Traveling the Write Way, Part II

Thursday, October 20, 2016 | Category: On Writing, Travel Tips, Travel Writing


The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note — Edward Lear

s0475195_sc7A word about journaling in poetry

With the 2007 publication of the anthology Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad, interest in travel poetry has increased in writing circles. But travel poetry has, of course, been around for thousands of years. The Odyssey, Canterbury Tales and Divine Comedy can all be considered travel poetry. And sometimes your recollections and observations just naturally seem to fall more easily into a poetic form than into prose.

Here’s an example from my very first Italian villa rental experience. I could have just jotted down, “The group had breakfast in the kitchen. The sun was shining. We decided not to go anywhere today and I did the laundry.” Instead, this is what evolved from my notes:



We sit at the kitchen table in the morning

Drinking the juice of mangoes and blood oranges

Eating creamy yogurt out of chipped white porcelain cups

Planning our day, as if we needed anything more than this

The early sun and strong black coffee are enough

The easy laughter and deep breathing are enough

Flowering magnolias and the scent of wild jasmine are enough

Anticipation and memory are enough

Today, we agree, we will go nowhere

Because for now, everything we need is right here

In the warm June breezes of plenty

Laundry dancing in the yard


These 12 lines have incorporated myriad details, some action and lots of emotion into a story about deciding not to do anything that day. And it gives the reader (and the writer) a valuable memory of the experience. I highly recommend that you try this at least once, even if you think you’re not a poet or think you don’t even like poetry very much. It’s a useful form, especially as an extension of the journaling process.


s0247859_sc7What’s next?

Place is a powerful force, and we’re all drawn to different kinds of places for different reasons. At the same time, travel is such a rich experience that, whether we go across town or across an ocean, we are always the better for it. We always learn something and we can make new discoveries and even new friends along the way. So write about your travel experiences. Use your journal to capture who you are in the moment. Use your words and drawings and photos to bridge back to the emotions you experience along the way. Share them if you want to.

Start by getting a blank book that sings to you. If you’d like to do some more reading before getting started, here are a few suggestions:

  • Writing Away: a creative guide to awakening the journal-writing traveler by Lavinia Spalding
  • The Mindful Traveler: A Guide to Journaling and Transformative Travel by Jim Currie
  • Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip) by Dave Fox

Whether you share your journal with others or keep it strictly for yourself, I guarantee that this will be a worthwhile endeavor. You’ll be able to not only answer the question, “How was your trip?” but you’ll be able to answer the bigger question, “Who are you?”

Here’s a 10-minute writing exercise to get you started…

Think about a trip you have taken or a place (not home) that you’ve recently spent time in. Then do at least one of these:

  • Write about a room that you stayed in
  • Write about what it’s like for you not to be home
  • When you’re on the road, when do you feel most yourself? Write about that.
  • Write five words, phrases, sentences that might lead to a travel poem. Try to write that.


Buon viaggio!

[1] © 2009 Linda Dini Jenkins, Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband












Tags: , , ,

Traveling the Write Way, Part I

Thursday, October 13, 2016 | Category: On Writing, Travel Tips, Travel Writing


I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. — Oscar Wilde


Where do you go? Are you drawn to big cities, wildly rural areas or something in between? Is it the hustle of a busy metropolis or a calmer, slower pace that calls to you? And (if you have any these days) what do you like to do in your spare time? Are you a museum crawler, a foodie or is it nature that brings out the best in you? And then there’s my favorite question: domestic travel or Italy?

All these choices say something about who you are. Chances are, you’re not even fully aware of why you make these life-affirming decisions; they’re just second nature to you. But if you’re curious to better understand the places where you find yourself — and your reactions to them —consider keeping a travel journal.

To encourage that, all my travelers on Travel the Write Way tours receive a journal in img_0999advance, just to encourage this kind of behavior.

The first question I often get is, “Why? Who is a journal for?” Well, mostly it’s for you. It’s a way to capture the experiences that you have of a particular place. And not just the “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” kind of experiences. Journaling done right can be the best traveling companion you have, even if you’re just traveling to the next county. But let’s be clear: a good journal is not just a collection of “where” and “what.” A good journal also explores the “how” and the “why” and the “who.”

On the other hand, a journal is also a record that you can either share with friends and family or which (like it or not) might be read by friends and family members long after you’re gone. So why not make it the best, most meaningful, most enjoyable document you can?

What will I write about?

cupa_and_mokasYou’re on vacation: you come from somewhere, so how does where you are now differ from home? The difference could be in the language, holidays, shopping habits, meal times, color protocol, currency, ways of showing respect and so much more.

The key thing is to be a keen observer of everything and to use all five senses — sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing — as you go through your day in this new place that is not home. Be a detective of the local culture. Take notes on:

  • Why you chose this particular place
  • Local transportation: how to get around, what the challenges/opportunities are
  • The history of the place
  • The architectural style(s)
  • Food, especially what’s locally grown and what best represents the region
  • The “can’t-miss” events, attractions, restaurants
  • A specific adventure
  • A specific mishap or embarrassing moment
  • People you’ve met
  • People you wanted to meet
  • Local politics/issues — what are people debating right now?
  • Your emotional reactions to the place
  • What makes this place different?
  • How do you feel here?
  • What are you afraid of here?
  • What makes you want to stay here?
  • What makes you want to leave?


7  Secrets of an Avid Travel Journaler

  1. Use a spiral-bound notebook. These can cost anywhere from $1.00 to $25.00+, depending on your taste and budget. Spiral-bound books are easier to manage, fold over, write on, etc. And those school notebooks with pockets are great. You’ll see why later. Just don’t make it too big or heavy or you’ll get discouraged.
  2. Write only on the right-hand page. Wasteful? Maybe. But it’s a real boon when you want to go back and add something you forgot or want to elaborate on something you’ve already written – you do that on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. What to put in those pockets? Everything! Save receipts, cards from restaurants, ticket stubs, brochures, leaves and flowers, menus, unspent money (if you’re traveling outside the US) — it’s all part of the experience of travel and will help concretize your memories when you go back to flesh out your stories.
  4. Be sure to have a few pens and as well as a pencil with an eraser with you at all times — you never know when you’ll want to break out into a drawing. And try not to write with the pencil: that internal editor of yours will probably go to town, and that’s not the point of a journal.
  5. Remember to leave room for your photographs. If photography isn’t your thing, buy postcards and include those in your journal. I love to go to local antique shops and look through the old postcard boxes — you’re sure to find a few that resonate with you. And the historical ones make unique additions to your journal!
  6. Bring paper clips and a few small plastic sandwich bags with you to better collect and manage your “physical” memories. Nobody needs sand or bugs in their suitcase.
  7. Don’t try to get it all down while it’s happening! You don’t want to miss the experience because you’re busy scribbling something down. Take a few notes – key words, location, sensations, etc. and then go back to it later that day or the next. With a few good prompts, you won’t lose anything important.


What should it look like?rocky_neck_wreck

That’s entirely up to you. Do you want to sketch on your pages to support your written observations? Great! Do you want to add photography and memorabilia right among the pages? Go for it. Do you want to write in bullet point format or in straight paragraphs or in poetic forms? It’s for you — do what you want. Travel writer Dave Fox says it best: Write like nobody’s looking.

And remember that most travel journals are drafts. They’re not supposed to be perfect. There will be rambling ideas, misspellings, ungrammatical sentences — that’s okay. Travel journals provide a way to capture the ideas, impressions, events, experiences, emotions and information that will trigger your memory so you can go back at a later time and tell the whole story. Don’t spend so much time writing “in the moment” that you miss the moment.

Make your journal yours. So if you want to spend a week writing about and photographing all the funny and ridiculous signage you see, be my guest. (One of my favorite signs in Vermont told me to “BEGIN NO PARKING.” I drove right on, obviously honoring the intent of the sign.) And don’t forget how easy it is now to record snippets of video and audio — those are great ways to capture scenes and sounds that you can go back and write about later or share in an e-mail or online version of your journal.


Next week: Part II — journaling in poetic form and more…

Buon viaggio — and don’t forget to write!





















Tags: , , ,

A Taste of the Mezzogiorno — May 2-11, 2017

Monday, September 12, 2016 | Category: Travel Tips


If you’ve got a plot the size of a car or a tiny yard in Italy, you’re going to be growing tomatoes and basil and celery and carrots, and everybody is still connected to the land — Frances Mayes

May 2 – May 11, 2017

I am so pleased to announce the dates for a fantastic 8-day excursion to three select cities of the mezzogiorno:

  • In Abruzzo: Sulmona
  • In Puglia: Trani
  • In Basilicata: Matera

See the mezzogiorno (southern Italy) in all its glory . . .

We’ll spend three nights in Sulmona for a true taste of Cucina Abruzzese, while we eat and drink from the local bounty, explore medieval hill towns and climb up to the highest point in the Apennine.

Then we’ll drive down the Adriatic coast for a two-img_4658night visit to Trani, the beautiful and historic fishing port that’s often called the “Pearl of Puglia.”

IMG_4830Finally, we’ll venture inland to the incredible “cave” city of Matera and spend three nights in this unique troglodyte city and see first-hand how artists and entrepreneurs are transforming it.

All breakfasts, guided tours, ground transportation and most meals included for $2750. Airfare extra.

This trip has limited space, so please send a $500 non-refundable deposit by January 1, 2017 to reserve. Contact me at for details.

Watch as the itinerary comes together.

Discover Italy with Lonely Planet’s New Guide

Thursday, August 18, 2016 | Category: Travel Tips, Travel Writing


If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there — George Harrison


There are a lot of guide books out there, but I have always liked what Lonely Planet guides have to offer. The company was launched 40+ years ago by two crazy kids who got married and, for their honeymoon, decided to cross Europe and Asia and end up in Australia. On a very slim shoestring. And then they wrote about it. Today, the company has been bought and sold twice, but still manages to maintain its edge of writing about — and encouraging travel to — some off-beat locations and authentic experiences. And those two crazy kids — Tony and Maureen Wheeler — are still very much involved.

I have just been given the fourth edition of Lonely Planet’s Discover Italy (Top Sights, Authentic Experiences) guide, and I thought I’d say a few words about it. A quick perusal of the Lonely Planet website, and you’ll see the empire that this company has become. They have all kinds of travel guides for all kinds of travelers, plus so much more: links to special tour experiences, travel insurance options, digital chapters, apps, e-books and so on.IMG_5291

But when somebody gives me a book about Italy, I dive right in. Discover Italy is a well-organized, beautiful pictorial guide for someone who knows what they want to see in Italy. It covers in text, maps, and photos what it calls “Italy’s Top 12” areas: Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Assisi, Venice, Milan, the Lake District, Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, and Sicily.  Even better, it provides some actual itineraries for travelers to take, either by public transportation or by driving themselves. The “If You Like” and “Month by Month” pages help travelers pin down things they shouldn’t miss and when they should book their travel.

And here’s where some of the off-the-beaten track stuff comes in. Everybody knows about Carnevale in Venice in February, but did you know that in January, you can see the Regatta of the Befana (witches) – the gondoliers in drag? (See why here . . .) Or that in April the city of Milan hosts the world’s most prestigious furniture fair? How about Tuscany’s Chianti Classico Expo in September? Well, now you know.

IMG_5292And if you need to get inspired to go to Italy, Lonely Planet offers that too, with a page of books, movies and music to get you in the mood. As if . . .

This is a book that will help you tailor your travel according to your interests and needs. Of course there’s a section on travel with the family, and lots of insider tips about how to save money and time and how to get around like a local. It provides all the usual essential information (hours, fees, websites, transportation tips) as well as reviews for eating, sight-seeing and shopping on a few different budget levels. And on almost every page, you’ll find a “Top Tip,” “Did You Know?,” or “Don’t Miss” suggestion to make your experience even richer.

I particularly like the “In Focus” section which takes on topics like “Italy Today,” “The Italian Table” and “Lifestyle” as well as providing a good overview of Italian history. There’s also an invaluable “Survival Guide” and a great pull-out map of Rome (in the printed guide).

So, as I always say, go to Italy. Figure out what you want to see and get this guide to help plan a magnificent trip.

IMG_5293My only negative about this edition of Discover Italy? It completely left out my beloved mezzogiorno – Southern Italy. Especially Abruzzo and Puglia, which are very hot tourist destinations right now. Maybe that will change in the next edition — or maybe Lonely Planet will update its guide to the southern regions by including Abruzzo. I’ll be watching!


Buon viaggio!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Aged to Perfection: The Wines of Antica Casa Vitivinicola Italo Pietrantonj

Friday, July 29, 2016 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing



I like on the table,/when we’re speaking,

the light of a bottle/of intelligent wine. — Pablo Neruda


If you’ve been to our house in the last three years, chances are you’ve had a glass of wine or two from the Abruzzese winery called Pietrantonj. Because three years ago is when we discovered we were madly in love with the region, bought an apartment there (in Sulmona) with our friends Lou and Vicky, and dove head-first into all things regional. One of our first discoveries was the wine.

Here in the USA, we have come across whites called “trebbiano” and reds called “montepulciano.” But the trebbianos are often just passable blends of whites from a variety of regions and the montepulciano – if you’re not careful – is not from Abruzzo at all, but from the village of Montepulciano in Tuscany. Our Sulmonese friends taught us about Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and introduced us to some of the finest wineries in the area. My favorite winery, hands-down, is Pietrantonj (pronounce the “J”: like an “I”).


Located in the heart of the Peligna Valley, less than 30 minutes from our apartment, is this most ancient winery in Abruzzo. Their vineyards lie between the villages of Vittorito and Corfinio and this valley has been famous for making wine since Roman times. Pietrantonj has been a family run operation for more than 200 years and is today managed by members of the eighth generation of the family. Our new friends Roberta and Alicia Pietrantonj take very good care of the operation — and us, when we are there. Roberta is usually the “front of the house” person, with the marketing, tour and sales responsibilities. Her sister Alicia is a degreed viticulturist, a wine scientist who knows everything there is to know about soil, temperature, growing conditions, grape varieties, potential pests and disasters — like the one that happened earlier this year when a false spring was followed by a quick freeze.

IMG_2296Take a tour with either of them and you’ll be charmed by the story of their family’s dedicated to maintaining the ancient wine-making methodologies while remaining on the cutting edge of their craft. Here’s how they write about themselves, being so proud of their history:

The grapes are picked when they have reached the perfect peak of ripeness and exhibit an ideal balance between sugars and acids, thus ensuring that they will express to the fullest the varietal characteristics of the grape and of their individual growing area. The following step of vinification takes place immediately, in the estate cellars, in a careful process that [wisely] combines tradition with innovation. The respect for tradition and extreme reverence for the “past” can be easily witnessed by simply visiting the historic production complex, built before 1830.

This facility, which today houses a small winemaking museum as well, is currently used for the maturation of the winery’s finest red wines, which go into large Slavonian oak [barrels]. In years past, the wines were made and stored here. In 1893, after increases in production, Alfonso Pietrantonj, ancestor of the present owner, enlarged the capacity of the cellar by building, 14 metres beneath street level, two magnificent vats, holding a total of 1402 hectolitres.

Biggest. Barrel. Ever.

Biggest. Barrel. Ever.

These tanks, which had no equal in the world, were a true architectural jewel of the period and testify to Alfonso’s courageous and creative spirit. Their most unusual characteristic was in fact the internal sheathing in Murano glass tiles, which has been admirably preserved and can still be admired, thanks to a convenient entrance-way to one of the vats. The cellars preserve as well fascinating equipment from the ancient distillery that produced a superb aquavit, an activity that the winery continued until 1930, thanks to Nicola Pietrantonj, the first Abruzzo winemaker to graduate, in 1889, from the Regia Scuola in Conegliano, in the Veneto. A renowned winemaking expert, he was responsible for growing and strengthening the winery’s production from the second half of the 19th century on.

Come for a tasting!

Come for a tasting!

Of particular interest too are the old equipment and tools for working the vines and making wines, such as the first crusher-destemmer, dating to the early 20th century, and two imposing wooden wine presses from the 18th century. Crossing the family garden, one returns to the current main production facility where the entire production process is carried out, from fermentation and ageing, to bottling and storage of the wines.

Here, in the underground cellars, are the striking and venerable centuries-old [barrels], in sizes ranging from 32 to 365 hectolitres, crafted of oak and walnut in 1870 by local artisans. Thanks to careful renovations, they are still in use today. The modern winemaking facility rises alongside; it employs the most state-of-the-art technology for vinification, storage, and bottling, with every operation focused on preserving and maximizing the individual qualities of each grape variety. Of particular importance is the considerable investment that went into temperature control of the numerous stages of grape handling, wine maturation, and bottled wine storage.

My favorite souvenir!

My favorite souvenir!

The Pietrantonj production philosophy dictates that the maturation of red wines is carried out in oak casks of medium and large capacity, in order to ensure that the qualities of the grape varieties are faithfully preserved.


This combination of old and new — not to mention the Murano-glass-lined barrel —  is just part of what makes Pietrantonj so unique. And it works, because their line of wines, which includes Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Pecorino, Malvasia and Passito Rosso, are among the finest you will ever have — without breaking the piggybank.

So here’s another reason to come with us to Abruzzo. And another reason you’ll keep coming back!


Buon viaggio!

Tags: , , , , ,