MOVE OVER, “UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN” AND “A GOOD YEAR.”
There’s a new sheriff in town and she’s here to offer a variation on the foreigner-goes-Continental-in-search-of-love-and-life’s-meaning theme.
Her name is Lisa Fantino, and her book, “Amalfi Blue: Lost & Found in the South of Italy,” is due out mid-January from Wanderlust Women Travel Ltd., her Mamaroneck-based concierge travel business. It offers off-the-beaten-path trips to Italy and the United Kingdom, like a cooking tour of the Amalfi Coast this Thanksgiving. (See related story on the Amalfi Coast in Wanders.)
Lisa hasn’t always been in travel. She’s a lawyer with a transatlantic practice and a former radio reporter and anchor with stints at WINS-AM, WCBS-FM, WBGO-FM and Danbury-based WRKI-FM on her résumé. But as is often the case in life, tragedy led her in a new direction, professionally and romantically.
It was 2006, and Lisa’s father, architect Alfred Fantino, who suffered from dementia, passed away.
“I was put through the ringer, not only with my dad’s care but with settling his estate,” which, she adds, took two years.
She has always been close to both parents. “I think because they were divorced, they went out of their way to make us feel loved.”
Now with one gone, she was emotionally and physically spent. So she took herself off to Italy in the spring of 2008. After some mishaps in Rome, involving a not necessarily desired traveling companion and a crazed veterinarian, Lisa headed south to Sorrento and the neighboring Amalfi Coast.
That’s when and where she met Rocco, a trained chef who was working on a ferry as a ticket-taker. She writes of the moment:
“I hadn’t noticed him before, maybe the crowd had obscured my view or perhaps I just wasn’t ready for him. . . yet, there he stood, like the sun-tanned descendant of Apollo himself.
“ ‘So, you like Capri,’ he asks . . His dark eyes peered over his black sunglasses like deep pools of liquid chocolate, melting my veneer.
“The smiles were brief. The greetings exchanged in two languages but it was the silent discourse that resonated between us and the ferry crowd melted away into the Bay of Naples.”
“Amalfi Blue” isn’t all sun-tanned Apollos and melting chocolate, however. There are the biblical rains, $10 gas prices and the stench of garbage – things that are not included in travel brochures but that became apparent to Lisa as her relationship with Rocco heated up and she developed a travel blog and business that kept her in southern Italy for extended periods.
“Life doesn’t have the conveniences it does here,” she says. “Everything is lugged up a hill. There are transportation strikes at the drop of a hat.”
Similarly, her relationship with Rocco has been a mixed blessing, characterized by love, lust and an emotional and financial toll as it’s played out on two continents.
“When you’re having a relationship, it should be only two people,” Lisa says. “Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion.”
Despite strong encouragement from her adored mother, Teri, Lisa’s friends have voiced misgivings about Rocco’s capacity for fidelity. Apparently, the reputation of Italian men precedes them. Meanwhile, his friends and family wonder about the feasibility of such a transatlantic bond.
The 20-year age difference, with Lisa as the senior partner, doesn’t matter, she says. And yet it does: “The age difference comes into play in how you see life. He hasn’t experienced losing a parent or having the carpet being pulled out from under you professionally.”
The loss of her father has seasoned Lisa and changed her outlook.
“My life continues to be lived in the moment.”
As for the ultimate destination of her relationship with Rocco, well, who knows?
Only one thing is certain.
“It won’t be a book,” she says with a laugh.