Kortrijk doesn’t get the attention of other Belgian cities such as Antwerp and Brugge, let alone Brussels but it’s a small medieval city with a friendly vibe and wealthy environment. A huge square with a 90-foot belfry anchors the town which features Belgium’s first pedestrian street. I spent a few days there on assignment and it just so happened to come on St. Patrick’s Day. In Belgium, that’s dangerous.
Italy was on top of the world just eight months ago when it won the European Championships on its way to a world-record 37-game unbeaten streak. But ties in its last two games of the World Cup Qualifying group stage forced it into a four-team playoff for a World Cup berth. They start Thursday when Italy hosts North Macedonia and Portugal hosts Turkey.. The winners meet March 29.
I wrote a couple weeks about the return of wine tastings in Rome. I went to Io Vino’s Sunday which concentrated solely on wines from Le Marche and Campania regions. A total of 80 winemakers gathered in one room. Ever tried them? Le Marche and Campania wines are very underrated. Their headliners are the Verdicchio in Le Marche and Aglianico in Campania.
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.
For two years I managed to avoid the long tentacles of Covid. I wore a mask everywhere. I got two vaccines and a booster. I practiced social distancing. I didn’t enter crowded places. Yet it still got me. Last week, I tested positive for Omicron. This is my story of Covid quarantine.
I didn’t travel much around Italy last year but in small places I uncovered some really unspoiled gems. Villages in Castelli Romani and Abruzzo dominated this year’s annual list of Underrated Italian Cities but I also dipped way down to Campania and up to Piedmont as well.
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.