Springtime in Italy – Or Why It’s Easy to Love Italy

May 21, 2009 at 10:08 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, genealogy, Italy, Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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gerber daisies

gerber daisies

cana lilies
cana lilies
grapeleaf

grapeleaf

Fields

Fields

There are too many reasons to even begin an attempted list of why it is easy to love Italy – but this post is one sure reason it is hard to not love Italy in the spring. There are no words that can state it better than these photos will show it.

 

It doesn’t matter if it is someone’s backyard, or the wildflowers of the fields, or a balcony.

windowsill

windowsill

strawberries

strawberries

pinks100_1873

The colors and smells carry one away, overtaking one’s senses, in brilliant displays of beauty amidst the ruins of bombed or crumbling buildings.

white wisteria

white wisteria

 

 

 

 

Trees in San Cristoforo

Trees in San Cristoforo

It is no wonder that flowers and romance go hand in hand because in this land of romance, Italians make use of every spot possible to include flowers. They are unashamed of their love affair with flowers!
apple blossoms with tractor

apple blossoms with tractor

Heartbreak – UPDATED!

April 6, 2009 at 16:34 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces | 2 Comments
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By now I am sure you have all heard of the horrible earthquake that has hit central Italy – L’Aquilla is a beautiful area and we have family not far from there. Blessedly our family seem to be all accounted for and safe but our heart goes out to those who do not yet know if family is safe and for those who have lost family and friends in this tragedy! Please join us in prayers for everyone: victims and rescuers working tirelessly over the next few days to find any trapped individuals. The recovery will be long and arduous and there will be many needs. As reports come in although we are all struggling financially, please do all you can to help. We will be traveling soon and as we hear of worthy groups, we will post any information we can find!

God bless L’Aquilla – and all of Italy!

UPDATE April 7th: Please visit Bleeding Espresso at http://bleedingespresso.com/2009/04/niafabruzzo-relief-fund-for-victims-of-abruzzo-earthquake.html – she has some great links to relief organizations that will use your donations to help the people of the Abruzzo earthquake! The death toll is over 200 but the emotional toll is immeasurable in suffering for all the people of Italy! Beautiful relics have been destroyed – villages decimated and lives ruined. This will not be an easy fix – but as always the Italians will dig themselves out and recover with dignity and grace! How much we here in America could learn from them as we watch them take care of one another!

Please remember all of Italy in your prayers!

Anticipation

April 6, 2009 at 09:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Itri, Italy | Leave a comment
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We are suddenly and joyfully planning a trip to Itri. There have been many excited phone calls back and forth across the ocean making plans with family. This trip will not be as long as one as we have made in the past due to my work schedule here but what wonderful days we are planning on. It is the first trip back home in four years and that was much too long for us! Unlike previous trips we will not be doing touristy things this time. This trip is strictly to be with family and to recharge ourselves physically and emotionally at a place we consider home. We want to concentrate on family both present and past. We have lost loved ones since our last trip and we will be missing them as well as concentration on those left here to mourn. And then we will be working on the family of our past.

Valentino will take me on a “tour” once more of Itri – the Itri of his childhood. My goal in all of this is to photograph him along with others at all his old haunts. I want to gift our sons with a slideshow of their dad at all his favorite places (and maybe some not so favorite ones, too). Although the sons have all visited Itri, I wanted to put this together as something of a keepsake to accompany the family history work.

One of our other hoped for excursions will be to city hall to beg for some assistance. We need to find a record of at least one person on the maternal line so we can finally get some research done. So far that brick wall has not lost even a hint of the mortar holding it together! Needless to say I have double checked as many sources and citations as possible so I do not chase someone else’s family instead of our own! I do not want to waste any of our time as it will be a precious commodity this trip!

 

Packed and Ready….

The suitcases have been pulled out of their closet and dusted off. Two hard suitcases and two duffle bags are ready to make this trip. Clothes are washed, dried, folded (no ironing, thank you very much!) and ready to go. All the convertor plugs and transformers are packed. The Euro-plug blow dryer and curling iron are also packed. Those will remain in Itri so that our friends can also make use of them on their trip. Two cameras are packed along with the laptop accessories such as blank CD’s and of course extra family group sheets. Maps of the autostrade are packed just in case. Little granddaughters wanted to help me pack – and then were not so happy with the packing. It looked as if we planned to be away too long to satisfy them. “But grandma – if you don’t cook pasta zouli I will get hungry!” A few extra hugs were reassurance enough that grandma and grandpa would be home again soon enough.

I will be updating and posting as time allows – and as long as internet connections are available! Ciao!

We leave in less than 54 hours now! Not that I am counting – but I am! Ha!

Espresso, Sapore di Italia

April 2, 2009 at 16:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 3 Comments
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When I was in college (way too many years ago now) I drank tea. My mom’s family was from Scotland so tea was a family thing for us, a cultural harkening back to roots. It was a staple of my life, a main food source – so much so that I could literally distinguish between brands of tea by the taste. One tea manufacturer was a bit taken aback when I wrote a letter of complaint. I knew by taste they had changed their formula, their blend, something their taste pros told them the average customer would not be able to do!

Somewhere along the way I began to drink American coffee. Maybe it was in revolt to the tea change thing but I do not remember when or why I first started to switch my allegiance. My dad drank his coffee black but I preferred cream and sugar. My grandmother always had a little container of instant coffee on her kitchen table and evaporated milk with the tin lid that made a pour spout. I really never was a fan of instant coffee.

Then I moved to Rhode Island to Providence. Dinner at the local Italian restaurants and homes of localites always always included an after-dinner small cup of espresso. And then along the way I became engaged to an Italian – you know – as in from Italy kind of Italian! Ha! That is ANOTHER whole story by itself – but suffice it to say I was now beginning to rearrange certain aspects of my life. The Corningware™ percolator was regulated to the back of the cabinet. I still remember our shopping expedition to buy my first espresso pot, a shiny aluminum Bialetti™ with that cute little fellow in black suit, striped pants, hat, and cigar! We drove to the local hardware store, a typical mom and pop store that sold much more than just nuts, bolts, and hammers. There on the shelf was row upon row of espresso pots and right next to them were espresso cups, saucers, and tiny spoons to fit the saucers. Then we were off to the grocery store to buy the coffee… And finally back to my apartment to learn to brew my first pot of espresso at home!

On our honeymoon soon after I suddenly discovered more flavors of espresso, crema, cappuccino. Our first weekend as we strolled the Mercado I reveled in the choices of espresso pots and a love affair was begun. Now my little Bialetti was going to have lots of company as I found a Napolitano, a crema, a ceramic pot with hand painted flowers set atop the metal base, and even one with a metal base with flat top to hold the four demi-cups instead of a regular pot. But my love affair did not stop with just the espresso pots. I also fell in love with espresso cups. Delicate porcelains with hand painted flowers, chunky white serviceable cups for the kitchen, clear gold toned glass square ones with the handles on the edge instead of the flat sides, the list goes on and on! Surprisingly everyone woman who came to visit the newlyweds would feel obliged to bring cups, or spoons, or espresso pot to help outfit the perfect kitchen back in America! After all the bride was expected to “serve her husband properly” when they went back home!

Now all these many years since our collection has grown. Each time we moved, the espresso pots were carefully packed and then unpacked. Kitchens were remodeled so they could be displayed on long shelves. It was never a home until those pots and espresso cups were once again the center of the kitchen! They have never been simply decorations. Each is used as the mood strikes and the occasion calls for. A petite one cup is enough for me if I am alone. There is a gleaning stainless steel we use every day for family. There is a 12 cup Bialetti™ for parties. The choice of cups suits our moods or the occasion. Each set reminds me of where we were or who we were with as I made the purchase.

