Italia in 2018! Who’s in?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 | Category: Travel Tips, Travel Writing


I spent a college semester in a small town in Italy — and that is where I truly tasted food for the first time. — Alton Brown


Just a quick blast so you can start planning your 2018 Italian adventure with Travel the Write Way!

We are planning two tours next year — as always, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Both will feature optional journal writing exercises for those who want to better capture their travel experiences.

While dates and details are not available yet (but will be forthcoming by the summer), here’s something to think about:

May 2018


Rome & Abruzzo in the Springtime

Spend 4 nights in Rome, the Caput Mundi, the center of the universe. We’ll enjoy at least one food tour, a wine tasting experience and lots of time to see the city of Fellini. Be transformed by this place that is both ancient and modern, sacred and profane.

Then we’ll drive east, to the city of Ovid — Sulmona — where we’ll spend 4 nights in the heart of the Abruzzo region. We’ll have wine tastings, an olive oil experience, a cooking class, and visits to several nearby hill towns. We will eat and drink exceedingly well here in the heart of the Valle Peligna, and you’ll feel like a local by the time you leave.



October 2018

Piazza Garibaldi: Sulmona among the mountains

Le Marche & Abruzzo Food & Harvest Tour

We’ll begin with a 3-night stay at a secluded (and now very famous) agriturismo near Urbania in the Marche, about 4 hours from Rome. Private cooking class and truffle hunting included. It’s a great introduction to this wild and wonderful part of bella italia. Heck, you might even see a cinghiale!

Then we’ll head down to the Abruzzo, where the beautiful city of Sulmona will be our base for 5 nights. After visiting the highest ruined castle in the Apennines, walking through the town where Madonna’s family hails from, checking out the silver filigree in a city made prosperous by the wool trade and touring and tasting at the oldest winery in Abruzzo, you’ll still have time to relax, eat well and bring home lots of memories. And don’t forget the confetti!


There’s something for all Italophiles, foodies and wine lovers on these trips — punctuated (no pun intended) by an optional opportunity to do some writing to capture the moments.

Think about Italy in 2018 and join us!

Buon viaggio!


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Happy Anniversary, Cucina Abruzzese!

Thursday, March 2, 2017 | Category: Reflections, Travel Stories, Travel Writing


It was one year ago this month . . .

First, a huge box arrived. It took two of us to drag it into the kitchen. Like the “important award” box in A Christmas Story, the box said in bold letters: FRAGILE. Only this box really was from Italy.

Inside was a cornucopia of all things Abruzzese. There were wheels of pecorino cheese, and there was grated pecorino cheese. There was a well-used chittara and an antique rolling pin. There were many kilos of Pelino confetti. There was salumi — sliced and whole — of every description. Prosciutto, guanciale, mortadella. There were the famed protein-packed lentils of Santo Stefano. There were books and brochures and CDs and recipe cards and display pieces galore.

We already had the wine: a gift from Pietrantonj of their fabulous Montepulciano. We filled in the selection with Trebbiano and Pecorino and our favorite: the piquant and rosy Cerasuola. Of course, Prosecco was involved as well.

Novelia with her chitarra

Vicky and I went shopping in Revere for the right “OO” flour for the pasta, bread crumbs for the shepherd’s balls, and passito for the sauce. We bought many pounds of sausages. We bought garlic and carrots and celery and olive oil and dozens and dozens of eggs. And Novelia gave us orders about what to buy so she could make her famous chocolate cake. We found the secret ingredient (no, I’m not going to tell you) in the North End.

A few days later, armed with pots and pans and serving dishes, we headed off to the first of four cooking classes.

Participants snapped this opportunity up faster than we ever imagined. And four

Amalia Cardelli, all the way from Santo Stefano

friends offered their rather large kitchens and dining rooms for the events. Two in Salem, one in Winchester and one in Danvers. Men and women, old friends and new, came from all over the North Shore — even one from Rhode Island, one from Pennsylvania and one from California — and were delighted. And boy, did we eat well! Mangiamo bene!

And to top it all off, Marco Malvestuto, filmmaker and man about town in Sulmona, was here to capture the moments on video. Herewith, I give you Cucina Abruzzese a la Marco.

Enjoy! And let me know if you want to do it again in 2018!!

Buon viaggio!


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On the Road Island Diner

Monday, February 20, 2017 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips


In Utah: Behind the Zion Curtain — (I can’t take credit)


I apologize for the radio silence. January was a trying month. Some friends rented our places in Sulmona to avoid being in the USofA to witness the events of January 20th and we treated them to an earthquake, a massive snowstorm and a nearby avalanche. They’re still talking to us, but it’s harrowing to hear these things from thousands of miles away and feel utterly helpless. Thankfully, our “Italian family” kicked into action and made a very enjoyable week for them, despite not being able to move their car for the duration. They even had to buy a snow shovel.

