Nevis: Bohos in the Wild Blue

How do you write about travel when you’re not traveling? We’re sequestered. Our wings are clipped — it’s a fallow period. Here is a warm memory of a favorite destination while we wait to resume our travels (we hope) later in 2021.  Let’s go!

Doorway Golden RockNew England is an endless white-out blizzard. My spectacularly aquatic friend, The Swimmer, calls and begs me to accompany her to the Island of Nevis in the West Indies. I look outside at the swirling drifts of Maine snow and do not hesitate. YES, I say, YES.

The Swimmer says GoodbyeWe land in the brilliant sun of St. Kitts and head for the water-taxi to Nevis. At Reggae Beach a sign reads, “Live de life, man.” We vow to try. A brave little boat ferries us across The Narrows in six wild minutes of whitecaps and spray. We anchor on Oalie Beach, pronounced “Wally” in Caribbean patois, and it’s utterly glorious.

CaribbeanThe sky changes from gray to blue to turquoise and back every few minutes — tropical special effects. On the occasionally hair-raising drive to our hotel we see sheep, goats and grayish brown monkeys with adorable black faces. Our driver says you can cuddle the little ones. Right.

Caribbean Mojo

Tower on MontpelierWay off the beaten track, Montpelier Plantation & Beach sits in a verdant tangle of  lush greenery. Contemporary furnishings lend a relaxed, boho-chic ambiance. An imposing round windmill in ancient speckled stone is a remnant Montpelier’s sugar-plantation history. The blades are long gone, but the tower remains, now used for romantic candlelit suppers. Nice.

Montpelier barI open the door to my secluded balcony, wonderfully private and shrouded in palm trees. The rustling green fronds make a lovely, papery sound in the steady warm wind. My first day in paradise.

My mind uncurls like a New England fern.  A rooster heralds my transformation.  The morning heat is still soft and moist, like baby’s breath. In an hour it will be intolerable.

There goes a tiny brown lizard, up the steps.

Houseplants gone wildRum Punch

Swimmer in rum punchI sip a welcome rum punch and get a hint of nutmeg. The Swimmer takes a sip or two and heads for the pool. She splashes like a Boston cod, breaking the glassy turquoise surface with long pale arms. I lounge in a chaise, poolside, and order a second rum punch. Everybody’s happy.

Ziggy the dog regards The Swimmer from a shady spot under a large leaf shaped like an elephant’s ear. Ziggy is part surfer and part golden retriever, an excellent combination. I enjoy his floppy blond company.

Under The Volcano

Secluded, dreamy beaches are dotted with pink-lined conch shells and stretches of soft sand. “From Montpelier beach,” says The Swimmer, “the view of St. Kitts is so perfect it looks like a painting.” She’s right, as always.


Amid all this lush teal and turquoise, it’s easy to forget that at the center of the island lies a sleeping volcano, Nevis Peak. Variously described as a sombrero, a hat and a hill, I know a volcano when I see one. Especially when it cradles a thermal spring at its base. The “Bath” is enjoyed by natives and visitors alike.

Island Contrast

Contrast NevisHere in Nevis, travelers can get anywhere they need to go on foot, by car or island taxi. Check the price before getting in — island prices are fluid and can be confusing. We indulge in a three-hour tour with “Champ,” unofficial mayor, a.k.a. Alston Smithen. Champ knows everyone from Rastafarian farmers to fancy restaurateurs. His lilting West Indian accent almost takes our minds off the vertiginous sensation of “driving on the wrong side of the road,” which always takes a bit of getting used to. We hang on, in true gonzo style, and try to get our bearings.

Beach shacks NevisWe drive through tiny seaside towns past uniformed schoolchildren and a bright pink primary school under red trumpet vines. We begin to relax as we pass several closely shaved sheep supervised by a snowy egret. The graceful white birds love the company of donkeys, goats or sheep — nature’s sweetest odd couple.

a082dc08-a0a6-11e1-851f-00144feabdc0Champ takes us up the steep rise to Golden Rock, an exquisite 100-acre estate and inn. The Swimmer knows all about the owner, minimalist painter Brice Marden. The Swimmer points out the unfussy and glorious landscaping which took years and cost a fortune. Champ is impressed, “You know dem good, man,” he says, nodding at The Swimmer.

