20 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence, Italy (Firenze)

There are the “must see” places in Florence like the Uffizi Gallery where you can see famous works of art by Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rembrandt, and many, many more or the Galleria dell’ Accademia where Michelangelo’s “David”, one of the most incredible statues you will see anywhere in the world, is located. But most museums and even the churches charge heavily to enter, so you must purchase a FirenzeCard for €72 (valid for 72 hours, allowing free entry into many of Florence’s museums), choose very wisely, visit during FREE ENTRY DAYS (normally the first Sunday of the month), or visit the many free venues in the city …


Florence is very rich in old churches and many of them are free to enter (except Santa Maria Novella as I recently found out). These (used to) include the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, one of the most beautiful churches in the city which houses works by Giotto, Masaccio and Ghirlandaio, now charging €5 to enter. Like Basilica di Santa Croce across town, at least they do not discriminate in their greed as Catholics are required to pay the same as everyone else to enter a Catholic church … what a disgrace.

Its famous pharmacy, founded by Dominican friars in 1221, is located around the corner from the square at Via della Scala 16. In their gardens they cultivated medicinal herbs that were used to prepare medications, balms and ointments for the small monastery. They follow the same formulas for preparation of spices, liquor, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to this day. 
Pharmacy website: www.smnovella.it
Address: Via Della Scala 16


Built in the 15th Century, admission is free to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Cathedral or “Duomo”), Italy’s second largest church (after St. Peter’s in Rome) and the third largest in the world (St. Paul’s in London is the other). It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open from 10AM to 5PM Monday through Saturday and 1:30PM to 4:45PM on Sunday. The dome, bell tower, museum, archeological site, and baptistery all charge to enter or you can buy a consolidated ticket on their website. The Museo dell’Opera is closed until November 2015 for renovations.

The facade and dome of Santa Maria del Fiore is imposing and awe-inspiring, dominating the large piazza in which it stands it is so large that it is impossible to photograph the entire structure without a special lens. Its beautiful marble polychrome facade of greens, pinks, and whites is unlike any other I have seen. The interior is massive and spectacular, my favorite part being the massive dome completed in the 1460s with a fresco of the apostles who appear to be sitting on the edges with their legs dangling over the sides.

This is one of the most impressive structures I have seen anywhere in the world and is a MUST SEE if visiting central Italy. Unlike the rest of the complex (dome, baptistery, vault, bell tower, and museum), you can enter the cathedral for free. Entry is through the north door of the massive west-facing facade and the line snakes along the routinely shaded (in summer) north wall of the cathedral, but it moves rather quickly. There are even free guided tours in several languages lasting around 30 minutes, so check at the desk on the left after you enter to inquire.


Across from the Duomo entrance is the Baptistery of St. John. Until the 19th century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized here. The octagonal monument is distinguished by its geometric, colored-marble exterior and detailed interior mosaics. Admission is €5, but admiring the famous bronze doors (with replica panels) carved with scenes from the Bible is free.


On the second floor of the famous Oblate Library and not far from the Duomo, their Cafeteria has been open to the public since May 2009 and has already become an important place of the city’s social and cultural life. The interior decoration is modern with every detail chosen carefully, allowing you to spend time at the library in a relaxed, safe and unique atmosphere.

Almost every evening there is a themed musical event with free admission and optional drinks (unless you sit at a table of course).

CLICK HERE for more details.


Just to the east of the historical center is the Santa Croce Neighborhood. Stop in Piazza Santa Croce, the neighborhood’s lively main square, to admire the facade of the medieval Santa Croce Basilica, the largest Franciscan church in the world. Many famous Italians are entombed inside, including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marconi, but entrance to the church costs €5 (Open Weekdays: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm). Near the church is the Leather School of Santa Croce, Scuola del Cuoio, where you can see artisans making leather products and a display of leather-working tools.


Strozzi Palace is the perfect example of a Renaissance mansion, appearing like a fortress in the heart of the historic center of Florence. Every Thursday evening from 6PM to 10PM free entry is allowed to the “Strozzina” and its Exhibition of Contemporary Art in the palace’s Center for Contemporary Culture.

More details on www.palazzostrozzi.org


These tour are the original walking tours of Florence, they are FREE. Arranged by local professional guides working on a tip-only basis, your generosity will allow them to continue this service.

They offer two daily tours beginning at the Central Railway Station (Santa Maria Novella). You will can choose between the Renaissance Tour (11AM), Medici Family Tour (2PM), or take both.

Find more details here: www.florencefreetour.com


Looking for the perfect photo opp while in Florence? Do not miss this large plaza located at the top of a hill above Piazza Poggi on the south side of the river Arno. The centerpiece of the piazzale is its terrace, the perfect place to spend some time taking in the beautiful city below. You can reach this lookout by bus if you are not up to the climb or, like me, have knees that have seen better days.
View From Piazzale Michelangelo


Follow the main street from Piazzale Michelangelo to the steps of the Abbey San Miniato al Monte, one of the highest points in Florence. Michelozzo’s Cappella del Crocifisso (built in 1448) is the centerpiece of the Romanesque basilica and frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi decorate the crypt behind it. 

Wander the abbey’s cemetery where Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio, is buried and stay until sunset when the golden light reflects off the Arno and terra-cotta roofs of the majestic city below. 

Admission is free (open from 7AM to 1PM, 3:30PM to 7PM on weekdays in winter, and 7AM to sunset in summer). Masses are held throughout the day on Sunday and holidays; and the 10AM and 5:30PM masses are performed in Gregorian chant in the crypt, an incredible experience.

You must pay to enter Dante’s house down the street, but entry to Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, dating back to 1032 and known primarily as the “Church of Dante”, is free. 

It has been said that Dante met his muse, Beatrice, here for the first time and fell in love with her. Beatrice’s family had tombs are there where her father, Folco Portinari, is buried. Many visitors like to think that Beatrice is buried in the church and in front of what tradition has identified as Beatrice’s tomb, you can find a chest full of messages lovers leave to Beatrice asking her to protect their love. Beatrice, however, was married to a member of the Bardi family and was likely buried in the tomb of her husband’s family in the cloister of Santa Croce Church.

Address: Piazza dei Giuochi, 50122 Florence, Italy


Florence’s most famous square, Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The imposing Loggia dei Lanza, also known as Loggia della Signoria, holds important statues, including those by Cellini, Giambologna and Fedi and a proportionally smaller copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in front of the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio. The piazza has been Florence’s political center since the middle ages and Florence’s town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, literally towers over the piazza. You’ll also want to admire the beautiful fountain in the square or have a seat in front of or under the Loggia della Lanza to relax or watch the multitude of tourists wander past.


Not far from the Piazza della Signoria you will find the new market or “Loggia del Porcellino”, the name of the fountain portrayed by a wild boar sculpted in bronze and created in the 7th Century by “Pietro Tacca” (the original is kept in Palazzo Pitti). It would be worth your while to spend some time in the area as there is a tradition of placing a coin in the boars mouth. If it falls out and rolls over the water drain, you then rub its nose to bring good luck. Remember the coin must travel to the other side of the drain for it to work!

At the centre of the loggia you can also see the “scandalous stone” (Pietra dello Scandalo), the place place where debtors would be punished in Renaissance Florence. The punishment consisted of chaining the prisoners and whipping their legs, repeatedly falling down onto their behinds.


A stroll through the local markets does not cost anything unless you indulge yourself, but is an excellent way to enjoy a morning, afternoon, or an entire day. Here is a selection of  Florentine markets:

• SAN LORENZO MARKET: Extends from Piazza S. Lorenzo to Ariento Street around the Basilica of San Lorenzo (in the historic center of Florence). It is the most important market in the city and you will find clothing, leather goods, souvenirs, local food products and much more. It is a great place for a quick, inexpensive lunch to eat there or take withg you for a picnic elsewhere in town. It is open Monday to Friday from 7AM to 2PM and on Saturdays from 7:00 to 17:00 (except from mid-June to September when it is closed on Saturdays).

• SANT’AMBROGIO MARKET: Near Piazza Ghiberti and Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio has outdoor spaces where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, flowers, shoes and appliance stalls. If you are looking for food, enter the building where you will find meat or fresh fish, pasta, general groceries, cheeses, and bread. If you get hungry, there is also a restaurant inside the market with good, cheap meals. The market is open every day (except Sunday) from 7AM to 2PM.

• MERCATO DELLE PULCI: The ‘flea market’ is located in Piazza dei Ciompi and is open daily from 9AM to 7:30PM. On the last Sunday of the month, the stalls are extended to the surrounding streets where you will find whatever you can imagine, including furniture, paintings, antiques, coins and jewelry. Maybe you will find a treasure among the many antiques!

• MERCATO DELLE CASCINE: Is located in the beautiful Parco delle Cascine (the largest park in Florence). Open every Tuesday from 7AM to 2PM, it is probably the biggest and cheapest market in town where you can buy clothing, shoes, housewares and much more.

• THE CURE MARKET, In Piazza delle Cure, it is open every morning except Sunday and holidays.

• THE FIERUCOLINA: “The Fierucolina” is an organic market that promotes organic farming and biodynamic agriculture with food, wine, and handmade bio-manufactured products. It takes place the third Sunday of each month (except in August) in Piazza Santo Spirito (Oltrarno).

• THE MARKET OF RARE BOOKS: In Loggia del Grano, it is open Thursday to Saturday from 10AM to 6PM.

• THE FLOWER MARKET: Under the porch of Piazza della Repubblica, every Thursday morning from 10 to 19.• THE PIGGY MARKET: Florentine straw objects, handmade embroidery, leather goods, wooden objects, and flowers in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 8AM to 7PM every day except Sunday and Monday morning.

• THE STRAW MARKET: Piazza del Mercato Nuovo from 9AM to 6:30PM every day except Sunday and holidays.

Across the piazza from chiesa Santa Maria Novella, a free bus will take from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station to various itineraries in and around Prato, a town between Florence and Pistoia heading toward Lucca and Pisa. You pay only for the entrance to museums (if applicable) and your lunch.

The tours are available 10 consecutive Sundays from May to July, taking four routes/itineraries with both Italian and English Guides:

Email thatsprato@po.camcom.it to request a spot or visit their website: http://thatsprato.com/


If you want to get away from the crowds, head across the river on Ponte Santa Trinita (west of Ponte Vecchio) or turn right after traversing Ponte Vecchio toward the area known as Oltrarno. Here you will find interesting neighborhoods that see far fewer tourists. It is a pleasant place for a walk where you will see typical Florentine buildings, small stores, artisan workshops, and small neighborhood squares. In Piazza Santa Spirito there is a small morning market and in the Santo Spirito Church, designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century, you will find a wealth of art work. Santa Maria del Carmine Church has a beautiful Renaissance fresco in Cappella Brancacci (open 10AM–5PM, Sunday 1PM–5PM, closed Tuesdays).


Just down the street from Palazzo Piti on the Altarno side of the river, Casa Guidi is located on the first floor (second floor to Americans) of a historic palazzo. There is an engraved stone marker above the massive door indicating where she lived and a brass nameplate above the buzzer outside with details about operating hours. There is also a single brass button below the rest that merely says “Elizabeth”.

The apartment consists of just three rooms that you can visit, but they are spectacular and contain furniture of hers and from the period as well as photos, paintings, busts, and other memorabilia. Her husband study is small, but has elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The dining room is large, but not extremely interesting. The living room, off of which are the bedrooms and kitchen (not open to the public, but apparently you can rent them for lodging). is massive and contains a large library of her works, more artwork, and some beautiful period furniture as well as some of her possessions.

The visit is self-guided and FREE, but you must visit on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (April to November) between 3PM and 6PM only. Just ring the buzzer for Casa Guidi, though the giant door and a gate, then go up one flight of stairs to her apartment on the left.

Address: Piazza San Felice 8, 50125 Florence, Italy
Phone: +39 055 354457


Ponte Vecchio, or the “old bridge”, was built in 1345 and was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River. It’s the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (the others were destroyed during World War II). Following a flood in 1345, the bridge was reconstructed, adding rows of shops to the bridge where many of the city’s butchers were located. More shops were added later and Ponte Vecchio became a place for gold and silver shopping in Renaissance Florence. It is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, a good place for window shopping or people watching …

Hand-crafted pasta since 1912, the owner Giuseppe has been in the family business since 1950, is extremely friendly and informative, and made us feel welcome for our free, private tour.

During World War II, the Nazis took over the building, a villa, making it their headquarters in 1942. The family had to walk for two days to Florence while the Germans occupied their home. Once the Nazis fled from Allied Forces in December 1942, they returned home and were the first pastificio (pasta factory) of 36 in Pistoia to resume operations after the war. They are the only remaining pastificio of the original 36 in Pistoia.

The valley in which the villa sits is quiet, green, lush, and much cooler than smoldering Florence, so it was a breath of fresh air, literally, after a month in 100 degree Florence and its wall-to-wall tourists. If visiting Tuscany and tell him CombatCritic sent you!

Read my full review now!

Pastificio Chelucci
Via di Valente, 7
51100 Pistoia, Italy

Phone: +39 0573 42011 for free tour reservations
Email: info@pastificiochelucci.it

Web: pastificiochelucci.it


Free entry to the outdoor Apriti cinema, an international film festival, held from the end of June to late July, is located in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, just east of the Accademia Gallery and Piazza San Marco.  Films are from all over the world and are in their native languages with Italian subtitles. Starting at 21:30 nightly, there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase when available.


The best free activity in Florence may very well be people-watching. While you peruse the jewelry and souvenir shops on Ponte Vecchio (the medieval stone bridge over the Arno River), get off the beaten path and head to Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the far and less touristy side of the Arno. Get lost on the narrow cobblestone streets, wander in and out of artisan workshops, and rub shoulders with locals at the daily morning market (closed the second and third Sundays of the month, when artisan and antique markets are held) in Piazza Santo Spirito.

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Title: 20 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence, Italy (Firenze)

Key Words: free, things, to, do, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Italia, Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, piazza, signoria, ponte, vecchio, santa, maria, novella, Oltrarno, market, mecato, walking, baptistery, Santa Croce, travel, Value

Free in Florence: Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015

Free entry to Apriti cinema, an international film festival from 29 June to 21 July 2015. Films start at 21:30 nightly and there are hamburgers (€5), french fries (€2.50), and artisan beers (€4) available for purchase.
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Title:  Free in Florence (Italy): Apriti Cinema International Film Festival – 29 June through 21 July 2015

Key Words: Free, Florence, Italy, Apriti Cinema, International Film Festival, Apriti, cinema, international, film, festival, Firenze, movie, outdoor, food, beer, travel, value, CombatCritic

A Slightly Underwhelming, Inexpensive. Light Meal Option In Central Florence

Lo SchiacciaVino
Via Giuseppe Verdi 6R
50122 Florence, Italy
Santa Croce Area
Phone: +39 055 2260133
Prices: $$$$$

A moderately charming, clean option for an inexpensive sandwich and glass of wine, this small shop lies less than a block north of famous Piazza Santa Croce and its historic church which houses the remains of such famous Italians as Marconi, Galileo, Michelangelo and and many more.

Their sandwich, “schiaccia” in Florence, comes on fresh, toasted focaccia bread and your choice of several meats, cheeses and spreads, all for €4 each. I had the “Bomba”, a mixture of ground sausage and soft cheese served warm and was not overly impressed. The cheese and ground sausage were mixed together then thinly slathered on the toasted focaccia. The taste was good, but the contents were overwhelmed by the bread and it was not very filling. My wife ordered the “Goloso” with local salami and a soft “squacquerone” cheese also served warm on toasted focaccia. It was better than my schiaccia, but lacking enough contents to make it worth the €4. A bit more salami and a little lettuce and tomato would have been welcome additions.

They have some inexpensive wines, a vino rosso locale at €2 per glass that was not very good, so I ordered a Chianti for €3.50 that was much better. They have several options available escalating in price up to €8 per glass.
They speak decent English and the service is friendly and fast. There are only two small tables outside on the sidewalk where you can sit comfortably, otherwise the bars with stools on opposite sides of the entryway are the only eat-in options and not very cozy. If you want a quick, decent, light meal and a glass of wine for less than €10, this is a good option, but there are better values in town for a quick, inexpensive meal.

CombatCritic Gives Lo SchiacciaVino A Solid 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: A Slightly Underwhelming, Inexpensive. Light Meal Option In Central Florence

Key Words: Lo SchiacciaVino, schiacciavino, schiaccia, vino, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Santa Croce, croce, sandwich, wine, travel, value, review, menu, CombatCritic

Away From Tourists, Tuscan Charm Meets Fresh, Local Products In EastCentral Florence

Piazza Ghiberti, Florence.

E-mail:  mercato.ambrogio@virgilio.it

Having spent several weeks in Florence over the years, I find myself returning over and over again to the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio. Situated just northeast of Santa Croce and around the corner from the Loggia del Pesce and numerous antique stores, this indoor and outdoor market sells everything from underwear, socks, shoes and clothing to salami, cheeses, bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables and wine.

Locals abound and few tourists venture this far east of centro storico (historical center) even though Mercato Sant’Ambrogio has been around since 1873. The covered stalls outside offer shade from the summer heat, housing the fruit and vegetable vendors as well as those selling clothing, shoes, household items, and more. 

Much smaller, intimate, and less touristy than the Mercato Centrale located on the northern periphery of the historical center, Sant’Ambrogio feels much more comfortable and authentic. You can even sit down at the small Trattoria da Rocco (Mangino Gianpaolo) for a very inexpensive lunch (open Mon-Sat from 7 AM – 2 PM) at one of the few small tables where you will likely be dining with neighborhood residents rather than droves of tourists.
Gelateria Gallo Ghiottone Offers Tasty, Inexpensive Gelato Just Around The Corner!
So if you are looking for an authentic experience, inexpensive clothing, and fresh, local products away from the relentless tourist traps of Florence, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is the place for you …

CombatCritic Gives Mercato Sant’Ambrogio 9 Out Of 10 Bombs

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Title: Away From Tourists, Tuscan Charm Meets Fresh, Local Products In EastCentral Florence
Key Words: Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, mercato, sant’ambrogio, ambrogio, Santa Croce, santa, croce, Florence, Firenze, market, indoor, outdoor, fruit, vegetables, shopping, travel, value 

Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!

La Vinaina

Via dell’Agnolo, 48r, 50122 
Florence, Italy
Phone: +

Prices:    € €  

Around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Abrogio, my wife and I visited La Vinaina on several occasions with the students of the University of Kansas attending the study abroad program in Florence. Our apartment was just around the corner and we enjoyed the proximity, warm welcome, fresh ingredients, and very reasonable prices for lunch.

Being an amateur chef and restaurant critic, and having traveled to 49 countries around the world, I have eaten at few restaurants with the impeccable quality and value as we found at La Vinaina.

The pasta and bread…always fresh; the meat and fish…always prepared to perfection; the service…always attentive and friendly. I would recommend this restaurant to anybody…on a budget, like students, to more EXCLUSIVE and seasoned travelers alike. There is something for everyone at La Vinaina!

Watch my video collage dedicated to our friends at La Vinaina on CombatCritic TV:

Watch My Video of La Vinaina and Surrounding Area on CombatCritic TV!

or read more about this wonderful cucina tipica toscana in The CombatCritic Chronicle: 


I have also posted reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Fousquare…search for “CombatCritic” and send a Friend request.

CombatCritic gives La Vinaina 7 BOMBS OUT OF 10…bombs in this case are good!

LIKE La Vinaina on Facebook!

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Title: Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!

Key Words: La Vinaina, vinaina, restaurant, trattoria, pasta, menu, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, mercato, sant’ambrogio, ambrogio, food, Florence, Italy, Firenze, travel, value, CombatCritic

See What 250 KPH On Italy’s High-Speed Train From Naples to Florence Looks Like!

Italo, Italy’s private, high-speed train … this is what 250 kliks (150 MPH) between Rome and Florence looks like …

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Title: See What 250 KPH On Italy’s High-Speed Train From Naples to Florence Looks Like!

Key Words: Italy’s, Italy, High-Speed, Train, Naples, Florence, Firenze, Napoli, Italo, kliks, MPH, kilometers, high, speed, trains, rail, station, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Important Changes To Amici Degli Uffizi Membership (Effective June 15, 2015)


We were in Florence for a month in 2012 and purchased Amici Degli Uffizi memberships which included free entry to most of the major museums, including the Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia, the two “must see” museums in town, among many others. Membership was around €55 at the time and it was a great bargain. Not only did you have access to the best museums in Firenze, but you also skipped the long lines at the Uffizi without a reservation.
Unfortunately, the latest rumors are true and the Amici Degli Uffizi membership IS ONLY GOOD FOR ENTRANCE TO THE UFFIZI effective June 15, 2015. You can visit their website for more details:
However, there is the FirenzeCard which gets you into the vast majority of museums (Uffizi, L’Accademia, Palazzo Vecchio, etc) as well as city public transportation (Ataf, Linea, and tram) and Firenze Free Wifi offered by the City of Florence. The card is valid for 72 hours from first use and costs €72. If you plan on visiting many of the participating museums and leaving the historical center by public transport, it could be worth the rather steep price. The Uffizi and L’Accademia are two of the more expensive museums, both charging €8 for a full-price ticket, so you might want to do some calculations to see if the ticket is a good fit for your budget before you buy. You should also know that the vast majority of Florence sightseeing can be done in the historical center and public transportation is not necessary for most people. I have spent quite a bit of time in Florence and have only taken public transportation once, a bus to and from Piazzale Michelangelo which sits atop a hill across the river from the center of town.

Many of the museums in Florence also offer free entry once each month. For example, L’Accademia (€8 at the box office; full price ticket online is €23) has “Sunday at the Museum” where you gain FREE entry to the museum on the first Sunday of each month. The Uffizi Gallery also offersfree entry on the first Sunday of every month as do several others. So if you happen to be in Florence on the first Sunday of the month, you are in luck … Buon Viaggio!

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Title: Important Changes To Amici Degli Uffizi Membership (Effective June 15, 2015)
Key Words: Amici Degli Uffizi, amici, degli, Uffizi, gallery, Uffizi Gallery, membership, member, free, entry, museum, Michelangelo, DaVinci, da, vinci, travel, value, CombatCritic,

Once Home To "Shroud Of Turin", Now Houses Famous Byzantine "Madonna"

Santuario di Montevergine
Mercogliano, Avellino, Italy

Mercogliano, a hillside town about 30 miles (50 kliks) east of and a world away from Naples, Italy, sits below the famous mountain-top abbey: Santuario di Montevergine. The abbey of Montevergine has been the site of religious orders dating back to the 12th Century and sits almost 5,000 above the base of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. It was reportedly the hiding place of the Shroud of Turin during World War II (behind the massive altar) and is home to the massive and celebrated Byzantine painting on wood of the “Madonna” (Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus).

Entry to the abbey is free and the highlight is the Byzantine Madonna which consumes one wall of the chapel in which it is housed at the back of the main church. The church itself is unremarkable, but the exterior of the abbey is picturesque and the view of Avellino and the valley below is breathtaking.

CombatCritic Gives Santuario di Montevergine 8 Out Of 10 Bombs

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Title:  Once Home To “Shroud Of Turin”, Now Houses Famous Byzantine “Madonna”

Key Words: CombatCritic, Italy, Mercogliano, Montevergine, santuario, santuario do montevergine, monte, vergine, virgine, TravelValue, travel, value, hilltop, mountain, abbey, free, 

DayTripQuip™: Napoli to Ascea and Zona Archeologica di Velia (Scavi di Velia)

DayTripQuip: If you plan on visiting Naples, Italy (Napoli) there are an abundance of day trips available including Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, the islands of Capri and Ischia, Pozzuoli, Mount Vesuvius, or less than two hours by train south, the seaside town of Marina di Ascea. Spend the day at the pristine beaches with soft sand and award winning “clean” water or hop on a bus and visit Zona Archeologica di Velia (read full review by clicking this link), just ten minutes north of town. Entry to the site is just €3 ($3.40) where you can see well preserved and maintained Greek, Roman, and medieval ruins all in one place!

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Title: DayTripQuip™: Napoli to Ascea and Zona Archeologica di Velia (Scavi di Velia)

Key Words: DayTripQuip, day, trip, quip, Napoli, Ascea, Zona Archeologica, Velia, Scavi di Velia, scavi, ruins, Roman, Greek, medieval, mosaic, fresco, villa, bath, travel, value

Scavi di Velia: A Must See If Visiting Salerno, Ascea, And Surrounds

Scavi di Velia
Ancient Ruins, Sights & Landmarks

Well preserved and maintained, these ancient ruins date back to the 4th Century BC. Originally a Greek colony, the Romans renamed the city 2000 years ago, adding to and expanding the city. The tower, church, and other buildings at the top of the settlement date back to medieval times.

There are many Roman ruins, including a bath, villas, houses, and an acropolis, but the highlight is Porta Rossa (Pink Gate), once an entrance to the city and well worth the climb. There is a well-preserved fresco in the large villa on the path back to the reception center as well as a nice mosaic floor in the baths located in the lower part of the site.

Entry is just €3 with a reduced price of €1.50 for students, teachers, and seniors. They are open daily  from 9am to one hour before sunset except for December 25th and January 1st when they are closed.

An outstanding value at twice the price …

CombatCritic Gives Zona Archeologico di Velia 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Scavi di Velia: A Must See If Visiting Salerno, Ascea, And Surrounds

Key Words: acropolis, ancient, baths, colony, fresco, Greek, medieval, mosaic, Pink Gate, Porta Rossa, Roman, Romans, ruins, value, villa, villas, Zona Archeologico di Velia, 

Superb, Inexpensive Local Cuisine In A Countryside Setting

La Cantina di Baffone
Contrada Palombaro
Montecalvo, Irpino, Province of Avellino, Campania
Phone: +39-334-182-5144

Prices: $$$$$

Woman In Traditional “Montecalvese” Dress

An agriturismo in my paternal grandfather’s hometown, we discovered La Cantina di Baffone when my relatives took us their for dinner one night. Not far from Montecalvo, a small, hillside town 60 miles east of Naples, the restaurant seems to be far from civilization in a relaxed and peaceful setting surrounded by olive and cherry trees. My cousin Gino called ahead for a table and we arrived at 9:30pm, not very late by Italian standards.

It did not take long for the attentive staff to come by to greet us and give us menus, we quickly ordered mineral water and the local wine with four of six in our party ordering their legendary pizza while Gino and I decided to try the local specialties.


My grandmother, although she and my grandfather met in the States, was born in Trevico, a small mountaintop town just 20 miles from Montecalvo, so her cooking was very similar to the dishes found in this region. The server, one of two twins that own the agriturismo, quickly brought out two platters of bruschetta (€1.50 each – FYI: the “ch” in Italian is pronounced like our “k’, so it is pronounced brew-sket-ah, not brew-shet-a). Montecalvo is renowned for its bread in the Irpino region and it is said that there are so many ovens baking bread in town that it melts the snow on the streets in winter. The toasted slices of pane (bread) Montecalvese were rubbed with garlic and topped with juicy tomato chunks then sprinkled with diced basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Patane e Pupini

The pizzas, none over €5 and the cheapest I have seen in recent memory, were huge and perfectly cooked, the dough thin, but firm (not chewy, not burnt) with abundant ingredients. With the ability to have fabulous pizza around every corner back in Naples, my focus was on the cucina tipica (local cuisine), Montecalvese in this case.

For our first courses (primi), Gino and I both had the Cicatielli e Broccoli (€5). Cicatielli is the local pasta and is used almost exclusively in homes and restaurants. With just the right amount of perfectly cooked pasta, the broccoli was not overwhelmed by the light, creamy sauce holding the pasta together … Buonissimo!

Gino ordered the Patane e Pupini (€5), a traditional combination of roasted sweet sausage, red and green bell peppers, and potatoes. It was as good as my grandma’s with just a little char on the slices of sausage, potatoes, and peppers and delicious along with the local bread. I love veal and when I was told that the Spezzatino Montecalvese (€5) was a “veal stew”, I had no other choice. Simmered for hours in its own juices, a little fresh tomato, olive oil, and salt were all I could detect being added to the sauce. The veal was tender, literally melting in my mouth, and the sauce sublime, a perfect yet simple combination of fresh ingredients. My Italian-born wife always tells me that it is “frowned upon” in public, but I could not resist to “fare la scarpetta” (to do the little shoe) with the leftover sauce, using a small piece of local bread to mop up the wonderful sauce I could not possibly have left behind. 

Although thoroughly stuffed, we could not resist the cheesecake (€2.50), a house specialty, coming either plain or drizzled with chocolate, caramel, or in our case a fresh fruit sauce with strawberry, raspberry, and cherry from trees in the adjacent grove. The graham cracker crust was thick and crisp and the filling rich and decadent, a dessert easily fetching more than twice the price in most stateside restaurants.

Cantina di Baffone is one of those hidden gems you come across rarely in life and we would have never gone there if it were not for my cousins, but am I glad we did! For a party of six, we ate extremely well for less than €10 per person, including drinks, making this restaurant an exceptional value. We only see my relatives every couple of years, but the next time we are in Montecalvo we will return to di Baffone for another delicious and inexpensive meal.

CombatCritic Gives Cantina di Baffone 10 Out Of 10 Bombs … Value Does Not Get Better Than This … More Bombs Are Better!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Title: Superb, Inexpensive Local Cuisine In A Countryside Setting

Key Words: La Cantina di Baffone, cantina, baffone, Contrada, Palombaro, Montecalvo Irpino, Avellino, Campania, agriturismo, restaurant, Italian, Italy, review, menu, CombatCritic, travel, value

If Traveling In Italy, DO NOT BUY a Vodafone SIM Card For Your GSM SmartPhone

Having traveled to 39 countries, I have purchased many SIM cards for my U.S. purchased GSM phones to stay connected while on the road. Your phone must be GSM (T-Mobile, AT&T) compatible if you hope to use it anywhere outside of the United States and, if it is, all you have to do is buy a local SIM card when you arrive in a foreign country. It will cost you from nothing to $10 for the card (and local phone number) and you can get a data/voice/SMS plan with 2GB or more of 3G or 4G data (depending on country) for $10 per month and up.

I bought a TIM (Telecom Italia) SIM card when I arrived in Italy for an extended trip with 20GB of 4G data per month and 400 minutes of talk-time for just €40 per month. With the plan I can create a portable hotspot or tether my phone to my computer in order for me or anybody else to access the web via wi-fi at no additional charge. TIM has 4G-LTE, 4G, H, H+, and 3G data in many populated areas of Italy with the occasional 1G (E) in some spots, so it was very easy to access the web from my computer pretty much anywhere. 

The only downside to TIM is that they do not have an App or other easy way to access your plan in order to monitor data usage, voice minutes or SMS balances. And if you do not speak the language or find a TIM store with an English-speaking employee, you probably will not be able to figure out how to do so. After a week, I finally had a friend help me access the TIM website where you can register and monitor your account. Google even translates the page for you so you do not have to be fluent in Italian to navigate their site!

When my wife arrived in Italy (she is Italian-born), she wanted to use the Vodafone SIM from the phone that her recently deceased father used, so we went and bought a data/voice/SMS plan for her. It seemed like a good deal with 2GB of 4G data and 500 minutes of voice for just €20 per month, but you know what the say when something “seems too good to be true”.

My wife was helping a friend prepare a presentation for a conference early the next morning and they needed two photos (they had forgotten at her friend’s home) from the internet to finish it. I showed my wife how to create a hotspot on her new Android phone, a Motorola Moto G 4G LTE, and we downloaded two photos, taking a total of five minutes. As soon as we shut-down the hotspot, my wife received a text from Vodafone telling her that she had been charged €4 for utilizing a service not included with her phone plan. She was never warned about the potential charge or clicked on “I Accept” this charge because Vodafone simply deducted the money from her balance.

I wondered how that was possible in the first place, also wondering why Vodafone would care how she used the 2GB of data that we paid for. What does it matter if she used the data on her phone over a month or created a hotspot at the Napoli versus Roma soccer match and gobbled it up in 30 seconds? We paid for the data, so what does it matter? So we decided to visit a Vodafone store and find out what happened.

In the interim, we made a video of her friend’s presentation on my wife’s Moto and wanted to transfer it to my computer so I could edit it in iMovie and upload it to YouTube. Of course Apple makes it nearly impossible to use anything purchased from another company, so my Macbook Pro would not allow me to connect with her phone via Bluetooth. I finally found a forum that told me what to do and had to tether the phone to my Mac after downloading an App called Android File Transfer from the PlayStore. Success! We transferred the movie when suddenly, my wife received another text from Vodafone … she had been charged an additional €4 for simply connecting her phone to her computer … no hotspot created, no Vodafone data used! What the heck was going on?

Staying at her friend’s apartment in Vomero, there was a Vodafone store two blocks away, so we decided to go ask about both issues. The girl behind the counter had a snooty look on her face as soon as my wife began to explain and quickly cut her off saying, in Italian of course, “you used a service not on your plan and you have to pay”. We tried to reason with her, but it was obviously useless as we could tell that neither she nor Vodafone cared in the least about customer service, so we left.

BOTTOM LINE: If traveling in Italy, DO NOT BUY a Vodafone SIM Card for your GSM smartphone! I am telling you that there are many options available, including TIM, Wind and others, so utilize their services instead of Vodafone when couch surfing or surfing the internet abroad … as I say to myself, “Is Vodafone a subsidiary of Apple, because they sure have similar business practices?”

CombatCritic Gives Vodafone A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: If Traveling In Italy, DO NOT BUY a Vodafone SIM Card For Your GSM SmartPhone

Key Words: Vodafone, Italy, telecom, plan, data, phone, smartphone, TIM, Wind, tether, mobile, hotspot, review, CombatCritic, travel, value, tech, technology, Apple, Macbook

I Have A "Hunch" You Will Like "Il Gobbetto"

Il Gobbetto
Via Sergente Maggiore 8
80132 Naples, Campania, Italy
Phone: +39 081 2512435

Prices: $$$$$

I had read the favorable reviews of Il Gobbetto, literally “The Hunchback”, so we decided to have a look inside as we happened by. It is a cute little place just off Via Toledo and a stones throw from the infamous Teatro San Carlo, but a bit cramped with too many tables for the small room. It seems as though they cater to tourists as foreigners made up most of the clientele. We were squeezed into a corner table by the owner who speaks a little English, making maneuvering the elbows a little difficult.
As is usually the case, our eyes were, metaphorically speaking, bigger than our stomachs and we ended up ordering antipasti (appetizers) and primi (first courses). For my wife’s antipasto she ordered the Pacchero Fritto (€3), four deep fried ??? cheese squares that were rather uninspiring. I on the other hand had l’insalata Caprese (Caprese salad – €6), sliced, ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes on a bed of rucola, and thick slices of mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella cheese made from milk of water buffalo, a specialty of Southern Italy’s Mediterranean coastal region) topped with fresh basil leaves. You would easily pay $8 to $15 for a dish like this in the states, so the $6.75 price tag was not difficult to swallow … yuk-yuk.

For our primi and final courses of the night we decided to go with pasta. My wife had the Gnocchi del Gobbetto (€6), handmade gnocchi (potato dumplings) in a creamy cheese sauce with sliced zucchini and topped with fresh basil. The gnocchi were perfectly cooked, not too soft, not too hard, and the sauce perfectly complimented the lightness of the thinly sliced zucchini. The portion was perfect with just enough to fill you without bursting and the price extremely fair compared to U.S. restaurant standards.
My Orecchiette Salsiccia e Provola (ear shaped pasta in a tomato sauce with ground sweet sausage and melted provolone cheese – €6) was exquisite. Again, handmade pasta, as is the case in most restaurants in Italy, was in just the right proportion to sauce, sausage and provolone, and was perfectly “al dente”. One of my all-time favorite dishes is orecchiette salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil and garlic) and this was the first time I tried a version with tomato sauce. It may not become my favorite, but I will definitely be playing with this recipe at home and would order it again in a flash … HOOAH!

Cover charge (coperto) is just €1 per person, the service was excellent, and things moved quickly even though they were rather busy.  The owner even took time to dance with a couple of pretty young lady customers in the middle of the room while his wife slaved away in the kitchen (I hope she doesn’t read this or I might get him in trouble). Their house red (or white) wine, which is very good, comes in at a paltry €3 per bottle (compare that to a half-liter of inferior house red at Pizzeria Sorbillo – €9) and a liter of mineral water is just €1.50 (€1.50 for a half-liter at Sorbillo). Our bill came to just €28.50 for two courses, wine, and water (plus tip), a tremendous bargain and worth feeling a bit claustrophobic.

CombatCritic Gives Il Gobbetto A Very Solid 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

 Menu (English)
Title: I Have A “Hunch” You Will Like “Il Gobbetto”
Key Words: Il Gobbetto, gobbetto, hunchback, hunch, osteria, restaurant, pasta, antipasto, Caprese, salad, menu, review, Naples, Napoli, Italy, Italia, CombatCritic, travel, value, critic, combat

Not The Bottom Of "The Barrel" (La Botte), Not The Top Of The Charts

La Botte
Scarlatti Street 147, 80127 Naples, Italy
+39 331 856 5398

Prices: $$$$$

The food behind the glass looked enticing as we strolled by, so we returned shortly thereafter for a late-night bite to eat. If you have read my other reviews from Southern Italy, you know that I love salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and sauteed broccoli rabe, a Neapolitan specialty) and it was on the menu … WOO-HOO!

We entered, ordered two saltimbocca, a “Positano” (speck, brier cheese, and lettuce – €4.50 at the “bar”) for my wife and a “Cetara” (salsiccia, “friarielli”, and scamorza cheese – €5) for me. But when we delivered the receipt to the counter, as is the custom in Italy for take-away, I was told there was nor frierielli and that I had to choose from the other bleak options. It would have been nice to know that they did not have the item listed on the menu BEFORE we ordered because we would have gone elsewhere, but by then it was too late.

We had a seat at the bar across from the prep area and because they were obviously busy, my wife asked how long it would take and the young woman making the sandwiches replied “a little while”. She then sent over Il Tagliere dell’ Attesa (the cutting board of, for the, wait), a cutting board loaded with a selection of tiny toasted sandwiches, making our wait a little less noticeable.

Unfortunately, what we received were “sandwiches” on a baguette, not the advertised “saltimbocca” (a Neapolitan specialty with ingredients baked inside of pizza dough).  For $5 to $6, the sandwiches had hardly any meat and were mostly bread, and the half liter of mineral water was a pricey $1.25, not a great value. The staff’s positive attitudes deserve an additional “bomb”, but otherwise our experience was very “average”

CombatCritic Gives La Botte 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … Le Bombe Sono Buone! 

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Title: Not The Bottom Of “The Barrel” (La Botte), Not The Top Of The Charts

Key Words: La Botte, botte, barrel, Naples, Napoli, Vomero, Vanvitelli, piazza, saltimbocca, panino, panini, wine, vino, sausage, salsiccia, friarielli, CombatCritic, travel, value, menu

CombatCritic Q&A: Should I be concerned about the ticket I purchased on JustFly.com?

  1. I received a great question on my post JustFly.com Offers A Good Price, But Little Else and thought I should share it will all of my readers:
  2. Hello, have you had the opportunity to use this ticket yet? Many negative posts making me most concerned about my ticket.

  3. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you John, but Blogger does not notify me when I have new comments.

    There are no problems with the tickets. You get what you pay for, but my concerns were strictly with the website interface and lack of options available. In this case, we saved a couple hundred dollars by using Justfly.com, so it was worth the inconvenience of having to visit two airline websites (Brussels Airlines to and Lufthansa from Europe) to enter frequent flyer information, choose seats, and otherwise manage the reservations. I recommend comparing the lowest fares on JustFly to those found on Kayak.com and other consolidator websites (where you can store your frequent flyer numbers and preferences) before making a decision.

    I would not be concerned about your ticket.

    Thanks for the great question!

  4. Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube
  5. Title: CombatCritic Q&A: Should I be concerned about the ticket I purchased on JustFly.com?
  6. Key Words: question and answer, question, answer, CombatCritic, TravelValue, JustFly.com, JustFly, airline, ticket, reservation, consolidator, website, online, review

A Bit Dated, But Otherwise Excellent Value If Visiting Montevergine

Hotel Mercurio
Viale San Modestino, 7
83013 Mercogliano, Italy
Prices: $$$$$
Wanting to visit the Santuario di Montevergine, we found a good price on a “Booking” website and made a reservation for a Friday night at just €40 for a double room, including breakfast, at the base of the mountain in the town of Mercogliano and a 20-minute drive to the Abbey of Montevergine.
Mercogliano is a quaint, quiet hillside town about 30 miles (50 kliks) and a world away from Naples, Italy, very close to the famous abbey. Montevergine has been the site of religious orders dating back to the 12th Century and sits almost 5,000 above the base of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. It was reportedly the hiding place of the Shroud of Turin during World War II and is home to the massive and celebrated Byzantine painting on wood of the “Madonna” (Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus).
Hotel Mercurio is clean, but a bit dated in architecture and furnishings, reminiscent of the 1970s. The staff were friendly and very helpful, giving excellent directions and recommendations for meals and shopping. The restaurant next door, Pizzeria La Tavernetta, was outstanding and very reasonably priced, garnering 10 out of 10 “Bombs” by this critic. We were given a nice size room with a balcony and a view of the valley below, nearby Avellino, and the mountains in the distance. The bathroom, on the other hand, was small and a bit cramped, making it somewhat difficult for a moderate sized person to shower and use the toilet.
The only complaints I have were the surprise parking charge that I later found out was hidden in the small print on the booking website’s confirmation and the “indoor pool” which was actually a community pool a half-block’s walk from the hotel. There is no street parking nearby and the lot across the street is free, but only for two hours, so we paid the minimal fee of €5 for the convenience and security of indoor parking under the hotel.

Breakfast was decent, your typical Italian selections, including choice of coffee (cappuccino, caffe latte, espresso, Americano, etc.), yogurts, cereals, juices and water, bread rolls, salami and cheese, and cornetti, a Southern Italian croissant filled with various crèmes and jams. They have a large dining room, but being a beautiful early-June morning we chose to sit on the veranda overlooking the tennis courts, valley, and mountains. Breakfast is served from 7am (although the server was a little late that morning) to 10am, a reasonable period to expect breakfast.
Hotel Mercurio is an excellent value, providing clean accommodations and very good service at a very reasonable price.
CombatCritic Gives Hotel Mercurio 7 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For The Hidden Parking Charge, Community Pool, and Dated Look … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: A Bit Dated, But Otherwise Excellent Value If Visiting Montevergine

Key Words:  Hotel Mercurio, hotel, albergo, Mercurio, Montevergine, abbey, mountain, Avellino, Viale San Modestino, 83013, Mercogliano, Italy, CombatCritic, TravelValue, review

Apple Still Sucks … More iPhone Problems: "This accessory may not be supported"

Here is the original post regarding this problem by lexiphillips on an Apple forum:

Posted Oct 2, 2013 2:08 PM

“Ever since updating my iPhone 5 with the new iOS 7, this display message pops up while my phone is plugged in to the computer, using the original cable that came with it in the box. Researching this issue only informed me that the new iOS is no longer compatible with generic iPhone chargers. However, mine is the one made by Apple and so there should be absolutely no issues with it. While it is plugged in my phone charges on and off, never consistently charging. It’s really irritating and is making charging a very slowgoing process. Does anyone else have any insight on this issue? 

While we’re at it, I noticed the new iOS 7 kills the battery life much faster than the previous iOS; I don’t use my phone too much throughout the day, and it has been dying consistently twice a day. If I don’t use it nearly at all, it seems to last only six or so hours. 

Thanks in advance for any feedback! Hope not everyone is having these issues! 


This is what I posted on the Apple Forum at 1PM on June 8th, 2015:

Well Alexis, I am having the same problem all of a sudden (and despite your hopes, it appears that everyone else is a well) and of course it is happening while traveling (again). My iPhone 5C ($700) started displaying the message, “This accessory may not be supported”, about a week ago when plugged into my Mac and my IOGEAR High Capacity Portable Battery (GMP6600P).

Here is a synopsis of my impression of Apple products and some of the threads contained herein: 

1) When you pay top-dollar for a product, you should not have all of the problems, including this one, I have had with Apple products (iPhone and Macs) 

2) We don’t care how intelligent or tech-savvy you are, so please provide helpful comments that don’t take a PhD in computer science to decipher 

3) Apple obviously enjoys trapping its customers into buying only their products and having to replace parts soon after the warranty expires. It’s obvious that the Chinese junk they sell is not worth the price-tag. 

4) Apple also confiscates our personal information (e.g. photos and God knows what else), making it extremely difficult to take control of them again and holding us hostage by forcing us to purchase more of their products. The latest iOs is a perfect example, sucking up GBs of space on our phones and forcing us to purchase an iCloud data plan (which I refuse to do). 

BOTTOM LINE: Apple sucks and I’m going to find a way to save MY INFORMATION on MY external hard drive so that when my iPhone and Mac go tits-up, likely very soon, I can buy a less costly and more reliable product that allows me to travel stress-free and purchase the peripheral devices/accessories of MY CHOICE!

Apple notified me less than 5 hours later that my post had been removed because it was a “rant” that was “counterproductive”.  It seems as though Apple not only produces very expensive Chinese garbage, but appear to be the China of corporations, allowing only positive propaganda and censoring anything that does not follow Apple party lines.

CombatCritic Gives The Apple iPhone 5C And Apple, Inc. A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Apple Still Sucks … More iPhone Problems: “This accessory may not be supported”

Key Words: Apple, iPhone, 5C, This accessory may not be supported, forum, technical, problem, problems, customer, service, accessory, supported, support, CombatCritic, review, TravelValue, travel, value

IT’S "THE BOMB" … Great meal, superior service, outstanding value … as good as it gets for the price!

Pizzeria La Tavernetta
Viale San Modestino, 5
83013 Mercogliano, Italy
Phone: +39 0825 787020
Prices: $$$$$

Santuario di Montevirgine
My iPhone decided to go on the fritz again while my wife and I were spending the night at a hotel in Mercogliano, a hillside town about 30 miles (50 kliks) east of and a world away from Naples, Italy, after visiting the famous mountain top abbey called Santuario di Montevergine. The Abbey of Montevergine has been the site of religious orders dating back to the 12th Century and sits almost 5,000 above the base of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. It was reportedly the hiding place of the Shroud of Turin during World War II and is home to the massive and celebrated Byzantine painting on wood of the “Madonna” (Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus).

Baked Scamorza and Porcini Mushrooms – €10
Anyway, back to my crappy iPhone. We were searching for a place to eat on TripAdvisor (because there was a dearth of reviews in the area on Yelp) and found an excellent option, Pizzeria La Tavernetta, which appeared to be in close proximity to our hotel, Hotel Mercurio. However, when I clicked on “Directions”, both Google Maps and Waze could not pinpoint my location even though “Location Services” was enabled on my iPhone. So, we decided to do it the old fashioned way and ask the hotel desk clerk. He took us outside and pointed to the restaurant next door and sure enough, it was La Tavernetta … HOOAH!
As we entered, we were greeted warmly by the pizzaiolo and one of the owners apparently. There was a smattering of occupied tables in the large dining room and a party of about 35 celebrating a birthday at the long table next to ours. I began to become concerned after 10-15 minutes of being mostly ignored by the waiter and thought about going elsewhere, but I knew he (the only waiter) was overwhelmed by the large group and decided to wait.  Am I glad we did!
Antipasto San Valentino – €8
The owner came over and apologized shortly thereafter and the young waiter was nothing less than superb from that point forward. We started with a bottle of mineral water, the local red wine, and the antipasto San Valentine (€8), a massive plate (plates actually) filled with various salamis, prosciutto, guanciale, two medium balls of mozzarella di buffala, two bruschette (plural of bruschetta, which is prounounced brew-sket-ah, not brew-shet-ah as most Americans do), black and green olives, as well as marinated and roasted mellenzane (eggplant), mushrooms, and carrots. Accompanied by a basket of bread, it was a feast in itself, well worth the €8, and we nearly filling before our main courses arrived.
My family comes from a town about ten miles away and the wine was a bit drier than the local wines made there, but it was dark, fruity, and robust, an excellent value at less than $5 a bottle.
Sausage and Frierielli Pizza – €6
I had been craving my favorite frierielli (broccoli rabe) and sausage pizza for over a month and seeing it on the menu had no other choice even though they have a nice selection of primi (pastas), secondi (meat dishes), and contorni (side dishes – potatoes, vegetables, etc). The pizza was as big as any I have had in Naples, the home of the best pizza in the world, and one of the best sausage and frierielli pizzas I have had, including Naples. The crust was perfect, thin yet firm and slightly crispy (unlike Roman pizza which is like eating a cracker with tomato and cheese) and was well covered with fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe, and large chunks of fresh, sweet sausage. The waiter read my mind and offered “olio piccante” (a spicy olive oil flavored with peperoncini) before I could get the words out of my mouth, adding just the right amount of spice to accompany the perfect pizza.
My wife had the baked scamorza, a stronger tasting cousin of mozzarella found mostly in Southern Italy, and porcini mushrooms (€10) and again we were not disappointed. Two large melted balls of cheese topped with just the right amount of sauteed porcini mushrooms was filling and delicious.
We stopped to talk to the owners, brothers I take it, on the way out and were treated to a small complimentary glass of “digestivo”, in this case a local green liquore reminiscent of absinthe, but made by the abbey monks from herbs found on the mountain slopes near Sanuario di Montevirgine – a perfect ending to an outstanding meal!
Unlike many reviewers, I give the maximum number of “bombs” (stars) rarely (as you can see from my rating distribution here and on Yelp combatcritic.yelp.com and TripAdvisor). My ratings are based strictly on “bang for the buck” and for €33 plus tip, this was a meal deserving my five-star rating and I can safely say that Pizzeria La Tavernetta is “THE BOMB”!
CombatCritic Gives Pizzeria La TavernettaThe Coveted 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Title: Great meal, superior service, outstanding value … as good as it gets for the price!

Key Words: Pizzeria La Tavernetta, pizzeria, la, tavernetta, Apple, iPhone, pizza, pasta, antipasto, frierielli, broccoli, rabe, sausage, scamorza, Viale San Modestino, montevergine,

83013, Mercogliano, Italy, CombatCritic, TravelValue