“The Cappuccino Chronicles”: My book is out on Amazon

If you want to know what it’s like living in Rome, read this book. Photo by Marina Pascucci

How did my love for Italian wine begin by drinking a bottle of Annie Green Springs Cherry Frost my junior year in high school? What’s it like to ride Rome buses knowing that over a 2 1/2-year period, 46 buses inexplicably burst into flames? Why does dating in Rome better resemble the Punic Wars than Cleopatra and Marc Antony?

I answer all these questions and so many more for anyone interested in what it’s like living in Rome. Since retiring to Rome 10 years ago, I’ve had so many Americans ask me not only what it’s like to live here, but how. Not coincidentally, all the inquiries began the microsecond Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.

Now you can find out.

The Cappuccino Chronicles

My new book is out. The Cappuccino Chronicles: An American Journalist’s Decade in Rome is available on Amazon.com. Just click here. 

If you’re looking for a syrupy love letter to Rome or a travel guide, swipe left. My book takes readers to the soft underbelly of life in one of the world’s most glamorous cities. My Public Disservices chapter delves into all the negatives of public services, such as the garbage that has made Rome the filthiest capital in Europe and a mail system that is a mere rumor. 

“In the Shadows of a Slaughterhouse” chapter I discuss the trouble of finding a home in Rome and the nightmare a demonic landlady can make your life. “Finding Love in Rome,” I go into my first year on the Rome dating scene, examining social mores in a culture where women have evolved and men remain stuck in a tarpit of narcissistic sexism.

But I also wanted to paint beautiful pictures. From the food to the wine to the public healthcare system, I hope I made Rome seem as inviting as it did when it lured me on a sabbatical in 2001. More books have been written about Rome than food and I see why everyone gushes over the pages.

I do that, too, but there’s a lot of self-deprecating humor which I hope I conveyed. I talk about my upbringing in Eugene, Oregon, where I went from a geeky sportswriter to a hard-partying frat rat. I write an entire chapter stabbing myself in the back – and front in a few places – over my struggles with the Italian language.

My author photo in front of the Roman Forum. Photo by Marina Pascucci

The meaning behind it all

Why did I write it? I’m a writer. Writer’s write. Last year I saw my 10-year anniversary approaching in January. A decade in Rome is a good hook to write a memoir. I first sat down at my desk in April and finished 63,000 words and 225 pages in December. It’s a quick read.

They say writing a book is the male equivalent of giving birth. It’s a lot slower but just as painful. I won’t insult women by suggesting that, although I did freak out over struggling chapters and occasionally woke up with morning sickness. 

What made it difficult was the life balance. I intended to take a break from my weekly travel blog, Dog-Eared Passport, and twice-monthly blog, TraveLazio. I planned to travel less and write more. But I went to Istanbul for my birthday in March, Ferrara for our anniversary in April and Normandy for Marina’s birthday in June.

I kept writing my blogs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and my book the rest of the week. I wrote all this while still going to the gym five days a week (The gym is across the street. I had no excuse.) and screaming at AS Roma to get another defender.

The title

Do you like the title? I do. I love it. I would like to take credit for it but I can’t. Instead, it came from a source that has been a scourge to my business ever since it was invented.


Yes, a machine came up with The Cappuccino Chronicles. I heard the stories about Artificial Intelligence, how even the esteemed Sports Illustrated used AI to generate stories without the sweat of a single human’s brain cell. I was disgusted.

Then I went to the Traverse travel bloggers conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, in February. I attended a conference on AI and how it can benefit us as writers without selling out. I contribute occasionally to GoNomad.com, one of the top travel websites in the world and its director, Max Hartshorne, attended the conference. He  suggested I use AI to find a title.

He knew I was struggling with it. The original title was One-Way Ticket to Rome: An American Journalist’s Decade in the Eternal City.” Then I did a Google search to see if any other book included the phrase “One-Way Ticket.” 

I stopped counting at 50. One was even called Two One-Way Tickets to Rome about a young married couple and young child who move to Rome and encounter some of the same issues I faced. That did it. I killed the title.

When I returned home from Tbilisi I subscribed to Chatgpt.com. I punched in “Book title for American journalist who lives a decade in Rome.” Atop a list of about 30 suggestions I saw this:

Cappuccino Chronicles.

Perfect. Marina and I went to the rooftop terrace of the Atlante Star Hotel, famous for its view of St. Peter’s Basilica. I ordered a cappuccino from the bar below and brought it up on a sunny February day. Please note the book cover and the heart the barista formed in the foam.

