I’m very happy to announce that my book is finally available on Amazon! It has been a labor of love for my family and for myself – a love of this special place. It features many many beautiful photos taken over the last thirty some years of our visits back to Itri along with some from the DVD available in Itri called Itri Ieri e Oggi. It is a book that many folks who love Itri will enjoy looking through and reading over and over again. I share both some of the history and some of the legends of Itri that many will recognize. For those who have never been able to visit, it is an invitation to see her and encourage you to visit here! Hope you all enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed putting it together for all of you! Visit Amazon here to purchase – it’s a great Christmas gift for those who dream of returning or those wishing they could visit!
Tags: blessings, Christ, Easter, famiglia, Italy, joy, memories, religion, spiritual walk, Tarquinia
This picture hangs on the hallway wall of my sister-in-law’s home. It is a depiction of a wonderful wood carved statue that resides in Tarquinia. Each Easter the town’s people and those from surrounding areas crowd into the old streets to herald the procession of this statue being carried up and down and around the steep cobblestone streets in adoration of the Risen Christ.
Town officials, the carabinieri, and townsfolk alike are not ashamed to show their praise for Him, none of the politically correctness scenarios hold them back. Some of the story of the statue is lost to me in translation but the story basically is that the town commissioned this beautiful statue of the Risen and Triumphant Christ. When completed, the statue was so magnificent that no one wanted the artist to ever again create such a masterpiece for anyone else. Here the story of the beauty of Easter is lost to me – the town blinded the artist so he was unable to see to create anything else! No one is sure how much legend and myth is mingled with fact in this story but one fact is for sure. The statue is magnificent and the town is devoted to it.
I don’t mean to sound as if I find this silly or foolish in any way. Rather I find it a testament to the townsfolk that in spite of a less than Christian-like beginning to the acquisition of the statue, they stand proudly and in joy and in sorrow for all that it means to them to celebrate Easter. In the midst of this there is not a carnival or other foolish trappings of a street party going on. The complete festival is a parade to showcase this staute, a reminder to the faithful of the true meaning of Easter. They have not forgotten but instead choose to honor Him openly joyously for al the world to see and partake with them. What inspires me even more is the total joy they worship with – not of fear or habit or sorrow – but complete unabashed joy at the Spirit of the Day – they rejoice in the Risen Christ and all that His Triumph signifies for all men. They have celebrated year after year for a century or more now, in good times and bad, war and peace, economic upturns and depressions, in feast and famine. What has happened to us here in a land that has been so mightily blessed, that we have lost that joy, that zeal? May our hearts return once again to that place of joy in Him as give thanks and praise for His Triumphant Resurrection.
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family, family history, love of family, memories, Peace, WWII
I am feeling a bit melancholy today. I worked my usual long week and did not rest enough so it is easy to blame it on lack of sleep but that wouldn’t be totally honest. Rather, truthfully I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood and my folks. Somehow someway they always managed to instill in me a sense of peace, contentment, and trust that everything would be fine. My parents did not have perfect childhoods or live in the lap of luxury but they were secure in the love of their families who then along with my parents showered my sister and me with that same love unending and unwavering. As we grew up, we understood each family faced problems but they faced them together with love and concern and respect.
My parents knew the pain of The Depression, WWII, and the fear of my father being called back for the Korean War (thankfully he wasn’t). Then came the fear of the Cold War, or Nuclear Holocaust! That shared the stage and news along with Segregation and race riots. Then came peace riots as a result of the Vietnam War. Even then through all of the upheavals and traumas, my dad remained calm and stable. We went to church on Sundays, school Monday to Friday, and knew my parents would sit down to dinner with us every night. At one point my father wrote a long letter to Senator Barry Goldwater. This quiet man who rarely raised his voice – and I am not sure I ever heard him pray out loud in public – warned that refusing children the right to pray at least in silence to themselves in school would herald a sad slide downward for our country. He felt that no matter what church one attended, if the children did not remember to start their day with a prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance, The USA would regret that fall someday. After all, these were his reasons for spending time in the Pacific Theatre in WWII – to assure his daughters would never face a US without freedom and liberty! What a blessed heritage he left us.
With all the turmoil and distrust and political upheaval in this land of ours along with all across the world, I often wonder how he would react. Even as he watched the Chicago Riots with me and scenes from Vietnam, he would always speak softly telling me America was better than that. He would remind me that I went to church so why would I doubt what the outcome would eventually be. Even when we faced a serious health threat with an infant son, my dad spoke softly and reminded me that God already knew the end of the Book!
I happened upon this video clip today of another man from that same era and he too spoke softly – he would more often use humor to make his point – but this clip reminds me of the strong quiet men who knew what being an American stood for.
Tu Sei Matta! (You Are Crazy!)
Bonnie had been married before, but he was a drunk and would beat her when drunk. There did not need to be a reason, being drunk was the excuse. Finally it was enough and she knew he would not change. She began to save money to move and for a lawyer. Life was sad and lonely for her. She lost herself in work. One evening girlfriends decided she needed to go out and forget everything else for an evening.
A group of twenty some friends met at a local club to dance and listen to music. The girlfriends wanted to introduce her to some of the men in hopes that she would consider dating for fun. As everyone else got up to dance, Bonnie chose to sit it out and watch. Every time she looked up, Valentino was standing at the far end of the long table. He would catch her eye and she would laugh and look away. Finally Valentino walked over to her and asked permission to sit down. She replied of course because it was all of his friends there. Then he asked if he could ask another question. She laughed and told him alright. He wanted to know why she laughed at him every time he caught her eye. She replied, “Everyone needs a gimmick!” “What?” “You ignore all the girls flirting so my gimmick must have worked!” Valentino laughed too but told her she was crazy! They laughed and talked until the club closed in the wee hours of the morning. Everyone went out to the parking lot where her girlfriends said they were all going down to the local diner for breakfast and cheesecake. Some of the girls hustled Bonnie into the car with Valentino but then they jumped out and left in a waiting car. So there she was alone at 2AM with Valentino and not happy at all. When he asked why she was so upset, she angrily told him she was not in the habit of being in a car at 2AM with a man whose name she did not know! He was very insulted and told her they had been introduced by their friends. She then told him no one listens to names in a bar because no decent woman goes to pick up anyone that way! He put the car in drive and sped to the restaurant at top speed. Everyone friend and stranger knew they were both furious when they arrived! She doubted they would ever speak again.
A day later she went to work at the store she managed in Cranston. One of her employees was a young woman Lina from Naples in Italy. She told Lina how foolish she had been and how sorry she was. That Italian was one of the most handsome men she had ever met and his eyes were beguiling! His smile was sweet too. Lina finally asked if he was by any chance about 5 foot 7 and brown hair and eyes. Bonnie was totally exasperated – after all just about every man in Italy had dark hair and eyes. “Sure”, Lina replied. “But not all of them are right here with a rose in hand!” Bonnie turned around to see Valentino with a long stem red rose – he leaned over to place a small kiss on her cheek as he handed her the rose. He told her she was about the most beautiful woman he had met and would she please go to dinner with him to start over! Every now and then Valentino would still tell Bonnie she was crazy but even after thirty years they laugh together in memory as she would remind him she had always been crazy from the first night on!
And now this weekend it is thirty four years later and it is just as if it was yesterday! Four sons, five precious granddaughters later, it is still Valentino. Through good times and bad, he has been her rock, her anchor in all storms. When the world seems set to fall apart it is he who holds her hand and her heart. They still laugh and Valentino still tells her she is crazy – but now instead of only one red rose, it is always 3 – for “I love you”. And for Bonnie it is a true love story, a life-long story. This precious man who still makes her heart sing, her heart burst with love and joy each time he laughs with her. Io ti amo amore mi! She truly is Valentinoswife….. per sempre.
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, cooking, famiglia, family, food, Italy, love of family, memories, recipes
Cold winter nights often bring along flu and other respiratory symptoms. Nothing feels more like “Mama’s love” than a pot of warm soup. Val’s mother knew how to stretch her meager coins to feed her large family. Her tricks included never letting anything go to waste, growing her own vegetables as much as possible, and baking lots of bread. Even the stale bread was used in a meal of soup – a few pieces of stale bread could be broken into the bottom of a bowl and hot soup would be poured over it and then topped with homemade goats cheese. Needless to say, Mama always made her own broth from scratch but we now use one such as Swanson’s Roasted Garlic as a time saver without sacrificing flavor! No one ever felt they were not being fed!
Here’s one of the family favorites for a cold night:
Escarole and Bean Soup
6 cloves garlic minced 1 sweet onion chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans 1 qrt. Veg. or chicken broth
2 large bunches chopped escarole
Cook and stir onion and garlic in very large pot with a bit of olive oil. Do not brown. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste (remember broth is usually salty already).Add chopped escarole and beans – cook until escarole is tender – best when still slightly crispy. Serve with lots of grated cheese and Italian hot bread!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family history, Holiday Spirit, Italy, memories, Presepi, ramblings
I brought these treasures home from Italy and Germany – I hate to even take them down, preferring to leave them to grace my kitchen year round. No – they are NOT kitchen witches, although often mistakenly called so. These are replicas of La Befana also called Nona Befana.
She was according to legend an old woman who was constantly cleaning her home, something typically Italian I might add! When the three Magi came by searching the Christ Child she was too busy. Then her heart spoke to her and she began to search too.
Now she roams the earth each January 6th searching as did the Magi for Him! Let her help keep Christmas alive a bit longer for all of us each season!
