Q: Where can I buy Bellini for One?
A: If only I had a euro for everyone who asked that question! I’m still writing and hope to return to Italy in the spring of 2013 to finish. Stay tuned for how you can help me through Kickstarter.
Q: What is a Bellini and why is it capitalized?
A: A Bellini is my favorite Italian cocktail and not surprisingly, one of Italy’s most popular cocktails as well. It is made with Prosecco and peach purée though mixologists substitute all kinds of juices when they are without peach purée or want to be overly creative. The first one was made at Harry’s Bar in Venice, where by the way I once enjoyed a $120 lunch. Maybe it was the Bellinis that increased my bill. But I digress. The B is capitalized because the drink is in honor of Giovanni Bellini, a 15th-century Venetian artist. When Harry’s Bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani created the cocktail, it reminded him of the color of the toga of a saint in a Bellini painting.
Q: When and where did you live in Italy?
A: I moved to Florence in April 2003 with the intention of staying one year to get settled in a new country before moving to a small seaside village. In April 2004 I moved to Positano on the Amalfi Coast for 15 months. From the time I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley, I envisioned myself living the life of Gwyneth Paltrow.
Q: Why Italy?
A: I love Italian food, wine, culture, history, the people, the geography, the fashion, the relaxed pace of life and the attitude of “I don’t care how much money you want to pay me, I’m not working overtime or on my day off.”
Q: Did you have to quarantine your dog?
A: No, Italy does not quarantine dogs. My pampered pooch Lucy, who is a very good traveler, traveled with me inside the airplane and adjusted to her life in Italy very well. She immediately became known as Lucia.
Q: Did you learn to speak Italian in Italy?
A: I took Italian I and II at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles before I left. After a few months in Florence, I studied daily at Parola school for one month. I found it best to do a combo of learning in school and surrounding myself with people who don’t speak English in order to learn proper grammar and words that locals use frequently but are never taught in school. My advice for every single woman is to find an Italian lover, preferably a non-married one, who doesn’t speak English and practice what you learn in school.
Q: What are the Italian men like?
A: The best thing about Italian men is they love all women. The worst thing about Italian men is they love all women. Capisce?
Q: What are your favorite books set in Italy?
A: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans, An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser, Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home by Susan Pohlman, and Artemisia by Alexandra Lapierre. I’m also a fan of Andrea Lee, a black woman who has lived in Milan for years with her Italian husband and writes novels, such as Lost Hearts in Italy, from an interesting perspective. And my favorite book by an Italian set in the United States is Beppe Severgnini’s Ciao, America: An Italian Discovers the U.S.
Q: How is it for African Americans living in Italy?
A: Italians judge more on how you dress and carry yourself than skin tone. For the most part, I was treated with the utmost respect. Most could tell I was American. Italians love Americans because they think we are all rich and come to their country to shop. However, there are a lot of Africans, especially from Senegal, that live throughout Italy. Unfortunately they aren’t always treated as well as African Americans.
Q: I want to move abroad. What do you advise?
A: Go for it! You’re never too old or too young to do it. I think every American student should be required to study abroad for one semester. And I think every family should spend time together in a foreign country. You quickly learn what really matters in life. It’s not about how big your house is, what kind of car you drive or how many pairs of shoes you have. Well, disregard the part about the shoes.
Q: What was the toughest adjustment?
A: The lack of adequate electricity and the language. Once I thought I bought the usual liquid detergent for my automatic dishwasher. Turns out it was liquid to clean the dishwasher, not the dishes. I ran the dishwasher twice and still my dishes were dirty. But I had the cleanest dishwasher in Florence.
Q: What did you learn by living in Italy that you apply to your life in the U.S.?
A: That there is no need for salad dressing as long as there is olive oil and day old bread is a bad word. I haven’t bought salad dressing or a loaf of bread since 2003.
Q: Do you think you’ll move back to Italy?
A: Do you think Silvio Berlusconi will avoid going to prison? I think you have your answer.