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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A.S. Roma’s season breaks and swells the heart of this die-hard fan

I now understand what it feels like to have so much emotion riding on one sports event. I no longer look at sports as a launch pad for writing. I look at Roma games as a boost to a great mood the rest of the day. I care. I really care. Before, all I cared about was my deadline.

It’s with this in mind that I write an early season review of A.S. Roma. I say “early” because my lupi, my wolves, my giallorosso (yellow and red), are taking its dwindling mob of fans (more on that later) for a wild ride all the way to the final day. I went to Stadio Olimpico Monday to watch third-place Roma play second-place Napoli.
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The Baroque Triangle: Sicily’s trail of the Renaissance’s gift to architecture

My girlfriend, the uber-talented photographer Marina Pascucci, and I continued my 60th birthday celebration on the trail of what is known as the Baroque Triangle. It’s a series of small towns dripping with Baroque architecture. Baroque style was born in Renaissance Italy during the late 16th century and designed to show off the wealth and power of the rapidly expanding Catholic Church. Baroque churches are extravagant, abnormal, garish and, depending on your taste, either ostentatious or jaw-dropping gorgeous.
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Turning 60 in Sicily: Growing old can be beautiful and delicious

You want to know how to feel 20 years younger when you turn a year older, even at 60? Go to a beautiful place with a beautiful woman. I spent four days in Syracuse — the one in Sicily, not upstate New York. How an industrialized city in a North American icebox could be named after a beautiful, sun-splashed town on the banks of the Ionian Sea is like calling your pet iguana Beyonce. In Italian it’s called Siracusa. Maybe Italians have been to New York and tweaked the name.
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AcquaMadre’s thermal baths a true taste of La Dolce Vita from Ancient Rome

I’m in AquaMadre, a thermal bath in the heart of modern Rome. It is only 10 years old but once you walk past the modern lobby and descend into the soothing pools below, you’re transported into the depths of Roman history.
Two millenniums ago, when Rome was the most powerful empire that would ever exist, these types of baths covered the city. They were called “thermae” or “hammam” and were the direct descendents of our modern spas. Most of the citizenry cleaned themselves in places like this. The wealthy Romans, the landowners, the rulers, the ex-generals, had their own bath houses on their estates. I once took a bike ride up Appia Antica, one of the original roads that led from Rome to the Adriatic Sea. To this day, you can see remains of ancient baths on estates long turned into ruins.
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