La Valle del Re

May 4, 2009 at 10:07 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | 1 Comment
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La Valle del Re II

La Valle del Re II


The Valley of the King – forgive me but this is a shameless plug for one of the most special places in Itri to visit … a restaurant opened by a good friend of ours, Mario Petrillo.

Gioielleria Petrillo

Gioielleria Petrillo

Already a well-respected business owner and talented jeweler, Mario has added the title of restaurateur to his list of accomplishments. Located on Via C. Farnese between the route to the Sanctuario and Itri proper, this is classic dining in the true elegant Italian style. It includes views of the beautiful Italian countryside making the atmosphere complete. We Americans so foolishly believe Italian food means pizza or just canned tomato sauce on pasta without ever knowing the many varied and tasteful delights of Italian cuisine. Mario proves it is much more than just this while offering you an Italian dining experience in gorgeous surroundings. It will be well worth the short drive … and tell Mario that Valentinoswife sent you!…”

La Valle del Re

La Valle del Re

 “On the 10th of February 1849, the august Monarch Fernando II with his Royal family and the Highest Pious Pontiff IX, after the ardent supplication of the mayor of Itri, they went to the Sanctuario to revere the Virgin Saint of the Civita. The hearts of the canters were filled with joy and the merry trip changed faces in devoted pilgrimage, when it had reached the strata of the mountain. This valley that from the first echo of hurrah, resounds again of then those sacred hymns…”


Pasqua Procession in Tarquinia

April 29, 2009 at 22:58 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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Procession I

Procession I

4/12/2009 Today we arrived in time to spend Easter with family in Tarquinia. Last time we visited we were shown a special video of the Pasqua Procession held in Tarquinia. A beautiful old crucifixion is carried about the town – Tarquinia is a quaint town set outside Roma – a mountainous town with steep hills but rich in charm and character. I was able to video almost all of the Procession, a real treat and a special way to celebrate!





Men of Tarquinia

Men of Tarquinia

As you can see from the photo of the main square, everyone who could possibly fit into the town’s main piazza was there to watch the Procession. Men shot off their rifles with loud bangs, showering the crowds in confetti and smoke. The bells rang out frequently. It was all very exciting and moving to behold!

Later we sat down to dinner enjoying the homemade pasta, stuffed artichokes, cooked finnocchi, salad, cheeses, and wine. Then everyone read through the family history book, adding more names of course of those new babies along with a marriage that took place not long ago. They are very enthusiastic also and want me to continue to research!

Carpi and Area

April 29, 2009 at 22:12 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | 1 Comment
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4/11/2009 We have not been able to connect to the internet so I might have to save my blog posts and publish when I return to a connection. We have always rented cars through AutoEurope in the past without issue. This trip we again rented from them. However, this time the little Fiat we have rented is the most extremely uncomfortable car we have ever rented! Granted it is an economy car and small but the back seat is like a rock! Now to boot we find the cigarette lighter is not functioning properly. That means no charging cell phones or laptop! The transformer sparked when I plugged it in the electric plug in the house which made me considerably nervous about attempting to charge the laptop so I will wait a bit. Having a working cigarette lighter would have meant the laptop could be charged more easily. And that does not include the frustrations of the cell phones!

Today we went to TIM to see about my SIM card for the cell phone. Found out that AT&T will not let me use another SIM card for some odd reason – never had that issue before so not sure if it is an Italian thing or AT&T – but it was easier to ignore the remaining few Euros on the card and buy new card along with new little phone – it will be good for two years – a great bargain to have the convenience of a local phone to use!

So far everyone is very enthusiastic about the family history book I made – they are fascinated with the family history and want more! They are also excited about my intended project so will aid in all photography efforts and research with me! That was the best news because I was not sure if they would support the efforts or not! Tomorrow we will be in Tarquinia for Easter – Pasqua!

Arrival in Milano

April 29, 2009 at 19:04 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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Maria's pizza

Maria's pizza

We arrived in Milano mid-morning. SwissAir was a very smooth flight but they have the tightest seats I have ever had the displeasure of occupying! Their service and their food made up for the seats – the staff were delightful. They served everyone with smiles!

After a quick cappuccino at the airport to refresh ourselves, we drove to our sister\’s apartment in Milano. After hugs and kisses all around, Maria served us an incredible meal. There were all of our favorites in one sitting! The artichokes and grilled vegetables were wonderful! Along with pasta we were treated to a family recipe of a mixed meat pie, cheeses, fruits, salad, fresh tomato pizza, and spinach pie. Enough food for an army! Naturally our plans to stay only a short while before leaving for Carpi were forgotten as we talked and talked. They enjoyed reading through the genealogy book we had brought and more family stories were shared. One interesting fact we learned explained some of the confusion about dates of marriages and births – seems we had a few minor errors that we knew had to be wrong but were never able to find correct information. Now we have it! The only problem we have encountered so far is not having enough time!

Stuffed Bread

Stuffed Bread


Chocolate Stuffed Torte

Chocolate Stuffed Torte

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 – 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!


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!

Sapore di Italia

March 31, 2009 at 16:59 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Itri, Italy | 1 Comment
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This weekend we were mightily blessed as the guests of special friends. (Yes, Annette – you are a very special friend) With a hectic work schedule for me, babysitting for grandbabies as needed, and planning for our vacation, free time is rather difficult and precious. So it was tremendous joy to be invited to dinner with our friends. As they are always fun to be with, we anticipated we would once again have an enjoyable evening. And of course, we did! Stepping into their home is to feel at home! Their lovely home is a slice of Italy right here in Florida – and their warm welcomes and fabulous meals are lovingly shared in true Italian style. Our host grilled the main course to perfection while we chatted around the table. That began a sumptuous dinner of tomato salad, fried zucchinis, roasted potatoes, steaks,, delightful wine, homemade stuffed breads (Annette I need your recipes!) that were a meal in themselves – a dinner to rival any four or five star restaurant! Desert was an assortment of Italian pasties with steaming cups of espresso and frosted glasses of limoncello!

But it is the good conversation, the exchange of stories, laughter, and family that makes this the beautiful home it is! Talk of home, family, and of course Itri, and again the evening turns into the wee hours! Especially as we plan our meeting together in about 3 weeks in Itri! Their trip will have them turn southward to visit family while ours will take us northward to Milano but it is the anticipation of time together in Itri that excites us all. For it is Itri that is always central in everything we know now – a beginning, a middle, and an end to our plans and hopes and dreams – it is home!

Thanks Annette and Frank for your hospitality and friendship – a wonderful example of why we so love Itri – GRAZIE MILLE – BUON VIAGGIO!

Cooking with Family… or… How I hate to Diet!

March 13, 2009 at 17:04 | Posted in ancestry, family history, Itri, Italy | 3 Comments
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We’re a typical Italian family (even if I am was not born Italian, my husband claims I am one now thanks to 32 years of marriage with him!). This means most of life takes place around the dining room table – or in the kitchen, laughing, yelling, crying… all the stuff that makes a family real and vibrant and breathing! It seems almost every family story starts or ends in the kitchen, sitting eating, or cooking! We have four young adult sons who all still enjoy returning home to family meals — and now our granddaughters are falling right into line.

We laugh till we cry when the girls start begging mommy to let them go to grandma and grandpa’s house because they are hungry. Meg visits several days a week for lunch and enjoys grandpa’s fresh baked bread. Katie and Julie insist it is “pasta zoulie” at our house that is best. That’s pasta fagioli (pasta and beans) for the rest of you!

So this Christmas I visited the MyCanvas program on to make a family cookbook for everyone. I realized that those times in the kitchen were pretty special about the time the sons had good friends returning on furlough from the service who came to visit, too. We are “mom and pops’ to a lot of great guys who have been friends for most of their lives with our sons. Yet these young men so mature and even married will still look forward to “coming home for dinner” at our table!

So it was that I decided to make family our own family cookbook. I filled it with photos of great meals over the years, someof us in the kitchen actually cooking, and, of course, the finished presentation! Each recipe page featured a few lines about who taught me the recipe or who was the best at making it or when we enjoyed it the most. Anything that would make the recipe relevant to each other and remind them years from now of family times together no matter where life takes them. Hopefully it will be the memories of long talks until late in the evening at the big table that will guide and sustain them no matter what curves life throws them or what the economy does or who comes into or leaves their lives. Because as every Italian knows, if the sauce is cooking and the smell is tempting them to stir the pot and dip a piece of bread, Mama and Papa’s love is still surrounding them, embracing them, holding them tight!

