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Italy Roundtable: The Blogging Gift

This is the seventh installment of the monthly Italy Blogging Roundtable, a project organized by travel writing powerhouse Jessica Spiegel, and including professional travel writer Melanie Renzulli, art historian and general brainiac Alexandra Korey, Tuscan uber-blogger Gloria, and me. (If you missed the previous months, take a look here.) This month we shook things up a bit by adding a bunch of chairs to the table and inviting bloggers to join in on the conversation. Please have some Christmas cookies and join in!


I’m a pretty pragmatic person (with, apparently, a knack for alliteration). For years people—friends with whom I corresponded, initially, and then folks I got to know over at Slow Travel where I first began publishing pieces online—would say, “You’re such an entertaining storyteller. You really should try your hand at writing.” And I would pooh-pooh them, because I had a business to run and sons to raise and the whole creative writing thing seemed frivolous and slightly self-indulgent.

Then, almost two years ago now, my webmaster super-hero guy Marcel (who, as a side note, is the husband of fellow Roundtable blogger Gloria…Italy is a small country) said, “Listen, you should really put a blog on your website. It will help traffic and bank holiday sales” Oh. Well, then. I mean, if it’s for business….

Thus began an adventure which has, in many respects, changed my life. Aside from the wholly frivolous and self-indulgent pleasure in putting words down on paper, especially words that make me cackle to myself in front of my computer, blogging has been a conduit to forming an amazing array of new friendships, professional contacts, and kindred spirits here in Italy and beyond. When I think of how much my personal and professional lives have expanded past the borders of this tiny region of Umbria to encompass Italophiles from across the Bel Paese–and the world over–I must acknowledge that this crazy new-fangled blogging thang has been, oddly, one of the biggest gifts I have ever received.

Case in point: the amazing posts submitted over the past few weeks as part of this month’s open call to bloggers who were willing to jot down their thoughts on December’s goal to “ look whats cool as gifts ” with an Italy angle. I spent a fabulous evening reading through them all and was at turns amused and moved. It was almost impossible to whittle it down to my five favorites (This is why I could never judge X Factor. Just in case I’ve been short-listed by their casting department.), but whittle I did and here are my five favorites (in, by the way, no particular order):

Once More, With Feeling

Valerie from 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree traces the path of integration into her village’s life and soul by way of gifts given and received. It’s a common theme among expat bloggers in Italy (touched on by Sicily SceneBellavventura, and An Italophile this month, as well), but Valerie’s take went right to my heart and reminded me again what a gift friendship and acceptance can be when you are a stranger in a strange land.

Taking the Words Out of My Mouth

Huh. Just when you think you know–at least by name–all the bloggers in Italy, here comes out of left field an excellent blog written by a Swiss woman now living in Tuscany. (Oh. Maybe that’s why I’ve never run across her before. I don’t do Tuscany.) Barbs aside, her post about the light and dark sides of living here absolutely spoke to me (I had to laugh about her experience of sudden popularity once she was living in Italy and had an available guest room. Yep. Been there.), as did her discovery of how sometimes it takes a move abroad for us to appreciate our homeland. For a wonderful flip-side to that story, take a look at Alessandra’s charming story of her mad escape from Umbria, which led to her ultimate love affair with it.

What’s Really Important

In 1997, Umbria was struck by a traumatic earthquake. I didn’t lose anything, but many, many people saw their lives literally reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. That has been a lesson for me many times in the years since, and Kate’s tear-jerker of a post at Little Paradiso underlined once again of how fleeting life can be, and how easy it is to forget what is really important. I dare you to read her post without getting misty-eyed. Go ahead, try. And then bust out your credit card and send a couple of bucks to those folks down there during this holiday season.

Wait, what?

I love crazy-ass shit like No Onions Extra Pickles’ What to Get the Italian Futuris Who Has Everything.  I mean, it’s pure, unadulterated, highbrow silliness. And that’s just fine with me. This blogger is whip-smart, sarcastic as the dickens, and apparently knows her way around Italy. Possibly my favorite submission. In fact, I think I’m going to go read it once more, just for the fun of it.

One Word.

Cookies. Enough said.

There were a couple of posts that deserve a quick mention, as well. I loved the Lucy’s Market gift baskets, and the great shot of heirloom produce from Le Marche. Supporting local artisans is one of my things, so I was thrilled to read about some wonderful workshops in Florence from Cross Pollinate. Oh, and of course Life…Italian Style. Because she tweeted it at 11:59. And that’s the kind of pluck I admire.

Curious to hear what Alexandra, Gloria, Melanie, and Jessica had to say about this month’s topic? Check out their blog posts, and leave your comments.


  1. Alexandra |

    Congratulations Rebecca for embedding the twitter search. See, now our readers can look at all the posts we couldn’t link!
    So, Ashley from No Onions x Pickles is indeed a bright one and they have an #artsmart roundtable – I invited her. And I’d missed Valerie’s post, which is really wonderful (did you know she is another vet of House Hunters International this year?)
    The swiss woman living in Tuscany took the words out of my mouth. Not the lots of visitors part, but the finding it harder to justify to others the reason for living in this messed up country. The questions people are asking her about Italy right now are the same questions I met while on a recent trip to Canada – people would look at me and say “So, how ARE things in Italy” with the same voice that you’d use to ask about someone with terminal brain cancer.
    I’m so glad we opened up the challenge to others this month. What great gifts we got!

  2. fabio |

    Ciao Rebecca! Now I have a lot of links to read, the best gift you could give to me: o lot of links to good blog focused in Italy. I didn’t know there were so many blogs written in english. Buona giornata 😉

  3. Valerie |

    A very heart-felt congrats on your writing successes this past year. I’ve been laughing out loud at your posts since the first one on Slow Travel and am so very happy that you’re going forward and getting paid to do it!
    Thanks for featuring my post – but daaaaammmm you for pointing me to the emotional post at Little Paradiso. That brought tears quicker than a sappy Christmas movie!

  4. Katja |

    Oh well, at this point I may as well come out of hiding. I’ve known about that gifted blogging neighbor beyond the hills to the east for quite a while. Your great writing, insight and fantastic sense of humor traveled all the way to Southern Tuscany! But why in the world do you insist on writing about Umbria? Of all places!

    And Alexandra, you hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly how I feel when visiting back in Switzerland. People talk to me as if I had an incurable brain tumor – and it was about time I realized!

    Buone feste to you all!
    Katja, the Swiss woman in Maremma

  5. Ashley |

    Whip-smart and sarcastic as the dickens…why thank you 😀 Glad you enjoyed it and that you guys branched out to allow us guest posters this month!

  6. Melissa Muldoon |

    Felice anno nuovo Rebecca! It was a pleasure participating in the Italy blogging roundtable in December. I hope you had a lovely holiday and the new year is off to a great start! We had a fabulous time with our boys and everyone was in great spirits. You may recall my older son Ryan…well, he met a young lady in Puglia shortly after we left Umbria last summer and they continue to be in touch through skype and instant messaging on their cell phones. I think my master plan is working…the best gift I could ever receive…an Italian daughter in law! 😉 You never know…one can dream! Best to you and your family! Un grande abbraccio! Melissa