I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again: January is the best month to spend in Rome. I know a lot of people don’t like January, but it really is my favorite month. After an overly hectic fall (lots of tours, a trip to NYC and then the holidays (and all that implies) January feels like one long nap. I love the feeling of staying inside all nice and cozy with candles and the fireplace lit. Also Rome is miraculously pretty empty.
And even if it is cold, it’s all relative. My cold here in Rome, when I finally get to put on my new winter coat, is nothing compared to the -20 cold blast my sisters are suffering through right now on the East coast. I don’t want to rub things in, but we had lunch on the terrace the other day.
I also try to visit as many museums as possible. Sophie and I popped into the Galleria Doria Pamphili the other day, on the spur of the moment, and had the place basically to ourselves.
But I am looking forward to February, even if it can be a bit more rainy. While I don’t get dressed up or celebrate Carnevale I do take full advantage of the seasonal sweets that only show up for a few weeks a year. In Rome we are gorging on frappe and castagnole. And I’m definitely missing the fritole we had last year in Venice.
Also: it’s artichoke season and you better believe am eating them 24/7.
We’ve starting adding tours to our schedule, for 2024. There are new dates for Puglia, Umbria and Parma! I announced the tours last week, through the Premium version of my newsletter, and the Parma tour is already sold out. We’ve still got a few spaces left for the Puglia and Umbria tours. You can find the full 2024 schedule here.
If you want to travel to Italy this year, we have a handful of spots due to last minute cancellations:
The Week in Puglia and Basilicata with Sophie, March 13-18, 2023, has three spots. We are closing this tour to new signups next week, so if you think you’d like to join, let us know right away.
We also have 2 spots for Sophie’s Salento and Central Puglia tour May 7-13, 2023. Send an email if you’d like to hear the details.
I continue to collaborate with friends who will be hosting tours and I’ll be announcing them in the next two weeks. Dr. Annie Fenn will be leading a Brain Health Retreat to Sicily in the Fall. If you are unfamiliar with Annie’s work you can visit her website or - better yet - buy her new book!
My best friend Evan Kleiman (KCRW Radio host and author) will be leading a delicious journey through Parma and Emilia Romagna in the fall. Stay tuned for details, but in the meantime make sure you are signed up to Evan’s newsletter to be the first to know.
I’ll also be announcing trips to Sicily for 2024 in the next few weeks. The Sicily trips sell out in minutes, so make sure you have upgraded to the Premium Newsletter if you’d like first crack. Our current Sicily tour explores Eastern side of the Island, but Sophie and I are headed down in a few weeks to visit Palermo and the Western side for a brand new tour that we’ll be hosting in 2024.
WHAT I’M READING
Currently reading Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabriele Zevin. I’m pretty sure it popped up on my algorithm because I was reading N.K. Jemisin’s books. It’s very odd, and has lots of references to gaming (which I totally don’t do) but I’m loving it. So well written! In the end it’s a story about relationships and love.
I love it when pasta and history collide and the result is something I actually want to make.
One of the most frequent questions I get is where to stay in Umbria. Here is the perfect list from The Lost Avocado . It’s in Italian, but a list is a list and this is a good list.
A 30 hour vacation in the Hudson Valley from Go Love NY
These pastas are not all 100% Italian, but they all sound 100% delicious.
Frank Bruni puts into words what I've thought for the last 20 years or so: if a restaurant doesn't bring me joy, then why am I there? I'd rather have a porchetta sandwich by the side of the road than dine amid 3-star contortions.
Evan Kleiman explains everything about olio nuovo for KCRW Press Play. (You may also recognize some familiar faces in the video).
Can’t wait to get my hands on my friend Skyler’s new book The Olive Oil Enthusiast. Pre-order it now.
WHERE I’VE BEEN
48 Hours in Florence
Instead of taking a big trip this winter, Domenico and I opted for a few shorter, closer, getaways. We only spent 2 nights/3 days in Florence but we did, saw, and ate so much it seemed like a much longer vacation. I LOVE Florence this time of year. Even though it can be rainy (and it was) there are next to no tourists, which these days counts as luxury. Pure bliss. I totally recommend it. Here is our itinerary:
Travel: We took the train from Rome to Florence and back and it couldn’t have been easier. We left Rome on the 10:35 train which got us into Florence in time for lunch. The fast train is about an hour and a half.
