Archive | December, 2013

Happy New Year – Buon Anno!

31 Dec

A warm thank you to all who have found and followed, which had over 10,000 views from 83 countries in 2013. When I began writing in 2011, little did I realize the joy this blog would bring me. It is such fun for me to share my thoughts and experiences and know others enjoy reading about them as well.

A few things in store for Blogginginitaly 2014…

A winter visit to Rome… (haven’t done that since I was a student!)


as well as Cortona, which I’ve never been to in winter!


Much more about Alex and his travels to Italy


and a summer journey for Len and me to Alex’s birthplace, Pietrabbondante.


Pietrabbondante (Photo credit: diffendale)

As we anticipate our summer return to Cortona, we know it will be filled with wonderful new and familiar experiences, great food and wine, the tranquillity of piazza life, and so many roads less travelled to discover and share with you. But best of all, we know we will be spending time with dear friends we have made through our travels.

May your new year be filled with health and time spent with loved ones, and may you find  time to enjoy a sunset, wherever your roads lead you.


Happy New Year and Buon Anno 2014!



Buon Natale and Happy Birthday!

25 Dec

Wishing you and yours a very 

Merry Christmas!


And wishing our daughter Benita a very

Happy 21st Birthday!




Feast of the Seven Fishes

24 Dec

If you grew up in an Italian Catholic family, no doubt you will eat fish on Christmas Eve. La Vigilia di Natale, or The Vigil of Christmas, celebrates the anticipation of the midnight birth of baby Jesus. Similar to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meat is not eaten on Christmas Eve as part of the abstinence tradition. For Italians, of course, abstinence doesn’t mean not eating, just not eating meat. Instead, dinner is a large family meal celebrated with seven fishes and/or various seafood.


Why the number seven? No one knows for sure, but there are several theories. Two popular ones are that seven is the most repeated number in the Bible, appearing over 700 times. Another comes from Genesis 2:2:  By the seventh day, God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Whatever the number of dishes, traditionally the meal will include various pastas with seafood, sautéed and fried fish, and fish salads.




A photograph of Fried calamari (squid).

Whatever your Christmas Eve tradition, may it include a great meal shared with those you love.



Zampognari…Italian Bagpipers!

23 Dec

Zampognari Keep Alive the Tradition of Festive Bagpipe Playing

Although we often associate bagpipers with the English and Scots, did you know that bagpipers are an important part of Christmastime tradition in Italy? Read on to discover the history.

Article reprinted from Italy Magazine, Barry Lillie | Monday, December 23, 2013 – 10:00

No Italian Christmas would be complete without the sound of bagpipes. Everywhere from the piazzas of Rome to remote hillside villages, the Zampognari (pipers) continue the tradition of festive bagpipe playing that dates back to ancient Roman times.

Traditionally, the pipers were shepherds who, in a bid to earn an extra income, would travel down from their mountain homes at Christmas time to perform for the townsfolk in their markets squares. The regions where you’re most likely to see a piper are Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise, Puglia and Lazio.

The traditional dress of the piper is made of short breeches with criss-crossed leather leggings, sheepskin vests with a woollen cloak and peaked cap; there are regional changes such as velvet jackets or neckerchiefs, but the look of the piper remains mostly the same it has for centuries.

Legend tells us that of the shepherds who visited the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, after gazing upon the baby Jesus, some took out their bagpipes and played. In keeping with the legend, the pipers will stop at public Nativity scenes for a few minutes of quiet contemplation.

Historically, the piper is accompanied by a shawm, a medieval woodwind instrument; however, today’s pipers are usually accompanied by an oboe player. They play traditional music, with a popular song being the Christmas hymn, Tu scendi dalle stelle (You come down from the stars), written by Saint Alphonsus Maria de ‘ Liguori, the bishop of Sant’Agata de’ Goti.

Watch the zampognari play “Tu scendi dalle stelle”:

Makes me wonder if my paternal grandfather’s ancestors played the bagpipes as Alex’s family was from Abruzzo. Perhaps someday I’ll find a photo.



Cinema Paradiso

14 Dec

If you love Italian films, it’s hard not to love Cinema Paradiso, a story about love, loss and friendship set in Sicily. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film’s release. The 32-year-old writer/director of the film, Giuseppe Tonatore, considered it semi autobiographical.

(Spoiler alert: if you have not seen the film, and plan to do so, don’t read on or watch the trailer.)

Cinema Paradiso is the beautiful, enchanting story of a young boy’s lifelong love affair with the movies. Set in an Italian village, Salvatore finds himself enchanted by the flickering images at the Cinema Paradiso, yearning for the secret of the cinema’s magic. When the projectionist, Alfredo, agrees to reveal the mysteries of moviemaking, a deep friendship is born.

In the final scene, Salvatore, having returned to his native town for the funeral of his “father-figure” and mentor Alfredo, views the film reel gifted to him by Alfredo’s wife. Much to Salvatore’s surprise and delight, the old film reel contains all the kissing scenes that were cut by the local priest over the years when Alfredo and Salvatore screened the films together for the local cinema.

For your viewing pleasure, sit back and enjoy Cinema Paradiso’s final scene set to stirring music by Ennio Morriconi entitled Love Theme for Nata.



For more on the film’s history,

Through His Words: Day Four

5 Dec

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Four:

Tuesday, July 19, 1938 
On board ship        
Chapter 4

Darling Maude,

I got up rather late this morning due to a nasty sunburn on my legs, especially my shins. The sun is different on the ocean, much more intense and the salt water seems to add to its power.

Apparently, Alex and his new friends were all a bit sunburned and decided to sit in their deck chairs fully clothed for a day.

Aboard Conte di Savoia

Aboard Conte di Savoia, Alex (right) and friends

Alex loved being near water, whether it was spending time at Wilson Avenue Beach (Lake Michigan) in Chicago with Maude and friends,


Maude, Alex, Margaret


Alex (front center)

or heading to Paw Paw Lake in neighboring Michigan.

Paw Paw Lake: "Throw out the Life Line

Paw Paw Lake: “Throw out the Life Line” 1912

Ironically, my brother Bill bought a home on Paw Paw Lake 93 years later. Now we know what led him to that location!

This afternoon I made an inspection of the first class quarters and believe me, there is a lot of difference between 1st class and tourist class.

Alex was not extravagant, but he was very classy and did appreciate beautiful things. Sometime after they were married, he designed and built three three-flat buildings in Chicago and kept the third one for his family. It was beautiful with a sunken living room, a large dining room, three bedrooms, two baths, a butler’s pantry and a very large kitchen. Unfortunately, when the depression hit, his tenants could no longer pay rent, and he lost the buildings to the tune of more than one million dollars.

The lounges, bars, decks, swimming pool, etc., are simply gorgeous, but there are only 200 1st class passengers on board.


The Grand Colonna Hall, (Steven Ujifusa)


Conte Di Savoia First Class passengers in dinner dress visiting the stabilizer system – a first for trans-Atlantic liners in the 1930s.
(,  Scott McBee’s New York Social Diary )


First Class Lounge, (From Scott McBee’s New York Social Diary)

I also went down to see how the other class lives (3rd class). Well, there is also quite a difference between there and tourist.

If you’ve seen the movie Titanic, you get the picture.

There was a fine time in the main lounge tonight with orchestra, dancing, and finally a great show put on by home talent, that is, the passengers. They sang, told stories, or played instruments. I did not sing “O Sole Mio” as it was murdered plenty throughout the evening by others.

O Sole Mio, translated as My Sunshine, is a globally known song written in Napoli in 1898, with lyrics by Giovanni Capurro and melody by Eduardo di Capua. It has been performed by a number of famous artists including  Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, The Three Tenors, and Il Volo.

Caruso alongside his piano

Caruso alongside his piano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie tonight was “The Bad Man of Brimstone” with Wallace Barry, so I still have yet to see a new picture. 


We passed through the Azores today but it was so cloudy over the islands it was almost impossible to see anything. I was quite disappointed because I could not take a picture of it for you.


Azores, (Google Photo)

The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and is located about 1,500 km west of Lisbon. Quite a spectacular site – no wonder Alex was disappointed.

Tomorrow I expect to make an inspection of the engine room through permission of the offices.

Being a registered professional engineer and architect, he was certainly interested in the many parts of the ship, including the massive engine room and the stabilizers.


Love to the children and of course you. 


To be continued.


To see The Three Tenors having fun with O Sole Mio, click on the link.

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