Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Love Fool: A Rome-antic Comedy by Lorenzo Petruzziello (Book Spotlight, Author Interview and Giveaway!)

Today, I have an interview with Lorenzo Petruzziello, whose debut novel set in Rome had me cracking up. You can read my review posted on Library of Clean Reads. Check out my interview below and enter the giveaway to win a copy of the book!

Book Details:

Book Title: The Love Fool: A Rome-antic Comedy by Lorenzo Petruzziello
Category: Adult Fiction, 314 pages
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publisher: Quill (Inkshares)
Release date: March 13, 2018
Tour dates: Aug 6 to 24, 2018
Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

Set in Rome. Follow the whirlwind antics of a publicist as he struggles to manage his first TV chef client, his new life, and an unexpected visit from his ex-girlfriend.

Alex recently moved to Italy for an opportunity at a PR firm in Rome. His first client is the beautiful Danish chef Pernille Bjørn, a popular model, TV personality, and cookbook author just entering the booming televised cooking show market in Italy.

Alex's single-minded career focus is soon thwarted by Emily, an ex-girlfriend he hasn't heard from in almost a decade.

Italy's modern culture and enchanting sights set the backdrop to this Rome-antic comedy.

To follow the tour, please visit Lorenzo Petruzziello's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the book trailer:

My Interview with Lorenzo Petruzziello:

Image by AKA Imagery

EI: Ciao Lorenzo! Welcome to Essentially Italian. Can you please describe your book in 20 words or less?

LP: The Love Fool is a non-romantic romantic comedy; about the foolish things we do or say in matters of love.

EI: Why did you decide to write a romantic comedy versus, let’s say, a drama, thriller or mystery?

LP: I’m glad you asked me this. I surprised myself that romantic comedy fiction would be my first genre in writing. But being in Rome, when I began writing The Love Fool, I was inspired by the Eternal city and its romantic side. But I knew I didn’t want to write a basic romantic story – it’s not me really. Instead, I wanted to focus on the foolish mishaps within relationships. I knew my story was going to be a romp, almost slap-stick comedy with the tone of an 80s romantic comedy; but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be a basic romantic story.

EI: The main character Alex works for a PR firm in Italy. Are any experiences based on your own experiences working in publicity and marketing?

LP: Yes, actually. I mean, yes Alex’s work was inspired by my experience in pr and marketing, but it is not an accurate retelling of true events. I would say my experience would be a skeleton to what Alex experiences.

EI: Your first book cover was very different from the final one you chose. Why, and how did you come up with your current book cover?

LP: I hired a book cover designer and asked him to design something that pops and would make people walking by a reader and wonder “What the heck is that person reading?” I wanted a cover that stuck out on a bookcase, or on a table. The designer liked the element of the cat in the story, so he went with that idea and, after some back and forth, we came up with what you see today.

EI: Your book is set in Rome. What are your favorite things about Rome? Least favorite?

LP: I love the mix of the old and the new. I love sitting at a modern restaurant or bar, sipping a cocktail, and looking to my left (or right) and see part of a ruin. I love that among the cobblestone streets, the classic buildings, and the ruins, a modern thriving city exists. And this was why I was adamant on making Rome and its modern culture part of the story. I wanted the reader feel as if they fell into the spaces I describe and be there with the characters. My least favorite part about Rome? Hmm... Summertime – it’s too hot and too many people. But that can easily be resolved with a quick expedition to the countryside.

EI: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The easiest?

LP: Well, the fact of the matter is that I had never really written something like this. I mean, sure I’ve written papers in college/university, and I write an occasional article here or there, but never anything as extensive as a novel-sized piece of work. So the most challenging would be getting started. The easiest part of writing this book? Once I did get started, the story flew out of me like a fountain of rich gold.

EI: Can you share with us some of your favorite authors and what you are currently reading?

LP: Oh yes! I’m glad you asked me that – I love reading. My favorite author – and probably an easy one to name – is F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love The Great Gatsby and will have to say that Tender Is The Night is probably my most favorite of his work. I just love how he captures body language and communicating through silent glances from across the room. Another favorite is Ian McEwan – Atonement was one of my favorite stories because of the way McEwan gently unfolds his story without sacrificing richness or depth of characters. Most recently I read The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker. At the moment, I’m reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. I love noir fiction and films, so every now and then I’ll read some mystery or detective novel. I also mix my reading up with an Italian novel now and then – the last Italian novel I’ve read was Fabio Volo’s Un Giorno in Piu… .

EI: Favorite Italian Meal?

LP: Well, at home I cook/eat Italian a lot. It’s how I was raised. But I will tell you my favorite Roman dish is a toss-up between a deliciously rich Carbonara or an exquisite Amatriciana. I have to both every time I go to Rome.

EI: If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

LP: Hm… Maybe the 90s – to relive my 20s and enjoy it even more.

EI: Any future projects you’re working on?

LP: Yes, I’ve started on a new book. This time, I’m going to challenge myself with a different genre and take a crack at a noir-style story – set in Italy, but in a different city. In the meantime, I constantly keep up with my travel blog

EI: Thanks so much for chatting with me!

Meet the Author:

Lorenzo Petruzziello holds an MBA in global marketing from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. His background includes publicity and marketing for many of public television’s popular cooking and travel shows. He lives in Massachusetts focusing on his writing. THE LOVE FOOL is his first novel.

Connect with Lorenzo: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway:

Ends Sept 1, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bitten by Alan Moore (Book Spotlight and Giveaway)

Set in Florence, Italy, this thriller explores what happens when nature has had enough of man's tampering. There's also a giveaway where you can enter to win a paperback copy or one of three $35 Amazon gift cards.

Book Details:

Book Title: Bitten by Alan Moore
Category: Adult Fiction, 430 pages
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: February 7, 2018
Tour dates: June 4 to 22, 2018
Content Rating: R (Book contains profanities, intermittent sex and violence, incl. one violent sex episode, together with scenes of explicit disaster, distress and death)

Book Description:

In the not-too-distant future, Italy is in disarray. It has voted to leave the EU in an attempt to regain control of its laws, finances and commerce. Even so, the country's economy is shrinking and its national debt rising. There is a marked escalation, too, in unemployment, bank loans and immigration. Production and service companies are in difficulty. The only thriving business areas are the black market and organised crime. There is discontent and protest on all sides.

In Florence, the local Mafia boss, more accustomed to gunrunning and trading in plutonium, is involved in organising a silent auction for the sale of one of the world's most valuable lost paintings - a sixteenth-century masterpiece, which was appropriated in World War II by Stalin's Trophy Brigade. A British art expert is set to buy the picture on behalf of his client, a South American billionaire - yet surprisingly two Italian undercover intelligence agents, acting as antique dealers, submit the winning bid.

All the while, human beings continue to harm the Earth by destroying land, sea, air, animals and trees. Global climate change, polluting the atmosphere, depleting the ozone layer: these are some of man's crimes against Nature. But time is running out. Nature has lost patience with humans. Unless something is done immediately to reverse the destruction of the ecosystem, Nature will retaliate by deploying the terrifying forces at her command. And as a first step in wreaking her revenge, she instigates a reign of terror by the deadliest creature on Earth.

To read reviews, please visit Alan Moore's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Born in Surbiton, Surrey in 1944, Alan Moore lives in Barnes, SW London, with his wife, Amber. They have two daughters and a son, who between them have two boys and two girls with another boy expected in May. Alan was educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire and at London University, where, as an external student, he obtained a BA degree in English. Thereafter, for 25 years, he single-handedly ran his own book publishing company, which at one stage was producing up to 20 titles a year. Now, at the age of 74, he has self-published his first novel.

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Ends June 30, 2018

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Friday, May 25, 2018

The Deadliest Sport by June Trop (Book Spotlight, Author Interview & Giveaway!)

Because my mother is Roman, I have visited Rome several times and, of course, have been fascinated with the Colosseum. In June Trop's third book in the Miriam bat Isaac Mysteries, which I read and reviewed on Library of Clean Reads, her brother is a gladiator who fought in Rome. I enjoyed this book and interviewed the author (see below) and also included a giveaway!

Book Details:

Book Title: The Deadliest Sport: A Miriam bat Isaac Mystery in Ancient Alexandria
Author: June Trop
Category: Adult fiction, 242 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Release date: October 7, 2017
Tour dates: May 14 to 25, 2018
Content Rating: PG (mild religious oriented expletives, such as "Lord," some violent descriptions, such as the corpse, the gladiatorial arena)

Book Description:

Miriam bat Isaac, a budding alchemist in first-century CE Alexandria, welcomes her twin brother Binyamin home to fight his last gladiatorial bout in Alexandria. But when he demands his share of the family money so he can build a school for gladiators in Alexandria, Miriam explains that he forsook his share when he took the gladiatorial oath.

When she refuses to loan him the money for what she feels is a shady and dangerous enterprise, Binyamin becomes furious. Soon after, the will of Amram, Miriam's elderly charge, turns up missing; Amram becomes seriously ill; and the clerk of the public records house is murdered. Could Binyamin really be behind this monstrous scheme? If not he, who could be responsible? And is Miriam slated to be the next victim?

To read reviews, please visit June Trop's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the Book Trailer:

Interview with June Trop

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian! Can you describe your book in 20 words or less?

JT: I’ll give it a try: Miriam penetrates a monstrous multilayered scheme and risks her life to expose the mastermind behind it.

EI: Your book is atmospheric, with details that bring the setting to life. How did you go about doing the research for this period in history?

JT: Aside from its being a first-century CE intellectual and cultural melting pot, Alexandria was second only to Rome in its commercial and educational institutions. Accordingly, I found many books about its geography, history, architecture, customs, sports, politics, gardens, and ethnic groups. Having loved learning about the Roman Empire since childhood, I was like a kid in a candy store.

EI: The Deadliest Sport is the third book in your Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. What are the challenges to writing a series? What’s the advantage?

JT: One challenge is keeping the stories straight, especially when the titles are similar, all beginning with THE DEADLIEST. And then there’s the question all series writers must wrestle with: Shall I freeze my characters in time or let them mature over the years? The advantage is that when I sit down to write a story, I already know my setting and core characters. They have become friends whom I enjoy visiting again.

EI: Which character was the most difficult to write? The easiest?

JT: All the characters are difficult to write in the beginning because I haven’t yet gotten to know them as more than an outline of traits. But eventually, they become real enough to tell me who they are, what they have to say, and what they want to do.

One special difficulty though is in crafting the antagonist. I try to make this character’s motives, as evil as they might be, understandable so that on some level my readers can sympathize with him.

And good or bad, when I look back, I see that all the characters have a piece of me in them.

EI: What inspired you to base Miriam on the true personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy?

JT: Alchemy was a capital offense in Roman Alexandria. The little I could learn about Maria Hebrea convinced me that she was a courageous and intrepid pursuer of knowledge. She risked her life to uncover the secrets of the material world that could not only elevate base metals but heal, rejuvenate, and extend human life. What a model of passion and persistence! At the same time, nothing being known of her personal life left me free to invent one for her.

EI: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

JT: Easy question! I’d go right back to first-century CE, Roman-occupied Alexandria. I know the streets will be smelly, the political realities threatening, and the life expectancy short, but the city will be splendid, the climate perfect, and the intellectual life keen. And yes, there’s that one person I’d love to see, namely Maria Hebrea herself.

EI: What do you want your readers to take away from your series?
JT: Miriam approaches her problems with courage, fair-mindedness, and persistence. At the same time, she tries to overcome her weaknesses, especially her tendency to tell lies. I would like my modern readers to see how these qualities can make them successful.

EI: Any future projects you want to share with us?

JT: The fourth book in the Miriam bat Isaac Series, THE DEADLIEST FEVER, just came out. I am looking forward to hearing how my readers react to this story of a jewel heist in Ephesus. And I am working on the “penultimate draft” of my fifth book, THE DEADLIEST THIEF, a novella about one of the three thieves who escape to Alexandria.

EI: Thank you so much for joining us and telling us more about you and your writing!

Meet the Author:

June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, "The Steam Shavel [sic]," when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

"I don't remember how I spent my share," June says. "You could buy a fistful of candy for a penny in those days, but ever since then, I wanted to be a writer."

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students' imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling. Her first book, From Lesson Plans to Power Struggles (Corwin Press, 2009), is based on the stories new teachers told about their first classroom experiences.

Now associate professor emerita at the State University of New York at New Paltz, she devotes her time to writing The Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series. Her heroine is based on the personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years.

June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

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Ends June 2, 2018

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

All the Way to Italy by Flavia Brunetti (Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway!)

Book Details:

Book Title: All the Way to Italy: A modern tale of homecoming through generations past
Author: Flavia Brunetti
Category: Adult Fiction, 222 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction (can fit into YA Fiction as well)
Publisher: Ali Ribelli Edizioni
Release date: April 21, 2018
Tour dates: April 23 to May 18, 2018
Content Rating: PG for the occasional use of "for God's sake" and a few religious references (though very mild). No violence, no swear words, and no sex scenes.

Book Description:

Until her dad died, Little considered herself a Californian. Now, thanks to half a letter, a symbol she can’t quite remember, and writer’s block, she finds herself back in Italy, the country of her birth. In a headlong rush to return to her beloved San Francisco, Little will journey throughout Italy, hoping to find the answers she needs to move on with her life so she need never look back. She’ll enlist the help of the woman who raised her, Sira, her father’s sister; but Sira has secrets she’s kept for decades, and Little underestimates the power of the country she fled years before.

In this powerful story of mixed cultures in a world trying to globalize, one girl’s struggle to leave her home behind will lead her back to the women in her family and the memories each of them has safeguarded through the generations. From war-torn Italy to the belpaese of today, All the Way to Italy is a tale for those in search of a balance between wanderlust and the necessity to come home, a reminder that although we may be fragments, we are never a lost cause.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

All the Way to Italy is a beautiful story about one young woman's journey to find her place in this world. To discover her roots and what they mean in her life. I enjoyed Little's story and experienced a strong nostalgia for Rome (my own mother's home city) as I was reading it.

Little was born in Italy but as a child was sent to live with her aunt Sira in San Francisco.
She doesn't know much about her mother or why her father sent her to live with her aunt, but she loves her aunt who becomes like a mother to her. When her aunt moves back to Italy and her father dies, Little who is now a young woman, is called back to Italy to sort through her father's property and belongings. She hopes to take care of things quickly so that she can go back to California and move on with her life.

However, once in Italy, the country where she spent the first five years of her life, she discovers family secrets that begin to unveil the circumstances surrounding her mysterious mother and the reason her father sent her away. It is here that she begins her journey of self-discovery and healing, and learns more about the man that was her father.

Flavia Brunetti's novel is character-driven, slowly peeling back the layers of Little's family. With lyrical language and a character who needs to sort through her feelings of anger and abandonment, All the Way to Italy is a moving story. It is filled with scenes of Italy, its food (I was constantly hungry as I read this book!) and its culture. In this debut novel, Brunetti's writing promises readers a story that explores family connections, betrayal, secrets and finding one's way home. A heartwarming and highly pleasurable read!

To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit Flavia Brunetti's page on Italy Book Tours.

Be sure to also check out my interview with the author posted here below!

Buy the Book:

iTunes ~ Kobo

Interview with Flavia Brunetti

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian, Flavia! Can you describe your book in 20 words or less.

FB: Thank you, Laura! I think my favorite description of the book is actually on the back cover: “This is the powerful story of those in search of a balance between wanderlust and the necessity to come home, a reminder that although we may be fragments, we are never a lost cause.” Okay I cheated, that was 34 words!

EI: Like the protagonist in your novel, you have experienced living in the US and in Italy in much the same way she had. Is any of the story autobiographical?

FB: Little is, or at least when I started writing was, partly based on how I felt growing up back and forth between two countries, but more importantly is the reflection of others in my life: Sira is my real-life aunty Letizia, and the book was written in her honor. A lot of the nostalgia was based on conversations that I’ve had with friends that have also traveled much of their lives and feel they belong to different places. The characters in the book ultimately grew until they were their own people, so to speak, and in that sense, the story grew exponentially until much of it was its own. So I like to think of it as a mixture of real-life emotions told through a fictional story!

EI: I have family in Rome that I have visited throughout the years (my mother is Roman) and I got such a strong feeling of nostalgia reading your book. I could relate to the main character. Did you feel any nostalgia as you wrote it?

FB: What a great question – and I love hearing that the book resonated with you! I felt so much nostalgia writing All the Way to Italy. Much of it is a love story to Rome, pieces written when I was in different countries missing my city. Like Little, I grew up feeling a bit displaced from my country of birth, but when I moved back, the country, the city, rushed back in until I realized how strong roots can be, and how they can be the sturdiest base for us to grow into our own Stories – in this sense, the book is an ode to Rome, and I’ve also given away how much of that feeling is also autobiographical!

EI: Who was the character that was the most difficult to write? The easiest?

FB: The easiest character for me, the one that truly flowed the most, was Sira, and that’s because she’s based on my aunty in real life; during the editing process, Sira was the only character that my editor never wanted to change, because she was written so clearly, with so much love. That is undoubtedly because of the love that was already there!

The hardest I’d have to say was Delila, because I had some difficulty putting myself in her shoes; but it was a good exercise in empathy, and in writing an unfamiliar character.

EI: What do you want your readers to take away from your novel?

FB: This is an airplane read in the best sense of the word (I hope), the kind of book that goes down easily but says something. I wanted to write a book that a fifteen-year-old girl could hold in her hands when she was faced with a big change, that would help her to know that everything would work out for the best, even if she wasn’t her own best friend yet, even if she felt like the world, because of where she’s from or what she’s suffered, wasn’t on her side. I wanted to write about the strength of memories but also the strength of carving your own way, with an open heart and mind to absorb all the lessons there are out there, gently. Maybe most importantly, I wanted to put out a book that explored kindness in a world climate that struggles with embracing different cultures.

EI: What is your favorite hang out in Rome?

FB: This is such a hard question because the choices are endless! Okay, if I absolutely have to pick one… in Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon, watching people come and go in front of this amazing ancient behemoth. Oh, and with a stuffed focaccia from Antica Salumeria (right on the piazza) in my hand!

EI: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

FB: I’m a big fan of the St.Mary’s time traveling series, so this answer changes regularly. Right now, I’d want to travel back to Ancient Egypt and meet Hatshepsut. She was only the second confirmed female pharaoh and widely considered hugely successful, and she has an incredible story—and what a strong woman she must have been! When I went to the Luxor in Egypt I was able to visit Hatshepsut’s Temple, a structure that feels directly out of another time, and that made me begin to wonder about the woman behind it and the tales she must have been able to tell.

EI: Any future projects you want to share with us?

FB: At the moment I’m focusing on my city blog on Rome, Which Way to Rome. I love writing the Instagram captions, which very often end up being mini-stories, paired with my favorite pictures from an afternoon stroll through the city. I want to start working on a sequel to All the Way to Italy soon: either exploring Little’s story a few years down the line when she’s graduated and moved to a different country, or a flashback to Sira’s youth. Which would you guys like to read next?

EI: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me Flavia!

About the Author:

Photo credit: Roberta Perrone

Born just outside of Rome, Flavia Brunetti grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, eventually moving back to the Eternal City and confirming her lifelong commitment to real gelato. Flavia holds a Master of Arts degree in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from John Cabot University. Today she travels the world working for an international humanitarian organization and spends her free time writing and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso. You can find her city blog on Rome at and her portfolio of published writing at

Connect with Flavia: Website ~ Blog on Rome ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Ends May 26, 2018

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile (Book Spotlight, Guest Post and Giveaway!)

I loved this book! And it made me proud of my Italian roots. Check out my review on Library of Clean Reads on April 26. Scroll down to read a guest post by Gabriella that rings so true about my childhood as well.

Book Details:

Book Title: Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 201 pages
Genre: Travel / Arts / Fashion / Self-help
Publisher: Sumisura Publications
Release date: November 2017
Tour dates: April 23 to May 11, 2018
Content Rating: G (No violence. No swear words. No sex scenes.)

Book Description:

Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.

Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.

Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.

Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game-changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.

Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say goodbye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by Ferrè and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.

To read reviews, please visit Gabriella Contestabile's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Guest Post: Style by Gabriella Contestabile

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things” — Jean Cocteau

It was my first year in the U.S. and I wanted those cheap pointy-toed shoes my classmates bought at Westchester Square in the Bronx. My mother said no. Shoes had to be of superior quality and made in Italy.

I tried hard to assimilate, but my parents fought back. So when my friends came over after school expecting to snack on Cheetos, my mother poured olive oil onto a plate and gave us chunks of bread from our local bakery to dip.

The school nurse wanted to know how any responsible parent could serve espresso, or wine mixed with water, to a nine-year-old; why we used olive oil instead of butter and partook of a Mediterranean diet, which at the time seemed suspiciously foreign.

Today, one dips bread into olive oil at five-star restaurants where the simple dishes I was raised on, cost $40.00 a plate. “Made In Italy” is a label coveted by fashion congnoscenti, and the bespoke clothing made by a sarto (tailor) or sarta (dressmaker) are a luxury few can afford.

Luxury to an Italian is not about status. It’s a reverential take on life, a philosophy of ‘compra meno, compra meglio’ (buy less, buy better).

It is not uncommon for an Italian woman to opt for a single beautiful Missoni over multiple purchases of disposable fashion items. Her closet fare is lean and curated. She wears the items she loves, those that tell a story, recall a memory, or reflect the work of an artisan she knows.

There was a time when saving up for that one pair of Ferragamo ballerinas was not about the name, but about provenance and craftsmanship.

After many years of travel between Italy and the U.S. while immersed in the cosmetics, fragrance, and fashion world, I finally figured out that my parents were right - art, humanity, and conscious consumerism are bred in an Italian’s DNA. It’s no coincidence that the Renaissance and study of Humanism started in Italy, as did Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement and an emerging slow fashion initiative, now taking root around the globe.

I will forever thank them for insisting we speak Italian inside the home, and proper English outside. That we read Dante and Austen, listen to Puccini and Elvis, not drop the vowels at the end of our names, and embrace our good fortune to live inside two cultures.

We’re humans, not baking soda, they said. We don’t assimilate and become indistinguishable. Rather, we throw pinches and tosses of our unique flavors into that exuberant recipe that is humankind.

I learned early on that no country is a monolith. We are all a mix of influences and of moments in time we hold forever in our hearts. Whoever you are, own it. Whatever your ethnic identity, be it.

It calls to mind the words of Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you. I came to live out loud.”

Praise for Sass, Smarts and Stilettos:

“An Italian lifestyle is understated, not loud, it doesn’t need to brag, because it’s an inherited patrimony, made of the simple things, yet luxurious and sophisticated, a tribute to quality. Gabriella does an exquisite and ambitious job at describing it in passionate detail, and in a book you won’t want to put down.”
 — Francesca Belluomini, author of The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style

“I was captivated by this inspirational, heartwarming and fascinating account of what it means to be not only an Italian American woman, but a WOMAN. Framed against the backdrop of Italian life and culture, each personally-reflective chapter is filled with lessons for a rich life through history, art, fashion, architecture, philosophy, and cuisine. Humor and wit are sprinkled throughout this compelling literary work. Gabriella takes the reader on a journey that touches the heart, the mind, the senses, and ultimately, the soul. A must read and reread for every ‘extraordinary’ woman!” 
— Dr. Marie-Elena Liotta, Chairperson and Trustee of the Enrico Fermi Scholarship Foundation

“Gabriella's writing, as always, celebrates all the senses, and there you are, sitting on a mint-green Vespa wearing fashionable heels (suddenly, you won't trip in them) and the perfect perfume. Simply a must read, not just for the delicious style and lusciously painted scenes, but because this is pure inspiration of the go-get-'em variety, the kind that inspires us to reach out to the women in our lives and say, 'Do you need a helping hand? That is a fabulous scarf. Let's do this.' " 
— Flavia Brunetti, author of ‘Young in Rome’ city blog

“Sass, Smarts and Stilettos captivates with its brilliant depiction of the Italian woman, her unapologetic way of being, her love of life and her inimitable sense of style that’s deeply rooted in her cultural heritage. At its core, it is a profoundly inspiring story of humanity, art, intuition and female empowerment.” 
— Aleksandra Lacka, Personal Brand Strategist and Founder of 

About the Author:

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon (Book Spotlight and Giveaway!)

This is the second book I read by Melissa Muldoon and once again was transported to Italy, to a place of old traditions and lost art. Look out for my review on Library of Clean Reads on Thursday. In the meantime, check out the book and enter to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: Waking Isabella: Because beauty can't sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon
Category: Adult Fiction, 250 pages
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: December 2017
Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)

Book Description:

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.

To read reviews, please visit Melissa Muldoon's page on Italy Bok Tours.

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Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with Melissa: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube

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Ends March 31, 2018

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (Book Spotlight & Giveaway!)

I'm thrilled Italy Book Tours is hosting a blog tour for Adriana Trigiani's Kiss Carlo which has just been released in paperback. I got a signed copy at BookExpo and read it last fall. You can read my review here. It's a fun book with a big Italian family, the trademark of Trigiani's books. Scroll down to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Category: Adult Fiction, 560 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Release date: January 2018
Content Rating: G (For general audience. Depictions of violence are minimal. No bad language, religious expletives, sex scenes, drug use or underage drinking.)

Book Description:

From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativity—the story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

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Meet the Author: 

Photo Credit: Tim Stephenson
Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Ends Feb 7

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