The Perfect Italian Afternoon in San Francisco’s North Beach

Author: , October 28th, 2019

Acquolina - North Beach

We’ve been to North beach in San Francisco a number of times, but I always complain about how it’s only restaurants and coffee shops – no other real parts of Italian culture seem to be represented.

Well, that’s changed, and for the better. If you’re an Italianofile like Mark and I, there’s now an Italian bookstore in the heart of North beach, chock-full of Italian language books.

So we thought we’d share some tips for a perfect Italian afternoon in North Beach.

Start at Libreria Pino

In Italian, libreria means bookstore, while biblioteca means library. I know, confusing, right? This little bookstore on Greenwich Street, just a block east of Washington Square Park, is worth seeing. It’s only Italian language titles, making it perfect for both native speakers and those of us who are studying the Italian language.

Stop in about noon and browse the titles – there are so many to choose form, including a comprehensive children’s section at the back, and the owner, Joseph Carboni, is friendly and can help you zero in on the perfect book.

Libreria Pino - North Beach

Lunch at Acquolina

This cute little Italian restaurant faces Washington Square Park at Greenwich and Stockton, which most times is a big plus, but which was sadly more of a negative since there’s currently a big fence all around the park while it undergoes a renovation/rehabilitation. Still, it’s a cute little place.

The food here is fantastic – we had a salad with green apples and balsamic and a simple pepperoni pizza, and they were amazing, which makes sense, since acquolina means “mouth-watering.”

But the best part was our waiter, Marco, a recent transplant from Italy – I called him a twenty-five-year-old with a forty-five-year-old’s mustache (see the first photo above). He’s a cute, friendly guy who was more than willing to speak Italian with us, and he made the meal.

Pizza - Acquolina - North Beach

Pizza - Acquolina - North Beach

Dessert at Lush Gelato

Top off your perfect Italian Afternoon just a block down Stockton at Lush Gelato – I had a cinnamon chocolate scoop of gelato there that was devine. Eat there, or take your gelato trean – an afternoon snack in Italy is called a merenda – and stroll through North Beach on a passeggiata (casual stroll) like a real Italian.

Lush Gelato - North Beach

Find lodging in and around North beach here.

Casa Carpe Diem a Villa Barca – Casanova Lerrone, Liguria, Italy

Author: , February 15th, 2016

Casa Carpe Diem a Villa Barca

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Villa Barca, a quintessential Italian countryside manor house built in the early 1800s, sits high above the romantic Lerrone Valley, nestled between the coastline of the Italian Riviera and the peaks of the mighty Ligurian Alps. At Casa Carpe Diem, the luxurious boutique B&B within Villa Barca, founded by the creators of the award-winning Carpe Diem Guesthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts, every friend of the Italian way of life finds what he needs. Just 20 minutes by car are the sandy beaches of Alassio, one of Italy’s most mundane seaside resorts. The neighboring Lerrone Valley on the other hand offers all kinds of outdoor activities, from hiking treks over mountain biking to laid-back picknick hours at its various swimming holes. Even the more adventurous kind of tourist finds his kick nearby: Only a short drive away, in Finale Ligure, is one of Europe’s most popular free climbing territories and further northwest at the French-Italian border one can explore the areas most interesting mountaineer region.

See the Casa Carpe Diem a Villa Barca Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Liguria

Gay Accommodations: Agriturismo Il Segreto di Pietrafitta, San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

Author: , January 13th, 2016

Agriturismo Il Segreto di Pietrafitta

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Il Segreto di Pietrafitta is an elegant structure that rises on the gates of San Gimignano, the most famous medieval town in Tuscany. The origins of the structure are quite ancient, and many historical figures have slept within its walls. The Agriturismo is located on a dominant position, facing towards the magnificent town of San Gimignano. From here you’ll be able to easily reach Florence, Siena, and the Chianti region. There are also many wonderful small medieval towns to visit nearby, such as Volterra, Certaldo, Monteriggioni, and many others.

The structure offers 9 very comfortable rooms, meticulously decorated from local craftsmen, including floors covered with Cotto (typical Tuscan clay bricks), and wooden beams on the ceilings. No small details are left unnoticed here at Il Segreto di Pietrafitta!

