March 4, 2017

Rome. May, 1988

“This is Sylvia Poggioli in Rome.” When Nick asked me to come along as production assistant on his trek through Italy to research his Great Italian Desserts cookbook, of course I said si. I’d been to Italy three times before and knew some of the ropes -- the ins and outs of train travel, hotel bookings, maps, and several dozen of the thousands of Italian bureaucracies. I was working in public broadcasting at the time, and it was Jay who actually suggested I call up NPR to get in touch with Rome correspondent Sylvia Poggioli. Sylvia graciously agreed to meet me for coffee and we hit it off immediately. She told me about press protocol at the Vatican (no one is allowed to ask the Pope a question directly; you can only speak through one of his supernumeraries, etc.), about how she’d hidden all her jewelry and cash in her car when she went to interview the head of a gypsy clan outside Rome, and about some tips on her favorite restaurants in the city. When she and her husband came to Cambridge, MA, as fellows at the Kennedy School of Government not long afterward, they attended a little book party I threw for Great Italian Desserts. Sylvia brought a visiting Italian friend, and Nick took one look at her, then drew me aside to whisper, “She’s wearing REAL Chanel.”

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