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A Retired Couple, Writing Guidebooks During Travel to Rome

Dianne and Bill on their travels.

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Dianne and Bill, adventurous and intellectual authors of two guidebooks on Rome, Italy! Tell us a bit about your background.

Dianne & Bill: We are a long-married couple, from Seattle and Chicago respectively, who met at Stanford-in-Florence. We’re retired from being a) a tax lawyer and managing partner of Buffalo’s largest law firm (Dianne), and b) an award-winning historian (Bill – last solo book – Patty’s Got a Gun – on Patty Hearst). [TT’s note: Links to books here are affiliates that provide a small commission on purchase at no extra cost to you.]

Pieces of our travel: We went to China in 1979 before it was open to U.S. tourists (through Canada), to Cuba in 1982 just before President Reagan cancelled US tourists (with The Guardian), and into the Eastern Bloc countries on our own as the Iron Curtain was falling – heard Vaclac Havel in Bratislava (now Slovakia) in November 1989; to Romania with our son (then in the Peace Corps) and now daughter-in-law.

The cover of the couple's most recent guidebook on Rome.

The cover of the couple’s most recent guidebook on Rome.

TT: Love it! Tell us more about your travels.

D & B: We now spend two to three months per year in Rome, which has led to our two alternative guidebooks to Rome: 2009 – Rome the Second Time: 15 Itineraries That Don’t Go to the Coliseum (in eBook in 2010), and just-published, eBook: Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler (both Curious Traveler Press).

TT: How did you start traveling to Rome?

D & B: We prefaced Rome with several trips to Italy – including the Stanford-in-Italy semesters; 6 months in 1989 in Bologna – when we just took our kids (then 18 and 9) and lived there without jobs or contacts for 6 months – now THAT was an experience; and Bill’s teaching Fulbright Professor at the University of Rome (La Sapienza) in 1993 – that hooked us on Rome.

TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?

D & B: Stanford: Mom and Dad; Bologna: savings (the biggest cost – giving up our jobs for 6 months); Rome: the Fulbright (a very inadequate stipend); and now, retirement savings (believe me, not book royalties).

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny.

D & B: After the Fulbright, Bill wanted to go to different places and Dianne wanted to keep going back to Rome (as Dianne recalls). We compromised: We would go to Rome, but he would get a scooter and we would live in different neighborhoods (always outside the historic center) each time.

We bought a scooter from one of Bill’s historian colleagues in the U.S. The scooter was in Bologna – 250 miles from Rome. We picked it up in Bologna; Bill drove it around the block; I got on back, and we took off over one of the curviest and scariest roads in Italy – La Futa – between Bologna and Florence.

It took us four days, my shoulders were sore from being tense; Bill was exhausted from all the driving, but we made it to Rome. And we’ve been traveling via scooter ever since.

A bustling Rome market.

A bustling Rome market.

TT: Awesome! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

D & B: We “teach” through our alternative guidebooks. We get people off the beaten track in Rome and into areas tourists don’t even think about. We walk and walk and walk; and research and research and research. Our blog posts do “deep dives” into aspects of Rome few think about. We bring a whole new context to travel in Rome (we think).

Adventurous hiking in Europe.

Adventurous hiking in Europe.

TT: Vividly put. How have your travels impacted you as a person?

Bill: They have given me an appreciation of the incredibility complexity and depth of the human experience; the layers of Rome, the layers of human history; all Western civilization revealed, sharpened and clarified.

Dianne: They’ve made me long for more! And more off the beaten track. I don’t want to be a tourist any more. I want to LIVE in a place.

Both: They have given us a sense – and even the freedom to – have more than one home – in all senses of that word. When in Los Angeles, we read the LA Times, when in Rome, we read La Repubblica, when in Buffalo, we read the Buffalo News. And always, of course, the NY Times. We always look for locals – our local coffee bar, our local wine bar, our local music place.

TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?

D & B: Of course, read our blog, “Rome the Second Time!” Most of all – just do it! Get out of the routine, and try other places and people Check out the local papers or flyers for what’s going on and just go. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to have experiences that aren’t so great… because the great ones will win out every time.

TT: Thanks so much! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?

A hidden walk of Rome that you can learn more about in Dianne and Bill's book!

A hidden walk of Rome that you can learn more about in Dianne and Bill’s book!

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