If You’re Going to Italy, Bring Delia Ephron

Even if Siracusa Is Not Your Destination, Ephron’s Book Will Delight You

Trevi Fountain, Rome

When at the Trevi Fountain, do as Anita Ekberg did? Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

I’ve been sucking up just about everything the Ephron sisters put out since I discovered Nora Ephron’s Crazy Salad Plus Nine many, many years ago. It’s no surprise, then, that I pick up Delia Ephron’s latest book, Siracusa, and read it in less than 48 hours. This book can make a bad vacation good. It can make your marriage look better than the ones of her characters. It can validate your feelings about a good friend with a really annoying kid and a suffocating and cloying approach to parenthood. It can take you to Rome and Sicily and back again and make you glad you got there and even happier that you came home. Have I mentioned that I love all things Ephron?

We begin with two married couples not especially friendly with each other but who, in the heat of a moment, decide to vacation together. We begin with two married couples who perhaps aren’t as happy in their marriages as they would like the universe to believe they are. We begin with a vacation in Italy­—Rome and the more unlikely Siracusa, in Sicily—where everyone can ease into that Italian way of living, of taking the days as they come, of  sitting in cafes and drinking wine and eating abundantly, of enjoying pasta and olive oil and indulgences that one tends to limit when back home.

And yet, we know that Rome can make even a laid-back traveler just a bit testy every now and then, what with the crowds, the occasionally less-than-honest cab driver trying to scam passengers for not having the “right color” of euros or by claiming they gave him a 10 when they thought they’d forked over a 20. Overprotective mothers might not flow with Rome, or with Italy, quite so easily, especially if their special princesses are accompanying them on the tour.

We know we are headed for conflict.

We know how sometimes dinners with traveling companions can grate after a while, how wrong things can be said when everyone drinks just a bit too much, how old jealousies or present ones can flash when members of dyads, perhaps not as confident as the images they project, express appreciation of others for characteristics they deem to be faults in their own spouses. We love taking a peak behind some of the closed doors of these hotels and discovering what’s not going on in the land of amore.

And so we get to Siracusa, where escapes for more coffee or wine or gelato or a swim or a cigarette can be taken, where tensions rise in the heat, where parenting styles can clash with reality, where safety and danger sometimes are inseparable.

What I like about Ephron’s characters are that they all seem so real, that their flaws are mostly not fatal. These tired travelers express annoyances. They commit everyday sins so many of us indulge in—sneaking a smoke, appreciating a passerby, being embarrassed by the habits of husbands or wives or overindulged kids. What I like about Ephron’s book Siracusa is that she captures Italy, and vacations there, and the world of couples and the fantasies they come to think are real. What I like about her characters is that they fight, they pretend, they seduce, they err, and just as we all do after every vacation, they get back to their real lives just a bit changed.

Bring the book Siracusa on the plane with you, carry it through Rome, or live vicariously through it while sitting on your sun porch.

—Lori Tripoli

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