Burnt by the Tuscan Sun by Francesca Maggi

Burnt by the Tuscan Sun by Francesca MaggiFrancesca Maggi’s Burnt by the Tuscan Sun: True Stories of Life in Italy is a series of well-crafted, funny essays that offer the reader an inside look at what it’s really like to live in the Bel Paese.

You’re not going to find flowery passages about the quaintness of restoring a Tuscan villa here, but you will read about some of Italy’s unique ways from its customer service and mail delivery, erm, techniques to the reverence of La Mamma and when it is perfectly appropriate to bend the law — and when it’s not.

Maggi expertly weaves her own experiences with some of the most widespread stereotypes about Italian life (many of which happen to be based firmly in fact) and creates a delightful read that pokes fun at a country that, despite it all, never takes itself too seriously. Moreover, the illustrations by Gianni Falcone (Gianfalco) do an excellent job of telling stories with few if any words.

Maggi’s down-to-earth writing style (which readers may already know from her popular blog Burnt by the Tuscan Sun) is engaging and addictive, and if you’ve ever dreamed of living la dolce vita, this book is a must-read. Burnt by the Tuscan Sun will have expats in Italy nodding along in agreement through much of it, but potential expats just may benefit the most from seeing a side of Italy one won’t get from a vacation or guidebook. Even those who grew up in Italian households outside of Italy are bound to get insight into where some of their relatives’ beliefs and superstitions came from.

I give it five espresso cups out of five:5 espresso cups out of five!

Sure there are lots of generalizations in the book, and some things discussed I’ve heard about but never personally experienced (could be regional differences or just plain good luck on my part), but the reader should take this book for what it presents itself to be — one woman’s lifelong love-hate relationship with a truly special country and its native citizens.

Overall, this is just a really fun read. Highly recommended.



If you’d like to purchase Burnt by the Tuscan Sun, you can follow the link to Amazon.com, check it out on Amazon (UK), or order directly from the author (PayPal link on right column) — your copy will be signed and be at a discount if you order directly from the author.


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99 Beans of Wisdom to “Burnt by the Tuscan Sun by Francesca Maggi”
  1. 12.27.2011

    As kids our family went quite often to Italy. One of my first memories is waking up early morning in Venice and hearing the melodious conversation of two old Italian ladies. For me Italian sounds like music.

    michelle Reply:

    A beautiful language indeed — totally agree ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. 12.27.2011

    My very first minutes in Italy were not auspicious. Upon arriving at the Bari airport the customs agents tore my whole suitcase apart and I was barely able to get everything back in and close it. The school where I would be teaching had sent a student to pick me up at the airport and his car was so small my suitcase wouldn’t fit in the trunk. The rather unfriendly fellow, quite obviously put out about being elected to pick me up, dumped me off in front of the apartment building that was to be my home and said, here are the keys, goodbye! I didn’t know what floor I lived on, how to work the elevator, who I would be living with, where the school was…
    Things soon got even worse, but eventually got better…obviously, because that was in 1990 and I’m still here!

    michelle Reply:

    That is downright scary, Saretta! Glad you stuck it out ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 12.27.2011

    My first two trips to Italy didn’t really give me any particular positive feelings about Italy: the first time I set foot in the country was at age 15 on a schooltrip to Rome…..a lot of churches…..too many for a 15 year old; second time interrailing at 18….the problem wasn’t Italy though but rather the heavy rucksack and the tent….
    Subconsciously however these trips must have made a good impression, because I’ve been living in Italy for 10 years now!!!

    michelle Reply:

    Too funny that sometimes even the less traditionally beautiful memories somehow grab a hold of us….

  4. Rebecca Gensel

    My best memory of my first trip to Italy is being at the Baur B and B in Acqui Terme. Sitting on the terrace, looking out over the hills, I came to understand what true relaxation was. Disclaimer: My state of relaxation may have been influenced by Micha bringing out several bottles of red wine and saying “Becky, try this one!” “Now try this one, see how they are different?” An amazing time in an amazing place!

    michelle Reply:

    Oh I’ll second the praise for the Baur B&B…Micha’s passion for wine is contagious indeed!

  5. 12.27.2011

    My first memory of Italy is when we landed at the Rome airport only 6 months ago. It was my first trip to Italy, fulfilling a life-long dream. I remember seeing the beautiful city of Rome through tear-filled eyes and I kept thinking over and over to myself, “I’m finally home.”

    My husband and I are living in Greece at the moment, but will be going back to Italy for good in a few months. To my great satisfaction, he fell just as deeply in love with the country as I am.

    Very happy I discovered your blog. I’m looking forward to some enjoyable reading.


    michelle Reply:

    Happy to see you here, Kate! Hope you get enjoy your time back in Italy ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Michelle W

    My first memory of Italy was at a rest stop on the way to Venice. We ordered Funghi w/ pappardelle and it was to die for. Considering that most American rest stops have burger-this and chicken-that, I was ready to move in.

    michelle Reply:

    Italy does have some pretty amazing roadside food, I agree!

    Francesca Maggi Reply:

    fantastico! I’m always telling people that Italian hwy stops aren’t *anything* like the U.S. versions!!

  7. Tina Giamotti

    My first memory/experience of Italy was on my first trip there in 1988. My sister and I got to Santa Lucia station in Venice before the first vaporetto started service. It was still dark out but nearing the daylight hour. We boarded the first boat and while others were huddled inside the interior part of the boat we made our way up front to the bow, outside (September but cool in the morning) and proceeded to be hit with Venice’s magical qualities full on. Lumbering down the Grand Canal my sister and I very well may have had our noses in the air for we were smelling the sweet air of fresh bread baking and coffee brewing while the lanterns along the canal and on the ancient palazzi welcomed us into the dreamland fantasy that lures in first time visitors as if she was a sultry siren. Of course since then, we know the reality that is Venice and Italy over all. I’ve been back to Venice 2 more times since and various regions of Italy during my last 12 trips there, all within the last six years. To put my own take on Gertrude Stein’s quote: ” America is my country but Rome is my hometown”.

    michelle Reply:

    Beautiful descriptions of the sensations, Tina xx

  8. Tabatha Seasock

    I would love for my first trip to Italy to be a overall feeling of peacefulness. I want to capture the beauty it has and the lifestyle it portrays and inherit it as my own.

    michelle Reply:

    I wish that for you as well, Tabatha!

  9. Season Swartz

    Vedi Napoli e poi muori. This means see Naples and then die, which refers to the beauty and danger all at once. Naples can be overwhelming, looking out at the bay with the majestic Vesuvius looming overhead and the awe inspiring Amalfi coastline punctuated by the islands of Ischia and Capri is enough to take your breath away (or die). The city is also like any big city a bit dangerous with its street urchins, the teenagers trying to rob you, the vendors trying to trick you, and the underbelly workings of the Camorra all ready to take from you, life from you, (and kill you). Napoli is full of life, color, passion, and chaos. There are lots of negative aspects of the city but for every negative there are plenty more positives. The chaos of the cars and Vespas ignoring traffic rules and dodging pedestrians on narrow alleys is just the Neapolitan way of dealing in modern times with ancient ways of life. The history of the city is layered and in your face all around you as you walk down the street laid out by ancient Greeks and Romans, long before the invention of cars, but they deal with what they have and they make it work. They donโ€™t preserve the history as much as they live in the history, it is a part of their world and their everyday lives. The traditions and stories or folklore have been passed down from generation to generation and the children today are using the knowledge of their ancestors mixed with modern thoughts to live in a palimpsest world. One thing is for sure, Napoli is always interesting.
    Trudging along looking down at where your feet are meeting the cobblestones, making sure not to walk into trash or dog crap, itโ€™s easy to lose site of the beauty and mystery of the city; but look up and there in front of you is some amazing church or an ancient Roman amphitheatre, or the remains of a Grecian marketplace, or the first Christian baptistery in the Western world! Iโ€™ve heard Naples described as a beautiful woman in a dirty dress or as I like to tell my visitors from the United States, โ€œHere is Bella Napoli, donโ€™t look downโ€. When I say down, I mean donโ€™t look at the trash on the streets, the crap and the graffiti, the underbelly or under the table workings of the Camorra. Look up at the architecture, at the Mediterranean sun, at the lush vegetation, at the impressive Volcano; look up at the smiling, passionate, heartfelt faces. The window to the soul is through the eyes, not the toes. Donโ€™t look down.

