Book: 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go, by Susan Van Allen (NEW 2010)
Traveler’s Tales, the publisher, offered me this book and I do love Italy, and Indie Travel Podcast said they would like a review, so I read it–I mean really read it, because it was so well written and packed with such good tips about Italy. And bonus points to the author for including suggestions for books in every section PLUS interviews with four women who have written about Italy. And get this! Susan Van Allen’s new travel adventure guide, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, is now available as an iPhone app from the iTunes app store for $5.99.
After I read 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, I really wanted to talk to the author, so I checked and Susan Van Allen graciously agreed to a phone interview.
Me: I recently wrote about Old Calabria by Norman Douglas. Have you been there?
Susan: I love Calabria. I took a cooking class there. It is very full of baroque architecture. It is famous for hot red peppers.
Me: What has changed since 1976 when you first visited Italy?
Susan: The first thing that comes to mind is cellphones. They are crazy about communicating and it is so much easier to get a cell phone than to get one installed. I remember friends of mine used to say I’ve moved and it will be about three months until I have a phone.
The flirting style has become more refined. Before guys would pinch and grab you. That doesn’t happen now.
Italy used to be on sale. [very cheap for travelers] Now they are adding 20 or 30% taxes.
There are now a lot of Bed and Breakfast places, especially in cities. Particularly in Rome. It’s great for those of us beyond the hostel years. The rural version are the agriturismo places.
Me: And what has NOT changed?
Susan: Italy is generally very welcoming to all travelers. Friends will tell me, “I felt like I came home.”
Me: Do you have another book in the works? Maybe places you had to leave out of this one?
Susan: I have a couple of follow ups in mind. I would like to write about food in each of the twenty regions of Italy. “Hungry for Italy.” I would take a cooking class in each region to master a regional specialty. Food is so important–like a backstage pass to the Italian soul.
The other one I would love to do would be “Madonna Mia” I would write about Madonna sites that did not fit in the book. [100 Places starts with a long section dedicated to Madonna art and places tied to the Madonna, which Susan equates to the earlier Venus in importance to Romans/Italians]
Me: What books about Italy, besides yours, belong in a traveler’s library?
[HERE IT COMES: THE BOOKS]
Susan: The writers I interviewed have written books about Italy. I wanted to get other women in the conversation.
I talked to Francis Mayes [Under the Tuscan Sun].
Erica Jong won me over with a quote I used in the book. “Venice is ever the fragile labyrinth at the edge of the sea and it reminds us how brief and perilous the journeys of our lives are, perhaps that is why we love it so.” I learned so much about the Jewish ghetto of Venice in her book, Shylock’s Daughter .
Mary Taylor Simetti’s On Persephone’s Island is a mix of mythology and her personal experiences in Italy.
Marcella Hazen, from Venice, writes about Italian regional cooking in her cookbooks [and a book about her called Amarcord: Marcella Remembers.]
I also read the revised edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler by Frederick Plotkin, published originally in 1996 and this past June and new revised edition came out. I take out pages that I need because I don’t want to pack the whole thing. [It is a big book] So I have about three copies around the house.
Italy: Instructions for Use A practical book for travelers.
The Italians by Luigi Barzini written in 1965. It is a great history. He was born in Italy and lived in America. He defines the Italian character, “Men run the country, but women run the men.”
We thank you so much, Susan Van Allen for your delightful book and for giving us a list of books about Italy to add to a traveler’s library. To learn more about the book, 100 Places, read my review at Indie Travel Podcast.
What is the biggest attraction for you in Italy? And remember your comments are still eligible to win in the Bastille Day contest.