Transcript / SSoP Podcast Episode 44 — Italy: A Bottle of Red, the Tuscan Sun, and Il Dolce Far Niente

Transcript / SSoP Podcast Episode 44 — Italy: A Bottle of Red, the Tuscan Sun, and Il Dolce Far Niente

Monday, 26 September, 2022

This is a transcription of Episode 44 — Italy: A Bottle of Red, the Tuscan Sun, and Il Dolce Far Niente.

David: Hello, welcome to Strong Sense of Place. I’m David Humphreys.

Melissa: I’m Melissa Joulwan. In each episode, we explore one destination through the pages of five books we love.

David: We search for books that are readable, engaging, opinionated, and tell you about the best.

Melissa: Fiction and non, contemporary and classic. These books help us understand the world and our place in it.

David: We’re on a trip around the globe, one great read at a time. Thanks for joining us.

[cheerful theme music]

David: Welcome to Season Four, Episode 44 of Strong Sense of Place. Today we are getting curious about Italy. We have been to Italy.

Melissa: Together, we’ve been to Venice.

David: Yes. Which feels a little bit like saying you have had the cake when you’ve only tasted the icing. [laughter] It will be no surprise to anyone, I suppose, to hear that Venice is beautiful. Follow me for more hidden location tips.

Melissa: The thing that I found really interesting about our experience in Venice, is that when we first got there, it felt almost too Disneyish for me. I was feeling very resistant to it. It felt very crowded. It ‘s stunningly beautiful, but it felt almost too antiseptic or clean or something. I didn’t feel rounded in it. There are obviously beautiful places that are on lists of the top 10 things you need to see in Venice. But I feel like I really started to enjoy it when we got away from those things and wandered the back alleys. I started to imagine what it would be like to be there during Carnivale, and someone comes around one of those shadowy corners in a black cape and one of those masks, and it’s kind of scary. I’m just always trying to make it a Gothic movie in my imagination, I think is what I’m saying.

[dave laughter]

David: But you have also been to Italy without me.

Melissa: When I was a teenager, way way back in 1985, I went to Florence with the American Music Abroad Choir. For new listeners, who may not be introduced to the delights of the American Music Abroad Choir, it was a bunch of choir nerds. We had to wear white blouses, red blazers and blue skirts. Anyway, we went to Florence.

David: Yep.

Melissa: The thing I remember most vividly is the quality of the light. It was so beautiful. Everything was golden. I went shopping at a market right next to the Arno River, bought the coolest white leather jacket, when Italy was still using the lira. And it was almost 2000 lira to the dollar, so it felt like play money.

David: Sure. Because something was 46,000 lira. Like what?

Melissa: But yeah, the light is amazing. Again. Just to tell you really things you won’t hear anywhere else about traveling to Italy.

David: The Imposter Syndrome is really coming up right now. I got to say, I’ve heard good things about Rome. This place called Rome. I don’t know. I haven’t been. [laughter]

Melissa: I will also say that my grandfather is from a small village on top of a hill in Sicily. And I very much look forward to making my way there eventually.

David: Yeah. We were going to go. We had planned to go, and that trip got delayed by COVID. But it was really fun doing the research for that and looking at that little tiny town that your your grandfather was from and trying to figure out how we were going to get there and we were going to stay and all that. And I look forward to doing that sometime.

Melissa: Me, too.

David: Are you ready to talk about Italy?

Melissa: I million lira percent.

David: So two dollars. [laughter]

Melissa: Again, telling you things you’ve never heard before: Italy is a peninsula shaped like a boot.

David: What? You’re probably the first person to ever make that observation.

Melissa: It’s kicking out of southern Europe. The top of the boot is bordered by France, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia. The toe of the boot is gently nudging the Italian island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Rome is Italy’s capital. Inside Italy’s borders, you’ll find two tiny countries: San Marino in the mountains and Vatican City snuggled inside Rome.

Melissa: Italy has the best of both worlds because it’s surrounded by the sea, but also has mountains — the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and the Appenines — in the north and criss-crossing the interior. To the west, are wooded hills — that’s where you’ll find Rome and its famous seven hills — and in the south, it’s mostly hot, dry coastlands. That’s where they grow lovely things like figs, almonds, and olives. And throughout the country, there are regions perfect for growing grapes for wine.

Melissa: The population is about 55 million. 80% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, and the official language is —

David: Spanish! [laughter]

Melissa: This is a fun fact: Italy has the third highest life expectancy in Europe. It’s 83.5 years. Which is higher than the US. The US is 78.2 I can only assume it’s because of la dolce vita, the sweet life, of living in Italy. Which brings me to my first point.

Melissa: Doing research for this episode was nearly impossible because there are too many awesome things.

David: Yeah. There are a lot of distractions in Italy.

Melissa: So I will now do a fast recitation of things that people associate with and love about Italy.

David: OK.

Melissa: I’m gonna take a deep breath —

David: All right.

Melissa: Pasta, pizza, espresso, tiramisu, cannoli, truffles… cheeses like parmigiano, mozzarella, gorgonzola, mascarpone, and ricotta… gelato, risotto, prosciutto, limoncello, prosecco… olive oil and wine… high fashion from Valentino, Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce e Gabbana, and that peasant blouse from that episode of I Love Lucy where she stomps the grapes… slick cars from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Fiat… vespas, opera, the center of the Roman Empire, the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Vatican… artists like Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, Caravaggio… composers like Vivaldi, Rossini, and Verdi… explorers like Marco Polo and Columbus, inventors and scientists like Da Vinci, Galileo, Marconi, and Fermi. And the cities! Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Milan. The seaside towns of Cinque Terra and the Amalfi coast… the eruption at Pompei, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel… the islands of Sicily and Capri… Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, Isabela Rossellini, and Gina Lollobrigida.

Melissa: Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth.

David: I feel like with a little work, we could we could make that into a really bad rap.

Melissa: Special episode coming up soon.

Melissa: Since it would take a 23-hour episode to do justice to all the things I just mentioned, I thought I’d talk about the various regions of Italy and things you might do when you visit them.

David: Oh, all right.

Melissa: If you want to recreate scenes from a classic movie La Dolce Vita or Roman Holiday, head to the capital. You can climb the Spanish Steps, walk through history in the Colosseum, ride a Vespa down narrow alleys —

David: I would really like to ride a Vespa.

