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This post isn’t about the results of today’s US election. It’s not about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s not about conservatism vs. liberalism, right vs. left, republican vs. democrat.

It’s about how I’ve come to the shocking realization that I’ve just spent the last year of my life lulled in a Facebook cradle. I let a social media vacuum swaddle me in a gigantic ‘preaching to the choir’ sense of security. I believed everyone was exactly like me when actually I’d just surrounded myself with like-minded people. You can “unfriend” someone, but that doesn’t make them disappear.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to the other side of the aisle. I didn’t engage in any meaningful discussions with people who saw things differently than I did. That’s how I got blindsided.

I was living in a blue bubble.

The wake-up call is quite jarring, but I accept the results of the election and I continue to believe in our system of democracy. I don’t particularly like it right now, but I still believe in it.

Some soul searching is now in order.



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Rupe and clouds

I can’t believe it’s been 31 days already! Time flies when you’re having fun! What a wonderful experience it’s been to sit down everyday and write about the people, places and things that make this city so special and unique. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who inspired, participated or supported me in sharing a little bit of Orvieto with the world, day-by-day. In 2013, I wrote an article for BrowsingItaly entitled, “Insiders Guide to Orvieto”, and I thought it might be a good way to wrap things up. Remember, August may be over, but you know me….I’ll never, ever stop shouting it from the terracotta rooftops…Orvieto, Italy Rocks! Like! Share! Visit!


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Day #3 of “31 Days of Orvieto” highlights the ARTISAN.

Our friend Steven Brenner of Cross-Pollinate & The-Beehive has made a film showcasing Orvietano (Roman by birth) Federico Badia, a young man who creates handmade shoes and other leather goods. The film asks the question: What is the future of Italy’s artisans? Let’s hope the answers is that there is a future for Federico and other’s like him in Orvieto and throughout the world! Share if you care about and support fine craftsmanship and a deep dedication to one’s work.  Like! Share! Visit!





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Every year, I repost this for my great Dad that I miss every single day.

Orvieto or Bust:

Luke Joseph DeBella: 1917 – 2004

As the 10-year anniversary of my father’s passing comes and goes, I have been thinking a lot about him and of the legacy he left behind.  To say that he was my role model and hero seems trite — everyone says that about their father (if they are fortunate enough to have a strong man in their life to lead them into adulthood as I did).  A man of few words, I learned what was most important by watching him conduct himself throughout his life and in his 52-year love affair with my mother.  It was in this manner that I witnessed the qualities I wanted to emulate for myself.  If I could only become half the person that he was…

When my dad was a young man his nieces and nephews used to call him “Uncle Tootsy”.  If you’d ever met this man…

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“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

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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 

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Every single path we take in life has its price to pay. Fulfilling my dream comes at the expense of living far away from my son.

IMG_2181Today I especially felt the sting of that choice as I accompanied Andrew to the train station. I decided not to see him off at the airport because he absolutely hates it when I make public displays of emotion.

Honestly, I should have earned an Academy Award for this morning’s subtle and realistic performance as the upbeat and nonchalant Mom…smiling as I gave him a big hug, two kisses on the cheek (Italian style) and waved goodbye through the train window. I waited until I was on the Metro back home to burst into tears.

Andrew arrived in Rome in January to do a semester of university study.  This once shy, introverted child had become a confident, independent and adventurous man.  It’s astonishing how quickly he immersed himself into the experience: A year ago he was asking me, “How do you say “fork” in Italian?” and now I’m asking him, “Should I use the imperfect or simple past in this situation?”  I admit it does bug me a little when he orders the dinner in a restaurant to avoid the embarrassment of his mother (who’s been studying the language for six-something years) mispronouncing menu items.  I suppose I should be used to it by now – he’s been smarter than me since the third grade. 

We spent his last day in Italy quietly walking around Rome. I could tell he was sad too, but he claimed he was just tired. I know he’s ready to return to his life in San Francisco and resume his studies, earn his degree, begin a career and get on with building the life he wants for himself. I want that for him too, but I will miss my Amore di Mamma more than I can say.

by Toni DeBella

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Confucius said that life is simple but we insist on making it complicated.   I am about to head back to Italy next week and I’ve vowed that I am absolutely, positively NOT going to overpack this time!  I’ve made a master list.  Travel experts advise that I cut my list in half.  These so-called “experts” claim that one can travel across the European continent with only two pair of pants, one sweater, two tee shirts and a Swiss Army knife?

