Before I ever visited Italy, the only Italian music I had really ever heard was by Andrea Bocelli or Pavarotti…or was from a commercial for Barilla pasta! And yes, there was an occasional rendition of Santa Lucia, Volare or O Sole Mio. But the first time I rented a car and turned on the radio and found the station Radio Italia, a whole new and exciting world opened up to me musically. Read more…
Osteria La Zucca, Venezia
I discovered this charming osteria at least 15 years ago and it has become my “go to place” whenever I’m in Venice. At the time my Italian was non-existent and I remember the owner going through virtually every item on the menu with me to explain the dishes. I was so impressed that he would take the time and have the patience to do that!
I first visited Venice back in 1999 and that first time started a love affair with what has become my favorite city in the world. Come with me for a tour of “La Serenissima” (the most serene one) and you’ll see why I love it so much.
Trattoria Monti, Rome
I discovered this small, Roman trattoria, run by the Camerucci family, back in 2002 after reading positive reviews online. The food and the service were equally wonderful, and so on another trip over 6 months later, I returned. To my amazement, Enrico and Daniele, the brothers who serve as hosts and waiters welcomed me warmly and remembered me so clearly that I had to wonder whether they’d had any customers since my last visit! Fourteen years and countless visits later, the boys refer to me as their “red headed fratello” (brother), and the chef, Signora Camerucci leaves her station in the kitchen to greet me enthusiastically. Rounding out the staff are the cheerful team of Barbara and Zeljan, both of whom seem like members of an extended family. I have introduced many of my Italian and American friends to Monti and have “ordered” dozens of people who’ve asked me for a good restaurant recommendation in Rome not to miss this place! Make a reservation so you won’t be disappointed, and tell them that Matteo from San Francisco says, “Ciao!”
In June of 2008 I realized another of my travel dreams by capping off a stay in Europe with a visit to a place I’d always longed to see: Iceland. I’d already seen Norway and Sweden, and while both were beautiful and offered many adventures, Iceland sounded more wild and more exotic. And given my fascination for volcanoes and hot springs, Iceland seemed to have the edge over its quieter Scandinavian neighbors to the east.
In 2014, after exploring nearly every corner of Europe, I set my sights upon Turkey as my next vacation adventure. After spending a few days in the exotic and lovely Cappadocia region of central Turkey, hiking scenic desert canyons, staying in a hotel carved into bizarrely shaped rock formations, dining on wonderful food, and trying to learn a little Turkish, it was time to go to the big city, and as I boarded my flight and buckled myself in, I practiced the wealth of Turkish I’d acquired thus far. I knew merhaba (hello), but found “goodbye” in Turkish to be unpronounceable, so I avoided that phrase! Kelebek (which was the name of my hotel in Cappadocia) means “butterfly” and of course everyone knows what a kebab is. As the flight attendant gave her safety briefing, I added cikis to my vocabulary, which means “exit.” Oh yes, Istanbul, I am ready for you!
My first visit to Japan was in November, 2007. As a psychology professor with a research interest in how at-risk populations deal with the threat posed by natural disasters, I was attending the international Cities on Volcanoes conference in Shimabara on the island of Kyushu. I’d decided to mix business with pleasure, planning to see a bit of the country before and after the conference and my first stop was Kyoto.