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Amore the Merrier: Ray in Italy

A sneak-peak at the ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ season opener

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After Everybody Loves Raymond wrapped its first season in 1997, creator Philip Rosenthal asked Ray Romano how he planned to spend his summer vacation. ”At the Jersey Shore, like I always do,” Romano replied. When Rosenthal suggested Italy, Romano answered that he’d never been to his family’s homeland. ”Why not?” Rosenthal asked. ”I’m not really interested in other cultures,” Romano said. ”After I got up off the floor,” Rosenthal recalls, ”I realized: Here’s an episode.”

Cut to 2000. In the one-hour fifth-season premiere (airing Oct. 2), mama Marie (Doris Roberts) announces she’s taking the Barones to Italy in the name of family bonding. Ray is unenthused: ”I’m not really interested in other cultures.” Yet in a case of life-imitating-art-imitating-life, both TV Ray and Real-Life Ray fell in amore with Italy. ”I wasn’t gung ho about coming,” admits Romano, on location in Anguillara (a lakeside village outside Rome). ”But now that I’m here, it’s pretty amazing.”

As the CBS sitcom’s cast and crew filmed for a week on the Boot in late July, Romano discovered the joys of gelato, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the lira. ”With the exchange rate, I’m a billionaire,” says Romano. ”Regis could never make it here because Who Wants to Be a Millionaire would be like Who Wants to Be a Guy With Five Hundred Dollars.” He does have one complaint: ”Toilet-seat circumference — it’s smaller. We have the electrical outlet adapter; we need a toilet-seat adapter.”

His costars voice other gripes. ”I’ve not been given enough time off for shopping,” cracks Patricia Heaton (spunky wife Debra), whose last trip to Italy was as a shoe model in the ’80s. And don’t get Brad Garrett (brooding brother Robert) started. ”I’m going to need a breast reduction by the time I’m done with the food,” he moans, blaming Raymond’s gourmand creator. ”I’m in a rowboat, it’s 110 degrees, and Phil’s going, ‘Try the cannoli.”’ Roberts says Italy is taking its toll on her body as well. ”It’s hard work, my dear. We’re on our feet 8 to 10 hours a day on cobblestones — and they’re not easy to walk on.” Her small-screen spouse Peter Boyle, meanwhile, prefers to see the excursion as a working vacation. ”We’ve earned this trip,” says Boyle. ”Way before Survivor, we showed that people have to get along no matter how tough the going gets.”

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