A former overseas bureau journalist recalls the tragic circumstances that befell her husband and the European city that repaired their broken spirit.
Butturini and her husband John Tagliabue returned to Rome in 1992 in a desperate attempt to rekindle the vibrant, happy life they’d embarked upon after falling in love there seven years prior. Both were foreign news reporters: The author was an East European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, and Tagliabue was the Warsaw bureau chief for the New York Times. Butturini fondly revisits her travels to Rome in her early 30s, entranced by the stunning abundance of culture and embracing “the magic of honest food.” She and Tagliabue had been dispatched to Prague in late 1989 to report on the anti-Communist revolution, but the assignment was a violent disaster and the start of the couple’s “private tornado.” Butturini was beaten repeatedly in the street by anti-terrorist police, and her husband took a sniper’s bullet, shattering his pelvis. Long months of rehabilitation followed, as did a hepatitis B diagnosis and a bout of clinical depression, spurred on by the drowning death of Butturini’s mother. Recalling their everlasting love of Italy, they returned to Rome for much-needed healing, reinvigoration and the “normalcy” that had so lushly enveloped them years prior. Though Tagliabue’s extended illness tested her patience, a new life awaited them both. The author tempers both of their complicated, depressive family histories with memories of Sunday family dinners, homemade soups and pizzas, and childhood Christmases. “In our family the stomach was only slightly less important than the brain,” she writes, “and according to my mother, clearly more trustworthy and often more intelligent.”
A touching, if melancholy, feast for the senses, with a dash of inspiration for hearts in need of nourishment.