Rocked by Culture Shock

Every time we leave our little hilltop Italian village and head back to New Jersey I get slammed with culture shock. Usually, it hits me in the wallet. I turn purple when I buy a cappuccino that sucks and costs me $3.00 or more. In Pontelandolfo, a fabulous morning cappuccino is only ninety cents. This year the culture shock surrounded the attitudes and regulations about Covid. For the past seven months we were living in a Southern Italian village that was Covid free and followed all the rules. (Yes, I know that Italy does have high Covid numbers – we live in a magical part of the country.) We had a “green pass” app on our phones that provided stores, restaurants, bars etc. with our personal QR code. That code let the business know that we had been vaccinated and had a booster shot. It also would be used for contact tracing if we had it recorded in a place where Covid was later unearthed.

Great roasted calamari but no over-heard conversations.

We went to the same fabulous seafood restaurant – Sesto Senso – once a week. Once a week the waiters, who all know our names, asked to scan our green pass. The family that owns the restaurant also tossed into storage half of their tables and chairs. Even when the place was fully booked, we were seated so far away from another table that I couldn’t eaves drop.

Without a green pass, or evidence of vaccination and/or a recent negative Covid test, one cannot eat in a restaurant, enter a bar, go to work, ride the train, take a bus or enter the airport. To get into the terminal at Rome Fiumincino Airport we had to show our green pass and wear an N95, FFP2 or KN95 mask. Made sense to me. As we approached the United counter, we had to again show the green pass and the certification of a negative Covid test taken in the last 24 hours. We showed that green pass again at security and at the gate. Jack tells me I am forgetting a few places. It was about six times that we had to have proof of vaccination and/or covid test.

Accidentally one day, I raced into the Mini Market – where I know everyone – and was asked to turn around, go out to my car and get my forgotten mask. Ooops. Masks rock! People wore masks taking a stroll around the piazza. They wore masks shopping, giggling, chatting, learning and living. To me their masks represented their concern for other people. My mask will protect you from me. Mask wearing is a commitment to the society we live and work in. Masked, my sneeze isn’t going to shoot villainous virus thingies over to you.

Masked up at an outdoor art show. Every time the octogenarian artist’s mask slipped,
someone reminded him to yank it up!

Then we landed in New Jersey. BOOM! There is no mask mandate. Once we left the airport we saw maskless faces. BOOM, BOOM! I went into an empty TD bank, wearing my N95 mask, and used the ATM. The bank branch was closed due to Covid. The ATM is in an enclosed space. Two unmasked men walked into to use the adjacent machine. I wanted to scream “put on a %$#&! mask!” Instead, I left. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

I was horrified that the receptionist in my dermatologists office wasn’t wearing a mask. Was I rude when I refused to go to her station? Everyone else in the doctor’s office wore a mask. BOOOOOOOM!

Is mask wearing such an onerous thing? I am quite used to wearing them.

Culture shock.

Ci vediamo

Midge

Buon Natale!

Pontelandolfo Wishes you a Merry Christmas and so do we!

May this holiday season find you and your loved ones healthy, happy and secure. Since we are still masking up and social distancing, I thought I’d share some scenes from pre covid holidays. Hmm, I think I did the same thing last year…

2019 Flash back!

2018, 2019 – great years sigh… Actually, all the years leading up to today have been great years. Today is part of a great year. We are alive, traveling, laughing and creating. Our holiday seasons have been quiet and contemplative but is that such a bad thing? This Christmas Eve, Jack and I may be eating seven fishes alone but I learned how to make a great baccala mantecato! Did you know you could buy mussels in the shells frozen? Damn, this year I learned a lot about frozen fish.

2022 shall soon be here. We will all be another year bolder and better. I shall raise a glass to each and everyone of you as I sincerely wish you all a great New Year.

