Travel Deeper. Eat Better.
I’m a daughter of Italian immigrants, mom to three boys and a corporate lawyer-turned-private chef in New York.
I organize creative, small-group tours of my beloved, unspoiled region of Abruzzo, Italy – a land of sprawling national parks, pristine Adriatic coastlines, hidden hermitages carved into stone and rambling medieval villages.
Abruzzo is my heart and my second home.
La Majella (“Mah-yel-lah”)
My father, Gino, was born and raised in Salle, a tiny town located in the Parco Nazionale della Majella in Abruzzo. Named for the beautiful Dea (goddess) Maja, for the Abruzzesi, the Majella mountain is revered as “La Madre” – the mother – a proud and nurturing symbol of the region’s land and fertility. (A quick personal aside – during a visit to Salle when I was a teenager, my then precocious 6-year old cousin, Davide, nicknamed me “Majella” as he led me around town spewing gossip about the villagers!) And it’s pronounced “Mah-yel-lah” – no “j” sound!
The Power of Place
I often think about the Power of Place – the impact a place can have on your decisions and lifestyle, on your identity and how you perceive yourself, on your very essence and soul. Abruzzo has changed me in more ways than I even know. Its rugged natural beauty cajoled me out of my city slicker ways and catapulted me onto mountain hikes and forest pilgrimages. Its earthy cuisine and loyalty to the tradition “la cucina povera” (referring to the frugal genius of poor southern and central Italian cooks who make culinary alchemy with the little they have) influenced my cooking style and palate. Its people – “forte e gentile” – strong and kind – shaped my core beliefs and values. Abruzzo has taught me to SLOW DOWN and BE UNAFRAID.
That’s me (third on the left) cooling my heels in the river after a hike in the Valle Giumentina with some of the women on the Dea Maja Women’s Tour. Growing up in New York City, I was NOT a country girl. No hiking, camping or outdoor adventures that didn’t involve an umbrella and lounge chair on a sandy beach. It wasn’t until I started visiting Abruzzo with my husband and three young sons that I dipped my toe into nature’s waters. And I mean this quite literally – the first time I went hiking, I wore flip-flops and lost one in sabbia mobile – quicksand. Thankfully, my friend Francesco was able to retrieve it or I would’ve been barefoot in the woods for miles.
My Friends & Partners in Abruzzo
Relationships are the backbone of Italian culture. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and how well you know them. I’ve spent the past 12 summers cultivating relationships with talented folks who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to preserving and honoring Abruzzo’s natural beauty, rich culture and culinary traditions. The locals with whom I collaborate are my friends; you’ll meet them and love them as much as I do. Their passion for their region will be infectious. It’s because of them that you’ll fall in love with Abruzzo.
Meet some of them here:
ROBERTA … One of my best friends in the world is also my partner on the ground in Abruzzo. Whereas I’m all about the details and organization, Roberta is the adventure and free spirit of the operation. She has taught me so much about life over the years – how to slow down, savor the moment and enjoy the peace of the mountains. Her smile and positive energy are infectious.
FRANCESCA … In my opinion, Francesca of Cantinarte epitomizes the future of Abruzzo. A successful wine & olive oil producer, Francesca transformed the old stone olive mill she inherited from her grandmother into a museum and tasting room. She is charming and knowledgeable & one of our guests’ favorite new friends on our tour.
MARISA … The owner and force behind Agriturismo Pietrantica, our guests’ home base during our summer tours, Marisa truly feels like home. She treats her guests like family. I think it’s particularly telling that on our July 2017 tour, our guests invited her to spend the day with them on one of our excursions. She cooks like a madwoman, sings like a lark and laughs like there’s no tomorrow. She is the sun. To know Marisa is to love her.
DANIELA … Hiking guru, tree whisperer, Zen spirit, Daniela from Majellando is our rock-star nature guide. She knows Abruzzo’s countless national park trails inside and out and makes even the most novice hikers feel confident and secure. She has a quiet way of pushing you out of your comfort zone without your even knowing it.
GIULIA … Abruzzese by marriage, Giulia turned her husband’s family’s country house into a welcoming event space for cooking classes and B&B. Giulia is a hurricane – she speaks four languages and is a talented cook and energetic cooking instructor who will show our guests how to master Italian specialties.
2018 TOUR DATES
2019 TOUR DATES
MAY 12-19, 2019 – Springtime in Italy
A spring odyssey in Italy’s green heart – DETAILS COMING SOON!