An American In Rome
|Benvenuti a tutti!
Thanks for stopping by my blog where I attempt to decipher Italian culture for the English-speaking world. It’s always my intention to go a little deeper—beyond the stereotypes and la dolce vita—to discuss the many reasons why this beautiful chaotic city continues to inspire the dreams of travelers and expats year after year. Travelers, if you’re new to my site, you might want to start here. Expats, check out this post.
Last week, many of my Facebook friends and I shared the New York Times Op-Ed piece by the Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini entitled, “Why Nobody Goes to Naples.” The focus of his essay was to highlight the failure of the Italian government to capitalize on its tourism potential as a way to help improve a faltering economy, which is particularly apparent in the south of Italy.
For me, the article was especially timely because in exactly two weeks I’ll begin my blog tour. I’m starting in Milan, and then over the course of a month, I’ll work my way south to Sicily. This should provide me with a unique opportunity to notice the changes in tourism and infrastructure that Severgnini mentioned as I drift towards the mezzogiorno.
By the way, I’d like to thank the many, MANY people who responded to my email a few days ago, offering their kind suggestions along my itinerary route. I’m overwhelmed by the number of responses and still going through them. Of course, my schedule won’t allow me to take advantage of all this great advice myself, but I will try to highlight a few of them here on my blog in the coming weeks so that other readers might benefit from some firsthand recommendations other than my own.
During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been busy firming up the itinerary for my summer blog tour, which is going to take me from Lake Como in the North, to Trapani in the South, and all points in between. Well, almost all points. Unfortunately I “only” have about five weeks so there will be a few places that I’ll miss or just pass through quickly.
One of these places is Montefalco, a little jewel of hill town tucked up into the green hills of Umbria. But as it turns out, my friend and fellow Italy blogger Victoria will be spending some time there this spring while doing her own version of a blog tour. I’m hoping to meet up with her somewhere along the way as our paths intersect. But in the meantime, she’s offered me this little preview of Montefalco, which will also serve as her “home base” in Umbria this fall when she’ll be leading a tour through this verdant region. And so I’d like to share it with you all, too. Enjoy!
Most travelers choose to visit Italy in the warmer months, which is certainly understandable. But there’s much to enjoy in the off-seasons, not the least of which is the diminished crowds and scarcity of fellow sightseers. During the late autumn in Rome, the street vendors sell their warm chestnuts to locals and tourists alike as they stroll down Via del Corso during the evening passeggiata. Visiting Venice in the winter, you can watch the fog creep across the lagoon and settle upon the city like a gray ghost. In the Alps, people make Vin Brulè to keep warm by the fire, while a quilt of white snow unfolds down the mountain to cover the trees and buildings of the little villages. It can be lovely, really.
But this Floridian still prefers more balmy weather…and my wardrobe reflects this preference, even if my choice of apparel is often met with disdain by my Italian friends.
For those of us who like to get off the beaten path, Italy is never quite what you expect. Sometimes for the worse, more often for the better, but occasionally it can be downright terrifying. It’s all fine and good to be the curious type of traveler, but you’d better be prepared to face the potential perils…train strikes, unannounced museum closings, and attacking skeletons. What?!?
In my quest to conquer the Italian language, I often encounter kindred souls who are struggling with the same quixotic endeavor. Often, they are ahead of me on the learning curve, so I’m always keen to gain their advice and hints.
I love stories. They impart a deeper understanding of the subtitles of language when we hear it in real-life situations. And when funny or entertaining, they leave a stronger impression and therefore better imprinted on the memory. My guest today is Cher Hale from the Iceberg Project and she has a funny story, some good advice, and a few useful Italian travel phrases for the beginner Italian learner to commit to memory. I was recently honored to be a guest on her podcast, where we talked about getting a visa, teaching English in Rome, and of course, the Italian language.
I must be getting sentimental in my middle-age. A few weeks ago I talked about weddings and now I’m recalling a Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago—Jessica and I strolling around the gardens of La Reggia di Caserta, just outside of Naples, in the clear, crisp February air. Soon after arriving, I had noticed a man with a horse-drawn carriage riding around the grounds and thought, “My, how romantic. Maybe I should inquire into his services and impress my fidanzata.”
Sure enough, as he drew closer, he began to shout. I couldn’t really understand him, but it seemed obvious enough I was being subjected to his sales pitch.
I cut to the chase, “Quanto costa?” How much?
I don’t think he actually heard my words, as he continued his passionate monologue, determined to make me hear the whole spiel before the bargaining process began. Finally, I reluctantly gave up my role in the “conversation,” shrugged, and turned over the reins to Jessica and her knowledge of Neapolitan dialect.
Since winning Italy Magazine’s Blogger Award last week, the increase in traffic to my blog, Facebook Page, and Twitter account has been meteoric, to say the least. So it’s with some trepidation that I tackle a provocative subject with all these new eyes on my posts. However, to this day, one of the biggest draws to my site is from a piece I wrote more than a year ago entitled, “Catholicism and other superstitions in Italy.” Google still seems to think that I’m an expert on this topic, for some reason. (This doesn’t speak very highly of their algorithm, if you ask me.)
I want to acknowledge right away that the topic of religion always inspires controversy. We each have our own opinions, and thankfully, throughout most of the world, these opinions are to be respected. Furthermore, when I make generalizations, they are just that: generalizations. If they don’t apply to you, then fine, I wasn’t talking about you. In any case, I’ve tried to provide a balanced argument… so hopefully there’s something here to offend everyone.
This post carries the sole intention of expressing a very sincere thank you to everyone who supported me in the Italy Magazine Blogger Awards. I’m proud to announce that, improbably, I won.
A few weeks ago, my blog was selected for the “Top-5 Shortlist” among 54 well-deserving nominees; all of which represent extremely knowledgeable and talented English language writers in Italy. This alone was an incredible honor and truly, I would have been happy with just that. The fact that I actually won is beyond my expectations.