Podcast Episode #9: Your Crowdsourced Italian Travel Dreams


Transcript with Show Notes Embedded:

Geri Romeo: I’m Geri Romeo of Miami, Florida. When I dream of Italy, I dream of peeking down an alley on the island of Murano in Venice. “Ciao bella,” calls out a man to me, a beautiful man dressed in an exquisite blue suit. Yes, I know a good suit when I see one. The sound is like a melody to my ear and I’m hypnotized by his voice and appearance.

Kathy McCabe: 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- Ciao, Bella!- to the vineyards of Tuscany. Hop on. It’s going to be a great ride. Andiamo!

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Kathy: When the pandemic started this spring, I put out a call to our listeners, viewers, and readers to share their dream of Italy in a special issue for our publication. I also asked them to send in audio segments for this special episode. And the result is this crowdsourced broadcast to follow. I think you will enjoy the storytelling and relate to so many of these personal tales. We begin with the sense of warmth and indeed the soul medicine we find in Italy.


Sharon Leggio Falchuk: I’m Sharon Leggio Falchuk of Italian-Americans and Wellness. And when I dream of Italy, I dream of warmth, the kind of warmth that is difficult to describe with words, the kind that comes from both the inside and the outside simultaneously. It is truly something I had never felt until I arrived in Italy for the first time as a 22 year old freshly graduated college student visiting thanks to a scholarship from an Italian-American organization.

Soon, I would discover that magical warmth poured into the artistry that is a daily way of life for Italians. My heart continuously grew from the way locals grabbed my hand to dance in the middle of a restaurant or invited us off the streets and into their homes to watch the soccer game. Their hearts were set on giving me the best of what they had to ensure that I was enjoying myself to the fullest. Yes, there are beautiful places all over the world. But when I dream of Italy, I dream of the warmth with which Italians nurture the gifts of their home land and the loving way they wrap them up attending to every detail to generously share them with their guests. It is true soul medicine you can’t get anywhere else.


Kathy: For so many of us, it is the sites and sense of Italy that captivate us.


Katie Bausler: I’m Katie Bausler from Juneau, Alaska. When I dream of Italy, I dream of waking to a cacophony of cappuccino cups, lined up for filling with creamy, fresh pressed espresso, and a swirl of fluffy steamed latte. The sense of cafe wafting up the rafters to my hotel room and the captivating village of Corniglia on the Cinque Terre. And stealy Siena signore bellying up to the bar for un cafe downed like a shot of Irish whiskey. And savoring the perfect balance of fresh tomato, olive oil, and basil pasta pomodoro while gazing at white cliffs falling into the sea of the Amalfi Coast. And Roman waiters pronouncing, “This is for you,” as if I am the only customer in the world.

Kathy: If we’re lucky, Italy captures us when we are young and sets the course for our lives.


Elaine Murphy: My name is Elaine Murphy and I’m the associate editor at Dream of Italy. When I dream of Italy, I dream of wanderlust. As a 16 year old high school junior, I went on my first international trip with my art history class. We hit the highlights of Italy, exploring Venice, Florence, Rome, and Tuscany. Wandering through the cobblestone streets, eating at least two cones of gelato every day, I marveled at just how old and magnificent everything was and how the art and architecture looked just like it did in my textbook. This trip set the stage for a life of travel. I went on to become fluent in Italian, in college, write for Dream of Italy and explore 50 other countries.


Jennifer Maniscalco: I’m Jennifer Maniscalco from Chicago. When I dream of Italy, I dream of smiles. The layers of the Mona Lisa’s smile are best appreciated if you’ve experienced life in Italia. So yes, when I dream of Italia, I dream of smiles. According to Webster Miriam’s definition, there is more than one sense of the word smile. I know the pleasure of each through my adventures in Italia. Back in 1994, I arrived in Milano at Stazione Centrale after an eight hour journey from Bari. I had celebrated the Capodanno in Valenzano with family in my jet lag state and prepared to start my semester in Milano at the Universita d’ Ulm through IES abroad. I met a lifelong friend, no amica del cuore, after our history professor so named our connection, my amica del cuore, friend of the heart, with the same Barese roots has the brightest smile in the universe. Yes, when I dream of Italy, I dream of smiles.

Kathy: One of Italy’s greatest treasures is Venice.


Sarah Hadley: I’m Sarah Hadley, author of Lost Venice. When I dream of Italy, I dream of wandering through the city of Venice in winter. Sometimes the fog is so thick all I can hear are the sounds of lapping water, gondoliers calling and footsteps on ancient stone pavements. I love getting lost in the out of the way alleyways and photographing the campos, canals, bridges and narrow passageways. In the evening, I find my way to a bar near the Church of San Trovaso in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, where they pour me a glass of local wine called an ombra and offer me some of the delicious homemade cicchetti. from there, I catch a Vaporetto on the Grand Canal and enjoy the salt air on my face as I marvel at the Renaissance palazzos all lit up at night. And I think to myself, this must be one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Geri Romeo: I’m Geri Romeo of Miami, Florida. When I dream of Italy, I dream of peeking down an alley on the island of Murano in Venice. “Ciao bella,” calls out a man to me, a beautiful man dressed in an exquisite blue suit. Yes, I know a good suit when I see one. The sound is like a melody to my ears and I’m hypnotized by his voice and appearance. My friend notices from the alley, there’s a staircase leading to a second floor and she inquires as to where it leads. With an invitation from Mateo, to see the gallery, we eagerly follow. When we get to the top of the stairs, Mateo flips a switch and the entire gallery lights up with dancing colors and crystal-like beams of light. I hear the sounds of angels and my breath is taken away. Some of you may know the scene in Sweet Home Alabama, where the lights go on in Tiffany’s, and Melanie gets to pick the ring of her choice. This was even better.

The gallery, the pieces of art and the talents of these artists are surely gifts from God. This may seem shallow to many, the beautiful man, the movie like moment, the beautiful gallery, but it becomes my moment for this trip. I just wish I could remember the name of the gallery. I sometimes wonder if maybe if it wasn’t just one of my dreams of Italy. It’s a good thing my friend was with me and can confirm it actually happened. I dream of someday returning to Murano, finding that gallery and buying a very expensive Murano vase.

Kathy: And how to best see Italy, maybe walking.


Joe BrancatelliI’m Joe Brancatelli of Joesentme.com. When I dream of Italy, I dream of walking, walking into a market in Rome and buying a box of Gentilini biscuits to have with my tea, walking through the Piazza Bra in Verona, and marveling at the most gorgeous arena in the entire country, walking through the Mercato Orientale in Genoa and just talking to the merchants and the locals about their lives as they’re living it right now. And lately, walking around the Ligurian town of Chiavare, where I’ve been thinking of living, and I’m looking for an apartment.

Kathy: They say all the world is a stage, but maybe all of Italy is one too.


Nayiri Tara: Hi, I’m Nayiri Tara and I’m from California. When I dream of Italy, I think of a stage. I dream of reading my favorite poem, I gatti lo sapranno, by Cesare Pavese, at the top of a Tuscan hill. I imagine myself participate in what I believe would transpire from these words. I dream of the grapes, the cheese and the wine I can drink sitting upon a blanket in the warm grass all day. Italy’s my stage, and everything in it are the props. I don’t need to check my phone in Italy. Everything there is for me to create my own stories. And each time I go, I’ll create new ones.

Kathy: Tuscany is a corner of Italy that has captivated so many of us.


Carly Jeansonne: I’m Carly Jeansonne of Austin, Texas. When I dream of Italy, I dream of late September under a clear blue sky, as we enter a crumbling stone building where newly harvested grapes intended for Vin Santo lie drying on their rustic straw mats. My husband and I, along with our private guide for the morning, are exploring the Felsina estate, perched along the border between Tuscany’s Chianti and Crete Senesi. Stacked six layers high, the sight of the weight in grapes, both red and white, is so captivating even our guide snaps a photo. Sunlight streams in through the open windows and a soft autumn breeze intensifies the sweet earthy smell.

A hushed sense of reverence fills this ancient structure where the slow process of making holy wine begins. As we climb back into the jeep, we’re greeted by a sweeping view of the surrounding hills. We pass row after row of lush, green vines, pausing to sample the bitter fruit and watch small crews harvest the ripening grapes. Next up, a cellar tour. We see Vin Santo aging inside oak barrels up in the loft where it will remain for seven years. Our visit wraps up with a leisurely private lunch prepared by Chef Antonella and featuring products from Felsina’s own farm, gardens and olive groves. I can still taste that spicy, bright green olive oil. Each delectable course is paired with an equally sumptuous wine. For dessert, what else but a glass of Vin Santo.