Tags: Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, love of family, memories, Presepi, ramblings
Christmas is always my personal favorite – and fortunately I married a man who also loves the holidays. Growing up in Italy Valentino approached the Holiday Season a bit differently than most Americans. The emphasis was never on extravagant gifts but rather on family and sharing love, hospitality, and spiritual values with those around him. He doesn’t remember a tree being the central theme but rather the presepe – nativity – was the center of the family holiday. Later there would also be a tree that family would pose near. But it was the large nativity display that he most eagerly awaited setting up every year. Coins would be saved to buy a figure or two whenever they could afford. These were the old composition figures, many wax-coated to make the colors shine. The display would consist of all of Bethlehem as they thought of it. There would be many shepherds and their sheep scattered all over the mountain on the way to the crèche.
When Valentino and I first married, he was reminiscing about his childhood presepe and my parents were soon interested. We lived with them in Connecticut the first few years. Dad asked if Valentino would build a display for everyone to enjoy. We shopped until we found the perfect set – naturally it was from Italy, a Fontanini! Made of a safe polymer in old fashioned wood tones, it was the perfect choice for an outdoor display. Valentino built a small display right near the front entrance and covered it over with pine boughs and set small twinkly clear lights like stars all throughout them. The ground cover was sand with white flour roads to move the Three Wise Men along their journey day by day closer and closer to the crèche. Scattered about were small wood huts and shepherds with sheep. What a sweet memory – but sadly Florida hurricanes years later would ruin our few photos!
When we made the move to Florida we knew it would be even nicer to build this tradition for our children. The temperate weather here and a big covered entrance meant we could enlarge the display year by year. The boys anxiously awaited their trip to our favorite Christmas store to each choose a new figure to add to the display. It became a family affair to set up the display – usually taking a long weekend to get everything in place. Valentino would take the time to share the wonderful bible stories of Jesus’ birth in simple enough terms for the boys to understand. Soon many of the neighborhood children would want to listen too. Year by year the display grew larger and more elaborate as more shepherds and then angels and townspeople were added. Then we began to find that some smaller children were dropping by when we weren’t home to play with the figures. The Fontanini figures are unbreakable but the money we had invested in them had grown considerably. Fontanini had started a collector’s club and offered special limited edition figures that we had begun to enjoy. Sadly it became obvious we would no longer be able to make the display an outside one. About that time we moved to a newer home and gained a huge family room with plenty of space to set up the display. I discovered a group of collectors online and our involvement with Fontanini and all things Italian nativity related grew into an almost obsessive compulsion! Then we were able to visit the actual Italian factory on a trip to Italy! What a joy! The Fontanini folks are some of the warmest and most enjoyable people. They treated us to a tour of the facilities and gifted us with a few special figures that were never sold in America! Now our display is still huge but inside so we can enjoy it all hours!
May You all have a very Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year!
October has historically been recognized as the Italian History Month here in the United States. Over the years several web sites have dedicated themselves to encouraging Italian Americans to bring information to organizations and primarily public schools to raise awareness that Italian are known for more than just overworked Mafia references and pizza. I prefer the wonderful list compiled by the Italian Historical Society of America (http://home.earthlink.net/~31italians/id65.html). I would encourage all of you to read through the great list but I am going to include some of the thoughts and names generated there.
October 1st is the day to remember and honor the Italian immigrant. Immigration is a hot button topic right now – and I am right there with all who are frustrated that we cannot find a solution here – or many places in the world today. Italy like the US faces her own threat of illegal immigrants sweeping into their land. France is in the news for dealing with the Roma right now. Here in the US we deal with many nationalities – mostly at our southern-most border. But there was a time not so long ago that Italians were the group America dealt with as immigrants. The Irish had gone through their tough times as immigrants and then the tables turned to the Italians hoping to find a better way here. One little known fact is that along with Japanese, Italians were also rounded up into internment camps during WWII. It was an offence to speak Italian as you were suspected of not being a true American. Indeed even after WWII ended many family members refused to teach their children Italian for fear of retribution. American Italians often speak a mish-mosh of slang and dialect – a mere smattering of words and phrases.
Our family was among those eager to come to the US. We have copies of letters accepting the VISA requests of some while denying others. The post WWII era saw many of the immigrants hoping to gain a VISA to escape the harsh realities of a war ravaged Italy. Itri itself was bombed with more than 65 % of the town destroyed. Valentino was not allowed to emigrate with his parents – he was too old to come with them as a child but too young to remain alone in Italy. He settled living in Germany with his brother for a year until the US would allow him entrance! Within weeks of his arrival he was expected to report for the draft! Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view) he was not fluent enough in English yet so they passed him over. He came to the US an unsure young teen and learned the language and embraced its freedom and culture.