Then, of course, there was January 20th, about which I shall not speak here.

Early February found Tim and me and his mother in Park City, Utah, where we met up with his sister who had arranged for us to stay in her friend’s gorgeous condo in Deer Valley. Luxury. It took us two days to figure out how to turn on the showers (they were all different, with multiple showerheads in each one) and we’re still not really sure how the light switches work, but it’s the closest thing to an Architectural Digest-quality habitation that I’ll ever get to! Of course, while it was snowing like the dickens back East here, Utah received just a few inches of new stuff while were were there, and reached temps of nearly 50 degrees for most of the week. No. Climate. Change. Wait. What?

Off to the slopes with Fi!

There were many highlights to the trip, the biggest being that Tim got to celebrate his big “0” birthday the way he wanted to – on the slopes with his sister and niece (nephew was working). It’s not every day you get to ski with Olympians . . . He survived 17 runs in one day and was only mildly uncomfortable the next. Thank God for Aleve and hot tubs.

This area of the country is so beautiful that it’s almost unfair. We drove over to Sundance, up to Solitude, down to Salt Lake City and meandered a few times on Park City’s very chic Main Street. On the mountainsides we saw four moose and several herd of elk. (In fact, traffic was stopped in both directions on I-80 for two hours one morning to “relocate” a herd of elk.) On Main Street, the restaurants were wonderful and the shopping was great. So many artisans doing so many interesting things. From June – September, you’ll find the Park Silly Sunday Market, an outdoor emporium of artists, gourmet food stands, farmers and entertainers. But even with snow on the ground, Main Street has its own special charm.

And speaking of a special kind of charm, Tim’s sister took us to the Road

The Road Island Diner!

Island Diner —  “Justly Famous Since 1939” —  a classic Streamline Moderne Art Deco “diner car” restaurant located in the somewhat remote mountain city of Oakley. (His sister drives over there for the peace and quiet.) What a trip!

The original history of the place reads as follows . . .


In 1939 the nation’s leading diner manufacturer, the Jerry O’Mahony Co. of Elizabeth, New Jersey, rolled out of its factory diner number #1107 which it touted as its largest deluxe model complete with chrome glass showcased green Italian Marble countertops, Tiffany glass clerestory windows in a monitor style roof and hand laid quarry tiled flooring. The company showcased its creation in the 1939 New York World’s fair.

 After the Fair, diner aficionado Al McDermott purchased the streamlined-styled Art-Deco diner and had it towed to Fall River, Mass. where it operated with great success for 14 years. His moniker was “Justly Famous Since 1939”.

 Looking to serve more customers in Fall River, Al Mac purchased a larger Deraffle diner in 1953 where it still operates today.

 The O’Mahony was sold that year to a Greek immigrant, Tommy Borodemus, who was looking to expand out of his 15 stool 1936 Worchester lunch wagon which he had purchased with the $600 New Deal bonus offered to WWI veterans by FDR to counteract the effects of the great depression. Borodemus had the diner moved to the nearby seaside town of Middletown, R.I and renamed it “Tommy’s Deluxe Diner”.

 The Borodemus family opened the diner to much fanfare and passed down its operations for four generations. Countless memories were generated for the family and its patrons over the years. The diner was featured in many TV spots and on Charles Osgood’s CBS Sunday Morning, in 2006. With mounting competition from fast food outlets and restaurant chains, the family decided to sell the property to the Tim Horton donut chain.

A search began for a deserving home for this rare piece of Americana. Although other cities were considered, Oakley, Utah, was offered to preserve the diner’s history.

 In May of 2007, the diner was transported across the country weaving its way through designated back roads complete with state police escorts and pilot cars. It arrived in Oakley in mid July and began its complete restoration. Unlike the few remaining diners still operating on the east coast, thankfully little structural and cosmetic changes had occurred over the diner’s 73- year history. Those that did were replicated from old photos. What you see now is what you would have seen in 1939 as this depression-era pre-war diner was wheeled out of the factory.

 The tabletop remote jukeboxes, flat TVs and air conditioning are modern embellishments.

 In honor of this icon’s legacy it was named the “Road Island Diner” because of its origin and the fact that it was placed on the island in the road.



And if you’re interested in seeing the diner’s blueprints, the history of the cross-country trip or the restoration, just ask. There are books and photos galore!


Current owner Steve Butler and his nephew Alex (our server and alone worth the price of admission) are doing a bang-up job keeping the spirit of the old place alive while offering fantastic, high-quality food (and beer and wine) to match the surroundings. I had a tasty White Tuscan Bean Salad with Homemade Pesto; Tim had an excellent Reuben; and his mom and sister both had the Bullseye Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich for which they are rather famous. We shared a nice bottle of Cakewalk Pinot Grigio and they presented Tim with a dessert (hearing that it was his birthday) of a warm apple cake with cinnamon ice cream and a taster of mint ice cream.

This is a destination for anyone who’s going to be in the Salt Lake – Park City area. Getting there is visually stunning, the prices are right, the food is terrific and, well, Alex and Steve are a trip and a half. Steve also owns a catering business, Kumbayah Kitchens. Need I say more?

Thanks, Fi!

This is one of those places that makes you glad you’re part of this crazy human race. Take a stunning ride, have a sandwich and make some new friends.


Buon viaggio!








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Finding My Words

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 | Category: Reflections, Travel Stories, Travel Writing


Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all. — Charles Bukowski


It might seem strange to say that I have writer’s block when, for the first time in my life, I am in the middle of two manuscripts. One is a collection of poetry from my travels around Southern Italy; the other is a memoir about my life-long journey/struggle to finally be “out” as an Italian-American (no, I wasn’t always an Italian).

In recent weeks, I have had a hard time focusing on these projects, what with all the nonsense of our election, of Brexit, of LePen, of Renzi’s gamble, of looming global isolationism . . . and of  the terrible and terrifying news all over the world.

And the losses. Oh, the losses! While we might not have personally known Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Carrie Fischer, George Michael or any of the other talented folks who left us this year, they put a stamp on our hearts and will be forever missed. As so many people expressed on Facebook over the last 12 months: WTF 2016?!?!?

Finally, we have been traveling a lot — three trips in six weeks — and while they were all for brilliant causes,  this is not a good time of year to be so uprooted, given all the usual seasonal madness that must be attended to.

Cooking class at Hotel Ovidio, Sulmona

In any case, I have stopped and started, stopped and started, stopped and started and finally decided to just admit it. But when words won’t come, sometimes pictures and memories can be good inspiration.

Tim and I were incredibly lucky this year: we got to resettle his mother close to us, and that seems to be working out very well for all of us. We made two trips to Italy — two tours, and then time on our own after each — which went swimmingly. We were thrilled to introduce a few of our good friends to the pleasures of Abruzzo as a whole, and to Sulmona specifically. Over the five years that we have been traveling to this region, we have made many strong friendships and leaving there is always an emotional parting.

Our little Maxine

On the flip side, Tim and I were incredibly unlucky this year: in February, just two days before Tim’s birthday, we had to say goodbye to the love of our lives, our little Maxine. She was 15 years old and not a day has gone by since that we don’t think of her. The tears still come, but I think we are both getting ready to look for another little doggie. Watch this space for the happy announcement.

So what will 2017 bring us? I hope it brings me my words again. I hope we can complete the two tours we have planned for you — one to Southern Italy (Sulmona, the Adriatic Coast and Matera) and the other to Northern Italy (Vicenza and Venice). And I hope the global situation won’t be as dire as it looks at the moment.


I pray that cooler heads will prevail, that we will all find the better angels of our nature, that compromise and cooperation will make a comeback and that we can learn to be good to one another, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

With Eleanora Baldwin in Rome’s Jewish Quarter

Rodolfo and his arrosticini at Mucciante

Wine tasting a la Welcome to Sulmona


In this final week of 2016, truly an annus horibilis in so many ways, I wish you a joyous and peaceful New Year filled with friendship, love, good food and great travels.


Buon capodanno!

Buon viaggio!

Southern Italy? Try our “Taste of the Mezzogiorno” tour

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 | Category: Travel Tips


May 2 – 11, 2017

A fantastic 8-day journey to three select

Southern Italian cities


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 cook arrosticini on the plain in the shadow of the Gran Sasso.


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.”


Finally, we’ll venture inland to the incredible “cave” city of Matera and spend three luxurious nights in this unique troglodyte city and see first-hand how artists and entrepreneurs are IMG_4830transforming this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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


Here’s just a taste of the itinerary . . .

In Abruzzo:

  • Wine tasting at Abruzzo’s oldest winery
  • Tour of the Medici city of Santo Stefano
  • Easy hike to Roccacalascio, the ancient ruined castle providing a breathtaking view of the Apennines
  • BBQ lunch on Italy’s “Little Tibet”
  • Visit to Pelino Confetti Museum & store
  • Optional hike to Eremo di San’Onofrio

In Puglia:

  • Visit to waterfront: cathedrals, villa communale
  • Tour of local winery
  • Visit to see the unique trulli structures

In Basilicata:

  • Private day-long tour of Matera, the 8,000-year-old sassi city
  • Visit to Matera’s incredible sculpture garden
  • Visit to some of Matera’s artisan-entrepreneurs

Includes fine hotels, aperitivi experiences, all breakfasts, five lunches and four dinners.

This trip is limited to 6 travelers, so please send a $500 non-refundable deposit by January 1, 2017 to reserve. Contact me at for details.


Buon viaggio!