Georgette Jupe-Pradier: I’m Georgette Jupe-Pradier of Girl in Florence blog. When I dream of Italy, I like to think of places where time simply stops. One such place lies only five kilometers away from the Medieval Manhattan that is San Gimignano, a medieval village in the Tuscan countryside. It is called Poggio Alloro, which literally means Bayliff Hill. This is a family farm, entirely organic, where you can go for a luscious long lunch or even sleep. And what’s great about this place is they make everything on the farm directly and the entire family works together in harmony. As you’re having lunch, you can have a beautiful view of the San Gimignano skyline and afterwards, go for a visit of the property and see all of the animals. It quite simply is a dream.

Kathy: Italy can surprise us in so many ways.


Pam Mercer: Bongiorno, I’m Pam from Tuscany Tours. When I dream of Italy, I dream of singing black spirituals in Renaissance churches with my Italian gospel choir. Until I moved to Italy, I never knew that Italians love gospel music. If you are in a shop around Christmas time, you are likely to hear Frank Sinatra singing Winter Wonderland followed by a classical gospel song like Wade in the Water or Oh, Happy Day. One of my all time favorite memories is singing with my gospel choir on the steps of Santa Croce Church in Florence with the statue of Dante looking over our shoulders as we raised our spirits to the heavens.

Kathy: And a story of the transformative power of Tuscany from our friend Glenn Main.


Glenn Main: Finding Tuscany. A too busy businessman reluctantly takes a vacation to Italy. Off the endless treadmill and out of his element for the first time in years, he falls in love with Italy, the people, the scenery, and the pace of life, the love of life, the dolce vita. He reassesses and recreate himself in light of this epiphany. He found Tuscany, he found himself. It was late. He couldn’t sleep. He stood there, looking out the framed window at the moon, over the tiled roofs that capped the stuccoed mountain side. He felt the breeze and smelled the night air. The fresh perfume of the rosemary bushes below awakened his senses. It was the aroma of life, a life well lived. Something he had always wanted, something he thought was always just beyond his reach. Something that next year would bring, but never did. It hit him hard. It was envy.

He remembered the old man he saw earlier that day. He remembered watching him as he talked and laughed with the others, telling stories with animated gestures, punctuated with knee slaps. The closeness, the connection, the perfect naturalness of it made him uncomfortable. It made him think. He wondered how he had strayed so far. He wondered if he could find his way back, back to a place he’d never been before. For 30 plus years, he’d pushed and climbed to get to where he was. Now, he wondered why. Where was he anyway, and where was he going? For the first time, he was glad he was here. It was the first time in a long time that he was glad he was anywhere. Hours passed. The tiles were turning red, the birds were awakening and the sun was rising on another day. But this day was different. It was the day he had been waiting for all his life. He’d finally found what he was looking for. He found it quite unexpectedly, on a moonlit night, thousands of miles from home and a million miles from work. He found Tuscany. He found himself.

Kathy: Italians love to dance.


Mickela Mallozzi: I’m Mickela Mallozzi, host of the public television series, Bare Feet. When I dream of Italy, I dream of returning to my ancestral town of Minturno and dancing the Tarantella at La Sagra delle Regne, the town’s annual wheat harvest festival. It’s a time of celebration, of sharing our dance traditions, especially in the old songs and dances of this little paese, and of course, connecting with family, friends, and even strangers. Oh, and I dream of smelling the beautiful fig trees in the morning when I’m there visiting my nonna Pina.

Kathy: You never know what will happen in Italy.


David Korst: I’m David Korst of Woodland Hills, California. When I dream of Italy, I dream of adventure. I rendezvous with friends Mike and Jane at a small British bar in the stone hilltop village of Casperia in the Sabine Hills an hour or so north of Rome. It’s proposed that noi tutti get together a group and go to Al Terzo Cerchio, a rustic ristorante outside of town a ways. So with 15 to 20 ex-pats, tourists, transplants and Italians, we carpool through the early evening into pitch darkness. I have no idea where we are off to. The restaurant has no idea we are coming either, but they quickly put together a long line of tables on the veranda, along with a requisite Prosecco.

I get up to use the bagno just off the main dining room. This WC, or bathroom, is almost new with shiny white walls, smelling of new paint. The door closing toward me won’t shut all the way. So I give it a hard pull, snapping off the plastic door handle. No matter, I’ll attend to it once done with business. It is a long pee and I find myself in the dark, as the lights are on a motion detector. Done at last and with minimum mess, I get the lights back on.

