14 oz. can of condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Ground cinnamon for garnish

Cook the rice in a saucepan with water, lemon zest, and a 2 cinnamon sticks. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed and rice is tender. Drain any excess water and remove the cinnamon sticks.

Add the evaporated milk, condensed milk, salt, and vanilla extract to the rice and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness. Should start to look like this:
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Remove from heat and serve in smaller jars or bowls for individual servings if you wish. Top with ground cinnamon and chill in the refrigerator overnight (some like to serve it warm, I prefer it chilled). A delicious refreshing summertime dessert!
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Have you ever made homemade Arroz con Leche?  I would love to know if you have a different recipe?My Signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts for Dad

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday, and if you’re still trying to look for some creative and different gifts for all of the special dads, grandpas, uncles, etc, in your life, here’s a quick list:

For the ice-cream loving dads, here’s a gift I think is pretty unique.  eCreamery’s Father’s Day Gift Packs. They offer very creative packaging with names such as Property of Dad and My Dad My Hero, and you can choose from a variety of flavors like Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Cups & Fudge Swirls, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cookies & Cream and Brownie Batter.

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Father’s Day Classic Collection, photo courtesy of ecreamery.com

For the man who enjoys wearing some bling, here is a very original braided leather bracelet, available at mynamenecklace.com. You can personalize by choosing the names of the children.

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Men Braided Leather Bracelet with Small Custom Beads in Silver, photo courtesy of mynamenecklace.com

I love the idea behind ManCrates.com. You can choose crates for all types of hobbies, from the chef to the sports fanatic. Man Crates has your manly-man covered.

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Beer Aficionado Crate, photo courtesy of mancrates.com

Another cute gift for dad from his young kids is the What I Love About Dad Fill In The Love Book Journal, available at Amazon. This is a great way for the little ones to express what they love about their dads:

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What I Love About Dad Fill-Inn Journal, photo courtesy of Amazon

For those dads that enjoy some snacking while watching TV or hanging out outside here’s a good choice, Man Snack Bucket, available at gifts.com.

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Man Snack Bucket, photo courtesy of gifts.com

For the dads that love to plan trips and travel (like my hubby), here’s a great idea, the Atlas Obscura, available on Amazon:

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

And last but certainly not least, here’s a cute idea for Dad from his little girl, a key chain and necklace set, available on Amazon:

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There is The Girl she Stole My Heart she Calls me Daddy – Daughter Keychain, Necklace Set – Father’s Day Gift

I hope you find some good gift ideas here. Wishing you all a wonderful Father’s Day with your loved ones.

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Gilmore Girls Road Trip

A few years ago, my daughter and I binge watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix. We have a very close relationship so naturally we immediately fell in love with the show, all of the characters and the fictional town of Stars Hollow.  As I like to say, she is the Rory to my Lorelai. Since we love to travel and Spring Break was approaching at the time, my daughter planned a Mother/Daughter Gilmore Girls road trip, visiting some of Connecticut’s most picturesque small towns (similar to our own Gilmore Girls Fan Fest).

We flew to Hartford and then ventured through Litchfield, Kent, New Milford, Washington Depot (which inspired the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino to develop Gilmore Girls during her stay in town) and back to New Haven. My daughter put a lot of thought and planning into this trip and came up with the perfect itinerary.  The only thing I would suggest to do differently would be to maybe go in the fall, as in March the weather was cool and cloudy.  We had so much fun, here’s how our trip panned out.

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Day 1, Hartford

We stayed at the Residence Inn Hartford Downtown and explored Hartford in search of “Emily & Richard’s house” and “Chilton”, where Rory went to school. We decided to also do a bit of sightseeing as this was our first time in Hartford. During our drive through town we stopped at Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop for a snack. This is a beautiful, genuine, Italian neighborhood bakery, which we loved and sadly do not have any of in Miami. We also visited the Mark Twain House & Museum, the Old State House and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. In the evening we drove around West Hartford and had dinner at Barcelona Wine Bar.  Very yummy tapas.