Golden Rock IIWe visit New River Plantation, a sugar operation closed in 1956. Part mausoleum and part sculpture garden, New River still harvests a little something now and then.

Gears at NesbitWe continue to Nisbet Plantation, a wildly beachy expanse that, like so much of the island, is freighted with history. Knowing how many people worked and died here teases my imagination to dark places. Visitors can help themselves to Nisbet’s sparkling expanse of sand and try to lose the remorse. Note: All beaches in Nevis are public.

Church wallOur tour continues to St. Thomas’s Anglican church, the oldest in the region, dating back to 1643.  Non-stop island contrast continues with a stop at the Four Seasons, the posh, safe and generic resort with 18 holes of golf and 196 rooms. The Swimmer says, “Four Seasons is on the beaten track.” Champ smiles.

Cucumber and Ginger Juices at ManzaConch and Cucumber

In the wilting midday heat we make our way to Manza’s organic farm for a taste of the extraordinary: cucumber juice, subtly sweet and astonishingly refreshing. Manza tends his vegetables and fruits by hand with simple old-fashioned nurturing — it’s a beautiful ‘ting.

Conch Fritters II



Saving the tastiest treat for last, we stop at Sunshine’s Bar and Grill for the legendary Killer Bee Rum Punch and conch fritters, with Sunshine’s own hot sauce — “a dream lunch on the beach,” says The Swimmer.

A fierce, beer-drinking monkey sits under a sign saying, “Pet the monkey, $5.” The monkey is clearly depressed. We joke with the guys cleaning fresh conch out back, and try to forget the miserable little monkey.

Another day in paradise.

Cleaning the conchCelebrate the Senses

Breakfast is my favorite meal, and Montpelier does not disappoint. Coconut breakfast bread is dense, sweet and almond-flavored, and resort regulars go straight for it. We are served cappuccino con mosca, “with flies,” a few whole coffee beans on the foamed milk.

The morning landscape is lush and green, with stone arches framing a turquoise sky.  I think maybe I am dreaming but see a frog, which reminds me that I am not. I would not include a frog in a dream of paradise. But I would definitely include cappucino con mosca.

OrchidsWe indulge in a cooking class with French chef Ben Voisin and create a meal of green cucumber gazpacho, island-style seared red snapper, lemony jasmine rice and fruit salsa. Chef Ben is generous with his time and talent. Our lesson is followed by an exquisite poolside lunch. Hail to the chef!

Gazpacho poolside II

Coco Passion

Afternoon tea, gin-heavy bar menu, tennis and other fine English traditions are part of the upscale West Indies vibe. While Ziggy and I keep an eye on The Swimmer, I indulge in sweet-potato and plantain chips with guacamole, my kind of savory afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea

Rum Punch IIIntrigued by the island’s ubiquitous Rum Punch, we study with Montpelier’s award-winning mixologists. We whack away at a fresh coconut and taste the warm juice. We make Javier’s “Under The Sea” with bright blue curacao and dark rum, delicious. Nik’s “Coco Passion” has Coco Lopez, fresh passion fruit juice with seeds, two kinds of rum, and lots of creativity. The Pina Colada with fresh pineapple and fragrant nutmeg is heaven. We never quite get to the Rum Punch recipe, but we no longer care.

Nikolas Mantas

Nikolas Mantas

Far Removed and Far Out

Botanical IIThe stiff tropical breeze is up and clouds rush past Nevis Peak as if scrubbing it. We wander down the road to Nevis Gardens, where orchids, vines, bromeliads, fragrant jasmine and gardenia flourish in formal restraint and informal chaos. Asian statues and fountains, a steamy greenhouse with bossy parrots, towering palms and cobalt sea views add to the heady green serenity.

Botanical 1

OvergrownReggae music, coconut groves and dreadlocks rule this wild blue Eden that lives on Island Time — there’s no rush in paradise. Nevis may be laid back, but it’s smart. The six-square-mile isle boasts a literacy rate of 98%, one of the highest in this hemisphere.

