40 episodes

Rick Zullo is an American who moved to Rome and started a blog as a way to help understand his new surroundings.

Over the years, Rick’s blog has become a resource for both expats and visitors in Rome; helping them navigate the more challenging aspects of life in the Eternal City. Not just the practical advice and sightseeing, but also a good measure of “daily life,” and the things that a foreigner might find puzzling about Italian culture.

Some of the most popular posts have been on the following subjects: dating in Italy; fighting the Italian bureaucracy; Italian superstitions; learning the Italian language; and regional Italian cuisine.

The Fatal Charm of Italy: A Question and Answer Podcast with Rick Zullo Rick Zullo: American Expat in Rome

    • Places & Travel
    • 4.7, 37 Ratings

Rick Zullo is an American who moved to Rome and started a blog as a way to help understand his new surroundings.

Over the years, Rick’s blog has become a resource for both expats and visitors in Rome; helping them navigate the more challenging aspects of life in the Eternal City. Not just the practical advice and sightseeing, but also a good measure of “daily life,” and the things that a foreigner might find puzzling about Italian culture.

Some of the most popular posts have been on the following subjects: dating in Italy; fighting the Italian bureaucracy; Italian superstitions; learning the Italian language; and regional Italian cuisine.

    The Coronavirus Crisis in Italy – FCI 041

    The Coronavirus Crisis in Italy – FCI 041

    To date, I’ve resisted weighing-in on the coronavirus crisis in Italy on my blog. For one reason, the situation changes significantly on a daily basis. So anything written today might be totally irrelevant (not to mention inaccurate) by next week. But also, I’m not living there at the moment, so I don’t feel that I have the first-hand experience to make any credible commentary (although it now seems I will have first-hand experience soon enough).So instead, what I thought I’d do is to speak directly with people, both expats and Italians, about the situation on the ground at the moment. I’ve tried to get a good cross-section with regards to geography and role/job in the daily life of Italy. *PLEASE bookmark this page and check back often as I update it with other ways to support Italy during this most difficult of times. GrazieFive Takes on the Coronavirus Crisis in ItalyIn this episode you heard five stories. I actually spoke with a few more but didn't want to add any more length to the track. I would like to add a second part to this, and so I will update this page as needed.So here they are, three Italians and two expats representing the hardest hit areas of the country. Three of them are directly involved in tourism, and two are not. However, nobody in the country is unaffected by this pandemic. Let's meet them.Judy Witts Francini - American Expat Cooking in TuscanyI offer a Tuscan week based in the Chianti Wine Region, where I have been living for the past 12 years, and The Sicily program is based at the Planeta Winery in Menfi. But my true love is creating custom programs for clients.  I hope to share my passion and love for Italy through these full immersions in everyday life, where you will feel like a local, not a tourist.I have opened a Patreon page, where I will sharing my video cooking demos on the site. You can sign up for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.Divina Cucina Membership My FREE Taste Chianti app is also downloadable online.* You can order my cookbook as a real book or as an ebook.

    CLICK for More Culinary Resources from Judy!

    Bologna:* https://www.facebook.com/carmelita.caruana COOK ITALY is creating a series of small recipe ebooks.* https://www.facebook.com/yummyitaly/ Helena Kyriakide is getting ready to do some online classes for pasta making.Florence* https://www.patreon.com/Touritaly Teacher and tour guide offering online lectures * a class="tve-froala" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.patreon.

    • 1 hr 21 min
    How To Plan A Trip To Italy – FCI 040

    How To Plan A Trip To Italy – FCI 040

    On the podcast today, I talked with my friend Victoria De Maio about how to plan a trip to Italy. We discuss four general types of travel: Large Groups, Small Groups, Custom Tours, and “Do It Yourself,” and we compare the pros and cons of each. Afterwards, I reflected on my very first vacation to Italy in 1999 (bring back the Lira, per favore!), which wound up being a combination of these types. For part of the trip, I had tagged along with a large group that was hosted by a friend of mine. I can’t remember exactly how many were on the tour, but I seem to recall three massive tour buses. So yeah, Large with a capital “L.” But then I stayed in Italy by myself for another week after the tour ended, and I had enlisted the help of an old-school travel agent to help prepare the itinerary; in other words, “a custom tour.”The DIY part of it was that I had found my own accommodations in Spello based solely on an article I had read in Travel+Leisure, or one of those other fancy/glossy print magazines that are quickly becoming extinct. Victoria De Maio and friends, toasting to La Dolce Vita in PugliaWell, that’s what you did in the good ol’ days before the glut of (mis)information on the Internet. I devoured travel magazines and waited impatiently for the New York Times travel section every Sunday. But it must be said that the information wasn’t always up to date by the time it went to print, so that particular portion of the trip was not without some misadventure, as I chronicled in an earlier blog post about “The Best Way to Learn Italian.” (Hint: FULL and unintentional immersion!)OK, enough backstory. Let’s break it down by exploring the pros and cons of each type of vacation.How To Plan A Trip To Italy, 4 Options:

    ​Large Group


    ​Generally cheaper​​​Meet lots of people​​See a large number of "checklist" sites​Wide choice of destinations


    ​Overly-ambitious itineraries​

    ​Time spent waiting on others​

    ​Large chain hotels

    ​Tourist restaurants

    Conclusion:​This type of tour might be the right choice for the first time traveler, especially if you're traveling alone, and want to get ​lots of selfies in fron​t of the greatest possible number of famous monuments. Usually cheaper, too. 

    ​Small Group


    ​An intimate group, with easy access to tour leader​​Boutique hotels​​Family-run restaurants​​​​Unique experiences (ex. cooking class)


    ​A bit more expensive than large groups

    ​​Some free time, but also some scheduled events

    Conclusion:When done right, this type of tour combines the best of all worlds. The itinerary will make sure that you see the best sites of a region, while allowing you enough free time to feel like you're actually on vacation instead of a scavenger hunt. Small groups allow for quaint hotels, authentic restaurants, easy passage on the roads (as opposed to tour buses), and access to unique experiences not possible for larger groups. You also can have conversations with the tour leader instead of being shouted at via megaphone. At the same time, the price will be less than a custom tour.

    • 38 min
    FCI 039 – Top Sites to See in Rome with Elyssa Bernard

    FCI 039 – Top Sites to See in Rome with Elyssa Bernard

    Here’s the thing about Rome that everybody should understand and accept:  you will NEVER see it all. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a long vacation, living in the city as a resident expat, or even a native Roman. There is simply too much for one lifetime. Non basta una vita, as the Romans say...Beyond that, I’ll say that even the most famous sites never cease to amaze. I can’t tell you how many times I've walked past the Pantheon, and yet it still takes my breath away. Every. Single. Time. You just can’t get “used to it,” nor should you. It’s living history, and it’s miraculous.Still, we all have our “top sites to see in Rome” lists. While you can’t see it all, if you’re on vacation in The Eternal City for a few days, you should certainly try to experience the best of the best in this endlessly appealing “Capital of the World.” And nobody breaks it down better than my friend Elyssa Bernard. 

    Here’s the thing about #Rome that everybody should understand and accept: you will NEVER see it all.  There is simply too much for one lifetime. "Non basta una vita," as the Romans say...  @romewise

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    Top Sites to See in RomeOn her blog, she has the perfectly curated Top Ten List. Rightfully so, The Vatican and The Colosseum are numbers one and two. The list is rounded out by Piazza Navona, The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain… all the usual suspects. Again, as it should be.But on the podcast, I explicitly ask her to go beyond this list, and tell us “what else” we should see in Rome. My theory is that some of the most interesting sites in Rome are hiding in plain sight, available (and often free of charge) for anyone to stumble upon. But be careful, because some of these places aren’t open when you’d expect, and they aren’t always so easy to find.  Elyssa has all those details, too, so you won’t waste a moment of your vacation.During my tour next year, we will certainly hit the most popular sites. However, it is my intention to let people have some free time for their own discoveries, and the suggestions by Elyssa are the perfect place to start. In fact, I’m going to use Elyssa’s suggestions as a starting point for a list that I’ll give my guests when we arrive in Rome next September. But I’m willing to bet that someone in our group will stumble upon a gem that even myself and Elyssa have never visited. THAT is the constant allure of Rome.Elyssa BernardElyssa Bernard is an American expat in Rome, married to a native Roman. Her U.S. base, like mine, is in Florida, where she received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Besides living a Roman life with her husband, she counts among her friends Roman art historians, archeologists, tour guides, chefs, authors, and many other fascinating people who've given her a real vision of Roman life like nothing a person could discover on their own.Her blog, Romewise, grew from a single FAQ page on the website of the B&B that her and her husband owned and operated. Now, in my opinion, it is the single best independent website for information on visiting Rome.

    Elyssa BernardElyssa answers...What are the four Papal Basilicas of Rome and which one is the most important in the Catholic Church?​Which churches are the best "free museums" in Rome, where are they, and whose works can we see?What are some of the lesser known sites of ancient Rome? Some are newly opened to the public, hidden, or literally underground.

    ​I would like to thank ​Elyssa for being so generous with h​er time and knowledge, and I encourage anyone ​planning a trip to Rome to ​check out her ext...

    • 41 min
    FCI 038 – Move to Italy the Right Way with Damien O’Farrell

    FCI 038 – Move to Italy the Right Way with Damien O’Farrell

    ​I mean, everybody wants to move to Italy, right? (Or in any case, if you’re reading my blog, I assume that you’ve at least entertained the idea.) But hold on a second. While it's a tempting and romantic dream to sell all of your possessions and buy a crumbling farmhouse in Tuscany, you might want to listen to the voice of reason first. Damien O’Farrell is that voice of reason. And he’s got both good news and bad news for you.The good news. It CAN be done. A person who is willing to commit to the process for the long haul can eventually realize their dream. And he has successful clients who prove this. What’s more, Damien strongly supports the minority opinion that there is enormous opportunity in Italy for a creative person who isn’t afraid of hard work. The bad news. It’s not easy, at least not for the average American (or other non-E.U.) who lacks the guile and/or resources to confront the unfamiliar red tape of a foreign country. Now here is my opportunity to take a few more swipes at my favorite nemesis, the Italian bureaucracy. But no, as Damien rightly points out, the immigration process in Italy is actually quite fair compared to other countries, if you know the rules. And he knows the rules quite well. Let’s get down to specifics...Move to Italy the Right WayAs Damien confirms on the podcast, once upon a time you could just “wing it” and probably get away with your nonchalance fairly easy. Just fly into Fiumicino (the border agents probably wouldn’t even bother to look at your passport back then) and then stay as long as you could manage. Nobody really cared that much. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Italy has made a visible effort to crack down on illegal immigration, and so you must either do it the right way, or get deported with prejudice. ​From what I’ve heard anecdotally, you’re looking at a minimum two year band from the entire European Union when you eventually get caught. And you will, sooner or later.​As for finding work, Damien also had some sage advice. The best strategy is to bring a skill that Italy is in need of. Engineering, I.T., or other technological knowledge are presently very desired. However, and this is encouraging, there are also great opportunities for the old standard of teaching English. He explains his strategy on the podcast.Damien O’FarrellDamien is originally from Ireland but has been living in Italy for over 30 years where he works as a Global Mobility Specialist. He focuses on tailor-made solutions for corporate and individual clients. In addition to this, he provides unique VIP strategy days, where in an immersion setting, he leads his clients through all the pros and cons of relocating to the land of la dolce vita.If the topic of expatriation in Italy interests you, I highly suggest that you join Damien’s very popular Facebook group, Ultimate Italy. It’s designed to be an interactive forum where members help members, the result is a wealth of crowdsourced knowledge that can answer nearly any question that you have about the expatriate process in Italy. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s the most complete and concentrated source of information on this topic currently found on the web. And yet, information will only get you so far. If you’re really committed to living in Italy and doing it right, then you should save yourself a lot of time and aggravation, and hire Damien for help. Because honestly, ​the pitfalls that you will ultimately encounter can suck all the fun out of your romantic adventure. (Yes, I’m speaking from firsthand experience.)In the meantime,

    • 32 min
    FCI 037 – In the Cucina with Adina Antonucci

    FCI 037 – In the Cucina with Adina Antonucci

    Back in the fall 2017, my boss at Palm Beach Opera called me into his office to review an application for a marketing position that we were looking to fill. I glanced at the resume and saw that the candidate’s name was Adina Antonucci. “Great! Una paesana,” I thought... or maybe even said out loud. But what’s more, I noticed that she was a fellow blogger who seemed to share my passion for authentic Italian cuisine. Of course I gave her my immediate endorsement.If I had studied her resume a little more thoroughly at the time, I would have seen that she also had some serious credentials in content marketing and digital P.R. These skills became immediately apparent once we started working together, and in the subsequent months/years, she has made my work days so much easier and more enjoyable. (But admittedly, it was her food blog that sold me off the bat.)

    In the CucinaThe points that struck me the most about Adina’s approach to good food were her priorities related to simple recipes and fresh, quality ingredients that are locally sourced. This is the very cornerstone to the Italian way of cooking and eating, which I experienced myself while living in Italy.​In the U.S., th​is concept now has attracted all sorts of associated buzzwords like “farm to table,” “zero kilometer,” and “locavore.” In other words, people who make a concerted effort to eat what’s in season locally. And simplicity. Italians don’t trust any recipes that have more than four or five ingredients​—and they should all be clearly identifiable on the plate.Well, this is all fine and good when you’re living in Italy. But my biggest challenge​—and my question for Adina​—is how can you replicate th​e Italian approach to food (as closely as possible) while living in the land of fast food and chain restaurants?This is no simple task. The U.S. food systems are set up to discourage these type of choices, and further, it makes them as expensive as possible. And in the end, you're still left wondering if that organic tomato really justifies the tripled cost. They certainly don't look any better, and if they're not in season, the chances are that they won't taste much better, either. You're left only with an insecure notion that (hopefully) you're consuming less pesticides. But I digress...Adina AntonucciAccording to the bio on her website, Adina is a South Florida-based marketing professional in the performing arts industry with a passion for good food. And while she did spend time in Florence, Italy – learning how to cook at Università degli Studi di Firenze, spot secret bakeries after midnight, and live like an Italian ​— she’s mostly a self-taught chef with a deep appreciation for cheese boards, and a firm belief that there should always be bread at the table. Thanks to her Italian family and her boyfriend’s appetite, she’s had a lot of practice.On her blog, Adina Cucina, you’ll find her simple Italian-inspired recipes, driven by quality ingredients, memorable moments at the table, and the personal stories behind them. ​Furthermore, ​Adina was nice enough to share some of her knowledge on my other website, Eat Like an Italian. Check it out here: Simple Italian Recipes in an American Kitchen

    ​I’m a (mostly) self-taught chef with a deep appreciation for cheese boards and a firm belief that there should always be bread at the table.”

    ​Adina Antonucci

    • 34 min
    FCI 036 – Writing About Italian Ancestors with Carol Faenzi

    FCI 036 – Writing About Italian Ancestors with Carol Faenzi

    Italy, in all its charms, lends itself very nicely to romantic quotes, soft-focus photos of rolling landscapes, and Facebook “stories” that make our friends back home jealous. But if you crave a deeper connection, like I do, it’s the real stories that touch us much deeper than easy sentimentality.

    I’ve consumed more of these tales over the last twelve or thirteen years than I can count; both fiction and non-fiction. And I’m not sure that I’ve ever read a better story about Italy, Italian culture, and the Italian-American experience than The Stonecutter’s Aria, by Carol Faenzi.

    This award-winning historical novel is based on the true stories of Carol’s marble-carving, opera-singing ancestors who emigrated over 100 years ago from Carrara, Italy, the site of the most famous white marble quarries in the world. It’s a universal story of hope and heartache, separation and reunion, brutality and beauty. An intimate portrayal of the author’s family and how their courage dramatically changed the course of her own life generations later.

    It is my honor to have her on the podcast today, where we talk about Italian ancestors, artisans, opera singers, and our mutual affection for Italian history and culture.

    Writing About Italian Ancestors

    So what makes this book so good? Well, the plot itself is compelling. Yes, we’ve all read about the immigrant struggle before, but this one feels so personal, as we get inside the head of the main characters in a first-person stream of consciousness narrative that allows us to simultaneously feel the emotion of Carol’s ancestors on a thrilling journey from Tuscany to the New World and back again. And I love the connection Carol has with her long-deceased family members, and how they reached across generations to help the great-granddaughter that they never knew.

    Then there’s the music. Throughout the story there are the ever-present arias of Puccini; the works that solidified the art form on a global stage, making it an enduring part of human history, not just that of Italy. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we wouldn’t still be listening to opera today if it weren’t for the likes of Madama Butterfly, La boheme, and of course, Tosca. The arias from these operas become another character in the book, playing a supporting role for our protagonists, and providing a musical score that injects another layer of emotion to the storyline.

    Another writer, Ross King, whose books I’ve also read (including Brunelleschi’s Dome, and Michelangelo and The Pope’s Ceiling) said about the book, “An utterly charming tale, an immigrant’s song that tells the history of a family as well as that of a whole century. Whether writing about the marble quarries of Carrara or the construction of famous American landmarks, Carol Faenzi elevates social history to the realms of poetry. The Stonecutter’s Aria is an Italophile’s delight.”

    Poetry, indeed. And in the end, THAT is what makes this book so damn good: exceptional writing. Thank goodness, because such a beautiful story deserves equally beautiful writing.

    Carol Faenzi

    In many ways, Carol’s story mirrors my own. During a sabbatical from a busy corporate career, Carol bought a one way ticket to Tuscany, her ancestral homeland…a journey that dramatically changed her life. She was inspired by the tales told by her grandmother, Olga, while she stirred the pot of polenta in the kitchen, listening to Pavarotti on the stereo.

    Years later, she made another odyssey to Italy. Sometime after her grandmother’s passing, caught in a stressful and soulless corporate career, she took her journals and started writing down her stories. The bravery of ancestors who crossed the threshold into an unknown new world inspired her to change her life...

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
37 Ratings

37 Ratings

DebMohn ,

Rick is a great host!

I love the dynamic between him and his guest, it's highly entertaining, and I always learn something. As an Italian-American, I love learning about Italy and getting an inside perceptive is so much fun! Highly recommended!

dp1112 ,


This is a wonderful and informative resource as well as a really well done podcast. I'm now following Rick on Twitter and Facebook as well. Excellent material and it provides great insight into life in Italy. Well worth having this podcast. I'm glad I found it.

Betta e Nicola ,

Warm and Inviting

Rick is a wonderful storyteller. He has engaging guests who are interesting and informative. We love Italy and visit yearly. Listening to Rick’s podcasts we have learned of many new places to visit and wonderful suggestions for culinary adventures.

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