To read this week’s L’Osservatore Roman in English:


For your special enjoyment this weekend, we will visit the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo where Popes John Paul and Benedict vacationed for years but which now is fairly deserted as Pope Francis prefers staying at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, Much of the apostolic palace is now (sadly, as far as I am concerned!) a museum!   Castelgandolfo is a lovely town in a beautiful part of Italy, and I have had the incredible good fortune to have visited the papal palace on quite a number of occasions.

The first extended visit was a number of years ago when I was welcomed by the then director of papal villas, Saverio Petrillo, whose book on the papal palace I used to write this story, along with much information he gave me as we spent an afternoon strolling the grounds, the gardens and the pontifical farm!

On several other occasions I spent an entire day in the palace when it hosted the offices, library and classrooms of the papal observatory and offered summer courses in astronomy. Those offices have been transferred to a new location on the papal property but the telescopes are still in the palace.


Given the difficulty (impossibility, to be honest!) for Americans to travel to Italy this summer, I was not even sure I should post this column! And then I thought: We can dream, can’t we! We can all plan future trips to Bell’Italia and enjoy its beauty, people and cuisine. So I decided to give you something to look forward to!

A few days ago I posted some photos of one of my favorite restaurants in Italy, “L’Antica Trattoria” in Sorrento, where I had my arrival dinner on July 27. I returned on August 1 for my farewell dinner. I would easily nominate Aldo and his restaurant for a Michelin star!

Two other incredible restaurants in Sorrento are “O’Parrucchiano” and Circolo dei Forestieri (Foreigners Club) with its large and heavenly terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. Both have wonderful menus!

O’Parrucchiano is on Corso d’Italia near Sorrento’s cathedral. It is build on several levels with dining rooms on each level, the top level being the largest and most beautiful by far! The huge, main room can accommodate several hundred people and is completely surrounded by what seems to be a tropical garden – plants, flowers. shrubs and trees of all kinds and sizes, including, of course, Sorrento’s celebrated lemon trees!

I discovered two Americans of Italian descent who have been working here for years! Maria – originally from Boston – will welcome you to O’Parrucchiano and if you are lucky one of your waiters will be Raffaele who hails from Brooklyn. Also ask for Rocco: it was he who introduced me to Maria and Raffaele!

Here are some photos I took on the two evenings I had dinner here –

And more on the website:

Terrazza delle Sirene is the name of the restaurant on the magnificent terrace of the Foreigner’s Club.   You want to sit as close to the railing as possible to get the most out of the stunning views of the Mediterranean, Vesuvius and much more!

I went last Friday for lunch and, given that there were not the usual large late July crowds of tourists, but mainly locals, I had a chance to chat with my young waiter Ciro and met some staff members through him.

The Foreigner’s Club has not only the terrace, which you will now see in my photos, but also a large, very lovely internal dining room. Both terrace and dining room are terrific venues for events like weddings, etc. Hopefully soon large gatherings, happy gatherings like weddings, can once again take place everywhere in the world, not just here!

I have never ever stayed in Sorrento without having a meal on the Terrazza delle Sirene, at Antica Trattoria or O’Parrucchiano!

PS. Any empty tables you see in the photos were filled not long after I arrived for dinner, usually after Mass, about 8pm. Because of the very hot weather, most people came much later for dinner, starting at 8:30, 9 or later.

Their website:




Event: The Department of State has issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory for Italy recommending that travelers reconsider (i.e., avoid nonessential) travel to Italy.  In addition, the CDC has issued a Level 3 Health Notice for Italy due to COVID-19 concerns and similarly recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy.

The European Union (EU), which includes Italy, currently prohibits nonessential travel (i.e., tourism) into the EU for residents of most non-EU countries.  There are exceptions for residents of a few non-EU countries, but they do not currently include United States residents.  Please visit for more information.

The Italian government generally follows the EU definitions of essential travel.  Categories of essential travel include students, businesspersons, EU residents, and relatives of Italian citizens.  Please review the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more specific information in English.  Also please take note of any self-quarantine requirements.

(Until today, these alerts have been Level 4)