A CONVERSATION WITH MARIA ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE TRAVEL
Why do you travel?
When I stepped on a plane for the very first time as a young kid, I was amazed that I would actually be in the air and then I would end up at a pretty beach. Of course, since that first time I’ve become less excited about the actual air travel and more excited about the travel destinations themselves! I travel frequently for business, both as an Italian professor and as the president of my company for gluten-free guides.
What is your favorite country to visit? Italy. My grandparents came from Italy and I was lucky enough to live in Rome for a year, and to return again and again through the years. I’ve traveled all over Italy, in the big cities and off the beaten path. Going to my grandfather’s home town, Gioia del Colle (“ Joy of the Hills”), a little town outside of Bari, was a really emotional experience. My favorite city in Italy is definitely Rome. Over 2000 years of history, culture, and ideas in one place always inspires awe in me.
What do you like to see in every country you go to?
I’m a musician so I love to go to the opera houses. Last year I went to La Scala in Milan and to the awesome Museum. Looking at the portrait of Maria Callas, I could almost hear her singing in the hall. When I lived in Rome I would go to the opera everyweek. When you speak Italian, watching opera is like watching a play because you understand every word. I love the opera house in Prague, and in Paris. The last time I was in Paris with a friend of mine, we vowed to return to the Paris Opera House in elegant French gowns.
What is your favorite GF restaurant in New York?
Bistango. They started serving a gluten-free clientele way before everyone else. They were so enthusiastic and the food was and still is really good.
What is your favorite restaurant in Paris?
Le Reminet. So delicious! So romantic! So attentive to our GF needs!
What is your favorite restaurant in Rome?
That’s really a tie between MammaEat in my favorite neighborhood, Trastevere, and Voglia di Pizza.
What is your favorite museum? The Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain (outside of Barcelona). Dali was a genius! I also love the Prado in Madrid.
What do you like about writing travel books?
I love to use my language skills to talk to the restaurant chefs and learn how and why they are preparing gluten-free meals. It makes me happy to see such enthusiasm on the part of the chefs in the restaurant managers, and especially to help travelers to find a good gluten-free meal stress-free.
The process of creating a book is a lot of fun. First, you get to travel to the target destination and meet lots of excited chefs. Then you get to figure out how to organize all of the information you’ve gathered. Then you get to fill the book with travel photos of your own and of your friends. The marketing of the books is fun too because you get to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world and to share experiences with them.
I’m an Italian professor so I also write a lot about Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s hard to imagine two subjects that are farther apart, except that the Italians are crazy about Dante, and serious about gluten-free food.