Melissa: I would like to sit behind you on a Vespa. [laughter]

Melissa: You can gaze up at the Sistine Chapel, and make a wish when you toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain. When in Rome, you’ll want to eat Rigatoni Carbonara, the ultra creamy pasta dish made not with cream, but with egg, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and guanciale, which is what bacon tastes like in heaven.

Melissa: To bask in golden sunshine and relax by the Arno like Lucy Honeychurch in the E.M. Forster novel A Room with a View, head to Florence and the surrounding towns of Tuscany. You can take in the frescoes at the Duomo, admire the larger-than-life perfection of the statue of David, and gaze at Botticelli’s Venus. The number one dish to try in Florence is Bistecca Fiorentina. It’s a bone-in steak from a particular breed of cow, and it’s grilled over hot coals and chestnuts — because the smoke from the chestnuts gives it a special flavor — it’s then seasoned with only salt and pepper, and maybe a spritz of lemon juice. One of the recipes I read said, ‘You can use rosemary on the plate as a garnish but do not let it touch the steak.’

David: [laughter] That seems oddly specific.

Melissa: The very purest recipe. For something less carnivorous, try tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and truffles — both are local ingredients — and the gelato in Florence is some of the best in Italy. I think they only way to determine that is to eat gelato everywhere in Italy.

David: Agreed.

Melissa: Dave?

David: I’m up to it.

Melissa: For something completely different and otherworldly, take yourself off to Venice. It’s made up of 120 islands, little canals in between them, connected by 391 bridges. It’s exactly as enchanting as you think it is. Speaker2: If you want to skim down the Grand Canal, you can catch a shared boat that’s called a Zapata. It’s kind of like the boat equivalent of a small bus or hire a private water taxi.

David: Yeah, we did that and it seemed really expensive and then completely worth it and it was so worth it that we did it again the next day.

Melissa: We did! We were ridiculous. It was awesome. We went down the Grand Canal and then out into the lagoon, on a beautiful speed boat with the wind tearing through our hair and the amazing skyline of Venice on the horizon. It was amazing.

David: It was.

Melissa: You can float among the wedding-cake houses called palazzi or wander the narrow cobblestone alleys under flower boxes filled with bright blooms with laundry suspended overhead. When you’re feeling peckish, elbow your way to the bars known as bàcari to eat cicchetti.

David: Cicchetti!

Melissa: Cicchetti. I’ll be talking about that more when we get to books, but cicchetti are delicious little appetizer-like morsels designed to be eaten in a bite or two while sipping wine.

David: So, like tapas.

Melissa: They are similiar to tapas, but if you talk to someone from Venice, they will say it’s completely different.

David: OK.

Melissa: Cicchetti are not meant to take the place of a meal. The idea is that on your way home from running errands or being at work, you stop in the bar to have a drink. You don’t want to drink on any empty stomach, so you have a little morsel to go along with your drink.

David: In the States, we have popcorn and peanuts.

Melissa: Exactly.

David: In Italy, they have fully formed dishes.

Melissa: Yes. The small glass of wine is known as a shadow in English, and when it’s time to shake off the day, your friend might say, Let’s go to drink a shadow [laughter] which I would like to adopt in all situations.

David: Yes.

Melissa: To bask in the sun and frolic in the sea, you can visit the colorful villages of Cinque Terra in the north or the Amalfi Coast in the south. Or sail to the isles of Capri or Sicily. In Sicily you’ll definitely want to snack on arancini, those are rice balls stuffed with cheese and deep-fried.

David: Yes! We had those. We had those here.

Melissa: We did. We need to have them in Sicily to have the real deal.

David: I’m available.

Melissa: And you can follow it up with a canoli. That’s a fried pastry shell filled with sweetened ricotta cheese.

Melissa: If you’d like to try hiking or skiing, you can head to the Dolomites, or for more thrills, hike up Sicily’s Mount Etna which his Europe’s largest volcano and was known by the Greeks as ‘the column that holds up the sky.’

David: That’s really nice.

Melissa: Wherever you visit, you can sleep in mountain huts or monasteries, boutique hotels or family-owned pensions, vine-wrapped villas, rustic farmhouses, or cozy chalets.

Melissa: It’s worth noting that I’ve now said about 1000 words about Italy and have yet to mention the famous director Federico Fellini. I thought I would end my 101 with short, sweet words from him: ‘Life is a combination of magic and pasta.’

David: [laughter] Are you ready for Two Truths and a Lie?

Melissa: Si.

David: I’m about to say three statements. Two of them are true. One of them is not. Mel doesn’t know which one is the lie. Here are the three statements. Number one: high on a hill in the southern province of Matera, there is a cursed village. The locals will not speak its name. Number two: the richest man in Italy is a pasta baron. They call him Mr. Bolognese. [laughter] And three: the biggest rock band on Earth is from a small city in Italy.

Melissa: I mean, I’m already thinking the last one is a lie, but one at a time. Okay, one at a time.

David: First one: High on a hill in the southern province of Matera, there is a cursed village. The locals will not speak its name.

Melissa: I need that to be true.

David: It is true.

Melissa: This is the best day ever.

David: There is a village said to be cursed with bad luck, even saying its name. It’s considered a risk. I’m going to say it now.

Melissa: You’re not!

David: Colobraro!

Melissa: [gasp]

David: But the locals just call it That Village.

Melissa: Like the Scottish play!

David: Yeah, but they say it in Italian and they’re quick to touch wood if they hear the name.

Melissa: I love that.

David: Yeah. So if you’re out there, touch wood. According to the Internet, that village’s recent run of bad luck started in the 1940s. The then-mayor was in court one day, arguing his case for something or other. He pointed at a chandelier hanging on the ceiling and then he said, May the chandelier come crashing to the ground if I’m not telling the truth. And the chandelier came crashing to the ground. [gasp]

Melissa: So dramatic.

David: Since then, there’s been talk of witches and potions and hexes. An anthropologist came to town to study why people of the area still believed in magic. It said that he and his group fell victim to freak accidents and illnesses.

Melissa: Stop.

David: I’m ready for the movie.

Melissa: 100%.

David: In 2011, the people of that town started leaning into it.

Melissa: Of course they did.

David: They began an annual street show and a festival called a Midsummer Night’s Dream In That Village. They bring together magicians and fortune tellers and street performers to celebrate their cursed town. Visitors are given an amulet to protect against the village’s misfortune.

Melissa: We are definitely going to that festival.