Nevis is far removed and far out, an unspoiled Boho paradise. Get there. •

Painting friend of Helen's

Posted in Caribbean travel, Food and Wine, International, Nevis, Off-the-beaten-track, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sicilian Valentine

How do you write about travel when you’re not traveling? We’re sequestered. Our wings are clipped. Definitely a fallow period. Here are a few memories of our favorite places until we continue our travels (we hope) later in 2021. Let’s go!

Tomatoes so sweet…

Luminous Ladies

Silky Chocolate

Gorgeous Grime

Soaring Spaces

Blooming Always

Slow Food

Jumbo Arancino
Psychedelic Sea Urchins

Amazing Artichokes

Pizza in Paradise

Elvis Love

Graffito Love

Mother Love

Morning Light


Evening BellsTorneremo Presto!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted in Art and Culture, Chocolate, Food and Wine, International, Italian Travel, Sicily, Travel | Tagged , | 3 Comments

“P” is for Paris

In this unsettled Time of Covid, I re-post this love letter to La Ville des Lumieres — the City of Light, Love and Art.


Peonies ParisPompidou 



Framboise pastry RêvePetits Bibelots



Pouting a la moue


Clock d'Orsay brightened MOREProtest!

Jossot poster

Pont des Arts @$#%&


Prix Fixe

Prixe Fixe




dora maar y picasso

Petite Jolie

Ma Petite Jolie

Paul: Shake it Up Baby!

PAUL wine

MACCA ticket cropped III

Peace & love to the city of my dreams.


Posted in Art and Culture, Food and Wine, French Travel, International, Paris, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Caccia di Blu!

Caccia di Blu!

How do you write about travel when you’re not traveling? We’re sequestered, our wings are clipped and we’re in “a fallow period.” Here are some of our favorite pieces while we wait to continue our travels (we hope) in 2021.  Let’s go!

terracotta rooftops

Italy’s terra-cotta landscape is rustic, golden, timeless. But tell me, do you sometimes miss the color blue?  Let’s go “caccia di blu!”

Blue espresso cups

We serve our espresso in blue, with a splash of modern stripes.

Pietro in blue close-up

Our alpaca-blend “Maggie” shawl warms WWII hero Vassano Pietro of Argegno.

Blue water pipes

New blue water pipes are ready for service and make a striking waterfront graphic, too.

This two-hue-blue scarf is courtesy of our friend Signore Franco – grazie Franco!

In Italy, blue tells you what to do, where you are, and which way to go.

Blue is serious, it is the color of INFORMAZIONE. Pay attention!

Blue leading nowhere

Sometimes the instructional blue gets lost and leads nowhere.

Blue parking signBut mostly it is telling you something you need to know.

Blue Halo ANNA

Blue is the color of St. Anna’s robe, and sometimes her eyes.

Blue halo Luke

Another lovely blue halo! Note the turquoise flourish on his wrist.

Lavazza II

Taste Lavazza Blue, one of Italy’s finest coffees. If you’re bored, count the spoons.


A sturdy Fiat Panda comes in 50 shades of blue – we have rented them all.

Spot of blue

Sometimes an unexpected patch of blue just sneaks up on you.

Blue sky over lake

And if you’re lucky, blue is the color of the endless Italian sky each day. Ciao!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Originally posted on April 28, 2016 by Epicurious Travelers

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Montreal Jazz 2020: Special Edition!

I’m delighted to announce that the 2020 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is mounting a special digital edition — sorry for the short notice!

This special virtual edition kicks off at 6 p.m. ET this Saturday, June 27th, Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and runs through Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

In addition to livestream concerts by extraordinary Canadian artists there will be streaming archival concerts, including:
  • Montreal treasure Oscar Peterson with Oliver Jones, 2004
  • Jaco Pastorius concert, 1982
  • Sarah Vaughan, 1982
  • And the incomparable Miles Davis, 1985
Best of all, all concerts are free and can be viewed on the Festival’s Facebook Page. All will be available to watch again via the Festival’s social media platforms on Facebook, IGTV and YouTube.

Malika Tirolien

Saturday, June 27 starting at 6 p.m. EDT – Live from L’Astral!
  • Live performances from Malika Tirolien who recently picked up a Grammy for her collaboration with one of my favorite bands, Snarky Puppy (here is a fantastic funky PREVIEW — I love this jam!)
  • Followed by performances from Afro-Cuban pianist Rafael Zaldivar
  • Mali-born Juno nominee Djely Tapa
  • Soulful singer-songwriter Clerel
  • And Brazilian-born songbird Bïa
  • The iconic, legendary 2004 performance featuring Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones from the Festival archive
  • Wrapping up the first night is a virtual soirée with Pierre Kwenders for an after-party broadcast live from L’Astral.   

The great Oscar Peterson photographed by D.C. Langford 1944

Sunday, June 28 at starting 6 p.m. EDT – Live from L’Astral 
  • Live performances from guitarist Jordan Officer 
  • Followed by performances from Radio-Canada’s 2020-2021 winner of the Artiste Révélation prize, Mateo
  • Marianne Trudel Trio featuring Juno winner Morgan Moore and former Patrick Watson drummer Robbie Kuster
  • Indigenous performer and musicologist Jeremy Dutcher
  • And Charlotte Cardin, one of Quebec’s most celebrated musical forces

Jaco Pastorius © Ed Perlstein

  • To end the evening, groove to an electrifying 1982 performance by inimitable bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius from the Festival archive. His signature style combined complex harmonies, funky grooves, plus lyrical and innovative harmonics. This iconic performer died tragically, much too young.
Monday, June 29 starting at 6 p.m. EDT – Live from L’Astral 
  • Live performances from funk and soul saviors Fredy V. & The Foundation
  • A set by Carl Mayotte (recently named Révélation Radio-Canada in jazz for 2020-2021)
  • Followed by performances from slide guitar master Jack Broadbent
  • And the pure fire of Inuk singer and Felix Award winner Elisapie
  • Plus a set from instrumental piano wiz Jean-Michel Blais
  • AND WOW! — An archival 1985 Festival performance by the one and only Miles Davis to end the evening on a very cool note.
Tuesday, June 30 starting at 6 p.m. EDT – Live from L’Astral 
  • Juno-nominated jazz trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin 
  • Ethiopian-born, Montreal-raised hip-hop artist Naya Ali
  • Former Uzeb bassman Alain Caron with his trio, featuring Uzeb stickman Paul Brochu and jazz pianist John Roney (I love these guys!)
  • Polaris Music prize-nominated singer-songwriter  Dominique  Fils-Aimé
  • Blues rock band The Barr Brothers 

The great Sarah Vaughan

  • And a special 1983 performance by the incredible Sarah Vaughan from the Festival archive wraps up this special digital edition of the Festival.

Check out the entire program at the link, above, and the event schedule, below.  I hope you’ll join me in enjoying this very special online edition of my all-time favorite music festival, Montreal Jazz. A bientot!

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My Montecatini

Montecatini Terme is a happy Tuscan mix of art, culture, and legendary spa scene.

Belle Époque is the graceful era between 1890 and 1914 when Montecatini developed its elegant spa-style. Art Nouveau bathhouses set in a verdant, landscaped parks offered thermal baths, massage and full-body mud treatments — fangotherapy.

Montecatini Terme 2

The Hall Of Water Springs

Celebrities like Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini flocked to Montecatini’s healthful waters, and like me, were soon captivated by the natural charms of this Tuscan treasure.

Giuseppe Verdi, portrait by Giuseppe Bordini

Giuseppe Verdi by Giuseppe Bordini

Theater Boy and I practice our far niente skills over lunch in high style at the grand Hotel Tettuccio whose old-fashioned, courtly service transports us back to a graceful era.

Silky gnocchi, crisp greens, a glass or two of wine and crusty bread — we do not rush our old-world experience. We savor our slow food at a stately and dignified pace.

Being something of an Italian chocolate scholar, I head to nearby Cioccolato e Company. I begin my research with an immodest trifecta of nut bark in three shades of delicious.

Followed by Mojito and Puccini bonbons, and a few swoon-worthy silky truffles.

Cucchiaini chocolateMontecatini

Twirling a dark chocolate spoon through hot cappuccino is a sweet recharge. I assemble a scholarly selection for David. I doubt they will survive until he arrives. Peccato!

Valeria approves the initial selection

Such a sweet way to fill an hour (or two) — highly recommended!


I walk off my chocolate buzz at Montecatini Contemporary Art (MoCA), which occupies two floors of the historic town hall and houses an impressive collection. Best of all, it is free and open to the public.

Joan Mirò’s Woman Entangled in a Flight of Birds is one of MoCA’s best-known and most striking works. Locals say it expresses Miro’s frustration with the confinement of illness. I say it also expresses the joy of making a beautiful mess — note the freeform coffee stains.

Romeo Marchetti’s delizioso caricature illustrates the popularity of both Giuseppe Verdi and thermal baths in the early 1900s. Look closely and you will glimpse the reflected parade of celebrities visiting Montecatini throughout the last century.

MoCA’s current exhibition, Montecatini: Garden Spa of Europe, tells the story in painting, photography and graphic design (through April 2020).

Art. Design. History. Slow food. Silky chocolate. Montecatini Terme has it all. •

Next up … Montecatini Alto, Ferrara, Vicenza, a week in Padova and sunny seafood lunch in Venice.


Posted in Art and Culture, Food and Wine, International, Italian Travel, Off-the-beaten-track, Opera, Theater, Travel, Tuscany | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three Boroughs, Three Olives, 33 Hours

These are perilous times, and my democracy grief is overpowering. No one is selling tickets for civility and truth, so I grab tickets to Medea at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

BAM’s contemporary production is harrowing and utterly relatable. Based on the bloody, catastrophic tale written 431 BC, modern Medea is brutal and raw — at times, difficult to watch. Set in a seamless white rectangle, the production has stunning visual impact.

We digest the muscular drama with a late-night meal at nearby Caffe e Vino, a classic bistro serving northern Italian fare. Standouts include savory polenta with veal, buttery sage pasta, and lemony Torta della Nonna — best I have had on either side of the Atlantic.

Time Travel

My rescue-remedy includes a space-age trip down memory lane at JFK’s TWA Hotel, a shrine to brilliant Finnish architect, Eero Saarinen.

Adding to the sensation of mid-century zoom is a vintage Lockheed Constellation plane just outside the lipstick-red “Connie” cocktail lounge. We enjoy a few Royal Ambassador Martinis, served with three olives and shiny TWA flight wings.

The soaring lobby of the former Terminal 5 has identical Saarinen and Hughes wings (for TWA founder Howard Hughes). Guest rooms have floor-to-ceiling views of working runways, astonishingly soundproof. Get a good night’s sleep and dream of the 1960s.

The inspired Saarinen drawing above confirms my deeply held belief that some of the world’s greatest design work can be found on cocktail napkins.

Art & Soul

No trip to New York is complete without a day at the Museum of Modern Art. Racketing back and forth from midtown to Queens is admittedly a schlep, but MoMA is an essential part of my self-designed therapeutic breakaway, and cheaper than a psychiatrist.

Basquiat’s tortured portrait, Glenn, reflects my dark mood on arrival.Van Gogh’s sweet postman, Joseph Roulin, begins to raise my spirits. “A good soul, so wise and so full of feeling and so trustful,” Vincent said.

Klimt’s circles calm my apocalyptic political dread, and his palette warms my heart.

Oh my! Beloved Matisse Dancers restore a bit of lightness, joy and whimsy.

Uh-oh. Madelon Vriesendorp’s Flagrant Délit reminds me why am am here in New York in the first place: Democracy is in peril — Lady Liberty is pissed.

It’s time to get back to work.

Tipping Point

My time-out has been both restorative and inspirational. I recommend a 36-Hour Art & Soul Getaway for anyone depressed, overwhelmed or defeated by the vertiginous, hope-or-hate tipping point at which we find ourselves. •

Coraggio! Next we return to Italy: Montecatini, Ferrara, Padova, Vicenza and a sunny Venetian afternoon.


