I'm hearing an an awful lot about Italy lately.
Friends recently returned from a couple of weeks there and are still glowing from it, raving about it and recommending it.
With that in mind, a hot afternoon seemed like the ideal time to motor to the Westhampton Theater and see Woody Allen's "To Rome, with Love."
When I asked for two tickets to "To Rome," the ticket seller said, "Alright, if you want to," disdain dripping from his voice.
When I asked if he'd seen it, he got adamant. "I don't like Woody Allen and I don't like some life choices he's made."
How about you just hand us the tickets and keep your editorializing to yourself?
Shaking that off, we headed upstairs and took front row seats.
The movie was as convincing as my friends had been about Italy.
Between lingering shots of the architecture and the city's uniquely beautiful light, it'd be hard to walk out without at least dreaming of a visit to the land of adultery and ruins.
As a Woody Allen fan dating back to college, I got a kick out of Allen's role in the movie.
Once again, he played himself.
So he worried about airplane turbulence, questioned food he was offered and tossed off one-liners that made me laugh out loud.
"You want our little darling to marry into Eurotrash?" he asks in all sincerity when he meets her handsome Italian fiance.
Not necessarily, but I want Woody Allen to say things like that.
Like "Midnight in Paris," the movie is basically a love letter to a city and its people.
Of all the many subplots and threads dangling from there, I especially enjoyed the one about the young architect being tempted by his girlfriend's best friend.
It wasn't so much the tempting that amused me as the Alec Baldwin character, an older architect, who advises the young man along the treacherous path to adultery.
With his years of experience, he is the voice of reason as the young man falls under the spell of the erratic, glib and out-of-work actress.
Each time he warned him of what the woman was doing, whether throwing out one line of a poem to indicate familiarity she didn't have or making up lesbian encounters to get him hot, his advice came from the mind, heart and lips of a guy who'd been there.
We should all be so lucky as to have such an alter-ego/ghost/other self.
And, good god, Penelope Cruz has to be the most beautiful woman on the planet and I hope Allen never stops using her in his films.
If ever there was a woman I wanted to gawk at, it's her.
As a call girl who teaches a young newlywed how to properly make love, she undoubtedly left that poor guy wondering, "How did I get so lucky?"
Parts of the movie were downright ridiculous, like the Joe Average guy who ends up being hounded by the paparazzi (simply for being famous) and liking it.
Parts were funny in that Woody Allen-literate kind of way, with references to psychoanalysis, Rilke and Freud.
Everyone cheated on their wives (it was Italy, after all), all the women, old and young, were beautiful and Woody Allen never stopped with his self-deprecating shtick.
In other words, it was a thoroughly enjoyable Woody Allen movie.
And if I wasn't 100% sure I needed to visit Italy before I went into it, I'm quite certain now.
The requisite post-film discussion was done at the revamped Ipanema, positively beautiful after its recent renovation.
Walking in, the soft glow of the new light fight fixture globes reflected softly off the blond wood bar.
That's right; the dark, rec-room-like vibe of Ipanema is passe.
As in, so 1998 and so gloriously 2012 now.
Welcome to my favorite dessert and cocktail lounge, it seemed to say.
The well-lit back bar is sleek and black, vintage lamps adorn both ends of the bar and the tabletops are now a soft shade of dove gray.
There are even a couple of new two-tops, one near the front window and the other where the bench used to be.
I'm betting that those become the most desirable seats in the house: out of the way but with great views of the action.
A paisley curtain (made by a poor writer) hangs near the front and in the back, a green stenciled wall provides a homey touch.
We were there for wine and dessert and my choice was Vinho Verde and Mexican chocolate pie.
The music was set to Spotify (starting point: Future Islands) so we enjoyed Helio Sequence and XX, among others.
In other words, the music was as cool as the vibe.
In other breaking news, Ipanema now has paper menus so the era of the chalkboard menu is on its way out, much like paper library cards and corner traffic lights.
But don't worry, kids, Mondays are still $2 draught nights, so by 10:15, the place was awash in fresh-faced customers looking to find their beer goggles on a budget.
If they're lucky, their inner Alec Baldwin will give them advice about the members of the opposite sex who strike their fancy, saving them from unnecessary and potentially awkward life lessons.
If not, they can make their mistakes and learn the hard way like the rest of us did.
And, chances are, once they learn their lessons, they'll want to find someone with whom they can go to Italy.
Who wouldn't want to be seen in that light?