    michelle Reply:

    Lovely, just lovely ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. 12.27.2011

    my first memory of italy was arriving at night in the dark in venice and as we hobbled around with our luggage looking for our apartment the smell of the sea and dampness reminded me of the pirates of the caribbean ride at disneyland. it was so rich and earthy and wonderful. i also remember someone hanging out their second story window, yelling down to us if we needed help and then coming down to look at our map to show us the way. it was such a warm gesture to help us out like that.

    michelle Reply:

    Very sweet, Leslie; glad you were treated to a welcoming spirit in Venezia when you arrived ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Peter

    My first memory after landing in Rome as a ten year old was seeing cobblestone roads. An extremely unusual way of building streets when you’re used to asphalt.

    michelle Reply:

    Definitely! Fun to walk on for the first time as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. 12.27.2011

    my move vivid memory of italy would be coming around the corner to the piazza de trevi and thinking to myself “shouldn’t i be hearing the water splashing in the fountain by now” and then seeing the fountain sitting there empty. it was monday morning so the fountain had been drained for cleaning and coin collection. i had to come back around later that day to see the fountain in all its glory.

    michelle Reply:

    That experience is *so* Italian…not hitting something at the “right” time. Glad you could make it back!

  13. 12.27.2011

    Vivid and recurring….the beauty of the men at the airport in Rome

    michelle Reply:

    HA! Something tells me Bill’s first memory is slightly…different…..

  14. Julie

    The first time I went to Italy, I was a student on a student’s budget. I took the overnight train from Geneva to arrive in Florence in the morning saving a night’s hotel expense. When we arrived we went straight to a cafe. I had never has such incredible espresso or biscotti. I was hooked! It was the first of a multitude of eating and drinking experiences I would have on my first trip to Italy. I was overjoyed with the food, the wine, the sightseeing (the places, people, art and fashion) that were found in Florence.

    michelle Reply:

    Lovely, Julie; there really is nothing like an Italian coffee IMHO ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. Heather / Snacktive

    My first memory of Italy is from this Christmas when my love gave me two books on Tuscany. I wasn’t expecting them at all. I’ve never been to Italy before but I mentioned to him that I want to move to the Tuscan hills to take cooking classes and paint on a patio overlooking the scenery. It’s so special to me that he got me the books because it shows that he believes in my dreams and wants me to do whatever makes me happy. I hope that when I go, he will come along.

    michelle Reply:

    Aw that is very sweet, Heather; have you ever read Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson? I think you’d love it!

  16. Amy P.

    I haven’t been, but when I do go, my first memory will be (knowing me) the food.

    michelle Reply:

    Haha I know the feeling, Amy!

  17. Sue

    My first memory is of beautiful Sorrento. A beautiful town along the southern coast from which you can do the Amalfi. I could sit in the Piazza Tasso all day and enjoy. This year’s memory is from New Year’s eve 2011 -Fireworks at the Colosseum in Rome-spectacular!

    michelle Reply:

    How fun, Sue! Buon 2012!

  18. Joe

    My first memory of Italy was landing in Venice and thinking that everyone driving is crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

    michelle Reply:

    I have a feeling your memory is shared by many, Joe ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. One of my favorite first memories of Italy takes place after a hectic journey across the Atlantic to the peace and beauty of Lake Como. Sitting on a quiet pebbled beach in Varenna watching a grandpa and grandson preparing a fire to roast chestnuts, I lift my eyes to the rippling lake and majestic mountains, already dusted with snow, beyond, and take a deep breath as I decompress from the journey. Aaaah, Italy!

    And once again, we’re in Italy now – tossing Auguri’s to all we pass, enjoying the never-ending beauty of the Bel Paese – http://musicandmarkets.blogspot.com/2011/12/soak-with-view-in-tuscany.html

    michelle Reply:

    Just lovely, Anne; thanks for sharing!

