TRAVEL

{Podcast} Rome's King of Carbonara Luciano Monosilio

Catching up with the King of Carbonara, Luciano Monosilio at his restaurant Luciano Cucina. Photo: Darius Arya

LOOK, MA, I’VE LAUNCHED A PODCAST!

My mom has always told me I’m a fabulous talker, but really I am an incredibly curious listener who loves a good story. And I’m lucky- part of my job is meeting people and listening to what they have to say. Over the past 15 years, I’ve met incredible people doing incredible things that are changing Italy’s cultural landscape and updating the trite travel stereotypes of quaint trattorias and lots of mamma mias into something more realistic, cool and contemporary. Sometimes these conversations become great articles, other times they are edited to a sound bite and more often, they don’t make their way anywhere except to my dinner table. I’ve decided to remedy that by launching Ciao Bella, my intrepid travel and cultural podcast.

Me and Chef Luciano Monosilio, aka the only man who has ever made me cry…. for carbonara. Photo: Darius Arya

EPISODE ONE: THE KING OF CARBONARA

Luciano Monosilio is Italy’s reigning King of Carbonara and currently chef/owner of Luciano Cucina. From Albano Laziale to Michelin starred chef, in just a few years, Luciano put my favorite dish, carbonara, in the center of the table and in conversation all over Italy. And then he decided to step out of the box and literally turn the tables by going solo with his eponymous Luciano Cucina, a new gen trattoria subtly spreading the culinary renaissance all over Italy. I’m proud to have him as my first guest on Ciao Bella, and I’m even happier to know that his restaurant Luciano Cucina is just around the corner ffrom my home in Campo de’ Fiori. Join me as we talk carbonara, guanciale, Roma and Italy.

Chef Luciano Monosilio. Photo: Erica Firpo

Carbonara’s key ingredients. Photo: Erica Firpo

TUNE IN

…and keep listening as I sit down at the table with innovators, creators, artists, and more who are revolutionizing travel and culture in Italy and around the Mediterranean. New episodes drop every Monday with a light blog post and link to my Patreon page. What’s that? Patreon is a way for you to be a part of Ciao Bella, support the podcast and be surprised with behind-the-scenes, for-your-eyes-only content. Like I said, I love listening so if there is someone you think I should interview, let me know. No matter what, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please rate, review and share Ciao Bella.

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Interview with Classical Archaeologist Darius Arya

Courtesy of Darius Arya

Courtesy of Darius Arya

This article first appeared in Traditional Building, March 2019.

There is nothing more new than looking at the past, or at least that’s how Rome-based archaeologist Darius Arya thinks. For Darius, Rome is more than ancient history, it’s living history and an ongoing story that Darius takes to the lecture halls, the field, and to the screens- big and small.

“Everyone dreamed of being Indiana Jones,” tells Darius, “I figured I’d just do it. I wanted to be knee-deep in ancient inscriptions and underground sites, so I started with Latin.” While studying Classical Studies at University of Pennsylvania, Darius was accepted to participate in a semester in Rome at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, fondly known to alums and students as the Centro. While his focus was Greek and Latin, Darius was captivated by the active history all around him and continued on to a Masters and Masters/PhD in Classical Archaeology, at University of Texas Austin, and was awarded a Fullbright scholarship and fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.

What anchored and still anchors Darius to the Eternal City is the unique juxtaposition of past and present in its art, architecture, and culture. “I tend to look at Rome from the past, like 2,500 years ago, and constantly see these threads in contemporary life here as well as around the world.” His passion for Classical studies and architecture is unstoppable, and over the past two decades in Rome, he’s done everything to share it. As the director of American Institute for Roman Culture, a non-profit that fosters conversation on Rome’s extraordinary cultural legacy through education, outreach, and multi-platform storytelling, Darius created several education and new media initiatives, and as a documentary filmmaker, he hosts 2018’s Ancient Invisible Cities (PBS) and ongoing Italian television series “Under Italy” (RAI5).

Darius on location at the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul Turkey while shooting PBS’s Ancient Invisible Cities. Courtesy of Darius Arya

We sat down with Darius to find out what its like to live, work, and dig in Rome.

You’ve been coordinating excavations in Rome for 15 years. What are some of the surprises you’ve come across? What has been your most fulfilling project to date? No matter how much you plan and study, when you finally excavate you will inevitably find things you didn’t expect, never dreamed of. I’ve come across an undocumented imperial era cemetery, and uncovered an intact opus sectile floor. My personal favorite and probably most fulfilling came from our dig at the Park of the Aqueducts, a public park less than eight miles from the center of Rome. The park itself is amazing with its mile-long arcade of ancient Aqua Claudia aqueduct. We were in our third summer at excavations, already having uncovered a 50,000 square foot lavish bath complex—multiple stories and chambers and lots of in situ marble paneling. We were halfway through the day, already unearthing beautiful statue fragments (clear signs of late antique spoliation) when we uncovered a colored marble head. As we progressed, we realized we had an entire intact statue of the highest quality—a second century AD red marble statue depicting Marsyas tied to a tree, with beautiful detailed musculature and one remaining bronze inlaid eye. I was so paranoid when we found it, I decided to sleep in the trench with Marsyas that night for fear of looters (always a real threat for any excavation). We extracted the statue the next morning with a small crane and transported it to a superintendency warehouse for safekeeping. After a thorough restoration and cleaning, our Marsyas is on permanent public display at Capitoline Museums Montemartini gallery.

What are the biggest challenges? Archaeology is slow work. And the thrill of a season in the field is matched by a long study season in the warehouse and in the library, with a lot of specialists and technicians. Many years in the field are overshadowed by countless more hours of study, research, and documentation. It is tedious and methodical—all totally worth it, but also requires a lot of patience and funding. Maybe that’s why Indiana Jones kept sneaking out of the university during office hours?

Challenges can be bureaucratic and also topographical. Rome has some of the most complex stratigraphy in the world due to the fact that it’s been continuously occupied for over 3,000 years and thus so much was built and deposited on the same land by so many citizens, foreigners, pilgrims, governments, and empires.

Taking the larger view of the field of archaeology and heritage preservation as a whole, probably the biggest challenge today is not looting nor war, but accelerated urban development and growing need for arable land. Often archaeologists and heritage preservation experts are considered hindrances to progressive development, but they are essential stakeholders in preserving/documenting known and delineated sites as well as those yet to be uncovered, and viable sources in collaborative development.

Social media, especially live streaming, takes an active role in education storytelling and promoting cultural heritage, according to Arya, who recently won a Shorty Award for his live streaming reportage. His goal is bring his audience live to cultural heritage sites around the world. Courtesy of Darius Arya

I believe it is possible to bridge the gap between innate enthusiasm for the material and the actual academic discipline by utilizing new media to keep the material dynamic—from social media like YouTube and Instagram Stories, to better, interactive tech. — DARIUS ARYA

How do you navigate living in Rome, a contemporary city with nearly three thousand years of visible history and lot of baggage? Can one appreciate the history of the Eternal City and still enjoy its 21st century attributes and vice versa? With hundreds and hundreds of churches, monuments, and archaeological sites and museums, I’m never bored. Even after two decades of living in Rome every single day is a delight for me. There is always something to discover, explore, and rediscover, and my Rome experience flows into the palimpsest of the city. For example, my bus stop is at Largo Argentina, known for its cat sanctuary as well as the area sacra, an incredible open-air site with Republican temple abutted by the late Republican Senate hall where Julius Caesar was assassinated. My local gelateria is down the street and our children get their school supplies at the cartoleria next door. It’s a contemporary marketplace and probably the most historic bus stop in the world! My kids and I bike to school passing the best preserved temple in antiquity, the Pantheon, and then peddle past one of Rome’s most modern museums, Richard Meier’s Are Pacis Museum next to the 2000 year old Mausoleum of Augustus (currently under restoration, slated for a 2019 opening).