Posted in Bobby Cannavalle, New York City, Off-the-beaten-track, Politics and Other Mistakes, Portland Maine, Retro-Travel, Theater | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments


This jolly uphill street is in Montecarlo, a charming town nestled in the Tuscan Hills.

The quaint historical center is surrounded by small shops and maze of city walls. Once called “Vivinaia,” Montecarlo has nearly 20 wineries — an astonishing number for a small town of 4,500. This serene stop on the Via del Vino is a must for oenophiles.

Racimo de uvaMontecarlo’s vineyards are open for tastings by appointment. If you’re visiting in May, do not miss ViaVinaria, when lush vineyard cantinas open their doors for the weekend and welcome visitors to sip, savor and explore. Ci vediamo — we’ll see you there!

Butterfly and Boheme

Montecarlo is home to Teatro dei Rassicurati, a favorite haunt of Giacomo Puccini, composer of Madam Butterfly, La Boheme and Tosca. Theater Boy is drawn like a magnet to an afternoon of informal reverie and tour of the lovely historic space.


I bask in a golden corner of Tuscan sun sipping a glass of local vino rosso. When Theater Boy returns, we eat several bowls of savory chips and decide: This is the life.  •

Next: Montecatini, Ferrara, Padova, Venice…


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Siena: Golden Light

I am honing my far niente skills in the golden light of Siena. Home is a fifth-floor walk-up overlooking the bell tower and zebra-striped cathedral of Santa Maria della Scala.

Much of this quaint Tuscan town is della scala — marble steps, stone steps, brick steps. Warm hues of goldenrod, rose and saffron fight the advancing November chill.

Siena’s glorious medieval centro, Piazza del Campo, is a luminous space where the Palio horserace has run since 1633.Don’t miss Bar Palio’s ricciarelli almond cookies with cappuccino — the “grande” is so generous it’s served in a bowl. This fragrant combination starts my day, work or play.Shopping opportunities abound, pop into a cheese and wine shop to for regional specialties like pecorino di Pienza, truffles or salumi di cinghiale, yum.Siena Chocolate Shop 2Savor samples at Nino and Friends — pralines with hazelnut creme, espresso beans or lemon rind in dark chocolate. Try a slab of milk chocolate studded with pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts. Or just stand and stare at the chocolate waterfalls.

Teatro e Tesoro

Theater Boy joins me for a bit of Tuscan touring. He buys a silk necktie at Cravattificio di Siena for the occasion — and as Giusi predicted, it is orange. Lovely!

Siena’s Opa Si! pass allows visitors three days of access to the incredible cathedral complex, museum, bookshop and facciatone terrace.

Rooftop viewClimb 130 narrow spiral stairs for panoramic bird’s eye views. Ceiling Santa Maria della ScalaInside the cathedral — look up! Every direction holds a wow.Pavimento_di_siena,_allegoria_del_colle_della_sapienza_(pinturicchio)_02Look down! Gorgeous marble mosaic floors tell the story of Revelation.
Vaulted crypts, below, hold treasured reliquaries, holy remains like tongues, teeth and jawbones of saints and martyrs. Seriously. The whole complex is a wow.  Opera della Metropolitana di Siena is mind blowing.

La Cena

Theater Boy and I are knocked out in the best possible sense. A celebratory evening meal of grilled octopus, nicely blackened, with chick pea puree, followed by Pici Cacio Pepe and steak Fiorentina. Like Mimmo’s, it’s gigantissimo. With a velvety Tuscan red, perfect.

Pasta cacio pepe 2Our time here has been wondrous. Tomorrow I return to my woolly work in the Tuscan Hills, and Theater Boy (of course!) visits a few theaters while we wait for David to arrive.

Up next: Montecarlo, Montecatini, Padova and Venice!





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Boo! Halloween in Pistoia

In Pistoia’s historic Piazza del Duomo, it’s Halloween. Patron saints San Zeno and San Jacopo supervise as children whirl and shout. Their hysteria is charmingly muted and they’re modestly costumed, with small bags of cookies from local merchants. I notice the absence of a critical element — candy. Miles of Silly String, but no candy. Brava l’Italia!

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