The eight-sided orange-brick dome of the Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore is the face of Tuscany. The 15th-century marvel draws eyes from virtually any point in Florence. At its summit, the dome offers an inspiring view across angled terra-cotta rooftops toward the soaring blue-grey Alps.
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It’s even more encouraging when you know its history. The architect was Filippo Brunelleschi, and he faced setbacks that could drive anyone to despair. The dome was to be the largest ever built, and so Brunelleschi had to invent new techniques to support it. His innovative plan at first met with so much mockery that he later said he’d been ashamed to show his face for fear of being taunted as “that madman who utters such nonsense”. To transport the expensive marble for the dome’s ornamentation, Brunelleschi designed a boat, which either sank or became stranded on its maiden voyage over Tuscany ’s Arno River. Its entire load was lost in the debacle, substantially diminishing both his wealth and his reputation. He was even briefly arrested for practicing architecture without being a member of the stone and wood masters guild. He died before the summit’s lantern was installed, never enjoying the full fruits of his life’s labor. But today a statue of the architect gazes up toward his masterpiece, and you can pay respects at his tomb beneath it, if you’re among the 7 million people who visit each year.
I believe that we enjoy everything more when we know its story. Food nourishes our souls, as well as our bodies, when it is part of a tradition that links us to our forebears. The places we visit resonate with us, inspire us, and stay with us after we’ve come home, once we’ve learned the hopes and heartaches of the people who shaped them. My hope is to share with you the stories behind places and foods, so that you will enjoy them more.
The rush of excitement you feel when you’re going someplace new.
Connecting with people from a different culture.
Absorbing parts of their history.
Marvelling at natural wonders.
Savoring new foods and flavors.
Feeling at peace as you sip a local wine.
And then coming home renewed, awakened, looking at your own world with fresh eyes, inspired to excel, with great stories to share, and maybe a new favorite meal to make.
When you join the Sancerres at Sunset community, you’ll learn practical tips, background information, and little-known stories to help you escape into the past through food and travel.
I’ll never forget the night I stepped off the plane in Mexico. It was back in the pre-jetway days, when we had to climb down a flight of stairs to the tarmac. I stepped out of the chilly airplane cabin and onto the metal landing. It was around 10 o’clock at night, and the heat smacked me in the face and clung about my arms. It was springtime, and my family had come from New England, and I’d never known such heat so early in the year or so late in the day.
What else was different? The food, the language, the scenery, the aromas – pretty much everything, as it turned out, and experiencing it in the moment was different from knowing it ahead of time. We stayed at the Acapulco Princess, and I fell in love with the theatrical grandeur of luxury hotels. We explored the Aztec pyramids, and it was fascinating to see that something so old was also so sturdy and so sophisticated. My parents bought me silver and turquoise earrings; I still treasure them, along with the memories of that journey. I was 9 years old, and I’ve loved travel ever since.
Over the years, some of my favorite memories are of travelling with family — the journey through Italy with my mother, our annual we-four fall-foliage trips, the time my grandmother took 26 of us to Disney World for a week.
I went off to college in Washington, D.C. I graduated and worked at political jobs, with two or three weeks vacation each year. I lectured on college campuses, and at conferences, and on Capitol Hill. I wrote a book. I started my first blog. I met a Russian princess, Michael Jackson’s chimp Bubbles, and Ronald Reagan, who winked at me. I moved out to California, then home to Massachusetts, and back to Washington and Virginia.
Then my parents got sick, and I went back to Massachusetts to help care for them, and they died, fourteen weeks apart, in their late 60s. I fought back the sorrow with travel, road-tripping across America, playing in Monte Carlo, and feeling alive again in Athens as I climbed the hill under the warm sun up to the ancient Acropolis. And I started blogging again. And moved back to Virginia.
No matter how far I travel, one place I always want to blog about is Virginia’s own Colonial Williamsburg. Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows that I’m in love with the world’s largest living-history museum and the way it brings the Revolutionary era to life. One of my ancestors was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, so I guess the spirit of American independence is in my blood.
Other things I love:
- Las Vegas
- Fall foliage
- Dutch art
- Western parks
- Renaissance festivals
- Frank Sinatra
- the Boston Red Sox
My favorite novels:
- The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
- Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier
- Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
My favorite movies:
My favorite TV shows:
Organizations I support:
- The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
- The International Spy Museum
- The Navigators
- The Reagan Ranch
- The Salvation Army
The opinions on this blog are necessarily informed by my own tastes, interests, and expectations. My taste is classic; I prefer what is elegant, traditional, and always in style. My interests are broad, but I veer heavily toward history, culturally significant foods, pre-contemporary art, and natural wonders. My expectations include high-quality goods and courteous and helpful service. If you share these perspectives, I hope you will find this blog helpful.
I’ve travelled the globe from Israel to El Salvador. I’ve taken cooking classes from New England to the Caribbean, and watched a chef prepare traditional shakshuka in the kitchen of his restaurant in Tel Aviv. I’ve learned that there’s nothing more intoxicating than losing myself in another place’s past and finding a connection with my own present. It makes me feel carried away, opened up, stimulated, and transformed.
If that’s what you want too, you’re in the right place. I’ve gathered my years of world travel, cultural cooking, history reading, and professional writing to deliver you inspiring stories and helpful tips to enjoy your own pursuits. Sign up here to receive my exclusive updates in your inbox, or connect with me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook.