Next month marks my 45th anniversary of my epic solo trip around the world. In 1978-79 upon graduation from college I spent nearly a year traveling through Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia and East Asia, visiting 25 countries. It changed my life forever. But some things have changed. I travel differently. True, I do have more money than I did as a starving backpacker. But my attitude and outlook have changed. Here are 10 things I’ve noticed and not all of them are positive.
Thought about Christmas yet? Don’t know what to buy? I’m here to help. Do you have a traveler in your family or someone who wants to travel? Buy them a travel book, More specifically, an armchair travel book. These are long yarns about travel adventures that don’t offer tips but do other plenty of insights, some of them hilarious. I list my 10 favorite travel books, ranging from a 26-year-old miserable on an exotic island to an Australian ex-con hiding from the law inside the Indian mafia.
Picinisco: Italy’s pipeline to Scotland is a gastro, rural wonderland only D.H. Lawrence could describe
On a freelance assignment, we came to the village of Picinisco and discovered things we never read in guidebooks. It is the source of most of Scotland’s people of Italian heritage, it has some of the best cheese in Italy and has spectacular views with few tourists. We stayed in a charming B&B built in 1926 where we ate a five-course meal prepared by a gourmet chef. I also met a Scotsman who bought a nearby village. One of the best overnight trips of my nearly nine years in Italy.
World Cup: Memories of 2006 in Germany storm back as Qatar approaches Sunday and Italy shockingly sits home
The World Cup in Qatar begins Sunday and Italy is sitting home for the second straight time. The buzz around Rome here is non-existent. However, this World Cup brings back memories of the best sporting event I ever covered and the best of many Italians’ lives. Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany and I was there. But it was more than just Italy winning its fourth title that stuck with me. Here are my memories, although not all of them are good.
Abortion: Americans vote today with rights in the balance, Italians wonder what will happen to theirs
With Republicans poised to take over Congress in today’s U.S. midterms and five months after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, American women brace for what will happen to their abortion rights. Italy has had free, legal abortion since 1978. However, the September election of the far-right Brothers of Italy party threatens those rights. They may not change the law but the new leaders want to offer cash incentives for women to change their minds and also allow pro-life advocates inside abortion clinics. And they’re following the United States’ lead.
For more than 10 years living in Rome I’ve heard about the wonders of Lucca. The huge wall. The historical center. The great Tuscan cuisine. We stopped there for nights going and coming from Le Langhe last month and came away feeling we cheated ourselves on time. Lucca’s wall meets the hype and while it isn’t off Tuscany’s beaten path, the old town does have an ancient-modern charm to it.
Global warming and Italian wine: €2 billion loss and lower production of up to 30 percent has winemakers nervous
Global warming has cut wine production in my beloved Le Langhe zone by 30 percent as wine makers are harvesting their grapes earlier every year. I went to Le Langhe two weeks ago and the wine makers I interviewed are nervous. Global warming hasn’t affected the taste yet but they worry about the future. They’re taking drastic measures to preserve water and their wine industry.
What wine would you drink before you die? I ask the wine experts in Le Langhe and it’s not always expensive Barolo
At every wine tasting, I ask the local wine experts; Pretend you’ll be executed tomorrow morning. What wine in the world do you drink tonight? I asked this at all the wineries and wine shops I visited in Le Langhe last week. You’ll be surprised by the answers.
Ever since I fell in love with Barolo after my first taste in Rome in 1999 I’ve wanted to visit the town of Barolo. I finally did it last week and reality surpassed my dream. The zone of Le Langhe has nearly 700 wineries, nearly all carrying the Nebbiolo grape that makes Barolo and its cousin to the north, Barbaresco. I did tastings at four wineries and drank Barolo inbetween.
South Moravia is the Tuscany of Czech Republic. Ninety-six percent of Czech’s underrated wines comes from this tiny sliver of land barely larger than Palestine. It specializes in white wines but I had one of the best Pinot Noirs of my life in this area around Brno, Czech’s second-largest city. I took a boat ride up the scenic Brno Reservoir and found the wines even better than the beer.
Czechs drink more beer per capita than any nation in the world. Their beer culture dates back to the 10th century. But I was fairly underwhelmed by Czech beer. It’s about 80 percent lager (Dark beer is considered a girlie drink.) and the lack of variety got old. However, beer is everywhere and so are Czechs enjoying one of the liveliest night lives in Europe.
Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party wins election and my adopted country descends into the far right
Giorgia Meloni, a 45-year-old Roman, has led her neophyte Brothers of Italy party from the ground floor of Italian politics to the country’s most powerful position. She won Sunday’s prime minister election, and her right-wing coalition is set to take over the Parliament. What does Italy’s first right-wing government since Mussolini mean for immigrants like me? I’m not worried, but I am cautious.