See the Agriturismo Il Segreto di Pietrafitta Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Southern Tuscany

Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Jenna’s River B&B, Panajachel, Guatemala

Author: , August 20th, 2015

Jenna's River B&B

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Jenna’s B&B aims to be your home away from home. The small town of Panajachel is a mile above sea level on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala! Although we are in a quiet location we are still close to restaurants, and docks from which to take the water taxies and explore the Mayan villages around the lake.

See the Jenna’s River B&B Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Guatemala

A Great Evening with Travel Friends

Author: , February 2nd, 2015

Dolly Goolsby

It will be four months before I get to return to Italy, so to stave off some of the January doldrums, I decided to have a dinner party here at my house, and invited the guests to help prepare part of their dinner.

I invited fellow travel lovers…specifically people who had traveled with me before, on a Dolly Travels tour, people who are going to be traveling with me this year, and next year, and people like me, who just love to travel and talk about travel,

Since Italy is my primary destination, I felt it appropriate to make an Italian dinner.

Some of the guests arrived in the afternoon and we made gnocchi..those nice little puffy Italian dumplings.

When we had the little gnocchi all cut and ready to cook, they needed to rest a bit, so that we could socialize.

Oh, yes, some Italian drinks were consumed. On the bar is someone’s lovely Aperol spritz, some red wine, some white wine, Prosecco, and Italian sodas.

Finally, it was time to cook the gnocchi. You can see on the stove, 3 different sauces: a simple tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil, a pesto sauce and a fontina cheese sauce.

Finally eating our delicious gnocchi dinner, accompanied by a delicious spinach salad, good artisan bread and more wonderful red wine. (In case you are wondering, the television is playing one of the DVD’s of one of the Dolly Tours trips.)

To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than having a meal with friends…Good conversation, good food, and more planning trips to Italy.

I surely hope that all my guests had as enjoyable time that evening as I did. I know, we were all fired up about returning to Italy, or making a first trip there, or looking ahead to 2016, when I will conduct a tour that starts in Austria and finishes in Italy.

Italy is a country I doubt if I will ever tire of visiting. From the northernmost part, the Dolomites with the Tyrolean customs, to the most southern part, Pugia and Basilicata, with the caves and the Trulli houses, each has its own attraction for me, and I am always ready to return to my “second home”, Italy. I have met many very lovely people in Italy. Of course, my special friends, Magda and Massimo, who always are ready to entertain me, or point me in the right direction.

I appreciate the special bond I have with fellow travelers, like the people who joined me for pasta making and dinner. Travel has a way of increasing our boundaries, sometimes getting us out of our comfort zones, and learning, experiencing something new.

I also appreciate the readers of my blog. Happy travels to each of you.

Ciao for now,


By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Starting Our Classes in La Bella Lingua

Author: , July 23rd, 2014

Montepulciano, ItalyHello, everyone,

Yes, now we have started what we had come to do. Learn Italian. We are attending Il Sasso Scuola per Stranieri. And indeed…students are from all over the world, and we started as strangers. Already we have made friends, so are not so strange.

Susan and I are both in the beginner class. I took an exam for placement, but I did not do well with all the advanced verbs, so I was placed with the Beginners. I am not sad about this, as I really haven’t studied Italian for three or four years, so it is a good review for me.

We entered through this door yesterday. We have great instructors, Lucia and Sylvia, and everyone we have met has been cordial. Therefore, our stress level is of our own doing!

As for the weather, we got a rainstorm yesterday, slightly cloudy today but the temperature is perfect.

After class, we came back to the apartment, had lunch and did our homework. Yesterday, as I said, it was rainy off and on, so we went to the supermarket and got the ingredients for my tortellini soup. That is what we had for dinner last night, for lunch today and for at least 4 more meals. I just don’t seem to be able to cook for two people.

Now I needed to use the internet so I came down to the Bar Al Tocca..we do have wi-fi at the school but now it is after hours.

Tonight there is a concert somewhere in this town. There seems to be some music every night except Mondays. We love that.

Everything is so lovely here. It is now 5:30 p.m. And the tourists are leaving. Now it will be quiet. We can go for a walk with all the other locals ( la Passiagetta. ). Then have our dinner, (Probably soup again), the find the concert. After that, sleep and get up early again for class.

