Tag Archives: Chicago

Majestic Mountains

7 Aug

The flight from Rome to Chicago is about 10.5 hours, hopefully uneventful and always pretty boring. But occasionally, one can catch a glimpse of nature and its magnificent show.  I believe these are over Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, from about 33,000+ feet above. They were shot with my iPhone and are shown in the order taken. Note the changes in snow cover.



If you look closely (or click on the photo below to enlarge), you can see towns in the valley.
















And then they were gone…



Last stop, Chicago. A bit cloudy, but a welcome sight for sure!







Through His Words: Day Twenty-Six

3 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect


Maude Capraro

August 10, 1938 

Dearest Al,

Received your three letters of July 31 – Aug 1 and indeed very glad to hear from you, and all very interesting. Also, glad that you are well and enjoying your trip. It sure is a very wonderful country. You know, last Monday, August 1, Marion and I went to Byrd Theater and saw Swiss Miss. It’s a picture about Interlaken and I said to Marion, it’s where dad is going, so you see, we saw the pictures of Interlaken while you were there. So you have nothing on us!!  

Swiss Miss was a Laurel and Hardy movie released in 1938 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Beautiful shots of the Alps gave Maude and Marion some insight into what Alex was seeing first hand.



Released by MGM, May, 1938

Released by MGM, May, 1938

It sure is beautiful country and I’m sorry I’m not with you. I sure miss you and hope this month will fly so you will be home with us soon.

Glad to hear you are making acquaintances with men (how about women?). Well, we won’t worry about that now!! I wrote to you yesterday so I don’t have very much to write. I do hope that you get all our mail as the children have been writing also. As I wrote before, Marion is at Long Beach and having a good time. She said she would write to you from there.

It must be quite a thrill to be up 12,600 feet. It must have been a grand view. Well, I hope someday we will make the trip together, which I hope won’t be long. Gee, I wish I was with you! Had I known you were going alone, I sure would be with you.  (As you may recall, Alex’s friend Joe Montenegro became ill and was unable to travel, leaving my grandfather to travel solo.) Next time I will go with you for sure.

Joe Monte is getting better every day. Why don’t you write to him. They only received a postal from you and I guess they expect you to write to them more, so write a letter if you can. Oh, dear, the weather is terribly hot this month, especially yesterday, and today is worse than ever. I have no pep to do anything today. I hope it isn’t that warm over there because it would be hard to travel.

The children are all well and so are Pa and Ruth and hope the same with you. You sure are traveling – now take it easy or you will be good and tired when you get home and you will need another vacation. Of course, I understand you are trying to see all you can, which I don’t blame you.

Well, I hope you will see Ferme  in Rome so you won’t get lonesome. So, I see you are not going around with DeRosa. It’s too bad you didn’t, but I suppose he had a different itinerary than you. Catherine was just down here and she sends her regards and thanks you for the card you sent them.

I didn’t go out last night, it was so warm that I decided to stay home. The gang wanted to take me for a ride but I didn’t want to go. So I stayed home and relaxed. Hoping you are well and enjoying yourself, I will close my letter with millions and millions of kisses and love
from your darling Maude xo
Vincent, Billy, Marion, Pa and Ruth

It would still be almost a week before the first letters from home would reach Alex.




Through His Words: Day Twenty-Three

13 May

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect


Maude Capraro

August 7, 1938 

Dearest Al,

Received your three letters of July 28, 29, and 30, and indeed a pleasure to hear from you.

Although Alex’s first letters to Maude were written on board ship, July 16-23, his letters from Paris, written 12 days later, arrived in Chicago first. Traveling alone, Alex had been expecting/hoping for mail from home at almost every stop, yet Maude only penned her first letter once his arrived. After all, he was the one with new and interesting things to write about, and, truth be known, Maude didn’t really love writing letters.

Sorry to hear that it rained and that you missed your friends, but glad that you met the brother so that helped some. Judging by your letters, Versailles must be beautiful and historical.  Gee, I envy you. Well, maybe someday I’ll make the trip, who knows? You sure are kept busy. You’ll need another vacation when you get home, so take it easy and don’t get so tired. Of course, I realize you are trying to take in all you can because time is short.

Imagine, three weeks are gone yet it seems a long time, but it won’t be long and you’ll be home and that will be grand. I see you enjoyed Paris very much which I thought you would. It sure must be a lovely and wonderful place. I hope you didn’t fall for one of the French babes??? We will talk about that when you get home.

Maude wasn’t actually worried about her Alex at all. They had a great relationship and a wonderful family and friends. And they loved doing things together.

Alex and Maude, a a great big bottle of vino!

Alex and Maude, and a great big bottle of vino!

In regards to family, we are all well, children are behaving wonderfully. Vincent isn’t abusing the car because I don’t let him use it, only when I want him to. Billy is a good boy. Marion went to Long Beach Friday night. It certainly is lonesome without her because she was my pal so now I lost my two pals, you and Marian. I’ll make the best of it for the balance of the month. Nothing exciting here – mostly going to shows and visiting friends. We are having some pretty hot days – can’t wait till it gets cooler.

Maude goes on to tell him of their kids activities, Vince being 18, Billy (my Dad) 15, and Marion 11, as well as her outings with her girl friends. She had opted to stay home with their teenage children rather than go on the trip, something she would later regret.

Just called Mrs. Monte and she said Joe is getting better every day.

“Mrs. Monte” affectionately referred to Joe Montenegro’s wife. Joe had planned to accompany my grandfather on this voyage. Joe’s family still had a beautiful home in Naples, and he knew Italy and much of Europe well.  However, his serious illness shortly before the trip was what led to Alex traveling solo.

Joe might get out of bed by the end of next week. He is on a very strict diet and he’s getting tired of it. Dr. found a little sugar in his blood, so it makes it kind of hard for Joe, because he likes his pastry and sugar.

Well, honey, I must start my Sunday dinner so I must hurry, although I don’t have much else to write to you. The Montes send their regards, and so does everyone else who is receiving cards from you.

Love and kisses from your darling wife,
God bless you honey, and good luck




Through His Words: Day Two

6 Nov

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Two:

Sunday, July 17, 1938 
(On board ship)        
Chapter 2

Darling Maude,

A little news a day to tell you of some of the things aboard ship. I was fooled this morning in the matter of attending mass. It was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. but when I went there the services were over and this was the last mass for the rest of the day. 

What Alex didn’t realize was that each day on the ship, beginning that Sunday, the time would be set ahead 50 minutes. Six days, 60 minutes ahead each day would put their arrival in Napoli on the correct CET or Central European Time.

However, they have services each day and I shall make up for missing today.

Alex was a quiet man, but one of determination and of self-discipline. His father was a cobbler by trade. His mother died when he was a child. He was brought to America by his parents when he was four.

Alex attended Chicago public grade school, graduated from Joseph Medill High School, attended the Armour Institute of Technology, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Chicago Technical College for required architectural coursework, then finished the last year of his architectural studies under private tutors and under home-made sausage.


Per Aunt Marion, “My dad’s father made home-made Italian sausage and he would hang it in my dad’s bedroom to dry. My dad said that when he was studying to be an architect, he would lie in his bed to study and reach up and grab a hunk of sausage!

So that’s the secret to passing an exam!

In 1916, he passed the state board of exams for architects and became the first Italian American architect licensed in the state of Illinois. Cost to attend his celebration banquet at the Sherman House? $2.50.


I am trying to find out anything and everything that concerns my touring, and I am told there are many things I can’t or must not do. You know all the boxes of cigars I got when I left? Well, I can not bring them either into Italy or France, so I am making a hit with them by giving them to the stewards a little each day and they go over big, believe me!

He smoked Perfecto Garcia Queen cigars – seven a day at a cost of $1.00 each. When I look through all the old photographs, it’s hard to find one when there is not a cigar in his hand or mouth.


And while today I find this pretty gross, I am reminded of the times. Just recently, I saw a bit of the movie Coco Before Channel. There she was, Coco Chanel, classy and elegant, face to face with a wealthy patron pinning a custom hat or suit, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Incredible.

Many people are traveling alone on board and the coldness and the stiffness of the first couple of days will be broken in another day or so and more sociability will be in the atmosphere. You eat, drink, and sleep, and walk around the deck, and when you are finished doing this you start all over again. 

Adventure, loneliness, monotony, anticipation, inquisitiveness, wonder…a flock of feelings for the sole traveler on day two of his journey to his place of birth.

It has been a little cloudy today, but the ocean has been fairly calm. Tomorrow I expect to take a swim and play shuffle board as well as get suntanned and even burned perhaps.

Millions of kisses and love to everyone,


To be continued.



Learning Italian

28 Oct

A few years ago, knowing that my dream of traveling to Italy annually was about to begin, I began a two-year search for Italian classes. I wasn’t looking for academic credits, or a class filled with grade conscious students; rather, I wanted to join a group of like-minded adults who yearned to improve their knowledge of everything Italian –  the language, food, culture, holidays, nuances, etc. This also meant I needed to find a native Italian teacher, not someone who merely majored in the subject.

Map of the languages and dialects spoken in It...

Map of the languages and dialects spoken in Italy.

Luckily, my search finally led me to a class offered by Casa Italia in Chicago, casaitaliachicago.net.  I must admit, when I first learned of my instructor’s Greek last name, I was a bit disappointed and puzzled, until I learned it was her married name.

Simply put, Giovanna’s classes provide me with more than I had hoped for. Each session is interactive, dynamic, challenging, and filled with great camaraderie. The students, who are now all friends, share similar interests as many have Italian ancestry and connections.  Of most importance, however, is Giovanna’s desire to have us learn and understand what she teaches, not just memorize what is in the textbook.

Italian language

Italian language

My goal in studying Italian was to reach a point where I no longer felt like a tourist in Italy. And while my learning will be a lifelong pursuit, I’m now comfortable conversing with locals who speak no English at all – a great tribute to Giovanna!

I encourage anyone who has an interest in international travel to study a foreign language. The beauty of the Italian language, however, is that it does not always require the spoken word to be understood. So if learning a language is not your thing, or you find it frustrating, the Italians provide another, more simple option for communicating – namely gesturing.

Thanks to the NY Times, here is a fun and easy way to learn some Italian. Click on the link below, hover over each, and practice at your own pace!






2013 Chicago Marathon

13 Oct

Blue skies, 100% sunshine, and cool morning weather were the setting for the running of the 36th Annual Chicago Marathon. And what a marathon it was!


As usual, Chicago rolled out the red carpet and set the stage for 45,000 runners to merge in a glorious and seemingly unending flow of courageous humanity.



My house is on the race route, and every year I make certain I am up early enough to marvel at the wheelchair competitors, who this year finished the race in less than 2 hours.


Then came the elite runners, always focused and so determined.


This year, Ernst VanDyk of South Africa won the men’s wheelchair race by one second in a photo finish.

Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune Photo

Dennis Kimetto of Kenya won the male division with an unofficial time of 2:03:45, breaking the previous record set last year of 2:04:38. (Chicago Tribune Photo)


Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the female division with an unofficial time of 2:19:59, just missing a new world record. (Chicago Tribune Photo)


I love reading the t-shirts of the competitors – so many countries, cities, cultures and charities represented proudly. And today, I think I saw almost as many Boston Strong t-shirts as I did Chicago Marathon ones. We stand together.



Of course, there were the usual costumed runners. Hey, whatever it takes.


What I always love about the Marathon, besides the incredible runners, are the supporters, estimated today at 1.7 million. Yes, million! People lined the streets of the diverse neighborhoods along the race route, showing their support in so many ways. And our neighborhood was no different.

At one end of my block was a live band. In the middle of the block, “We are the Champions” blared from a loud speaker. And just down the block, a DJ accompanied a very vivacious group of well wishers who were dancing, singing, cheering, offering high-fives and many words of encouragement. Such energy and so many smiles!




Although there were 45,000 runners, I spotted two friends that were running, and even managed a photo of one who was running with a torn rotator cuff. Way to Go, Bob!


So many neighbors out cheering and enjoying this fabulous day…


For so many runners, it’s not about the time, but the finish. Long after the elite had passed, a few brave souls, weary from head to toe, and even lagging the ending time car in our area, trudged on, much to the delight of the crowd.



To all, and especially those at the end of the trail,


Put an exclamation point on that! And thanks to all for a wonderful day.

Chicago, you rock!



My Kind of “Towns”

9 Oct

While many people we know have two homes, Len and I like to say we have two towns, Chicago and Cortona, each of which we fondly call home when in residence. Although this blog tends to be mostly about Italy or things Italian, for me, there is a great connection between Chicago and Italy.

Chicago is the city that all of my Italian ancestors emigrated to long ago. While we are not 100% positive, it appears that my paternal great-grandmother was actually born in Chicago around 1870.  Courageously, and at very young ages, the rest of my grandparents made their way from Italy and settled in Chicago, a city they all grew to love.

I feel the same way about Chicago. I especially love showing it to first time visitors who always seem surprised by the friendly smiles and the beauty of the city on the lake. And although we are often known for cold and windy weather, October has given us the most magnificent autumn days with, as the weatherman said last night, 100% sunshine.

The history that separates Cortona and Chicago is over 5000 years…hard to beat those Etruscans! Yet for a “young” city, Chicago has deep and diverse cultural roots. Over the years, it has not only preserved its architectural glory but added to it in a way that makes Chicagoans proud.

To all who read this, whether you are a Chicago regular or have not yet visited, and especially my friends in Italia, I do hope you’ll enjoy Chicago someday. It is very different from Cortona, but a difference worth experiencing. In the meantime, I’ll share the city with you through some incredible technology. (Many thanks to my brother-in-law Vince for sending to me!)

So, when you have a few minutes, about six to be exact, get a glass of vino, click on the link below, then sit back and prepare to be wowed by Max Wilson’s two-year photographic journey:

Chicago Timelapse Project: Windy City Nights

A still from a six-minute time lapse of Chicago at night from Wheaton photographer Max Wilson. Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Watch-Stunning-Time-Lapse-Video-of-Chicago-at-Night-226763851.html#ixzz2hFksCixc

Windy City Nights by Max Wilson


Grazie, Max. Incredible!



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