Ci vediamo,

Midge

Dumpster Diving Italian Style

Isola Ecologica or Hillsborough Dump – by any other name the dumpster diving is just as sweet. For over thirty years, an ornate Jacobean carved hutch graced my homes. When we made the decision to spend more time in Italy, I never should have sold it. The piece was found by my mother, sans the doors embazoned with nude figures, in the Hillsborough dump. Her pal found the doors in another part of the dump. In the early 1960s a Saturday morning run to the dump was an adventure. You brought your garbage and left with someone else’s garbage. Only it wasn’t garbage it was a treasure in need of a new home. Sigh, I miss those days…

Here in Pontelandolfo, fifty years later – could that be true – I was taken back to those blissful adventures at the local dump. We contracted a new internet provider and found ourselves with an old Dish TV style antennae. The big lug stared at us and dared us to toss it. We stared back from Tuesday until Saturday. We won. It would be tossed and we would take our first trip to the Pontelandolfo dump! Excuse me – dump is too common a term for the Sannio Hills. That Saturday, we followed the newly resurfaced mountain road to the Isola Ecologica! One thing the ugly wind turbines did for the town was the repaving of roads going up the mountain. I am embarrassed to say that in ten years I had never ridden the road we live on that far up the incredibly beautiful hill.

What a ride and view!

Soon houses were gone and more and more intricately shaped white boulders peppered the fields. The road took us up past enormous nature carved rock faces hugging the mountain side. The ride was gorgeous. We didn’t know what to expect so we kept on waiting for a sign or something. No, not a sign from the celestial hill side. A sign that said Isola Ecologica.

The sign was – well there was no sign. Like a dumpster diving oasis, the Isola Ecologica just rose up out of the mountain side. We weren’t sure what the protocol was and like “Harriet the Spy” parked outside the gate and spied.

Jack, I whispered, look some guy is stacking pieces of wood on the roof of his car. Seriously, he isn’t dumping it, he is taking it.

I started laughing so hard the Fiat rocked. Another guy was rummaging through what looked like a giant display of electronics after the Black Friday sale had reduced it to rubble. Until he stood up and proudly raised a monitor over his head, I had only seen his legs. Here on an Italian mountaintop, I had been transported back to the Hillsborough, New Jersey dump! I could see my mother and her pals dragging chairs missing only one leg or a seat out of enormous piles.

Cars pull in, unload and leave. Or unload and reload.

We finally pulled into the yard and Lorenzo, the helpful super of the yard, pointed to the bin the giant dish should go into. There was the electronics bin, wood bin, plastics bin, section for things like refrigerators and stoves, furniture piles and something I have never seen before.

A spot just for the vegetable oil you fried in! Easy pick up for those folks who convert vegetable oil into Bio-diesel.

Memories can be triggered by the smallest things. I miss that ornately carved hutch, restored by my mom and loved by everyone who visited my homes. I miss my mom and the joy she could find in a day of dumpster diving. Next time I feel sad, I’ll take something that may or may not need tossing and visit the Isola Ecologica.

Ci Vediamo.

Midge

My play, E-mail: 9/12, is still on the Next Stage Press
Website, waiting for a home with you and your book club.

Keep your eyes peeled for the March launch of my book of short Italian adventures, Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos, by publisher Read Furiously.

Thanks!

Mi Voglio Bene – I Love Myself

Sitting in the piazza on November 1st, my heart was full and tears slowly slid down my face. Across from my table, parked in Piazza Roma was a portable – fully operational – medical unit. They were here not because there was an earthquake or flood or any other tragedy. They were here to prevent the tragedy of families loosing wives, mothers, sisters and daughters to cancer. Cancers that can be cured or held in remission with adequate warning. This was a portable screening center for female centered cancers. Pap tests, mammograms and colon screening tests were available. The set up was in the piazza all day, from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The posters and social media posts all touted “ Campagna di Prevenzione Oncologica Gratuita.” This was a free health project of the Region of Campania. The medical unit was stopping in small towns all over the region. It was so simple for people to access this service. Women only had to call Pontelandolfo’s city hall to make an appointment for Pap tests or mammograms. The colon test kit was available by simply walking up and asking for it.

The sun was shining on the outdoor waiting area. From my seat, sipping my cappuccino I could hear “numero 25 mammografia.”The medical team welcomed people as they ventured near the area. I noticed that men have also gone in to pick up the colon cancer test.

 

The set up was slick. The front had video projections “Mi Voglio Bene” talking about each of the available tests. This campaign urging women to love themselves and get screening is fabulous. Imagine, something like this pulling into small towns all over America! Actually, I would love to imagine it but sadly I don’t know if it would ever happen. I mean, politicians don’t seem to give a tinker about women’s health issues and too many voters don’t understand the validity of universal healthcare.

Ima

I first found out about the testing center on FaceBook – which is the major news vehicle here. Later, the posters in stores, on walls and in the newspapers reminded me to find out what I was eligible for. At first, the snarky Midge giggled at the thought of joining a line of woman, without underpants, waiting for their internal exams and pap smears. Crude of me, I know. Then I started to think about my mom dying of breast cancer because the diagnosis was too late and I stopped giggling. I started appreciating what was happening not only in Pontelandolfo but all over Campania.

The – has to be invented by a mean man- mammogram machine has its own room.

 

When I first got to the piazza at 9:00 AM, there weren’t any people waiting for services. I was one of the first women up the steps. Everyone was warm and friendly. I stoped at the reception desk and jokingly said I knew I was too old for everything but a colon test. Why did they limit mammography to women between the ages of 50 to 69, I asked. Younger women get ultrasounds. Both tests are given if something is found on one. I always wondered why we don’t use ultrasounds more in the USA. Believing on earring on the side of caution, I have been know to tell a tale to get an ultrasound. My breasts are dense and since my mom died of breast cancer, I often come up with some strange complaint to get one.

Then, I asked about the other age restrictions. Just like the USA’s medicare and other insurances, the national health care system restricts tests based on some data or another. For a Pap test the age range is 25 to 64. Every year a I beg for a pap-test. Medicare doesn’t cover them for old ladies either. Don’t old women get utero cancer??? A mammography is available for women between the ages of 50 and 69. I was obviously too old for that too. Though, when I talked about my mother dying of breast cancer, I discovered that they of course make exceptions. The Colon Cancer Screening kit was for folks between 50 and 74. It was the only test I hadn’t aged out of. The receptionist, who was charming and answered all my questions, asked for my health card and phone number. She then, just like at the deli, she gave me a number. I’ve noticed that in Italy, numbers are given out in medical waiting rooms. As part of their privacy laws, the nurses can’t bellow “Guerrera.”

Is it my imagination or is the signage upside down?

My test — – Since I was the only one there, I didn’t really need the number. I was immediately ushered into a private room and asked for my particulars – name, address, phone number, my health insurance card had pulled up my residency and date of birth information. A second nurse came into the room and explained the test. Simple – take sample from – no I will not describe how to take a stool sample. The important thing was after the sample is in the glass holder, I had to take it to the analysis center in Morcone. I wondered why people couldn’t just run home, do what they had to do and bring the sample back to the portable center. Morcone is only five minutes away so it will be no big deal. If I don’t hear anything in ten days, the test was negative. I wish they would tell you either way. I think I’ll ask. 

Sadly, for the three hours I sat at Bar Elimar I didn’t see hordes of women going to the center. November 1st, Festa di Tutti i Santi – All Saints Day, and a national holiday so it should have been easy for people to come. They are constantly coming but there is not a surge or a long line. Gulp, I just remembered women made appointments! Perhaps they are staggered appropriately.

 For fun, when I got home I googled the ranking of the United States on health care issues. Every list I found from the World Health Organization to independent foundations ranked the USA – well not well. Never in the top 20. Just another reason to rethink the system of providing health care for not only women but all Americans.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge

 

My play, “E-mail: 9/12” is available at Next Stage Press

The 9/11 based play is perfect for a Book Club and a History Class.

In March “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be available from Read Furiously.

Thank you in advance for buying my play
and in March my book of short Italian stories.

 

Will My Vote Count?

I am proud to say that, since I was twenty-one, I have voted in every election. Correct, I haven’t missed one. Voting is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a political family. When fall came around, I was licking stamps and stuffing envelopes. Phone banks are part of my DNA.

Now, sister Susan and I may have posed for this press kit shot BUT, I learned to work the phones when I was old enough to talk. Other kids went to football games, I went to political fundraisers. I must admit, when election time comes around I still miss the electric charge of working on a campaign. The after parties were pretty charged too. Of course, spending the summer and fall in Italy does put a little damper on electioneering activity.

Democrats Abroad is a great organization and I have phone banked through my computer to help with voting from outside of the country. They also hold events, classes and get togethers.

Voting from outside the United States should be a simple process. I usually go through the Democrats Abroad website to https://www.votefromabroad.org/ and get an absentee ballot emailed to me. Vote from Abroad is a non-partisan service. You can also go to New Jersey’s home page and search for the documents. I found it easier to use Vote from Abroad. For New Jersey residents here is the process –

  1. Fill out the on-line information.
  2. Wait for an absentee ballot to be sent to you via email.
  3. Print out the ballot and all the forms that come with it.
  4. Complete the ballot.
  5. Sign the electronic transmission sheet.
  6. Sign the Waiver of Rights to a secret ballot. Obviously, if you email your ballot back people will know who you voted for. I voted for Governor Phil Murphy! Doesn’t bother me if you know that.
  7. Scan all the documents and email the package back to the email address you received for the County Board of Elections. I did all that on October 7, 2021.

