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D-Day Remembrance

6 Jun

Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Seared in our memories forever, we commemorate the day when the U.S.-led Allied armada crossed the English Channel. They launched an offensive that would help lead to the defeat of the Third Reich.

In honor of those who died…the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

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We must always remember and forever be grateful.

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Unintended Language Lesson

29 May

A friend saw me on a walk today and said, “You haven’t posted in a while!” And she is right. “Blame it on the weather and my bronchitis,” I responded, and we proceeded to share funny stories of unintended Italian lessons. Now granted, her newly needed vocabulary, some 30 years ago, was much more exotic, as she was preparing for a c-section delivery of her second child in northern Italy. Mine is much more mundane – that is, dealing with a cold, cough and eventual bronchitis.

I’m sure in my Italian classes with Giovanna we covered many of these words, but I probably wasn’t very interested. I do remember paying attention to “pronto soccorso” or emergency room, in the hope that we’d never have to visit one.

But here I am this year, three weeks in, with a new and unfortunately useful vocabulary:

I have a cold: Ho un raffreddore.

I have a bad cough and I cough a lot: Ho una brutta tosse e tossisco molto.

Every Italian friend we know has said the weather is the culprit. They suggested I visit the doctor who would prescribe antibiotics (antibiotici) and cortisone (cortisone). Hmmm…cortisone for bronchitis? Never heard of that combo before.

After visiting the doctor, he confirmed: “I have bronchitis.” Ho la bronchite.

He also asked the color of my phlegm, (flemma), but I’ll spare you the details, only to say that my extensive knowledge of Italian colors came in helpful.

The prescription was just as I had been told, antibiotics (amoxicillina) for 6 days;  cortisone, which turned out to be prednisone (prednisone) for 5 days; and an awful tasting cough syrup (sciroppo per la tosse) 2-4 times daily.  I did some research and found that short-term steroid therapy does help minimize inflammation within the bronchial tubes. Made sense to me.

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So, for the week I was on meds, I drank tons of water and tea, knocked back hot honey-lemon-ginger shots, skipped all vino, and did my best to stay out of places where I could spread my germs. Over the subsequent days, I began slowly improving, knowing that the bronchitis cough can last a while. And then came last Sunday, finally med free, so we went to Tuscher for lunch.

Being a true blooded Italian, my personal choice of “meds” was simple:

Chocolate banana cake with whipped cream (panna)

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delightfully washed down with vino rosso!

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Still not quite 100%, but getting closer every single day!

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.

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Paternal Grandmother Maude ©Blogginginitaly.com

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Maternal Grandmother Serafina ©Blogginginitaly.com

 

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

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Weekend In Cortona

22 Apr

Throughout Italy, Easter week is filled with religious and cultural traditions. Each town has its long-held ceremonies, and Cortona is no exception. Children who held their grandparents’ hands as they were first introduced to the Good Friday procession now carry those same heavy and beautifully crafted statues through the streets of town as their own children watch in awe.

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The solemnity of Friday evening fades Saturday morning as people gather along the streets and in the markets to shop for their Easter meal. Friends are greeted with Buona Pasqua and the double cheek kiss as they exchange pleasantries and best wishes while shopping.

One dessert staple is the Colomba di Pasqua, a traditional Italian Easter cake, which comes in various sizes and a few flavors, but is always shaped like a dove.

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On Easter Sunday, although most cook and eat at home with family, there are also many restaurants offering multi-course traditional meals.

And then comes La Pasquetta, Easter Monday, or Little Easter. This is a national holiday when families pack up Easter leftovers, head to parks or beaches for picnics, or stroll around towns like Cortona. And stroll they do. I always need to remind myself to slow down on these days.

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La Pasquetta is a time for relaxation, and a midday Aperol Spritz seems to be the colorful  beverage of choice for many.

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Amid the crowds and festivities, we always manage to find time for quiet walks, alone or with friends, taking in some views that newly trimmed trees now offer,

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as well as the magnificent signs of spring.

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And then, of course, there are the sunsets, with or without aperitivo, no description needed.

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Happy Easter, Passover, and Spring!

Ciao
Judy

 

 

Vortex. Bomb Cyclone. Frigid Temps. Enough!

2 Mar

Sometimes you learn about things you’d prefer not to learn about, especially when the learning is experiential. Such has been the case this winter.

The first experience was January’s Polar Vortex. For me, it was the least bothersome of the weather events as it was January in Chicago, a time I expect it to be cold and blustery. Besides, it was pretty sunny as we went about setting new weather records.

Then in February, Len and I were visiting family in Michigan when we received weather related warnings on our phones:

Detroit Free Press

Possible bomb cyclone, seriously? We charged our phones, found candles, and waited out the next event. Although very windy and cold, the biggest impact on us was our cancelled flight to Chicago rescheduled to the next day.

Then this morning, we were greeted with these weather headlines:

Chicago Tribune, ABC7 Chicago and WGN_TV

Enough of this frigid winter! But it is March and I know soon enough, with a few sunny days and a bit of warmer air, the snow crocus will rescue us from the long winter as bits of green begin peeking out of the slowly thawing winter ground.

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Vortex? Cyclone? Frigid temps? – thanks Hal Borland for reminding us that
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

Ciao,
Judy

2018 in Review

31 Dec

A great way to look back at 2018 is through my photos. For me, they paint a picture of wonderful times spent with family and friends. Each picture brings a smile to my face and each memory reminds me of how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

A look back at 2018…

Florida in winter

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Summer in Chicago

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Thanksgiving

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Key West Destination Wedding

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Christmastime

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Cortona and all around Italy

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As we end another year, many thanks to family and friends, pictured here and not, who continue to enrich our lives as we create the future together.

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From Chicago to Cortona, from our hearts to yours,
our very best wishes
for a healthy and happy 2019!

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Happy New Year! Buon Anno!!

Ciao,
Judy

Our Montalbano Tour

18 Dec

Although many people visit Taormina to get close to Mount Etna, Len and I had a different plan. Our goal was to visit many of the shooting locations of one of our favorite Italian detective stories, Il Commissario Montalbano. The episodes are based on novels by author Andrea Camilleri. They are set in the imaginary town of Vigàta but many shooting locations are in the province of Ragusa. Montalbano is played by the Italian actor Luca Zingaretti.

We got hooked on watching Italian shows many years ago as part of our never-ending quest to speak and understand Italian better, and also to learn about parts of Italy we had yet to visit.

Taormina is certainly not the best base to begin this excursion as the sites are hours away, but that didn’t deter us. I found an excellent driver, Alessio Patanè, (info@sicilygrandtour.com), who met us at 8 AM in Taormina.

Our first stop, and the opening shots of the episodes, are overlooking Modica. We were stumped on the significance of this view – the open center being the shooting location for Livia’s bus stop.

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We did, however, recognize the Cathedral of San Giorgio, aka the Church of Vigàta.

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Next stop, (not Montalbano related), the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily. Need you ask if I bought some?

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From there on to Scicli, aka Vigàta.

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The show’s police headquarters and commissioner’s office are both housed in the local town hall.

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Filming for the episodes happens on location during many months of the year, but the office set ups are often broken down and moved to Cinecittà, a large film studio in Rome. We were fortunate as they had recently been shooting scenes, so the offices were completely in tact when we visited.

Stepping inside, one immediately recognizes the staircase Montalbano climbs to visit his boss, the commissioner,

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as well as the commissioner’s office.

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After hearing about the some of the artifacts in the office, we headed downstairs to Montalbano’s office.

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Immediately on the right is Catarella’s office.

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then Fazio’s office leading to Montalbano’s.

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Enrico, our wonderful tour guide, was so knowledgeable and entertaining.

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He was also eager to show us a filming stunt. Below is the familiar door to Mimi’s office, which is actually not an office at all but a wall. Mimi’s only office exists in the studios in Rome.

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One highlight not visible in the series is the incredible ceilings in the eighteenth century building.

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After thanking Enrico, we walked the familiar streets of Vigàta before heading to lunch.

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Then time for Len’s one request – to eat along the sea at the place Montalbano frequents, and so we did. Picture perfect.

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After lunch, we walked along the beach in Punta Secca (aka Marinella)

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until we came upon this sign…

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and then the very familiar home of Montalbano.

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It was easy to see why this house was selected as Montalbano’s home and equally funny to see a pizzeria a few doors away – oh what fame can due to a town!

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In reality, it doesn’t appear that fame has spoiled this quiet beach town at all. No one was even home when I knocked.

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From here, on to our final stop, the incredible vistas of Ragusa and Ragusa Ibla, which we learned about from episodes. As Camilleri once said:

….there is a literary Vigàta, which is based on my hometown, and then a Vigàta used as the set for the TV series, which is based on beautiful places such as Scicli, Modica and so on. Now that happens to me when I’m writing a new Montalbano story: I’m influenced not so much by the Montalbano TV character but the scenery seen on television..   Andrea Camilleri

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Whether or not you are a fan of the Montalbano books/tv series, these sights in many remote parts of Sicily are enticing and beautiful. At first we had wondered why so many widely dispersed and remote filming locations were used, but seeing them made it all so clear. Camilleri truly wanted to share lesser known parts of Sicily with his audience, and indeed he did. Clearly, his intention is what brought us to areas we might never have known, and given us another great adventure on a road less travelled.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Taormina Sicily

12 Dec

Our first visit to Sicily was in the spring of 2016. Len and I had planned a month stay, from west to east coasts. However, as we learned, March is not the ideal month as the winter winds nearly knocked us over.

Fast forward to last October. We met Benita and her friend Christina in Rome, flew to Catania, and headed to Taormina, a resort town Len and I had skipped on our last trip.

We arrived on a Sunday night to views from our room that were painted by the sunset.

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After a bit of unpacking, our first stop was one of Benita’s favorites: Pasticceria D’Amore, or pastry of love.

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On the menu – fresh to order cannoli, “filled at the moment”

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and then dipped in freshly ground pistachios. They certainly lived up to their reputation!

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Taormina is a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily, flanked by Mt. Etna, an active volcano with trails leading to the summit. The town is a heavily visited tourist location, but fortunately the monster cruise ships seem to depart late afternoon, leaving plenty of space to stroll leisurely and visit attractions.

The streets are filled with restaurants, bars and lovely stores of every kind;

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and the piazzas are filled with artists and musicians.

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Perhaps the best known attraction, and truly my favorite, is the Teatro Antico di Taormina. This ancient Greco-­Roman theater, built in the 3rd century BC and modified by the Romans, is still used today for concerts and live performances. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

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Near the theater, cliffs drop to the sea forming coves with sandy beaches and always providing spectacular views.

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Checking online, we were able to find the less crowded times to visit the theater, and it seemed as thought we nearly had it to ourselves.

Another lovely and peaceful attraction, away from the crowded streets, is The Public Gardens of Taormina. The vast property was originally settled by Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman and animal and nature lover, who married the Italian mayor, Salvatore Cacciola, and settled forever in Taormina.

The park and its views are peaceful and beautiful and provide welcome space away from the often crowded streets.

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Late one morning, we took the tram from the main town to the beach to visit Isola Bella,  also owned by Lady Florence Trevelya until 1990, and now a nature preserve.

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As it was very hot, we concluded our walking tour in a short time and returned to main town for lunch and gelato.

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As for food, Sicilian pistachio is king. You can get pistachio on, in, or over just about anything you can eat or drink…steak, pasta, cheese, seafood, coffee, liquors, etc.,  and we loved trying almost anything that included pistachios.

Pistachio liquor, creme, and spreads

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Pistacchio Gelato (their spelling!)

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Pasta with Pistachio Sauce

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Another favorite of ours was the homemade caponata, an eggplant dish, made a bit differently at each location, but always good.

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Our last night, we decided on dinner at a restaurant named Ferrara, that being my mother’s maiden name. No relation, of course, but the dinner and service were both great and a fun place to take a final photo of our time in Taormina.

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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