Are the upcoming generations interested in classical studies? How do you drive that interest? I’d say that the next gens are definitely interested in the classics but perhaps less conventionally. While less and less are majoring in Latin and Greek, they are absorbing classical studies directly and indirectly through film and television series like Gladiator, Game of Thrones, The Young Pope, as well as fashion, gaming and especially travel. All of this confirms to me that the classics, that history, the art and architecture, those characters and stories, are ever inspiring. Taking that into consideration, the field as a whole (from languages to art and archaeology) is definitely shrinking needs to reboot- reinvent itself, for wider appeal, at the same time staying true to its core objectives and values. I believe it is possible to bridge the gap between innate enthusiasm for the material and the actual academic discipline by utilizing new media to keep the material dynamic—from social media like YouTube and Instagram Stories, to better, interactive tech.

An excavation is a collaborative team effort as history. Arya works side by side with trained specialists and experts in their field such as forsensicsanthropologist Pier Paolo Petroni (shown) who helps put the pieces of history together. Courtesy of Darius Arya.

You were one of the first archaeologists to have an active voice on social media, and you won an award for it (2017 Periscoper of the Year). Will you share with us why social media is so important to archaeology, classical studies and architecture? Visual storytelling, an essential component of social media, is integral to archaeologist and historians. It brings the audience directly to the material culture. I’m lucky to be in Rome, hands down one of the most photogenic cities in the world. From the first time I signed up, it made sense and was easy to share images and live streams from the ancient world via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s more than just a good photo—it’s an opportunity to expand and share knowledge and insights, and interact directly with a global audience that has questions and wants to learn. My hashtags #recycledhistory (a focus on the continual evolution and reuse of ancient materials) and #romeawayfromrome (modern and contemporary architecture with classical architectonic elements from a Palladian home to 1920s theatre or Wall Street architecture) may not trend but they create new discussions and connections of the various facets of classical studies. The results of my efforts on social media really show that the classics, in all its rich, interdisciplinary fields, is alive and well in a contemporary setting. History, art, architecture, and the people of the past that created it all, are engaging protagonists on a variety of platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook). As those sites evolved and change, I’ve adapted as well, having just now launched a new podcast Travel: In Situ. Delivery and engagement is bound to continue to change and evolve, and I intend to stay with or ahead of the curve in the discussion. 

Massimo Bottura Is On a Mission to Feed the Body and the Soul

Massimo Bottura. Photo by Simon Owen / Red Photographic.

The most amazing experience you can have in a restaurant is an emotional one, according to superchef Massimo Bottura, explaining a central idea behind Food for Soul, his global socio-culinary project. Fathom contributing editor Erica Firpo learns all about it.

Food. You need it. I need it. We all need it. Preferably in a calm moment, at a clean table. A meal is the world's common denominator, a full-body experience that nourishes body, heart, mind, and community — and that's exactly what superchef Massimo Bottura and his wife and partner Lara Gilmore thought when founding Food for Soul, a non-profit with community kitchens in Milan, Rio, and London.

Food for Soul is the umbrella for the ongoing sustainability project that began with Refettorio Ambrosiano, the now-permanent community kitchen that Bottura launched as a pop-up during Expo Milan 2015. The idea was simple but profound: Take surplus food that would otherwise have been considered waste (leftovers, stale bread, overripe produce) donated by restaurants and markets; use creative and sustainable cooking techniques to prepare it in clever, unexpected, and, above all, delicious ways; and invite celebrity and chef friends to participate and collaborate — and, in the end, feed people in need who are in some way disadvantaged, bringing dignity and a sense of welcome to the table. The success of Refettorio Ambrosiano inspired Bottura to launch Reffettorio Gastromotiva in Rio during the 2016 Olympics and Refettorio Felix in London during London Food Month in June 2017. Each refettorio (Italian for "refectory" or "dining hall") is targeted to its community and what it needs, which can be as simple as a good meal or as intrinsic as a safe place where people can relax and feel human. Menus change daily, depending on the surplus food available. The celebrity chefs not only brought attention to the project but also helped the community center staff cooks learn to create inspiring menus from that surplus food. The refetterios are not open to the general public, but people can volunteer to help with the project.

"It is not a pop-up but a spark — a way to make visible the invisible," Gilmore told me. More specifically, Refettorio Felix brings "light and attention to a center that has been working for 25 years and make it better, with better cooking, better dining facilities, and our know-how about hospitality."

Refettorio Felix under construction. Photo by Simon Owen / Red Photographic.

Refettorio Felix done and ready to be open. Photo by Simon Owen / Red Photographic.

Refettorio Felix done and ready to be open. Photo by Simon Owen / Red Photographic.

In fact, every Bottura project begins with a spark, an incendiary hankering for a taste — whether for an actual flavor or for a sense of nostalgia — that ignites a way of being, an all-encompassing combination of honed excellence, spontaneous creativity, and practicality, both in the kitchen and tableside. He infuses everything he does with a subtle Italianità, an Italian spirit instinctively inherited from generations of nonne who fervently adhere to two commandments: No food is wasted and everyone gets fed. And he relies on armies of artigiani, farmers, producers, makers, cooks, and artists who painstakingly practice perfection with every stitch. Food for Soul embodies 21st century, universal Italianità — inclusion, nutrition, and waste-not practices.

In the way that Bottura pushes the boundaries in food, Food for Soul intends to do so with a cultural focus aimed at enhancing the proverbial wheel, not re-inventing it. Doing more than serving food, it educates and puts into practice food efficiency with simple, tasty recipes, using surplus food and overripe produce that would otherwise have been discarded, while fostering a loving, welcoming atmosphere.

As in Rio, London is a team effort. Food for Soul partnered with The Felix Project, a local surplus food collection and delivery service, and St. Cuthbert's Centre, a drop-in home whose kitchen and dining area were refurbished by Studioisle with donations from Vitra, Artemide, Larusi, Lasco, and Angelo Po. Food provider giants Tesco, Whole Foods, Sainsbury, and Mash joined in to bring in food. And as in Rio and Milan, Refettorio Felix opened its doors with a stellar line-up of visiting chefs, including Brett Graham, Daniel Boulud, Jason Atherton, Michel Roux Jr., Sat Bains, and Giorgio Locatelli, who worked with the Centre's full-time chefs and volunteers, cooking with salvaged ingredients.

Massimo Bottura. Photo by Simon Owen / Red Photographic.

I sat down with Lara and Massimo to talk about Food for Soul, Refettorio Felix, and the social importance of food efficiency.

Food for Soul sounds less like a kitchen and more like a philosophy.

Massimo: Our project is a cultural project, not a charity project. We are trying to fight what people think is waste. We try to make visible the invisible. We find ways to show the world that an overripe banana, an overripe tomato, a bruised zucchini, and two-day-old bread are totally fine ingredients. The brown banana is much better than the green supermarket banana. Mexicans and Brazilians wait until the bananas are ripe to eat them. This is about culture and vision.

Being more efficient with food is very easy. You have to dedicate a little bit more time, maybe a half an hour every few days. You have to buy seasonally, the right amount — not too much, not too little — and cook for two or three days. Enjoy fresh foods, enjoy cooking, enjoy spending time in the kitchen, enjoy spending time in your home. You eat better, you save money, and you help the planet.

Lara: Guest chefs were invited from a list of friends and family. We wanted to share an idea, communicate a message, and help teach others how to work with salvaged ingredients to make healthy meals.

That sounds Italian.

Massimo: It is very Italian. Totally Italian. It is how my grandmother was raised; it's our approach to food. But you have to rebuild this kind of relationship with the butcher, the fruit seller, with everyone. When I travel, I eat where my friends are cooking for me, where they treat me like one of the family, because I know they want me there with them, to share with them. The last time I was with Daniel (Boulud), he asked me "what can I cook?" and once served me a classic duck caneton and another time fried chicken. It's about creating this kind of family experience that reminds you of your youth with simple food that touches your heart.

