AtoZ Blog Challenge – H – The Hassler Hotel


The novel, Facing East is set in Chicago, but considerable time is spent in Italy. I once visited Tuscany with my garden club, and remember the joy of it all. Based on my own experience, and the research I did, the scenes that take place in Italy are some of my favorite. There is a funny story attached to the research. I spent an entire morning googling areas in Rome that I might use. Along with the right neighborhood, I looked at several dozen hotels to suit my purposes. Shortly after finishing my research for the day, I checked my Facebook page. Along the side where advertisements appear, there were ads for hotels in Rome. Along with my startled, “How did it know?” reaction, I was thankful I had not been researching topless beaches or some other embarrassing location.

Lunch at the Hassler Hotel in Rome is one of my never to be forgotten memories. Using the Hassler as the setting for a scene allowed me to live life twice. This memory always includes Marilyn Toelle, who has since died, and Shari Bruckstein, very much alive and well! You can arm chair travel to Italy as you read Facing East. Enjoy!


By the time they climbed the Steps to the Hassler Hotel, the temperature was warm enough so they could eat their lunch in the Palm Court, the most charming garden restaurant and bar Katherine had ever seen. There were wrought-iron tables and chairs surrounded by pots of flowers and vines growing up the walls of the hotel’s inner court yard.

Katherine tried to read the menu out loud, pronouncing the selections in Italian. With Robert’s help, she repeated the choices she liked the sound of. When it came time to place her order, however, she wasn’t confident enough to say, Frittata di carciofi e misticanza. Instead she said, “I’ll have the artichoke omelette with the seasonal salad .” She hoped her enthusiasm made up for her inability to say the Italian words correctly…Robert raised his glass of theVerrazzano Rosso Chianti towards her. “Here’s to the good life in this beautiful place.”

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her:
This entry was posted in AtoZ Blog Challenge April 2015 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to AtoZ Blog Challenge – H – The Hassler Hotel

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    Stunning pictures.

  2. hollihd says:

    Italy is on my bucket list. I love the pictures above. I want to go drink wine and eat their bread and cheese and simply take it all in and the history.

    • Wish we could both stroll the small village of Pienza where you will smell cheese wafting out the doors of the small shops. I could hardly tear myself away from what you imagine…a glass of wine, bread and cheese. Close your eyes, and we’re off.

  3. Mina B. says:

    I would love to go the Italy. Just beautiful. Wonderful post.

  4. I can’t wait to read your new book!!!

  5. noelleg44 says:

    Ah, Italy – still on my travel list. Isn’t it nice to be able to write about something you experienced yourself?

    • With Facing East published, I am exhausted from revisiting all the memories that helped drive the novel. Loved the nostalgia of it all. In writing these last couple of posts about Italy I really miss being there.

  6. Birgit says:

    Wonderful memories and so romantic in style

  7. anniediw says:

    I have to agree with all the comments above. Delighted to meet you Stepheny. I’ve been roaming your blog until diverted by your Joe Cocker entry in last year’s A-Z. Wish you could come and look after my sadly neglected cottage garden 🙂

    • You have a cottage garden?! I’ll be right over. Together let’s see what we can do about some spring housecleaning. Only willing to help, however, if we can sit and get acquainted too. I have a feeling we are kindred spirits. See you by the garden gate.

  8. Sounds like it must have been a huge amount of fun to remember it so clearly. I’m amazed I don’t have ads down the side of everything for “What every serial killer needs” given some of the things I research 😉 I’ve never been to Italy, but my husband went there on business a little while ago and says I’d love it.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Oh, I love your ‘what every serial killer needs’ advertising. Hotels in Rome and in Monti in particular sounds tame compared to that. I have some other Italy posts because of the new novel, Facing East. If you have time, come back and visit and share a bit of Italy with me.

  9. My friend and I went to Italy and stayed in B&Bs. Our favorite was one in Tuscany where we actually got to ride horses around the countryside. We also drove down the coast to see Paestum which has the best Greek ruins outside of Greece. I’d love to go back to Italy. It’s one of my faves!

    • I loved my Tuscany garden tour so much that when it came time to write this new novel, Facing East, I borrowed from my experience of being in Italy. The only time, but memories to return to often. Let’s you and I pretend we can have lunch today together. Yesterday I wrote about the Hassler Hotel in Rome. Let’s go there. The courtyard is so beautiful. If we go dutch, we can both barely afford it, but it will be possible. How about 1:00PM…top of the Spanish steps.

  10. I’m such a sucker for bike photos! Love!! I lived near DeKalb a few years back. Nice to meet another Chicago fan!

    • Growing up in Evanston, Chicago was a special city that to this day influenced my midwest grounding. Come back and see me if you can for more Chicago posts. Let’s meet on Michigan avenue and stroll down the street window shopping.

  11. anneyoungau says:

    I smiled at your ads experience – I found it unnerving when I first noticed how personalised they were becoming but now I figure that it saves me the trouble of looking at ads for things I am definitely not interested in 🙂

    I enjoyed your description and photo of lunch at the Hassler

    thank you for stopping by my blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s