Grand houses proverbially have grand souls, but the striking thing about Villa Gastel, on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como, is its mixture of the fabulous and the familial. The immense villa was a Benedictine convent, dating back to the 12th ­century, before it became the property of one of northern Italy’s most important families, the ­Visconti di...

New York is the Big Apple, Chicago is the Windy City and Los Angeles is, as its very name tells us, the City of Angels. Cross that pond and come to Italy, where you’ll find of course Rome, the Città Eterna, and Venice La Serenissima. Cities love nicknames, all over the world, but it’s about the Italian flair for alternative geographical denominatio...

Admittedly, I’m a saltwater kind of person, and a good vacation has always required an ocean beach. The appeal of lakes never truly hit me until I visited Italy’s lake district. Americans overlook this alpine region pocked with freshwater -- aside, maybe, from the famous Lake Como. But around Italy (and pretty much the rest of Europe) vacationers k...

Finale Ligure, a sun-baked town at the edge of the Ligurian Sea, has no symphony orchestra or opera house. But it has a maestro of its own: Franco Morasca, the manager of Bagni Est Finale, a no-frills, private club on the beach that pulls in generations of Italians each summer for a reminder of what it means to be Italian. The term “Riviera” was bo...

Villa Torrigiani – located in the municipality of Capannori, Lucca – dates back to at least the late 16th century, and features a beautiful Baroque façade created during a renovation in the late 1600s. What it is most famous for, however, is probably its enclosed garden, completely dedicated to flowers that grow between walls, geometrical hedges, a...

Guardia Sanframondi is a typical medieval Italian hilltop town, with a formidable ancient castle, pretty squares…beautiful frescoed churches…flower-bedecked old palaces…and friendly locals saying “hello” to strangers. Situated in a lesser-known part of Italy’s southern Campania region, it is a hidden gem that is slowly being discovered by expats wh...

Many consider Italy the most fascinating country in Europe, and they’re probably right. It never stops charming us with its incredible food, pampering mild climate, diverse landscape, incredible architecture and millenary history. If you have never been, it is absolutely time for your first trip to Italy.  Easier said than done though, right? As a...

October in Rome can be so pleasant weather-wise, with the likelihood of sunny days and warm temperatures, that the Romans have a name for it: ottobrata romana. Originally, with the phrase ‘ottobrate romane’, people referred to the Sunday trips out to the countryside surrounding Rome that the Romans used to go on until the first decades of the 20thc...

Most hands do not go up when I ask my audiences, “Who is an opera fan?” It’s as if I had asked, “Who is a big fan of brussels sprouts?” Yes, there will be a few enthusiasts, but most faces go neutral, some almost grimacing.  While it’s true that it is the most expensive performance art form in the world, opera’s power lies in the most human of expe...

Pasta al pomodoro is arguably Italian cuisine’s most pedestrian dish. So when I see “pasta with tomato” featured on the menu of three-Michelin-starred Reale, the remote monastery turned restaurant in Abruzzo run by chef Niko Romito and his sister Cristiana, I am deeply skeptical. Here we go again, I think, another classic tricked up and ruined by o...