Bologna, Italy: Favorite Son Tells All

There’s a Texan in our midst here in Montpel, and he’s meeting his sister in Bologna this month. Smart boy that he is, he came straight to me with questions about what to do while he’s there.

I went to Bologna a few years ago with Jax, and we had the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten in my life. But, I suspected that the Texan probably didn’t want that kind of advice. So, smart girl that I am, I went straight to the head of the Gay Mafia – Marco, who grew up in Bologna – for answers. Let’s take a look at his list (loosely translated from our slang/private jokes, etc.):

  1. City center, obviously – the two towers, Piazza Maggiore, Neptune fountain (2:55), the seven churches of Piazza Santo Stefano and the old medieval parts of town.
  2. Shopping: Via Indipendenza, and the market on Fridays and Saturdays at Piazza VIII Agosto.
  3. No one ever does this, but they HAVE TO take via Saragozza (ed. which turns into via di San Luca), starting right outside the city center from Piazza di Porta Saragozza (vuvuvu gugòl meps) and go up to the fabulous Basilica di San Luca. It’s a long way to walk, but it offers breathtaking sights of the city. (ed.: Bus 58 goes there.)
  4. There are a ton of places to eat in Bologna, but the best is Buca di San Petronio (although it is a bit expensive, 30-40 euros). (ed.:Via de’ Musei 4, tel.: +39 051 224 589) The restaurants on this list are also very good.

“ok, spero di essere stato not so useless. ora scappo che ho thousands things to do before work. I’m working every day from 8:00 pm to 2:00 a.m. llllove it.”

Thanks, Marco!  You’re the best!

I’d also like to add two things to this list:

  1. They’re impossible to miss, but the city center architecture is dominated by porticos. Great for shelter from the elements, and great for picture-taking.
  2. This guy said it best, so I’ll just copy and paste it here: Very few visitors know it, but under Bologna there is a dense network of canals which supplied energy in the past to make silk and grind wheat. Most of these were covered in the 1900’s. To see a glimpse of these canals go to Via Piella 18. A window under the portico reveals a surprising scene.

More On All-Inclusive Resorts

Remember my recent trip to Marbella, courtesy of Mr. Apricot? Ever since then, I’ve been thinking more and more about all-inclusive resorts, and why people choose them over other types of vacations. Or, rather, wondering why, since no one seems to be able to give me the answer I seem to be looking for.

Of course, that is completely my fault: I’ve revealed my new obsession with all-inclusives only to fabulous gay Italian men, well-traveled English expats, and my mother. Not exactly a scientific sampling of the vacationing population. But, I’ll share my results with my cherished readers anyway.
Continue reading

Glamorpuss: Made of Honor Premiere in Rome

I’m not easily impressed by glitz and glamour. 

While I’ve never been famous, as a kid I lived in the public eye for a few years while traveling around the country with two national tours of Annie.  (No, I wasn’t Annie.  Yes, it was fun.) I met a lot of very famous people, and many times – on press junkets, in interviews, on  TV – was treated like a famous person.

Because of that, I saw famous people as being no different than I – after all, if I was getting the same treatment, how important could they be? I treated them with respect, but they never seemed untouchable to me.  In the years (decades?!) since that experience, I’ve met many more famous people – being one of the Priveleged Poor in New York will put you in those kinds of situations – and while I’ve enjoyed being in the swirl of glitz and glamour, I’ve never been giggly-googly-eyed.  Except for that one time with Adam Yauch, but he’s a Beastie Boy for chrissakes – I’m not made of stone, people.

But I digress.  As usual.

Last night, when Mr. Apricot and I were on Marco’s sofa chatting and becoming sleepy, he asked me to tell him my favorite part of the evening we had just had together with our friends.  The first thing I thought of – actually, the thing I couldn’t stop thinking of – was that I had walked the red carpet.

I walked the red carpet! 

Mr. Apricot’s friend Teresa, who is a cute, funny, cool chick, works for something or another and scored us invites to the Made of Honor premiere at the spectacular Warner Village Moderno (check out that pic).  We arrived to a drummer and bagpipe player, many bright lights, and on a red carpet strewn with fake rose petals and bordered by a white picket fence, I entered the theater complex about a minute behind my friends (we had gotten separated).

It was thrilling.  No one took my picture; in fact, I think I ruined the picture of the famous people in front of me, because I had to keep stopping and stepping out of the way of their frame, and finally I just barged ahead and had a typical “Aho! Maghegazzovuoi” moment with the paparazzi until the famous people behind me grabbed their attention.

Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan came into the theater to say a few words, and we got a good long look at them (OK, just at him, obvs) as we were in the second row.

Patrick Dempsey is SO HOT.  Wowzers.

The movie was predictable.  It was nice to see the male lead showing gratuitous skin instead of the female lead; but in the end, it was still about the guy getting his way. The guy from HBO’s Rome was in it. I enjoyed pointing out to Marco where I lived freshman year of college.

When we left the theater afterwards to the same lights, music, pomp and circumstance, Teresa and I laughed our way right down the red carpet, as all of the famous poeple were long gone and all that remained were tourists craning to get a look at who we were.

We went for pizza afterward. Attention tourists!  Gallina Bianca is a restaurant near Termini that serves good food.


A Week In Malaga, Spain!

Get a load of your Miss Expatria.

A treasured member of the Gay Mafia, whom we shall call Mr. Apricot, has quite a story to tell about his life. I really can’t get into the details of it as it has brought him to where he is today, which is in a sensitive and highly placed administrative position in the Italian military. That’s pretty much all I can say about that.

So, why bring it up at all, you ask?

Well. We’ve been talking for a while about collaborating on an English-language book written, naturally, by me, about his life. I think it’s an important story to tell, and a fascinating one, I think it would be well-received.

Mr. Apricot is visiting Rome this week, and once again we talked about the project as well as a few other ones we want to collaborate on. He asked me how we would work on this project by long distance (he no longer lives in Rome), and I explained a possible plan off the top of my head.

He said, “Wait, I have an idea. I’m going to Malaga, Spain next month – why don’t I just buy you a plane ticket, and you come stay with me, and we’ll get it done all at once?”


Don’t you love it when someone treats you to a week in Malaga, Spain? I know I do. I also know that it doesn’t happen NEARLY often enough. But, I’ll take it where I can get it.

Update! New Old Stuff Found In The Garden!

Remember when I wrote about the cool stuff Leo and Vincenzo found in their garden?

Well, the other day I went over and let myself in the house with my guest key. Everything was open, so I knew they must be home, but I didn’t see anyone. I walked out to the garden and there they were, waist-deep in a hole they were digging, coming up with new things every time – or should I say, very, very old things.

This is what it looked like when they removed the rosemary bush, per my previous post:

By the time I had come over that day, they had revealed this:

From left to right: A stone wall; the base of a Roman column; and another large stone block that none of us could figure out what it was there for.

For a perspective, I had Leo stand next to the base:

They also found sampietrini, terracotta vase handles, bits of marble, and a whole bunch of other amazing stuff:

Vincenzo asked me, “How do you feel being a guest at your own private archaeological dig?”

“Like Indiana Jones,” I replied.

My Home In Rome

OK, it’s not really MY home. But it’s always assumed when I come to Rome that I stay at the home of Marco, my gay husband. That way, everyone knows where to find me.

Before I give you the 25-cent tour, let me tell you a bit about Marco. He is from Bologna, and he was the first person I ever met in Rome, back in 2001. He ran the Internet place I worked out of when I was a moofer for a NY ad agency. He is kind, patient and generous. He cooks masterpieces in his tinsy kitchen. He likes collecting little things that have good design – a package of colored pencils, a clock, an ashtray. He loves his mom. He destroys me in Burraco, our favorite card game. He reminds me when it’s time for us to watch Amici and X-Factor, our favorite shows. And he lets me watch Will & Grace in English.

Here’s his little nest, where I come for cacio e pepe, hugs and tranquility.

The entrance. That wall is an aquaduct. I know.

The view looking up from his front door.

Hot peppers for cooking are in the mud room.

The living room. Marco is always on the long part of the sofa, and I am on the regular part. When we play cards, I am on the sofa and he slides the ottoman over.

He makes espresso in the morning, and then leaves me some for my latte macchiato.

His terrace, which is where we eat in the summer.

The view from the terrace. Leo and Vincenzo live off to the right; this part is tended to by their neighbors. There are wild roses, cacti, apricot trees, olive trees, orange trees and about a hundred other random things growing there. It’s guarded by two dogs that bark a lot, but shut up when we slam open the shutters and glare at them.

Oops!  I almost forgot – here’s Marco!

Living The Slow Life: Rome

Jeez, I have GOT to get back on schedule here. I’m working on several really interesting travel posts, I swear – and I’m really excited to share them with my faithful readers! I’ve also discovered some amazing places a bit north of Rome that will have their own posts. (I just need to know where exactly we were – they usually just stick me in the car and take me with them, and then when we get there and I’m passing out from the beauty, I’m not paying attention to anything they’re saying.)

But, for the moment, I am proud to announce that I have FINALLY FINISHED ORGANIZING MY PICTURES.

You know what that means, don’t you, my little chickadees?


I’m so fortunate to have friends who welcome me with open arms as they patiently wait for me to move back to Rome.  Here are some pix of my Rome, which should help you realize why the city has stolen my heart and is holding it for ransom until I can come back for good.

Bianca wants to know what I’m working on.

Lunchtime!  The lemon in the water pitcher comes from just a few feet away:

Limoncello also comes from this tree.  Yum.

I  realized something crucial was missing from that table pic above.  Sorry!

Orange flowers and comfy hammock.  Naptime!

Vincenzo just laid these stones the other day and did an awesome job.  Bianca also seems to approve.

Bianca is not the only creature at the house.  Pepino gets plenty of love, too.  He jumped in their car while they were in Marche on vacation last year, and refused to get out.  It’s the best decision that dog ever made.

Another garden shot.  On the left in the background?  That would be an aquaduct.  My other friend’s house is built into it, just down the road on the other side of the street.