3 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.

Rick's Rome Rick Zullo: American Expat in Rome

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 43 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.

    Tuscany Food And Wine Tours with Judy Witts Francini – FCI 048

    Tuscany Food And Wine Tours with Judy Witts Francini – FCI 048

    Back in mid-March of 2020, when the pandemic hadn’t quite reached the U.S. yet but was devastating Italy, I interviewed five friends who were suffering through those early days of fear and panic.







    One of those friends was Judy Witts Francini, who lives in Tuscany, midway between Florence and Siena. I guess I might describe her as an “Italian Food Concierge,” because she seems to be involved in every aspect of regional Italian cuisine; from shopping at the local markets, to cooking classes, to creating unique foodie experiences for curious travelers. 







    (And the tourists are back now… BIG TIME!)







    But as I’ve mentioned before, “Tuscan food,” perhaps more than any other regional Italian cuisine, gets bastardized the moment it leaves the confines of Italy. 







    There is a legend that suggests it was the Tuscan-born Caterina de’ Medici who taught the French how to cook—although comparing the two cuisines these days, it seems that the Frenchies were slow on the uptake. Tuscan cooking is simple and contains very little of the elaborate sauces or complex seasonings found in the kitchens of Paris. 











































    The food traditions in Tuscany have their roots in peasant cooking, or “la cucina povera.” The poor folks learned to make the best out of the meager ingredients available to them. 







    That’s why it’s laughable that so many fancy, high-priced “Tuscan” restaurants have sprung up in the U.S. and U.K., becoming the exact opposite of the real recipes cooked in traditional Tuscan kitchens.







    This is apparent in the antipasti where the most common thing is to offer a variety of crostini (little pieces of toasted bread) topped with anything from chicken livers to wild mushrooms to olive tapenade to lardo (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like: lard, or pork fat).







    The bread is made without salt (called pane sciocco in local slang), because once upon a time, salt was heavily taxed and very expensive so they made their bread without it. As a homesick Dante wrote in Canto 17 of Paradiso, “Thou shalt prove how salty is the flavor of other people’s bread.”







    But bread eventually goes stale, so being ever frugal, the Tuscans use the day-old bread to make their famous soup, ribollita, with black cabbage (cavolo nero) and cannellini beans. 







    Or as Judy described in the podcast, a “bread salad,” called panzanella, which under the right conditions takes on the consistency of cous-cous. 







    Well enough from me. Listen to what the expert has to say about Tuscany Food And Wine:







    Rick Zullo · Tuscany Food Tours with Judy Witts Francini – FCI 048







    Tuscany Food And Wine Tours with Witts Fancini!

    • 36 min
    Visiting Venice with Monica Cesarato – FCI 047

    Visiting Venice with Monica Cesarato – FCI 047

    Visiting Venice is a dream for many. And then there are those who are fortunate enough to live inside that dream every day. More appealing still when part of your job description is leading hungry tourists around that dreamy landscape in search of the best cicchetti and Spritz.







    I talk about all this on the podcast today with my friend Monica Cesarato; blogger, chef, food tour leader, and an unofficial ambassador for the city of Venezia.







    Rick Zullo · Visiting Venice with Monica Cesarato – FCI 047



























































    But the dream of visiting Venice was interrupted for many by the global pandemic. Cancelled flights, scrapped itineraries, and alas, broken dreams. Perhaps more like a nightmare for the Venetians themselves who rely on the tourist industry as major source of the local economy.







    The good news? It’s coming back in 2022! As of this writing, Carnevale is underway!























    Monica dissects this discussion for us, talks about some other current events in the city (like the MOSE initiative to combat the high water), and shares many tips about visiting Venice beyond the standard 1-day/10-hour tour-de-force. If all you see is the worn path from the train station to the Rialto Bridge to Saint Marks Square and back, well, then you haven’t seen the real Venice at all. You’ve had a rushed visit through a museum, not an encounter with a living, breathing city. A missed opportunity of a lifetime.







    In this episode we talk mostly about Venice tourism in general, and the current post-pandemic state of affairs. But Monica is publishing a book on cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas, I suppose, by one definition. That discussion will take place on my other platform dedicated to food, Eat Like an Italian. So stay tuned for an update on that, which will be live in early April, in anticipation of her book launch.











    I’ve mentioned it before: Venice holds a special place for me. I spent about 7-8 weeks there in the spring of 2010, and I recall it as the most tranquil period in my adult life.







    It was a real pleasure to travel through La Serenissima once again with the guidance of Monica.























    Monica Cesarato – Your Guide for Visiting Venice at her best







    Grazie a Monica for being such a gracious guest, full of both knowledge and love for her city. It’s contagious. After listening to her I’m sure you’ll be researching your next trip to this one-of-a-kind magical place! But in the meantime…







    Visit her website at MonicaCesarato.com

    • 28 min
    Columbus and Italian Heritage – FCI 046

    Columbus and Italian Heritage – FCI 046

    It’s October, and every year I find myself reflecting—and maybe scratching my head a little bit—about the connection between Columbus and Italian Heritage Month. At first glance, the connection seems obvious enough. But it’s my contention that if we dive a little deeper into this discussion, the relationship gets cloudier.







    Rick Zullo · Columbus and Italian Heritage Month – FCI 046















    These thoughts first occurred to me several years ago when I was passing through Genova, Christopher’s hometown in the Liguria region of Northwest Italy. Ever since then there’s been this nagging question that I can’t quite reconcile.







    Here it is in a nutshell: If most Italian-Americans trace their roots to Southern Italy (ex. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), why do they identify so strongly with a historical figure that came from a different country (The Maritime Republic of Genoa) 350 years before the unification of Italy? Two different political entities, two different cultures, two different languages. Not to mention that his famous expedition was funded under the flag of Spain.







    I’m I the only one who finds this connection misplaced and a bit odd?







    Columbus and Italian Heritage – Related Topics







    During the podcast, I also reflected on a visit to Little Italy in Manhattan several years ago. Interestingly, this was a three day stop-off as I traveled from Italy to my home in Florida, so I had a fresh perspective having just spent the entire summer in the Old Country. Which might explain my “reverse culture shock” when, during my stroll down Mulberry Street, I couldn’t find a decent cannolo or a single person that spoke any Italian. (There is an excellent Italian American Museum, however.)















    And I’m often confused about the tendency of some Italian-Americans to exalt fictional mafia characters like Don Corleone or Tony Soprano. This was on my mind recently as I watched the new HBO movie, “The Many Saints of Newark,” which premiered, NOT coincidently on the first day of Italian Heritage Month.







    Side note: a few minutes into the movie, I realized that the title comes from the main character’s last name, Moltisanti, who happens to live in Newark. The story is mostly about him, Dickie Moltisanti and his family, so the title could have been “The Moltisanti’s of Newark,” but interestingly the producer chose to translate his last name to English. I’ll give him points for cleverness on that.







    Anyway, this sort of ties into what I was saying earlier. I often find these tedious discussions on Facebook about fictional mafia characters, attempts to translate “Italian” words (which are almost always a bastardized mixture of dialect and nonna’s pidgin-English), and the great debate between “sauce” and “gravy.” (The correct answer: it’s neither of those; it’s sugo.)

    • 14 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
43 Ratings

43 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 ,

Terrific

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.
CHARNING and INFORMATIVE! BRAVO!!

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