David: Biagio Virgilio — and I’m sure I’m pronouncing that correctly — Biagio Virgilio, a town resident, told the Italian Tribune about the festival. ‘Colobraro is a magical place. Come here and you’ll understand why it is perched atop the last hill before the sea and has a breathtaking panorama. There’s nothing of evil here. All these weird stories stem from a belief that we bring bad luck. But this is what the other towns say because they have always envied us.’

Melissa: That perfect.

David: ‘And envy is always evil.’

Melissa: [clapping] Yes.

David: Yeah. If you want to get to Colobraro, we will put a link in our show notes.

Melissa: That was a really good story.

David: Isn’t that nice? Statement two: the richest man in Italy is a pasta baron. They called him Mr. Bolognese.

Melissa: That is just too silly to be true.

David: It is a total lie. [laughter] So, first of all, when I was researching this, I found out that according to the former mayor of Bologna, from which we get the name bolognese, there is no authentic spaghetti bolognese. Yeah, there’s a meat sauce. Yes, ragu alla bolognese. But they would never put that meat sauce on something as flimsy as spaghetti.

Melissa: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of rules about what kind of sauce can go and what kind of pasta shape.

David: It doesn’t pick up the sauce. They might put it on tagliatelle, which is a thicker, broader noodle.

Melissa: How about a rigatoni?

David: Also rigatoni, but spaghetti? Not so much. Maybe this is old news to people, but it shook my world a little bit. As for the statement, the richest man in Italy is not in food production or a restaurateur, like Illy or Barilla. He’s not in fashion like Armani or Prada. He’s not a car manufacturer like Ferrari or Lamborghini. The wealthiest man in Italy is Giovanni Ferrero. And he’s a candy baron.

Melissa: Yes. Yees!

David: Giovanni Ferrero is worth over $30 billion, making him the richest person in Italy by far.

Melissa: We’re talking about Ferrero Rocher candy balls?

David: Exactly. Those little golden balls of chocolate and hazelnut. Mm hmm. But his big money comes from another brand you might know. His family controls the worldwide manufacture and distribution of Nutella.

Melissa: Stop it.

David: That chocolate hazelnut spread. Yeah.

Melissa: What’s with his family in chocolate and hazelnut?

David: I don’t know. Nutella was invented by his grandfather. Or perfected by his grandfather. There were other versions of it. In the last 80 years, they’ve gone from making the stuff in a kitchen to being the world’s largest consumer of hazelnuts.

Melissa: Wow. I mean, I remember when I was in American Music Abroad the first time I had Nutella with baguette for breakfast, and my mind was blown because we didn’t have it in the United States then.

David: Right.

Melissa: And like the idea of something that tastes like chocolate frosting for breakfast? Fantastic.

David: Yeah. Every year, their company buys 25% of the world’s hazelnuts. After Mars-Wrigley. They’ve become the world’s second largest chocolate manufacturer. In the last 20 years, they’ve been buying stuff up, so brands that they own now include Kinder Butterfinger, Famous Amos, Keebler, Lemonheads, Fox Biscuits, Baby Ruth’s, Tic Tac Mints, and Mother’s cookies. And the company is still privately owned.

Melissa: Good for them.

David: It is still a family company.

Melissa: So they get to decide which candy they like instead of listening to shareholders.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: We have a vision for this family’s candy empire.

David: While we’re here, I have a Nutella tip.

Melissa: Do tell because I just kind of go for jar, spoon.

David: Yeah. Some people recommend putting a spoonful of Nutella in a cup of coffee.

Melissa: Oh, yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

David: I tried it this week.

Melissa: Is that why there’s a jar of Nutella in our cabinet?

David: That is exactly why —

Melissa: Let me be more accurate. Is that why there’s a jar with maybe one or two spoonfuls of Nutella still left in it in the cabinet? Because I found it, and I had my way with it.

David: And now we have less Nutella than we had before.

Melissa: Way less Nutella than we had before.

David: Yeah. If you’re like me, you may be wondering how Nutella dissolves in the coffee. Because it doesn’t seem like it would because it’s pretty dense. And the answer is it doesn’t so much. It gives the coffee kind of a chocolatey hazelnut vibe. But then what you get is a chocolate hazelnut coffee sludge at the bottom of the cup.

Melissa: Oh, that sounds really good.

David: That stuff is fantastic.

Melissa: I like this idea.

David: I’d recommend it.

Melissa: The world’s biggest rock band is from Italy?

David: That’s true. I love this story.

Melissa: Are we going to have an argument about what the biggest rock band on Earth is?

David: I don’t think so. Okay, here’s how this happened. So it’s 2014. There is a marine geologist in Italy. He’s from a city called Cesena. His name is Fabio Zaffagnini. Fabio has a dream. He wants the Foo Fighters to come play in his hometown. Fabio has no money, no connections. And the Foo Fighters have never played anywhere near Cesena before. Does that stop Fabio?

Melissa: I’m going to guess no.

David: It doesn’t. Fabio thinks, how can I do this? How can I get the Foo Fighters to come to my hometown? And it occurs to him how to do it. It is a simple three step plan.

Melissa: A jar of Nutella and a cup of coffee.

David: First, and this is the big step, get 1000 musicians together. Second, record all those musicians playing a Foo Fighters song. Finally, post that video on the Internet and wait for Dave Grohl to call.

Melissa: I mean, that’s not a bad idea. Dave Grohl is very on the Internet.

David: Yes, that is precisely what he did. On July 26, 2015, 1000 musicians gather in a field outside of his hometown and they play ‘Learn to Fly.’ If you haven’t seen the video and even if you have, you need to go watch it. For me, humans just don’t get much better than this video. This might be as good as we get. There is singing and playing together with hope that something extraordinary might happen. But no guarantee. Just united and rocking out in a field in Italy as an expression of optimism. The video is charming and adorable, and it’s filled with beautiful people. It is a fantastic piece of work. They edit the video and it goes online four days later, on July 30th, 96 days after that, on November 3rd, the Foo Fighters walk onto the stage in Cesena.

Melissa: That is awesome.

David: Yeah. They play in a small hall that holds about 3500 people.

Melissa: Wow. That’s so cool.

David: Typically, it’s the home court for a semi-pro women’s volleyball club. But that night, it was the stage for one of the biggest rock bands in the world. And the place was packed. By all accounts, it was a fantastic show. They open with ‘Learn to Fly.’ They played their hits. They covered Queen and Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols. They had musicians from the video, joined them on stage.

