Italy Now, Safely

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sunny vineyard in Italy (photo courtesy of Yosika @ happy holiday.travel )

Picture yourself sitting outside in a balmy breeze…ever so slightly buzzed with a glass of wine from a small Italian vineyard, of which only the cognoscenti have heard.

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under-the-radar vineyard in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino Winery)

Wine from the Gods

You have cleverly chosen a bottle from Poggio Rubino, a winery in Tuscany recommended by Mary Ervolina, my friend who goes to Italy every year to find the best food, wine and hotels. It’s her business! More about Mary in our next post.

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Montalcino, Italy (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino)

Basking in the warmth of the sun, you are contemplating…Montalcino…ancient, hilltop town, with big green views of Tuscany. Can you see the vineyard that produced your wine?

Music Transports You

Gently playing in the background is lilting, Italian music. You are transported to those heady post-WWII days made for dancing, when Italian consumption boomed and life was beautiful.

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Domenico Modugno sings, “Volare!” (photo courtesy of issimoissimo.com)

“After exiting the war in shambles and starting from that moment, Italy boomed…mothers decided that each kitchen needed a refrigerator, fathers lined up in front of the Fiat dealers…an age made for dancing, playing pinball, drinking Coca-Cola and listening to music in the jukebox. This is the soundtrack of the miracolo italiano (Italian miracle).” (from issimoissimo.com)

Tuscany Food Bliss

Montalcino’s hills are alive with vineyards, cheese makers and olive groves, owned by families who’ve been lovingly perfecting their products for generations.

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Tuscany’s hills (photo courtesy of Travel Across Italy)

Cheese from Heaven

A second glass of the Poggio Rubino? Certo! Who can resist? A little cheese would taste sooo good with this. How about some Pecorino from Fior di Montalcino?

I wonder how they make cheese, you muse. After watching this lovely, short video, you now know, and are inspired. “I want to go meet the goat from whence this glorious Pecorino was produced!” Surrounded by sunflowers, Fior di Montalcino is near “your” winery. No wonder they go so well together!

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Sunflowers surrounding our Pecorino cheese producer (photo courtesy of Fior di Montalcino)

Olive Oil with Clout

Homemade bread and olive oil would be perfect right now. The Frantoio Franci family has been producing olive oil in these hills for generations. And won over 500 awards!

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olive groves in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Frantoio Franci)

Saffron and Pasta

By now, you’re contemplating your third glass of wine.

Basta!” It’s time for pasta…with saffron, of course! Why saffron? Because it’s a product of Tuscany.  You’re going to have trofie with saffron and zucchini, a recipe from Pura Crocus, a saffron producer in nearby Val d’Orcia.

Buy the Best 

And this is how we go to Italy now, safely: We buy the best wine, olive oil, cheese and saffron from the best small producers in Italy! We create a little bit of Italy in our homes now, after downloading that great playlist

small food shop in Tuscany

Because it’s a whole lot more fun to buy from a small producer in Italy than Whole Foods (photo courtesy of Discover Italy)

Click here to buy, buy, buy! And, remember, Mimi’s Travel File makes nothing on your orders…although, I would be happy to come over for dinner.

Italy Later, Safely

My next post will feature a great itinerary by Mary Ervolina for our in person trip to Italy!

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Elvis, Resilience & the Garden Club

This is the story of resilience, of making something out of nothing, of rising out of the bad times.

From Nothing

Elvis Presley was born

  • in the poorest state (Mississippi)
  • during the poorest time (the Great Depression),
  • on the wrong side of the tracks.

How did he rise from the depths to mega-success?

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Elvis’ birthplace, left (courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

His Father had Gumption

In 1934, Elvis’ mother was expecting the future King. So her husband built a tiny home for them (above) — with his own hands!

  • Time was running out, so he asked for help from his father and brother to build the shack.
  • He didn’t have the $180 for building materials so he borrowed it from the farmer for whom he was a sharecropper. Elvis was born in the shack in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Elvis’ father had can-do, will-do attitude!

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Elvis and his parents (photo courtesy of Elvis Birthplace Museum)

When Elvis was three, his parents defaulted on the $180 loan. They were evicted. Elvis’ father lost his job. For the next 10 years, they worked odd jobs in Tupelo.

The Kid’s Got Talent!

At age 10, shy, be-speckled Elvis entered the talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at the Tupelo Fairgrounds. He sang “Old Shep” in a WELO Radio broadcast of the show, and won $5 in fair ride tickets.

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Elvis, far right, wearing glasses. Note that he is the only boy wearing a tie & suspenders. Even then, Elvis was a snappy dresser! (photo courtesy of Lee County Courier)

And Generosity

By age 21, he was famous. He had moved to Memphis but came back to Tupelo to perform at the same fairgrounds where he had won the prize at age 10. Click here to see the 1956 concert. The next year, he gave a concert in Tupelo and donated all proceeds to the city to build a park on the land surrounding the shack.

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(photo courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

But It Almost Didn’t Happen

One day in Tupelo, long before Elvis was famous, his mother wanted to buy a present for his 10th birthday.  So she and E walked to the hardware store (pictured below).  Because Elvis had always been fascinated by music, his mother wanted to buy a guitar for him. But when they walked into the store, Elvis saw a rifle and wanted that instead! After the store clerk allowed him to test it, Elvis decided on the guitar. Click here to read a letter from the very same store clerk.

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(photos courtesy of Tupelo Hardware)

His Church Pastor taught Elvis to Play the Guitar

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Elvis’ childhood church (photo courtesy of Elvis Birthplace Museum)

Elvis first heard gospel music, which influenced his singing, at the little church he and his parents attended regularly.

Elvis and the Garden Club: Really?

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Elvis’ birthplace (photo courtesy of the Elvis Birthplace Museum)

“In 1971, the East Heights Garden Club [in Tupelo] began to improve the birthplace as a club project. Over the years the club purchased furniture and other pieces to duplicate the house’s contents from when the Presleys lived there in the 30s,” according to the Elvis Birthplace Museum.

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Garden club ladies (photo courtesy of activerain)

Faith, Hope and Love

Elvis had all three. Maybe that’s why he was able to catapult his talent out of the ashes.

Visit Tupelo’s Elvis Birthplace Museum to see the shack and the family church. Drive to the nearby hardware store. While Graceland is fun, the EBM is touching and inspirational.

 

 

Nashville: Music City USA

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Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry (photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry): Gotta love her!

Hatch posters

(image courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

See the Sights

Ryman Auditorium – Take a tour or see a show or better yet, do both! “A National Historic Landmark, Ryman Auditorium was built by Captain Thomas G. Ryman in 1892. Ryman Auditorium is an nine-time winner of the prestigious Pollstar Theatre of the Year award. The historic venue is well-known as the Mother Church of Country Music and is the most famous former home of Grand Ole Opry (1943-1974). The Ryman has been featured in numerous film and television projects including Coal Miner’s DaughterThe Johnny Cash Show, American Idol, Nashville, and more. While offering a diverse lineup and thriving concert schedule (with over 200 shows per year), the venue is also open for daytime tours year-round,” per the Ryman Auditorium website.

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Ryman Auditorium (photo courtesy of the Ryman Auditorium)

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This is the inside of the Ryman. Can’t you just hear Dolly singing?!?! (photo courtesy of the Ryman Auditorium)

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – Tootsie’s back entrance is across the alley that runs along the side of the Ryman Auditorium. When bands were finished performing, they would walk across that alley into Tootsie’s. “Famous early customers were Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and many more,” according to its website. It’s authentic and fun and you can hear live music here.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – SO much fun! This is a modern, beautiful museum in downtown Nashville, near the Ryman Auditorium. Check out its collection, which includes…

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Elvis’ 1960 gold Cadillac (photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

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performers’ costumes (photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

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Listen to a recording session in this way-cool nautilus (photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

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Learn about historic RCA Studio B, in which Elvis is recording here (photo courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Grand Ole Opry – While the Grand Ole Opry (below) looks a bit cold by comparison to the Ryman Auditiorium (home of the Opry from 1943-1974), you gotta go, as this is where all the glitz is. This Grand Ole Opry has a several backstage tours that I long to do, including a VIP tour that includes hanging out ON THE STAGE as the curtain rises! Click here for the Grand Ole Opry’s “ultimate guide to a weekend in Nashville.”

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(photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Opryland

(photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Homes of the Stars tour – Years ago, I went on this and it was so much fun! Could it have changed?! Maybe but how about you check it out and let me know. It’s only 3.5 hours and could be great.

Johnny Cash Museum (Milieu 2017) – I haven’t been here but it’s got to be good.

Where to Stay

Holston House Hotel (Travel + Leisure, 2018) –  good location downtown near the tourist mainstays; rooftop bar with good views; it’s a Hyatt, so that gives me pause…is it good or cookie-cutter? Let me know! T+L says it’s the “former Noel Place, which opened in 1930 as one of Nashville’s first luxury hotels…has newly restored Art Deco details”

Hermitage Hotel (Departures, 2016) – Built in 1910, the Hermitage Hotel was the

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(photo courtesy of the Hermitage Hotel)

grande dame of Nashville until Nashville became trendy. Great location downtown, so you can walk to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, major stops on your tour. Despite its lack of hipness, it’s nice…not exciting, but nice.

Noelle Hotel (Garden & Gun magazine, 2018) – in Printer’s Alley, downtown; this is a Marriott, so rooms look cold but good location

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

For THE BEST TIPS from top country music stars themselves on where to listen to live music,  click here! For example,

  • Vince Gill likes the Bluebird Cafe and Robert’s Western World and the Station Inn
  • Marty Stuart recommends American Legion Post 82 or wherever the Kenny Vaughan Trio is playing around town.
  • Kelsea Ballerini likes songwriters’ nights at The Bluebird or The Listening Room
  • Raelynn suggests Ascend and Mercy Lounge.

Wander around the bars downtown on Broadway (near the Ernest Tubb Record Shop) where bands start playing early in the day…not raucous bands, but sit-and-listen-while-you-nurse-your-beer kind of bands. In the 1970’s, this area was pretty seedy but the bands were good. Now, the bands are still good but the area is seriously cleaned up. For ex, at 416 Broadway, visit…

Robert’s Western World – “is a true, old school honky-tonk. There are many live music venues in that area (Nashville’s historic lower Broadway district), with many people sitting outside strumming their guitars. Robert’s, though, is called ‘the undisputed home  of traditional country music.'” Robert’s is one of Vince Gill’s two favorite honky tonks on Broadway in downtown Nashville. The other is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. (Milieu magazine and Garden & Gun, 2017)

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

The foodies reading this are probably wincing because my lead restaurant is The Loveless Cafe . During the past 20 years, as Nashville became more and more cool, gourmet restaurants began to pop up. In fact, it’s become a bit of a Mecca for excellent food. BUT, you can get snazzy food in any big city. The Loveless Cafe is unique to Nashville…and have I mentioned that it serves heaps and heaps of the BEST biscuits EVER?!?!? We’re talking country cooking in a relaxed setting. Yes, it’s 17 miles from downtown Nashville but worth it. Just look at all of the country music stars who have made the trek…

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)

Rolf and Daughters – “is one of Nashville’s finest restaurants — and there are many now.In 2013, … (it) was voted third best restaurant in the nation by Bon Appetit.” (Milieu magazine, 2017)

Hugh-Baby’s (Garden & Gun, 2018) – “ups the ante on fast food,” (per Garden & Gun); burger, dogs, fried, smoked bologna sandwiches and BBQ; 1970’s nostalgia (counter seating); several locations

Travel + Leisure (2018) recommended:

  • Mockingbird – “upscale-diner aesthetic” downtown
  • Black Rabbit – “expect fancified small plates with a Southern accent”

For more restaurants and bars, click here to see where Vince Gill, Kelsea Ballerini, Marty Stuart, Raelynn, Carly Pearce and Brett Eldredge like to go.

Where to Shop

Manuel Couture – Manuel Cuevas is a legend, who has clothed all the greats, including Dolly, Marty Stuart, Elvis, Johnny Cash, James Dean, Emmylou Harris, etc. His store is located at 2804 Columbine Pl, Nashville, TN 37204 and you can go there! I got this tremendous suggestion from none other than the FAB Marty Stuart, the “Renaissance man of country music.” A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame who came to Nashville when he was barely a teen,  he knows the city. Click here for his recommendations of distinctly-Nashville things to do.

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Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, stylin’! (photo courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry)

Ernest Tubb Record Shop – This is a genuine, old-time Nashville country music record shop with live music. I think it’d be a blast to attend the midnight jamboree! See website for more info. It’s located in downtown Nashville at 417 Broadway. 

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Ernest Tubb Record Shop (photo courtesy of Nashville Downtown Partnership)

Hatch Show Prints – This is where so many of the famous posters were made for the biggest and best country music shows. Come see the old and new and buy a few!

Music City poster Hatch

(courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Y’all come back now, ya hear!?!

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(photo courtesy of The Loveless Cafe)