The little bell ringer, Il Ponchinello, I think is his name, has still not gotten onto the correct time, so he is still an hour ahead of real time. Now we know to deduct one hour from his bell ringing, if we want to follow his chiming.

Our adventures are not very exciting now, I know, but being here for four weeks, attending the classes, hearing the music, going on walks, is an amazing experience. We will go to a cooking class on Thursday and a “field trip” with others in the class to Montalcino on Friday.

I will keep you posted on our progress. We do have to do our “compiti”. (Homework).

Ciao for now,

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Italy Gay Travel Resources

Gay Group Stonewall Publishes Fliers for LGBT Tourists in the UK

Author: , July 2nd, 2012

Stonewall Gay Travel Guide to the UKGay rights charity Stonewall has launched a series of multilingual leaflets designed to promote gay freedoms in Britain to foreign visitors.

The polyglot range will advise gay visitors of the legal protections available to them and what to do if they run into difficulties in the UK.

‘You’re Welcome!’ will be available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Polish.

Full Story from Pink News

Click here for gay travel resources in the UK.


Caffe Baonecci: Our Favorite Gay Friendly Italian Restaurant in San Francisco

Author: , December 3rd, 2011

Caffe BaoNecci - San FranciscoWe wanted to bring up one of our favorite SF eats again – Caffe Baonecci in the heart of North Beach.

We’ve been here several times before, but it was the first time we had a regular meal here.  More on that later.

Caffe Baonecci is a cute little Italian ristorante on Green Street, just one block east of Columbus, on the bottom floor of a converted Victorian. Run by the Gambaccini family who bought the old Danilo Bakery about five years ago, this is a place where you can come to talk with real Italians and hear real Italian spoken – a rarity these days in North Beach.

We’ve been learning Italian for almost four years, something we initially flirted with back in 2005 when we took an Italian for Travelers course before our three week trip to Italy. But even if you don’t speak the language, Caffe BaoNecci is a charming, friendly place with great food, and the family – Walter and his radiant wife Stefania and their two sons, Elia and Filippo – are fluent in Italian and English, and will welcome you warmly.

Caffe Baonecci

Photo from

Every second Thursday, the restaurant hosts a dinner and move night, and yesterday was no exception. The movies are Italian with english subtitles, and represent both classics and modern Italian romantic comedies.

But this time, we came to Baonecci for a regular meal – we were in SF for three nights, and we planned to have dinner here on the first one.

When we arrived, the place was really quiet, but it began to fill up while we dined – it seems San Franciscans like eating late, like the Italians.

We started off with two salads – Mark had a green salad, which he said was excellent, and I ordered the Caprese salad.  My Caprese filled up the whole plate – probably ten slices of tomato topped with the most wonderful mozzarella cheese and a bit of olive oil and basil – perfetto!

Caffe BaoNecciFor the main course, Mark had a pizza with salame that was simply divine – I ate a slice and a half – and Stefania whipped up a wonderful vegetarian pasta dish stuffed with zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and tomato sauce.

The whole Gambaccini family made us feel welcome, answering our questions and talking with us during dinner.

While we were too full for dessert, the one we had the first time, a thin crust pizza with Nutella, was delicious (though you will get sticky hands!).

If you’re looking for a little authentic Italy in North Beach, get over to Caffe Baonecci – they’re open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and lunch Tuesday through Sunday starting at noon. For more information about the restaurant and their Thursday movie nights, check their website here.  As of this writing, the movie nights are $30 per person.

Four Days in San Francisco: An Immersion Course in Italian

Author: , June 23rd, 2010

Gay Friendly San Francisco Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Marco and Fabry in San Francisco

Marco and Fabry in San Francisco

Anyone who knows us well knows that Mark and I have been studying Italian for a couple years now. It started out as a practical matter – we were planning a trip in Italia in 2006, and we wanted to be able to ask for a table at a restaurant, ask where the bathroom was, and all the other little joys that make any vacation comfortable.

So we signed up for a travelers course at the local Centro di Italiano (Italian Center) in Sacramento. It went really well, and after this five week course, we found ourselves able to carry on basic conversations in Italian during our three week trip.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language after high school. I took Latin during my high school years, and really enjoyed it, but learning a new language as a (lets just say older) person is much more challenging. They say, though, that active learning like this, especially learning a new language, is really good for keeping your brain in good shape.

