Vicolo World War III


There’s never a dull moment on my little vicolo…. (Read Vicolo Wars and Vicolo Wars: The Sequel).


I tacked the following note to the front door on the way out of town this weekend. I thought perhaps I could appeal to my drunken, vicolo-loitering, barfing teens’ sense of irony (combined with a little bit of pleading). I was wrong.

The note read, “I want to die drunk to throw up at the gates of hell.” – Jim Morrison*  This is not hell but the front of my house. Go vomit elsewhere. Thanks!

As I lugged out my trusty red bucket filled with scalding hot water to clean the remains of someone’s regurgitated stomach contents from the cobblestones in front of my stoop, it hit me! This wasn’t vomit at all, but rather a carefully placed pile of Pappardelle con ragù.

Touché, Ragazzi, touché. 

Game On!

*This quote was attributed to the late Jim Morrison, however I was unable to find confirmation that he had ever said it. It appears to be an urban myth circulating around the Italian Internet.

Vicolo Wars Update:

December 2, 2014 – Last night a young friend of mine saw the Facebook Post and photo below.  Translation: “One person in Orvieto assessed the situation with a little sense of humor.”  

It’s nice to know this young man appreciated the sarcasm.  Bravo Nicola!

Vicolo WWIII Screen shot 


“From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world’s most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.” 


I don’t know much about wine. I’m not an expert on classical art and, although I live in Italy, I’m the antithesis of a “foodie”. However, when it comes to giving my opinion about a glass of red, a painting in a gallery or the dinner on my plate, I’m quite certain of three things: 1) I know what I like, 2) I recognize beauty when I see it, and 3) I can tell when a meal tastes delicious.

It’s the same with a book. I’ve never actually written one, but I know a good novel when I read it.

Halfway into the first chapter of Laura Morelli’s The Gondola Maker, I found myself wondering if the author had a time machine. I suppose a historical novel should transport the reader to another time and place, but Ms. Morelli’s use of crystal-clear imagery and her microscopic attention to detail went above and beyond. I’d be putting it mildly if I said she’d done her homework.

The Gondola Maker’s story swirls around a young protagonist, Luca Vianello – a boy on the brink of adulthood. Born into a long line of gondola craftsmen, he works alongside his father and brothers in the family’s boatyard and never allows himself to imagine a future beyond the one that has been chosen for him. But following one single, blinding moment of rage, the direction of his life is altered forever and Luca must set out on an odyssey through the dark underworld of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. As he slowly picks up the pieces of his shattered life, he finds his true passion and destiny and, in the process of discovery, comes full circle.

As Laura Morelli spins her intriguing and authentic Renaissance tale, she brings to life the time-honored artisan trade of gondola making and reminds us that if not preserved, this centuries-old craft and others like it will be lost forever.

About the Author

View More: http://sarahdeshawphotographers.pass.us/laura-morelliLaura Morelli earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She has taught college art history in the U.S. and at Trinity College in Rome. She is the creator of the authentic guidebook series that includes Made in ItalyMade in France, and Made in the Southwest, published by Rizzoli. Laura is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler and other national magazines and newspapers. A native of coastal Georgia, she is married and is busy raising four children. The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction. 

Find her here website or on Facebook and Twitter.


I want extend my sincerest gratitude to Laura Fabiani of Italy Book Tours for inviting me to participate in my first book review event. Second, a huge “Grazie” to the author, Laura Morelli, for allowing me the privilege of reading and then sharing my thoughts about her novel. It takes talent, fortitude and sheer guts to write a book.  



IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book 

Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award 

Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 

Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize 

WHERE TO BUY THE “The Gondola Maker”…


Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

About Italy Book Tours 

Italy Book Tours Logo jpeg 225 pixels





Italy Book Tours gets books in the hands of readers who love everything Italian. They offer professional virtual book tours to authors and publishers whose books are set in Italy, have an Italian theme, are written by an Italian author or translated from Italian. For more information you can contact Laura Fabiani at http://www.italybooktours.com.

Read more Italy blogger reviews of “The Gondola Maker”…

Tour Schedule for The Gondola Maker

Nov 3 – Studentessa Matta – review / giveaway

Nov 3 – Il Mio Tesoro – review / giveaway

Nov 4 – Packabook – review

Nov 4 – Venice from Beyond the Bridge – review

Nov 5 – Monica Cesarato – review / giveaway

Nov 5 – Seductive Venice – review

Nov 6 – Food Lover’s Odyssey – review / giveaway

Nov 7 – The Venice Experience – review / interview

Nov 8 – Hello World – review

Nov 9 – Orvieto or Bust – review

Nov 9 – Capturing Venice – review 

by Toni DeBella

I love it quadri

Tip #1:    Point and grunt.

Tip #2:    Always have Google Translate open on your phone and a copy of the “Alfabeto Fonetico” in your wallet. My name spelled out this way is Torino-Otranto-Napoli-Imola. Domodossola-Empoli-Bologna-Empoli-Livorno-Livorno-Ancona.

Tip #3:    Never make eye contact on public transportation – it invites people to speak to you.

Tip #4   Don’t engage in conversations with Italians under the age of 5…it’s just soo00 humiliating.

Tip #5:    Avoid initiating phone calls – send emails or text messages because you’re less likely to sound stupid in writing.

Tip #6:    If you must answer the phone, pretend you’ve got a bad connection. “Pronto? Mi senti? Mi senti? Boh” and then hang up.

Tip #7:    Respond to questions (even if you don’t understand them) with phrases such as “Certo” (sure), “Si, Si” (yes, yes), “Va bene” (okay) and “Ho capito” (understood) as you start to walk away. People won’t think you’re rude – just late for an appointment.

Tip #8:    When all else fails…talk with your hands.


And speaking of speaking Italian..I recently participated in a podcast with Cher Hale, the brains behind the “Iceberg Project.


What’s the Iceberg Project,?

The Iceberg Project is based on the theory that most of what you learn about culture when visiting a new country without speaking the language is just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about The Iceberg Project go to click here

by Toni DeBella

Vicolo scooter

THE SAGA CONTINUES… (Read Vicolo Wars here).

Since declaring war in my little alley things have gone from bad to worse. 

Remember the plants that I couldn’t water when motorcycles were parked underneath the windowsill? Not a problem any longer – my flowers pots disappeared one by one by one…

Flowers and sign

Rough Translation: “For the person who stole my vase of flowers. Shame!”

When the cold winter weather arrived the scooters moved out and the dog walkers moved in… 


Rough Translation: “Someone lives on this vicolo. It’s not a bathroom for your dogs.”

**(Note: Sign disappeared 5 minutes after I posted it).

Oh, how I miss the days when young girls only sat on the stoop and smoked. Now drunk teenagers scream and barf on my doorstep at 2:30 a.m. leaving broken beer bottles to step on in the morning. I admit it was sort of amusing listening through the door as a group of confused offenders discussed the sign. I think the sarcasm might have gone over their inebriated little heads…


Rough Translation: “To be young is a beautiful thing. Please be young somewhere else.” 

Vicolo War is hell.


by Toni DeBella






Paolo and Elizabeth needed help harvesting their olives. The window of opportunity was closing and with rain in the forecast, this was possibly their last chance for raccolta delle olive.

Temperatures have dropped considerably in Umbria and a chilly wind was blowing. However, being the good friend that I am, I didn’t hesitate to offer my assistance. After all, what are friends for if not to come to the rescue in times of need?

The promise of free olive oil and a homemade meal prepared by Paolo’s mother, Franca, had absolutely nothing to do with it.



by Toni DeBella

Read more about life in the Umbrian countryside in Elizabeth’s blog: My Village in Umbria 

2013-02-08 11.17.39The clock tower bells ring out to announce it’s six o’clock. I jump up, grab my coat, obligatory scarf and run out the front door towards the main street of town! No one loves Sunday passeggiata (evening stroll) more than I do!  

