Armchair Traveler ~ Cookbooks ~ Italian

Cookbooks are a fabulous way to indulge your Armchair Travel dreams. An ethnic cookbook, especially one with travel photos, can transports you to a favorite place or to one where you wish to journey.

Browsing my favorite Italian cookbooks brought back many fabulous memories. 

  • An evening in Roma with a friend, who also loved pasta. We ordered antipasti and pasta, telling the waiter we’d order the main course after the pasta. The pasta (my favorite, Spaghetti Carbonara) was incredible. When the waiter returned, my friend and I looked at each other, laughed and promptly ordered more pasta!
  • A friend (of Italian descent) in California making a marvelous Zabaione (Marsala Custard). We recounted a recent journey to Italy as we indulged.
  • An Italian friend in NYC who makes the most incredible pasta, and other Italian dishes. I am getting hungry thinking of her masterpieces. 
  • Walking with a friend late at night in Roma, getting lost, but eventually finding a favorite restaurant, Tre Scalini, in Piazza Navona and enjoying a magnificent meal. 
  • Having lunch with friends in Bologna where they assured me that Bologna had the very best Italian food and wine. 
  • Enjoying dinner in Venice and discovering that St Mark’s Square was flooded. Walking back to the hotel with friends, climbing on chairs that were set up to walk across the Square .. (cane chairs with arms .. not easy to go from one to another…) I ruined a good pair of boots as several of us finally decided to wade through the water. We had lots of brandy when we finally got back to the hotel. Good lesson — always check weather and local conditions before going out. 
  • Walking about Roma and Venice are always serendipitous … you  encounter hidden courtyards, side-streets to explore and terrific restaurants off the beaten path.

These books capture Italian food and scenery spectacularly. 

Preparing an Italian meal with Italian vino conveys me to a favorite country. Other times, it’s enjoyable to go to a favorite Italian restaurant, appreciating the ambiance and cuisine.

Being an armchair traveler means being creative and enjoying your destination. Pick a country or city — learn a few words of the language, fix a dinner or have a party with that country’s cuisine. Have your guests bring a dish from the country. Play that country’s music.   

Most important, have fun and be inventive as you “journey” to a favorite spot … even if for now, it is but a dream.

Buon Appetito …  

Savor your journeys… real and imagined, near or far.

Armchair Traveler ~ Book: Rome, Then and Now

On a rainy day, what’s better than browsing a beautiful photo book of a place you have visited or want to visit?  I have visited Rome many times and always loved it. Below are photos, thoughts about “Rome, Then and Now” by Federica D’Orazio.

The book was published in 2004. Many of the vintage photos have dates (ranging from 1860’s to 1944) and the contrast is amazing: Rome has retained its ancient feel while being a vibrant modern city. The Eternal City is a marvelous blend of ancient and new, which you feel as you walk about this gorgeous city. Each photo has historical information so that the reader can fully appreciate the beauty of Rome. 

Let’s begin at the Baths of Caracalla, where you can attend operas or concerts during the summer. I did attend an opera and highly recommend it. We ate after the performance  at a local neighborhood ristorante where we saw many of the performers. Great fun. 

Rome is a marvelous city to walk about and get lost, even with a map (which happened to me several times). Think serendipity … you will eventually reach your destination, but if time is not a factor, enjoy the side streets …. you never know where they will lead. Wander about the Piazza Barberini (at the foot of the Via Veneto), walk to the Trevi Fountain (on a side street) … check out the Spanish Steps.

Tour ancient Rome visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum, take the time to walk about;; imagine what it must have been like during Caesar’s time … 

Other marvelous photos show the changes to the Piazza St. Peter, Piazza del Popolo, and Piazza Navona, where I have marvelous memories of Tre Scalini Ristorante.

As you wander about Rome, either for real or as an armchair traveler, here are some additional sights … 

Browse thru your photo books or visit your library for ideas. Pick a special destination. The photos will have you reminiscing about previous journeys and/or planning a new adventure. After browsing this splendid book, what better way to continue my Italian armchair travel than preparing an Italian dinner (a favorite: spaghetti carbonara with Orvieto wine).  Viva Roma! 

Savor your journeys, near or far, real or imagined.

Travel Memoir ~ Rome, Italy (Addendum: Additional Photos)

Travel Memoir ~ Rome, Italy

 

Travel Memoir ~ Venice, Italy

Venice, the “Queen of the Adriatic,” is an incredible journey from the moment you arrive. I have fond memories of taking a private water taxi from the airport to the hotel in the city. My friends and I laughed saying it was like something from a James Bond movie.

 

Venice is also known as the “City of Bridges” or the “City of Canals.” A few hours in Venice and you will understand why. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

 

Venice is a beautiful city to explore, on foot. Expect to get lost on the many narrow streets and bridges. Take a ride in a gondola. Tour the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. Enjoy a cappuccino or dine on St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Take the vaporetto (local water bus). Go to Murano Island for authentic glass pieces.  I have 3 glass cats from there that I love.

 

I have been to Venice several times, in fall and winter. Venice is gorgeous when misty. It envelops the city and you find that you are in a marvelously mystical place.

 

One evening, friends and I went for dinner at a restaurant on the other side of Piazza San Marco and then cross a bridge or two. The dinner was leisurely and very good (great local wine: Verdicchio). When we were leaving the restaurant, the waiter told us that the Piazza was flooded. I asked if there was a way around that and was told no, but not to worry.

 

One friend had been to Venice when it had similarly flooded and explained that chairs were put up and we would cross the Piazza on the chairs. I was dubious but thought OK, when in Venice…..

 

Cane chairs had been set up on the Piazza, closely next to each other. We held hands and had to climb from one chair to the other, as there were arms on the chair. It was not easy to navigate. About half way across, several of us laughingly said “enough of this,” and we walked (make that waded) across the Piazza to our hotel. Two guys rolled up their slacks before wading through the water. My boots never did quite dry out, but a piano bar at the hotel plus some grappa warmed us as we attempted to dry out.

 

Tip: always check weather and high tides when venturing out to explore or dine.

 

I was there once with my mother and a beautiful black and white cat started to follow us. My mother called the cat “Venny” and he would always be waiting outside the hotel for us, as my mother would feed him (waiters were very accommodating). The cat looked quite well-fed and probably always found travelers to feed and pet him.

 

Venice is a unique place and I have many treasured memories. It will always be a special place for me, whether I went solo or with friends. The wine and cuisine are superb, quite different from southern Italian (though I love that also). And thanks to the Venetians, I learned to accept what is – if a flood, we’ll manage. And getting lost can usually be quite serendipitous.

 

Travel well and often.

Travel Memoir ~ Rome, Italy

Travel Memoir ~ Rome, Italy

Rome, the “Eternal City,” is a feast for all seasons, with incredible cuisine, wine, artwork, parks, ancient monuments, food, gelato, shopping, strolling, and food (ah, yes, did I say that!). Let me share some favorite memories of when I traveled with friends or solo to a favorite city and as I worked for an international airline, I was able to indulge my love of travel.

Forget your map and smart phone, except to get a general idea of the terrain and your surroundings. Rome is best explored on foot and is a fabulous city in which to get lost. Many times my friends and I could not find the Trevi Fountain or the Tre Scalini Restaurant in Piazza Navona (and that was with a map!). But it was always fun finding our way, very often discovering other places and restaurants to explore.

Several friends and I spent a morning at the Vatican Museum, had a long, leisurely lunch and then decided to head back to the hotel (across the Tiber River, about a 45 minute walk). Three friends opted to take a bus while a friend and I decided to walk. It took us hours, crossing the Tiber River several times and we somehow kept coming back to the same starting spot. That night at dinner, we could not stop laughing showing our friends on a map where we had walked.

 

Another time, a friend took me to The Church of St. Peter in Chains, where you can view Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Yes, you will discover incredible artwork all about, not just in museums.  My friend knew of a fabulous restaurant with the BEST pasta. It was! I still remember it. Several months later when I was in the area by myself, I could not find that particular restaurant. I quickly learned that while friends had favorite places, all of the local restaurants were very good.

Read more