Traveling Light is For Backpackers and Beach Bums

I’ll have you know I am no stranger to the minimalist philosophy.  A few years ago I moved into a charming but tiny apartment near San Francisco with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath, den, office and walk-in closet all rolled-into-one.  It’s compact, efficient and very cozy: 300 square feet of heaven!  Living in a studio apartment is very much like living on a boat except that the room doesn’t rock during storms.  The view is spectacular, I can clean it from top to bottom in 45 minutes flat, and living this way keeps me feeling unencumbered, carefree and liberated.

In preparing for my journey I’ve piled everything I’d like to take with me on the dining table (better known these days as “the staging area”).  My things are separated into three categories: 1) Yes, definitely taking, 2) Maybe taking, and 3) Taking, if I have the room.   As someone who preaches the virtues of living beneath your means and with only the bare necessities, why do I have so many shoes?  I am seriously packing-challenged.  I think I need an intervention!

Join this month’s BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge and comment to the Indie Travel Manifesto.

by Toni DeBella

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“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”-C.S. Lewis

Every single one of us has our own unique and special mechanism for coping and strategizing our way through the world’s challenges.  I find that what works best for me is a random, shotgun-style approach to personal achievement.  I call it the “Spaghetti Theory”: throw everything you have at a predicament and see what sticks.

This philosophy encompasses a combination of the law of averages, blood, sweat and tears, and a bit of dumb luck. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but in less than two weeks I will be heading for Italy again – launching “Phase One” of my grand scheme. I am  so close that I can almost taste it. For nearly seven years I have been feverishly “flinging noodles” at the walls of life in a concentrated effort to reach my goal. I’ve been plotting, concocting, commiserating and essentially boring the living daylights out of my friends, family and even complete strangers.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Curiously, as my objective moved from the realm of fantasy into the universe of real and tangible possibility, an odd thing happened – I began to experience a disbelief that I could actually get what I want, followed by a paralyzing fear that perhaps once I get it, I might not want it any longer!  Here I am, standing on the precipice of my dream coming true and finding myself in such a discombobulated state of mind.  Of course you’ve heard of a fear of failure, but did you know that some folks actually suffer from a fear of success? After all the obsessing and preoccupation, could I honestly be afraid of crossing the finish line? …Nope, don’t think so.

Teetering atop the high-dive, I am ready to take the plunge into the deep-end. There is no way in hell I’m going to come this close to the prize, only to turn in retreat before getting my just desserts.  I owe it to myself and to the many friends who have already blazed the trail abroad or who are taking up the rear.  I am not so special. I am only one of many dreamers of an Italian life.

You can read the wonderful and inspiring stories of other dreamers/bloggers at: Renovating Italy, http://www.renovatingitaly.com; Destination Umbria, http://destinationumbria.wordpress.com/; Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, http://bagnidilucca.wordpress.com/; My Melange,http://mymelange.net/; Bleeding Espresso, http://bleedingespresso.com/; and Indulge – Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences, http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/.

by Toni DeBella

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From Me to You…

Andrew & me at my Mom's for Christmas Eve

Life is so full of surprises.   One evening in April, on a whim, I created “Orvieto or Bust”.  At the time I didn’t know that by publishing my first post I would officially become  a “blogger” – I was only looking for a place to chronicle my experiences in a little Umbrian hill town in Italy.  The unintended result has been the discovery of a latent love for writing that has fulfilled me in ways I never could have predicted and nearly eight months later,  can’t imagine living without.  With the assistance of the weird and wonderful internet, I am able to send my ramblings into cyberspace where I have had the opportunity to connect with some amazing people from all over the world.   It is to you, the people who have supported and encouraged me, that I send my love, affection and sincere gratitude and wish you and your families all the best in 2012.  Hugs and kisses.  Toni

by Toni DeBella

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