  20. 01.02.2012

    I remember going to Trieste to visit a schoolfriend who had returned home to Trieste from Australia. I loved being in Italy, but Trieste was going to be the springboard to the rest of Europe. My friend and I had poured over the Lonely Planet book and I was ready to board the train with my Eurail pass and I burst into tears. I did not want to leave Italy! It was such an intense feeling of … loss.

    michelle Reply:

    Italy has a special way of provoking strong reactions — both good and not so good. Thanks for sharing, Jo ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Susan V

    One of my first and most prized memories of Italy was being a child visiting my family in Calabria…after dinner my Zio would call the local bar and a boy would arrive on a bicycle delivering “Granita” di Cafe, Fragola or Limone…all con Panna! Oh if I could just taste it again!

    michelle Reply:

    Oooh that sounds quite tasty indeed, Susan!

  22. 01.02.2012

    One of my earliest memories was having my First Communion at the very same church in Verona in which my mother was baptized and in which my parents married. Because I had missed First Communion due to a move from the U.S. to Italy, the priest at the parish allowed me to have First Communion all by myself. I remember walking from my Nonna’s house to the church, with everyone in the streets wishing me luck and telling my Nonna how beautiful I was. During the ceremony I processed in with the priest and sat on a special chair near the altar.

    Afterwards, there was a HUGE dinner at a restaurant in the mountain . . . and we ate all day.

    michelle Reply:

    Wow, what a special memory, Maria; thank you for sharing it!

  23. Judd Mellinger-Blouch

    My wife and I went to Italy for our 25th wedding anniversary. Our entry into the country was unremarkable, a cattle herding experience through baggage claim, customs, and finding our driver. But as we rode through the hazy, humid September morning, passing the perfunctory factories and warehouses and office buildings and unable to speak with our driver, I remember thinking, “I’m in Italy — the most romantic country in the world — with the love of my life. How much more perfect could this be?” A couple of hours later we were on the Spanish steps, drinking from the fountain, walking to the Parthenon, eating real Italian food, drinking my first glass of real Italian vin rose, and finding out just how much more perfect it could be.

    michelle Reply:

    Aw how sweet, Judd; thanks for sharing!

  24. Carolyn Rovere

    Watching our 1965 Pontiac Tempest being unloaded from the oceanliner we had just disembarked. I was only 3 years old but this is still a vivd memory seeing the car teeteringfrom cables as it was lowered to the ground! We then dove to my grandmothers home where we spent the next 6 months. So many lovely memories since then…I need to make more soon!

    michelle Reply:

    What a cool first memory! Thanks for sharing, Carolyn ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Mary Repasky

    At first, landing in Naples just seemed like any other US city. THEN we started our drive to the Amalfi Coast. My first memory was of the fragrance from the combination of the native trees and the ocean. Instant tranquility.

    michelle Reply:

    Mmmm I can almost smell it ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Jill

    I will never forget the first time I arrived in Italy – in Florence – and the immediate feeling of coming home to a place that felt right. I did not speak the language, but knew I had to get back. I had arrived to meet a university group for a six-week course I was taking and after setting my bags down at the pensione and coming back out, as my feet hit the pavement I knew something special was happening. As the weeks progressed, I knew I had to come back at some point and thought a language course and brief internship would seal the deal…little did I realize that going on 16 years later, I would still be here!

    michelle Reply:

    Lovely Jill; glad you were able to get back…and then build a life here ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Laura

    My first Italian memory was in 1980. I was traveling in Europe with a college group and we came into Italy by train from Switzerland. We arrived at the Milan station and had a few minutes to wander about. I ordered a cappuccino at a bar near the station and it was the most beautiful, rich, creamy, delectable thing I had ever experienced. I was twenty years old and up until then my idea of coffee came from those little tins of “International Coffee.” One sip of the real thing and I was hooked – or ruined. I think my love affair with Italy started then.

    michelle Reply:

    Mmmm something so special about Italian coffee and cappuccino from a bar…..

  28. Linda S.

    My first memory of Italy is from a trip 3 years ago. We visited my mother’s mother’s town, saw the house where she was born, and met a LOT of cousins who remembered the last visits by their American cousins, as far back as the 1970s, in great detail.
    Everyone was so warm and welcoming; a distant relative remembered a visit by my great-aunt there in 1959! The town hall offices were not nearly as efficient as the people were warm, however; it was difficult (and still is) getting replies to requests for birth records.

    michelle Reply:

    From what I’ve heard (and experienced), town officials can be totally hit or miss. Maybe your town’s administration will change, and you’ll get a “hit” sooner rather than later ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Nonna Helen

    My father was born in Italy and came to America in 1920. Growing up I heard many stories about his love for Italy and its beauty. As a child I had no interest in visiting Italy and didn’t understand why he left if he loved it so much. As I grew older my sister asked me to go with her on vacation to Italy. I told her I had no interest I wanted to go to Paris. She said she would come to Paris if I would go to Italy with her. I agreed. While travelling through Italy a feeling came over me that “I belonged”. I was in love with Italy. That is my first memory. I totally understand what my father was saying. I have returned several times since then. It’s my favorite place in the world.

    michelle Reply:

    What a wonderful connection you’ve made aligning your father’s memories and your own ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. 01.03.2012

    Growing up Italian American, I thought I knew Italian food. The first clue that I was clueless was when I ordered “insalata di mare” at a dockside trattoria in the fishing village of Puzzuoli (NA). What arrived was a plate of cold white and purple rubbery things in a puddle of olive oil. A little chopped parsley sprinkled over it. The purple octopus suckers did me in!! I love it now, of course ๐Ÿ™‚

    michelle Reply:

    Mmmm insalata di mare in Italy is one of life’s greatest pleasures indeed….

  31. Domenica

    My first memory of Italy is flying through the sky on a clear August day in 2000 over the terra cotta roofs as we were approaching the airport in Florence and being overcome with a feeling of home.

    michelle Reply:

    Lovely, Domenica — I love the terra cotta rooftops!

  32. 01.06.2012

    I visited Italy for the first time last November, and I have been dreaming of my return ever since. In fact, I have “plans” to return this coming July for a 6 week stay in Sorrento. I am hoping to make these dreams come true…I’m currently taking a course to become TEFL certified, should things go well while I’m there and I decide to stay.

    My favorite memory of Italy is being invited to meet for coffee with some locals. They messaged me, meet us in Tasso Square (Sorrento) at 6pm, and we’ll go have a caffe. You don’t get those meetings in America, or they are few and far between. In NYC, everybody is on the go, rush rush, coffee cart coffee in a paper cup…in Italy, they take moments out to enjoy, to savor, and be with one another. Not only in the way they treat coffee, but in all aspects of their life. They truly have their values and priorities in order.

    Viva Italia!

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you have many more coffee meetings, Samantha; best of luck!

  33. 01.06.2012

    Would LOVE to read this book and am sure I will relate to many of her stories, even though I’m in France. If I don’t win, I’ll be buying a copy. Thanks Michelle!

    michelle Reply:

    I think you’re right, CL — something tells me France and Italy have a *lot* in common on this topic ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. 01.06.2012

    I was 19 years old doing the backpacking thing with my best friend, when we arrived in Rome at Termini with absolutely no idea where to go. This sweet (and stereotypical) Italian grandma swooped us up, took us to the room she rented and then proceed to give us a lesson in safety which was highlighted by her demonstrating how to hide money by tucking in snuggly in her brasserie. Of course this was all in Italian! I was hooked on Italy from that moment on.

    Francesca Maggi Reply:

    Wow! That’s pretty impressive, I’ve only recalled the say…’less genteel’ gentlemen who escort you to seedy apartments at double the price!!! You’re entree’ to such a big city sounds wonderful!

    michelle Reply:

    Ha! What an introduction you had, Andi! Thx for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. 01.06.2012

    First memory of Italy. I could say leaning against the window of a bus, watching the gold light after an icy overnight trip through the Alps. Bella, yes. But it’s being sick as a dawg on that bus & not quite believing that this was going to be my first memory of Italy. (“Oh great, *this* is my first memory of Italy.”) The bus pulled in to Cortina d’Ampezzo bus parking to give everyone a 30-40 minute break on the way to Venice. I walked to a farmacia a few steps away.

