Stew on NYC radio. On Italy.

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK – Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Italy. In three easy pieces. Audio excerpts from an interview we did with a NYC radio station. The host, John Vivenzio found us on the web and called and asked if we would like to talk. About Italy? Ma Certo!

The conversation ranged from the top of Italy’s boot to the bottom of her stylish toe. We talked about food, culture, restoring old, old houses, and making new friends.

The only thing better than chatting about Italy? You guessed it: being there. All this talk has got us really ramped up for our September trip. So far the tentative itinerary is Panicale, Venice and the Brescia region in Italy. With side trips to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Santorini and Beyond.

Non vedo l’ora!

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

Do Italian Apes dig
American corn?

NORTH AMERICAN APE PROVING-GROUNDS (NAAP), North Yarmouth, Maine–You might think you could feed one of these hearty Italian Apes almost anything. But it turns out corn-based ethanol gives it heartburn. Ask our friend Paul Turina of Turina Italian Wines.

ape in america vespa based three wheeled Italian pickupHe and his wife Betty own the house in Panicale with us. We have so much in common. Betty, like original co-owner, Kiki before her, also works at the same office we do. Paul, on the other hand is a friend, client AND an Italian wine importer. And we drink wine! Plus, in addition to all that, Paul and I both have Vespa-based, Apecars. Those cunning, little three-wheeled, mini-pickups that you see all over Italy.

Mine is somewhat gussied up, a bit of a prima donna. That cute girl friend that surprise, surprise, turned out to be a bit high maintenance. Its latest excuse to dodge work is that its insurance company thinks it’s a show car and shouldn’t get dirty. Paul’s on the other hand is a blue collar, hard working, sings for its supper kind of ape. It earns its keep by regularly hauling half tons of mulch, heating oil tanks, palettes of red and white wine, you name it, it hauls it. One day last week its load was the heavy metal plow blade of Paul’s tractor.

They picked up our ace mechanic friend Peter and together they buzzed off down the road. Until, at a certain point, it got really quiet. Which is not an Ape’s natural state. Ape means “bee” in Italian (Vespa, fyi, means “wasp”) and they call them that because of the noise they make. So, when it went silent and forward motion tapered off, a warning flag went right up.

Rolling it into Peter’s repair bay later, they surely stood around, scuffed their feet a bit, pushed their hats back, scratched their heads. And pondered. As guys will do. But, there’s always that one guy that just happened to drop by. That one guy, that–after the fact, thank you very much, knows exactly what you did wrong. “Yep” he said slapping his knee, “you pull that spark plug and shine your little light in there and you’ll see the top of your one and only piston has a hole burned right thru the top of it.” He went on to say he’d seen the same thing with older outboard engines. And much as anyone hated to admit it, the guy was right. Corn burns hotter and if not adjusted for, makes a big hole. See photo enclosed. Heavy sigh.

italian vespa based ape car piston burnt out by ethanolAnd no, its not a good thing, this hole in the top of your piston.The one on the side is fine. They tell me, that is for exhaust.

No, two holes are not better than one, not a good thing at all. But it is a good time to know Ken of Canada. Ken is the top of the Ape Pyramid. Our numero uno, go-to guy. I bought my Ape from him years ago. Paul called him and was assured that “your piston is in the mail.”

So that was in the relatively good news column. The other good news is this only happens with big loads, long duration. And can be avoided with a revised carburetor setting. Paul says he will do this on mine as soon as he works out the details on his. Happy ending all around. And soon, the ape population in the Greater Gray/North Yarmouth Metro Area will be back up to full strength: Two.

See you in Italy, or at least in one of our Italian vehicles,

Stew Vreeland

Italian Radio. On a smart phone near you.

CHE PICCOLO MONDO. And it just got smaller. I’m daily amazed at our iPhone. Nature’s most nearly perfect product. Today, it is the TuneIn app that is rocking our known world. Have you gotten this yet? How did we live without this?!
radiopopolareroma italian radio on the iPhone

I know you can find almost any radio station on the web and get its icon on your phone and listen away. I’ve done that with a few favorite local stations for years. But it takes up space on my desktop and results have been clunky, sketchy. TuneIn really has me tuning in. To Italian Radio. There are dozens and dozens of stations and all the ones I’ve tried are clear. And it is FREE. (Full disclosure: Yes, this is a rave. But like the cost of the app. no money has changed hands to influence this blog. Darn it. Tune In does not know we exist)

This weekend, we accidentally landed on 103.3 Radio Popolare Roma. Been on it inside and out, day and night, even in our car, driving down the road. Doesn’t seem to be wi-fi related. The station, when I first got there last night was all cool jazz and now I’ve seen there are day parts where it is talk radio. But even when the Italian music dies down the music of the Italian language is there in News and Interviews. Regardless of what is on, because it is Italian, it puts us in a brave new world. A kind of heaven where Italian is spoken all the time.

See you in Italy,


36 hour trip to Italy. Still great.

Most searched places this winter on Travel + Leisure site? 1. ITALY! Then Costa Rica, Paris and New Orleans. Just back from Italy, this week. was stellar. New Orleans a couple weeks ago. In Italy there had been lots of rain so the fields were just green green green. Some sort of winter crop? Can you believe these shots are from mid-February? I was there and was incredulous even in person.


Was only there in Italy two days. Saw a million things, ate most of them. Visited some towns I’d never seen before. Always something new to wonder at in Umbria. Even in the middle of winter.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland