Margin Notes: Italian Edition

Just for fun, I thought I'd do a little compilation of the books I read in preparation for and during my trip. Ready?! Go!

Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City 


A love letter from two Americans to their adopted city, showcasing modern dishes influenced by tradition, as well as the rich culture of their surroundings. 

Even 150 years after unification, Italy is still a divided nation where individual regions are defined by their local cuisine. Each is a mirror of its city’s culture, history, and geography. Butcucina romana is the country’s greatest standout. 

Tasting Rome provides a complete picture of a place that many love, but few know completely. In sharing Rome’s celebrated dishes, street food innovations, and forgotten recipes, journalist Katie Parla and photographer Kristina Gill capture its unique character and reveal its truly evolved food culture—a culmination of 2000 years of history. Their recipes acknowledge the foundations of Roman cuisine and demonstrate how it has transitioned to the variations found today. You’ll delight in the expected classics (cacio e pepe, pollo alla romana, fiore di zucca); the fascinating but largely undocumented Sephardic Jewish cuisine (hraimi  con couscous, brodo di pesce, pizzarelle); the authentic and tasty offal (guanciale, simmenthal di coda, insalata di nervitti); and so much more. 

Studded with narrative features that capture the city’s history and gorgeous photography that highlights both the food and its hidden city, you’ll feel immediately inspired to start tasting Rome in your own kitchen. 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful, thoughtful, interesting cookbook that gives you a peek not just into the recipes of Rome, but the neighborhoods, flavors, and history of Rome. It's thoughtfully written and has great anecdotes.

Maybe it's because I read this while prepping for a trip to Rome, but I couldn't stop reading it! I loved the author's voices and stories. When I was touring Rome, I got really excited when I recognized a restaurant (Nonna Betta!) or dish and tried things I normally would have shied away from thanks to this book.

I haven't tested any of the recipes yet, but I certainly plan to and am really excited to try and replicate some of the flavors I just tried!


Rick Steves' Walk: Heart of Rome

Rick Steves' Walk: Heart of Rome 

by Rick Steves

Rick Steves’ Walks eBooks are straightforward, self-guided walking tours through some of Europe’s most popular destinations, designed for easy reference on your mobile device or eReader. In Rick Steves' Walk: Heart of Rome, Rick shares his candid advice on how to get the most out of a walk through Rome's center—including where to start, how much time you need, and what’s worth stopping for—all for less than the cost of a cappuccino. With Rick’s knowledgeable, humorous writing in hand, you’ll also learn some interesting historical facts about the things you encounter along the way. Packed with indispensable tips and recommendations from America’s expert on Europe, Rick Steves' Walk: Heart of Rome is a tour guide in your pocket—and on your smartphone.

Rick Steves’ Walks and Tours are available for must-see locations throughout London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Athens, and Istanbul.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun and succinct tour, but a little too short for me. I liked having it on hand while I walked around Rome, but it was very high-level and didn't get into much detail. Perhaps a better supplement than a book to rely on while traveling.


Italy: Puglia (Rough Guides Snapshot)

Italy: Puglia 

by Robert Andrews

The Rough Guide Snapshot to Puglia is the ultimate travel guide to this beautiful, beguiling "heel" of Italy. It guides you through the region with reliable information and comprehensive coverage of all the sights and attractions, from exploring the gorgeous medieval hilltop town of Ostuni and enjoying the sunniest, sandiest beaches this side of Rome, to admiring the swirly Baroque architecture of stand-out town Lecce and feasting on the best bread and pasta dishes in Italy. Detailed maps and up-to-date listings pinpoint the top cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops, bars and nightlife, ensuring you have the most memorable trip possible, whether passing through, staying for the weekend or longer. Also included is the Basics section from The Rough Guide to Italy, with all the practical information you need for travelling in and around the country, including transport, food, drink, costs, health and festivals.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happy to have this on my Kindle in Puglia earlier this month. Most towns we went to, I searched for and found a great tidbit about the history of the town or which highlights were must-sees. It helped because occasionally we'd be in the wrong section of town thinking, cute maze-like streets? We must be in the wrong place. (Centro Storico! Always go to the centro storico.) The guide isn't comprehensive, but the short tidbits about the town and sites were just the right length to read while in line, or at lunch, or while standing and admiring a church. Recommended!


A Room with a View

A Room with a View 

by E.M. Forster

An English woman steps out of social convention to find true love in E.M. Forsters's delicately balanced and enchanting story especially suited for out-loud reading.

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I started listening to this book on a trip up to Vermont--I'm going to Italy next month and wanted to get excited about it.

Ugh. I just could not get interested. It seemed less about Italy and more about English People and their stratification by class and their habits. I did like some of the characters, but it felt a little pushy about socialism/communism... I think I'm going to watch the movie instead as one of my friends suggested. Listening to this as an audiobook just didn't work for me.

Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City 

by Elizabeth Minchilli

Elizabeth Minchilli has been eating her way through Rome since she was 12 years old. Eating Rome, based on her popular blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, is her homage to the city that feeds her, literally and figuratively. Her story is a personal, quirky and deliciously entertaining look at some of the city's monuments to food culture. Join her as she takes you on a stroll through her favorite open air markets; stop by the best gelato shops; order plates full of carbonara and finish the day with a brilliant red Negroni. Coffee, pizza, artichokes and grappa are starting points for mouth-watering stories about this ancient city. Illustrated with Minchilli's beautiful full-color photos and enriched with her favorite recipes for Roman classics like vignarola, carciofi alla romana and carbonara, Eating Rome is the book that you want if you are planning your first trip to Rome or if you have been to Rome a dozen times. And even if you just want to spend a few hours armchair traveling, Elizabeth Minchilli is the person you want by your side.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth's personality really comes through in this book--and I loved it! Her tips on how to order a coffee without looking like a know-nothing and her tips about eating (or not) on the go were really fun (yes gelato, no sandwiches). Her tips about food to try, her recipes, personal anecdotes were great peeks into the food culture of the city. I found myself jotting some notes as I read! It was a really enjoyable read that got me excited about my trip to Rome. I felt well-versed and ready to tackle the local food-culture after reading this book and her restaurant suggestions were helpful!

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