Hotel: We totally splurged and stayed at the St. Regis Florence. It’s one of the best hotels in Florence, 5 stars, and the price reflects that. I reserved and Arno River Premium Room, but was upgraded to a suite which was BEYOND FABULOUS.
Dropped luggage at hotel.
Lunch: I had planned on having a panino at this tripe stand, but since it was raining we decided to go inside the San Lorenzo Market. On the ground floor of the market are two of the older places where you can get a great tripe sandwich: Nerbone and Pork’s. We ended up at Pork’s which was perfect.
Coffee: Robiglio - I love this pastry shop located on Via dei Medici. We got coffees and our favorite pastry, budino di riso
Museum: Uffizi - We got 3pm entry and there was no one there. January is the time to go, we had the place to ourselves.
Nap: Tea back in our hotel room and a rest
Dinner: Antico Ristoro di Cambi - located in the San Frediano neighborhood, this is one of my favorite places in Florence. It’s big, and brightly lit, and always full of locals. We started with crostini and we each ordered a glass of Tignanello. (they have a great wine by the glass selection). Domenico got ribolitta and I got pappa al pomodoro. Even though they are known for bistecca, we knew we were having that the next day, so went for the fried chicken and the fried rabbit and artichokes. Yum!
After dinner drinks: After this huge dinner we both needed a walk and then a grappa or amaro. We hung out in the Winter Garden of the St. Regis. I totally recommend this even if you’re not staying there. They have a piano player and it’s gorgeous and very comfortable and extremely grown up feeling.
Room Service: We had coffee in our room and had a slow lazy morning.
Late Morning Snack: We stopped by Procacci for a truffle panino and an espresso. This is the prefect pre-museum munch.
Museum: Exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi. (there is always something great there)
Shopping: Santa Maria Novella to pick up some soap.
Lunch: Sostanza, because no trip to Florence is complete without a meal here. We had the house wine, cups of broth to warm us up and then the tortino di carciofi to split. Although I usually get the butter chicken we decided to get the bistecca fiorentina which was amazing. Sides of beans and spinach. Their famous merengue cake for dessert.
Rest: Nap and coffee in our fabulous suite
Afternoon: Antico Setificio Fiorentino has been looming luxury fabrics for centuires. We talked our way in, but I think you usually have to contact them ahead of time and pay for a tour. If you aren’t able to book a tour, visit Bartolozzi for an equally atmospheric artisan workshop.
Tea Time: I love the cozy tea room La Via del Te. It’s the perfect place to warm up on a winter afternoon.
Cocktails: I met up with Kacie Rose (she’s a very famous Tiktoker, travel advisor and an all around great person) at The St. Regis for martinis.
Dinner: Domenico and I meant to go to Cocco Lezzone but somehow we ended up having another round of cocktails and decided to have dinner in the hotel’s beautiful restaurant.
Checked out and left our bags at hotel.
Museum: Bargello - We had the entire place to ourselves.
Walked over the Ponte Vecchio - Because if you don’t walk on the Ponte Vecchio have you really been in Florence?
Lunch: Trattoria Camillo: We actually wanted to have dinner here, but they are closed Monday and Tuesday. I love this place so much. We each Glass of Chianti Classico Riserva and shared Fried Artichokes and Celeriac salad to start. Domenico had Ceciata (Pork stewed with chickpeas) and I had Sweetbreads and artichokes. Crispy fried potatoes on the side and the best tiramisu in town for dessert.
Picked up our bags and headed to the Station and back to Rome.
Thank you for all the feedback about TikTok. Since so many of you mentioned you didn’t use it and didn’t want to, I’ve started a new series for paying subscribers of this newsletter, sharing versions of my TikTok videos along with useful links. Last week’s post was a trip to the Farmer’s Market along with lots of recipes about how to use the vegetables I bought. And I’ll be sharing a few videos I shot in Florence soon.
What a fun read!!!
As the emoji suggests, it was offered more in jest. There is a degree of truth to it, however, as Americans are rarely seen in this beautiful part of Italy. Rather, they succumb to the mainstream advertising about Tuscany. So, as an American, I relish the opportunity to spend time in a place where my countrymen are not crawling all over the place.
If you continue to feel this is odd, please feel free to block me from further communication on your site.