If you think about it, if you close your eyes into that kind of reflection, you arrive at your childhood and you start reminiscing about when your mom cooked, or even made a simple sandwich. I remember a time Lara cooked vegetables for our son Charlie. At the end of the meal, he got a piece of paper and wrote, "1+ to Mommy." It wasn't the perfect vegetable, but it was cooked by Lara. That is why the most amazing experience you can have in a restaurant is an emotional one.

Emotional elements open your heart and make you feel like a kid again. We do the same thing in London, Rio, and Milan. Even without all the "right" ingredients, we find the right combination and try to evolve tradition into something amazing. Much lighter, less expensive, and you stimulate your creativity. You eat better, even with an egg and a rind of parmesan, because it is you.

Food for Soul's mission is to fight food waste and encourage social inclusion. Has the current political climate impacted the direction of the project?

Lara: In Rio during the Olympics, the government was closing soup kitchens to keep the poor out of the city center. So we opened a soup kitchen to shed light on the problem and also provide a potential solution. In London, we think that it is very important and essential to break walls when walls are being built. Inclusion is part of the Food for Soul mission. And yes, with the political climate in USA, it is a perfect time to begin working there.

Massimo: At the moment, everyone is building walls to separate themselves from others. They believe they are much safer that way. I think we are breaking walls and including people. This project is inclusive. It's about the chefs, the community — the word is share. We are sharing ideas, sharing decisions, sharing dreams, sharing the future.

The project is heading to the United States. How can people get involved?

Lara: We received a Rockefeller Foundation grant specifically to expand Food for Soul into the United States with the goal of opening Refettorio projects in the next two years. We are in the planning stages, finding the right partners, for the Bronx and scoping out other potential cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, and Seattle.

Massimo: You have a sense of responsibility once you achieve everything in life to give back. We should do it, everybody should. If you want to do it, you can. If you don't, don't. We need more people involved. We don't need another soup kitchen, but we need people and places to build a better community. We need more places that break walls and help rebuild dignity.

London was the right moment, and now that we have done that, we want to do the unexpected in the United States. In my dream, Detroit, New Orleans, even the Bronx. It could be very interesting in Los Angeles. At a university. A campus could be incredible because the volunteers would be students. If we did in Rio, we can do it everywhere.

This article first appeared in Fathom in July 2017.

Peroni, Italy and me, an interview

When Peroni asked me to share my favorite spots in Rome and Italy, along with a few photos, of course I said yes.  What happened next was an interview feature on PeroniItaly.

As part our Grazie series we’re taking a closer look at the most exciting artists, designers, chefs and creatives inspired by Italian style. If you’re looking for an expert on the best places to explore, relax and eat in Italy, you can’t do better than Erica Firpo. A travel journalist with a difference, Erica uses beautiful images (often shared on her popular Instagram page) as much as she uses inspiring words to share her experiences at some of Italy’s most gorgeous locations and unique hidden gems. We caught up with Erica to talk about her love of museums, her favourite spots in Rome and the ingredients for the ultimate Italian summer.

 

Hi Erica. Can you tell us a little about you and what you do?

I’d love to: I am a bit of a mosaic- a travel journalist and digital storyteller, creating stories through photos, video and words across platforms including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, I create and contribute to campaigns, and teach and consult on digital storytelling.  I share the broad facets of my work on ericafirpo.com, and I've recently launched ciaobella.co, an Italy lifestyle/travel website.

How did you become a travel journalist?

Thanks to a little nudge from my former editor Christopher Winner, I went from writing art reviews and critique to travel writing – starting out as a columnist covering Pet Travel for Winner’s monthly The American, and leading to contributing writer, editor and author roles for publications including Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The Telegraph, the Guardian, Luxe City Rome and more.

 

You take beautiful photographs to share your travel experiences. How important do you think it is to tell stories through images as well as words?

Thank you! I love taking photos and I love telling stories in as many ways as possible. For me, images are extremely important to my story-telling process.  Through them, I can draw the viewer into the space, giving a sense of atmosphere, a timely glimpse or a behind-the-scenes idea, and offer more insight into the story. The ultimate goal is that the viewer has the chance to experience and interpret the scene as they want.