All over Italy this ritual plays out as streets swell with well-dressed residents parading about to show off their new shoes or newest love affairs. Back and forth, up and down, back and forth.

I merge into the flow, but unfortunately find myself stuck behind three generations of a family: Grandparents, parents, children, baby buggy and even the dog. Linked arm-and-arm they’ve spread themselves across the width of the street like an Italian game of Red Rover. I wait for a slight opening in the chain and squirm my way around the group, rushing to secure a place on the bench in front of the gelateria – my absolute favorite spot for people watching. 

PasseggiataIt’s here at the intersection of Corso Cavour and Via Del Duomo that foot traffic builds to critical mass, bottlenecking to create a kind of pedestrian gridlock.

I’m so happy to have scored a front row seat for La Passeggiata d’Orvieto. All that’s missing is the popcorn. 

 *”Lo struscio” (I have been told by a local) is more often used to describe a city stroll – “La Passeggiata” is a walk in the countryside.

by Toni DeBella

Kelly's Bike

It goes without saying that painters of landscapes love the out of doors, but for one American-turned-Roman resident, Plein air painting isn’t only a passion it’s a way of life. Riding around the Eternal City on her “tricked out” bicycle – two saddle bags swinging in the wind and trusty easel strapped to her back – it’s just another day at the office for artist Kelly Medford.

Kelly laughingI met Kelly outside a book event in Rome last fall and mistakenly took her for a college student studying abroad. Perhaps it was her fresh face and wide-eyed exuberance that makes Kelly seem much younger than her 36 years, but make no mistake about it – this petite powerhouse of a woman is an accomplished painter with serious credentials.

Kelly Medford grew up in Washington, D.C., the only child of two left-brained scientists. Her emotional, expressive and free-spirited nature set her on a different path with its share of serendipitous forks in the road and twists of fate along the way.

Kelly alley paintingFortunately for us Kelly’s travels eventually landed her in Italy where she was accepted into the prestigious Florence Academy of Art. It was in the Renaissance capital that she spent a year of intensive training in classical figurative drawing, honing her skills and developing her techniques. But painting indoors made Kelly feel isolated and itching to spread her wings so, in 2010, she traded the dimly lit, heavy-curtained and controlled environment of Florence for the warm, golden sun-soaked locations of Rome. You’ll most likely find Kelly on a tiny lane or hidden piazza painting beautifully evocative canvases of Roman life or the surrounding countryside.

IMG_2478Kelly loves to paint. Kelly loves the outdoors. Kelly loves to share her love of painting outdoors so Sketching Rome Tour was born. “I created the tour so that people could have a different way of experiencing and remembering Rome. It’s such a beautiful place with so much history, that to take a photograph doesn’t really capture how you feel about a place.”

No Experience Necessary. No Erasers Allowed

I recently met up with Kelly and her sketch group at their morning classroom, the Pincio balcony adjacent to the Villa Borghese gardens. My fellow students were Joanie, a teacher from Palm Springs (paints in her spare time) and daughters Becca (likes art a lot) and Vanessa (an excellent doodler).


Following a brief but enlightening lesson on technique and tips for using our handmade-by-Kelly sketchbook and kit, we fanned out to draw…rocks, leaves, sign posts, statues…I was having so much fun I didn’t want the tour to end, but sadly it had to end…but not before gathering as a group for a little “show and tell”. 

Kelly urged us to continue our visual travel journals after the tour was over. “When you look at those drawings”, Kelly explained, “you’ll have a recall about the day, what it was like, who was there, the weather – just the place – and that’s why sketching is important.”

Sketch tour rome

Memories, as I learned from Kelly, are extra-special when you can hold them in your hand.

For more information about how you can sketch your own Roman memories, contact Kelly Medford at Sketching Rome Tour 

See Kelly’s artwork at Kelly Medford.com and her Adventures in Painting Blog

by Toni DeBella


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,470 other followers

%d bloggers like this: