Podcast Intro Episode: Kathy McCabe on Why I Dream of Italy

You might know Italy travel expert Kathy McCabe from her PBS TV travel series Dream of Italy as well as the award-winning travel publication and membership website Dream of Italy that she founded in 2002. Now Kathy is launching this new podcast to help feed all of our Italian dreams – whether we are dreaming of moving to Italy or designing an authentic, once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Transcript with Show Notes Embedded:

Kathy: This is Kathy McCabe. Welcome to the Dream of Italy Podcast. You know me from the PBS travel series Dream of Italy and the award-winning website and publication. Join me as we explore the sights and sounds of Bell’Italia. From the canals of Venice to the piazzas of Puglia. From the fashion houses of Milan to the vineyards of Tuscany. Hop on, it’s going to be a great ride. Andiamo.

The goal of this new Dream of Italy Podcast is to help you make your dream of Italy come true. Whether it’s a life transformation, maybe even moving to Italy, or simply creating a truly authentic and memorable vacation. But first, since I hope we will be spending some time together and getting to know each other, here’s a little bit about how I got here.

My dream of Italy began around age seven. About the time when, if you’re an American kid, you begin to realize nearly everyone in this land of immigrants ultimately comes from somewhere else. My childhood days were spent with my maternal grandparents as my daycare. My grandparents were both the children of Italian immigrants from Campania. Most Sundays and holidays were spent with the five of us, me, my parents, and grandparents around my parents’ dining room table in Springfield, New Jersey.

My grandfather, Louis Nargi, was a retired railroad engineer with a big personality. The steam train sounds at the open of this podcast are in honor of him. He commanded a train, a dance floor, and a family table in equal measure. Invariably, sometime around dessert, he would regale his family, or captive audience, with a story or two. Sometimes he would speak of a town in the mountains called Castelvetere. The town was not too close to, or too far from Naples. Here there was a Madonna who the people believed worked miracles. He would tell me that the men here grew so old that one day they would simply walk home from the sunny piazza, take a nap, and enter into eternal rest.

I was captivated. Despite his deep emotion for this mythical place, my grandfather had never been to Castelvetere and this haunted him. He only knew of it through the words of his father. Generoso Nargi, who was born there. In the 1960s my grandparents were in Italy on a cruise, and my grandfather thought he would finally see for himself Castelvetere. But fate had other plans. “Well, they would have never let me leave anyway,” he would say wistfully, recounting the story of being taken to the wrong town without enough to rectify the mistake.

Fast forward to the month after I graduate from college. My now 93 year old grandfather is living in a nursing home in New Jersey. My mother and I go to Italy to fulfill his life’s dream. Two very blonde, very American women, we show up in the correct Castelvetere: Castelvetere sul Calore and are welcomed to a day of magic and synchronicity that will never be replicated. And since truth is stranger than fiction, 36 hours later, not knowing we had found the town, or perhaps he fully knew, my grandfather died suddenly while we were still in Italy.

This story and an enchanting follow up is the focus of the Castelvetere episode of my PBS travel series Dream of Italy.

As I was driving over here today to record this script, I was looking at Instagram and saw a post from a group in Castelvetere. It included a quote; “There are places that call, us maybe even from far away. We don’t know the reason, but even before we see them, we know that following their call we will find a piece of our soul.”

This is my why, but you certainly don’t need to have Italian blood to be transformed by Italy. For me, Italy is life. It is all the things that give life meaning. Art, culture, faith, hope, family, history, connection, and just pure joy. In fulfilling this shared dream with my grandfather, a new dream was born. I became obsessed with Italy, returning on any vacation I could while beginning a career in TV news and online journalism. I knew I had to bring together my love for Italy and my passion for journalism.

And in 2002 the subscription travel newsletter and membership website, Dream of Italy, was born. It’s aimed at people like me, who not only travel to Italy as much as possible, but dream of it between trips. And 170 issues later we are still publishing, both in print and online. You can get a free issue at dreamofitaly.com/issue. I now call it a publication or magazine, but the content has always had the same goal; to take readers into authentic Italy, not just to learn about Italian culture, but experience the how and why hands on.

Here’s an example: Italy’s rare and delectable white truffles. I love them. We don’t just tell you which restaurants to go to try them, but share how to go on a truffle hunt of your own with a man and his dog. Immersing yourself in the culture of how these terrific tubers are grown, discovered, and celebrated.

Dream of Italy, the publication, is published 10 times a year, covering everything from cooking schools to villa rentals in every corner of Italia from Abruzzo to Venice. We share insider advice on how to visit Italy’s most popular destinations in new and different ways, and how to go deeper into undiscovered Italy. Places like Basilicata, Calabria, Friuli, and Le Marche.

In 2015 I took this little publication and created a TV series that I host. Currently two seasons of Dream of Italy and a new Tuscan Sun Special are airing on PBS stations and Create TV in the US and online for international viewers. You can find out everything about the show and see it at dreamofitaly.com.

Dream of Italy, the TV series, follows our philosophy of hands on experiences in familiar and not-so-familiar destinations. I practiced the ancient art of mosaics in Rome. Take an exhilarating ride in a Lamborghini in Bologna, and learned to make orecchiette pasta in Puglia. You can replicate most of my onscreen experiences in your own travels (and can learn how by getting our free TV travel guides).

And we have some very special guests on the series. Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola joins me in his ancestral home town in the Basilicata episode of season two. And Under the Tuscan Sun author, Frances Mayes, joins me for our Dream of Italy: Tuscan Sun Special.

And now the new podcast. It’s just another way to feed all of our Italian dreams. Most of our episodes will come to you from on the road in Italy. We’ll be talking to all kinds of Italians. Chefs, historians, even the Nonnas, those are the grandmas, as well as expats who’ve made their dreams come true.

But to start things off, we talked to Frances Mayes.  She’s our first podcast guest. I’m also dreaming up some ways that you, our listeners can be part of future episodes, adding your voices and experiences as we explore topics from ancestry and citizenship, to dreamy destinations.

You can find out more about the podcast and all of our episodes, including show notes at dreamofitaly.com/podcast. The best way to keep up with the podcast is to subscribe to Dream of Italy on Apple Podcasts. And while you’re there, I’d love for you to leave a 5-star review. It will help other listeners learn about Dream of Italy.

And finally a word about our podcast sponsors. We’re so grateful to the companies, big and small, who make our innovative content possible. Check them out and tell them, you heard about them on Dream of Italy. Now let’s go make some Italian dreams come true!

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