Looking for the perfect gift for a traveler headed to Italy? (Or maybe for yourself?). I've got you covered!
The perfect airplane read(s)
When it comes to bringing history to life, Ross King is a wizard, telling rollicking tales of Renaissance scandals and assignments gone awry. And he's done it with not one, not two, but three Italian treasures: Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture (on the Duomo of Florence); Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (on the Sistine Chapel); and Leonardo and the Last Supper (at right).
Conveniently, each book is on a different city (Florence, Rome and Milan). Talk about the perfect gift trifecta for someone headed for the Grand Tour.
A super-duper camera... the size of a smartphone
I adore my 6-year-old-but-still-fantastic Nikon D90 DSLR and my little waterproof Sony digital camera. If I were looking for something in the middle of those two, though – not as professional (or big or heavy) as the DSLR, but with more options and flexibility than the point-and-shoot — I'd be looking at what's called a "expert compact" camera. In particular, I'd have my eye on the Olympus XZ-2 (left).
The camera is smaller than a Galaxy smart phone, but comes with the kinds of bells and whistles you usually just can't get in a camera that size — like ISO up 12800, sensor-shift stability, an SLR-quality image processor, and HD 1080 video recording. In layman's terms, that means that you can shoot crisp photos in conditions that just won't work with a lesser digital camera or an iPhone, like an indoor restaurant dinner or the floodlight Colosseum at night. For anyone who loves taking photos but isn't a professional photographer (and even for some of us that are), this would be a seriously sweet gift.
A hedonist's guide to Tuscany
Not your usual guidebook, Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist includes tips on everything for making a stay in Florence or Tuscany pop with the pleasures of Italian life: where to find romantic aperitivi and relaxing spas, the top wine tours and finest local artisans, the best cooking classes and antique markets, and more.
The Streetwise Rome map remains the most usable one of the city I've seen. It's laminated, so you don't have to worry about spilling wine getting rain on it. And the map has much more detail than you'll find on the free tourist maps in the city, but is still pretty easy to read and use. Let's just say it got me through my first 3-plus years of never knowing where I was.
Chic traveling clothes (for her)
My friend Tara Thompson Rasmus has a great eye for style, so I was excited to see her launch her online clothing boutique, Hoot, aimed at the traveling woman. (So excited, in fact, I even let her talk me into being featured with some of the items in a little Q&A, coming out this week. Eek!).
All of the items are designed and manufactured right in New York City — no "fast fashion" here — and they're versatile classics. I think I wore my cream-and-navy-striped boatneck tee (left) pretty much nonstop through recent trips to China, Sweden, and Turkey. Pair it with a stack of bracelets or necklaces, skinny jeans, leather boots, big sunglasses, a scarf, and a classic wool coat, and you'd be ready to go anywhere in Italy.