The only thing that is squirrely is that legislation from 1995 that was amended in 2008 declares that I “pledge to place the original voted ballot in a secure envelope, together with another required certification, and send the documents immediately by airmail to the appropriate County Board of Elections”

Sending mail from Italy guarantees that no one will get it. Or if they do get it, it will be a year or so later. I can attest to this since I have sent birthday cards from Italy that no one got. Forget postcards – they get eaten in transit. When we voted in Somerset County my ballot was always approved. I would call and be told not to worry. This year I called Mercer County and was told if they didn’t get the very slow snail mail copy by the week after the election my ballot would be tossed.

Panic set in. On October 8, I googled FEDEX and found an office in Campobasso. With our packet in hand we raced to the city, found the place and I ran in. Gasping for breath, in my only passable Italian, I told the clerk I wanted to get my ballot to New Jersey quickly.

Where is the label, the clerk asked.

Can’t I complete a label here?

No you have to pay from your computer, print out the label and complete the package.

This is a print shop. You have three computers. May I use one, print out the label, pay you and you FEDEX this ballot to New Jersey?

No. You must do it at home.

Why.

Bo.

I got back to the car about ready to explode. Hmm, I might have exploded. We raced back to Pontelandolfo and hoped the Ufficio Postale would still be open. I mailed the package and paid extra for tracking. Ha Ha.

Then I did what any good politicians daughter would do. I contacted my Assemblymen and Senator. My vote is important and I wanted to know what could be done to insure it would be counted. Senator Shirley Turner called Mercer County and was told the ballots would be counted. I love Senator Turner! Yeah! But I’m still worried.

As of today, my ballot was received but not accepted. I’ll check the day after the election. You are probably thinking it is only one vote. One vote can change more than we realize…

Ci Vediamo.

Midge – midgeguerrera.com


My play, “E-mail: 9/12” is available at Next Stage Press

In March “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be available from Read Furiously.

Wind Whips the Hills

The wind is howling outside the house. It has been battering the windows, the walls and the tiles on the roof since Wednesday night.  Today is Friday.  It seems to be getting stronger and stronger.  Now I understand why giant rocks purposefully sit on so many tile roofs. It is incredible to me that our house doesn’t move.  Not one shimmy, shake or shuffle. The force of this wind feels almost like the hurricanes of New Jersey. There, I would feel our wooden house tremble and I would hear the shutters rattle. Here, I hear nothing but the wind.  It is screeching around us. Leaves, nuts and fruits are flying off the trees.   Hmm, I wonder if the olives and grapes are OK?

I’m not quite sure why I feel compelled to write about the wind. It’s keeping me inside in a way that the snow or the rain never did. But simply walking from our house to the attached house next door was more than my body wanted to handle. It’s interesting how the weather here has an impact on our lives. I guess I could be watching television.  Oh no, the wind is jiggling the antenna on the roof.  I guess I could be on the internet researching where to pitch another play.  Oh no the wind is dancing with the big Internet dish on the balconey.

I keep thinking of the three little pigs and I’m so glad that we lucked into a house made not of brick, but stone.  Not just some pretty decorative stone, giant rocks stacked into two-foot-thick walls.  The rock bones of the house go back generations and have withstood earthquakes.  

Restored Stone Italian Home Isn’t Going Anywhere – Take THAT wind!

Apparently, in the town center the wind wreaked havoc on businesses.  Doors were smacking you as you tried to open them.  Car doors flapped like eagle wings.  Yesterday, we heard that the elementary school kids could barely make it from their parent’s cars into the building. Jack asked did they crawl?  I thought perhaps they tied them together with ropes and dragged them in!   In reality, children clung to parents and like hearty hill people wouldn’t let the wind keep them home.  

Not being a hearty hill person, I chose not to leave the house on Thursday or Friday.  Not to go to the piazza, not to go to the butcher, vegetable store, and not go to visit a soul.  I was waiting for the wind god to get tired of puffing his cheeks out.

Wind Gods can be found in our historic center on walls and above doors. Perhaps they are there to blow the bad people away.

