The 2015 Sweet Sulmona Tour!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | Category: Travel Tips




It’s Finally Here!

 History, food, architecture, more food and cooking in the green heart of Europe

July 10 – 19, 2015


Sulmona's Piazza Garibaldi, among the mountains

Sulmona’s Piazza Garibaldi, among the mountains

Join acclaimed travel writer and blogger Linda Dini Jenkins for a small group adventure under the glorious skies of one of Italy’s most beautiful regions.

Linda is the author of Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband — praised as one of the “Ten travel books I’d give my girlfriends” by — and is the creator of the travel blog, Travel the Write Way. Her writing also appears in Dream of Italy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, HealthCare Traveler and AAA’s Home and Away.

Participants will travel to several of Abruzzo’s medieval cities, among the most beautiful ancient villages in all of Italy; will eat and drink very well; will experience two cooking classes and a winery tour; and will still have plenty of time for exploring and relaxation.

This package includes eight nights away:

  • 6 nights in Sulmona’s Hotel Ovidius, a short walk from the historic center
  • 2 nights at Le Case Della Posta in stunning Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Fee includes accommodations, all breakfasts, five lunches and five dinners, two cooking classes, a winery tour and transportation to Scanno, Santo Stefano, Pacentro and Rocca Calascio by private van. Travel to and from Fiumicino airport included.

Get your hat, your sunscreen and some walking shoes — andiamo!


Just the Facts . . .


July 10 – 19, 2015

Price per person: $2,495


Package includes:

  • six nights in the Hotel Ovidius in the heart of Sulmona
  • two nights at Le Case Della Posta in the medieval town of Santo Stefano
  • all breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 5 “aperitivi” happy hours
  • 5 dinners (including two cooking classes)
    • cooking class at Caldora in Pacentro, one of the finest restaurants in the region
    • cooking class led by Nonna Aida in Santo Stefano, for a look at regional home cooking at its best
  • vineyard tour and wine tasting
  • private guided walking tours of Sulmona, Scanno and Santo Stefano
  • guided walking tour of the Badia Morronese, the nearby Celestine Abbey
  • visit to the Pelino Confetti store and museum
  • ground transportation throughout your stay


Antipasto at Il Vecchio Muro

Antipasto at Il Vecchio Muro

Package Details:

Package is for eight nights for two people sharing a double-occupancy room. Some singles are available on a first-come, first-served basis.



Price quoted is per person, double-occupancy sharing a double bedroom. A single room supplement of $250 will be charged to guests not wishing to share a room. Packages are land packages only. Air travel is not included. Transfers to and from Fiumicino airport will be arranged once we know your flight times.



Confetti is everywhere!


Accommodations are included in the package price. Guests will spend the first six nights at the Hotel Ovidius (right across the street from our apartment) in Sulmona. The modern hotel has a spa, lounges and outdoor garden areas for relaxing and taking in the stunning mountain views. For the last two nights, guests will stay at the incredible Le Case Della Posta, in Santo Stefano. Here, each two bedroom suite will share a bathroom — but by then you’ll all be such good friends, it won’t matter.



Meals include a welcome and farewell dinner, as well as daily breakfast offerings at your hotels. The package also includes five lunches and five dinners (two of them what we cook in our cooking classes) and five aperitivo experiences that will include local wines, meats and cheeses.



All ground transportation to and from events and excursions is included and will be provided by private coach. Tim and I will also have a car. Airport transfers will be determined once we know flight arrival and departure times.

Fountains purveying delicious spring water are all over town!

Fountains purveying delicious spring water are all over town!



A non-refundable deposit of $ 500.00 per person is required at the time of booking (no later than March 10, 2015). The remaining balance is due by June 30, 2015.

There is only room for 8 people on this tour, so please book early so as not to be disappointed!

To reserve your spot, send your check, payable to:

Travel the Write Way, LLC

18 Broad Street

Salem MA 01970


Proposed Itinerary

(subject to slight changes, as weather & availabilities dictate)


Friday, July 10

  • Fly from your home cities to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Dinner onboard flight.


Taverna dei Caldora in Pacentro

Taverna dei Caldora in Pacentro

Saturday, July 11

  • Arrive in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO) in the morning or by early afternoon
  • Watch for details about where to meet the van as we get closer to the date
  • We will make arrangements for your arrival at the hotel; unpack, relax or walk into town
  • Enjoy your first aperitivo with introductions at 6:00 at Casa Linda, our apartment across the street
  • Walk to Il Vecchio Muro for dinner to experience some Sulmona specialties around 7:15 (early because we’re all jet-lagged!)


Sunday, July 12

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Walking tour of Sulmona begins at 10:00
  • Lunch at Da Gino in Sulmona
  • Aperitivi around 6:00 at Hotel Ovidius
  • Dinner on your own (we’ll make recommendations)
  • Optional walk into Sulmona for gelato and the passeggiata


Monday, July 13  

Statue of traditional Scanno woman

Statue:  Scanno woman in traditional garb

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Tour of the Celestine Abbey (Badia Morronese) begins at 10:00
  • We’ll be picked up for a trip to Pacentro, a beautiful village where Madonna’s family hails from
  • We’ll have lunch on our own in Pacentro, with time to explore
  • Cooking class at the incredibly good Taverna dei Caldora begins at 4:00
  • More time to explore after the class and before dinner — we’ll grab drinks and apps together somewhere in town
  • Back to Caldora at 8:00 to eat what we helped prepare


Tuesday, July 14

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Visit to the Pelino Confetti store and museum at 10:00
  • At noon, we’ll be picked up for a trip to beautiful Scanno, famous for filigree jewelry, food and the 25 remaining ladies who still wear the traditional Scanesse costume
  • Lunch together in Scanno
  • Walking tour of Scanno, including a visit to to Armando DiRienzo for beautiful traditional filigree jewelry
  • We’ll grab drinks and apps together somewhere in Scanno
  • Back to Sulmona for dinner on your own


The 13th century aqueduct from  Piazza Garibaldi

The 13th century aqueduct from Piazza Garibaldi

Wednesday, July 15

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • Completely free day to relax or explore Sulmona on your own — you might want to check out the mercato in Piazza Garibaldi
  • Watch for some optional tours that you might want to sign up for, including a visit to a place just outside of town featuring carpenters, honey makers and sausage makers!


Thursday, July 16

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00
  • We’ll be picked up for a tour of the Valle Reale winery at 11:00
  • Your included lunch will be somewhere nearby
  • Time for packing or exploring in the afternoon
  • We will car-pool for aperitivi and dinner in nearby Marana around 6:00


Friday, July 17

  • Breakfast served at the hotel from 8:00 – 9:00.
  • We bid arrividerci to Sulmona and get on the van to go to beautiful Santo Stefano di Sessanio
  • Settle into our rooms and then come down for lunch at your inn, Le Case Della Posta
  • After lunch, we will take a walking tour of Santo Stefano
  • Aperitivi in the garden outside Le Case Della Posta at 6:00
  • Dinner at a fabulous albergo and ristorante (Sextantio) in Santo Stefano


View of Rocca Calascio

View of Rocca Calascio

Saturday, July 18

  • Breakfast served at the inn from 8:00 – 9:00
  • We will be picked up in an agribus for our ride out to the country
  • Our first stop is the incredible Rocca Calascio: a ruined fortress, and the highest one in Italy. We’ll walk up the last little bit to the top — a gentle hike of about 15 minutes — and take in the scenery and the octagonal church on the way
  • The agribus will then take us to our spot for a lunch of arrosticini, traditional small lamb skewers that melt in your mouth
  • We will return to Santo Stefano for our cooking class with our hosts Amalia and Nonna Aida, who will create a masterpiece with you including antipasto, lentils, pasta alla chitarra, lamb, special cakes, wines and digestivi — you’ll sleep well!
  • All you’ll able to do after dinner is go up to your room and pack for your flights tomorrow.


Sunday, July 19

  • You’ll depart the inn in the morning as your flights require — the van will be here for the earliest flight and will take everybody at that time
  • If you want to go into the city of Rome (rather than to Fiumicino) to continue your holiday, let us know in advance and we can get you to the Prontobus station and help you book your ticket in advance. You will pay the Prontobus driver yourself.
  • Memories begin . . .


Ci vediamo in Abruzzo!


Buon viaggio!

Tags: Abruzzo, cooking class, food, Italy, Sulmona, Tour, wine

For Rent: A little bit of heaven in Sulmona, Italy

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 | Category: Travel Tips


Welcome to Sulmona: famous for confetti, which you'll see all over town!

Welcome to Sulmona: famous for confetti, which you’ll see all over town!

Forte e gentile (strong and gentle). — Primo Levi, naming both the rugged landscape and the warm hearts of the Abruzzese people


Casa Linda — we're on the second floor with the balconies!

Casa Linda — we’re on the second floor with the balconies!

If you can’t come to Abruzzo on one of our Travel the Write Way tours, maybe you’d like to venture into Sulmona, in the heart of Abruzzo, on your own. We’re happy to announce that Casa Linda — our new apartment in the historical center of the city — is now available for rental.

Piazza Garibaldi: Sulmona among the mountains

Piazza Garibaldi: Sulmona among the mountains




Here’s what you get:

  • A fully modernized apartment that’s been beautifully restored by one of the most important architects in Sulmona
  • Two bedrooms: one on the main level with a matrimonial bed and one upstairs in the open plan loft space with two twin beds
  • Modern bathroom with shower
  • Small sitting room
  • Fully equipped kitchen/dining area with plenty of room for cooking and eating
  • Stove, oven, refrigerator
  • Clothes washing machine and drying rack
  • Lovely antiques interspersed with modern Italian touches throughout
  • Three small balconies from which to view the gorgeous mountains and let in the fresh Abruzzese air
  • Towels and linens included
  • Free Wi-Fi provided by the town tourist office (we’ll tell you how to register) and several internet hot spots in town
The antique matrimonial bed

The antique matrimonial bed

Casa Linda is situated right behind the Cathedral of San Panfilo at the edge of the city’s amazing park, the Villa Communale. It’s a short walk into the centro storico (historic center) of the city and you’ll pass by a number of wonderful caffes, bars and restaurants on your way to Piazza Garibaldi, the main piazza, bordered by the mind-blowing 13th century aqueduct.

The loft bedroom -- great parquet floors throughout the apartment!

The loft bedroom — great parquet floors throughout the apartment!


You’ll also pass right by Piazza XX Settembre and bid buon giorno to the statue of Ovid, the city’s native son, every morning on your way to coffee.

All the comforts of home

All the comforts of home

There’s so much to do, both in Sulmona itself and within an hour’s drive in any direction. And the food is among the best you’ll find in all of Italy — like the rest of Abruzzo, it’s entirely authentic and uses the freshest of local ingredients prepared in old-world styles. There’s a binder in the apartment with our recommendations for caffes, restaurants, and sightseeing options — both within the city and in the surrounding countryside — as well as emergency numbers and all the information we think you’ll ever need.


The sitting room

The sitting room


To get to Sulmona from the U.S., you’ll fly into Rome’s Fiumicino airport. If you’re coming from within Europe, Pescara’s airport is even closer. There are bus and train options from Rome and we can discuss that when we speak. If you want to travel around the region, however, we highly recommend renting a car, which can be done either from your airport or right in Sulmona, once you get here. It’s approximately 90 minutes from Rome to Sulmona by car and can be a bit longer by public transportation (two hours+), but might be a welcome break after your long flight.

Kitchen/Dining area has everything you need

Kitchen/Dining area has everything you need



To rent Casa Linda, the fee is $45 per person per night, with a maximum of $150 per night. There is a three-night minimum, just to keep the cleaning and laundry costs sane.



Please contact  to discuss dates and arrangements or if you have any questions at all.


Buon viaggio!


Tags: apartment, Italy, rental, Sulmona

A Travelin’ Gal: 2014 in Pictures

Monday, December 15, 2014 | Category: Reflections


To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. – Bill Bryson


I  have been incredibly lucky this year. Not so much with the onslaught of chicken pox and shingles that lasted for six weeks, but with pretty much everything else.

The Roue de Paris, through the gates of the Tuileries Garden. A whopping 200 feet tall, and made for the 2000 Millenium celebration. What a thrilling view of the Place de la Concorde!

The Roue de Paris, through the gates of the Tuileries Garden. A whopping 200 feet tall, and made for the 2000 Millenium celebration. What a thrilling view of the Place de la Concorde!



Tim and I got to cross the Atlantic three times: once to attend the wedding of some dear friends in Paris; once to lead a small group of Americans through the wilds of Umbria; and the last time to mop up the damage we had done on the prior trip. Namely, to close on a little apartment that we bought with some friends in the magical city of Sulmona, in Abruzzo.

Tim, with the irrepressible Anne Robichaud in Assisi

Tim, with the irrepressible Anne Robichaud in Assisi








But, since I am a big proponent of the idea

Summertime along the Connecticut Coastline

Summertime along the Connecticut Coastline

that important and meaningful travel can be experienced close to home, as well, we also made two trips to New York City and had several visits with Tim’s mom in the picturesque seaport town of Mystic, Connecticut. I even managed a trip down to Richmond, Virginia for an opera fix and Tim went up to Maine for the always educational Camden Conference.

We met up with some European friends in the Berkshires in August and brought them back to Salem. We hosted travelers from Paris and County Cork, Ireland through our relationship with US SERVAS (a marvelous organization, and if you don’t know about it, please check it out). And we welcomed friends and family from Ohio, Utah, Virginia and Connecticut.

A Night at Carnegie Hall . . . Amazing Composer, David Sisco

A Night at Carnegie Hall . . . Amazing Composer, David Sisco

Especially meaningful for me was our trip to New York, in November. Even though I was just five minutes from being contagious and still a little spotty from chicken pox, I put on my big girl panties and went to hear my poetry — which had been set to music — performed at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Yes, the one on 57th Street. The practice, practice, practice one.

Unlike the other female poet and singers who were allFifthAvenue decked out in tulle and sequins and lace, I was covered up like a Bedouin so as not to show any spots. And I was tired as hell. But the composer, my dear friend David Sisco, had written a delightfully complex and entertaining evening of song cycles based on the words of three (present and participating) living poets as well as Christina Rosetti, Gary Snyder and a most amusing collection of posts from the “Missed Connections” section of Craig’s List, which brought the house down. I could not not go. David wrote my segment for baritone Michael Kelly and, if I do say so myself, it was magnificent. Talk about a rewarding travel experience!

Peppe and Novelia welcome us to our new apartment in Sulmona. Famiglia!

Peppe and Novelia welcome us to our new apartment in Sulmona. Famiglia!

Those of you who read my ramblings regularly know that Italy is my favorite country . . . Paris is my favorite city . . . New York City is home . . . and everything else is gravy. What a year to have experienced all of it!

I don’t know yet what 2015 will hold beyond two already planned trips to Abruzzo, but it will be hard to beat 2014.

A Medici "selfie" taken from a window in Santo Stefano

A Medici “selfie” taken from a window in Santo Stefano

So I’ll be back in January with more, but for now I wish for all of you good travels, both near and far, easy writing and the best of holidays!


Buon viaggio!

Tags: Abruzzo, Carnegie Hall, Italy, New York City, Paris, Sulmona, travel

The 2015 Abruzzo Trip: Save the Date!

Monday, December 1, 2014 | Category: Travel Tips



Forte e gentile. — Primo Levi, describing Abruzzo and its people.


The details are still being worked out, but enough people are asking me about the 2015 trip to Abruzzo (my new home away from home) that I thought I’d better get out some information.

There are only 8 seats available on this one (plus we four new residents), for a total of 12 travelers, so please get your reservations in early once the trip is formally announced.

Here are the details as we know them so far:



July 10 – 19, 2015


6 nights in Sulmona, the beautiful city of Ovid and the 22-arch aqueduct
2 nights in the medieval city of Santo Stefano di Sessanio


Will include two cooking classes; a winery tour; walking tours of Sulmona, Scanno and Santo Stefano; a visit to the Pellino confetti factory; a guided tour of the Celestine Abbey Morronese; a hike up to Rocca Calascio for unforgettable views; and plenty of free time to explore and shop on your own.


Airport transfers plus all ground transportation on the tour
Breakfast daily
5 lunches with wine
5 dinners with wine
5 “aperitivi” with wine and nibbles


Complete details will be published before the end of the year.
We had a great time in Umbria last year — Abruzzo will knock your calzini off.
I guarantee it!

Buon viaggio!

Adventures in #Italy

Thursday, October 9, 2014 | Category: Travel Stories


You may have the universe if I may have italy. — Guiseppe Verdi


The time is near.

Tim and I and our friends, Louis and Victoria (and their daughter, Ana, who probably thinks her parents and their friends are nuts),

Arrividerci, Roma and Ciao, Sulmona!

Arrividerci, Roma and Ciao, Sulmona!

are about to depart for JFK, then Fiumicino, then hop on the Pronto bus to Torre de Passeri where we will be met by our new Italian family.

I have brought all kinds of things for the kitchen and the bathroom to make the apartment more comfortable for our future renters. They seem important now, but will probably turn out to be irrelevant. English language books and travel guides, towels, salt and pepper grinders, binoculars, cold medicines, naproxen, bandages, ear swabs, color-safe shampoo, toothpaste. Oh my God, what the hell am I doing? Buying things I can’t say in Italian, which I somehow think will be cheaper over here. I am a wreck. On the other hand, I have to do something.

Last week it was raining in #Sulmona. Over the weekend, it turned back to summer, with temps in the 80s. But being Sulmona, it could snow while we’re there. How to pack? I haven’t a clue. I’m going with what I’ve laid out on the bed, minus a few things I already took away. Tim, of course, has not thought about packing yet . . .

I will be posting our adventures on my Facebook page, so follow me if you like. I’m hoping to have a surprise every day.

 Buon viaggio a tutti!

Defying Gravity: Calder at the #PEM

Saturday, September 13, 2014 | Category: Uncategorized


I wish I had thought of that. — Albert Einstein, upon viewing the synthesis of science and poetry, pattern and balance, chance and humor in Calder’s work in 1943  


When I lived in New York City in the ‘80s, I often walked up to the Whitney Museum at Madison and 75th just to spend some time with Calder’s astonishing Circus. An act of pure imagination, the Circus was wrought from all manner of materials — yarn, wire, cloth, buttons, string — and was, for me, the epitome of Calder’s playfulness. I would watch the documentary running in the background (shot by Jean Painleve in 1955) over and over, which showed Calder unpacking the elements from two large black suitcases, setting up the rings, carefully putting the head of the lion tamer into the lion’s mouth, ushering the elephants and dog-laden horse around the ring, spotting the trapeze artists and generally acting like a big, galoompfy kid.

Little Face, 1962 (c) 2014 Calder Foundation

Little Face, 1962 (c) 2014 Calder Foundation

What I didn’t know then was that Calder was actually a trained mechanical engineer and that all of his works — no matter how playful and simplistic they seem — are serious statements about his interpretation of the avant-garde movement of the day. For him, that meant objects in motion, combined with technical skill and an uncanny understanding of performance, shadow and position and how they all operate in space. By doing what he did, he absolutely revolutionized the concept of public sculpture.

When I was invited to attend a press preview recently for the new exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum (#PEM) in Salem, MA, I jumped at the chance. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic opened on September 6 and will run through January 4, 2015. The PEM is the exclusive East Coast venue for this major Calder exhibition and was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in collaboration with the Calder Foundation. It brings together 40 sculptures by this most influential and innovative artist and includes mobiles (which hang from above and move), stabiles (which are anchored from the bottom and sometimes move) and maquettes (models for larger pieces) made between the 1930s and the late 1960s. These curvilinear creations can alternately be stirred into motion by air currents (or water) or stand strong but gracefully in public places.

Alexander Calder, who was in Paris when it was the best time to be in Paris (in

La Grande vitesse, 1969 (c) 2014 Calder Foundation Grand Rapids, MI

La Grande vitesse, 1969 (c) 2014 Calder Foundation
Grand Rapids, MI

the 1920s), was influenced by some of the (now) great avant-gardists. In fact, it was Marcel Duchamp who coined the word “mobile” and the Dadist Jean Arp who created “stabile.” The words simply didn’t exist before. And, following the lead of Piet Mondrian, you will not find any green in any of Calder’s sculptural works. Ever!

Calder was born in Pennsylvania to a family of accomplished sculptors. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering, he went to Paris as a young man and came back to the United States shortly after the outbreak of WWII in Europe. But what he learned there in the epicenter of the Abstract-Constructivist movement changed him forever.

In the ‘40s and ‘50s, Calder produced some of his most career-defining work, wherein linear elements and open shapes replaced solid volumes, and flat planes replaced three-dimensional volumes. Through the innovative use of sheet metal and wire, Calder created pieces both small and monumental, with recurring themes such as linearity, dimensionality, biomorphic forms and the tension between mass and weightlessness. From the mid-‘50s on until his death in 1976, Calder worked with 1/4” steel in order to construct larger, more durable and ambitious stabiles that were frequently commissioned for public spaces.

This is en eye-popping exhibit that I urge you to see — even if you think Calder is pure puffery. He isn’t. The show has been beautifully curated to allow for space and time to contemplate each piece. The way you look at a piece the first time is not the way you will see it after it moves a bit. Things are constantly changing, as in life.

Southern Cross, 1963. (c) 2014, Calder Foundation

Southern Cross, 1963. (c) 2014, Calder Foundation

Calder apparently named his pieces after they were completed and created them without deep philosophical intention. The names are merely evocative, not literal descriptions. His works are genius pieces of engineering and beautiful theatrical performances, presented with a backdrop of perfectly suited music.


So go, and don’t miss the shadows . . . revel in the science of what he’s created . . . experience the guilty pleasure of liking Calder. It’s revolutionary.

Click here for more information about the PEM show.

Buon viaggio!

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Know David Sisco!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Category: Travel Tips


Save the Date: Friday, November 14 @ 8 pm

Carnegie Hall. No, really!


Announcing an evening of American Song by David Sisco, which will lead off with a suite of poems called “Italianate”  written by somebody named Linda Dini Jenkins and sung by Baritone Michael Kelly. You won’t want to miss this spectacular evening of music.


David Sisco’s works have been heard at concerts  produced by Friends & Enemies of New Music, New  Music New York, Joy in Singing, Lyric Fest, SongFest,  and SongFusion. An award-winning composer, he has  been commissioned by the Manhattan Girls Chorus and the Mirari Brass Quintet. This concert includes the premiere of four song cycles, including texts by three living poets: Danita Geltner, Linda Dini Jenkins, and Jeff Walt. It is presented in loving memory of Mary Schroyer.

Tickets can be purchased at / CarnegieCharge 212-247-7800 / Box Office at 57th and Seventh.

Tickets are $30, $40, $50


Hope to see you there!


Buon viaggio!

Perfect Summer Days/Memories of #Italy

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Category: Reflections, Travel Stories


Ed. note: We’ve been having a lot of them lately here in New England. Reminds me of a perfect day in Italy not so long ago . . .





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


(c) Linda Dini jenkins, 2009, Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband


Buon viaggio!


Tags: Italy

House Hunters International Not: Our Adventure in #Sulmona

Thursday, June 26, 2014 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing


Sulmo Mihi Patria Est. — Ovid, some time after 43 BC

OMG — we bought a place in Italy! — The four of us, May 2014



Dove siamo . . . c. James Martin, Europe for Visitors

Dove siamo . . . c. James Martin, Europe for Visitors

First, Hannibal devastated the region around Sulmona, a tidy historical community of some 20,000+ residents tucked into the center of Italy’s Abruzzo region. That was back in 211 BC. Now — not to bury the lead too much — we’re about to. Well, not devastate it so much as take up residence there for a few weeks every year.

Those of you who know us know that Tim and I have been making empty threats about moving to Italy for years. As a full-time move is in no way practical at this point in our lives, we did the next best thing: threw in with some good friends and bought an apartment in a small city that we have all come to love.

Gentle reader, it has taken me more time to buy shoes than it took me to consent to this purchase. The four of us went thinking that this was just a shopping trip. No way would we buy. Our specs were firm: 2 – 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, center of the city . . . And then our friend Novelia happened. In fact, it is Novelia’s fault that we ever came back to Sulmona.

We traveled together to the city of Ovid and confetti four years ago. Our host made some

The famous confetti, candy coated almonds in dazzling arrangements

The famous confetti, candy coated almonds in dazzling arrangements

suggestions about what to see in the region for a day trip and said we should go to the nearby Abbey (Badia Di S Spirito Al Morronese). And so we piled into three cars (there were 12 of us) and drove to the Abbey. Once there, I went to the office and asked for an English-speaking guide. She could just as easily have been on a coffee break, but out came the force of nature named Novelia Giannantonio and the rest, as they say, is history.

Novelia gave us an unbelievable tour of the Abbey and then she and I kept in touch via e-mail and telephone over the years. Something just struck between us and we both knew we’d be fast friends. But it was when she started to talk about her lasagna and her spaghetti alla chitarra (“guitar”), a specialty of Abruzzo, that I started to yearn to go back.

Novelia, with her magic chitarra

Novelia, with her magic chitarra

Novelia rents out an apartment on the top floor of her palazzo, which is just on the edge of town behind the Cattedrale di San Panfilo. La Casa del Cuore is a comfortable two bedroom, two bath apartment with a good kitchen and lots of space for relaxing or for extra guests. So we stayed with her this Spring and she made some introductions to properties that were not broker-represented. For one insane moment, we considered buying two of them in the same building. Then, coming to our senses, we decided the next day that one (the larger of the two) was probably just fine for our first toe-dipping experience into the joys and responsibilities of foreign home ownership. It is a testament to the apartment’s owner and renovator — Novelia’s architect brother-in-law, Evangelista Carlo Alberto — that we bought something that did not exactly meet our specifications. But it was too beautifully finished, too finely crafted with local wood and stone — not to mention those vaulted ceilings and that great front door — that we decided to opt for quality and craftsmanship over the American ideal of what a two bedroom apartment should be. So, just one bathroom, and a “living room” that is not big enough to swing a cat in, but Italians live in their piazze, anyway, so we will adjust.

The main piazza, Piazza Garibaldi, was actually restored by Carlo and was featured in

Piazza Garibaldi, among the mountains

Piazza Garibaldi, among the mountains

the George Clooney movie The American. In fact, the entire pivotal scene takes place there during Sulmona’s famous Easter event, La Madonna Che Scappa (the Madonna who runs, when she sees her risen son across the piazza). Lots of drama here, folks!

So I can hear you all now: why Sulmona? Why not Florence or Rome or Venice or Milan or Lake Como or . . . Well, because you did not contribute, my friends. No, seriously, prices in the north are much higher than in central or southern Italy, for one thing. But for another, we are on a mission to introduce Americans to Abruzzo and, therefore, to Sulmona. L’Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo, was once a beautiful city and will, God willing, be resurrected by the promised contributions of the Italian government which to date have not been forthcoming. So Sulmona is, I believe, the premier city in the region for now.

Casa Dolce Casa — we're on the second floor with the balconies!

Casa Dolce Casa — we’re on the second floor with the balconies!

The nearest beach is Pescara, on the Adriatic Coast and is reachable in 50 minutes. The nearest ski resort is Roccaraso, 25 minutes from the center of Sulmona. It is the largest ski resort in Italy outside of the Alps, with over 100 km of ski slopes. And how can you not love a city with a Roman aqueduct that dates back to 1256 running through it? Or that hosts a medieval Giostra (jousting competition) in the main square? There are music festivals year-round and in November, a film festival. They are famous for candy, for heaven’s sake. The Abruzzesse food is second to none. And the Wikitravel site says there are “plenty of shoe shops.” What’s not to love?

Better put Sulmona on your list. The Australians and New Zealanders have already discovered it and are moving in. The Dutch travel down the Adriatic Coast and both Le Marche and Abruzzo are regular destinations. We feel a bit like pioneers here, and are in incredibly good hands with Novelia and her family. We are lucky.

You’ll hear a lot more from me about Sulmona and its environs in these pages. We go back in a few months to close and get set up. I long to be there next Easter, too. In a few years maybe, we’ll make a plan to spend several months at a time there. For now, though, we’ll be offering it for rent when we’re not there. Stay tuned for details. And be prepared for something very special if you go.


Buon viaggio!






Foodie Poetry: With Apologies to Ogden Nash

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | Category: Reflections


No man is lonely while eating spaghetti: It requires so much attention. — Christopher Marley

When I attended the Massachusetts Poetry Festival recently, I  took a class on writing poetry about food. I’m off to Italy soon. What else did you think would happen?

c. 2010 J.H-M and CultureChoc

c. 2010 J.H-M and CultureChoc

‘Talian Food

I would not eat the sauteed eel

Not the calamari, not the scungil’

I never knew why clams were food

And oysters never seemed that good

Mackerel, a dark and oily fish,

Like trippa, never graced my dish

What kind of ‘talian can I be

when slimy things repulses me?

I crave the pasta, fichi, rice

And melanzane’s always nice

Gorgonzola makes me happy

While nociola turns me sappy

Blood orange juice is great to start

A day at the porchetta cart

Rich prosciutto, macchiato

You eat slime — I’d rather not-o.

Buon viaggio!