Entirely the Wrong Witch

It is around 9pm on the last day of October, All Hallow’s Eve. Back home, in America, it is Halloween, and everywhere kids are looking forward to the end of the school day when they can dress up and hit the streets to fill pillowcases with candy begged from the neighbors. Here in Venice, it is simply October 31, the […]

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The Sisters Picchi & the Nobel Prize

Why are there a dozen people crammed into Sorelle Picchi, one of many little salumerie (delis) along Parma’s Via Farini? More to the point, why are none of them ordering three etti of prosciutto, a kilo of pecorino, and a box of homemade pasta from old Claudio, who stands behind the counter carefully bundling up giant wedges of aged parmigiano […]

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Good Night, Sleep Tight…And That’s All

I’m a confirmed one-star hotel man. I get a quirky, self-satisfied thrill every time I snag a railroad narrow room with creaky wood floors, a wobbly chair and table rejected by a finer hotel back in 1963, a bare 20-watt bulb dangling on its wire from the ceiling, and a bathroom down the hall I have to share with the […]

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Bologna the Fat

They call this place “Bologna the Fat.” And for good reason. Every Italian region is justifiably proud of its own cuisine—considers it in fact to be the best in the whole world. But ask any Italian to name just one region, one region in all of Italy, that’s known above all for its culinary prowess and he’ll admit: it’s Emilia-Romagna. […]

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Up the Blue Grotto without a Paddle…or a Boat

It’s the seventh wave that’ll get you. Oceans and seas across the world all craft waves the same way. They come in a simple sequence: each wave is larger and more powerful than the last. This sequence builds in a set cycle: the number of waves in each cycle is seven. And it’s the seventh wave that’ll get you. I’ve […]

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Big Brother Berlusconi

You think Bush has got the U.S. press well tamed (Katrina outrage notwithstanding)? He’s got nothing on Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s wily master of corporate greed-turned-Prime Minster. Back when he got the country’s Top Job, Berlusconi refused calls to divest himself of some his businesses, claming to see no conflict of interest between his and his companies’ holdings and the greater […]

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The Saint & the Sea Monster

The man could hold his own against sea monsters, so they say. He could also exorcise the possessed like nobody’s business. His name was Saint Antonino, and he gave up life as a hermit to tend to the spiritual well being, demonic possessions, miracle granting, pirate attacks, and general carpentry needs of the people of Sorrento. Antonino didn’t even want […]

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The Dangers of Dinner in Sorrento

Sorrento is one of the very few places in Italy where it is easier to eat badly than well. Mark it down to a constantly changing clientele—why bother putting yourself out to cook a great meal when the tourist you’re making it for is going to be gone tomorrow, never to return? The food at Hotel Loreley was just a […]

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Sorrento: Equidistant from Everywhere You’d Rather Be

Sorrento is a turnstile town, a gateway to other, far more interesting places. It’s the place to catch ferries to Capri, trains to Pompeii and Naples, buses down the Amalfi Coast. It’s a stopover to pick up your rental cars to get to your rental villa further out on the Sorrentine Peninsula, or hop the orange-topped launch back to your […]

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The Road to Sorrento

Delta did exactly zero things to impress me on my trip from JFK to Rome. The total waiting time from getting out of the car to striding up to my gate was 90 minutes, including 18 minutes shuffling up the sidewalk jut to get up to the front entrance. Then, they stuck me in seat 42E, the very back row […]

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