In 2012, I was a bit stir crazy. I was nearing a decade in Italy and still felt at odds with my adopted
city village. I couldn’t find inspiration for writing and necessity drove me away from Rome towards some familiar places and some new destinations. If I was a more responsible adult, I would have a huge quantity of frequent flyer miles to show for it. But instead, I have incredible memories of road trips with friends and family, solo journeys, and reporting assignments. I feel more comfortable in Rome now, my creative torment has disappeared, and my capacity to write and be productive has returned. I plan to be in Rome more consistently in 2013. But I would gladly return to any of these destinations from last year.
2012 started out right with a trip to visit my friends Nat and Meredith in New Orleans. We ate fried oyster poboys and mud bugs, drank cheap beers at Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, crossed the Mississippi for some Vietnamese. It was a glorious trip. I even snuck in a bit of work and reviewed Boucherie.
In late February, Nat and I met up again, this time in Trieste. The bora was in full effect, but we survived its insanity-inducing gales only to nearly freeze to death in Ljubljana. This would be the trip that taught me to stop being an idiot and wear the proper clothes and shoes for winter travel.
Back in Italy, I would take a springtime road trip through Basilicata with my mom to memorialize my recently deceased grandmother. We spent a week in her ancestral homeland and found our roots in Spinoso. A day trip took us to Craco, a haunting deserted city deep in the region.
In April, Şemsa and I visited Antep, one of the greatest food cities on the planet. If you love food, you must visit this place. A society that produces beyran and katmer is worth a trip half-way around the world. We were in heaven.
In May, I returned to the States for my 10 year college reunion. Getting reacquainted with New Haven was, of course, a gastronomic exercise. After the reunion, I joined my dad, stepmom and sister in Vieques for the annual family holiday.
Most of the summer was spent in London, the city I love even more than Rome and where I will move the instant I win SuperEnalotto. Outstanding food and wine in London and trips to Rye and Whitstable simply reinforced the notion that southeastern England is magic.
But it was a coldish summer in the UK, so a quick holiday in the Aegean was in order. Şemsa and I visited Lesvos, a sparsely populated island paradise that I have no doubt we will return to in the summer. In fact, I can’t imagine not returning each year. So what if crippling strikes “trap” tourists on the island now and again? There are worse places to languish.
Soon enough, Şemsa and I were back in Istanbul, a place that feels like home, mainly because she nurtures me and revitalizes me with her outrageous cooking in a way that only Mamma Parla can rival!
The last big trip of the year was with my best friend and college roomate Jack. In classic Parla fashion, I was so burnt out by December, that we left much of our trip to chance and scrambled to plan meals at the last minute. But thanks to friends, we ate really well in Vienna and had a great time in Berlin and Munich.
Perhaps this doesn’t count as a destination, per se, since I live there and all. But the most surprising experience of the year was the time I spent in late fall in Rome. With my new-found writing discipline, I finally had free time. I was able to enjoy the city, go on long runs, have drinks with boys, wander through the periphery, discover new places. I’m banking on more of that this year:) Happy 2013, people!