An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Nana, With Love

Nana, do you remember . . .

the first time you met my parents after Joe and I were engaged, and we all played Trivial Pursuit together?

how you would be the Jujube Fairy when any of the grandkids visited, sneaking into their rooms at night and leaving a pile of Jujubes on the nightstand?

when you gave me your sewing maching and, as a result, I learned to sew curtains and Halloween costumes?

when you took me for a drive in your convertible and you were wearing that cute, floppy beach hat?

the matching flannel nightshirts you made for Joe and me that we absolutely loved?

when, before the baptism of every grandchild, you would spend an hour ironing all three layers of the baptismal gown that has been in the family since 1925?

how you and Papa took us all blueberry picking and you were so short that we kept losing you in the blueberry patch?

when you gave Nicholas and Jonathan $15 each and then took them to the One Dollar Store and let them shop . . . and no parents allowed?

all the times you, Lisa and I would have lunch at Nordstrom's Cafe and then go shopping?

and do you remember how when the boys were babies and kept saying nana, we teased you and said they already knew your name when, in fact, they were really saying banana?

Well, we remember these things and more. We always will.

We love you and we already miss you.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Because You Asked . . .

Between emails, messages in the combox, and even a phone call . . . okay, I get it, you want to see the watch.


The reason I didn't post one in the first place was because of the it's-the-story-behind-the-watch-that-really-matters theme I had going on.

But, okay. You want to see it.


I wear it alone, in all its glory, or paired with a chunky silver bracelet I have. A chunky watch AND a chunky bracelet . . . together?

Certo. E` bellissimo.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crossing Over to the Smart Side

Growing up I would see my Mom or my aunts sitting at the exit of every roller coaster or thrill ride at Disney World, waiting for the rest of us to come out.

I used to think: Come on, it's so much fun!

As a teen I would see my Mom (or my aunts) again sitting at the exits, chatting away while the rest of us went on to high heights and thrilling thrills.

I used to think: Good grief.

As a new Mom, I would see groups of Moms (of all ages) waiting at each exit ramp for their loved ones to come out.

I used to think: I'm never going to be a Mom like that . . . I'm going on those rides with my family . . . I'm going to be a cool mom.

Well, yesterday at Six Flags I realized that I have officially become one of those moms...

The kind of Mom who walks her family to a ride, wishes them well, then sits/stands at the exit ramp holding everyone's drinks, hats, and keys.

Now I think:
Why do I want my spine rearranged?
Why do I want my neck to be whipped about?
Why do I want to be dizzy? And light-headed?

What, am I stupid?

No, I have officially crossed over to the smart side . . . I just don't know why it took me so long.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Do You Hide a Volcano?

It began with a simple question: So, where is Vesuvius from here?

On cue, Nonna and Nonno pointed . . . in completely opposite directions.

The next fifteen minutes Joe and I sat back and watched the intense
discussion and argument that ensued. At one point, the wine glasses
and table napkins were used to portray the geography around the
Bay of Naples. Even the poor waiter was pulled into it.

I mean, it's a volcano for goodness sakes. How do you hide a volcano??

Before you know it, everyone was pointing in every possible direction.

So, who was right, Nonna or Nonno?

I am not saying . . . I know when to keep my mouth shut:0)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Story Behind My Capri Watch

I can't think of the Island of Capri without sighing. The rowboats moored in the marina, the winding streets and alleys, the dazzlingly white buildings, the flowers spilling out of pots and balconies . . . it was all so beautiful.

We walked for hours, and in exploring the piazza we passed a jewelry shop showcasing a Capri Watch, sold exclusively on the island, with a big face and a white band.

Now, before I continue I need to explain something: some women collect shoes, some like handbags, some purchase outfits, but I like watches. That is my jewelry of choice. And the bigger, the better.

I walked on, only to have my husband call me back and pull me into the store.

When the owner opened the case and slid the Capri Watch on my wrist, he declared it perfect. And because he liked us, and because it was a perfect day, and because he had a generous soul, he was going to offer us a sconto.

Now things were getting fun.

While a sconto literally means discount, it really conveys more than that: it's a song and dance routine of doing business the Italian way.

It's the old, toothless man at the market in Poppi who was so delighted that I, an American, spoke Italian that he not only gave me a sconto for the two hand towels I purchased, but then gave me a third one for free.

It's the ticket agent at the train station in Pompeii who gave us a sconto (which, in this case, meant a free ticket) for Timothy because he was un bambino piccolino.

It's the waiter who brought pasta for everyone when we only ordered it for the kids (he said that the chef thought the adults should have some, too). We were not charged for the extra pasta.

It's the gatekeeper at the Oplontis Villa who, because it was late in the day, let us all in free. (But Sh! don't tell anyone! he said with a wink.)

So, the owner of the jewelry store said sconto . . . and that word was music to my husband's ears. While they went back and forth I tried not to smile . . . I had a feeling this song and dance was going to end in a good way.

And it did. The owner declared his price, clutching his heart like it was paining him to offer such a sconto, but with a twinkle in his eye that said otherwise.

My husband pulled out his wallet, frowning like he was displeased, but with a twinkle in his eye that said otherwise.

