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It’s a Wrap!

28 Oct

After our wonderful and relaxing trip to Liguria, we returned to Cortona for the hustle and bustle of our last few weeks.

Whether pool side or terrace sunsets, pizza parties, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, olive picking, day trips, wine tastings – there’s never a shortage of things to do or willing friends with whom to have fun. (Apologies to those for whom I don’t have photos.)

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Similar to the completion of filming a scene, I can’t help but think of the phrase: “It’s a wrap, folks!”

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Since it’s also the week of our anniversary, there were some fun surprises.

A whimsical print Len bought me from Ivan at Il Pozzo Galleria…

as well as a surprise and delightful anniversary celebration. (Intentional misspelling of Len’s name. Long story.)

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Our final night, as is customary, we headed to Tuscher Caffe knowing we would bump into friends, and so we did.

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Four other couples were also leaving the next morning so it was a bit of a challenge getting any group photos.

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After a bit, those of us remaining were hungry, so we called Alessandro at Il Cacciatore and he welcomed us with open arms as usual.

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And then it was time for some final goodbye hugs, after just a few more laughs.

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Saturday morning, we had one last cappuccino before departing. This coffee mug planter was on our table.

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With Cortona in the background, we headed to the town of Fiumicino, where we walked the pier by day and enjoyed the always incredible sun setting the night before flying home.

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So many ask me, “Which do you prefer more, Chicago or Cortona?” For me, the ending of each journey is the beginning of the next. I love them both.

And so, it is a wrap, our 13 trip to our second home.  Till we meet again…Abbracci and Arrivederci!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Liguria

17 Oct

The Italian Riviera, or Italy’s Liguria region, is a crescent-shaped strip of Mediterranean coastline straddling between the south of France and Tuscany.

Map from The Guardian

Unlike many who prefer the Cinque Terre, we headed west from Genoa to the less crowded villages along the Ligurian Sea. During the 19th century, these coastal towns were heavily populated by the British seeking moderate winter months. Today, the Brits seemed to have moved elsewhere, and the beautiful towns are less crowded, less hectic and more relaxing than many seaside “touristy” towns.

That said, these towns are not the easiest to reach. The average trip from Cortona includes three to four trains, and seven to eight hours. To shorten our departure, we spent the first night in Firenze, and then took an early morning train the next day.

Having an afternoon and evening in Firenze was lovely. We first headed over to Piazza Republicca, a place that holds happy memories for us. In 1997, we celebrated my parents 50th anniversary here. (Their room was the one with the beautiful balcony.)

As usual, a musician was playing, and this time he was an extremely talented classical and jazz violinist.

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We stopped for prosecco at Caffè Paszkowski, one of our favorite places in the piazza, and a good place from which to hear the musician.

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I have always believed that the best way to experience a town is to spend the night, and our stay in Firenze confirmed that once again. Take for example the Florence Cathedral, formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Begun in 1296 in the Gothic style, it was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. In the evening, minus the large crowds, you can actually see the buildings from bottom to top.

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The next morning, after only two trains and 4.5 hours, we reached our destination.

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Two years ago, we were introduced to Liguria by friends Daniela and Massimo. This time, on our own, we chose Alassio as our base to celebrate our October anniversary. We were on vacation and the view from our balcony didn’t disappoint.

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Alassio is a town on the western coast of Liguria, approximately 80 kilometres or 50 miles from the French border. It is known for its natural beauty and scenic views along the sea, and for good reason. The sandy beaches go on forever,

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and walking and bike riding are easy along manicured stone paths that reach from town to town.

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The town centre, or Budello, just off the beachfront, is filled with bars, shops, cafès and restaurants.

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Len quickly made a friend during our first lunch at the beach,

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who persistently pecked at Len’s leg when the peanuts were gone!

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The second day, we walked to the next town, Laigueglia, enjoying the sea breezes and taking in the colorful sights.

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When we passed this villa high on a hill, I couldn’t help but wonder –when was it built, who had lived there, what had happened to them, why did they desert her?

Scenes like this, and the mesmerizing sounds of the sea, could surely be a writer’s inspiration.

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Before heading back to Alassio, we considered walking the 50 miles to France, ok, just kidding, but  local buses and trains do run between the towns and the border.

Speaking of writers, in the early 1950’s, Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor to Alassio, then an international jet-set location. One of Hemingway’s favorite spots was the famous Caffè Roma.  These photos are from their menu.

And this is the caffè today.

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As the story goes, Mario Berrino, one of the founders of the caffè, loved to show customers all the famous autographs and dedications he had collected over the years. As Hemingway was signing the guest book, Berrino shared with him his idea. He wanted to put each signature on a ceramic tile and create a colorful wall for all to enjoy. Hemingway was in total agreement. To avoid  bureaucratic obstacles, Berrino and a few friends put up the first three tiles, including Hemingway’s, early one morning. After no one complained, they added a few more. Apparently, the mayor liked the idea and turned a blind eye. Today, there are about 550 tiles that make up the Muretto di Alassio.

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In Alassio, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, offering a variety of dishes including pizza, pasta and seafood. And some even have music. Daniela suggested we head to Mezzaluna, one of her favorites, and we soon learned why. These guys had the house rockin’

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while the patrons enjoyed local dishes.

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We were fortunate to have perfect fall weather, warm sunny days and cool clear night. Sunsets were filled with painted skies

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followed by radiant moon glow.

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And when darkness set in, the pier and the paths were always well lit.

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Not to be outdone, however, was the constantly changing view from our balcony, this one before sunrise. With the temperate weather, we were able to leave our terrace doors open and fall asleep to the repetitive sound of the waves lapping against the shore.

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A few hours later, the sun was glistening on the sea. It was time for our next walk.

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With such beautiful scenery, it seemed to me a good idea to leave something personal behind, if only temporarily.

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And while my footprints have surely washed away, what will last forever are the great memories we have as we think about our time in Alassio.

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As I wrote when this blog began, 

Judy and Len
too young to be old 
and to old to be young
but just the right age to be 
traveling, exploring and sharing
our adventures.

May we continue to continue.

Happy Anniversary, Len, ti amo!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

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Funghi Feast: *Mushrooms*

13 Oct

With warm days, cool nights, and the moon just right, Tuscan mushroom seekers are busy, and that includes Carlo, our resident fungaiolo (mushroom hunter/seeker). He heads to the mountain forests, filled with a variety of trees including chestnut, pine, oak and beech, and the ideal habitat for funghi. If you ask, however, just know that a dedicated fungaiolo never reveals where he/she searches.

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While he headed off to the forest, Fernanda surprised us with one of Len’s favorite dishes, spaghetti alle vongole. At the local pescheria, or fish market, one can easily find the sweet, tender and tasty veraci, or tiny baby clams in the shell, as well as slightly larger clams which she combined for a delicious dish.

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Carlo finally returned with a smile on his face that spelled success. He proudly displayed his bounty of mushrooms, including the prized Porcini, Gallinaccio (Chanterelle), Ovuli (orange color, egg-shaped), Mazza di Tamburo, (drum mallet or stick shape), and a few miscellaneous stragglers. Knowing where to go, and having an aged Panda, both help in the hunt.

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In Italy, Len and I have planted and harvested vegetables and picked fruit, tomatoes and olives, but we had never really cleaned mushrooms, not ones freshly picked from the forest. And what a learning experience it was. Fernanda was anxious to get started cleaning.

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We had, of course, the same question most would ask:

“How do you know if they are poisonous?”

And the answer, as you might guess, is experience. Carlo accompanied his dad beginning at age seven. Fernanda’s parents both scoured the forest since she was a child. And now they just know, a skill passed from generation to generation. They know the varieties, where to look, what to pick, what to leave behind, how to clean, what to cut off, how to store, how to serve, and so on. And thus we began to learn, under the watchful eye of Fernanda’s mom and instructions per Fernanda and Carlo.

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Using the end of a knife, the dirt is removed by a quick but not too firm scraping.

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Many mushrooms are like sponges, so after the first cleaning, they are lightly rinsed, not soaked.

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And then on to others.

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Len and Carlo took the residue we had scraped off to the orto which will become compost for next year’s tomatoes. Remember, it’s Italy, and nothing is thrown out if possible.