American friends often ask how I can stand the taste of the strong bitter coffee. “Doesn’t it keep you awake all night?” Indeed sipping a cup of espresso con latte or strong and black is restful, a de-stressor for me. I find that cup of espresso to be more enjoyable than an herbal tea when I want to sit and relax. I sit back with my cup and a good book or perhaps outside at first dawn light watching the mist rise and listening to birds. The only thing better is to be enjoying a small shot of espresso at the Bar Farnese in Itri!

San Remo Love Notes

January 25, 2009 at 22:39 | Posted in Amore di Italia | Leave a comment
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Every year about the same time in January and February, Sanremo, Italy is home to a much loved music festival known as San Remo. This music festival is a long time tradition waited for, watched, and listened to by all of Italy. The finale is for best vocalist, best song of the year. All the singers from a little-known to a well-known compete equally along with song writers to win. At the end, the best of the songs are made into popular albums/CDs.

1977 was no different. Bonnie and Valentino arrived in Italy for their honeymoon right as the most popular song was being played on every radio and TV station constantly. Everywhere, the song would be heard over and over, a love song “Bella da Morire” by the Homo Sapiens…. paraphrased ‘so beautiful to die for’. The man tells the girl she is so beautiful, he follows her everywhere, sees her as she dances, she is written on his forehead so to speak, she is the only one for him. Needless to say this soft melodic love song was the perfect love song for a honeymoon in Italy, land of romance!

Over the last thirty some years if there was ever even a minor disagreement, Valentino would find the cassette tape or later the CD. Always the first to say “I’m sorry” while Bonnie would brood, he would play the music and sing. And by the end of the first stanza all was forgiven and forgotten. And the passion and deep abiding love,endless and unlimited, would once again be all that mattered, that had ever mattered.

Courageous Women of the Family

January 10, 2009 at 18:25 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, family history | Leave a comment
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Courage of Our Women

Watching news reports of the missiles and bombs in Gaza has been leading me to reflect on the women of our family and how remarkable they were. Regardless of whether one is pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, one would have to be made of stone to not have compassion for the women and children of both sides caught up in the current hostilities and wars.

My own mother faced my father going off to the South Pacific in WWII with the American Navy. She was left home to work and care for their infant daughter. Cell phones and Internet email were not options  then. Regular mail – handwritten (or the occasional typed) letters were slow to arrive and usually blacked out in many lines by the censors.

My mother-in-law saw the same war as a victim of location. She lived in Itri, Italy – a small town at that time located midway between Roma and Napoli. That meant all armed forces no matter whose marched through and bombed their way through Itri just as they had since before the Romans! The family home was in the old part of Itri up the slopes near the castle and the old church, Santa Maria. Fortunately during one of those bombing raids, Concetta heard the planes approach, and ran outside to the archway of the church when the bomb struck, destroying the house and leaving her with concussion deafness. Family along with several other families moved to the cave near her farm. It was safer for the families than the center of town but even with the farms, families were starving. Finally Francesco (my father-in-law) was  able to sneak to a German encampment after one of the bombing raids. There he found horses killed by the blasts  and butchered them, taking the hind quarters back to the caves to feed the families.

All the years growing up, Valentino rarely heard his mother speak of those times. I certainly did not hear the stories from her years later either. She never complained that life was unfair. It was  a fact of life that she had to deal with at the time and she did what was necessary for her family to survive. No televisions crew came to televise their stories, no reporters wrote glowing words to invoke reader sympathies. There was no UN food team or Red Cross clothing drive. She kept the family together and fed them and took them to church and gave them the values of God, family, and Italy to carry through their lives.

I walked the bombed out ruins that linger abandoned today in Italy. The rough edges  are softened by wild vines and grass and moss clinging to the rubble everywhere one walks. I visited old family homesteads  and an ancient concentration camp further north in Italy. I read poignant tombstones in local cemeteries. And I was dumbstruck at the sight of rows of white crosses at Avellino. So much loss  and heartache on all sides. Would I have been able to be as strong and courageous as Concetta? Could I have faced what she did and still have enough love and hope to care for, nurture, and encourage my children? I wonder? But I am so grateful she did.

 

 

 

 

 

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