Maria Pasquale, Italian-Australian food & travel journalist, author, and Italophile launches her second book “How To Be Italian: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel, and Love La Dolce Vita”
It was a cloudy Monday afternoon, as I sat at a table outside, perched upon the cobblestone roads of Trastevere. Despite a cloudy day in Rome, if you look closely, you can easily find your own forms of sunshine. And for me, that was my post-lunch espresso, listening to some locals chat over a freshly fried suppli, and in a moments time, having the opportunity to sit down face to face with Maria Pasquale. I had first discovered Maria on Instagram, commonly known as @heartrome, back in 2019, when I first moved to the city. Maria had actually been one of the first people I began to follow. I could feel her authenticity, passion, and love for all things Trastevere, Rome, and of course, Italy. So when the opportunity arose to meet Maria herself, and most importantly, talk about her new book, How To Be Italian, I knew I couldn’t miss out.
Before diving deep, I think it’s important to share more about Maria’s personal journey, one she’d noted to me, as well in her book, as being unique, while shaping the lens, voice, and perspective readers will experience from one page to the next. Maria was born to Italian parents, both born in Abruzzo and then later immigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where Pasquale was born and raised. Although her external environment was an Australian one, at home was where she could always find pieces of Italy. She recalls growing up in a very traditional Italian household, where the language of choice was Italian, traveling to and from the motherland from child to adulthood was a normal occurrence, and where life was quite literally centered around family, food, and the table. As I asked her some of her first, and frankly fondest memories, in Italy, she reflects on her first trip to her grandparents’ village in a small town snuggled in Abruzzo, one she describes as “a beautiful chaos” that would forever be ingrained in her memory.
Flash forward to 2011, Maria decided to jump ship and make a leap of faith to make Rome her new home. What initially started out as a 3-month, round-trip flight, low-expectation intentions turned into a 10-year relationship between her and the Eternal City. She reflects on her initial decision to leave,
“It wasn’t because I wasn’t happy, or trying to leave bad ties behind. I made the decision to uproot because I was quite literally in love with Rome and Italy.”
She launched her blog, Heart Rome, that same year. I was curious to know if she ever deemed herself a passionate writer, or more specifically her journey to journalism.
“Of course! I loved to write, and I thank my previous work experiences back in Australia, coming from a background in Public Policy and then Public Relations and Communications, for the opportunity to write. Writing was a big aspect of my job everyday.”
She continues, “But if I’m being honest, I launched Heart Rome as a way to keep my family updated with my life overseas. In the beginning, only two people would read my posts, one of them always being my mom. So I guess you can say my journey to journalism was a long one, and it shows that it’s never too late to adapt, change, and commit to your passions.”
Commit to her passions she did indeed. Her blog and brand have a readership across more than 100 countries, a social media network of more than 40,000 followers, and an author of two books. Unequivocally, it’s worth mentioning Maria’s first book, I Heart Rome, released worldwide in October 2017 by Smith Street Books, is a Roman recipe collection from street food to a way to honour Roman food culture. And her second book. How To Be Italian, Maria shares, was the book she always wanted to write, the idea that had been perpetuating in her mind for three years, and it wasn’t until one day in 2019, when she was at a bar with her editor, talking about Italy, the lure, mystery, almost untouchable lifestyle Italians have seemed to almost effortlessly mastered. And she turns to her editor without hesitation, “Well, doesn’t everyone want to be Italian?” and from there, her book was born. How To Be Italian is a celebration of the Italian lifestyle, a book that’ll make you want to eat, travel, learn, and experience. She shares the beautiful parts of Italy, as well as some ugly ones, that makes Italy Italy and nonetheless Italians, Italians. “Of course” she shares “the secret to living, Italian style that is, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems. But at the same time, so many aspects are just simply perfect.”
Written with so much passion, love, time, emotion, and not to mention during a global pandemic, you can sense Maria’s dignity and pride word after word. How To Be Italian is available for purchase in Australia and Asia, and is available for pre-order in the USA, Canada, Europe and the rest of the world. As my time with Maria came to a close, I had to ask, out of my own curiosity, what her favorite part of the Italian lifestyle is, or something she could never picture her life without. “Easy! Italian summer, anywhere on a beach, or an island, I do love the South. Sicily, Capri, Sardegna. Specifically Ferragosto weekend, it’s such a beautiful time that seems so untouchable, a time that Italians truly cherish.”