Try this sure to please everyone recipe:

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb. bacon 2-4 eggs 1/4 cup basil

2- 4 tblspns. cream (I use milk)

at least 8 ounces grated cheese – good quality 1-2 lbs. spaghetti

Brown bacon until crispy and crumbly. St aside. Drain pan but reserve 2 tblspns. bacon grease. Add cream to the bacon grease and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Set pan aside. Boil spaghetti. While it is boiling, scramble eggs in separate bowl. add basil and cheese to the raw eggs and mix. It will be a thick batter consistency. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse. Add back to pot – add warm milk and bacon grease to pasta – then stir in egg and cheese mixture. The heat of the cooked pasta and warm milk will “cook” the raw eggs. Toss well with the crumbled bacon, reserving some as garnish – put in large bowl – top with last of crumbled bacon. Once they stop eating the only thing you will hear is “Why didn’t you make more of this?”!

Tick, Tick, Tick…

March 11, 2009 at 14:33 | Posted in ancestry, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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If today’s post seems to ramble, bear with me – my thoughts and emotions are also rambling today. I hear the ticking of a clock in my head and I would rather not be hearing it. Today I am sixty… 60…. SIXTY… how did this happen? When? Why? I am not ready to be sixty….that is more than half my life gone. I do not feel sixty (although there are admittedly days I feel 120 but that’s another post some other day).I am still trying to come to grips with forty. Yes, the photo found here online is current. I just plain am not ready to be old. Who wants to be old..OLD?? Sigh. When I was young(er), I often would comment on women who tried to be younger than their age. This observation of course, does not apply to Sophia Loren .. probably one of the most beautiful women ever — someone I want to be just like when I finish growing up! Talk about gorgeous in style, looks, attitude!

See — told you I was rambling today! I wanted to grow old gracefully – be the gracious, sophisticated, even elegant older woman.  We seem to respect only youth and beauty – hence the booming plastic surgery statistics. It’s not that I want to undergo the knife – I just am not ready to give up energy, vitality, sexy life yet. Who is proud anymore of being their age? We all seem to want to be something we are not. For me it is not just tied up in a number. I never discuss age with anyone. I hate they think of me as old and over the hill (yeah.. I know dumb point given conceivably the entire world could be in the know now thanks to the Internet). At work, I strive to be a little better, a little more efficient, a little more organized, a little more knowledgable than the others to compensate for age. At home, I struggle to be more active, to do more work, again to belie my age. But it is still more than that. What have I accomplished in my life? It is more than half over – what do I have to show for it or have I wasted too much time? Even though I went to college for five years as a teen and twenty-something, I returned to college for a BS in Business Administration to update myself. I finished with a 3.8 overall – so old dogs do learn new tricks. I changed careers in my fifties from retail and office management to the medical field. I know I have contributed to saving lives. So that probably also counts for something. My husband and I together raised four great sons to adulthood. They are all successful in their own rights. That should count too. In the past I did church volunteering to feed hungry folks, taught classes at church for women’s groups, did church counseling. We have done emergency shelter care for families and for children when a need arose.

Yet, has it been enough? I realized today I have lived longer than my father – he died four weeks before his sixtieth birthday. Last month we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary – by today’s standards, that is an accomplishment too. As I work on all the family records from Itri, I note the women in the family who died in their twenties and thirties. There are few records to detail why or how – life in old Italy was difficult and death early was not unusual. Did they have time to think about growing old? Did they want or expect to accomplish anything worthwhile or bigger than themselves — or did they consider being the best person they knew how to be enough?  Was their focus merely surviving – or did it entail wanting to make a better life for their children than they knew? Once again I find myself caught in thinking of the past generations. I want to know, to understand, to feel what they did — I want their lessons to be ones I learn and then pass on to the next generations to come. That is the accomplishment I seek – to pass that love of family above all to the next generations to anchor them no matter what they face.

Happy Birthday me.

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