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Revisiting Italy After a Century: A Trip 105 Years in the Making

A highlight of 2023 was organizing a trip to Italy for Regina Migliucci-Delfino, owner of Mario's, one of New York's oldest and most important Italian restaurants. It opened on Arthur Avenue in 1919 as a humble pizzeria. Over the years, it grew into a fine dining restaurant that Craig Claiborne, the legendary New York Times food critic, raved about. Mario's was where my family celebrated special occasions and the only place my grandparents would eat pizza.

In 2019, I interviewed Regina for a BBC Travel article and was surprised to learn she had never visited Italy. The restaurant business is a grind; they had a strong desire to go but not enough time. We sat in the restaurant looking at the paintings of Italy that hung on Mario's walls. I wrote:

As the surrounding shops darken, the narrow windows of Mario’s restaurant glow, beckoning hungry diners inside where the Blue Grotto of Capri glitters and Mount Vesuvius looms over the Bay of Naples in a series of 85-year-old oil paintings.
“Some customers have told me to get rid of them, [saying] they’re too dark, too old fashioned,” said co-owner Regina Migliucci-Delfino, of the paintings made by her great-uncle, Ciro. “But this is our history.”

A historic painting of Mount Vesuvius at Mario's in Bronx Little Italy
A painting of Mount Vesuvius in Mario's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

That's why I felt honored when Regina asked me to plan a trip to Italy. This would be a long-awaited reunion with the country whose food traditions she has been honoring for a lifetime. TikTok and Instagram can sometimes make Italy seem like a theme park, but it's a country with a rich and beautiful soul, and I wanted to give Regina and her husband the most meaningful experience possible. I wanted her to feel like her ancestors were welcoming her home.

The Italy Trip Brief:

Regina and Paul had two weeks in late July/early August and wanted to do and see as much as possible, but they also needed time to relax before returning to work. The biggest challenge was that they would travel in high season and during the hottest period of the year.

Their Italy bucket list included:

  • The Colosseum and Vatican

  • Test driving a Ferrari in Motor Valley

  • To see Naples, the ancestral home of the Migliucci family as well as Capri and Pompeii

  • Relax on the Amalfi Coast but in a place not too crowded.

How We Planned their Italy Trip:

  • Three days in Rome with private tours of the Colosseum and the Vatican with skip-the-line tickets led by our trusted guides in Rome. I also made dinner reservations for them at two classic Roman restaurants, Roscioli and Piatto Romano.

  • Three days in Modena with a private food tour of the Mercato Alibinelli. Regina regularly buys regional specialties like parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar, so this was an opportunity to see how these products were made. Plus a day in Maranello to visit the Ferrari museum and do a test drive.

  • Three days in Naples with a hotel overlooking the Bay of Naples, the same view captured in the historic paintings that hang in Mario's restaurants. We arranged for a private tour guide to take them to Capri (because the crowds there in summer are overwhelming).

  • For the last part of the itinerary, a private driver picked them up in Naples, then stopped in Herculaneum (less crowded than Pompeii in high season) for a private tour and lunch. Then, the driver transferred to the Cilento, just south of Amalfi, for a few days of relaxation.

  • They stayed at Borgo La Pietraia, a boutique resort overlooking the Amalfi and Cilento Coasts, which my Italian relatives own and operate. There's a pool and a restaurant for maximum relaxation. From that base, they took a catamaran tour of the Cilento Coast, visited the temples at Paestum, went wine tasting, attended a food festival in Trentinara, and sampled the best buffalo mozzarella in Italy at Tenuta Vannulo. They also had a day at a beach club in Paestum, which overlooks the Amalfi Coast, and an afternoon in Vietri-sul-Mare, the least crowded Amalfi Coast town.

  • Chef Massimo of Mario's was also in Italy, so he picked up Regina at the Borgo and brought them to his hometown near Gaeta for a few more days of food and family.

I was in contact with Regina throughout her trip, so I knew she was having a fabulous time, but I was anxious to sit down with her at Mario's and hear all the details. I had a birthday lunch at Mario's and was seated before she knew I was there because she was busy talking with customers. I overheard her speaking gloriously of her trip and couldn't stop smiling.

Arthur Avenue remains the most amazing place to discover Italian food traditions brought to the United States over 100 years ago. But to go to the source, to walk on 2,000. temples and connect with history through food and wine is a life-changing experience. I'm so grateful I could share this experience with Regina and Paul.

Paestum temples
Regina and Paul visiting the temples of Paestum


Planning your Italy trip with Feast Travel

If you would like to connect to the soul of Italy, we'd be honored to help you.

Regina contracted me for Bespoke Trip Planning, where I design completely custom itineraries.

If you want to connect to Italy through food and wine, join me for week-long workshops in Southern Italy this spring or the fall. (If you have Italian roots, I especially recommend the spring workshop. It's an opportunity to meet your traditions at the source.)

If you want to learn the stories and taste the food of the Italian diaspora, join us for a Shopping & Tasting Tour of Little Italy in the Bronx.


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