• Falling for Rome

    You might say that I’m living the dream.  A few years ago I came to Italy on an extended vacation (I called it a “sabbatical” just to make it sound impressive, but let’s be honest…). 

    Falling for Rome
  • Living in Italy

    However, Italy is not without its challenges.  When we see the movie version in, “Eat, Pray, Love,” or “From Rome, With Love,” we see an overly-simplified, idealized presentation.

    Living in Italy
  • Dispatches from the Blog Tour

    In the summer of 2014, I set out an epic journey the length of the Italian peninsula. With wife and baby along for the ride, we traveled from Lake Como to Trapani, and everywhere in between, over the course of six weeks.

    Dispatches from the Blog Tour

A Family Christmas in Rome

family christmas in romeAh, a family Christmas in Rome, what could be more enchanting? The market in Piazza Navona, the lights running down Via del Corso, the presepi in every church. Bello!

Sure, “bello,” but the kids get bored easily, so what do you do for the other 29 days or so during the holiday season?

Fortunately I ran into Shannon Kenny from Italiakids.com in Rimini last month. And although I know Rome quite well, I don’t have the slightest idea of what to do to amuse the bambini. I’d better learn fast—my little principessa is 16 months old right now, but already she’s fascinated by the lights, the decorations, and the fat guy dressed in red (she loves to jump up on his lap and yank REALLY HARD on his beard!)

So I’m turning my blog over to Shannon today, and she’s going to tell all of us anxious parents how to keep the ragazzini viziati occupied during the holidays. Here’s her advice…

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Traveling to Italy in Books

books in italy are a great way to virtually travel

Photo Credit: Malatestiana Library

It’s been a while (two years, actually) since I’ve offered a little roundup of books about Italy that I recommend. Not long ago I reviewed “My Two Italies,” by Joseph Luzzi, and I received lots of great feedback from other readers who had enjoyed the book, too. That got me to thinking that travel-inspired books are perfect Christmas gifts for any world traveler on your list, and also for those who love to travel without ever leaving their favorite cozy chair. Experiencing Italy in books can either augment our own travels, or sometimes they can be an adventure on their own.

What makes a good travel book? I guess it sort of depends on the genre—memoir versus travel guide—but a well-written book will both inform and entertain, regardless of where it starts from. This is especially true these days when smartphone apps give us all the “information” that we really need. A good travel book will bring the reader along for the ride (even if they’re reading it on a smartphone—how’s that for irony?). In other words, if it’s just a resource for data, why should I spend the time and money when Google is fast and free? Books, on the other hand, should offer some personality that gives us a more emotional connection.

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Northern Italy with Kids

visit Gardaland in Italy this summerWhile traveling through Northern Italy last month with some fellow bloggers, one of the unexpected discoveries of the trip was the diversity of family destinations that we encountered. I guess my eye is biased these days, always on the lookout for things to amuse my easily bored principessa. Obviously, many of the fun places that I visited on the blog tours would be enjoyable for adults, too. But this list is offered with the bambini in mind.

Gardaland. OK, I grew up in Orlando, Florida, the Mecca of amusement parks, so I have a real love/hate relationship with these types of places. And honestly, before my daughter came along, visiting an amusement park in Italy seemed to me like ordering a cannolo in the United States: it vaguely resembles the real thing, but upon closer inspection, it inevitably disappoints.

To my great surprise, Gardaland was a lot of fun! I’m not totally familiar with all the cartoon characters running amok (who is this Prezzemolo guy?)—and certainly the degree of creating illusions is not on par with Disney World.  But it’s more relaxed, and just clean, family entertainment. The rides are great—I went on a couple of rollercoasters and a water ride (I was in the “lucky” seat, and got completely soaked).

If you’re traveling in Northern Italy with kids, you’d be crazy to pass this up.  After a week of looking at Roman ruins and Renaissance art, the little ones will be grateful for some silly time.  My cucciola is still too young, but I hope to take her to Gardaland in a few years.

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Battle over Italy’s Food Regions

typical products of romagnaOur group of irreverent expats (C.O.S.I.) is at it once again, joining forces in an attempt to impart our hard-won knowledge upon you, the unfortunate readers.  This week we welcome a member to our brood, Andrea from Sex, Lies, and Nutella.  Admittedly, our discourse can often sound a bit cantankerous, as we lament the challenges of battling the Italian bureaucracy, or debate the necessity of superfluous bathroom hardware (a.k.a. the ubiquitous bidet).

However, this time around, we are here to sing the praises of one of Italy’s greatest contributions to the world: its regional cuisines.  On this topic, the only cantankerous part is arguing over which region is the best.

So we’ve each chosen a city/region/area to defend, expounding on the culinary wonders indigenous to the local farms, markets, kitchens, and restaurants.  I could have chosen Rome…probably should have chosen Rome; it would have made perfect sense since it’s the area that I’m most familiar with.  But after a few trips to Romagna this year, I’m pretty excited about all of my latest tasty encounters, and I want to let everybody know about this relatively unexplored foodie paradise and some of the typical products of Romagna.

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