I thought that was a nice touch.

My first book disaster

What I learned about writing a book is it’s not just about me. It requires a team. I learned that the hard way when I wrote my first book, a personal disaster on the level of my failed baseball career and a date in Las Vegas that involved fisticuffs and vomit. (It’s in the chapter Finding Love in Rome.)

From 2001-03, I spent 16 months on a sabbatical to Rome. I followed it with a book in 2007 called An American Gladiator in Rome: Finding the Eternal Truth in the Infernal City. My central chapter was my two months attending Rome’s gladiator school. The rest of the book was loosely tied chapters about a new life with a girlfriend in a new country where we had no home, no job, no friends and no language skills.

If you’ve never heard of it let alone read it, don’t feel bad. Few others did, either. While getting the book published I met some of the worst people of my entire life. They were incompetent, rude clowns with the work ethic and personalities of jackals.

I landed two agents, a married couple who will remain nameless and I hope are now jobless. They opened our working relationship by making me pay $35 for a how-to guide on writing a book proposal. Said book proposal should be about 75 pages long with two-page summaries on each chapter. They were so behind the times, we sent chapters back and forth via snail mail and not the Internet. The wife would sit on a chapter summary for six weeks then send it back with a three-word comment scribbled so fast I couldn’t read it.

For a title, the husband came up with the brilliant How I Spent My Roman Holiday: Finding God, Glamour and Gladiators in the Eternal City. Furious, I called and suggested, “Why don’t we just call it, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, kind of how I wrote one in fifth grade?”

I paid them nothing. And I still feel ripped off.

No other agents would touch it. One in New York said he wouldn’t represent a travel book unless I was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times for 20 years and rode my bike around Africa. Shortly thereafter, I was in a bookstore and saw a book about a guy who did ride his bike around Africa. He wasn’t a foreign correspondent. He was a dentist.

In publishing, the idea is half the sale.

I hope I captured Rome’s beauty as well as its faults.

No big publishing house would even bother sending me rejection notices. I wound up doing publish on demand, the skid row of the publishing world. The fly-by-night publisher, however, didn’t have a clue. He had two “proofreaders” read the book but merely read it and not proofread it. The book was rife with misspelled Italian words. The numbers in the table of contents didn’t match with the chapter pages. Black lines would inexplicably appear.

It was heartbreaking.

My team

I wanted to write a second book merely to get it right. I took the heeded advice of Chandi Wyant, an old friend from Colorado who has spent a lot of time working and living in Italy. Her Return to Glow: A Pilgrimmage of Transformation in Italy, about her therapeutic hike along the Via Francigena trail, was a big hit.

She introduced me to Melanie Mulhall, a veteran editor in suburban Denver who taught me more about the book biz than I have my entire life. She talked me out of my usual writing style of a travel blog, to forget I’m a journalist and concentrate more on my impressions of Rome and not others’ views. She added some chapters and threw away others.

She introduced me to Veronica Yager, a seasoned graphic designer who allowed Marina to take the cover photo then Veronica put together a beautiful book that I’m proud to have on my shelf. Finally, Melanie landed me a badly needed proofreader as I couldn’t notice a death threat if it was written on a Stick ‘em note. Jonathan Wilcockson is actually a veteran cycling writer who shepherded me during my years as a novice covering the brutally demanding Tour de France.

I don’t plan on getting rich off this. Few books make money. I’m retired. I’m financially independent. Any money I make will likely go into my growing wine collection.

What I hope it does is illuminate parts of Rome that don’t get written about in glossy travel magazines and fawning books. I want to wipe the veneer off Rome’s glittery facade. At the same time, I want people who love Rome to see the true beauty of living in the world’s most beautiful city. (Just don’t look down.) I want you to savor the wine, smell the garlic, taste the pecorino.

If you don’t love Rome or have no desire to visit, read it anyway. The Cappuccino Chronicles is also about a guy who got burned out and dropped out. At 57, he started a new childhood another hemisphere away. It’s scary. It’s risky. Some would call it madness.

Read it and find out what happened.

Zoom call

I will have a Zoom call on July 3 at 6 p.m. EDT to discuss the book and answer any questions people have. It will also include a raffle for Italian coffee, eligible to anyone who buys the book during the call. Save this Zoom link if you’re interested in hearing it from me on your computer while recalling all those lovely Zoom calls during Covid: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85460272552.