I shared some of my love for Ischia with you recently. But I also got to share it with the Globe and Mail's readership over the weekend, when my feature on the Mediterranean island, and some of my photographs, ran on the travel section's front page. You can also read it online here.
No, I'm not moving—but I am headed to the States for the biggest chunk of time since relocating to Italy. In June and July, instead of sweltering in the Rome heat, I'll be sweltering in New York City enjoying the surplus of air-conditioning in Manhattan.
And, of course, I'm already thinking about what I'm going to miss about Rome while I'm gone. Not to mention what I'm excited to experience in New York.
Here's a (partial) list... so far:
What I'll miss about Rome
1. Drinkable wine (that doesn't break the bank). Is it terrible that this is one of the first things I thought of? Yeah, probably. But whenever I go back to the States, I can't get over how the same mediocre bottle of wine that would cost €2 on the shelf, or be cheap "vino della casa," in Italy, somehow gets marked up to $40 or $50 in the U.S. Eesh.
The beach of Santa Marinella, just 45 minutes from Rome
2. Easy beach access. I know, I know, New York has beaches nearby, too. Call me crazy, though, but there's just something about having sparkling-blue, Mediterranean water a 45-minute train ride away that kind of beats Long Island Sound.
3. The festival on the Tiber. From June to August, Rome's clubs, bars, restaurants, and even shops move down to the river. Stalls stretch along the Tiber for about a mile, and it becomes the go-to place to meet friends for a drink, a dance, or just a lazy stroll. It's such a great atmosphere–and so much better than dancing indoors in a sweaty club.
Summer festival along the Tiber River
4. All things (really) old. I'm obviously a history geek, so whenever I go back to the U.S., I miss being surrounded by 300-year-old palaces and 2,000-year-old ruins. All the more so when I'm walking in the West Village and hear someone say breathlessly, "Ohmygod, that brownstone is 100 years old!". (Me? Jaded? Never...).
I get a lot of questions about Italy. And I try to answer as many of them as I can—either via email, or comments, or through blog posts, my e-book, and, obviously, one-on-one in my consulting sessions.
But everyone likes to mix it up once in a while. So I’m thrilled to announce a new Revealed Rome series: #RevealRome.
It works this way. Just ask a question that you want to see me answer in video format. (And no, it doesn't have to be about Rome!). You can submit your question either by posting it in the comments, on the Revealed Rome Facebook page, on Twitter, or by emailing me at email@example.com. Tag your question #RevealRome. Every two or three weeks, I’ll pick a couple of the questions to answer with a video post.
In less than three hours from Rome, you can be... here!
The island of Ischia, located in the Bay of Naples, offers everything you'd want from a Mediterranean holiday: Stunning views. Bright-blue water. Lush hillsides. Beaches. A castle.
And it's really, really easy to get to from Rome. Not to mention cheap. (At least if you book in advance).
The largest island in the Bay of Naples, Ischia has a history that stretches back to the Bronze Age. In later years, it was settled by the Greeks, who built its famous castle back in 474 B.C., and then by the Romans. It's now called Castello Aragonese, thanks to being rebuilt in the 15th century by Alphonse of Aragon.
Ischia's famed Castello Aragonese
The castle isn't just picturesque from afar; it's a must-see up close. Several churches are tucked inside, as are walking paths and lush gardens with some of the most beautiful views I've seen in Italy. And that's saying something. (Don't believe me? Check out the video below).
When I need a break from Rome's hustle and bustle, I head to the countryside. And when I'm there, I always stay at an agriturismo, or "farm-stay"—or Italy's best-kept accommodation secret.
Over the course of my travels in Italy, I've probably stayed in more than 50 different agriturismi. Not once have I been disappointed. Each one has had its own character, but they've all been comfortable, in beautiful settings, and a better value than any hotel. And no, you don't have to milk a cow or collect eggs to stay at one.
When I'm asked about my favorite agriturismo in Italy, though, there's always one that comes to mind: Fontanaro.
Fontanaro and its sister property, Tartagli, are located on the border of Umbria and Tuscany, a 2-hour drive from Rome (or a 1.5-hour drive from Florence). They're a stone's throw away from the tiny, medieval village of Paciano.
Made up of rolling hills and vineyards, the Fontanaro properties produce a huge variety of Tuscan-Umbrian staples, from olive oil to honey. Better yet, everything is grown organically. And the estate, run by mother-daughter team Lucia and Alina Pinelli, uses sustainable energy whenever possible; the farm was one of the first in Umbria, in fact, to use solar panels.
But the "slow living"approach extends way beyond the idea of making pasta by hand. I don't know what it is, but every time I step onto the farm, I feel the stress of Rome roll right off me. And even though I can never get enough of spending time here, even a day is enough to make me return to the city seriously relaxed.
Playing with the dogs, Ettore and Bacco, helps.
So does the fact that the grounds of Fontanaro and Tartagli are so gorgeous, you could spend hours here just strolling and soaking in the scenery.
Rome's amazing every year. But I'm especially excited for 2013 in the Eternal City.
Here are six things on my "bucket list" for my upcoming year in Rome (and beyond)!
Attending Rome's best temporary exhibitions
The Vermeer exhibition: on my list of must-dos for 2013!
Compared to past years, 2013 has way fewer exciting exhibitions on. (Hello, financial crisis!). Still, there are some I've made note of in my calendar. Among them: the Vermeer exhibit at the Quirinale, which runs until Jan. 20, and the "Age of Balance" exhibit at the Capitoline Museums, which explores the era of the "good emperors" (Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius), until April 28.
Trying out restaurants and wine bars still on my list
Food: From 2009 to 2013, one of my main reasons for loving Rome.
These include new-ish spots (like Baccano, an aperitivo, brunch and bistro spot near the Trevi Fountain; Coromandel, a bakery/brunch spot/restaurant near Piazza Navona; and Romeo, an Alfa-Romeo-car-dealership-turned-restaurant by the Roscioli brothers and the chef behind Trastevere's Glass Hostaria), old favorites that I (eek!) still haven't made it to (like Monti institution La Barrique), and a couple of high-end spots that just got their Michelin stars (Metamorfosi and Pipero al Rex).
My crystal ball tells me there's a good amount of eating (and drinking) in my future.
Going to the ballet and opera at the Teatro dell'Opera
I went to Rome's famed Teatro dell'Opera for the first time this fall. And I couldn't believe I'd managed to stay away for so long. The space itself is gorgeous: The 19th-century opera hall, which premiered Puccini's Tosca, is all plush red velvet, gilt gold and chandeliers. And the production I saw, Romeo and Juliet, was breathtaking.
Shows at the Teatro dell'Opera in 2013 include Giselle (Feb. 9-14), Verdi's I Due Toscari (March 6-16) and the ballet Notes de la Nuit (April 12-17) before the performances move to an equally-cool outdoor space, the Baths of Caracalla, for the summer. I'm going to try to hit at least one of them. Maybe two.
Coming to Rome? Then take advantage of the chance to pick my brain on everything you need to know!
In honor of 2013 being, you know, the best year yet, I want to make it a little easier for anyone who wants to to pick my brain on travel to Italy.
From now until January 1 at midnight EST, my one-hour, one-on-one Italy travel chats are just $60. Get all of your burning questions answered, plus a follow-up email with what we spoke about, lists of restaurants and shops I recommend, and more!
Here are just some of the things clients have said about our chats:
"Thanks again for the consultation. It made all the difference for us. Whenever we were thinking outside of the box, we'd remind ourselves, "what did Mandy say about this?"" -Peter Graves, Phoenix, AZ, summer 2012 trip to Rome and Venice
"We loved all of your suggestions. Thanks so much for that suggestion [for a restaurant in Testaccio]—we never would have found it without you... We're already discussing our next trip." -Rachel Sussman, New York, N.Y., summer 2012 trip to Sicily and Rome
So don't wait—buy your session now (just click the button below)! (You can also buy it now and use it at any point in the next year, so if you're not yet sure what questions you'll have or are only just starting to think about your Italy trip, it still makes sense to save and buy a session now).
Not gonna lie: At some points in the past year, I felt like this guy.
At the end of the year, I always like to look back on what I did—or didn't—accomplish. And I think it's safe to say that, as much as I felt like it was impossible to "get it all done," 2012 was a big year for Revealed Rome.
So much of that was thanks to my readers and followers, who have helped me with ideas and support—and, not least of all, with the inspiration to keep going even when it all felt overwhelming. So a huge thank you. Seriously. I couldn't have done it without you.
What am I talking about? Let's see. In 2012, Revealed Rome...
On a travel video for the MSN U.K. homepage
Began a travel consulting service, helping dozens of people plan their trips to Rome and around Italy. It turned out to be one of my best decisions in 2012: Unsurprisingly, I love helping people make the most of their Italy trips... and the amount of positive feedback from clients who had travel chats with me has been seriously blush-worthy!