You were previously BBC Travel’s Voice of Rome. Can you tell us about your favourite places in Rome?

Ah, there are so many favorite places! I am crazy for carbonara, but only go to two places: Pipero and Trattoria Da Danilo. I also have a very sweet to tooth so I have a line-up of spots. In the mornings I get my latte macchiato and a pastry from Caffe Roscioli (they make pastries daily and always feature some near-extinct Roman recipes), and I go to Caffe Ciampini for hot chocolate in the winter, spritz in the afternoons and wild cherry gelato whenever it is available. I’ll go to the ends of the earth – in this case, the city – for good pizza and love Sforno near Cinencittà. Closer to home I’ll get my favorite napoletana at Pizzeria ai Marmi in Trastevere.

When it comes to exploring, I’ll take on the entire city any day of the week – and preferably underground. Lucky for me my husband, Darius Arya, is an archaeologist who prefers subterraneans more than anything else. If I’m relaxing outdoors, it’s Villa Borghese, a vast green park in the city centre, where I can take a little boat ride, bicycle, roller skate, or just chill out on the grass. It also happens to be home to a few great museums like Galleria Borghese (Carvaggio and Bernini!) and Museo Pietro Canonica (a wacky little spot), and nearby Etruscan museum Villa Giulia and La Galleria Nazionale - my favorite place in all of Rome to relax, with its incredible modern and contemporary collection.

 

What makes the perfect Italian summer escape?

The perfect Italian summer escape is anywhere by the water, with an ombrellone (big beach umbrella) and a beach-side restaurant with frittura di paranza (fried fish) and spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) on the menu. And it’s even better if there is a little bit of history and art.  My favorite summer getaway is always Sicily – in particular Ortigia, a small attached island in the south built on the ancient Font of Arethusa, with temples, duomo and a Caravaggio. Closer to home, I love Sperlonga, where there is an incredible seaside archaeological museum. I also love Terracina, the seaside town and ancient hilltop where the via Appia Antica passes, and of course the somewhat secret Argentario beaches in Tuscany.

You also encourage people to visit lesser-known museums and galleries through your #EmptyMuseo project. What inspired you to start this and why do you think museums are so important?

Museums, archaeological sites and cultural spaces have always been my home away from home. When I need a getaway, I can just walk out of the door because Rome has art everywhere, with every era and every genre represented. And so does the rest of Italy. Unfortunately, many incredible museums and sites don't get much visibility, as more popular museums (like Uffizi and Musei Vaticani) are bucket list must-sees. I want to change that, or at least make a little dent, by bringing Italy's museums to small screens. For me, any opportunity to bring people inside an Italian museum, gallery or cultural site is an opportunity to inspire dialogue that spreads outside of the museum and inspires visitors to come back inside. You can learn more about my Empties here.

 

What do think makes Italy, and the Italian way of life, so special?

Thanks to an enviable location in the Mediterranean, microclimates and microcultures, the inventiveness of ancient Rome and centuries of patrons, Italy has the best of everything. We have food, culture, cars, sports and nature, but most of all Italy has personality, or better yet, distinct, charming and utterly humorous personalities. Each town and neighborhood is unique unto itself, and Italians take a lot of pride in where they come from- be it Rome, Modena, Nicolosi, or Napoli. This combination of factors is what makes Italy so special.

Fotografia Moderna and Me

I hardly ever get to be in front of the questions, but this time, I am flattered to be the subject of Fotografia Moderna's Interviste series, in Italian.  For a quick read, I thought I would translate it for you to English:

  • How did you begin?  Good question. I started as a journalist in high school, writing as a beat reporter (sports) for a regional newspaper, and from that moment I didn't stop, writing art, travel and lifestyle for newspapers and magazines.  In 2006 with Twitter and 2011 with Instagram, I quickly realized taht social would be the next step for journalists and that I could "speak" without with limits, writing an article, a tweet or sharing an image, I had many possibilities.
  • Are you a  #travelblogger disguised as a journalist or a journalist disguised as a #travelblogger?  What is your goal when you publish a photo?  I am journalist with a blog and strong respect for bloggers.  A photo should make me smile. If that happens, I publish it.
  • Your point of view on museums?  Ever since I was little, museums have been my playground, refuge, sanctuary and dream. I could walk across centuries and worlds in a few minutes.  I would love for everyone to have even just a second of that sensation and because of that my collaborations with museums are very important.  If my [#empty] photo is a success, I am happy for the museum.
  • Photography and social media? Social media has broken barriers- to be precise, social gives opportunities to everyone, especially those who would have never thought they could even be creative.
  • Your Best Photo?  It is impossible for me to pick a single photo, I love them all and for different reasons.   With Instagram, I never think "I am doing a great job", mainly because I don't consider it a job but a pleasure, a way to express myself.
  • You are one of the Top Influencers on Instagram for Italy, that is wonderful but at the same time dangerous?  I didn't expect it [Repubblica article] and I am very honored.  My objective is not to influence someone to buy something, I like to believe that I encourage people to have the desire to know more, travel more, share with them all the amazing culture that is around to uncover. And because of that mentality, I don't see anything dangerous.
  • How do you see your Future?  What do you have coming up? There is definitely going to be an evolution, I don't know exactly but I already feel I am changing.  Coming soon- I have a series of projects that combine journalism and social media, and this year, I'd like to do more  “behind the scenes”, i.e. consulting for editorial projects and campaigns.

We're only #HumansofTechnology

Every want to be in a national ad campaign?  I never thought about it until an early September 2016 call asking me to share my passion for digital technology as an ambassador for Italian brand Unieuro and its project #HumansofTechnology.  Unieuro wanted me as the face of travel journalism and digital media, a kind of digital multi-tasker of the travel kind, along with fabulous digital innovators including BASE jumper Roberta Mancino, DJ Ema Stokholma, food blogger Lisa Casali, band and the Voice judges Elio e Le Storie Tese, e Youtuber and gamer mistress La SabriGamer. Did I jump at the chance? Well, let's just say I tiptoed and grabbed the flipside of my culture coin, Darius, whose creative mix of archaeology, cultural heritage and digital media has made the classics contemporary.

Check us as in the 2016-2017Humans of Technology campaign

 Milan with photographer phenom  Nima Benati .

 Milan with photographer phenom Nima Benati.

La Repubblica and me, Italy's digital media influencer

La Repubblica: Pioneers of Instagram

Talking Digital Italy with Tamu TV and All The Pretty Birds

There are a few things in life I can't say "no" to: gazpacho, a quick trip to Milan and a great conversation with a fabulous friend.   That's a trifecta rarely attained, if at all, until this past July when Tamu McPherson, the eye and voice behind All the Pretty Birds and Milan girl about town, invited me to her cafe to talk about Italy in the Digital Age.

Here's a little back story:  I've being following Tamu and All the Pretty Birds for years, from her beginning as a street style photographer and to her evolution into one of fashion's bestlifestyle blogs.  I've long loved Tamu's style- writing, behind the lense and her fresh look on fashion.  Most of all, I love how much she loves and lives Milan through art, culture and fasthion.  Tamu's Cafe is a food/lifestyle series that brings fashion, design and food luminaries to the table, so you can imagine how flattered I was when she invited to bring over a recipe.

Tune into Tamu TV for a little bit of gazpacho, Milan-with-a-view, a chat about Italy in the Digital Age with me!

Look, Ma, I'm on TV! Me + The Travel Channel Metropolis

I'm going to be honest- I don't like photos of myself so why would I agree to be interviewed for the Travel Channel Metropolis? And if I got over my self-consciousness and shyness, why oh why would I ever agree to talk about porchetta? Aired in June 2015. 

Here's the synopsis:  Metropolis stars reveal Rome as you've never seen it before. How did secret ingredients and an ancient recipe build the first metropolis? Also, learn how American GIs helped create an iconic pasta dish.