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They even found a few more tomatoes on the vines.

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Then, Fernanda went to work, quickly and skillfully slicing the porcini for freezing.

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Her hands flew though the motions, and soon we had 14 packages of porcini ready to freeze for future pasta, risotto, and/or frying.

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Once the aromas began filling the house, we knew she had started cooking…

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But the “pièce de ré·sis·tance” was the fresh porcini risotto. Move over farm to table, this was mountain to mouth! The smell, the taste, the WOW. The best I have ever had.

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Complimenti to Carlo, our favorite fungaiolo,

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and to Fernanda, our talented cook!

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Thanks for the lessons, the food, the fun and your friendship!

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No matter the season, we continue building memories, each and every wonderful day.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Leonardo: A True Genius

23 Sep

In honor of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, 500 years ago on May 2, his life and works are being celebrated throughout Italy this entire year.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Da Vinci was born in a small Tuscan village called Anchiano on April 15, 1452. He was a true polymath, a person whose expertise spanned a significant number of subject areas. Today, we celebrate this genius’ life as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician, inventor, mathematician, anatomist, botanist, geologist, cartographer and writer.

While most people perhaps recognize da Vinci through some of his most famous paintings, such as the Mona Lisa and Last Supper, his study of so many things, including botany, was extensive.

This past week, we were fortunate to attend La Botanica di Leonardo (Leonardo’s Botany) at the incredible Santa Maria Novella complex in Firenze. Len has read the 600 page, Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson, (2017), not once but twice, and often out loud to me, so we were particularly interested in seeing any of da Vinci’s research and exploration.

We entered through the cloister, one of the oldest parts of the complex dating back to perhaps the early 1200s.

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We then entered the magnificent Capilla de los Españoles, or Spanish Chapel.

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From there, we followed the signs for the exhibit.

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Along the way, there were many interesting things to see, such as a mirror placed next to some of da Vinci’s words to make them legible. Da Vinci was left-handed, often wrote in a shorthand he invented for himself, and often mirrored his writing, starting at the right side of the page and moving to the left.

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He also designed furnaces and ovens for the production of medicines and perfumes, required for his alchemy research.

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We finally arrived at the elaborate and interesting mirrored entrance.

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From the exhibition website:

The Botanical exhibition outlines the philosophical and technological context of the time in which Leonardo da Vinci lived in order to explore his study of the forms and processes of the Plant world in greater depth, through his eyes as a “systemic” thinker, highlighting the connections between art, science and nature and the relationships between the different spheres of knowledge.

The long hall was filled with exhibits on both sides, depicting various aspects of da Vinci’s research. With this animation, we saw da Vinci’s research on the progression of plant formation, one leaf at a time.

While others had discovered that a tree’s age was could be determined by counting the rings, it was da Vinci who discovered that the growth rings told the story of the environmental conditions of each year. These are photos of an animation of the rings of a tree over time and a tree sample.

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There was also a large, two-sided screen depicting some of da Vinci’s notes, drawing and paintings.  Here’s a sampling:

And then this, some of his notes:

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Codex Atlanticus, folio 197 verso. Method for making a “positive” print; bottom, a sage leaf printed in negative. Copyright Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana/Mondadori Portfolio.

At the end of the hall, guests are invited to momentarily become like the Vitruvian man, who for da Vinci, was the proportional blend of math and art during the Renaissance, and a cornerstone of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature.

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The final panels, titled Leonardo’s Legacy, leave us with a message worthy of consideration:

Leonardo Botanico Exhibit, 2019 Firenze

And so we see the reason why Leonardo’s legacy is even more relevant today: if our sciences and technologies are ever more restricted in their focus, if they are unable to understand the complexity of problems by taking an interdisciplinary approach and are dominated by companies that are more interested in financial revenue than the well-being of humanity, then we urgently need to return to a vision of science that honours and respects the unity of life as a whole, that recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena and reconnects us with the system of living things. Our needs today are exactly those outlined in the thinking of Leonardo da Vinci five hundred years ago.

Leonardo Botanico Exhibit, 2019 Firenze

Leonardo da Vinci, a true genius, spent a great deal of time in the Santa Maria Novella area in 1504 and 1505. Walking through the exhibit, you sometimes feel as though he just might walk by. 