But when I try to open the door, I can’t, I’m locked in. I beat on the door, creating a ruckus, but the dinner din masks any noise I can possibly make. Okay, there’s some kind of string pole hanging by the toilet. It looks like for an emergency. What else could it be? I give it a couple of yanks. I could hear a bell ring in the distance despite the dining hooplah, but nobody comes. The WC’s window is too high off the ground and too small for me anyway. My Swiss army knife is back in my room. Maybe I can break down the door. Right? Fortunato me, after about 10 minutes, my WC gets a new customer and the door is open from the outside. Back to dinner for an incredible meal and conversazione.

Kathy: We head south for the magic of Southern Italy.


Karen Waldron: I’m Karen Waldron of Waking in Surrey. When I dream of Italy, I dream standing under the shade of an ancient olive tree. So gnarled and bent, it resembles an arthritic old man. I’m in the olive grove at Masseria Brancati, a farm which lies on the outskirts of the chalk white hilltop town of Ostuni, in the region of Puglia. Puglia is renowned for its distinctive trulli, houses that look like giant fat pencils, nibs pointing skywards. Here in the stonewalled field, the heat is strong and soporific, seems to cause the air to vibrate. A dry breeze blows across the yellow grass, heat stupefied insects buzz and hum. I’m surrounded by olive trees of all shapes and sizes. The youngest specimens stand proud and straight, but the older ones, and by old, I mean thousands of years old, are twisted and lumpen.

Some are so archaic they grow horizontally and need supporting with piles of rocks. But even these ancient eccentrics continue to thrive and produce fruit. And as I sit and savor their liquid offerings, some sweet, some peppery, others grassy and citrusy, I feel time slowing right down until it seems to only move sideways, as creakily and imperceptibly as Masseria Brancati’s oldest olive trees.


Susan Van Allen: Ciao. Susan Van Allen, author of  100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go. When I dream of Italy, I dream of Spaccanapoli, in Naples historic center, the bella citta, where the locals are there smiling to greet me with their hands flying through the air and their music. And there’s sfogliatella, an artisan workshop where creche figures have been made for over a hundred years. And I’d land in a pizzeria, and order a margherita made in a wood-burning oven. Paradiso.


Joan Amatuzio: Hello, I’m Joan Amatuzio. when I dream of Italy, I dream of soulful surprises. Some say the heart of Italy is found in the stars, but the soul of Italy is found in the unfettered, unabashed, proud people. They’re the locals who gather every morning in the piazzas and the shopkeepers. And you don’t need to speak fluent Italian to make a soulful connection. I found this to be true on a dazzling day in Positano. When I stopped at a roadside fruit stand, I attempt to ask for assistance with my limited knowledge of the language, when a small statured woman comes toward me, waving her arms wildly, motioning to me. Her large dark eyes are flashing a look. It’s like a scene unfolding in a dramatic play. She’s shouting loudly, “You don’t need to speak the language. Use your arms like this,” and she’s swishing and sweeping her arms like a broom. She continues, “Use your eyes and use your hands.” There’s laughter, a lot of laughter by all. It’s what I love about Italy. It’s the people, their spirit. It’s the soul of Italy.


Jeannette Ceja: I’m Jeannette Ceja of Jet Set with Jeannette. When I dream of Italy, I dream of the Amalfi Coast. But even more specific, I dream of the Amalfi lemon tour in the city Amalfi. I visited exactly four years ago to celebrate my 30th birthday. And that’s where I met Salvatore Assetto, who’s six generation family owned lemon vineyard, and they do tours. They also make fresh limoncello and Salvatore is dear friend to this day. He could not be more proud and more just knowledgeable about lemons, Amalfi and his country, Italy. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and always an experience that I recommend the public go when they visit the Amalfi Coast.


Rich Olimpio: I’m Rich Olimpio from Westerville, Ohio. When I dream of Italy, I dream of my favorite day in Italy when I happened upon a restaurant on the Southern edge of Salerno, the Pizzeria Salernitana. Our original destination was the Museo dello Sbarco, dedicated to the allied landing during World War II. But this being Italy, it turned out that the opening time of 3:00 PM was just a suggestion, so we decided to pass the time at the restaurant across the street.