When we left the shop, the owner was smiling, my husband was smiling, and I was beaming.

Yesterday I mentioned how it is the story behind the purchase which makes an item special, and this is so true . . . for as much as I like my Capri Watch (and I really, really do like it), I like the memory of that 30 minutes in a jewelry store on the Island of Capri even more.

It really is all about the story.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

So, What Did You Get?

So, what did you get? After a trip to Italy this is the question we get a lot, right after So, how was your vacation?

It's not an easy question to answer simply because the trip itself is the gift: the airline tickets, the nice accommodations, the fine meals, the entrance tickets to museums, and the adventure of it all. These are the things we got.

Then, there are four males in my family and not one likes to shop, so as much as I wanted to browse the ceramic shops in Sorrento I knew it was more important for our vacation to be an experience of eating gelato, riding the funicolare or exploring Pompeii, and NOT of waiting around for Mom to shop.

So for us, when there was a choice of shopping or visiting something, we visited.

That is not to say we didn't get anything, because we did, and it was fun. The boys came back with legos (of course), World Cup jerseys, and a snow globe, or two. Joe bought a leather wallet.

As for me, I try to find ways to bring Italy home with us by purchasing simple things that, when we use them, tell a story. A dish towel with a limoncello recipe from Sorrento, a ceramic salt and pepper shaker, some Italian coffee, a painting from Piazza Navona. Nothing big, but the memory behind each purchase is what really matters.

And then there is this . . .

Verona is the home of Romeo and Juliet and I have seen statues like this all my life. There are also Romeo and Juliet plates, spoons, ash trays, t-shirts, baseball caps--typical tourist souvenirs that, until this visit, held no interest for me.

But two days before returning home I woke up with the idea that I just had to have a Romeo and Juliet statue. For the first time I didn't see it as a souvenir, but as a Veronese tradition. How could I not bring one home? So I asked my beautiful cousin, Martha, to pick one up for me and, to her credit, she didn't even tease me.

So, what did we get?

A wonderful trip AND a statue of Romeo and Juliet.

Of course, there was also the watch Joe bought me on the island of Capri. But that's another story.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Which I Lose My Temper in Rome

Oh, look! I cried. It's the Pantheon! There it is!

The words were no sooner out of my mouth when . . .

Oh, look! cried my husband. It's a McDonald's! There it is!

Oh. my. goodness. Hell hath no fury like a Mom who gets stonewalled when trying to educate her family.

For goodness sakes, you guys! I whispered furiously. We're in Rome. The Eternal City. Surely you're not excited about McDonalds?

But they didn't hear me; in fact, they weren't even listening to me. I was an annoying, pesky fly and it was lunchtime and they were hungry.

As I watched the four of them stroll over toward the Golden Arches, I sat on the edge of the fountain in Piazza della Rotunda with my tour book and my map and my notes in my lap. I was most annoyed.

They returned holding bulging lunch bags and looking a little sheepish, and while they ate I strolled around the piazza taking pictures.

When I took this photo, I sighed. They looked so happy. They looked . . . well, like boys.

Okay. They may not be able to tell you that the oculus in the Pantheon's dome measures 29 feet in diameter, or that Italy's first two kings (Vittore Emanuele II and Umberto I) are buried there . . . but they can tell you where to find a McDonald's in Rome. I guess they learned something.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Their Own Words

International travel takes a lot of planning.

There are so many details to arrange.

So many decisions to make.

So very many things to think of: rain jackets or umbrellas? One rental van or two rental cars? Pompeii or Herculaneum? Capri or no Capri?

But most of all, we knew we wanted our boys to appreciate and fully grasp what a big deal this trip was by having them chronicle their adventures.

Right away, however, we knew travel journals were out. There was no way my boys would agree to journal daily, so we decided on an idea that worked well for us four years ago on their first trip to Italy: we had them write and send postcards to themselves.

It's really a very simple idea. After a day spent sightseeing, they each select a postcard and record the highlights of the day. A postcard is perfect because it not only is a photo of what they saw, but the limited space keeps the torture -- I mean journaling -- to a minimum.

Now that we've returned home, postcards have been arriving daily in the mail. Rome, Naples, Capri, Sorrento, Verona . . . in short, our Italian vacation in their own words.

Dear Me,
Today we visited the Royal Palace in Caserta. It was beautiful, and it was where they filmed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Walking the halls, I get shivers every time I think that Jar-Jar Binks was there.


Dear Me,
St. Peter's is a beautiful church. There is a spot outside that if you stand on it, all the columns behind the front one disappear so you only see the front one. We saw where most of the popes were buried.


Dear Me,
I love Verona. I went frog hunting with Martha.


Dear Me,
Now we are in Verona, where my Nonna's family lives. This has been my favorite part of the trip. I also bought FIFA '09 for my DS.


Dear Me,
Rome was rad! The Colosseum was cool, but the Forum was a bunch of old ruins. St. Peter's was the highlight, but the Vatican Museum was excruciatingly painful.

P.S. To my blogging friend Ellie from IL, who is always so kind to check in with me when I haven't blogged in a while, here . . . a virtual cappuccino for you. Grazie!