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Happy Birthday to Me!

22 May

Once upon a time, 69 years ago to be exact, this little girl came into the world. With that smile on her face, and a twinkle in her eyes, she was ready for adventure.

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20 years later, her parents gave her the opportunity of a lifetime – to spend her junior year abroad at Loyola Chicago John Felice Rome Center. As a Christmas gift, her Mother mailed her a scrapbook of her life, including the photo and words above.

That little girl became this young woman who experienced a year of unforgettable memories, experiences, and friendships.

Roma 1971-72 ©blogginginitaly.com

And during that year, her love for Italy was planted deep within her heart (though obviously not the fear of driving a motorized bike through Roma)!

Roma 1971-72  ©blogginginitaly.com

Before the school year ended, she even celebrated her 21st birthday in Rome, something that in the early 70’s would seem more like a dream than reality. How lucky I am that she is me.

5/22/1972 21st Birthday ©blogginginitaly.com

I never could have imagined then that celebrating my birthday in Italy would become a wonderful tradition. I have Len to thank for that. And although today we are dearly missing our Cortona life, our incredible friendships keep us strongly connected.

So my birthday gift to me is seeing the many familiar faces here. Till we return, thanks for the love, thanks for the friendship, and thanks for these memories.

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Ciambra Monreale 2016 ©blogginginitaly.com

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What were we laughing about???
(Clearly something off-color!)

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While all of these photos are not birthday or anniversary celebrations, on one birthday eve, these musicians delighted me with a spontaneous performance in Piazza Repubblica.

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Our 30th Anniversary 2017 ©blogginginitaly.com

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Taormina 2018 ©blogginginitaly.com

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Packing up for the season. 2019 ©blogginginitaly.com

Anniversary#32  2019 ©blogginginitaly.com

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Our last night Cortona, 2019. Who knew???  2019 ©blogginginitaly.com

We are living in the most unusual of circumstances, yet we are very fortunate. We are all well, and those in our extended family who have jobs are working harder than ever.

Personally, we have connected with many people we have not seen in years. Strange circumstances do offer some unique opportunities.

And that takes me back to my year in Roma. Just this week, many of us gathered for a zoom call. Familiar names and faces of Campers, as we had named ourselves, from our magical year in Rome. There were people on the call I hadn’t seen in 47 years, but the time we spent together in Italy binds us forever.

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I’m forever grateful for all that Italy has given to Len and me. We’ve had incredible opportunities to discover our ancestral roots, explore Italy and Italian life with family and friends, and make new and lasting friendships. That little girl has had many reasons to keep smiling throughout her life.

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There’s so many ways to celebrate, and as you can see, this year I spent many happy hours going through years of photos.  Each one represents a special memory – hence my birthday gift to me. (Apologies for the quantity and for anyone I am missing.)

So,
Happy Birthday to me,
Tanti Auguri a me, 

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and a grateful toast to each of you
for making me smile.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day 2020! Buona Festa della Mamma!

10 May

This post is a repeat of my annual sentiments with a few added photos. In this time of Covid-19,  since most new photos consist of Zoom Squares, and hugs are virtual, it’s especially fun seeing these former gatherings! 

Mother’s Day is a special time to remember
how fortunate I am to be part of a long line of strong,
intelligent and loving Italian women, who are missed everyday.

Maude©Blogginginitaly.com

Paternal Grandmother Maude ©blogginginitaly.com

Serafina©Blogginginitaly.com

Maternal Grandmother Serafina ©blogginginitaly.com

 

Benita©Blogginginitaly.com

My Mother Benita (at my wedding) ©blogginginitaly.com

My parents wedding 1947 ©blogginginitaly.com

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(L-R visiting Paris) Aunt Marilyn, Mom, Aunt Florence ©blogginginitaly.com

Aunt Marion ©blogginginitlay.com

It is also a day to celebrate
my incredible sisters, nieces and cousins, (pictured and not),
who are not only amazing Mothers,

but also determined women who incorporate
the traditions learned from our ancestors as they create new ones.