Melissa: I was going to say, I hope the people who are in that video got to go.

David: Yeah, I think that was that was the audience. Of the 3500 people, 1000 of them played in the in the video. The show went on for three blistering, sweaty hours. There’s a show video, and you can feel the energy coming off your computer screen there. But. Now what? Playing with a thousand people is fun. But now what? And that’s when the Rockin’ 1000 was formed. The Rockin’ 1000 is a cover band that does rock songs and they have a thousand members.

Melissa: That’s so fun.

David: Yeah. About a year after they made that video, they played their first gig at the Mizuno Stadium in Cesena. They played 17 songs. They played ‘Come Together’ from the Beatles and ‘Born to Be Wild’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘Rebel Rebel.’ And they closed with their big hit ‘Learn to Fly.’

Melissa: Amazing.

David: That concert was released as an album and you can hear the whole thing on Spotify. The Rockin’ 1000 have since played stadiums in France and Germany and Spain.

Melissa: How many tour buses do you need to get all of those people to a gig? Amazing.

David: I think one of the things that they do is they gather local people to come play.

Melissa: Oh, that’s really cool.

David: And everyone has to learn the the set list, and then they show up. And the video that I saw, they kind of cover the field of the stadium and they do their thing.

Melissa: That’s amazing. I love the way music brings people together like that. If you know the chords, you can make the music.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: So cool.

David: Yeah. They are playing their first overseas gig in just a few days from the release of this podcast. On October 1st, they will take the stage in Brazil. Tickets are on sale now.

Melissa: I feel like we need to go to Brazil.

David: I do, too. That’s Two Truths and a Lie. Are you ready to talk about books?

Melissa: I really am. My first recommendation is The Invitation by Lucy Foley. The story is set aboard a luxury yacht that sailing up the coast of the Italian Riviera to the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. If you have ever wanted to time travel back to a more glamorous era. This book is that. The clothing is fabulous. The champagne is flowing, and everyone is still nursing their wounds from the war years. It is all devastatingly romantic.

David: Go on.

Melissa: The story begins in Rome on a winter evening in 1951. Our would-be hero. Hal is a struggling journalist. In need of a drink and a good story, he accepts an invitation to a swanky party thrown by a Contessa. She’s gathered her rich friends to convince them to finance a film she wants to produce.

David: Do you feel there’s a hole in our lives by not knowing enough Contessas?

Melissa: I absolutely do, yeah. She’s bored with her stuffy, elitist crowd, and she is intrigued and charmed by Hal. Her snobby friends are not. So how escapes being alternately ignored and humiliated by visiting the rooftop garden. And while he’s gazing out over the lamplit streets of Rome, a beautiful blonde woman in a shimmery dress materializes at his side. It’s Stella. And she, too, has had enough of the party. So they embark on an enchanted evening in Rome, one of those once-in-a-lifetime capers that neither of them will ever forget. They stroll the ancient streets, arm in arm. They duck into a shadowy bar for jazz and beer, then explore a hidden garden filled with citrus trees. Stella asked to see his apartment. She wants to see the real Rome. And as you might expect, one thing leads to another.

David: Hmm.

Melissa: Lying in each other’s arms amidst the tangled sheets, they talk about Hal’s dreams of writing and the war. And then they drift off to sleep. But the next morning they both returned to their normal lives. And Hal realizes he never learned Stella’s last name. Two years later, he’s accepted the fact that he’ll probably never see her again. But he has not forgotten the beautiful, mysterious lady who captured his heart.

David: Then what happens?

Melissa: You remember the Contessa who threw the party?

David: Sure. Of course.

Melissa: She has now made Hal an irresistible offer. Her film is premiering at Cannes, so she’s hosting a floating party aboard a yacht to attend the premiere. This glamorous group will drink champagne, dance, and swim along the Italian coast. And she wants Halle to join them to write a splashy article about the whole affair.

David: Okay.

Melissa: There’s a sexy Italian actress. There’s the artistic film director, there’s a revered actor. And you want to guess who else is on the boat?

David: Stella?

Melissa: Stella. Along with her total brute of a husband.

David: Oh.

Melissa: Mm hmm.

David: Oh.

Melissa: As the cocktails are poured house, feelings for Stella are rekindled. And we learn that everyone on board has dark secrets they’d prefer to keep hidden.

David: This sounds a little like the plot of one of the dance sequences in Singing in the Rain. I know that’s kind of an outside reference for everybody, but we’ll put a link.

Melissa: If you read the reviews and descriptions of this book, it’s described as a love story. And it is. But what they don’t say is that it’s delicious slice of what I call sunshine gothic. This thing is just drenched in a sinister atmosphere.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: Which is not really a surprise. The author, Lucy Foley, wrote two of my favorite thrillers that also have a very strong sense of place. There’s The Hunting Party, which I recommended in our Scotland episode and The Guest List, which I talked about in our Ireland episode. And this book is very different from those two. It has a lot of suspense, but the treatment is really different.

Melissa: This book opens with a prologue that reminded me of the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca, if you put it into a cocktail shaker with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe and a splash of Patricia Highsmith, the prologue is set a few years after the events of the book. Hal is jaded and living in Morocco. His broken heart has just festered, and he’s describing his solitary life. And he says, ‘I wonder sometimes if I have gone a little mad.’

Melissa: And I was like, Did Edgar Allan Poe just walk in here? And then he continues: ‘That spring was the start of everything for me. Before then, I might have been half asleep, drifting through life. Before then I had not known the true capacity of the human heart. I remember it all with such a peculiar clarity. Though I know that now is the time to do this, or never at all, I cannot deny my dread of returning to that spring. Because what happened was my fault, you see.’

Melissa: Irresistible.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: One of the reviews of this book said ‘Obsession, obsession everywhere, and a flute of spumante to drink. As in a movie from this period, melodrama and clichés are par for the course.’ And I was like, Yes!

David: I think the critic wrote that as as a bad review?

Melissa: I believe so. This story is melodramatic and the characters are over the top, and it also transported me to tiny fishing villages and the back alleys of Genoa and a coral pink villa overlooking the sea. It is an atmospheric delight and it had a surprise ending. That’s The Invitation by Lucy Foley.

David: My first book is Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris. Jan Morris was a British travel writer. She had a remarkable life. It started back in 1926 and ended just two years ago. She lived to be 94.

