Talking to Michigan State sports journalism students brings back memories, advice for a new age

Tuesday I spoke to a group of sports journalist students from Michigan State University. Twenty-two students are traveling for a month to Paris and Rome with weekend jaunts around Europe in between. We met in the Palazzo del Banco di Santo Spirito, built in the 1600s to house the Vatican Bank. Just a Frisbee throw from Piazza Navona, the Baroque palace with the four columns bordering the front door is now home to study abroad offices, language programs and the Belize Embassy. It sure beat sitting in a featureless, plaster box at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
I’ve spoken to journalism classes at numerous colleges. I can usually tell the quality of students by the quality of questions. Michigan State’s students get it. They asked how Italy has changed me. They asked what was the most memorable sports event I ever covered in the U.S. They asked what I thought of the direction of writing in American journalism.
At UNLV, they asked me what Mike Tyson is like.
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Nice another in a long list of great weekend getaways from Rome

EasyJet is the greatest boon to European travel since the sidewalk crepe stand.
Which is why celebrating birthdays in Europe is so special. In March I spent my birthday in Sicily. This past weekend I took my girlfriend to Nice for her birthday. I’d pat myself on the back and say I’m not a cheap boyfriend but, in fact, the round trip tickets for two of us was all of 138 euros. That’s 69 each. Sixty-nine euros on a U.S. airline sometimes won’t even pay for your stored luggage.
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Police ride around Rome a glimpse inside a non-violent city — but watch your wallet

Salimbene and Mastrangelo were going to further impress upon me the safety of my adopted city. I’ve always been fascinated by the soft underbelly of touristy towns. What’s it like behind the back-lit monuments, art galleries and romantic piazzas? Where’s the graft? The violence? The danger?
Growing up in America, you can find that in any city. Every metropolitan area in the U.S. has neighborhoods where guns are rampant and murder is common. For the last 10 years, Detroit, a city of 700,000 people, has averaged 345 murders. Oakland, Calif., (pop. 404,000) has averaged 106, Baltimore (pop. 622,000) 234. From 1990-2014 I lived in Denver. It averaged about 150 murders a year.
Rome, with a population of 2.6 million, has averaged 35. Two years ago it had only 27.
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Monti Sibillini is Italy’s answer to New England in fall

I just returned from three days in one of many areas of Italy that Americans have not overrun. The 270-square-mile park straddles the underrated regions of Umbria and Le Marche east of Tuscany. Sibillini has massive green meadows stretching between mountains bearing trees with multi-colored leaves. Purple, red and yellow wildflowers line a hiking path that forms a 75-mile loop around the entire park. Spaced somewhat evenly around the park are nine rifugios, an Italian shelter with great beds and fantastic meals.
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My five best pizzerias in Rome: 72 Ore tops the list

In Rome, all the ingredients are fresh. The tomatoes taste like apples. The mozzarella has bite. The prosciutto is lean. Finish a pizza and the tin plate does not have a spot of grease. You could wash a doily on it. In Rome, pizza is almost like health food. So here are the five pizzerias I go when I get a craving, which hits only slightly less often than a heroin addict itches the inside of his arm. Keep in mind, some places are based on just one favorite pizza. I have gone to these many times and some dropped off the list and others were added. It’s kind of like a college football poll. Except my pizza poll is more important.
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Liverpool a British success story that took more than a hard day’s night

I recently spent four days in England on assignment and came to Liverpool for my first time. The impressions I’ve always had of Liverpool partially come from Beatles songs — strawberry fields, blue suburban skies, cold cathedrals — and partially from history. Fallen port city. Massive unemployment. Soccer matches on windy, rainy weekends.
New impressions: Revitalized waterfront. Vibrant museum scene. Pedestrian malls. Soccer on bright, sunny afternoons.
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Following in The Beatles’ footsteps through Liverpool

I followed The Beatles’ footsteps around their hometown which, when they grew up in the ‘40s, was still undergoing urban renewal after getting bombed in World War II. I started at the Mecca of all Beatles’ fans, the Beatles’ museum. Called The Beatles Story and built by the waterfront in 1996, the museum traces the group from start to finish with fascinating Beatles’ paraphernalia scattered around like confetti. It draws 300,000 visitors a year.
Some things I didn’t know about The Beatles (and I bet you didn’t know, either):
* Both Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s mothers died when they were teen-agers. Paul’s mother, Mary, a midwife, died of an embolism when he was 14. Julia Lennon, a movie usher, was killed in an auto accident by an off-duty policeman when John was 17.
* In their first performance abroad in 1960, promoters in Hamburg, Germany, changed their name to The Beat Brothers as they thought The Beatles was too confusing.
* The 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which spent 27 weeks at No. 1 in Great Britain, took 700 hours to produce at their Abbey Road studio in London.
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Cycling in Tuscany: Salute! to winery hopping on two wheels

It’s where grape vines flicker in the sun under emerald green hills. It’s where wildflowers of red, purple and orange line forest roads and lead to quaint villages where wine flows like water and the air smells of cheese and prosciutto.
Cycling in Tuscany is such a remarkable experience it’s almost a cliche. But like all overused terms, the core is truth. On Tuesday I took my first Tuscany bike ride. In Tuscany, cycling takes on a different quality. Wineries dot Tuscany like snowflakes on a ski slope. You can’t ride more than 30 minutes without seeing neat rows of grapevines behind an 18th century house teasing you with outdoor tables and a view of a meadow.
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Love Italian style: Positano is the Sirens’ call to celebrate an anniversary

I’m standing behind a small table for two on our balcony. Below us is a turquoise swimming pool and beyond is a forest of trees leading down a steep cliff to the cobalt blue Tyrrhenian Sea below. The sun is setting behind the cliff to our right, bathing the sea in a soft orange glow. A bottle of Falanghina white wine is chilling in the mini bar next to a plastic tub of goat cheese and lean prosciutto.
A year ago Friday I had my first date with my drop-dead gorgeous and talented girlfriend, the photographer Marina Pascucci. I needed to find a suitable place to celebrate our one-year anniversary.
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Fritto Misto is Le Marche’s “healthy” celebration of Italian fried food

So what am I doing in a gorgeous Italian town near the Adriatic surrounded by fried food, the antithesis of what made Italian cuisine famous and Italian bodies prized?
I’m covering the 12th annual Fritto Misto, a celebration of all things fried in Italian cuisine. For 10 days every April, the charming town of Ascoli Piceno becomes the capital of Italian fried food. From ascolane to arancino, from cannoli to, yes, fried pizza, Fritto Misto (Mixed Fry) covers the landscape of all things fried in Italy.
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