Sisters ©blogginginitlay.com

Celebrating our parents 50th at Trevi Fountain, 1997 ©blogginginitlay.com

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To all of them, 
and to the dear friends/wonderful Mothers
I have met throughout my life’s journey,
I wish you all a beautiful day filled with love,
virtual family hugs
and relaxation.

And to my daughter, Benita, 

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and my mother, Benita, 

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my forever gratitude for making Mother’s Day so special for me. 

Happy Mother’s Day!
Buona Festa della Mamma!

Ciao,
Judy

Cortona: Familiar Faces and Places

6 Apr

Clearly, we love our time in Cortona. The ancient town is beautiful and historic, however, it is the wonderful local people and the incredible friendships we have made that keep us, and so many others, returning year after year.

Here are several photos, in no particular order, and taken over the years, of some of the locals or their establishments. My  apologies to those for whom I don’t have photos.


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As mentioned, these are just a few of the hard working people and places that keep Cortona functioning. There are countless others, so many more I now realize I need to photograph.

Like millions of people around the world today, their hopes, dreams and livelihoods are on hold. Hopefully in the not SO distant future, their doors, and ours, will be open once again.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Farm to Table and Friends

27 Sep

Restaurants these days tout farm to table, and diners love participating in this fresh approach to cooking and eating. But when the farm and table are your own, it’s extra special.

Italy is well known for many wonderful things, with food always ranking high on the list. Great food comes from quality ingredients, and in Italy, that’s a way of life. When we first started traveling through the Italian countryside, Len remarked that Italy is one big farm. How true that is. Not just grapes and olives, although they are in abundance, but hectares and hectares of fruits, vegetables, and grains as well. In addition, the fertile soil, topography and weather contribute to regional differences in product variety.

I have written a lot about the fun we have with “our” small orto, as well as the abundant fruits of our “collective” labor. And since the orto is surrounded on three sides by Fernanda’s relatives’ farms, we are rewarded in quadruple.

From picked:

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to this:

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Or these:

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to these:

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This crate:

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becomes Fernanda’s vegetable soup:

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During the fall, when the weather is perfect, Carlo “hunts” for mushrooms, 

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so we enjoy these:

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Then there was this just picked bundle,

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which produced these:

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Grapes, you ask, but of course:

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and figs? In abundance!

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All of which makes for a beautiful and bountiful apericena (appetizer/dinner)!

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And then there’s the fun, lots and lots of fun. Regarding the next photo, don’t ask as I won’t tell 😎.

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Sunshine, fresh food, a good red and loads of laughter – perfect ingredients for good health and good times.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Re-entry…

18 Aug

And it feels so good!

In Italy, August 15 is both a national holiday, Ferragosto, as well as a religious one, Feast of the Assumption. For many Italians, it is also the unofficial beginning of the summer holiday season. Parts of Italy effectively shut down until September, as people head to the lakes, countryside or a coast, or to towns like Cortona which are filled with events.

Since I can’t say this very often, I need to share that our trip over was incredibly smooth.  Flying time was only 8.11 hours and touch down to gate took less than five minutes.

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We arrived to the welcome arms of Carlo and Fernanda and to a delicious homemade lunch.

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Afterward, Carlo accompanied us to check the orto (garden) progress, but lunch and the basket on the counter were a positive telltale sign.

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Although May was cold and rainy, warm sun and sufficient rain since then have made for vibrant green colors, strong vegetables and very huge and happy sunflowers.

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And then on to our house and the familiarity of the view.

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The next night, we were ready to roll and attended the Ferragosto Sagra Della Bistecca, or steak festival, in the parterre with some friends.

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Before:

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During:

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Our table:

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The food… and yes, we did split them!

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The fountain was flowing and the Ol’ Boogies Rockabilly Band was playing,

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so we decided to start dancing,

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while everyone else was in the food queue. Good we came early!

After a lot of dancing and good laughs, and nearing 11 PM, the two guys on the left headed to town to get some Tuscanos, or small Italian cigars,

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while the rest of us stopped by the DJ station. The dance area was empty, so we moved right in.

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Before long, we attracted a large crowd and were soon doing the Macarena!

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I even bought one of the flashing balloons.

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Once the dance area got too crowded, we headed back into town to find the guys. Naturally, we found them at Tuscher with Massimo!

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We joined right in.

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It was 2 AM before our heads hit the pillows.

The next night, Fernanda had us over for dinner. We tried hard to convince her we should go out, but she insisted and treated us to a delicious aperitivo spread including her homemade liver pate. This was followed by roasted pepper risotto, and then stuffed zucchini from the garden and meatballs. Dessert was gelato topped with her homemade cherry sauce. We ate al fresco and my phone was inside, so no photos except one group selfie.

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When we got back to town, a big band was still playing in the piazza.

The next day, Len and I had a Tuscher Sunday, although it was only Saturday. After a long walk, we stopped by for a mid day vino. A bit later, a first old friend stopped by, then another, and so on, until eventually a few of us went to dinner.

And that’s how it goes in Cortona… Food, Friends and Fun. Repeat.

Should you miss one sagra, there’s another right behind. Out with the bistecca on Friday and in with the Porcini on Saturday, although we opted out. Enough sagras for one weekend.

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But as for friends and fun, there’s never too much. In the words of Cyndi Lauper:

Oh girls, they wanna have fun…

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval Market Cortona

4 Jun

June arrived in Cortona and brought along not only warm sunny weather but also the first of several annual summer festivals. Last weekend was the Medieval Market filled with games, costumes, food, shops and entertainment. Here’a a sampling…

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And of course, great sunsets,

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and great friends!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

Friends and Sunshine: A Perfect Remedy

16 May

For the last four days, Len and I have been housebound. Seems as though we succumbed to the Italian “colpo d’aria” or a “hit of air” to our eyes, nose, or ears. In simple terms, we each got a very bad combination of cold, bronchitis, and cough. The other culprit, as the Italians would say, is the weather, and I’d agree. Hard to believe it is May and on some days, we are still wearing down jackets or vests and heavy scarves. But enough already as there is always a bright side.

Each of the last four days, we have received calls and messages from friends checking in to see how we are doing, offering to shop or cook for us, or dropping things at our front door. Seriously, the kindness is almost overwhelming. And today, since the sun was finally shining brightly, Fernanda insisted we go to her house in the country so she could cook for us as we sat in the sun. How could we resist?

The sun was shining brightly, lunch was delicious, and the vistas were spectacular,  

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including the spectacle of her roses in full bloom fronted by a row of lavender.

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The Italians have a phrase for all of this as well…

L’aria di campagna, la salute ci guadagna…  country air equals health benefits.

The day was just what a doctor might have ordered.  Even as we were leaving, I couldn’t believe the view in my rear view mirror. And yes, tonight we are definitely feeling better. 

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Friends and sunshine, a perfect remedy for all that ails!

Ciao,
Judy

 

Happy Mother’s Day 2019- Buona Festa della Mamma!

12 May

(A repeat of my annual sentiments with a few added photos.)

Mother’s Day is a special time to remember
how fortunate I am to be part of a long line of strong,
intelligent and loving Italian women.

Maude©Blogginginitaly.com

Paternal Grandmother Maude ©Blogginginitaly.com

Serafina©Blogginginitaly.com

Maternal Grandmother Serafina ©Blogginginitaly.com

 

Benita©Blogginginitaly.com

My Mother Benita (at my wedding) ©Blogginginitaly.com

My parents wedding 1947 ©blogginginitaly.com

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(L-R visiting Paris) Aunt Marilyn, Mom, Aunt Florence ©Blogginginitaly.com

Aunt Marion ©blogginginitaly.com

It is also a day to celebrate
my incredible sisters, nieces and cousins, (pictured and not),
who are not only amazing Mothers,

but also determined women who incorporate
the traditions learned from our ancestors as they create new ones.

©blogginginitaly.com

Poor quality but fun memory! ©blogginginitaly.com

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To all of them, 
and to the dear friends/wonderful Mothers
I have met throughout my life’s journeys…
I wish you all a beautiful day filled with love, family and relaxation.

And to my Benita… my forever gratitude for giving me this special day.

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Happy Mother’s Day – Buona Festa della Mamma!

Ciao,
Judy

Productive Relaxation, Italian Style

24 Apr

In Italy, there is a sight commonly found in smaller towns – men sitting on benches, or standing in small groups, discussing everything from local politics to international sports events. Meanwhile, their wives are shopping, visiting, cooking, cleaning, etc.  What they all have in common is the phrase: Siamo in pensione, or, we are retired. 

We, too, take this retirement thing seriously. Take productive relaxation for example, not an oxymoron but instead an art.

Fernanda had today off, so our day began in her garden where she prepared breakfast – her delicious yogurt cake and cappuccino.

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After enjoying the sunshine and planning for our vegetable garden, we drove to Panicale, one of our favorite little borgos about 45 minutes from Cortona, and a first visit for Fernanda.

In 2018, Panicale, in Umbria, was listed as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.

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Although it is small and easy to walk around, it is not the easiest of villages to find. But GPS has gotten us there every time.

The medieval hill town overlooks Lago Trasimeno, a site where in 217 BC, Hannibal and his legions ambushed Roman legions along the banks.

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As you can see from the map below, the streets are narrow and form concentric ovals.

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Panicale still retains its medieval castle, which was once surrounded by a moat,

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as well as other well-preserved charming buildings.

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It also has a few unique door bells!

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No matter which way you walk, all streets seem to lead to the historical center’s Piazza Umberto I,

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where there is a travertine fountain, (formerly an ancient cistern), dating back to 1473.

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The piazza is surrounded by a few eateries and shops, including our favorite – Bar del Gallo, (lower right).

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The staff is always friendly,

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and the melanzana (eggplant) is always delicious.

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Of course, there are other menu items, but for us, it’s too good to pass up. And Fernanda agreed it was one of the best she has ever eaten.

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Perhaps best of all at Bar del Gallo is the owner, Aldo Gallo, a man whose warm smile and genuine hospitality keeps one coming back for more.

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Today we learned that Bar del Gallo earned a gold cup award in a coffee competition, an award well-deserved. Complimenti Aldo!

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We said our goodbyes and drove the long way home, stopping at a nursery to select our plants: 10 tomato (three varieties), and nine zucchini.

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Why nine zucchini, you might ask? Well, last year, we had an ever-lasting supply of zucchini flowers, (actually too much of a good thing!) and very few zucchini, so Len did some research. Apparently, zucchini should be planted in “hills” of three plants, close together. This is because when the plants flower, they produce both masculine and feminine flowers, and apparently, they need to do their thing “nature-ly” (cross-pollinate) to produce zucchini! Who knew???

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Well, we’ll see what happens. Updates, and hopefully zucchini, to follow in a few months.

Grazie, Aldo, for another lovely afternoon in Panicale. See you again soon. 

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And that’s how we spend a very productive day in a most relaxing way, Italian style.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOCCE Cortona

24 Aug

When we lived in Austin, we actually had a bocce set. As I recall, non of us knew the rules, so we made them up depending on who and how many were playing. And that held true until yesterday, when we learned to play bocce at the hand of a champion!

Many years ago, we are told, Cortona had a bocce court in/near Porta Colonna, before it became a parking lot. Today, however, bocce is played just outside of Cortona in Tavernelle.

There we found  BOCCIODROMO Communal, or the community bocce dome. Not just any dome mind you, but a semi professional one that held the special olympics some years ago. And according to the Special Olympics website: Next to soccer and golf, bocce is the third most participated sport in the world.

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Inside are three bocce lanes made of cement and covered with a special resin. Championship banners and trophies of all sizes adorn the walls.

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We were graciously met by Lidio, a local champion, who proceeded to demonstrate several methods of tossing the bocce.

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We divided ourselves into two teams and learned basic rules as we played. First team to 12 points would win.

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I must admit, I was hooked. Although the basic principle of the sport is to roll a bocce ball closest to the pallina or target ball, there are so many styles and strategies as well as a great deal of competitiveness at play.

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And the more we learned, the more competitive we became.

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Lidio even helped with measuring who was closest to the pallina.

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Unfortunately, I was not on the winning team, but it was such great fun for all that these two characters decided to play one more time while Lidio gave some of us more advanced instruction.

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Many thanks to Lidio for his time, instruction, and most of all, patience,

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from his new BOCCE fans!

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Ciao,
Judy

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