Listening to wind that sounded like huge waves pounding the New Jersey Shore, I shuddered and got comfortable with an Elizabeth George, Detective Linley book.  Just as Linley was finally going to propose to Lady Helen, the unlocked interior connecting door between the houses crashed open. In burst next door neighbor, Zia Vittoria carrying a huge tray. She has a hurricane force personality. During yesterday and today’s windstorm I sat, read a book, and stared out the windows at the dancing trees. During yesterday’s windstorm my neighbor made taralli (round breadsticks.) Then she got bored and made a stuffed bread with broccoli.  The wind was still blowing so she made another sweet bread. She became a whirling kitchen dervish.  Obviously, she couldn’t eat it all so she burst into our half of the building to share the carbs.  I was happy to see her and gave her a hug.  The wind was making her feel a wee bit lonely, she said, and cooking and cleaning kept her sane. 

Why is the wind forcing me to sit in a chair all day? What is it about the sound that makes me want to bury myself in blankets and do nothing? One would think the energy of the wind would pump me up and send to the kitchen or computer or close that needs cleaning. But no. The wind sent me to a book to read and an early drink to drink.

The lights started flickering. The digital clock on the oven when berserk.  Darkness.  Light.  Darkness. Light.  The electricity went in and out until it tired of toying with us and stayed out.  Jack played with the breaker box.  Nada.  I went next door and Zia Vittoria was in darkness too.  Hmm, was it just our house?  What if my iPad runs out of battery – what will I read? Thanks to functioning cellular towers – they must be made of real sturdy mountain material – WhatsApp messages raced from house to house!  No one on my street – which wends it way in a circle though the hillside – had power.  I dashed out a message to pals Mariann and Jeff further up into the hillside.  Nope, senza corrente there too.  Emojis flicked back and forth around the hills even if the lights couldn’t.  The power did return and I decided to be productive.  Hence, today’s little tale.

In honor of my husband’s heritage- An Irish Blessing – May the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face…

Ci Vediamo!

Midge


This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Think about sharing a copy of my play, E-Mail: 9/12, published by Next Stage Press with your book club, history teacher pals or friends. CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK.

Blatant Midge Promotion!

Blatant pitch – my play E-mail: 9/12 joins the roster of Next Stage Press! (Go on – click on it!)

That’s mine – circled in yellow! Oh My Goddesses!

Since I have been typing away in Italy, I have gotten some publishing contracts. I am so excited that I have been jumping up and down. They can feel the vibrations in Switzerland. Today is a super duper big day for me – Today, October 1, 2021, Next Stage Press is launching the publication of my 20 year old play E-mail: 9/12. This play had a lot of performances during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Now it is the 20th anniversary and it is getting published. Weeeeooooooo!

Everyone has that special place and maybe even time when creative juices bubble up to the top and magic happens. Pontelandolfo is that place for me. Perhaps, this is my time. Since we arrived in May, I have been a writing and pitching maniac. Maybe it was the Covid-19 reality that death could come knocking when you least expect it that put me in hyper creative and marketing mode. Maybe if is the cappuccinos at Bar Elimar. Whatever it was, I am thankful and feel blessed.

E-Mail: 9/12, takes place on September 12, 2001 – the day after the 9/11 tragedy. The work demonstrates how sharing, caring, grieving and even allowing a spark of humor to fly through cyberspace helped our nation get through the painful aftermath of 9/11. During and after one of the most horrific tragedies our nation has ever faced, our keyboards kept us connected. The play, written as a series of e-mail responses, provides a picture that probes into the hearts of the people that were there, had someone there and those of us who will always be able to tell you where we were when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 AM in New York City.

Have I mentioned, the launch is today? E-mail; 9/12, besides being an easily producible play, would make great auxiliary reading for history, social studies or sociology classes. At the end of the play, there are questions developed in conjunction with social worker, Cindy Quick to help spur on discussion.

Of course, I would love to see the play produced by College, Community, Professional or any type of theater. That said, I think you would also find the play an interesting read. Blatant Pitch – why not buy a copy? Share a copy! Thank you so much for letting me fill my blog with a Blatant Pitch. Hugs to you all.

Here are the other works being published today by Next Stage Press:

Ben Franklin and Baron von Steuben vs. The Paine County School Board – https://nextstagepress.net/ben-franklin-baron-von-steuben-vs-the-paine-county-school-board/
Cranium Fandango- https://nextstagepress.net/cranium-fandango/
Dark Twist – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
Email: 9/12 – https://nextstagepress.net/dark-twist/
The Hound and The Yellow Wallpaper – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Miss Julie En Hollywood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-hound-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Parish Dunkeld – https://nextstagepress.net/parish-dunkeld/
Sally, Hank and Their Son Harry – https://nextstagepress.net/sally-hank-and-their-son-harry/
Setting the Moon – https://nextstagepress.net/setting-the-moon-2/
Short and Scary – https://nextstagepress.net/short-and-scary-2/
The Spirit, The Body & The Blood – https://nextstagepress.net/the-spirit-the-body-and-the-blood/
Trash Day – https://nextstagepress.net/trash-day-2/

Ci vediamo!

Midge

My First Big Italian Wedding!

Hmm, is Midge telling a big bugia? Her “First” big Italian Wedding – doesn’t her sister’s wedding – replete with major politicians – count? How about nephew Joey’s – taking place in a New Jersey palace? If we are concerned about the truth here – how about her “simple wedding” to Jack. The ceremony featured ballerinas and a harpist? Stop! It is absolutely the truth – Midge and Jack went to their First Big Italian Wedding in Italy! For tradition, glamour and length, being at an Italian family wedding in Italy tops all those others.

I thought it would be fun to glide over those things that are the same and talk about the differences between the weddings I’ve witnessed before and this one. Let’s start with the invitations. In today’s frenetic USA world, save the date notices are often sent out a year before the wedding. Here in Pontelandolfo, no one is notified until one month before the wedding – after Il Promesso – I told you about that a month ago. That “Promise” is the contract to really truly get married. A few days after it, the bride and groom hand carry the invitations to everyone within driving distance. Giusy did e-mail invitations a wee bit in advance to the United States. I bet Antonio did the same thing for relatives who live far away. How incredibly personal! The invitations were printed on a natural fiber that was imbedded with wild flower seeds. After the wedding, invitees were encouraged to plant the invitations. They had witnessed the love between Giusy and Antonio bloom and next spring would watch the flowers blossom.

About two weeks before the big day, I couldn’t understand why my cousin Carmella was frantically calling a caterer, cleaning and perking up her house. I figured an incredible venue had been booked why stock food for the masses at the house? Tradition. The morning of the wedding the bride’s family – which included me – was expected to show up at the bride’s home, eat a bit and celebrate la sposa. Ladies, imagine, the day of your wedding a bunch of family members happily visiting you as you tweaked your make up?

A week before the wedding – we ladies did what women around the world do. We dragged the giggling Giusy away for a day with the ladies. We went to a fabulous spa, Fonte del Bennesere Resort in Castelpetroso.

Swirling water, super lunch and sex talk!
Nothing like a floating bar to keep the party happy.

That final week before the wedding, the push was on to finish all of the guest gifts. Groom, Antonio De Michele raises bees and produces some of the finest honey in the area. Giusy and Antonio – with the help of family – bottled 200 small jars of Antonio’s honey, decorated and boxed it. Seating charts always take time to figure out. The design was a no brainer – honeycombs! Each table had a name and all guests were listed in bee hives. Check. Two jobs done. Then came the work on the love phrases. Yes, love phrases – Giusy and Antonio researched and chose quotes that dealt with good relationships by famous authors. Each guest found the gentle love reminder at their place. “Salutarsi è una pena così dolce che ti direi addio fio a domani.” William Shakespeare. (Saying goodbye is such a sweet pain that I would say goodbye until tomorrow.)

Knowing that party was going to go on into the wee hours, Jack and I decided to do an advance trip to the venue and see if slightly drunk/tired we would be able to find our way home. We followed the GPS round and round hill top roads to Villa Clodia in Pago Veiano (BN). The majestic wedding palace is in the middle of nowhere on roads that this lady in her third act didn’t want to navigate at night. We booked a B&B down the road.

Wedding gifts in Pontelandolfo seem to always be in cash. There are no bridal registries. No one ships silver or crystal to the bride to be. The cash is also a set amount per person. I kept asking about this and heard the same amount and same story from numerous people. Couples use the gifts to pay for the elaborate wedding parties. Some misanthropes, I’m told, make sure the cash is in small bills in the “busta.” If they don’t feel they are getting bang for their bucks at the reception, they pull out some of the euros. I’m not making this up – really – more than one person told me. The opposite is also true. Annarita told me she and Emanuele went to a wedding that was so opulent they opened their gift envelope and stuck in an extra euros.

Wedding day was finally here. Hair dressers, make-up artists, videographers, photographers and Jack and I all paid a visit to Giusy and the Mancini family at home. This tradition of the extended family seeing the bride off from her home is very sweet. The house was festooned with flowers, tulle and camera boxes. Everyone was smiling and laughing as the video and photography team managed the show. Hmm, were we dress extras?

The house, family and of course Giusy all looked amazing.
Giusy looked like a movie star – or a princess. Beautiful.

Time for the church! The mass was scheduled for 11:00 AM. A morning event, I discovered, doesn’t necessarily mean one dresses in a tea length dress and pearls – like I did. There were women arriving at the church in bejeweled evening wear. I will admit, I felt correct in my navy blue silk. Equally sure that the gorgeous women in floor length finery felt equally correct. The exterior of the church was decorated by Nicola Ciarlo and really set the stage. Speaking of stage – there was a drone flying over head videotaping our arrivals.

Groom, Antonio, zoomed up in a red Ferrari!

Applause! This hit me as something I hadn’t seen in the USA. Led by the priest, the audience was encouraged to applaud for the bride and groom not just at the end of the service but three or four times during the service. I love it! Applause was a mainstay later at the reception too.

The church with its gold alter is always a sight to behold. Festooned with flowers and tulle it was the perfect setting for a lovely wedding.
Antonio and Giusy are ready to lead a life of love. Jack and I wore matching navy. So did my cousin Carmela and her husband Mario – Giusy’s parents. We all look yummy.

We dashed off after the mass to La Vecchia Fattoria, the B&B we booked. The rooms were clean and utilitarian – if you like youth hostels. The place was country-set beautiful and we found the parking lots packed. Turns out it an agriturismo with a stellar reputation for lunch. We landed in foodie heaven! Leaving our bags, we drove the three minutes to Villa Clodia. First step, proof of vaccine. Second step, fill out the contact form. Third step, join our “hive” of friends at a table for 8 under a giant pergola. The cocktail hour was glamorous. Uniformed waitstaff flowed between tables pouring Prosecco and tempting us with small plates of everything from seafood to rice balls. Knowing that a multi course meal was scheduled, I held off and only tasted a bite or two. Yumm.

The wedding was a moving feast. The next stage was the grand ballroom. The couple did something very clever. Each table entered the foyer to the ballroom as a group. They were then placed by the photographer around the bride and groom for a photo. That insured that every guest was in a shot with the stars of the show. A three piece combo was set up in the corner of the ballroom. We found our hive and began our 6 hour – or was it 7 hour – feast. No one was dancing. We were told due to COVID dancing was not encouraged. Applause was encouraged by the band. Applaud the grandparents. Eat a new course. Applaud the parents. Eat a new course. Applaud the sibling. Eat a new course. Thanks the goddesses for the energy expended applauding. It freed up space in our filling stomachs. Actually, the applause was heartfelt and fun. After the second or third Primi Piatti, the bride and groom did their first dance. When the parents and grandparents were encouraged to join them, Jack and I snuck in. Hell, we are old enough to be their grandparents.

There were fairly long periods of time between courses – I counted 14 courses but could be wrong. People would go outside and sit on the well appointed terrace and amble back just as waiters scurried about with the next course. After the fruit course, which – groan- we realized was probably the last, I went to the ladies room. Sadly, I was there for a while. When I got back, the grand ballroom was empty. Not a guest. Not a waiter. Not a band member. No one except Jack. He didn’t know where everyone went. I sure as heck, not having been in the room, had a clue where all the people were. We walked out of the ball room to the upper terrace and didn’t see a soul. We left. WHAT A COLOSSAL MISTAKE!

The party had apparently moved to the lower level of the property. Tables were set poolside. Waiters ported huge trays filled with glorious pastries from table to table. Prosecco was poured. After dinner drinks and coffee were available. Music filled the late night air. The couple cut the enormous wedding cake – actually it was a faux cake and they just pretended. During Covid, buffets and touching the cake are off limits. Individual tiramisus made there way to each guest. Then the scent of grilling meats filled the air. An after the party, party of more food was about to begin. WE MISSED IT ALL. The next day in the piazza, I was chastised by a friend for not saying goodbye to anyone and just leaving. That is when I discovered what we had missed. I felt incredibly stupid for not understanding or asking in advance what the usual protocol was. Sorry for leaving my First Big Italian Wedding before it was over.

Ci vediamo,

Midge

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