The owner who came over to take our order, noticed the museum brochure and inquired if we were interested in the war. “Well yes, of course,” we said. His eyes lit up and we knew we had made a connection. He began to tell us the story of his family’s history during the war. On the wall of the restaurant were pictures of his family, a grandfather who was in the Italian army during the First World War, an uncle killed during World War II, and his aunt who’d married an American GI. The hour we waited for the museum to open was spent pouring over pictures in his photo album. The hour wait evaporated quickly, leaving us feeling connected to a place, time and people far from our American shores.


Lisa Gneo: I’m Lisa Gneo of RockStar Hotels. When I dream of Italy, I dream of Sardinia, the golden sandy beaches and crystal blue waters with a tint of emerald green and turquoise ripple through as it splashed along the shorelines. Diving beneath the water, seeing the sunlight beam through with all the changing colors of the rainbow, it would appear as though I was looking through a kaleidoscope. Wishing I could stay here forever, like the fish that now surround me, with a touch of warm water gliding me, my eyes closed. I could feel myself drifting along the waves, living at the moment, the taste of salt water on my lips. I didn’t have a care in the world. I had found my perfect day. I had found paradise.

Kathy: So many of us come to Italy for the family connections.


Johnny Jet: Hey, I’m Johnny Jet of JohnnyJet.com, and when I dream of Italy, I dream of going to the Island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples. It’s because it’s where my grandparents grew up. Ischia is three times the size of Capri, which every American knows and not many Americans know of Ischia, and it’s also about half the price or maybe even a quarter of the price of Capri. So the beaches are amazing and the people, especially my cousins. You got to go. And actually, I just found out I’m related to Jimmy Kimmel because he’s from Ischia. So you never know. See you later.


Anita Spano: I’m Anita Spano, born and raised and still living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I dream of Italy, I dream of Reggio Calabria, the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, Maria Catarina Lapa and paternal great-grandfather, Frank Spano. It is a place I have not been yet to see in person. I am 100% Italian-American. I was raised in the 1970s when it wasn’t cool to be ethnic, and grew up without much understanding, appreciation, or even interest in my Italian heritage. My mother spoke fluent Italian, but she wanted her girls, my sister and I, to be American. So she only spoke Italian when we visited the grandparents.

In 2011, armed with a photograph dated 1947, showing my grandparents standing in front of a church in Castel di Sangro in Abruzzo, I arrived in the town of my maternal grandfather, Angelo de Michael. I found that church, Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. I stood on the very steps my grandparents had stood on. I visited the home of my grandfather and found cousins still there. My cousin, Romina, and her family invited me to their home and prepared a feast for me, antipasto, homemade pasta, espresso, vino and much, much more. What a day. My success in Abruzzo led me to find the roots of my paternal grandmother, Filomena Cavarazzo, in Paduli di Benevento in the region of Campagna.

In 2017, I got in touch with my cousin, Luigi, who grew up in Paduli. He is a retired doctor now and lives in Rome with his wife, Dinella. We met in Rome and they took me on a sentimental journey to Paduli, which is three hours away. Picture this, the three of us in their car driving for three hours. Now, Luigi and Dinella speak a little English and I speak a little Italian. But with Google translate and listening to songs on the radio, somehow we were able to communicate. Music is after all the universal language. Oh, what a fun road trip that turned out to be.

We met up with Luigi’s sister Marcela and her husband Ugo in new Paduli, and they took us to old Paduli. Marcela and Luigi showed us the family cemetery, the town square and the childhood home of my grandmother. And then we shared a beautiful afternoon at a lovely agriturismo. Now I’m preparing for a sentimental journey to Reggio Calabria, which is the boot of Italy, to make this search for my roots complete. When I dream of Italy, I dream of all the places that made me who I am, today.


Kathy: For show notes on this special crowdsourced episode, visit dreamofitaly.com/9.

Thank you again to our podcast sponsors. Travel Your Tree. Curious about your European roots? Travel Your Tree provides ancestral destination adventures, as unique as you are. With a passion for travel and family history, Lisa and her network of genealogists tour guides provide you with an unforgettable experience tracing your ancestors’ footsteps. Visit travelyourtree.com.

If you love Italy, love to cook or simply enjoy a good love story, Love in a Tuscan Kitchen has something special for you. The book includes 38 recipes, including many by the author’s husband, Chef Vincenzo. And of course, the hot chocolate love cake that started it all. Find it on Amazon.

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