October 2nd is a great day to think about Amadeo Pietro Gianni. Born in 1870, he was raised in California. His parents had immigrated from Italy. After his father died when Amadeo was seven, his mother remarried and he went to work to help his parents in the produce business. Later he would join a group of businessmen serving on the board of a small bank that catered to the Italian American community. He then began his own bank that suffered severe damages in the San Franciscan earthquake. He set up a small bank out of his home to again help folks rebuild the city. When he realized folks traveled to him, he opened branches to accommodate them Eventually he bought out Bank of America and continued with his theory of helping the average individual instead of just the wealthy.
October 3rd is for Guglielmo Marconi. Most will recognize his name as he was the father of wireless transmissions. Born in Bologna, Italy, he traveled around both Europe and America to prove his inventions. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his accomplishments and discoveries.
Hopefull next week I will bring more short biographical notes
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, conservator, contingency plan, famiglia, family, family history, family research, filing, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, organizing, photographs, research
I took off a bit of time from writing to concentrate on family and some changes we are experiencing along with some test of family loyalties through some trying times. Thankfully love for each other has triumphed in every situation we faced. During this time we have each in our own way found what matters most to us. We have each come to the realization that even as we face anger and or disappointment in one another, we can still know overwhelming love and loyalty and even respect for each other. My treasure chest is full of love for all my family and memories of all the special moments we have shared, the tears, laughter, hurts, and joys. This time has made us grow closer and more committed than ever to each other. As a parent I have been touched by the depth of feeling my sons have shown one another as they have grown. Valentino and I are proud parents as we watch each son make the decisions for where their place is to be in life. We can rest assured our sons will never lose their bonds to one another whether we are here to guide them or not. Rather now we can see that even as they may or may not agree with all decisions the others make, they support one another through good and bad ready to offer a lending hand when needed or just an ear to listen.
In the midst of this we also have been enjoying the visit of a family member from overseas. I personally had not seen this person since he was a young boy of about four or five years old. My sons had never met him. When we first met, there was instant love. I was enthralled with his precious smile and his sparkling dark eyes. I just knew our own children (not yet born) would share those same wonderful handsome good looks! Sure enough – they did! And still do! We met our nephew at the airport and immediately we recognized him in the crowd at the same instant he connected with us. The years melted away and once again the smile and dark sparkling eyes dazzled us. Now however that sweet boy is a handsome charming 6 foot plus professor. His personality fit right in to our family mix easily. His quiet strength has been a plus to us as well as his humor. He is an outsider willing to listen and not judge but he is also a beloved family member who is respected and treasured! We are his chance to practice and polish his English as my sons and I practice our broken Italian. For our granddaughters he is the charming gentleman who has captured all of their hearts. I have warned his mother I am going to find it very difficult to return him back home to her! I suspect his uncle is going to find it even more difficult than I will!
One enticing fact is that he shares a deep love of family history. His long term plans include writing about a particular part of the family history. He began to talk about the trials and dead-ends of attempting to find information on the distant relatives. He knew I had already written of more recent family and he also knew I had worked on the family genealogy. What he didn’t know was how much more information I had accumulated in the last few years. As I began bringing out workbook after workbook and file after file, he was in amazement over all the information laid out. It covered the entire pool table – and filled many folders on my laptop! But the best part was that suddenly I was being forced to do what should have been done already. And if he wasn’t enough encouragement a phone call from another relative in Rhode Island was the final prodding I needed. It was time to actually name and label and date as many of the digital images as possible and fit them to their “proper owners” on the family tree. Every trip to far flung relatives meant I gained more scanned copies of old photos or digital images I made of them with my camera. Needless to say there is not a photo for all of the twelve hundred plus people but it felt like double that number as I have been working on them diligently for over a month using every spare moment. For some family members it meant cropping their face out of a group photo. For still others it meant dating them through many photos showing them as they changed over the years of their lives. It also meant labeling all the digital images of the villages and towns and churches and schools and even the old family homes when possible. There are even photos of the streets where family members lived over 200 years ago. I may not be able to prove which house belonged to them but thanks to information on birth certificates I was able to ascertain streets!
So this brings me to today’s treasure chest moment. My treasure chest has become my laptop. Everywhere I go it comes along for the trip. Blessed with a 6 hour battery life, I can steal many moments no matter where I am to work on the photo project. My laptop wallpaper is a replica of an antique print of the family village in Italy. Somehow I find that relaxing as I flip through files and folders saved across my desktop. As I have worked I also made certain to save frequent updates to my portable hard drive. At this point although I am not finished I have also burned CDs to send home to Italy with our nephew and to mail to Rhode Island to another cousin! Let me use this opportunity to once again admonish you all to make backups of all your work. If my laptop crashes, I would be one unhappy woman to have lost all of my hard work! It is not enough to save work only for myself. If a hurricane or other natural disaster were to destroy our home, I would risk losing all of my research. Knowing that copies have been sent to reside with other family members is double insurance against such a loss!