Melissa: Good for her — many adventures.

David: Yes. And she packed that life full. Let’s start with three things about Jan. First, she was a reporter in 1953, when she was 27, whe was the only member of the press on the first ascent of Mount Everest.

Melissa: Whoa. That’s a pretty good credit.

David: Right? She climbed up to 22,000 feet and then reported on the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they got to 29,000 feet. She sent a code down the mountain. That story broke in England the day that Queen Elizabeth was crowned.

Melissa: That was a very big day.

David: It was a huge, huge day. Eight years later, she would cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was a key player in the Nazi Party. Second, she was a prolific author. She’d write over 40 books in her lifetime, mostly about travel. But she also wrote a couple of novels and a trilogy of books on the history of the British Empire. She described all of her work as, ‘disguised autobiography.’ And third, for the first 46 years of her life, she was a man.

Melissa: Wow.

David: Yeah. She was born James Morris. She began transitioning in 1964 and had gender reassignment surgery in 1972.

Melissa: Good for her. That was not an easy time to be going through that.

David: No. You can read her book if you’re curious about what that was like. It’s called Conundrum.

Melissa: Oh, that’s a great title.

David: Yeah. At the time of her surgery, she’d been married to a woman named Elizabeth for 23 years.

Melissa: What happened to Elizabeth?

David: Well, together they had five children. They would remain a couple for the rest of her life.

Melissa: That is really nice.

David: Yeah. Morris went to Morocco to have the surgery because doctors in England refuse to do it unless she got a divorce.

Melissa: I’m shaking my head.

David: Yes. But this book. This book is her description of Trieste and her relationship with it. Trieste is a small city on the side of Italy, not even part of the boot. It’s over up to the right. It’s walking distance from Slovenia, and it’s sort of tucked into the far corner of the Adriatic Sea. Most people don’t visit Trieste. Many people think that its best days are behind it. It once rivaled Hong Kong as a port city. It was once part of a mighty empire. But those days have passed. Trieste doesn’t have the romance of Venice or the history of Rome or the Art of Florence. It is barely even Italian. The Austrians held Trieste for longer than the Italians. There are parts of this book where it feels like the author is trying to talk you out of visiting. For example, she points out that the writer Paul Thoreau, when recording his impressions of Trieste in 1995, used the adjectives serious, gloomy, dull, solemn, and lugubrious.

Melissa: Geez, Paul.

David: But Jan Morris loved the city. She describes being homesick for a place that is not her home. She describes being nostalgic for a time she did not see. She has a remarkably complex relationship with Trieste, and she documents that she was there in her youth as a young man and again as an old woman. This was the last book she ever wrote, and she knew that at the time.

Melissa: Oh, wow.

David: So you get some reflection on that as well. For me, it came across as intelligent and passionate and intriguing. When I think about cities that are important to me, like Prague or Austin or San Francisco, I’d have to sit for a long time to figure out how to verbalize that. Why this place and what about it? And Morris seems to do it not quite effortlessly, but with clarity, just a sharp clarity.

David: There’s a chapter where she’s talking about the 1800s in Trieste, and she first summons it up, and it felt like I was there. And then she talks about why it appealed to her and how it still resonates, how it still goes through the city, this old ghost. And then she talks about why that time is gone now. And I was there for the whole ride. It was a great sort of lecture.

David: This book is not going to be for everybody. First, there’s the topic which won’t appeal to some people. And secondly, there’s her writing. Her writing is dense. It is the writing of someone who has an emotionally rich life and was educated at Oxford in the forties. [laughter] It invited me to slow down and almost hear it as a voice. She is free and easy with references that I had to Google, which was a great experience, but a slow read. I’m going to give you an example. This is from her epilogue. She’s writing about travel and age here.

David: She writes, ‘Jorge Luis Borges got it right, when he told of an artist setting out to portray the world, but discovering that his “patient labyrinth of lines framed the image of his own face”: so it is with me, after a lifetime of describing the planet, and I look at Trieste now as I would look into a mirror.

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw Or heard or felt came not but from myself.

‘Much of this little book, then, has been self-description. I write of exiles in Trieste, but I have generally felt myself an exile too. For years I felt myself an exile from normality, and now I feel myself one of those exiles from time. The past is a foreign country, but so is old age, and as you enter it you feel you are treading unknown territory, leaving your own land behind. You’ve never been here before. The clothes people wear, the idioms they use, their pronunciation, their assumptions, tastes, humours, loyalties all become the more alien the older you get. The countryside changes. The policemen are children. Even hypochondria, the Trieste disease, is not what it was, for that interesting pain in the ear-lobe may not now be imaginary at all, but some obscure senile reality. This kind of exile can mean a new freedom, too, because most things don’t matter as they used to. They way I look doesn’t matter. The opinions I cherish are my business. The books I have written are no more than smudged graffiti on a wall, and I shall write no more of them. Money? Enough to live on. Critics? To hell with ‘em. Kindness is what matters, all along, at any age — kindness, the ruling principle of nowhere!

David: Jan Morris died in 2020. She’d been married to Elizabeth Tuckniss for 71 years. When she was buried, they put her under a gravestone that they had carved decades before. Stone says Here are two friends, Jan and Elizabeth, at the end of one life.

Melissa: I’m full on ugly crying right now.

David: I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone, but if you like the idea of walking around at an old Italian town that has seen better days with a woman from a different era who is melancholic and wistful and insightful and wise, this might be for you. It’s Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris.

Melissa: Okay. I’m going to lighten the room a little bit with my next pick.

David: Good one.

Melissa: It is Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice: Small Bites From the Lagoon City by Emiko Davies.

David: I’m excited about this. I always get happy when you read a cookbook because that usually means that I get new and exciting foods.

Melissa: That’s true. The author is a food writer and photographer who could teach us all a thing or two about how to enjoy life. She grew up in Australia, Japan and China. Then as a student, she went to Florence to study art and fell in love with her husband, Marco. She’s been living in Italy for 17 years and she’s written four other cookbooks about Italian family recipes, Italian desserts, the food of Florence, and recipes from the Tuscan coast. She also has a beautiful website with recipes and photos, and her bio says this, ‘She and Marco live in a Tuscan village with their two daughters where they dream about opening their own wine bar one day.’ Who’s winning at life?

David: Exactly.

Melissa: This book features recipes and stories of cicchetti. Those are the appetizers that I mentioned in the 101. And they are only found in Venice and only at neighborhood bars called bacari. The idea is that on your way home from work or running errands, you meet up with friends, have a glass of wine or a spritz, and eat something salty and flavorful along with your drink.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: There’s actually a really nice bit in the cookbook where she explains how the owners of the bacari realized if they made stuff a little salty or a little hard to swallow, they would sell more booze.

David: Yeah, that’s just good thinking there. Yeah.

Melissa: In some ways, this book is exactly what you might expect from a coffee table cookbook. There are gorgeous photos that will transport you to Venice, like, dreamy shots down cobblestone alleys, pigeons bobbing in a hidden square.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: Locals reading the newspaper with a cup of espresso. And there are carefully researched, well written recipes for cicchetti that range from simple to more elaborate. So there might be a hard cooked egg topped with an anchovy or Venetian-style fried mozzarella sandwiches.

David: I want to know more.

Melissa: But all of that is just a sneaky way to get you interested in Venetian history. The heart of this book is really a romp through the Renaissance via food and art. The author’s voice is just right. She’s very knowledgeable and opinionated. She also has a lively sense of humor. And even though she’s an expert, she’s also a fan. I was remembering in our museums episode when you talked about how —

David: Yeah.

Melissa: — lots of times experts are expected to be kind of dispassionate about the thing they’re talking about.

David: Right.

Melissa: She is not that, but she is very enthusiastic and it’s really infectious. She also smoothly weaves her personal experiences with the historical tidbits. I want to read you a little bit. This is an example of her describing the cicchetti experience: ‘While it can be brisk, it is inherently sociable over an ombra of wine and a cicchetto, though great conversations ensue. Whether you’re perched on a stool or a canal-edge, standing at the bar or walking from one bacaro to the next.’

Melissa: And then there’s this: ‘The shortage of space to sit and settle-in also reflects the anxieties of the aristocratic Renaissance government, who sought to prohibit working-class Venetians from gathering to eat and drink, fearing this would lead to conspiracy, immorality, and disorder.’

David: Jeez.

Melissa: So in between recipes, she also tells the story of a shipwreck in Norway that led to one of the most popular dishes in Venice that’s still eaten today. She explains the historical value and romance of spices. She writes so precisely and lovingly about radicchio it could become your favorite vegetable.

David: Okay. [laughter]

Melissa: And throughout, there are references to the historical cookbooks and food memoirs and renaissance art that informed her recipes. So let’s talk about the recipes.

David: Okay.

Melissa: Many of them are probably best left to the hands of the pros in Venice, for example.

David: Okay, so this is not a cookbook for beginners.

Melissa: Well, there are some recipes for beginners.

David: Okay. But there are also not.

Melissa: But there are also not.

David: And you have to be wise about which one you choose.

Melissa: Yes. For example, the dried fish used in many cicchetti is hard to find outside of Venice. And if you do get your hands on it, it needs to be soaked in frequently-changed water for days before it can be eaten.

David: Hmm.

Melissa: And then there are plenty of recipes for other things that come from the sea. Because. Venice. So, squid, octopus, snails. These are project recipes that may not appeal to home cooks, even if they could get their hands on the ingredients.

David: Sure.

Melissa: But even those recipes are fascinating because she weaves so much about life in Venice into the headnotes and into the side commentary that goes along with the recipe. And then there are things that can be made in your home kitchen, like Venetian-style gnocchi. It’s dusted with cinnamon sugar and parmesan cheese, just like they ate it in the 16th century.

David: So a sweet pasta

Melissa: Which is kind of a thing here in Czech Republic. There are sweet dumplings that are eaten for lunch and dinner, as opposed to dessert.

David: Yeah, and they’re delicious.

Melissa: In this cookbook, there are also luscious potatoes cooked in olive oil. Very simple, but sounded very succulent. And a dessert that’s like donut holes, but they’re studded with candied fruit and pine nuts and then dusted in sugar.

David: That’s a really good idea.

Melissa: It is. And the most Venetian recipe is not really a recipe at all. And this is the kind of thing that you pick up as you’re reading the book. In Venice, seafood and vegetables are often simply steamed and then tossed with olive oil, garlic, and minced parsley. As the author says, ‘The only thing you need to do is use these three key ingredients to cook like a Venetian.’ As we mentioned, you and I spent a few days in Venice.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: But as I was reading this book, I felt like I had not seen and experienced Venice. I learned more about the history and lifestyle of the city and people who actually live there with this book than I saw in person.

David: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we had that sense when we were there, that we were seeing ‘presented Venice.’

Melissa: Yes. But now because I’ve read this book, I feel like when we go back, I will have a better idea of what kinds of experiences to seek out and what places to go to. And that’s really the highest praise I can give a book on Strong Sense of Place. It’s shown me things that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and kind of armed me for when I go back. And I can’t wait to read the author’s other cookbooks for that reason. This is Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice: Small Bites From the Lagoon City by Emiko Davies.

David: My second book is Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel. Before I read this book, my knowledge of Galileo was mostly for maybe 15 minutes in ninth grade and that Indigo Girls’ song, and that is a lovely song, which I still enjoy.

Melissa: I feel like my framework of understanding for Galileo is that when I’m watching Jeopardy!, if excommunicated or Galileo is in the question.

David: It’s the other.

Melissa: The other one is the answer.

David: All right. So let help you out a little bit. Galileo Galilei.

Melissa: So fun they named him that twice.

David: So there was a habit in the 1500s of giving the firstborn the family name. Galileo Galilei. He was born in 1564, almost 500 years ago, and he’s called the Father of Modern Physics and sometimes the Father of Modern Science. He did not invent the telescope, but he made it his own. He did the math and he made his own lenses, and he produced a fundamentally better telescope. And then he looked up, and he was rewarded. He saw the craters of the moon and the phases of Venus and the stars of the Milky Way. He was the first person to see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.

Melissa: Can you imagine being the first person to see the rings of Saturn?

David: In no way.

Melissa: Like, what is your emotional reaction to that? You’ve literally never seen anything like it before.

David: Yeah, yeah.

Melissa: That’s so cool.

David: Yeah. He coined the term aurora borealis for the Northern Lights, and maybe he was the first person to start to get a sense of how unimaginably vast the universe is. I’m not going to say he was the first person to ever have his mind blown. But my made-up story is that he was a brilliant man. But his real superpower was his curiosity and his ability to apply his knowledge.

Melissa: Sure sounds like it.

David: Yeah. He wanted to know how things worked, and he tried to make the world a better place. And throughout his life, from the time he was a kid, he built things that would delight himself and others. His curiosity led him to think that the Earth revolved around the sun, and at that point, at least in Europe, it was commonly held that the sun revolved around the Earth, and it said as much in the Bible and the Bible was never wrong. To give you a sense of the state of science at that time, when Galileo started teaching, he taught astrology, and he taught astrology because doctors believe they needed to cast horoscopes to see what the stars foretold of their patients lives, aid in diagnosis, and determine the best time to mix medications.

Melissa: Interesting.

David: Yeah. Galileo didn’t put much weight in them, but he was paid to teach, so he taught. Galileo would eventually run into trouble with the Pope. This is the excommunicated part. He would be humiliated and condemned for his insight and his genius. And he’d be confined to a villa outside of Florence to live the rest of his life because he couldn’t let go of an idea that he could see. He had empirical evidence. He was a scientist, and his evidence was better than the Pope’s dogma.

David: So I knew the outline of that story, but I’d always sort of thought that Galileo was was a rebel and maybe self-absorbed and not suffering fools and the old genius in the tower. And I never really thought about Galileo outside of the context of doing his work. Which finally gets me back around to this book. Galileo had a family. He had three children with a woman. Her name was Marina Gamba. They had two daughters and a son. He never married Marina, but they remained friends throughout their lives.

Melissa: So modern.

David: Yeah. He didn’t marry her because she was in a different class. And that would have been unseemly for a scholar.

Melissa: Okay, that’s less cool than it sounded at first.

David: Yeah. Both of his daughters went to a convent when they were in their early teens, and that wasn’t uncommon at the time. They would both live their lives there and eventually die at the convent. The book strongly suggests that Galileo was pleasant to be around. He was funny and he was smart and he was charming and he was beloved as a teacher. He kept friends his entire life. He played music; he could draw. People would meet him and never forget him. And one of the greatest relationships of his life was with his oldest daughter. Her birth name was Virginia. Her name at the convent was Maria Celeste, as in Celestial. A nod to her father’s relationship with the stars. And they wrote each other frequently. We still have 124 of Maria Celeste’s letters to him. Unfortunately, it’s believed that Galileo’s letters to his daughter were burned by the head nun at the convent after her death. It brings me a little pain to say that out loud. Like, why?

Melissa: Why would you do that?

David: Don’t do that. Galileo thought his daughter was brilliant and lovely. He wrote that she was ‘a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me.’

Melissa: That’s really sweet.

David: Yeah. And she wrote him like he was her very own patron saint. And the book is a retelling of his life illuminated by those letters. Part of the attraction for me here is that I got so much of a sense of life then.

Melissa: Mm hmm.

David: You have Galileo and his world-class problems that we still talk about, but you also get a father and a daughter talking about their lives: I have a toothache. Here’s what I ate today. I really want to move into a better room. Can you help me out? One of the things this book taught me is that Galileo was a man of faith. He was raised Roman Catholic, and he held those beliefs his entire life. He gave birth to two nuns. He believed in the power of prayer, but he also believed that God placed mysteries in the universe for people to solve. The author, Dana Sobel, has a long and distinguished career as a science writer. She’s written for The New York Times and Scientific American, Discover, The New Yorker. She wrote the book Longitude, which she describes as ‘the race to discover a means for determining position at sea, a challenge that stumped the wisest men of the world for the better part of two centuries.’ I read that and enjoyed it many years ago. This book, Galileo’s Daughter, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize back in 2000. If you are generally interested in science or curious about Florence in the 16th century, I would encourage you to pick up a copy. It’s Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel.

Melissa: My final recommendation is Still Life by Sarah Winman.

David: You love this book.

Melissa: I painfully love this book. This is a story of found family set in Florence in the first few decades after World War Two. And I really struggled with how to talk about this book because I love it so much, I just want to put it in people’s hands and say, ‘Trust me, read this.’ It has burrowed its way into my heart. I had to take breaks while I was reading it to catch my breath and let the words settle. I was so deeply invested in these characters and what was happening to them.

David: Literally breathtaking.

Melissa: Yes.

David: My memory of this book is trying to read my own book and being frequently interrupted to hear parts of your book.

Melissa: Guilty as charged. Also, one morning we were eating breakfast, and I got to a really emotional part. And before I knew what was happening, I was full-on crying.

David: Yes.

Melissa: And I kept wondering if you were going to notice. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted you to notice or not, because it was like this really private moment.

David: I knew what was going on. I knew you were reading, and I knew you were having a reaction to it.

Melissa: I start making, like, weird snuffling noises with my nose. In addition to the characters and the beautiful writing, the way the story unfolds to me is perfect. So I don’t want to say too much about the plot. I’m going to give everyone the set-up and share a few things I loved without giving away anything. So that if and when you read it, you can enjoy the small, sweet surprises that are revealed as you go along in the story.

Melissa: When the story opens, it’s 1944, and we meet our hero. He is a British soldier named Ulysses Temper, and he’s stationed in Italy. He’s a very thoughtful young man with a really strong sense of self and what seems like optimism that cannot be killed.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: Even though he’s dodging bombs and seeing the devastation of the war, he’s also keeping his heart open to the beauty around him. Seeing Italy as a young man is kind of blowing his mind. Along with Ulysses, we meet his boss and friend, Captain Darnley, and a 64-year-old art historian named Evelyn Skinner. The three of them enjoy a very memorable evening together in a villa that’s been taken over by Allied troops. So you can picture what used to be a beautiful house, but now the floor is littered with broken glass and furniture. It smells. There are guards on watch because they found a cache of hidden art.

David: I always wondered what that would be like to be in a liberated town right after it was liberated.

Melissa: Difficult, I’m thinking.

David: I would think so, too.

Melissa: Complicated.

David: Complicated.

Melissa: So Ulysses and Darnley and Evelyn make their way to the cellar because it’s been turned into a sort of nightclub for Allied officers. And I want to read you a little bit from that scene.

David: Okay.

Melissa: ‘Darnley opened the door and conversation and music spilled out. The room was a long narrow corridor, shadows in the corners where the throw of candlelight was simply too weak to penetrate….

They sat down at an empty table and a private emerged out of the shadows carrying three crystal goblets, a corkscrew, and a small plate of thinly cut pecorino cheese.

You see, Miss Skinner. It’s really not much different from the Garrick Club. Evelyn laughed. Darnley did the honors. A neat little pop, the smell of the cork and the comforting glug of the pour.

To what shall we toast? said Darnley. What do you think, Ulysses?

To this moment, sir.

Oh, very good, said Evelyn. To this moment.’

Melissa: And then suddenly there are artillery blasts above ground and things in the cellar get very tense. Yeah, chunks of ceiling fall down, candles go out, bottles crash to the floor. And then there’s this: Ulysses reached across the table for Evelyn’s hands. He began to talk to her, even sing to her. Still singing as the barrage ended. The faint click of a turntable slowing to its inevitable end. The soft fall of white dust in the intervening silence. Darnley laughing.’

Melissa: Afterward, as they’re all making their farewells, Evelyn says to Darnley, Thank you for tonight. Keep your head down and stay in the world if you please. And that’s it. They part. And who knows if they’ll ever see each other again.

David: Mm hmm.

Melissa: After the war, Ulysses returns to London and his neighborhood pub, which is called ‘The Stoat and Parot,’ because there’s a stuffed stoat on the mantelpiece and there’s a talking parrot in the bar. And this is where we meet Ulysses’ found family. A motley collection of regulars who treat the pub like a second home. They’re forever wandering in and out and starting and leaving conversations. And then one day, Ulysses learns he’s the recipient of an unexpected inheritance that takes him back to Tuscany.

David: Oh.

Melissa: And the rest of the book is a depiction of how his life unfolds. So here are things I loved about the book that I can tell you without ruining anything.

David: All right.

Melissa: The novel A Room with a View, which is also set in Florence, and its author, E.M. Forster, play a part in this story. That is all I will say about that. It is delightful. The author weaves food into the story in a very effective way. It’s used when characters are celebrating or when they desperately need nourishment. It’s connecting them to each other and to Florence. And it’s really subtly done. It’s not like, you know, sometimes in a cozy mystery, it goes on and on about the food that people are eating. The way she uses food in the story builds character or moves the story forward, and it makes you hungry at the same time. It’s really, really well done. All of the characters feel like real lived in people, including the talking parrot.

David: That’s a good trick.

Melissa: As I’ve been talking about this book here and there online and in my review on Goodreads, I wrote about how this story made me homesick for pretend people and for places that I have not been. It’s very tender and sweet, but it’s never twee, and it explores every emotion in a really adult way. So joy and sorrow and jealousy, forgiveness, gratitude and mostly love in all of the different flavors that it exists. That is Still Life by Sara Whitman. Before we wrap up the book talk, I’m going to cheat one more time this season.

David: All right.

Melissa: I want to mention that this would be an excellent pairing with the E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View, which is one of my all-time favorite books. I almost talked about that book, and that I read Still Life. A Room with a View is a comedy of manners and a coming-of-age romance set in early 20th-century Florence and England. Lucy Honeychurch is the heroine, and she is a heroine to root for, and the book is very sweet, but also has biting commentary about society at the time. I find it laugh out loud, funny. I whoop a lot when I’m reading that book.

David: Even though you’ve read it several times.

Melissa: Yes. And for another sun-drenched kind of confection about nice British ladies in Italy, you could add Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. This one is about four women who go to a medieval castle in Portofino in the 1920s and completely upend their lives on their way to happiness. Both A Room with a View and The Enchanted April have excellent film adaptations so you can have a little film festival instead. You could read the books, then watch the movies, or vice versa. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve read the books. I think it doesn’t matter what order you do that, and you will enjoy all of it. And I should also mention that I read several other books that didn’t make it into the show, but I’ll be sharing those titles and short reviews in my newsletter on Friday. So if you are not subscribed to our weekly newsletter, now would be a good time to do that. It’s strongsenseofplace.com/signup.

David: Those are more than five books we love set in Italy. Visit our show notes for all kinds of fantastic bits about Italy and to see the Indigo Girls play ‘Galileo’ one more time.

Melissa: And to see Lucy stomping grapes with her feet on I Love Lucy because I can’t resist that clip.

David: And the thousand-member band.

Melissa: And probably some recipes and really beautiful photos. Yeah, there will be a lot of good things in the show notes.

David: Yeah, come by our show notes. And we’ve arrived at the end of season four. Champagne for everyone.

Melissa: We made it.

David: We did it.

Melissa: And what a journey it’s been.

David: It really has. Yeah.

Melissa: There was a pretty good around the world tour this season.

David: We’ve been to a lot of great places. Our immediate plans are to have a really nice lunch.

Melissa: And then maybe take a little nap.

David: I think a nap is in order. And then in a couple of weeks we’re headed off to Spain for a week.

Melissa: And we haven’t been there before.

David: No, I’m very excited about it.

Melissa: Very exciting.

David: We’re going to go to Madrid and then we’re going to go to Barcelona.

Melissa: And a seaside town so we can smell the fresh, salty air. Yeah. Put our feet in the ocean.

David: Yeah.

Melissa: We will definitely be sharing photos and maybe some videos. Who knows?

David: So we’re planning to stay in touch in the off season. We are going to continue to produce The Library of Lost Time podcasts that you’ve been hearing on Friday.

Melissa: I’ll be updating the website and sending my weekly newsletter on Fridays.

David: We’ve got a couple of surprise things that we’re going to do in the off season, which I would tell you about, but then they wouldn’t be a surprise.

Melissa: And we’ll be back with Season Five in a few months. So if you have opinions about where you think we should go in Season Five —

David: Now’s a good time to speak up. We want to wrap up the season by saying, thank you so much for listening. We would just be two idiots sitting in a tent fort if it weren’t for you.

Melissa: And your emails sustain us in a way that you don’t even know.

David: It’s so true.

Melissa: You are literally the wind in our sails that keep this thing going and to our patrons: Thank you. Thank you very much for joining our community there.

David: Thank you all so much. And we will talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]

Top image courtesy of iacomino FRiMAGES/Shutterstock.

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Oh, Italy! We see your snow-capped mountains and sunny beaches, your fresh pasta and sweet gelato, your Renaissance artists, iconic cities, and the soft, magical quality of your light. We love all of it. Grazie.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to the warm sunshine and stunning sights of Florence with Lucy Honeychurch, a heroine who would take the world by storm, if she could only get out of her 19th-century muddle.

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