Happy Birthday to the Real Mona Lisa!

Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo (June 15, 1479 — July 15, 1542) My quest for the real Mona Lisa began years ago in Florence when I was doing research for LA BELLA LINGUA. An art historian who befriended me casually mentioned during a dinner at her home that the mother...

Celebrating Mothers in Italy and around the World

Italy has been celebrating mothers for more than 2000 years. As the dark, cold winter gave way to the bright rebirth of Spring, the ancient Romans paid tribute to their gods of fertility. One holiday, Matronalia, was dedicated to Juno, the queen of the gods, and...

Love from a Roman Kitchen

I went to Rome this week. I savored local specialties like spaghetti alla carbonara and saltimbocca alla romana. I strolled through the lively markets of Testaccio and Campo de’ Fiori. I garnered tips on cooking pasta al dente (it should resist the tooth—but the tooth...

Italy’s New Year Celebrations

In ancient times, the new year began in the Spring. In 153 B.C., the Romans moved the start of a new year to January 1 and dedicated the first month to Janus, the two-faced god who looks back toward the old year and ahead toward the new one. For six days, Romans...