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Venice, La Bella Venezia!

16 Sep

My first visit to Venice was as a study abroad student. Although it was many years ago, I can still see it vividly in my mind’s eye. It was winter and a heavy fog had rolled in as I walked along the canal. I could hear the lapping of the water against the gondolas and the hum of the water taxis ferrying passengers to and fro.  There were lights in the distance, but the fog clouded the identity of any of the buildings. It was cold, but it didn’t matter. It was simply magical, and for me, it will always be that way.

As soon as I exit Santa Lucia train station and see this view,

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my heart starts to flutter. How grand, how impossible, how so many things!

I know today there can be huge crowds, ridiculous cruise ships, and flooding, but we experienced none of them. And perhaps because it is now illegal to feed the pigeons, even Piazza San Marco wasn’t very crowded.

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After the conference, we relaxed in the grand piazza for a bit,

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enjoying aperitivo,

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listening to music,

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and gazing at the incredible sights,

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especially those  just caught by chance.

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Before leaving the piazza, we wandered over to this hotel where we celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Such incredibly fond memories.

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Afterward, we caught a vaporetto, or public water taxi, to another part of town, appreciating  the efficiency with which they maneuver the canal traffic, dock at various stops, and manage the passengers disembarking and embarking.

And then there are the views – the incredible Renaissance and Gothic palaces, the gondolas, and the Grand Canal.

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Len said if he got lost, I’d find him on this special boat. Smart guy, that Len.

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Sunset and evening bring on their own special color palettes in Venice,

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making it difficult to know which way to look.

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The next morning, I awoke at dawn, so I decided to check out early morning Venice. First on my agenda was to find breakfast, and indeed I did… a delicious cappuccino and a just out of the oven freshly baked cornetto (croissant).

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Then I was ready to explore. This is the famously crowded Rialto Bridge, completed in 1591, covered with rows of shops, and one of the top tourist attractions in Venice.

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But that morning, this was my view, having the Rialto virtually to myself!

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In the early morning hours, however, while most tourists are fast asleep, locals are hard at work preparing for the the day.

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Fish, fruit and vegetables are being delivered, 

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and taken to the various markets which supply local restaurants and shoppers.

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After a delightful early morning stroll, I walked back to the hotel through tiny vicoli filled with shops preparing for the day, and lovely old buildings that retain their charm. 

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And so, Venice, although I leave you once again, not knowing when I’ll return, rest assured that for me, your mystery, beauty and magic will never fade.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Un Onore Davvero! (Italian Version)

10 Sep

Due settimane fa, e inaspettatamente, abbiamo ricevuto un invito a partecipare alla 76a Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia, ospiti del Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, giornalista economico, autore e fondatore di numerosi eventi internazionali come il Premio Eccellenza o il Premio Italiano Eccellenza .

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Il festival si tiene al Lido di Venezia e il nostro incontro è stato all’Hotel Excelsior. Per il loro sito web: “Questa straordinaria creazione ha riscosso un grande successo il 21 luglio 1908, con una sontuosa festa in riva al mare per oltre 3.000 ospiti. È diventata rapidamente un paradiso per l’elite, le star del cinema e la regalità”.

Nel 1932, l’Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort ha dato il benvenuto al primo Festival del cinema di Venezia ed è ora la sede ufficiale di questo evento di fama mondiale.

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Ci siamo presi un momento per goderci un cappuccino in buona compagnia.

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L’incontro a cui abbiamo partecipato è stato intitolato “Cinema e Web”. Si è concentrato sul rapporto tra emozione e seduzione del cinema e le opportunità digitali di oggi per preservare e condividere storia e cultura.

Ma perché noi? Un po ‘di storia richiesta qui …

Io e Len, entrambi di origini italiane, abbiamo sempre avuto il sogno e l’obiettivo di trascorrere un periodo significativo in Italia. Dal 2001, con il nostro viaggio in Calabria per trovare i documenti dei nonni di Len, abbiamo continuato la ricerca delle nostre case ancestrali e visitato la maggior parte. Una volta in pensione, e desiderosi di vivere davvero il paese dei nostri antenati, abbiamo scelto l’antica e bellissima città di Cortona in Toscana.

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Per noi, era la dimensione e l’ambiente perfetti per darci una base centrale da cui partire, per interagire veramente con la gente del posto e per assorbire la cultura dei nostri antenati mentre ci immergevamo nella vita quotidiana italiana. Non avremmo potuto immaginare le grandi amicizie che avremmo fatto.

Crescendo, io e Len siamo stati entrambi fortunati ad essere circondati da grandi famiglie italiane estese. Ognuna delle nostre vite era piena di divertenti tradizioni italiane, grandi riunioni di famiglia e amore.

Nella mia famiglia c’erano 10 nipoti per parte. E mentre sapevamo dei risultati dei nostri nonni, non era come se parlassero di se stessi. Per noi, erano nonni tipici e divertenti che lavoravano duramente e amavano i loro nipoti a caro prezzo.

Di conseguenza, il mio fascino ancestrale iniziò davvero molti anni dopo, quando iniziai a ricercare mio nonno paterno, Alex Capraro.

©blogginginitaly.com   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

Lasciò Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo all’età di quattro anni ed emigrò con i suoi giovani genitori in America dove alla fine divenne il primo architetto italo-americano autorizzato in Illinois. Agli inizi degli anni ’30, fu nominato capo architetto dal governo italiano per il padiglione italiano alla Century of Progress Fair del 1933 a Chicago. Anche se è morto quando avevo cinque anni, mia nonna conservava molte delle sue lettere e dei suoi documenti. Alla fine, questi mi sono stati trasmessi. A tempo debito, sono stato in grado di mettere insieme così tanto di ciò che era e ciò che aveva realizzato nella sua vita, come documentato nella mia serie di blog: Attraverso le sue parole: riflessioni da e su mio nonno.

La storia di Alex ha suscitato interesse, non solo con i miei familiari, ma anche con molti amici italiani.

Questo mi ha portato a ricercare e condividere qualcosa in più su mio nonno materno, Salvatore Ferrara, che ha aperto una pasticceria al dettaglio nella sezione Little Italy di Chicago nei primi anni del 1900.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

La pasticceria produceva dolci italiani, grandi torte nuziali e mandorle ricoperte di zucchero, o coriandoli, che Salvatore aveva imparato a fare in Italia. Quando le vendite di caramelle hanno superato i pasticcini, ha lasciato la moglie per dirigere il forno e alla fine ha lanciato la Ferrara Pan Candy Company. Nel 2017 il Gruppo Ferrero, produttore di Nutella e il secondo produttore di cioccolato e azienda dolciaria al mondo, ha acquistato la Ferrara Candy Company.

Per non essere superata dagli uomini, mia nonna materna, Serafina Ferrara, divenne una dinamica personalità imprenditoriale e filantropo.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

A differenza di miei nonni, ho avuto la fortuna di conoscerla tra i 20 anni. Oltre a gestire la panetteria, ha aperto due delle prime sale per banchetti di Chicago, il Chateau Royale e il maniero di Ferrara. Ha anche dedicato un tempo significativo a cause caritatevoli e civili. Era conosciuta come “L’angelo di Halsted Street” per la sua infinita generosità verso i meno fortunati. Nel 1956, fu nominata nonna nazionale dell’anno insieme a Ed Sullivan come nonno dell’anno. Lo stesso anno, fu decorata dal Governo italiano per aver contribuito a cementare le relazioni italo-americane: i suoi numerosi successi nella vita sono stati inseriti nel record congressuale della Camera dei Rappresentanti degli Stati Uniti dall’onorevole Frank Annunzio nel 1972.

Nel corso del tempo, ho potuto vedere gli ingranaggi girare nella testa del nostro buon amico Carlo. Era incuriosito, non solo per la storia di questi immigrati italiani che hanno realizzato così tanto in America, ma che le due famiglie erano unite dal matrimonio di mia madre, Benita Ferrara, e di mio padre, Bill Capraro. Carlo è stato anche colpito dalla decisione di Len e dalla mia decisione di immergerci completamente nella storia e nella cultura dei nostri antenati, nonché di ricercare e condividere le nostre storie. Sapevo che aveva iniziato a parlare con gli altri, ma mai fino a che punto.

Avanti veloce alla scorsa settimana e l’invito.

A cena mercoledì sera, abbiamo incontrato Massimo Lucidi (di fronte a me) per la prima volta, sebbene fosse stato ben informato. Prima che la serata fosse finita, mi aveva invitato a partecipare a un panel la mattina successiva.

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La sala conferenze Tropicana dell’Hotel Excelsior ospitava il padiglione italiano dove si sarebbe tenuto l’incontro.

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

All’improvviso, sono stato sul palco con un membro del parlamento, un colonnello dei carabinieri, il Presidente di Rai Cinema e Massimo Lucidi, tutti che recitano ruoli significativi e vari nella promozione del cinema e delle arti legate alla storia e alla cultura dell’Italia in un palcoscenico internazionale.

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Il mio ruolo è stato quello di condividere una breve storia (in italiano, ovviamente!) Dei miei nonni, tutti immigrati italiani e dei contributi che hanno fatto in America. E perché così tanto interesse? Come è stato sottolineato durante il panel, ci sono così tante storie meravigliose di immigrati italiani che non vengono mai ascoltate e mai raccontate, ed è la sfida di coloro che sono coinvolti in tutti i tipi di media a cercare tali storie.

Nella sala c’erano produttori, registi, attori, scrittori e giornalisti, e molti furono riconosciuti per il loro lavoro.

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E poi, alla conclusione del panel, è arrivata la nostra incredibile sorpresa e il nostro straordinario onore – Len ed io siamo stati riconosciuti dal Comitato Esecutivo del Premio Eccellenza come segue:

Per la storia di straordinario impegno, passione e stile,
siamo lieti di premiare
Judy e Leonard Gingerella
Ambasciatori della storia italiana dell’emigrazione

©blogginginitaly.com     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

La cerimonia di premiazione effettiva si terrà a Washington DC in ottobre, ma poiché non saremo disponibili, ci è stato assegnato il nostro premio in anticipo. Ed è per questo che siamo stati invitati a Venezia.

Dopo l’evento, Massimo ha condotto un’intervista con me e Carlo, disponibile su YouTubehttps://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

Abbiamo presentato a Massimo un libro di Luciano Meoni, il sindaco di Cortona.

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

E il colonnello Anania ha presentato un libro all’onorevole Nicola Acunzo di Francesco Attesti, Consigliere culturale di Cortona.

Len ed io saremo per sempre grati a Massimo, Orazio, Carlo ea tutti coloro che vedono valore nel condividere il passato e sono impegnati a mantenere vive le storie. Grazie mille, grazie! Il nostro tempo trascorso insieme al 76 ° Festival Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia sarà qualcosa che apprezzeremo per sempre.

Soprattutto, la mia sincera gratitudine verso i miei nonni e bisnonni per avere il coraggio di lasciarsi alle spalle il noto, cercare opportunità in America e creare eredità straordinarie. Sarò sempre sbalordito e anche ispirato dai loro successi. Come loro nipote, sono così orgoglioso di poter condividere le loro storie.

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Su una nota profetica … a fine luglio, la nostra famiglia allargata si è riunita a Chicago per una settimana. Una notte attorno a una grande tavola rotonda, ci hanno chiesto ciascuno di completare la seguente frase:

“Sono un 10 a _________.”

Ho riflettuto, non sono sicuro della mia risposta, e poi a mia volta, la parola è semplicemente saltata fuori: RICERCA.

Non avrei mai immaginato che la mia ricerca mi avrebbe portato in questo incredibile viaggio.

Resta sintonizzato: potrebbe esserci ancora qualcosa in arrivo.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Honor Indeed!

10 Sep

Two weeks ago, and most unexpectedly, we received an invitation to attend the 76th Venice International Film Festival, guests of Prof. Dr. Massimo Lucidi, economic journalist, author, and founder of numerous international events such as the Premio Eccellenza or Italian Excellence Award.

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The festival is held on Venice Lido and our meeting was at the Hotel Excelsior. Per their website: “This extraordinary creation opened to great acclaim on 21st July 1908, with a lavish ocean-front party for over 3,000 guests. It rapidly became a haven for the elite, film stars and royalty.”

In 1932, Hotel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort welcomed the first ever Venice Film Festival and is now the official venue of this world-famous event.

© HOTEL EXCELSIOR VAT: 09825980965

We took a moment to enjoy a cappuccino in good company.

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The meeting we participated in was titled “Cinema and Web.” It focused on the relationship between the emotion and seduction of cinema and today’s digital opportunities to preserve and share history and culture.

But why us? A bit of history required here…

Len and I, both with Italian origins, always had a dream and goal to spend significant time in Italy. Since 2001, with our trip to Calabria to find Len’s grandparents’ records, we’ve continued the research of our ancestral homes and visited most. Once we retired, and wanting to truly experience the country of our ancestors, we chose the ancient and beautiful town of Cortona in Tuscany.

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For us, it was the perfect size and setting to give us a central base from which to travel, to truly interact with locals, and to absorb the culture of our ancestors as we became immersed in daily Italian living. Little could we have imagined the great friendships we would make.

Growing up, Len and I were both very fortunate to be surrounded by large extended Italian families. Each of our lives was filled with fun Italian traditions, large family gatherings and love.

In my family, there were 10 grandchildren on each side. And while we knew of our grandparents’ accomplishments, it wasn’t as if they talked about themselves. For us, they were typical and fun grandparents who worked hard and loved their grandchildren dearly.

As a result, my ancestral fascination truly began many years later when I started researching my paternal grandfather, Alex Capraro.

©blogginginitaly.com   Alex Capraro and wife Maude

He left Pietrabbondante in Abruzzo at age four and emigrated with his young parents to America where he eventually became the first licensed Italian-American architect in Illinois. In the early 1930’s, he was appointed chief architect by the Italian Government for the Italian Pavilion at the 1933 Century of Progress Fair in Chicago. Although he passed away when I was five, my grandmother kept many of his letters and documents.  Eventually, these were passed on to me. In due time, I was able to piece together so much of who he was and what he had accomplished in his life, as documented in my blog series: Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather.

Alex’s story generated interest, not only with my family members, but also with many Italian friends.

This led me to research and share more about my maternal grandfather, Salvatore Ferrara, who opened a retail pastry and candy shop in the Little Italy section of Chicago in the early 1900s.

Salvatore Ferrara (r) C.1908

The bakery produced Italian pastries, large wedding cakes, and the sugarcoated almonds, or confetti, that Salvatore had learned to make in Italy. When candy sales surpassed pastries, he left his wife to run the bakery and eventually launched the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. In 2017, the Ferrero Group, maker of Nutella and the second largest chocolate producer and confectionery company in the world, purchased the Ferrara Candy Company.

Not to be outdone by the men, my maternal grandmother, Serafina Ferrara, became a dynamic business personality and philanthropist.

Serafina Ferrara and brother

Unlike my grandfathers, I had the good fortune to know her into my 20s. In addition to running the bakery, she opened two of Chicago’s first banquet halls, the Chateau Royale and Ferrara Manor. She also devoted significant time to charitable and civic causes. She was known as “The Angel of Halsted Street” for her unending generosity to those less fortunate. In 1956, she was named national grandmother of the year along with Ed Sullivan as grandfather of the year. The same year, she was decorated by the Italian government for helping to cement Italo-American relations. Her many life accomplishments were entered into the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional record by the Honorable Frank Annunzio in 1972.

Over time, I could see the gears turning in our good friend Carlo’s head. He was intrigued, not only about the story of these Italian immigrants who accomplished so much in America, but that the two families were united though the marriage of my mother, Benita Ferrara, and my dad, Bill Capraro. Carlo was also struck by Len’s and my decision to fully immerse ourselves in the history and culture of our ancestors, as well as research and share our stories. I knew he had begun talking to others, but never quite to what extent.

Fast forward to last week, and the invitation.

At dinner Wednesday night, we met Massimo Lucidi (across from me) for the first time, although he had been well briefed. Before the evening was over, he had invited me to join a panel the next morning.

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The Tropicana Conference Room at Hotel Excelsior housed the Italian Pavilion where the meeting would be held.

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©blogginginitaly.com

Suddenly, I was on stage with a parliamentary member, a carabinieri colonel, the president of Rai Cinema, and Massimo Lucidi, all who play significant and varied roles in the promotion of film and the arts related to the history and culture of Italy on an international stage.

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My role was to share a brief history (in Italian, of course!) of my grandparents, all Italian immigrants, and the contributions they made in America. And why so much interest? As was pointed out during the panel, there are so many wonderful stories of Italian immigrants that are never heard, and never told, and it is the challenge of those involved in all types of media to seek out such stories.

In the room were producers, directors, actors, writers and journalists, and several were recognized for their work.

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And then, at the conclusion of the panel, came our incredible surprise and amazing honor – Len and I were recognized by the Executive Committee of Premio Eccellenza as follows:

For the history of extraordinary commitment, passion and style,
we are pleased to award
Judy and Leonard Gingerella
Ambassadors of the Italian History of Emigration

©blogginginitaly.com     Colonel Anania, Len , Judy, Massimo Lucidi

The actual award ceremony will be held in Washington DC in October, but since we won’t be available, we were given our award in advance. And that is why we were invited to Venice.

After the event, Massimo conducted an interview with Carlo and me which is available on YouTube. https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

https://youtu.be/Ikif5iup2mY

We presented Massimo with a book from Luciano Meoni, the Mayor of Cortona.

©blogginginitaly.com
©blogginginitaly.com

And Colonel Anania presented a book to Honorable Nicola Acunzo from Francesco Attesti, the Cortona Cultural Councilor. 

Len and I will be forever grateful to Massimo, Orazio, Carlo and all those who see value in sharing the past and are committed to keeping the stories alive. Grazie mille, thank you! Our time spent together at the 76th Venice International Film Festival will be something we’ll cherish forever.

Most of all, my heartfelt gratitude to my grandparents and great grandparents for having the courage to leave the known behind, seek opportunity in America, and create extraordinary legacies. I will always be in awe and also inspired by their accomplishments. As their granddaughter, I am so proud to be able to share their stories.

©blogginginitaly.com

On a prophetic footnote… in late July, our extended family gathered in Chicago for a week. One night around a large round table, we were each asked to complete the following sentence:

“I am a 10 at _________.”

I pondered, not sure of my response, and then at my turn, the word just popped out – RESEARCHING.

Little could I have ever imagined that my research would take me on this incredible journey.

Stay tuned – there just might be more to come.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend in Review

26 Aug

So much happening in Cortona over the weekend…

Since 1963, Cortona has been the host city of the national antique market knows as Cortonantiquaria, held in the rooms and hallways of the beautiful 18th century Palazzo Vagnotti.

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You couldn’t help but know that the exhibit was coming as a giant slide show lights up the Municipio each night.

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For two weeks beginning August 24, exhibitors throughout Italy display a variety of certified antiques including paintings, china, jewelry, statuary and furniture.

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©blogginginitaly.com

A very special exhibit this year is Catrosse Ceramiche. I had no idea that from 1796-1910,  the noble Venuti family was responsible for bringing techniques learned in other parts of Italy to a new porcelain production facility near Cortona.


©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Did you ever wonder how some of the very large pieces are hoisted up to the top floor of the Palazzo? Well, wonder no more…

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Weekend strolls brought the usual delightful sights, including this “watch cat”,

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nature blooming through stone ledges,

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and artifacts attached to the old city walls.

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The last Sunday of each month brings the traveling antique market to Cortona. Unlike the one in the Palazzo, this one is held in the piazzas or parterre (park) and is filled with a lot of old (lovely and not), interesting and/or odd things. As I wander the stalls, I am reminded of the saying: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or so the vendors hope. But it’s always fun to wander.

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©blogginginitaly.com

Sunday is also a great day for strolling, as everyone seems to be smiling and saying Buona Domenica, or Good Sunday, as you pass. And it’s easy to feel good when listening to a talented violinist,

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people watching,

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enjoying a prosecco,

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or a great cappuccino!

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As my friend’s shirt says,

Make Days Good Days!

And so we do.

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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©blogginginitaly.com

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.

©blogginginitaly.com

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

Oh girls, they wanna have fun…

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

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