There’s never been a moment quite like the present when we all need a way to hold the beauty of Italy in our hands. COVID-19 has changed the landscape of travel and left so many people canceling long-awaited vacations, destination weddings, and family holidays. Or maybe just left that dream of traveling to Italy feeling even more impossible. Thankfully, Always Italy by Frances Mayes and Ondine Cohane is a wonderful way to combat those missing Italy blues and inspire your next trip.
Of course, no one plans to release a book during a pandemic. Yet for me Always Italy was a respite during the long months of quarantine on the Amalfi Coast. I let myself leisurely make my way through its pages, getting lost in the unexpected richness that is Italy and dreaming of seeing place after place as I turned the pages. With 350+ gorgeous photos, Always Italy covers all 20 regions of Italy, from the majestic Dolomites to the quiet towns of Abruzzo, southern Italy (yes also the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Naples & more!), Sicily and Sardinia. It’s a hefty and beautifully structured book that pulls you in and keeps you coming back for more – much like Italy. Rather than rushing through, I spent time sinking into each of the regions, enjoying the stories and new discoveries each one brought.
For me this is the heart and soul of Always Italy. The leap of faith is made a little less intimidating for us travelers (armchair or not) thanks to the warmth and detail captured in its pages by Mayes and her co-author Ondine Cohane, a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and beautiful writer who calls Pienza in southern Tuscany home. Their journey exploring Italy is incredibly rich and yet is only a tease, just slightly nudging open the door to a tantalizing view of what Italy offers.
Dotted throughout the book in all 20 regions, the Frances’s Favorites sections were a highlight for me. The topics varied by region, but many focused on writers and artists. My heart! These were a real treat for me as she writes about both noted and lesser known Italian and foreign writers with a passion for capturing a sense of place. You’ll discover writers from Sicily to Trieste and Turin and tiny towns like Asolo in Veneto, the home of Freya Stark. After reading about this small town, I felt my time in Italy will now never be complete without a visit to Asolo. This is an intriguing joy. A place can go from being completely unknown in my mind to being one I must see. This is Always Italy. Have a notebook handy as you’ll be jotting down places to see, hotels to stay in, views you can’t miss, wines to try in every region, and so much more.
The title Always Italy resonated as I spent time traveling through the regions in the pages of the book. While I know there is so much in Italy that one could spend a lifetime and never experience it all, what Always Italy left me with was a sense of hope. Very welcome in these hard times! That there is so much to discover presented in the pages of the book is a gift from the authors for sharing their journey. But not just the hope of seeing the treasures big and small of Italy, but the hope that there is even more waiting out there to be discovered in our own journeys.
It may be some time before we look at travel quite the same way as before COVID-19. If that is even possible. Now more than ever we need to connect to the places we love in a deep way – some days just to hang on to hope. I know many of you reading this right now are still only able to dream of traveling to Italy. Whether you’re planning trip for soon or one day soon, get yourself a copy of Always Italy. It inspires and soothes in equal measure. Italy is waiting for you and thank goodness there’s always Italy!