    My first encounter with an Italian was a solicitous shop owner who took the time to understand my French + my phrasebook Italian + pantomime. He pegged it: the first time in years that I’d had motion sickness. He got the Dramamine-a, put in a small bottle of a stomach settling potion (he wouldn’t allow me to pay for that), a scrip for a Venice farmacia if I didn’t get better fast (I did), a little bottle of mineral water.

    When I looked into the bag after I returned to the bus, there were pretty postcards & a polka-dot navy ribbon-bow on a barrette. These were popular in France but I couldn’t afford even one. (It was 1974 & a terrible world-wide recession & I was working 3 jobs + going to school in France. I was poor. A thoughtful, anonymous person had paid for my school-sponsored trip to Venice. I had less than $40 spending money for 2 weeks.)

    I had long hair & loved ribbons, combs, barrettes, hair ornaments of all kinds. I might have looked at the darling small display in the front of the shop but I don’t remember. I mean, I was sick. But maybe the man saw my still-teenager self look longingly at them. I didn’t see the presents in the bottom of the bag until I got on the bus & we pulled out. So it was for no reason than “Welcome to Italy.” I never looked back: Italy was my favorite place forever.

    Thank you for asking…this episode meant more to me than I recalled. xoxo

    Francesca Maggi Reply:

    what a terrific memory – as I write in the book, the magnanimous italians…

    michelle Reply:

    So happy that you’ve shared with us, Susan. So very, very lovely xx

  36. Chris

    My first memory was spending Christmas with my soon-to-be wife and her family at their home on Garda Lake. Breathtaking scenery, and for the first time in all my world travels I appreciated my homeland. ๐Ÿ™‚

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds like a wonderful way to spend Christmas, Chris! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. 01.06.2012

    Can’t wait to read this! I’ve been dreaming of Italy for years and by now I’ve dreamed up a very idyllic version of what life will be like as an ex-pat. I grew up with a boisterous Italian family, but no tales of life across the pond. I’m guessing they weren’t as enchanting as I’d imagine back in the 1800s.
    Have always enjoyed following your posts for a glimpse into your world! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Francesca Maggi Reply:

    your life as an expert can certainly be idyllic, as long as you ignore the traffic (as a pedestrian or a driver)! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you enjoy the book, Rochael; it’s a great look into what living in Italy is like on a daily basis.

  38. 01.06.2012

    My first visit to Italia was in 1969……a long time ago…to Firenze….we stayed in a monastery at SS Annunciata, their first married couple ever!!!….we had a room twice the size of our entire NYC apartment, with huge (monastery scale) antique furniture and two single beds…..
    My daughter is now married and living as an expat in Ferrara….
    I love Italia

    Francesca Maggi Reply:

    I’m surprised they let you in! When my family visited my aunt’s convent in 1970, my dad had to go sleep elsewhere!

    michelle Reply:

    I was thinking the same as Francesca — you two must have looked particularly trustworthy haha ๐Ÿ˜‰

  39. my very first minutes in Italy. Although I have been there many times, my first memories of Italy were not in Italy, they were in the homes of my grandparents. Like going to my grandmother’s house on Easter day, and witnessing the strange pastries she made with eggs in dough baskets. Or going to my other grandparents’ house for Christmas; and while they had a Christmas tree, it was insignificant. More importantly was the presepio that my grandfather made. He used ceramic figures made in Italy ( the remnants of that tribe I now own), dolls, cowboys, stuffed animals and copper stallions all surrounding the tiny baby in a manger. These glimpses of another culture, the place where all of my family began, these are what led me to my first trip to Italy in 1989 to meet cousins that waited for me, and had been waiting for someone in our family for over 80 years to come back and talk!

    michelle Reply:

    How wonderful that you’ve been able to connect with family, Mimi; thanks for sharing your memories ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. 01.06.2012

    Have enjoyed Francesca’s blog in the past and would love to read her book! Grazie e Bella Befana a te!

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season, Melissa ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. John

    My wife and I had the best meal we have ever had at Ristorante Calabria Bella in Cosenza, next to the ancient Duomo in the medieval city. After the meal, in my halting Italian, I told the owner that is was difficult for me to tell him how truly great his food had been. We hugged and he sent us back to our hotel with a bottle of Calabrese wine, made from Galliopo grapes from 850 B.C. I felt as if I had truly connected with antiquity, that I was no longer isolated in the New World. The next morning we drove to Lago and I touched my great grandfather’s and great grandmother’s tombstone. It filled me with joy.

    michelle Reply:

    Mmmm what a tasty experience, John ๐Ÿ™‚

  42. Beth

    My first memory of Italy is from when I studied in Siena when I was in college studing Art and Photography. I remember arriving and realizing exactly why the paint color from my art class was named ‘Siena’. To this day it’s my favorite brown to paint with! Tuscany is amazing!

    michelle Reply:

    The color and the town are both lovely indeed, Beth; thanks for sharing!

  43. Pat

    My first memory of Italy was looking out my hotel window in Rome and thinking I had stepped back in time. I had finally arrived in the homeland!

    michelle Reply:

    So many parts of Italy just feel ancient, don’t they? I mean, I know they are, but even when there are other modern building and conveniences around, sometimes it just *feels* old. Thanks for sharing, Pat!

  44. 01.07.2012

    Excerpt from my blog post of February 26, 2011:

    I had to change trains at the French/Italian border, in Ventimiglia. It was apparent I was in a whole other country – if not on a whole other planet! – the second I stepped off the train. There are a few tell-tale signs you are in Italyโ€ฆ

    1. The policemen are in a cluster, chain-smoking, usually in the vicinity of a sign that says “no smoking,” and making no secret about the fact that they are trying to figure out your figure under that coat.

    2. The train platform has a restroom, smoking lounge, and chapel.

    3. There actually are old ladies in black dresses ready to shake their fist and yell at youโ€ฆloudly. (I still canโ€™t figure out what she thought could have been wrong with my biglietti, biglietti, BIGLIETTI!!!)

    The fact that all these stereotypes actually happened to be true blew my ever-loving mind! Oh my gosh, I was so excited!!! No doubt the fact that I was smiling ear to ear only encouraged the police officers and befuddled the old lady.

    I went inside to get my tickets from there to the Cinque Terre and was similarly thrilled to see lines of passengers yelling and gesticulating at railway employees, who were behind glass and shouting and gesticulating right back. Eeee!!! Here was my chance to finally get to use some of that Italian Iโ€™ve been practicingโ€ฆ

    โ€œCiao. Come sei?โ€ (Hello, how are you?)

    โ€ฆand a man not too dissimilar looking from my dear long-gone grandfather kindly smiled and said, โ€œCiao bella. How-uh can I help-uh you?โ€

    Mmmmmm, I may never leave.

    michelle Reply:

    Yup, you’ve been to Italy Megan ๐Ÿ˜›

  45. mary jones mondo

    my first memory of italy is one of belonging. when feet touched the soil at the airport in rome, i felt such a strong sense of coming home i had an incredible urge to kneel and kiss the soil. the only thing that stopped me doing this was that i was with my two adult children, who would have been mortified. my family comes from italy and i was born and bred in western australia but the cells in my body inherited from my family had come home and they knew it.

    michelle Reply:

    That’s lovely, Mary; hope you get to spend as much time here as you like ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Deirdre

    My first memory of Italy was landing in Milan from Boston. My husband and I spoke almost no Italian. We were exhausted from our overnight flight and I was anxious to get through customs. We couldn’t read the signs so we decided if we just followed everyone else we would find it. Next thing I knew we were in the middle of the airport. Never went through any sort of immigration. I have now been to Italy four times and do not have even ONE stamp in my passport from Italy!

    michelle Reply:

    HA! I also somehow “missed” immigration once either leaving or coming back to Italy. Too funny.

  47. carol

    My husband and I drove into Italy from France both tired and wanting a room and something to eat and drink. No rooms to be found. But finally found a room above a pizza restaurant. We asked where we might find something good to eat and were directed to a restaurant which we found closed. We ended up eating at the pizza restaurant which was owned by a Chinese family. I kinda giggled about that but the food was truly delicious.

    michelle Reply:

    Ha! Glad you ended up with excellent pizza at least!



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake