“Stai attenta!” (Be careful!), Captain Tonino shouts as I dive into the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily’s northeastern tip. I ignore his warning. The Aeolian islands, ancient playground of the gods, shimmer as irresistibly now as in times long past. Above me Stromboli, the black-coned volcano locals call Iddu, or “Him,” puffs smoke into the sky. With each exhalation, pebbles skitter down its sides. Aeolus, god of wind, ripples the water’s surface with the gentlest of breezes.
I swim into a grotto carved in the volcano’s side and enter a deep poo. Droplets of moisture splash gently from the craggy ceiling. Sailors call them le lacrime delle sirene, the tears of the mermaids who once tried to lure Ulysses’s men toward these perilous rocks. I follow their trail farther into the cavern.read more
I celebrated my first Italian Ferragosto in Capri, which turns out to be a most fitting (though crowded) place to be on August 15. This summer celebration—as festive as America’s Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day rolled into one—dates back thousands of years.read more
Who doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn? I certainly do—and I was tickled that Olivia Páez included LA PASSIONE in her bookriot.com blog on books for fans of Audrey Hepburn. Here is an excerpt on books that remind her of my personal Audrey Hepburn favorite, Roman Holiday:read more
“Rome’s naughty neighbors to the North.”
This is how British author D.H. Lawrence described the Etruscans, an ancient people who settled in central Italy in the eighth century BC. Among pre-Roman civilizations, only the Greeks compared in wealth, power, and influence.read more
You look at us with virgin eyes.” I wasn’t sure I was translating the Italian correctly, so the gentleman at one of my readings in Florence continued in English.
“We Italians focus on our country’s problems, and we lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us, the music and art that Italians created, our great patrimony. You remind us of who we are and what we can be.”
Presenting La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World in the country that inspired it brought many such touching moments.read more
La passione italiana dates back to a time before time when a geologic frenzy carved a boot in the middle of the Mediterranean. Convulsing and colliding, tectonic plates thrust an ancient seabed so high that tiny crustaceans were trapped and fossilized in the Italian Alps. Lava seething within the earth boiled and bubbled to form a chain of volcanic cones stretching from central Italy to what would become the island of Sicily.
Even today the Italian earth trembles. The Apennines, running like a spine through the peninsula, still undulate, sometimes with devastating consequences. Europe’s only active volcanoes—Vesuvius, Stromboli, and Etna—rumble and spew.read more