Visitors to Italy tend to seek its sunny, Dionysian side -- vino, pasta, opera, Renaissance art, George Clooney on a Vespa. But, like a chilly draft on a hot day, Italy's gothic angle offers intimations of darkness that make a moment on the piazza even more delicious. Consciously or not, anyone sipping prosecco at sunset in Rome or Naples savors an extra spoon of dolce in their vita thanks to the contrast between the beauty of the present and the proximity of catacombs, ruins and sites of ancient suffering.
Image by Curious Expeditions via Flickr
Read the rest of the article in the New York Times.
On a visit to their X-rated painted tombs, I learned that the Etruscan funerary orgies were so wild, even the Romans outlawed them. My travelogue in Time, here.
One thing I wish I could bring home from Italy but cannot: the gonging of church bells. Here in Perugia, they mark the quarter hour with a primeval sound intended long ago for people who couldn't read, people who had no access to clocks, serfs who needed to get up in the morning and pray. Now the bells serve a different purpose: I do need to get up and make breakfast for recalcitrant schoolchildren, go to work, return home, check e-mail, make dinner. I don't need these bells to tell me the hour--I have a BlackBerry, a cellphone, and watch--but they clang out a larger, deeper measure of time, the mortal one. Continue reading at Slate
I envy my bilingual friends, but I must admit my ugly-American monolingualism never really hindered me. I've traveled all over the Middle East and what I couldn't understand there, translators could. We spent two years living in Paris, where I wrote a book about an Englishman. Nestled inside a bubble of expat Anglophones, I learned just enough French to amuse butchers and bartenders. Whatever else they say about Paris, most urban French know some English. Continue reading at Slate
Six months ago, I was living in New York City with my husband and two kids, toiling alongside my tribe of New York media working women. I had an amusing job that paid for various indulgences, and deflected the indignities of subway rides and wartime urban anxiety with regular acupuncture, pedicures, and moderately priced wine. Then I was offered a contract to write a book in Italy about the notorious trial of exchange student Amanda Knox, accused along with two young men of murdering her British roommate, in what Italian authorities have called a drug-fueled orgy. Continue reading at Slate
An American family heads to Mexico for a lazy getaway and winds up bringing home a four - legged souvenir.
As originally planned, our midwinter Mexican vacation was supposed to be a sedate, even sophisticated affair: nesting in a sun-dappled house in historic San Miguel de Allende, strolling the cobbled lanes, sipping coffee on the square next to the apricot-colored 17th century Parroquia and snagging cool art treasures made of pressed tin. After a few days of colonial elegance, though, our kids were utterly bored, and even I was longing for a Pacific beach--seven hours away by car. So before sunrise on a morning halfway through our vacation, we piled ourselves into a rental car and drove off vaguely westward. The highway took us across the high, dry plateau 6,000 feet above sea level, and then slowly downward into the green fields of Michoacán, Mexico's breadbasket. By eight o' clock, we were in the midst of a giant marshland populated by hundreds of thousands of migratory birds wintering in the south. Through the car windows, we bore witness to a primordial scene out of the Garden of Eden, myriad bird species eating breakfast and a few fishing boats setting out for the day with the so-called butterfly nets that the Aztecs used. Continue reading at Hemispheres
Shadows of man-size leaves dapple the stones as my husband and I tread up a jungle path to our "Rejuvenation" treatment at the Banyan Tree on Mah`e island in the Seychelles. We arrive at a tropical aerie overlooking the Indian Ocean, where our feet are bathed in mint water and we sip bowls of ginger tea. After being scrubbed with crushed rice, apples, and honey, we bow our heads under outdoor showers while turmeric soap is poured down our backs. The massage lasts an hour. Outside, the surf is distant thunder.
After a long winter with a new baby, my husband Erik and I needed to get away, preferably to another dimension. So we were relieved and grateful to get The Call. On ADVENTURE's $1,500 we could go someplace warm and do something athletic - preferably mountain biking, an activity that had been curtailed by the arrival of baby Felix. And nine months of being chained to feedings and changings made us eager to travel with the barest outline of a plan. We opened the atlas and zeroed in on Turkey.
Last fall, nina burleigh visited her cousins in baghdad for the first time, in hopes of better understanding iraqis' love-hate relationship with america. But weeks later, as the bombs began to drop, her own loyalties went to war
My first night in the Middle East, I feel as if I'm falling asleep on the dark side of the moon. There is a smoky kerosene smell and a mullah calling "Allah akbar" (God is great) from the neon green rim of a minaret. My flesh will take days to arrive in this time zone.