So as we planned our next Italian adventure in 2008, we decided to go whole-hog and take the full-strength language courses at The Center. The Italian Center uses a textbook called Prego, which covers all the basic grammar, and is used in many colleges as a First Year textbook for Italian students. Each 9 week course covers two of the eighteen chapters, and there are three semesters a year.

We came to our Uno class, sat down, and looked around. There were many older/retired people and couples – not surprising for a Tuesday at 10 AM class, and a few younger faces. Little did we know at the time that many of these folks would become close friends as we navigated this strange lingua (language) together.

Flash forward to now – we finished the Sette (seven) class in the spring, and we meet as a group every Tuesday to study, regardless of whether the official classes are in session. While I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere near fluent, we can speak the basics decently, and if you talk really slowly to us, we might understand most of what you’re saying.

In January, in my capacity as Gay Marriage Watch blogger, I came across the story of a gay couple in Italy who was staging a hunger strike for gay marriage, and I posted a note on their Facebook page, hoping to hear from them.

Two of their friends, Marco and Fabry, wrote to us instead, and we struck up an email friendship.

Forlì - Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Forlì - Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

For months, we emailed back and forth, and then we started to skype for an hour la domenica (every Sunday). We learned that Marco and Fabry live in the city of Forlì, a town in Emilia Romagna, about an hour east of Florence. We learned that they both work for the city, and that Fabry’s mother has a fantastic garden. And we learned that they were coming to the US in May.

So we arranged to be their personal tour guides for their four days in San Francisco.

And so began the immersion course in Italian – four solid days speaking practically nothing else besides la bella lingua (the beautiful language).

The boys arrived through SFO, and were detained by Customs for an hour – did you know our Customs departments don’t offer bilingual employees to help visitors through the system?

We got them checked into their hotel, and then took them to the Church of Abercrombie and Fitch. Seriously. What the Catholic Church is to your average Italian, Hollister, Abercrombie, and other American clothing stores are to gay Italians.

Over the next four days, we discovered how many things are the same for Americans and Italians, and how many things are different.

Marco & Fabry

Marco & Fabry

For instance, Italians non piace ghiaccio (don’t like ice) – at least, not unless it’s really really hot. And it’s really hard to get a drink without ice here in the US – even when you ask, they forget half the time.

And similarly, they can’t understand why we are so addicted to air conditioning – for them, going from hot to cold to hot to cold every time you enter or exit a store is really annoying.

They also had no idea what a pretzel was.

Like us, they think their government is often corrupt, and that religion tramples over everything else. They are frustrated at the lack of progress on gay rights.

In the same way we’d love to move to Italy because it’s such a beautiful country, they’d love to move here – we see all the good in each other’s home countries, but not the problems.

We learned that gay men are called simply gay or finochio in Italian, or the more negative frocio – think fag in English.

And we learned that in any good relationship, both partners need to learn to piegare (bend) for each other – and yes, that is both figurative and literal.

San Francisco is truly a walking city, like Rome or Florence, and we made the most of it, caminare a piedi (walking on foot) through parts of North Beach, Union Square, the Castro, and the Waterfront. Of course, they wanted to see all the touristy things – Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge – but we also took them to some of our favorites – the Filbert Steps, shopping on Union Street, and the bar at the top of the Marriott Marquis.

What did we learn from our Italian friends?

Parla, parla, parla! (Speak, speak, speak!) It was a little scary at first, but after a few hours, it became easier, and although we made many mistakes, they actually understood what we had to say.

And there were momentary flashes here and there – little strings of words or phrases – where I actually spoke or listened purely in Italian. Marco or Fabry would speak, and it would take me a minute to realize it was in Italian, because I understood the meaning without having to actually translate the words. It was a magical feeling, one I hope comes more and more often as our relationship con Italiano grows.

Marco and Fabry are gone now, off on their whirlwind bus tour of the western United States. But we hear from them daily via text message or email.

And maybe, next year, we’ll get to be the travelers and they can be the guides as we take part two of our Italian Immersion Course – this time in the beautiful city of Forlì!