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Residence Inn Hartford Downtown

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Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery offers a very large selection of goodies!

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Mark Twain House and Museum

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Connecticut Old State House

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Wadsworth Atheneum

Day 2, Litchfield

Litchfiled was definitely a quaint little town. We stayed at the very cozy Litchfield Inn and drove around searching for “Kim’s Antiques”. We found many charming shops in the center of town, in particular, Litchfield Candy Company.  We took some pictures of the First Congregational Church, visited the Shrine of Lourdes and finally stopped for a late lunch at the West Street Grill.

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The Litchfield Inn

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Lobby of Litchfield Inn

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Litchfield Candy Co.

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Tons of goodies to choose from

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First Congregational Church

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Lourdes Grotto

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Lunch at West Street Grill

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Shops and restaurants on West Street

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Another cute shop in town

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A very charming art, antiques & furnishings store

Day 3, Kent

The drive to Kent took us through some hilly roads so please have your GPS handy and definitely do not drive at night, unless you know the area. We stayed at The Inn at Kent Falls, a very beautiful B&B, which has sadly been permanently closed since our visit. We also strolled along Main Street, where most of the shops and eateries are located. We had some warm coffee and picked up some specialty chocolates at the Kent Coffee and Chocolate Co. and then stopped in at the House of Books. Very quaint little town, with many beautiful Victorian homes.

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Welcome to Kent

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The entryway into the Inn

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The bathroom in our suite

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The homemade breakfast served each morning

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The beautiful farm kitchen

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A visit to the House of Books

Day 4, New Milford & Washington Depot

New Milford was the least of my favorite towns, however, this is where we found the gazebo, similar to the one in Stars Hollow, on the New Milford Town Green.  We walked around and took in some of the shops and eateries on Main Street and Bank Street.  Before heading out, we drove up to the Canterbury School, which my daughter says appeared similar to Chilton, where Rory went to school.

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The gazebo on the town green

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The Canterbury School

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A church in town

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The New Milford Public Library

We then headed to Washington Depot, the town that inspired the show. We stayed at the famous Mayflower Inn & Spa, which is absolutely gorgeous, I highly recommend a stay there.  While exploring the town, we had some coffee at Marty’s,  the “Luke’s” of the town and we also stopped in at the Washington Food Market, which resembled a small market like “Doose’s”. Washington Depot has many charming shops and restaurants, we also visited The Hickory Stick Bookshop  which is a beautiful, independent book store that also sells cards, gifts, plush and toys for kids.  Later in the evening, we had dinner at Community Table, which had amazingly fresh and delicious food.

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Mayflower Inn & Spa, simply stunning property

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Welcome sign, Do Not Disturb sign and brunch

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Our beautiful room

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Marty’s Cafe

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Not quite Luke’s Coffee Shop, but it was cozy and yummy

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Washington Food Market, similar to Doose’s

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Yummy meals at Community Table restaurant

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Hickory Stick Bookshop had lots of great books, cards and stationery gifts as well

Day 5, New Haven

A stop in New Haven was a must, as we had to visit Yale, where Rory went to college.  We stayed at the New Haven Hotel and explored the campus and its surroundings, including the shops on Broadway and of course the Yale Bookstore for t-shirts. We also had pizza at Pepe’s Pizzeria,  still considered one of the best pizzerias in the country.  I must say our pizzas were delicious. In the evening we stopped by Atticus Bookstore and Café for some coffee, scones and pretty postcards.

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Yale University

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More of Yale

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Yale

We truly enjoyed our Gilmore Girls adventure. Have you been to any of these Connecticut towns? I would love to know what you enjoyed most.

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Backyard Fun

Summertime is around the corner (in Miami, it’s already here) and the kids are getting restless. Especially after all of these months of quarantine. If you’re out of ideas trying to keep them busy, here are some fun activities for your pool or backyard/outdoor space.

I hope you and your families have fun with these outdoor activities. As for me, I am truly enjoying my pool time for now and can’t wait to get to the beach as soon as it opens up. Have a safe and fun summer!

Strada in the Grove

My favorite type of food is Italian, always has been. I am always trying out new Italian places everywhere I visit. Thankfully, living in Miami allows me many options. My husband is not big on dishes with creamy sauces or cheese (don’t ask), however he loves seafood so he always finds a nice fish dish to enjoy. Miami has many amazingly delicious Italian eateries, however, Strada is one of my favorites, from the marvelous food to the side entryway, which reminds me of many restaurants in Italy, to the friendly wait staff. Its sister restaurant/pizzeria, Farinelli 1937, located directly across the street, is another great eatery in Coconut Grove, also not to be missed.

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Side entryway of Strada

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Interior of Strada

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Sitting outside in the evenings. Photo courtesy of Strada.

At first glance it’s hard to choose from so many amazing dishes, but here is what we started with:

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Ricotta cheese and prosciutto appetizer, delicious!

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Fried calamari

Then on to the main dishes.  I ordered the pumpkin agnolotti which I always order here, it is amazing (I am a creature of habit), and my husband ordered the salmon.

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Agnolotti di Zucca al Burro e Salvia
Homemade roasted pumpkin and amaretti agnolotti in butter sage sauce.

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Salmone al Ginger
Grilled marinated fresh Atlantic salmon, crunchy ginger and carrot salad.
Served with green beans and potato gratin.

For dessert we ordered the panna cotta, one of my all time favorite Italian desserts, and it was delicious.  Just the right texture too.  And it came in a cute tiny mason jar to boot:

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Panna Cotta served with fruit.

You basically cannot go wrong with this place.  All of the dishes we have tried have been excellently prepared and the ambiance is fantastic, located in Coconut Grove, with outdoor seating available as well. Makes for an enticing evening out.

Have you dined at Strada?  I would love to hear what you enjoyed most…

Strada in the Grove
3176 Commodore Plaza
Miami, Florida 33133
(305)444-1312
http://www.stradainthegrove.com

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Tantalizing Taormina

Sicily, in particular, Taormina, had been on my bucket list for a while. If you follow my blog, you know that I LOVE Italy and have blogged about many of the cities I have been to. So I finally decided that I could no longer put this off.  Being that Sicily is an island (the largest in the Mediterranean) we decided it would be best to leave it for the end of our 2-week trip throughout Italy, figuring we would be pretty exhausted (we were) and would benefit from relaxing by the hotel pool or beach. We flew from Rome to Catania and hired a private driver through Viator (very affordable) to drive us to Taormina. As usual, I must start with our hotel. We stayed at the NH Collection Taormina, located in the heart of town, a few steps away from Corso Umberto I and the city center. The room was spacious with a gorgeous bathroom and the best part was the panoramic view from our balcony, simply stunning. I would advise staying at any of the hilltop hotels, there are several nice ones to choose from offering magnificent views.  Here are some of the views from our room:

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Views of Taormina from our room

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More amazing views…

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The infinity pool area overlooking the town

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Our daughter admiring the views from the infinity pool

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Our room

Taormina is full of quaint shopping streets, beautiful architecture, breathtaking sceneries and delicious food everywhere.  Here are a few things I loved in Taormina:

Stroll Corso Umberto I
Bordered to the north by Porta Messina and to the south by Porta Catania, the Corso exhibits many buildings from different eras. Also full of numerous shops, bars and restaurants, the cobblestoned, pedestrian street is always very busy, especially in the evenings. While you will encounter the obligatory typical souvenir shops, make sure you don’t miss some of the other boutiques selling some beautiful ceramics and high end items, typical of Sicily. The Corso is the main street in town, which also has many small alleys and side streets to discover, leading to more shops and eateries up and down some steps.

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The many buildings on Corso Umberto I

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Steps leading up to a beautiful ceramic shop right off the Corso

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Balconies seen all over the Corso

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Fruit stand on a side street in Taormina

Piazza IX Aprile              
Piazza IX April, Taormina’s main square, is a fantastic stopping point along your stroll on the Corso and a perfect place to enjoy a gelato while people watching. Make sure not to miss the  breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna from the piazza over the water, truly spectacular! You can find many important monuments on this piazza, such as the early-18th-century Chiesa di San Giuseppe, which represents a beautiful example of Sicilian baroque, with its double staircase located in front of the entrance. Another beautiful church on the piazza is the Church of Sant’Agostino with a commanding presence and a terrace that overlooks the Messina Gulf. Also on the piazza is the Torre dell’Orologio (the 12th-century clock tower) which leads you through to the Borgo Medievale (Medieval Quarter) and eventually to the Piazza del Duomo.

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The beautiful Chiesa di San Giuseppe

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Also on the piazza, the Church of Sant’Agostino

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Torre dell’Orologio (photo courtesy of continentaltaormina.com)

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The piazza full of tourists in the evening

Piazza del Duomo 
The path on the Corso from the clock tower though the medieval quarter will lead you to the Piazza del Duomo, another great gathering spot. On the piazza stands the Duomo of Taormina, hence the piazza’s name. In the center of the square you will also find the Quattro Fontane di Taormina, a Baroque-style fountain featuring a centaur, representing Taormina’s city symbol. However, the statue atop the fountain isn’t a straightforward centaur. Not only is the figure female rather than male, it also only has two legs (the back two) rather than four. No one knows why the centaur is not typical but the people of Taormina have adopted the statue as the town symbol. You will find many folks sitting around the fountain in the late evenings, enjoying the crowds and having gelato.

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Duomo of Taormina and the Quattro Fontane di Taormina

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Sitting by the Quattro Fontane on a beautiful evening

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Another view of the piazza

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Another side street off the piazza

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The Duomo at night

Pasticceria Gelateria D’Amore
One item you can find all over are cannoli, as they were originated in Sicily. We enjoyed many cannoli and gelatos in various places but we really liked Pasticceria D’Amore. The store has a window where one can observe them while they’re making the cannoli, and they offer a great variety of gelatos and pastries.

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Pasticceria D’Amore

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Cannoli with a variety of fillings being prepared

Greek Theater (Teatro Greco)
A visit to the ancient Teatro Greco is a must, especially if you love the ancient monuments and ruins found throughout Europe. Despite its name, the Greek Theater is actually an ancient Roman structure. The ruins you see today date primarily from the 2nd century A.D., although the theater was started in the 7th century B.C. Taormina’s Greek Theater sits high above the town’s famous beaches, so visitors who climb uphill to see the ruin are rewarded with gorgeous views of Taormina, the beaches below and the Mount Etna volcano.  Many events are held at the theater, click here for the schedule of artists, plays and concerts. This is also the venue for the Taormina Film Festival held every year in June.

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Teatro Greco (photo courtesy of Akos Hajdu)

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Another stunning view of the theater

Taormina Funivia  
The Taormina Funivia (cable car)  connects the town center with the beach at Mazzaro. It makes getting down to the beach or back to your hotel easy and quick, especially in the hot summer months. There are eight cable cars in the Taormina-Mazzaro Funivia system that are in constant rotation, depending on the season. During the busiest months, cable cars run every 15 minutes, and the trip from one end to the other takes less than five minutes.

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Cable Cars (photo credit unknown)

Here are some more photos of our trip for your enjoyment:

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The stunning views of the sea from Piazza IX April

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More amazing views from the piazza

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And some more views…

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Dinner at this delicious pizzeria

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YUM! Pizza in Sicily!

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One of the MANY cannoli we had on this island!

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One of the side streets off Corso Umberto I

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One of the gates into the old town, Porta Catania di Taormina

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We started our stroll onto the Corso through the other town gate, Porta Messina di Taormina

Have you visited beautiful Taormina?  I would love to know what you enjoyed most!

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Mom’s Day Gift Guide

A bit of a different Mother’s Day is coming up in a few weeks, as the quarantine continues. While many of us may not be able to celebrate with our moms, we can still send them a little something to let them know how special they are to us (gift cards are always appreciated too)!  Here is my Mom’s Day 2020 gift guide:

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day this year and get to celebrate with all of the special moms in your life soon.

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