Wednesday, September 16, 2009


One beautiful moonlit evening several years ago, I was invited to an event at the Belgian Embassy, the terrace of which offers an exquisite view of the Roman Forum. Amid the chatter and the ciaos of both- cheek- kisses (Italians don't air- kiss like we do), I was introduced to Susan Van Allen, a writer from California. We ended up having dinner together at Ar Galletto in Campo de Fiori, and after a couple plates of pasta (what kind, I can't remember), we began a friendship as fellow writers, Romaphiles, and Italian-Americans discovering the land of our grandparents.

Since then, we've sometimes managed to replay our pasta dinners in Italy, but since we live on opposing coasts of the U.S, our friendship been sustained by phone calls and emails - and by each of us being Head Cheerleader for the other.

Susan's book "100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go" will be released mid-October. I've read the book and the only "criticism" I have is that it shouldn't be restricted to the female gender. Susan's exhaustive research (most of it on sight), her enthusiasm for Italy as a land of enchantment, and her skill as a writer have resulted in a must-read for anyone going to Italy who has a soul. (Italians call this "anima" - it indicates someone of some sensibility and depth.)

So buy it, read it over a dish of pasta - any kind will do - and bond with the thought of planning that long-put-off trip to Italy.

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