Naples, Go to Give

Ron Martin (upper left) with  IVHQ volunteers.

Ron Martin (upper left) with IVHQ volunteers in Naples.

Ron Martin is a community guy. He advocates for small businesses and his firm, RMG Insurance, hosts an annual Ladies Golf & Gourmet fundraiser to support the Freddy Awards for high school musical theater.

Ron Martin is also a guy who adores Italian food and culture. Always has. So when Martin pondered a recent trip to Italy, he embarked on a plan that satisfied both his Inner Italian and his community guy.

Martin volunteered for the month of October in an International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) program. Working with the Piedi per la Terra nonprofit, Martin helped refurbish the Vigna di San Martino.

The 17-acre UNESCO world heritage site clings to the Vomero hillside in the heart of the city. Atop the hill is the former Charterhouse of San Martino, which is now a museum, and Castel Sant’Elmo.

In exchange for a $1,000 fee, Martin received hostel lodging, modest meals, and at age 51, the honor of being the senior volunteer in the group. Among his colleagues were Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians.

Martin labored–clearing land of undergrowth, harvesting olives, and turning compost piles–but he also fell into the rhythm of southern Italian life. Rainy day naps, a weekend on the Amalfi coast, the famous pie at Antica Pizzeria Michele. Walking to and from work each day through a living tapestry of ancient street culture.

He summed up his experience on his parting Facebook post:

“Tonight I leave Napoli. I have spent a whole month here. I will miss it incredibly. I have lost two notches on my belt working in the vineyard. I have not watched TV at all. I have connected with its people and its rhythm. It’s not the prettiest city but the people here make it feel like home. My fellow volunteers are all awesome and deserve all of the praise in the world. Love them all! I’ll be back!”

Have you volunteered to work in Italy or are you considering it?

Share your thoughts with us.

Love Is All You Need

Danish actress Trine Dyrholm is irresistible in this "Inner Italian" flick.

Danish actress Trine Dyrholm is irresistible in this “Inner Italian” flick.

Ever on the lookout for “Inner Italian” movies (see my Top Ten), I stumbled upon Love Is All You Need (Sony Pictures Classics) on Netflix. It’s a relatively recent film that must not have made it to my little corner of the world during its theatrical release.

Susanne Bier, the Danish Academy-award winning director for best-foreign language film (2011) In a Better World, made this film with stars Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm. She shot it on location near Sorrento.

Love Is All You Need is certainly not a masterpiece (how many are?) but Walter and I found its quirkiness, and the charismatic Dyrholm, appealing. Not a typical rom-com, several dark elements colored the narrative.

We responded to the palpable sense of locale and it seemed as if some of the minor characters were locals.

My only serious irritation was from the music. Opening with Dean Martin’s That’s Amore (a song spot-on for Moonstruck, a movie celebrating an Italian American family in Brooklyn) is tone deaf in this context.

A view of Amalfi from a limonceto.

A view of Amalfi from a limonceto.

While I’m not in the business of revealing plot points, I will declare my crush on Danish actress Dyrholm.

Forget Brosnan, I fell in love with her.

When she says, “I can’t imagine existing in a world without lemons,” I found a soulmate.

Brosnan’s lemon grove is a pivotal locale that reminded me of my enchanting stay in a cottage set in a citrus grove above Amalfi.

Love, and lemons, are all I need.

What “Inner Italian” movie do you like?

The Inner Italian Q & A: Linda Dini Jenkins

One in an occasional series of conversations with those who try to “live Italian” wherever they are.

"La Principessa" in Perugia

Linda Dini Jenkins is a freelance travel writer and photographer and the author of Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband (more later on how to win a free copy!). She also blogs regularly about travel and travel writing at Travel the Write Way and teaches creative writing and journaling. She enjoys taking small groups of friends, to explore what Italy has to offer beyond the Florence-Venice-Rome triumvirate, and she can pack her suitcase in 15 minutes.

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Q: Living “Italian”. . . Is it a great way to live or the greatest way to live?
A: Well, I think it’s the greatest way to live. When you take into account the slower pace of life (outside the big cities!), the immersion in history and art, the fantastic cuisine, the love of design and music, the respect for taking time out to enjoy the simple things . . . whether it’s Italian or Mediterranean or European, it’s how I want to live.

Q: Why?
A: Are you kidding? Start with the food, the design sensibilities, the language, the arts, the vino, the pausa, the passeggiata . . . need I go on?

Q: When did you discover your Inner Italian? What is your Inner Italian named?
A: I always knew about my Inner Italian but, like other children of first-generation Italian-Americans who desperately wanted to assimilate, “being Italian” was something that just happened and was never really encouraged. In fact, I’d heard stories growing up of how hard it was for my father to be Italian in a New York suburb in the 1930s and ‘40s; even being Italian in my first job in New York in the 1970s was something of a liability. And I was always a little ashamed after that of being part Italian (my mother’s side of the family was English/Irish/German) until I met my husband and he took me to Italy in 2000. Since then, I have been a proud and vocal Italian-American. If my Inner Italian has a name and it needs to be something other than Linda, I suppose it’s Principessa . . .

Q: What does “living Italian” mean to you?
A: My grandparents came over from Italy in the late 1890s and they were anything but rich. So for me, living Italian has to do with cooking and eating together, always having crusty bread and wrinkled olives and green olive oil on the flowered oilcloth-covered table. It means not being afraid to be emotional—even if that involves fists and things flying when you’re angry. It means loving music and feeling the arts very deeply. It means trying to have a sense of style—of la bella figura—even if the clothes or table settings come from Target. And it means being a storyteller and a traveler and something of an adventurer.

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Brides of Amalfi

Love was in the air during my visit to the Amalfi Coast.

I couldn’t go anywhere without running into a couple of married newbies.

Our first bride is pretty in parasol, descending the stairs in Ravello.

The Amalfi Coast does a big business in destination weddings although I sensed that at least one couple, possibly two, were locals.  Either way, to be married in Italy is a blessing forever.

Our second bride after exiting the bronze doors of Il Duomo di Ravello.

I realize “Brides of Amalfi” doesn’t do justice to the grooms involved (auguri, guys!) but I  couldn’t imagine entitling this post otherwise.

Our third bride is high-stepping it through Piazza Duomo in Amalfi.

Blame it on those gowns! Seeing a lovely woman frothed in a neck-to-toe meringue is a site you simply cannot ignore.

Our fourth bride on the red carpet at Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta in Positano.

Were you married in Italy or attended a wedding there? What was the experience like? Share your story here.

Pasticceria Sal de Riso

Pastry Chef Salvatore de Riso is as big a celebrity in Italy as Emeril LaGasse is in the U.S. He is a regular on the popular RAI Uno cooking contest program Prova del Cuoco and has authored several cookbooks.

De Riso’s principal pasticceria is on the main square of Minori on the Amalfi Coast. Pleased to find myself in Minori recently, I visited the De Riso shop in hopes of meeting the great chef. Sadly, he wasn’t there—but his signature Ricotta e Pere (ricotta and pears) torta was. My sweet consolation was whipped sweetened local ricotta with cubes of Williams pears encased in a hazelnut crumb cake. Sublime!

I did meet Salvatore’s brother Alessandro who told me that he and Sal grew up in a family of gelato makers in Minori. As a young chef, Sal apprenticed in some fine hotel kitchens on the Coast before opening his first pastry shop in 2000. His success was rapid and phenomenal.

De Riso operates a production center in Tramonti, in the hills above the coast, and other retail shops in the Campania region, Rome and, improbably, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The 44-year-old de Riso has seemingly more awards and commendations than Italy has churches. Among them: He was the first pasticciere from southern Italy to be admitted to the Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italinai and, just this month, the group named him Best Pastry Chef of the Year, during its XVII Symposium in Brescia.

Next time you find yourself in Minori, sample la dolce vita with de Riso.

Alessandro de Riso is an ambassador for the sweet life.

Pasticceria De Riso

Piazza Cantilena 1


(39) 089 853618