Since Russia invaded Ukraine Thursday, the 256,000 Ukrainians in Italy have been glued to the news. Olga, Didun, my housekeeper, has been in daily contact with her family back in the Ukraine. They’re safe but she’s worried. She took some time Tuesday to discuss her fears, their situation and her views of the political situation.
Besides mass death, one of Covid’s biggest casualties are wine tastings in Italy. They were one of the pleasant surprises upon my move to Rome. So many wine tastings came to town, I never had to rent a car and go winery hopping. Covid sidelined wine tastings for two years and now they’re slowly coming back. I went to my first two weeks ago at Renato e Luisa, my favorite restaurant in Rome, which had a wine tasting/lesson for Cornell University students. More wine tastings are coming.
Italy and Valentine’s Day just go together, don’t they? We went to Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast, romantic at any time but double it on Valentine’s Day. We took a room overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, drank Campania wine in lively piazzas and shopped for ceramics in one of the ceramic capitals of Italy. Vietri sul Mare doesn’t get the hype that Positano and Sorrento get but it’s worth a weekend, particularly on Valentine’s Day.
The most important part of visiting Rome isn’t what room you take but what neighborhood you take it in. After living here eight years, I’ve written a Rome neighborhood guide. It’s thumbnail sketches on 10 neighborhoods, from popular Centro Storico and working my way out.
In the last 13 months I’ve been to 44 different restaurants in Rome. I have revised My Five Favorite Restaurants in Rome list from my last list from 2019. This one has a familiar name on top but all new places below it. Only Renato e Luisa can be found in Lonely Planet. Italy is open for business again. Start your appetites.
From the way my cappuccino tastes on my balcony every morning to the way the streetlights reflect off the Tiber River, I have so many reasons why I love Rome I list them every year on this date. It was Jan. 11, 2014 when I moved to Rome and today is my eight-year anniversary, time for another whimsical look at my love affair with the city.
Last year was the best and worst of both worlds. Covid travel restrictions continued our isolation from the world outside Italy. When the restrictions lifted, I raced to six countries in six months. But as time wore on, Covid returned and my patience did not. Traveling during a global pandemic is truly tiring. Here’s a month-by-month review of one of the strangest years of my life.
If you read my two recent blogs on Finland, you’ll know we had a great time and dove into the holiday spirit. But behind all the fun anecdotes was a lot of stress caused by the ever-changing rules of pandemic travel. We’re exhausted. We’re taking a break in 2022.
Michael Hunt is an American expat in Helsinki. He also happens to be a fellow ex-sportswriter who threw himself in Finland’s culture as I did in Italy’s. We met in Helsinki and he told me his story and why Finland’s social democracy shouldn’t be such a filthy title.
I saw Santa in his hometown in Finland last week and he’s exhausted. I volunteered to sub and pass out presents to all those naughty and nice. The problem is, I’m tired, too. I sprinkled gifts on only the U.S. and Italy but there was plenty of naughty to go around. Donald Trump fans will enjoy his gift. But there were some nice as well. Mario Draghi, take a bow. Enjoy my annual Christmas gifts.
Rovaniemi, Finland, is a 75-minute flight from Helsinki and is the mythical home of Santa Claus. In 1985 the city built a Santa’s Village where it looks like a Currier and Ives painting with huge Christmas trees, sleigh rides and Christmas carols. Santa is around, too. But it’s more than a kid’s Christmas dream. It’s also a winter wonderland where we went dog sledding and saw the Northern Lights.
Thinking of going to Italy with the special someone? It’s always good to research before you go anywhere. Christmas is coming so what better gift than a book about Italy? You’ve already been? Read up more. You’ll want to go again. Here are 10 of my favorite books on Italy since moving to Rome in 2014.